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Wells Tower - On the Show - S TOR Y ON THE SHOW By Wells...

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S TOR Y ON THE SHOW By Wells Tower My boss on the Pi- rate is a man named Leon Delaney, according to his nametag. Ellis, his lean, fawning lieutenant, calls him Mister Leon, so I call him that too. Mister Leon has a voice that sounds like it runs on gasoline, and it has been going all day, pouring out an epic balladry of lies. "They said I had a cancer on my shoulder blade, and it'd cost ten grand to get it out of there. Instead, I drank some gin, and my buddy opened me upwith a box knife. He scraped out a mess of these little purple marbles, and I've been fine ever since." "You ever see that movie with Steve Mar- tin, happens at the circus? Had me a little part in it. One day on the set, Steve Martin came up to me, told me to go get him a root beer and fast or he'd get me canned. So I turned around and poled the son of a bitch." But now Mister Leon stops talking to witness in silence the changing of the light. A girland a boywalkpast our ride. The boy has his face pressed against her neck, and she has her eyes closed in a fever of the dusk. A pretty Wells Tower's last article for Harper's Magazine, "The Kids Are Far Right," ap- peared in theNovember 2006 issue. 80 HARPER'S MAGAZINE / MAY 2007 busts of towheaded maid- ens with their bodices pulled down to show their bare breasts. The boat is about forty feet long and twelve feet wide, and Mis- ter Leon says it weighs nine tons. "Come on and ride the pirate ship," Mister Leon hollers at the people., Ellis stands on the rail- ing, throwing his arms in a convulsion ofsalesmanship. "Come on now, people," he yells with lots of lung. "Come be a buccaneer!" A young mother appears at the gate. A colossalchild, his leg in a bright blue cast, stands crookedly at her side. He has a head of black hair and a red mottled face like fresh ground chuck. His mother's hair is a blonde that shines white, and she wears white jeans and a white halter top. Her face isstarkly powdered, too, completing a paleness so utter that it makes her hard to see. The boy limps along the landing, and then he crawls up the three shallow steps to the upper deck and pitches himself onto the seat. He sits panting beside three young girls, who look at the boy as though not- ing a turd in their midst. Down in the tin pagoda that hous- es the controls, Mister Leon presses a button. Hydraulic hoses twitch in man in suede shoes comes revolving down the lane calling, "Tessa, Tessa." Across the way,the Chinese man who runs the Whacky Bike takes up the cry, crooning, "Tessa, Tessa" as the man goes past. Mister Leon smokes and smiles, disclosing a crescent of worn gray teeth. The Pirate is a fiberglass replica of a wooden frigate's hull with a mast in the center, supporting a crow's nest, a Jolly Roger, and a gap- toothed plastic brigand with a hook for a hand. At one end of the boat is a mock cabin, flanked by a pair of dazed-looking female mascots- Illustration by Hadley Hooper
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the engine well. The ship shudders and then begins to move. It swings imperceptibly at first, its movement in one direction magnifying its sweep in the other. The happy terror starts. The girls claw at the lap bar
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