Travel Thursday: Midwest county Fair Redhead part 3

Haunted House and Horsy Ride

By now I’d figured I’d seen every booth, but here was someone selling bumper stickers, of all things. Some were downright clever, even if I didn’t agree with them. The one that really made me laugh was “Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.” I doubted that’d be a big seller in these parts, though.
Did corn growers have a patron saint?
I shook my head–hard enough to rattle–for thinking such a ridiculous thought.
I made a U-turn at the exit, but not before remembering a joke from that first carnival flimflam man, Barnum. He’d had a sign made up that said “This way to the Great Egress!” which of course had people flocking over to see what the hell an egress was, let alone a great one. Some of them became quite angry to find the doorway led out of the fair, and did not seem particularly mollified when told egress meant exit. I wondered if that sort of thing hurt repeat business, but figured Barnum wasn’t the type to think that far ahead. I’d known people who’d gypped me out of five bucks because I didn’t think they’d risk losing their high-paying jobs with such a tiny scam–only to discover not everyone was as logical as me. It was a good lesson to learn, especially for five bucks, whereas those people had a hard time getting new jobs and probably still didn’t get the message.
Enough time wasted. I reached the corn stand where I had first seen her beauty just as she was working the last lock in place.
“There you are! I’ve been pining for you. Have you been good?” She handed me another corny cob, just as a snack, of course.
Shrug. “Better than most.”
Someone, probably a guy who’d been coming on to her and was very surprised nothing had worked, choked on a drink nearby.
“We never did get to see those violinists,” she mused wistfully as we walked through the fair, holding hands and making a lot of tourists go “Awwww” as I chomped corn. I wasn’t sure where we were going, but followed her lead, for now.
“All those years of learning and practicing, I thought I would perform before the crown heads of Europe.”
“Instead of the bald heads of the Midwest.”
“Not even for them!”
“So what’s stopping you?”
“Oh, where do I start?” she sighed. “Literally!”
“Well, you seem to be in perfect condition for it, so let’s get the haunted house over with.”
“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “I didn’t mean to upset you. Just because I am, I shouldn’t send such sympathetic vibrations.”
“You upset me every time I set my bloomin’ eyes on you.”
She laughed at the accent, massaging the back of my neck with strong, corn buttering-hardened fingers. “I’ll try my best not to unnerve you.”
“If that’s your intent, you’re failing badly, baby. Might as well have my body as confused and unsettled as my brain.”
“That’ll have to wait till after the haunted house.”
“Actually, the haunted house should do it.”
The line wasn’t nearly as long as it had been on the earlier pass, but the tunnel of love was taking up the slack. I figured it’d be even worse once the sun went down, but for now I’d take what he could get. Less than five minutes later, we were in.
She mused aloud that the place was kinda tame this year, although the fake spider web felt uncomfortably real when it brushed her face in the pitch blackness. Well, okay, she jumped when her shoulder set off one of the sensors and an eerie flash of green light unexpectedly revealed a grotesquely lifelike rubber face an inch from her nose; she squealed and grabbed on to my arm, so she was able to feel it when I jumped as well. At least she wasn’t the only ‘fraidy cat, she thought with a grin.
Of course, I’d been startled by her fingernails going into my arm, but that was neither here nor there for her.
Because I’d never been in a haunted house before, I didn’t know what to look for, which made for more fun for her. “Never scared, only startled,” I replied to her laughs primly.
I came out of the building laughing so hard it made people wonder just how scary the Haunted House was. Someone who probably knew her, as everyone around here seemed to, most likely had seen her walk in through a monitor and was just waiting for her to pass him near the exit. Said someone leaped out and landed right in front of her, forcing a scream and. . .
And next thing I knew, she was rolled up into a ball on the floor, apparently not having found a convenient womb.
“Lookit the tunnel of love,” she sighed now that we were outside and she’d dusted herself off. “Don’t break up with me before we go on it, though I’m not in the mood for it right now.”
“Good thing. We’d be here till your next shift.” Gauging her mood, I tried, “You know what I’d like to see? Someone–preferably female–playing the violin and Riverdancing at the same time!”
“Now that I can probably do!” she triumphed in my face. “Would you like me to do it nude?”
Duh. “As long as you don’t cut anything off with the bow.”
“I like how you’re always concerned about me. You’re the best boyfriend I’ve ever had!”
“From what I’ve seen of the guys around here, that’s not saying much.”
“And here I was hoping you wouldn’t spoil me for other men,” she laughed. “Let’s cut through the animal section. There’s an employees only gate to the parking lot.”
“I don’t know if I want to deal with the smells.”
She pretended hurt, actually did pretty well. “I’ll shower, okay?” Then she went sultry, a much more natural thing for her. “Or we can shower to–”
“Yoo-hoo, Josi!”
“Shoulda known,” she sighed, then plastered on her commercial smile and turned. “Hey, guys! Haven’t seen ya in months!”
I saw an approximately fifteen-year old girl who was mistaken in thinking she was already a woman and two shy kids who brightened on seeing the big redhead.
Hey, brats!” the redhead joked as she bent to hug them. “Come for a horsey ride?”
They nodded furiously.
“I’ve become allergic to horses,” the girl sniffed.
“That’s okay, I’ll take them.”
The kids seemed to like the idea of sitting on a horse with a fully-grown redhead better than the original plan. . . no, wait–that was my reasoning, although the kids looked happy about it anyway.
“Why don’t I keep your boyfriend company while you do that?” the teen batted her eyelashes.
“You think Rapunzel is still open?” I grinned.
Josi wasn’t sure which was worse, but felt justified in giving me the evil eye for SOMETHING. “I’m no good with horses, so I want you to lead us. And of course you’ve got to help me up.”
The future heart-breaker hooted. “Who ya kidding, Red? Didn’t you win all the Equestrian contests–”
“Never argue with a redhead,” I lectured. “Haven’t you learned that yet?”
While she thought about that, I made the smart move and went over to rent a horse, laying down some cash before she could stop me and watched the guy pull the horse over by a rope a little harder than he had to.
Josi cursed under her breath and went back to the kids.
The old-timer handed over the rope and rang up the rental before the redhead could come back to lecture him on treating animals right. There was a growing tendency, even here, if the oldie’s face meant anything, for folks to treat cattle, dogs and horses like fucking pets. Like hangmen and grave diggers, folk who had to work with and often personally slaughter critters they’d raised from big-eyed-cute tended to seem matter-of-fact brutal about the care and feeding of the critters they worked around.
Cold hard arithmetic dictated unsentimental choices when country folk had to cope with a crippled or worn-out mount, a sick old dog no longer worth its keep, or raising food, animal or vegetable–choices as easy and inexpensive as possible to undercut the other bastard’s prices on the market. Nobody with a natural heart was born wanting to be cruel to animals.
Most country kids made pets of fluffy chicks, little lambs and even calves, to say nothing of pups and kittens. But by the time they were old enough to know why boys and girls were different, they’d been served a grown chick for supper, seen Mary’s little lamb or that friendly calf they rode castrated and driven–in a truck, not an old cattle drive–with the rest of the market herd to slaughter. And, like it or not, cats and dogs got old and had to be put down by the time the kids who’d loved them had kids of their own to play with pets.
So, like unwise lovers who’d been made fools of, country kids learned to harden their eyes if not their hearts if they meant to make money off of livestock. To a professional stockman, a dude who mooned over the feelings of horses and cattle seemed as foolish as a farmer who’d worry how the wheat he was threshing felt about it.
I would never ask corn how it felt as he masticated it, after all.
I knew the redhead wasn’t a vegetarian, considering our first meal together; she seemed the animal-loving type though, being what passed for an environmental activist in these parts. Either way it would be an argument I couldn’t win, even if I wanted to argue that side, which I didn’t. So I gave it a pass, once in a while being smart around the red-furred.
The ride–in my case, walk–was uneventful, at least for me. The kids had more fun than I’d thought they would from a simple walk around the enclosure, but maybe Josi was tickling them. I didn’t turn to find out, being on the lookout for droppings, and soon enough we were out the gate and back to the original plan.
Well, not quite: we decided to skip the movie and just have dinner, and then each other.
“Tell me a sex joke!” she suddenly demanded.
Innocently I tried, “What makes you think I know any?”
“I take sex very seriously.”
“You laugh more than I do. Now dish, if you want any later.”
“Easy for you to say. You’d bring some corn home and make do with that.”
“All the more reason for you to tell me a joke now.”
Sigh. “Man wearing a mask goes into a sperm bank–”
She was laughing already.
“He pulls out a gun and tells the receptionist, ‘Drink down that beaker of sperm!’”
“‘You heard me. Do it!’
“Gulping before she even gets it to her lips, she drinks it down. Then the guy takes off the mask, and it’s her husband, who says, ‘See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?’”
Try to guess her reaction, just try. . .


Wilshire is Telegraph Road

Saturday started on an inauspicious note when, as I’m waiting for the subway at Union Station, a SEA of Trojans surrounds me! Arrrgh, help me, I’m drowning! This cannot be good for anyone’s health. . .
Even though I’m enjoying my first country-fried steak in months, I’m pretty bored at Denny’s without my Kindle. . . or, you know, a date. They have a machine that checked if my $50 bill was real; kinda about time.
Once again I got it wrong, it was doors at 7, not concert. So back to Union Station, over to Olvera for ice cream; Creepy Day of the Dead stuff in full gear all over the plaza, soundtracked with Peruvian pipes, which only made it more creepy.
Stepping out of the subway, there’s the Wiltern Theater across the street, it’s huge marquee proclaiming what was up. Guy in his 80s taking the same shot with his cell phone, which to me was a much bigger surprise than him coming to see Mark Knopfler.
Security only looking at bags, so I walk right into the old-looking place. Don’t remember a thing from the last time I was here, which was only a few years ago, but before that it had been in the late 80s. . . I think I lost my point. Anyhoo, at the Rush concert I bought my mom a tote bag for $10, but here they wanted $20, as well as $35 for a shirt. Luckily I will have my memories. . .

best part of the lobby

best part of the lobby

Way up in the boonies, about 3 rows from the very back, but at least I’m on the aisle seat, even though my right knee was painful by the end. I think the guys sitting next to me are Russian, though it’s been a long time since I’ve heard it talked so fast.
On the stage are two keyboard stations–one of them also played guitar at times–as well as a violinist/flutist, flutist/guitar, bass/upright bass, another guitarist, and of course Mark Knopfler.
!IMG_0414 !IMG_0417
As I’m waiting for him to come out, it finally hits me: I’M FINALLY ABOUT TO SEE MY FAVE GUITARIST OF ALL TIME! The only other time I had a chance to see him, a girlfriend got me fourth row center on my birthday at the Greek, but he had a motorcycle accident and had to cancel his whole tour. I didn’t care that I was about fifty yards further away this time, this was still gonna be a bucket list checkmark night. . .
He started out with a song I like, What It Is, but not one of my faves; I think I like it much better live. I didn’t anticipate he’d be funny to the point of hilarious, at one point saying he was glad to still be vertical. He told someone to “Send an email or something,” though I never heard the original shout from up there.
There were plenty of new songs, since his double album just came out last month, so I didn’t know most of them, but it was easy to tell when he launched into the title track, Privateering. Yep, it’s about a pirate, albeit one sanctioned by British royalty; long story, read up on it. Starts with just him and another guitar, but soon everyone joins in, giving us moments of fast Irish jig; you can tell Mark, along with all the others, loves jamming.
Next came another newbie, Kingdom of Gold, which reminded me a lot of Sands of Nevada from Sailing to Philadelphia. A couple of times after applause he’d say, “You’re very sweet,” and I can’t imagine another artist putting it that way.
Before the next selection he introduced Nigel Hitchcock on sax, which for a moment made me think they might do Your Latest Trick, but no such luck.
Of course the audience was waiting for some beloved older songs, and we got one here, though with the sax start there was no way to recognize ROMEO AND JUILET! until the soft guitar started. I was far too into enjoying this to really think of anything during the sweet sounds, although I did notice the sax came out again while he changes guitars for the outro. . . I’d never seen that. . .
Some gal screams a song request, to which he replies, “Love to oblige, darlin’.” I hope that was adlibbed, though I imagine he gets so many requests he’s probably learned that. There were also plenty of long instrumental parts, sometimes solo, sometimes only drums and upright bass, sometimes all of them, and I can’t remember a time I’ve ever seen so many great musicians on one stage; I particularly loved the soft Celtic pipes. Then came the musician intros, starting with the drummer; as each is introed, they add to the song, and I can almost swear there’s a few seconds from Princess Bride until they go into Postcards from Paraguay, which included some pipes that reminded me of the ones at Olvera earlier.
Going even deeper into the bluegrass, I’m pretty sure the next piece was Marbletown, featuring some of the most awesome violin I’ve ever heard, with really high yet soft bowing and picking.
This is how you do it: you save the best for last, or nearly last: TELEGRAPH ROAD! The 14 minute version, too, just like I’ve been listening to all these years on my player. Granted there are other songs I would have loved to hear, but this made it all worthwhile; I am literally almost in tears.
I’ve never understood the reasoning for encores, unless it’s to let the audience scream for a while, but they came back to add Our Shangri-La and Coming Home, from the movie Local Hero. Standing ovation ensues, though I know there’s not going to be any more songs, and being on the aisle helps as I dash out, figuring if I can catch the next subway across the street I might get home at 11.
No such luck, but I wasn’t the only concertgoer on the train. A couple of guys and I passed the time with the Wish He’d Played game, with me going with Sailing to Philadelphia and Tunnel of Love, them adding Sultans of Swing and Brothers in Arms. A few minutes later some chick, who didn’t look all that wasted, throws up on her friend’s lap. Wonderful. . .
So I had about a 45 minute wait at Union Station, where I ran into some rather surreal stuff, like the fat black guy pushing a wheel chair while singing–loudly–in Italian, and a girl kneeling in an incomprehensible getup with an antique radio to her ear while also singing. More interesting were the two post-mod chippies who escaped from a Robert Palmer video strolling along holding a dirge-like note for what seemed like a ridiculous amount of time, but kinda scary were the acrobats in the main passage, along with some emaciated-looking crawler. Better was the sign on the information booth that read “Please do not bother the nice person on the computer. She is part of an opera performance.”
Ah, I got it now: it’s that opera I read about, where you listen with special headphones that beam the music to you. Okay, but at least the visuals were free, though being a fan of Marco Polo and his trip to China did not help in figuring out the plot, if indeed there was one. Guess they had a good reason for calling it Invisible Cities. I’m gonna go find that book now. . .

A black lab in the train station restroom gave me a wet kiss on knee. . .
So, looking at the calendar, this has to be the first time in my life I’d gone out seven Saturdays in a row! No wonder I’m so exhausted. Let’s see if I can remember them. . .
1 Natalie Gelman at Hotel Café
2 Marina V house concert
3 Gin Blossoms at Saban
4 Riddle the Sphinx at Decompression
5 NCIS: Los Angeles meetup
6 Shannon Curtis FrontYardFest
7 Mark Knopfler at Wiltern
(Nothing this Saturday, but there’s something on Sunday. . .)


Travel Theme: Stone

Today on the Ailsa Travel Blogging Network, our fearless leader stared at a basilisk, or went head to head with Medusa, or looked back when she shouldn’t have, or. . . any of the other ways you can be turned into stone. Sigh, sometimes I don’t know how to get out of my own way. And it doesn’t help that a lot of the really good shots, like my friend Genevieve being carried away by the giant sloth, or the Aztec carvings, have already been used.

UCLA Bruin head

UCLA Bruin head

G begging for forgiveness: "Baby, don't be like that. . ."

G begging for forgiveness: “Baby, don’t be like that. . .”

The archaeologist in me couldn't resist. . .

The archaeologist in me couldn’t resist. . .



Travel Thursday: County Fair Redhead part 2

The next day I was back at the fair bright and early, unable to resist her magnetic presence. Luckily I found her right away, within thirty seconds of entering the fair; good thing I’d bought the weekly pass. I couldn’t accuse her of waiting for me, of course, since it figured the entrance was the best place to hand out fliers for her bucket o’ buttered corn biz.
She quickly maneuvered me down an aisle. “Hot fudge sundaes, banana splits, chocolate sodas, trust me. This is going to be the best part of the fair. What you had in town, those were too rich and sweet to be enjoyed; you practically have to wear protective gear.”
“Specialty sweets whose sticky composition is beyond the capabilities of most humans?”
“Damn, you are good.”
“Wasn’t alliterative, though. I tried.”
“Forgiven, for now. This ice cream is made the traditional way, without overdoing it.”
“Give me the vanilla and I’ll make my own decision.”
Her face fell.
“I’ve never seen you with protective gear.”
“I’m used to it,” she replied haughtily.
“Whereas corn is just about as sweet as I get. Unless I bit your neck, of course.”
“Are you calling me sweet?” she gazed into my eyes in false wonder.
“If that’s what you need to feel better!” Always use a chick’s excuses against her.
“Exactly!” she whooped, but was prevented from adding to that by their arrival at the ice cream stand. I did a good job of concentrating on his ice cream as she talked to her friend who’d sold it to me, a beautiful blonde. Said girl grinned when she saw how thoroughly she was being ignored and mentioned something about redheads having all the luck.
Josi knew when a smirk would do, and so kept quiet. Turning back to me, she stared into my face as she enjoyed her own gelato. She ate ice cream like a child: her tongue flicked, sucked, and licked like she didn’t care what anyone else thought, or more likely she never thought about it. Her eyes were bright and alert, cheeks flushed and grinning between licks.
Not used to being out of the loop, the blonde caught her buddy’s attention with, “Hey, a tourist just told me this wacky joke. Wanna hear it?”
Josi was still looking at me. “Looks like he’s thoroughly afraid of brain freeze, so I’m sure I’ve got plenty of time. Go for it, Rapunzel.”
As she always did on hearing that name, the blonde stroked her hair. I briefly wondered if she might fall asleep if she’d been called Sleeping Beauty, then concentrated on the story.
“Guy meets a girl at a nightclub, and she invites him back to her place for the night. When they arrive at her house, they go right into her bedroom.”
No doubt Josi was glad she’d at least served dinner before dragging me to bed last night, otherwise she might feel like a cliché right now. Luckily the sunglasses hid any possible embarrassment.
“So the guy sees that the room is filled with stuffed animals.”
“At least they’re not Barbies,” I shuddered, causing the girls to turn to me. “Tell ya later,” I promised.
Figuring she’d hear it eventually, the blonde went on. “There were hundreds of them all over the place. Giant stuffed animals were on top of the wardrobe. Large stuffed animals were on the bookshelf and on the window sill, and a lot of smaller stuffed animals were on the bottom shelf.”
That sounded familiar, Josi thought, but decided not to think about it so she could be surprised by the joke’s ending, if indeed it was a good one.
“Much later, after they’d had sex, the guy turns to her and asks, ‘So. . . how was I?’
“‘Well,’ she says, ‘You can take anything from the bottom shelf.’”
I almost dropped my hugely-enjoyed ice cream, a testament to my surprise at the joke’s ending.
“I’ll e-mail that one to my brother,” the redhead promised around her giggles, then turned to me.
“Don’t even think about it,” I beat her to the punch.
Annoyed that she hadn’t been able to get that one out, she harrumphed, “I’m not going to laugh the rest of the day.”
“That just inspires me to tell you all the corny jokes I know–”
“You thought I would laugh at such a bad pun?” She almost did, though in disgust.
I reviewed. “Actually, I didn’t mean that one. But I’ll save them until you’re not expecting them. . .”
“You’re devious enough to be a redhead!”
“You wish!”
She almost laughed then and there, and it was made that much more of a struggle when her blonde friend burst into her famous rapid-fire giggles. “I’ll laugh at all your jokes,” the blonde cooed, batting her eyelashes and then squealing when she saw Josi’s claws heading for her facial orbs. She laughed and knew deep inside Josi was laughing too, but was too stubborn to give in.
“If she doesn’t laugh by closing time,” I promised, “I’ll come back for more ice cream and more.”
Josi took enough time to make her friend squeal again with a poke to the ribs, then pushed me onward. Not for just a few steps either, but with two hands on his back and legs churning she led me down the aisle–I pictured a shotgun wedding–and even managed to turn me around a corner in time to hear a female voice yelling, “Fresh-roasted penis. . . peanuts!”
But it was too late; all the customers were hightailing it at a fast rate.
“I warned you about letting go,” the redhead told yet another friend. “Now go see a psychiatrist before you bankrupt yourself.”
“That’ll probably bankrupt her too,” I whispered, but knew it was for naught. And she hadn’t laughed; this might be tougher than I’d thought, so at times like these, go for the groaner: “Two cannibals were eating a clown. One turns to the other and says, ‘This tastes funny.’”
She stared at me intently, but her lips did not turn upward. I reached for her sunglasses, but she ducked and blocked my hand, so I figured she was laughing behind them.
Okay, if that’s the way you want to play it. . .
“This seems the perfect venue, considering what your psychotic friend just said, for this joke. A man and a woman are in a car arguing. She gets mad and cuts off his dick and throws it out the car, where it lands on the windshield of a man driving with his 8-year-old daughter.”
Her jowls had a quick convulsion, but she gathered herself nicely.
“‘What was that?’ the girl screams.
“‘Um, just a bug,’ Daddy stammers.
“The girl looks at him, confused, then says, ‘It sure had a big dick!’”
After about ten seconds of internal struggle and strife, she managed to say, “Notice this is not a smile, and that’s only because I heard it before. And yes, I did laugh that first time.”
“Actually, I assumed you were the girl in the story.”
She held on to her non-laughing face by the slimmest of margins, the width of a hair on a frog’s back, by–
Never mind.
“The little girl or the cutter?” she finally managed to croak, when her cheeks were under control, but it was far too late to matter.
We turned another corner between tents and were immediately hit by a wall of smells. The air was sweetly redolent of hot grease, fried dough, grilled meats, and spun sugar, and one whiff was all it took to send her straight back to childhood, holding her mother’s hand, riding on daddy’s shoulder or clinging to his pant leg, a little farm girl so dazzled by the bright lights that she thought she’d stumbled into Oz.
I let her talk about that as long as she wanted to, actually spurred her on a few times, so she wouldn’t notice my wandering eye. Not that I was checking out chicks, of course, but I didn’t want to tell her what I was really doing. In this way we wandered through the fair for a while, and somehow she managed to speak, walk, and hand out fliers all at the same time, while remembering not to smile.
“Oh no!” she suddenly moaned, and I looked down to make sure I hadn’t stepped on her toes, though I was sure my ankle woulda noticed. “Quick, take this corner!”
Being trained in not being noticed, as well as having fantastic reflexes, I did just that, but despite her knowing what it was about, she wasn’t as quick.
“Yoo-hoo, Josi!”
“Wow, I hate her just from the voice,” I told her from the safety of the back side of the tent as she plastered on a fake smile–so it wouldn’t be held against her–and turned around to face the voice. “I haven’t seen you in a month of Sundays, Doreen!”
“Smooth,” I muttered, but figured it was too late to make a graceful exit. At least I was able to tune out the blathering after introductions, and luckily wasn’t included in the conversation as the newcomer proceeded to update a not-very-willing redhead on what had happened over the last half year or more, if I interpreted the month of Sundays thing correctly.
But even my highly-trained mind couldn’t keep one part of the conversation from seeping through. . .
“He rented one of those ‘Chucky’ films,” Doreen informed Josi, “but I adamantly told him under no way was I going to watch a chick flick. So I–”
“Whew, this heat!” I tried not to grin. “I need some more ice cream.”
Coward, she told me telepathically as I practically ran away. And don’t give that Rapunzel even an iota of come-on!
Backtracking to where I hoped I remembered where the ice cream was, I stopped and looked over at the area with the rides, then called myself a dummy and took out the map I’d been handed on entering. Yeah, that was easier.
Then, realizing that any extra time it took me to return with my ice cream would be construed as flirting with a certain blonde, at least to the redhead mindset, I got in gear and luckily caught Rapunzel at a moment without any customers. I gave her a smile, noticed she really was beautiful, and somehow managed to send her a telepathic message, somewhere along of the lines of “If I hadn’t run into Josi first. . .”
She nodded and smiled back, telling me via the same communications wavelength that she wouldn’t like me nearly as much if I cheated, and maybe next time. Maybe some other time, when I wasn’t in danger from red talons, I’d drop her my photographer’s business card: if you’re ever in El Lay. . .
I found Josi in the exact same place I’d left her, unfortunately for her; I’d been sure she would have maneuvered her way out of this one already.
“Mmmmm,” I mmmmmed when I rejoined, coming up behind her and licking ice cream, “have you tried the pork?”
Josi almost gagged at the thought, but it did have the intended effect of getting Horror-movie-lover to leave in a big fat hurry.
“Even though I know it was a joke, I still feel sorry for the piggies. That was mean.”
“You forgot to say goodbye to your friend.”
Not having seen the action, she turned around and caught sight of the woman rounding the corner. “Quick, let’s get outta here!”
“That’s what I thought. Don’t worry, I’ve got more if she comes back.”
“I doubt I can take anything worse than that!” She almost asked me what Rapunzel had said when I’d bought the ice cream, but she could already imagine. No way the blonde would believe I wanted more ice cream, good as it was.
“Ditch the redhead so soon?”
No, she couldn’t chance asking.
“Hey, Darla,” she said instead, though not to me; we’d arrived at another stand. “Howz biz?”
I wondered if there was only one high school in the county, the way she seemed to know everyone.
Darla assured her ol’ buddy that everything was peachy-keen, then asked if I was hungry. “Cornbread’s hot.”
“Anything with corn, right?” the redhead laughed.
“Not corndogs, but just about everything else.” I leaned forward, kissed her on the nose, and informed her, “You laughed!”
She’d completely missed that one. “Well, at least I won’t have to worry about it the rest of the day.” Sigh.
“Oh, you’ll pay for your lie.”
“Yes, master.” Now that it didn’t matter, she giggled some more, seemingly making up for lost time. “Are ya gonna punish me like my parents did?”
I managed to look puzzled. “Leave you at the mall?”
She tried not to let her exasperation show.
“No, that wouldn’t be a punishment for you,” I reasoned. “Keeping you from a mall would be punishment.”
“There’s no mall around here!” she screamed.
“Yeah, I suppose with the internet you can get everything you want and a lot of things you don’t.”
“Tell me about it,” she sighed, always ready to roll with the changes of topics. “It’s very hard to figure out how some colors look on a redhead until I actually put them on in front of a mirror. A mall would be in handy this way.”
“Some sites must not want to sell to you anymore, considering all the browns and oranges you must have returned.”
“They still sell to me,” she assured me. “Especially in green and lavender. Anything else I manage to sell to all my buddies around here. I usually tell them shit like their skin is a winter so they should wear this or that color and such.”
“I can see why they’re all so friendly towards you. Ever try NOT to buy something?”
Bigger sigh this time. “I always TRY. At least I’m not spending all my money gambling, where someone might come break my leg if I don’t pay. And my vices don’t include smoking or alcohol or drugs, and–”
“You’re not allowed to look on the bright side until you thoroughly answer the question.”
“Okay, okay. Yes, I try to not buy something I see on my computer. And I have learned. Now if I can hold out for a week, then it means I didn’t really want it anyway.”
“I guess that’s progress.” I remembered to take a bite out of the cornbread, which had the same fresh taste as the corn itself. “What happened the first time you tried to keep from buying something?”
Another sigh. “You would have to ask that. All my resolve about fidelity didn’t amount to a hill of beans. I saw, I wanted, I took.”
Wait, can you use the word fidelity to describe clothes? She knew she could be loyal to me as long as I was here, and thoroughly expected me to feel the same way. . .
Wait, she told herself again, that sounds like bragging. I didn’t mean because I’m so hot he’s not going to find anyone better around here, even if I’ve got more going for me than someone like Rapunzel. No, I meant because he’s a good guy who isn’t so sex starved he has to go after every chick in the place, in the hopes of landing just one. Of course, he’s already landed me, so. . .
So, what the fuck was my point?
She saw me enjoying the cornbread, or else I was able to read her mind and wallow in her confusion. Best to change the subject.
Her eyes made sure mine were watching her, then she wormed her tongue around her own dessert, looking down to see if she’d gotten me hard yet again. Not yet. Well, it could keep. “Food is one of the very few sensual expressions for Midwesterners.”
“Along with sex and shopping?”
“No, that’s just me.”
“Ah. I must be damn lucky, then. I might even buy you something I’d like to see you wear.” I didn’t add that I’d probably be gone before it arrived; she’d probably order me to use next day shipping. Maybe a local T-shirt with a nasty logo. Yeah. . .
My thoughts were interrupted when I heard music in the air, but it was the music of warming up, not playing yet. It took an experienced audiophile to know that. Really.
“Recognize it?” she asked.
“Strings, high-pitched. Gotta go with violins. Why?”
“Actually, my biceps are like this because I usta play,” she admitted.
“Want to go watch that flock of fellow fiddlers?”
She laughed as she remembered telling me alliteration got her hot. “Actually, I do, but I’m keeping score, and I’ll give you credit for that phrase later.”
“Not even a quickie in the back of the booth? They’re still warming up.”
She gave me a quick kiss. “If we go there now Jessica will thank me for showing up early and take off. I don’t want to be cooped up just yet, nice as it might be. I don’t fancy interruptions, or having to keep my shirt on.”
“Like the girl who was so poor growing up she wasn’t allowed to look out the window for fear someone passing by might see her naked.”
“Poor baby, speaking of clothes! What happened?”
“When she was fifteen they bought her a hat.”
She frowned, not getting it.
“So she could look out the window,” I tried to explain, but when you didn’t get that kind of joke, it was doomed.
She made an effort, though; she was a nice person, I decided, underneath all those redheaded neuroses.
We walked on a little more, and she suddenly remembered she had a job, as I had to reach into her backpack twice to get more fliers. Eventually we came to a stage, where everyone was ripe pickings for fliers in their laps, but she told me she would never in no way interrupt the performance or the enjoyment of it. So we sat in the rear and waited for it to be over so she could hand out the papers as the people walked away.
I couldn’t tell what the girls were doing on the stage. It didn’t look like Riverdance, or its Scottish equivalent with the crossed swords on the ground. It looked kinda like a cheerleading routine, though not the pompom type, either, more like a professional dance team at halftime. But that wasn’t it either. I thought about asking her, but she was watching with such rapt attention I didn’t want to interrupt.
“Damn, I wish I could dance that well,” she sighed when it was over and she’d stood up in the aisle to hand out more fliers.
“As long as you can still dance around the fire naked, I’m satisfied.”
“Do you remember everything you’re told?”
“When it comes to you, I’d better.”
“Huh.” She went back to concentrating on her job, smiling at everyone but especially old people, and not so much at guys with babes hanging on their arms.
Speaking of memory, I coulda told her there were some people who’d already received fliers from her hands, but were being nice sports and taking another. They musta recognized the curvy redhead, but to my amazement, not one person said, “Got one already.”
So that’s what being a babe can do for you, I mused with a grin.
And then one of the dancers hello’ed her by name and told her she should try out for next year’s performance. Luckily there was no roof over us for me to scrape her off of. On the other hand, I did hold onto her arm, lest she fly away.
“You had to have been a cheerleader,” I mused once I’d informed her she was fresh out of fliers in her bag. After telling me her job was theoretically done till it was time for her stall duty, and announcing she was instead going to pick up more fliers, she assured me she could still fit into her uniform and had it in the closet at home.
“I won’t wear the panties,” she mused. “I’ll pretend I’m fundraising and have come over to your house to get a donation. You invite me in and I sit on the couch while you go look for some money.”
“Do I offer you candy?”
“Nice touch. Anyway, in case I haven’t answered your question yet, yes, I was a cheerleader. But only because I liked dance and they kicked me off the basketball team for throwing too many elbows under the boards.”
“You threw an elbow at me when you woke up this morning, but other than that I’ll save this interesting tidbit of information until I can use it against you. So were you at the top of the pyramid, or did they use your powerful body as a base?”
She wrinkled her nose. “Yeah, I was right in the middle of the bottom, but they made it up to me by putting me in the front during the dance routines. They knew who brought in the big money.”
“So you were always Little Miss Popular and Perky?”
She made her legs go jelly-like just as she replied that there was nothing little about his redhead, mister; luckily I caught it. Luckily I caught her, just as she was about to let herself tumble.
“So alliteration makes you bigger in all the important parts?” I grinned down into her face from where it hung past my arms, able to see all those important parts in the same glance. “Sweet!”
It wasn’t just the alliteration, she almost told me; the cheerleader fantasy helped. But no need to say that, especially if she was really gonna dress up tonight and surprise me, like she thought I couldn’t figure it out from the twinkle in her eyes.
“As sweet as the corn?”
“You’re always pushing it,” I sighed.
A wisp of tawny red hair fell over her eyes and she blew it back in place. “But not beyond the boundaries of good taste, right?”
“Beyond the boundaries of where clichés can go without having anything to do with the conversation.”
“You always this long-winded, hunky-hunk?”
“Hey, yet another accent!” I pretended to drop her.
“Eeek! If you’re going to have me this long in a tango hold, you’d better kiss me, or something!”
“You forgot to wear a rose in your mouth.”
“That would hurt.”
“Not if you do it right.”
“And what’s the right way?”
“Did you know that in Indiana it’s illegal for a liquor store to sell cold soft drinks?”
She didn’t know, and didn’t much care right now, so she settled for a non-rosy kiss.
“Eeek again! You made me forget I need more fliers! C’mon!”
And my day at the fair continued as it had started, with her behind me, shoving me in the back and trying to force me in the right direction. I played her a little, pretended to push back, and when she dug in and let ‘er rip, danced out of the way so she could do a face plant in the ground.
She didn’t have time for an “eeek!” here.
I paused long enough for a photo, let my hand linger down her denim-covered ass, and finally reached around to pull her up, my hands seemingly accidentally tourqeing on the part of her body that was easiest to grab a hold of.
And thusly saw her face was bright with embarrassment.
“See what happens when you’re a pushy broad?”
“I’m gonna be the talk of the town,” she murmured, trying to make the best of it. Then all was forgiven with a huge kiss that made some people who’d stopped to gawk break into spontaneous applause. “Yeah, that’s more like it! But now I’m on fire from your not-so-subtle caressing. We need to find a place!”
“Tunnel of love, or haunted house?”
“Both!” she squealed.
She tried to keep her pace at something less than redhead-furious, wondering if I was lollygagging at the end of her hand on purpose. She tried to think of other things, especially wondering how we were going to “get together” while on those little cars in the tunnel of love, or if we might make their own display as people marched through the Haunted House.
And it didn’t help that people kept bumping into her, seemingly catching every elbow on her chest. She told me later she felt like they’d swelled to twice their already considerable size, she was so hot. She thought she wouldn’t make it to one of the buildings before accidentally finishing, and all these probably accidental nudges were not helping her patience one bit.
She knew that the midway was kept on the narrow side so that people would have to brush up against the stores and games. Nothing was worse than a wide path and sparse crowds. When that happened, the marks hewed to the middle of the walkways and resisted the impulse to lay their money down.
She blushed to realize the term she’d used. “I always wondered why the customers are called marks,” she said with amused wonder.
“Back in the old days, when a customer took out a full wallet and one of the carnies saw it, he would chalk up his hand and slap him on the back like an ol’ buddy so that all the other gamers could see this guy was loaded and ripe for plucking.”
“Damn, you does know everything!”
“Your brother didn’t tell ya?”
“You’re right, he didn’t! Bastard!”
“Ah, your mother finally admit it?”
It took her a moment, but then the smack on the shoulder was half-hearted at best.
“Did you just mark me?”
“Ha! Nice one!”
I stopped when we came to the line for the tunnel of love. Off on the side I could see just as impressive a queue for the ghost palace. “Hate to bring this up, but you’re on duty in ten minutes.”
With a groan she glanced at her own chronometer, barely refraining from loosening a loud “Shit!” that would have just ruined the mood of all those around them. . .

{More to come next week}


Poetry Tuesday: The Dream

Goin’ Russian on you’ asses. . . (I doubt the apostrophe is gangsta’, but couldn’t help it)

Aleksandr Pushkin
The Dream
Not long ago, in a charming dream,
I saw myself — a king with crown’s treasure;
I was in love with you, it seemed,
And heart was beating with a pleasure.
I sang my passion’s song by your enchanting knees.
Why, dreams, you didn’t prolong my happiness forever?
But gods deprived me not of whole their favor:
I only lost the kingdom of my dreams.


County Fair Redhead part 1

This is what the Midwest is supposed to be like, my California born and bred mind told me. Nothing better than a county fair. . . especially one that specializes in corn. . .
I had to keep reminding myself this was a county fair, not a carnival, though there were many similarities. This gathering was bigger, of course, and not everyone was out to relieve you of your money, or at least they would actually sell you an item for the money, usually an edible. It made me think of a Mark Knopfler song, from his third solo album after a long and distinguished career as the leader of Dire Straits. I didn’t particularly like that album–why does an Englishman do country?–but the lyrics of “Devil Baby”. . .

See the pig-faced man and the monkey girl
Come see the big fat lady
Gator Slim with the alligator skin
Come see the devil baby.

“You look like a tourist,” a female voice called to me.
“That’s going out on a limb. Why?”
“Just want to make sure you can handle my corn,” she taunted.
I guess it’s not that much of a stretch to put the corn booth in the “Native American” section, but the people might be a little more authentic, for with her mass of red curls tumbling around her shoulders and the green eyes peering at me out of a freckled face, this lady was undoubtedly Irish. Maybe with a bit of Midwest farm girl in her redheadedness, but more fashion-model, tight sharp cheek structure. Either way, tremendously attractive. . . and what’s more, just the way I like ‘em. . .
“I am a connoisseur of corn,” I assured the girl, wondering how long it would take to count her freckles, then realizing I couldn’t tell until I saw how tall she was. With her behind the counter I had no idea , but was quite willing to find out.
“Really?” she grinned, leaning an elbow on the counter and her chin in her palm. “Where did you have the best corn ever?”
“New Zealand.” My reply was so quick it surprised her.
“Down there? You’re kidding!”
“I kid you not. At Rotorua they cook it in one of the geysers. I don’t know what it is, but it makes it taste fantastic.”
“Wow. Makes me wanna go there.” She turned to get me one of her products, on a stick. “Free. . . if you give us a good quote.”
“If I say it tastes terrible, I have to pay for it? Hardly seems fair.”
“You won’t.” Her green eyes twinkled. “If I do say so myself.”
“And I should trust you?”
“Won’t know unless you try.”
I couldn’t argue with logic like that, so I munched.
“Top ten?” she asked quickly.
I must have looked surprised. “This is the best I’ve ever tasted in the United States! Howz that for a quote?”
“Works for me!” she whooped. “Noted corn expert proclaims ‘Best in USA!’”
“You have a poetic soul,” I grinned.
“Me?” she giggled. “I’m just a corn girl, been one all my life. But you!” she teased. “’I kid you not?’”
“I’m just glad you caught it.” I looked around furtively, then stuck my head forward. No doubt having had fun with stuff like this in the past, she leaned in close as well. “Rumor has it I love redheads. Some even call it a. . . fetish!”
Yeah, that one always worked. Her face matched her hair.
“So you working this place alone?”
“Usually,” she admitted, glad for the chance to recover from my confession, “though this is a satellite branch, to use city lingo. We’re in the middle, for the people who buy corn by the bucketful, with butter.”
I looked at his cob, which was all-natural. She caught the glance.
“I like to think our product is good enough without butter, but most people prefer it on.” She shrugged.
“Let me guess: you’ve got a degree from a nearby U in public relations. ‘Noted corn expert?’”
She stuck out her tongue. “That’s not nice of you,” she pouted. “I’m starting college next year.”
“You don’t look, um, so girlish that you’d still be in high school.”
“I’m not,” she laughed, knowing I’d almost said she didn’t look that young. “I’m twenty-one. I just didn’t feel like going to college yet, nor traipsing around Europe.
“But I won’t be studying PR,” she continued, grinning, “because I already know it. I’m working PR for the corn people!”
I obviously wasn’t stupid enough to say it might be due to her looks.
“Of course I didn’t start out that way,” she went on, not needing my input every time. “I started out as a butter girl.”
“That sounds promising,” I brightened. “What’s that?”
“You’ll see it later,” she promised, “if you go that way. But I can tell you it involves a large block of butter in front of you, on which is placed a corn on the cob. Then you moved the corn left and right until it’s literally slathered with butter. It’s quite a workout, which is why we’ve had so many softball pitchers working for us. Check out these biceps!” She posed hammily.
I somehow found the willpower to actually look at her arms, after a detour. Having her arms over her head did something to her figure that had to be seen to be believed. “Those stay with you, even if you’re not doing it this year?”
“Public relations involves heavy lifting too,” she intoned mysteriously, “but that’s boring. Anyway, in the mornings I go around telling everyone to buy our corn, but in the afternoons I sit here and tell people to buy our corn.”
“At least here you get to sit down.”
“A huge plus! And here my bosses aren’t watching, so I can talk to handsome–” She thought about it. “–or unhandsome, whoever the spirit strikes me, people.”
“Good thing you’re so attractive, cuz usually when someone mangles metaphors like that–”
She waved that concern away. “At least I don’t dangle participles. Take what you can get.”
Grin. “I usually do.”
She gulped at that, then firmed up and smiled back, enjoying where this was going.
A few minutes later I knew her name was Josi, which somehow fit, and her address and phone number, which meant nothing to me yet, since I hadn’t seen much of the town other than the hotel and the fair.
As soon as I was done with the first corny meal, she nonchalantly grabbed another and passed it to me through the window. I figured she was running a tab, but it didn’t keep me from either continuing to eat or gabbing with the most interesting woman I’d met in a small town in America in a long time.
I was on my third corn when another smirking girl came by and entered the stand. Josi came out to take a look down both sides of the aisle, or whatever the path was called. I wondered what she had in mind, which of course led me to study her body, now that he could see it. Yum. If that was the result of corn. . .
“Looks like the crowd’s thinning,” she announced. “I’m gonna call it a day.”
That left me with an opening, but all I was thinking about right now was her curvy ass in tight jeans. She was a big-breasted red-haired Irish lass, prototype quality, taller than I’d thought, no doubt owner of thousands of freckles. . .
“What are you grinning at?” she asked once she’d turned around.
“Believe it or not, thinking about work.”
As I walked with her–slowly–toward her car, I mentioned my original thought about this being different than a carnival, which made her brighten and tell me her brother was a carnie. After informing me there were a lot of things about carnivals she couldn’t inform me about–some sort of secret membership thing, I guess–she did tell me the best difference was that the fair had no church call, and of course I was dumb enough to ask what that was.
“It’s basically a pre-opening briefing where jobs are assigned and rules explained. Just like you’d find at a business conference.”
“But with a more memorable name. So how else is the fair different than a carnival? How do they assign who pays the most rent?”
“Actually, kinda similar, as far as location goes,” she admitted. “However, if you walk around enough you see this place is separated by themes. We pay a lot to have the big stall in the midway, but we probably don’t have to, since we’re so popular. The stand where you met me, however, is in the Native American section, since they grew it long before Whitey ever showed up.”
“I noticed that, noticing as well that the girl at the stall didn’t look Native American at all. Though I forgive you this time,” I ended magnanimously.
“Thought you would,” she smirked. “But the fair is really more about grouping things together, as far as where the people want to set up. It doesn’t make sense to have the animal shows spread out all over the place, for example. Vegetables over here, sweets over there, home furnishings on the left, exotic food next to the antacid stand, so forth.”
“And around the corner fudge is made?”
She looked shocked. “City boy knows that one?”
“I heard it in Amsterdam. So you still visit your brother, so he can train you to be a carnie?”
“He wants to see me, he comes home now!” She seemed too caught up to protest that she would never have a dark enough heart to become one, and when she continued I saw why. “Last time I was there, one guy actually tried to get me to join his traveling brothel, without knowing my brother was the tough Irish kid who was about to beat him up.”
“I can see where that would make you turn to the more innocent pastime of county fairs. So your brother’s no longer with that carnival?”
“Here’s something else about carnies: they have their own justice system. In this case, they ultimately decided the guy had it coming, for not checking on me first, to see who I was or related to, so they didn’t punish my brother, but he was requested to not invite me there anymore. Fine with me!” she shuddered, then pulled it together and went back to redhead mode. “I suppose you can’t blame the poor guy, losing control as soon as he saw me. . .”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m sure your brother broke his glasses.”
“Don’t be jealous, honey,” she cooed.
“Of more important concern is that smell. It’s not you, I hope.”
She sniffed, then saw what I meant, or smelled it rather. “The wind is kicking up in prelude to a storm,” she announced as she started walking faster. “Usually we’re upwind from the pig farm, but when it gets like this–”
{For my own sake and personal safety, a few lines will be omitted at this point. We rejoin where the country girl exhibits her wanderlust. . . mmmm, that was fun to write}
“Have you ever failed to find an interesting place in your travels?”
“Only Paris. . . no, that’s not true, there’s the Louvre. Not the building, the art works it contains.”
“Seriously though. . .”
“I’ve been all around the world, seen wonders that the locals take for granted. I now realize that there are a lot of places here in the States that may not be wonders, but are fascinating in their own way, and of course the locals take those places even more for granted. For instance, there’s a song I like called ‘Sailing to Philadelphia,’ which sounds weird when you first hear it, but there’s a line about the Capes of Delaware, and I suddenly decided I wanted to go see it.”
“So you did,” she guessed.
“So I did. No big deal, but–”
“But you met a babe!”
“That wasn’t what I was going to say.”
Her face told me she thought I overdid the primness. “You don’t deny it, though, huh?”
“Want to hear some corn trivia?” I yawned.
“There was an experiment done with parrots.”
“Do they actually think for themselves, or just repeat everything?”
“Hence the word ‘parroting’.”
“Oh, right!”
“That is actually what the study was about. They were fed different foods to see if they could identify them.”
“Good test.”
“The researcher, a little blonde whom I will not describe more than that, would take a bite before letting the parrot nibble. She was a corn fan–don’t get jealous–and before feeding the bird and saying ‘corn,’ she said ‘yummy!’ So–”
“So whenever the bird was fed corn, he would say ‘Yummy!’ Right?”
“Smart chick, for a redhead, but you said it wrong.”
Her face took a neutral expression, having been both insulted and praised in the same sentence. She would never admit to being confused.
Taking a deep breath, I did a high-pitched, rather scary “Yummy!” that had her almost jumping off the sidewalk and into the street.

{to be continued next Thursday. . .}


Poetry Tuesday: Nude Descending Staircase

As usual with me, it’s all about the visuals.

Toe upon toe, a snowing flesh
A gold of lemon, root and rind,
She sifts in sunlight down the stairs
With nothing on. Nor on her mind.

We spy beneath the bannister
A constant thresh of thigh on thigh
Her lips imprint the swinging air
That parts to let her parts go by.

One-woman waterfall, she wears
Her slow descent like a long cape
And pausing, on the final stair
Collects her motions into shape.