Ken Harrison 6:41 p.m., Dec. 12
Our Halloween carnival at Ramona Elementary was a typical holiday inspired school carnival with cakewalks, games, candy apple stands, a makeshift haunted house built in one of the darkened classrooms, and, of course, teachers dressed up as witches, clowns, and vampires.
My favorite game at the carnival was “Mystery Fishing.” You paid a fee, were handed a bamboo fishing pole, and then the Mystery Fishing attendant threw your kite string fishing line with the bent paper clip hook over the top of a long dark curtain that ran the length of the attraction. There were a few light anticipating vibrations on the pole as you waited and patiently played your line, and then three hard tugs from behind the curtain signaled that you were ready to reel in your catch. The prize on my line was small and inexpensive, usually a siren whistle ring or a toy spider, but the prize wasn’t my true desire—the mystery was what I wanted to experience.
I always wondered what was going on behind the curtain. Was there one person behind it, or two? Was the person, or people, a male or a female? Was he, she, or they in costume? And if so, what kind of costume? A skeleton, a ghost, a hobo? Was it our school’s custodian dressed as a fireman, doctor, or some other embodiment that represented the true dreams of what he had once hoped he would achieve in life? Maybe it was our principle, or a teacher, perhaps my teacher. Or was it a kid, one of my peers? Was he or she giggling each time a prize was hooked to a line or was boredom setting in? Was there any thought put into the prize before it was attached, did the prize attacher peek through the curtain and then make an assessment of the person holding the bamboo fishing pole? Yes, he looks like he’d prefer a little skeleton. Or was it just completely arbitrary?
And what about the toys, themselves? Were they stored in a box, a bag, a giant stocking, maybe a magic jack-o’-lantern? So many questions, so many … and absolutely no answers. Mystery Fishing vexed me for several minutes after I pocketed my prize, which, really, was what I was paying for all along.