This article is part of the The Tiger King and I series.
Read the previous part here.
Disclaimer: Names have been changed mostly because I forgot them and partially because they might sue me for putting them on blast.
I woke up on the day the tour began feeling pretty good. I hurt everywhere, and was crispy sunburned, but now was time for the adventure! The grand voyage! We were gonna see the country! Yay! Joe stepped into the living room while I lit a cigarette and settled onto the couch. He turned, saw me, raised his fist, and ran towards me. I slid down off the couch as he went tumbling over it. He popped back up like a fucking whack-a-mole and screamed, "YOU'RE GONNA BURN THE HOUSE DOWN!" He snatched the cigarette from between my fingers and took it outside where he stomped on it for approximately 3 minutes. He stomped on it far longer than was necessary or even sane. He came back in and put his hand on my shoulder.
"I run a safe house and a safe tour." he said. At that exact moment, a lion cub wandered out of Joe's room. He hurriedly shoved it back in and shut the door. He returned to me and gave me a stern, "no smoking". He told me that I needed to get packed because the bus would be leaving in an hour. Our first stop was to be in Cuba, Missouri and we had to get on the road. I gathered my things and headed to the bus. Once there I met with the people I would be on tour with for the next six months. There was Jack, who had been on 4 tours with Joe. He was a veteran, around 23 years old. Viv, an 18 year old and the only woman on tour with us. Easy Money, the semi-truck driver, who would be moving the equipment and animals via 18-wheeler throughout the tour. Pam, the 50 year old chain-smoking head of Security and bus driver, and then the assorted clowns.
The clowns were hype men. They would wander around wherever we had set up during the tour, and pull people in for a magic show or to pet the tigers. They consisted mostly of older felons who couldn't find work elsewhere. They were unrepentant alcoholics, the whole lot of them. Joe hated alcohol. The whole reason he started the animal park was in memory of his brother who had died because of a drunk driver. Joe kept alcohol test kits on hand at all times and would piss test employees if he thought they had been drinking.
We boarded the bus and hit the road. At this point, I had not been paid a dime.
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