Money Dog watched the final preparations for the carnival’s opening day from the awning-covered stoop of his owner’s trailer. Moments before, he had eaten a breakfast of scrambled eggs with chopped sausage, a luxury his owner shared with him at intervals he could not measure. He had consumed it in six fast bites, hoping for more, although more never came, at least not until some unknown point in his unknowable future that he, frankly, hadn’t the ways or means to contemplate.
For now, he was focused on his most recent obsession. No longer content with being a sideshow, Money Dog yearned to take center stage. Show after show, his owner, a man named Nicolai, bedazzling in a tight silver suit, flew through the air after being shot out of a golden cannon. Sure, Money Dog, show after show, leapt on cue—his little doggy red cape flapping—into his triumphant owner’s arms. And sure, he, using his stage name Rocket, never failed to delight as he hopped and flipped and twirled on his tippy toes before making the required grateful leap. And no doubt the crowds—especially the children—adored him. But there was something about the visage of his owner flying through the sky that got to Money Dog, that made him ache to crawl into that golden cannon and see for himself what the ride was like.
As an early morning storm raged and as roustabouts, cursing the weather, continued with the business of preparing for opening day, Money Dog contemplated his desire to be the one who flew and also the fact that this was a carnival, after all, so nothing was as it appeared. Even the names were illusions. Nicolai—who sported a goatee and a fake Russian accent when speaking to fans—was actually from Toledo, Ohio and his name was Glenn and he had a sweetheart who was very tall named Rane.
And Rocket, who was known as Money Dog among the carnies because people seemed to never be able to get enough of the short little, fox-tailed thing, was neither Rocket or Money Dog in reality. Upon finding him scavenging for food after the show had gone dark, and seeing that he was a mess of sticker burrs and want, and assuming correctly that he’d been wandering for a good, long time, Tom Brown (a clown known as Shorty) dubbed the dog Ulysses and brought him into the fold where he was promptly won by Glenn in a poker game.
Ulysses was a curious dog and, like his namesake who traveled the Greek Isles for ten years, he enjoyed seeing the world. And what better way to do that than with a carnival? True, he preferred his given name to Rocket or Money Dog, which even he knew sounded crass and maybe a little bit dirty. But given that he was a dog, sometimes it was best to answer to what the humans called you. Wise dogs—which Ulysses counted himself as one—knew when to walk away from a fight. And as for his stage name, that just went with the territory. Hell, even Petunia the Pot Bellied Pig preferred to be known as Alice.