When I was a child, well, a younger child, I went to the carnival when it came to Our Town. They had all the usual acts, the fat lady (really), the fire breather, the pitiful animals locked forever in cages. Off to the side of the main events were the games, the shills, and the marks.
The eternal game was present of course, in many guises, the Pea Game, a dried pea concealed under a set of walnut shells that were manipulated about and presented to the mark to guess the location of the pea, for a price.
We don’t see the pea game much any more, since the word is out that the game is rigged, even if we can’t figure out the score.
We do, however, have politics.
The Pea Game is more sophisticated now. The Peas are glamorous, decked out in the latest corporate fashions. The walnut shells are flashy, loud, noisy and whirl about much faster and more bewilderingly than any carny could ever imagine. The marks are more sophisticated and worldly, and yet, more gullible to the carney’s patter. And the price is very, very high.
The carnival comes to town every four years, puts up their tents, plasters the town with colorful playbills, conducts a parade of the strange and mysterious down Main Street. On the appointed evening, the people come, pay their money, are suitably entertained and go back home to their everyday lives. In the morning, the carnival is gone, nothing left but patches in the grass, some sodden straw and the faint whistle of a train leaving the station.
It’s a brief distraction from the concerns of the moment, the mortgage, the weather, the job, the family. And no one ever asks, “Who moved the pea?”