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. . .}



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