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It isn’t until she’s seventeen that Keeley comes to understand that there really are ghosts in the carnival, and that they like drugs.

She doesn’t learn this, alas, while on them herself. She goes out with some townie skaters and comes back with the moon high and bright to find Chuy (the dog trainer’s apprentice) huddled over, surrounded by shadows with burning eyes.

“Shoo!” says Keeley, because it’s the word that comes out of her mouth.

The ghosts flee like roaches. Chuy stays huddled. Keeley kneels down next to him and takes the bottle of acetone from his warm, moist hands.


Keeley is an understudy for every job in the carnival, but whenever possible, she angles to be working the Tunnel of Terror. She has great ideas for making it scarier. Like, one of the middle carts could just have dummies in it, and then burst into flames! She’s sure she could do it without burning anything down.

But Keeley’s mother turns a jaundiced ear to her brilliance. “They don’t want to be frightened,” she sighs, sweating a glass of iced tea. “They want to laugh at it. Now go check the Octopus.”

Keeley sullenly tightens bolts, imagining carts filled with piddle.


Every four weeks, on the waning sliver, Keeley’s mother makes them pack up the whole carnival and drive to the most secluded spot around. Keeley’s mother is happiest if this requires actively trespassing. Then they set up and turn on and run the thing all night so that the ghosts can have their turn.

There aren’t any actual ghosts; Keeley’s mother just needs some weird justification for her monthly gin bender.

One time Keeley cut eyeholes in a sheet and wandered around hoping a ghost would kiss her, but instead Siam and Zion (the twins) did, and that was okay too.