Behind the Scenes...
...They come every year, regular. Nobody knows where from, or where they go when they’re done. Just same time, some hot night in mid-summer, when the grass is so dried and yellow you can’t hardly tell it from the sand, and folks turn in early so’s not to have to face the heat… when the sun scorches its way up from the hills next day, there it is: the medicine wagon of the Gamboliers.
It just sets there, the wagon does, squat some half a mile out of town, close enough so’s you can get curious about it and wander on closer. Then they start comin’ out from the inside, one at a time, saunterin’ real casual like they didn’t expect company, but of course they been watchin’ you since you was a speck on down the road.
They’s always the same, The Gamboliers. Year after year, never a change. Like they don’t age none. Folks comment on it, but then change the subject in a hurry. It’s a waste of time, such foolish talk.
First off you’ll meet Mr. John. He’s the leader, and he’ll come right out and introduce himself, friendly as you like, askin’ all sorts of questions, like what’s your name, how many in your family, enquirin’ after their health. Funny enough, if any of ‘em are sick, doesn’t matter what the sickness is, he’s got the cure. Cures that always- always- work. Real handy thing, that is. Think he’d be some kind of millionaire, instead of rollin’ around the wasteland like he does.
The others don’t be quite as personable, but most of 'em ’re friendly enough. Thing is, there’s a lot of ‘em…seems like the wagon oughtn’t to fit ‘em all. Don’t know as they’ve all even shown their faces as yet. There’s Hugh, who’s the gentlemanly type; Conrad, a strange one who makes things; Heliotrope, who’s even stranger; Lyta, the one with a missing eye; Amado, who don’t ever talk; Salveaux, who’s Canadian- and we know about them; Dr. Plague, who enjoys his surgery; Rosie the saloon singer and her brother, Ian, who’s a doctor too, even though he looks awful young; Shelley, who looks even younger, and all his poet friends. Then there’s Mr. Lemich and Miss Vene. They never tell their first names. And Felix. Those three kind of keep to themselves.
They know how to do an entertainment, though, every one of ‘em. That’s what you come for. It’s the plays. The stories. Good shows. Kind of holds you there. Spellbound. And when you go home again, you’ll somehow find your wallet lighter, but pockets full of whatever Honest John’s selling this time. You don’t mind. Your mind’s still full of story, sailing off over the clouds on an airship, or hunting treasure in a cave, or fighting a monster at the bottom of the sea. It’ll be like that for a few days after.
Maybe that’s why nobody sees them leave. Just like when they come; first you see ‘em, then you don’t. Must be they’ve moved on, to the next town, probably. Though it’s hard to say how. There ain’t no wagon tracks...
But we know they’ll be back. Don’t know exactly when, as it tends they come when you least expect them. But they always do. So just wait. Can be hard, the waiting- it gets harder every time- but it’s worth it. You’ve never heard anything like this.