The First 750 Words

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Carousel House

Carousel House by Patrick J. Cacchione


Fiction – Historical
Carousel House is a novel that follows the lives of three individuals, Arous, Celia and Patches, through major historical events of the twentieth century. The story begins in rural Missouri right after the stock market crash in 1929 and ends in New York City during the mid-1950s.

Carousel House is a romantic coming of age story that explores love, disillusionment, forgiveness and reconciliation. At the same time highlighting the power of self-determination and celebrating the strength of friends and family. It is enjoyed by both young and older adults.

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I can’t tell you any sure way to find happiness, I only know you have to go out and find it for yourself. You can’t lean on the success of your parents, that’s their success, and don’t be held back by their failures. It makes no difference what they did or didn’t do. You just stand on your own two feet. The world belongs to you as much as the other fellow, so don’t give it up…Just keep your faith and courage and you’ll turn out alright.   Dr. Seldon’s Graduation SpeechThe movie Carousel


 Chapter One: The Foundling

Usually people run away to the circus to escape life and its challenges. In the case of Arous L. House it was just the opposite.

pcacchione Through no effort of his own, Arous came to the circus on a cold November morning in 1929. It was a typical winter’s day in southwest Missouri; the land was flat and hard as tack. The wind blew in gusts, and the sky was dark gray, as if it were deciding between snow and rain. As an infant, wrapped in a wool blanket fraying at the edges and laying in an old wicker basket, Arous was left only to be discovered by Patches the Clown. Times were already getting difficult when the stock market crashed the month before; especially in Joplin, Missouri, near the border of Oklahoma and Kansas, because of drought conditions and failing harvests. Patches was accustomed to seeing hobos along the train tracks as the circus traveled and even started giving a penny to a begging child now and then; but finding an abandoned baby really made him take a giant step backwards, causing him to almost trip over his own feet.

Patches was no ordinary clown. Sure he could make poodles out of balloons and perform a great mime, but most clowns don’t hold PhD’s in biology with a minor in physics. In 1925 when the State of Tennessee took John Scopes to trial for teaching evolution Patches was a university professor and looked every bit the part. He was of average height and sported tweed jackets and horn rimmed glasses. Yet, somehow, you couldn’t help but notice that there was just a hint of athlete in his past. John Scopes, the Tennessee teacher, was found guilty in what became known as the Scopes Monkey Trial, and with the verdict Patches’ world started to unravel. Patches was a firm apostle of Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution. Rather than compromise his strong held beliefs, Patches continued to teach his view of the world until the University of Missouri fired him. With a damaged reputation and limited job opportunities, Patches noticed that the circus was performing in Columbia, Missouri. Its official name was the William C. Clay’s Traveling Circus and Carnival but the locals knew it as “Billy’s Traveling Show”. It traveled throughout the Midwest but was best known in Missouri. Preceding each visit, towns were covered with posters that read:











 With that enticement, Patches decided to leave one group of clowns and join another.

 Patches had limited paternal instincts, but being a man of science and a humanitarian, he knew he could not leave the baby to the cold, Missouri winter like a deserted child of Sparta. However, as a firm believer in survival of the fittest, it did cross his mind for the briefest of moments. The circus was almost packed up for its move to Springfield, Missouri so Patches reasoned that he would contact authorities once they arrived there. The trip is only about 70 miles by car on Route 66 but because the Circus traveled by train and took the slower scenic route it took almost two days before the circus reached Springfield. Two days of learning how to change diapers and inventing a way to provide milk through a rubber glove using the thumb with a pin prick for the nipple. It wasn’t all on Patches though. Many of the women folk were helpful, especially Erminia the Tattoo Lady and Carmen the Psychic who read fortunes by viewing Tarot Cards or looking at your palms. Unfortunately, Arous’ hands were too small to read and he was unable to choose among the Tarot Cards.

 Once in Springfield things did not go as Patches had planned. You see, circuses are regarded with great suspicion by local law enforcement. Circuses are transient, and employ people of dubious backgrounds. Trouble usually follows their encampments. This being the case, the law was skeptical of Patches’ abandoned baby story and suggested that since he found the baby in Joplin he should report it to the authorities there. This was almost an impossibility. After Springfield the circus was heading north to Kansas City and then on to Independence, it would not see Joplin again for at least another year.

 As the circus was working its ten day stay in Springfield, Patches was becoming more and more attached to the baby boy. In addition to Erminia the Tattoo Lady and Carmen the Psychic, other members of the circus were beginning to form an emotional attachment to the baby boy as well. Visits by the Sword Swallower, the World’s Strongest Man and trapeze artists were not uncommon. In a world where you live to entertain children but never have the chance to love and care for them, a void was being filled.

 One cool evening while walking around the circus grounds, Patches came to the realization that not only was he unable to give the baby boy away but that he didn’t want to. Maybe it was love or maybe it was something a little more selfish. As an educator and a scientist, when he thought of the boy he thought of a blank slate. He didn’t want the boy to be corrupted with archaic thinking, the type of thinking that had killed his life’s ambitions. In the back of his mind Patches thought that if he could teach and mold this boy’s mind then maybe the world would be a better place. He decided that he needed to keep this baby for the boy’s sake as well as his own.

 Now that the decision was made to keep the baby, it was going to be necessary to give him a name. Patches and the others couldn’t go on just calling him “the baby” or “the boy”. If not an identity, they could at least give him a name. Sitting outside his tent on a three legged stool Patches gave this great thought because a name is very important. At first he thought of his own grandfather and then his own father but Patches dismissed these thoughts almost as fast as they had come to him. Then he thought of Herbert, the President’s name, but given his current unpopularity that didn’t seem like a good idea. Why burden the boy before he’s even taken his first step? Then Patches thought of Hollywood and considered Charlie. But something was missing. He couldn’t just have a first name. He will need a complete name, first, middle and last. Patches was beginning to think that this naming business was impossible when he looked up to notice the Carousel House across the midway. The funny thing was that the “C” and the “e” in Carousel were no longer illuminated. The name Arous L. House jumped out like a moniker from heaven. Even though he didn’t have a past, Arous now had a name and a future.

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Mr. Cacchione is a published author of many non-fiction articles, Op-Ed pieces and Letters to the Editor on healthcare related issues. Among other sources, his work has appeared in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Gerontological Nursing Concepts and Practice, American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care, Dayton Medicine, HomeCare Magazine, Modern Healthcare, Supportive Voice and Mission through Action. Carousel House is his first work of fiction.

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