THE BLOG
09/06/2013 10:21 pm ET | Updated Nov 06, 2013

Kindness for Oz and His Traveling Scars

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Pool attendants, hanging prizes, blaring songs are all background as Oz tells a Brothers Grimm story, his own.

"My mother slew me, my father ate me."
Song sung by murdered son who turns into a bird: The Juniper Tree, by Brothers Grimm

Oz is a 44-year-old, trim carny with a shaved head and a deep, long scar traveling from behind his right ear, across his jugular, to his Adam's apple.

Today, he joked, "I'd forget my head if it wasn't glued on." He looked at me, holding back my joke, and said "Some people tried to help me with that not long ago."

His throat was slashed a month and a half ago and now he's working with me on the midway.

People often mention his cut throat when they first meet him and he says "I never went down."

Today, he wanted to talk about a story I already had overheard him telling a couple days ago.

With horrifying nonchalance, he said he was a "just a little boy" when his mother and aunt stripped him naked, tied him to a tree and told him coyotes were coming to bite off his penis.

Drunk, hiding in the woods, they made noises and laughed as he screamed.

"There was no moon that night, I couldn't see anything. All I could do was listen to the noises."

He can remember everything from that night - sights, sounds and questions.

"Mommy, why are you doing this to me."

He ended the story as he had the first time.

"That was before all the foster homes and juvenile detention homes."

It was a sunny, hot day as I listened to him. In the background were, "Despicable Me" minions, sock monkeys, Smurfs and Scooby Doos each stuffed and hung.

Rock-n-roll and disco boomed. Happy families walked the midway - mothers with their sons.

How can this man even function, I thought. What kind of world is he seeing on the midway, with his throat cut so theatrically and his psyche so slashed to ribbons.

As if Oz is a character in a Brothers Grimm story with all the violence and cruelty to children and with a meaning I cannot comprehend.

He actually said, "Life hasn't been kind to me, Mike."

Kind?

As he walked back to the pool tables, he turned with an intense smile and turned again back to the games.

"I have foster brothers and sisters but this (traveling carnival family) is my real family ... Pool Sir? Pool?"

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NOTE TO READER: I'm working my sixth carnival after hitchhiking nearly 12,000 miles between jumps (California, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Alaska, Upper Midwest), as I live a year following traveling carnivals and living on carnival wages.