Fifteen year old Jimmy is accused of killing his best friend on the Gyroscope ride at a seedy carnival in 1971 in Indiana.
When fifteen-year-old Jimmy is accused of killing his best friend on the Gyroscope ride, Jimmy skips school the next day to find out what happened. He is recruited to help dismantle rides and unwittingly joins the seedy carnival.
He bunks with Grease, a draft dodger who is interested in Liza, the wife of Stone, the shiny haired man who runs the Bingo the Rat roulette booth. Stone is friends with Cedric, the nasty clown who runs the Shoot-the-Clown booth. Jimmy vies for Felicia, the girl who can shoot every tin clown without a miss, with twelve-year-old Squirrel, who wears a sweaty squirrel costume to entertain the pre-schoolers.
Jimmy and Squirrel get invited backstage to meet the exotic dancers, one of whom has a baby. The high heel of a dancer's shoe is sabotaged, injuring her. The identical twin twelve-year-old magicians and their lovely assistant Kalinda and her boa constrictor have to deal with a noose malfunctioning. Jimmy slowly realizes someone wants to buy the carnival for a bargain. As they chase the killer, Jimmy, Felicia and Squirrel ride the Gyroscope of Death, just before it falls in a tangled mass of metal.