A hammer's strident detonations can be heard. They ricochet through the woods with an avid, early-morning energy, remarkable since they come from the general direction of Randolph Bates' abode. He is working (or so it appears from Zachary's vantage point as he approaches), labouring in his shirtsleeves despite the chill, hammering, hammering, building something that looks like a miniature jailhouse set on wheels. Definitely bars (Zachary can see them as his horse draws near) atop a rickety, stripped-down caisson, hence the wheels. Somewhat crude in construction, the bones, at least, of the structure appear to be complete. Bates sights his friend and waves a welcome with the handsaw he now applies. Zachary arrives, dismounts, and picks his way through piles of scavenged materials.
"Without bearing witness myself, I would not believe it; Randy Bates not only up before noon, but up and working."
Bates grins an iron-studded grin—the corners of his mouth chockfull of nails. He takes them out.
"Howdy, Zack. What brings you round so bright and early?"
"I need back my axe."
"Dang! Sorry, Zack. Plumb forgot I borrowed it. Well, what do you think of my project?"
Bates gestures toward his handiwork with pride.
"Looks fine. What is it?"
"What is it? Ain't you never been to a travelling circus? It's a carnival wagon, o' course; the kind you show off freaks in. You know, like mermaids and werewolves; things like that? l once seen this man called 'primordial'; a genuine caveman, he was, that had to be chained hand and foot on account of him being so ornery. Had teeth like fangs. For a penny you could look at him, and for a nickel you could poke him with a stick. Shoulda seen the line out front. The carnie vendor that owned 'im musta made a mint."
"Aren't mermaids and werewolves a might scarce in these parts, Randy? Cavemen, too? Seems you have the cart before the horse."
"Zack, you surprise me. Do you really think I'd build such a contraption without I first caught something worth displaying in it?"
"The only thing I heard you've caught of late is some undersized maroon. Are you planning to stick on fish scales, fur, or false incisors?"
"Very funny, very funny. It just so happens I got me something better, if you'd kindly step this way."
Bates leads Zachary behind his cabin down a bald path to where a two-by-four is wedged against a ramshackle privy door. Zachary gets a whiff of an acrid smell inside.
"Jesus, Randy, you haven't stuffed a human being in there."
"He's puny; plenty o' room. You'll see. Just stand right there and wait whilst I unveil my acquisition."
Bates bars the threshold with his arm, braces his back against the wood, and gives the prop a kick. With the door still shut, he dramatically steps aside, clears his throat...