Those were the best days of my life
Back in the summer of ’69.
Bryan Adams’ song played, and Bud tapped along with his finger on the label of his second or third Labatt Blue.
“Bet you wasn’t even around in 69, were ya, Christy?”
The bartender with over-blond hair looked up from the taps, “Sure wasn’t. Did I miss out on some fun?” she replied to Bud, one of her regulars sitting in the “regulars” section of the Clam Shanty bar.
“69. Hell, nearly fifty years ago. I was, what, fourteen?” Bud leaned back on his stool. “All I wanted was to get out of that house in Liverpool and out of Ma’s way. All she wanted was for me to get off my lazy ass and work that summer. Kept threatening to take me to the foundry with her. Sort odd parts for eight fucking hours a day.”
He took a long sip. “I begged my Uncle Ceril to take me to his farm, up there near Lake Ontario, to dig salt potatoes for like two months. That work’s hard as shit, but better than being with Ma sorting bad pieces from good. Christ. Y’all know how fucking hot that parts room gets in summer. Hotter than hell. Better off digging shit all day.”
“Say, Christy,” Bud spoke up to get her attention, “You got some salt potatoes? Should still be in season.” She nodded from across the way. “Put an order in for me. Extra butter.”
“You dug potatoes all summer?” Dave, another regular, asked.
“Nah. Just through July, then they’re all dug up. Came back to Ma bitching at me for not working like my sister, Cathy. She had a full time gig at Vicky’s Soft Serve. Remember that place?” Dave nodded over his beer.
“I’d get on my bike for like the whole fucking day just to get away from Ma. Leave before she even got up so she couldn’t take me down to work. I’d ride all over, mostly round the lake. That’s when I saw them setting up for the Fair. You know how all them carnies come in a week before the fair starts, set up them crappy games and rides? I was standing by the fence, watching, and some dude comes over and asks if I need a job. Hell ya, I needed a job.”
Christy put down a bowl with small potatoes, skins crusty-white from their boil with a pound of salt. Bud grunted his thanks.
“Never guess where they put me. The Haunted House!” The regulars chortled.
“Yup. I was a one of those fucking carnies that jumped from a hole in the wall to scare the piss out of little kids. Three weeks, man, 12 hours a day, I was a carnie making girls scream.”
Some butter off the potatoes dribbled onto his chin. He wiped it away with a hand permanently gnarled and nailbeds blackened from years filing spurs off metal parts at the foundry.
“Best damn job ever.”