Book Reviews: Graphic Novel Edition

“You’re invited to take me to dinner,” she smirked.
With that attitude, I graciously declined; her reaction was priceless.

So this week it’s all graphic novels, and because they’re quicker to read there’s more of them.

Invisible Republic Volume 1
You know the authors have a lot of confidence when they open with a hero shot of a couple standing on an asteroid.
On a distant planet a totalitarian government has fallen, and an intrepid reporter is out to figure out how it all happened. No one cares to help him; everyone’s too poor to waste their time on this stuff. But by sheer coincidence he comes across the memoirs of the one person who knew the dictator best, at least in his early days. From there we go to flashback, interspaced with more of the reporter.
The story actually follows a woman who was with the future bad guy, who from her looks and clothes appears to be of Australian descent. In the first incident she shows her moral courage, which of course pisses off her cousin the bad guy, and from there we see her survive on the street and then be taken in by a co-op of beekeeper honeymakers, because one of them felt guilty about almost killing her.
The artwork is well done but bleak—monochrome, sepia—which fits the bleak world portrayed. There wasn’t all that much story or character development, but I assume there’s more to come, since it ends with the title character appearing in the present.
The extras are well done, including the history of bees and the problems of interstellar travel. But in the end it’s only an intro, so don’t expect a full story.
3/5

RUNLOVEKILL
Some badass female fights a bunch of soldiers, then climbs a wall—a very high wall—but is still darted and falls into the ocean. So of course I immediately thought of Aeon Flux. . . the cartoons, not the movie. (Don’t get me started on Charlize’s poor choices. . .)
During that chase there’s one small panel of a woman with a cello, which intrigued me. The other thing that kept me interested is that it took 18 pages for words to show up, at which point we find out the totalitarian regime that says they’re protecting their citizens by making a wall no one can escape over is called the Origami, as poetic a name as you’ll ever find for such a group.
“You don’t believe there’s a threat?”
“I don’t believe the threat is coming from outside.”
Finally we meet the main character, a former soldier with a special skillset that makes her in demand; later it’s said she was a sniper who had a crisis of conscience. The rest of the story concerns some high-ranked officials trying to capture her, and her barely escaping over and over. Every issue starts with a flashback; little by little we see what brought her not just to this position but the enmity of the general. Her ultimate goal seems to be too simple, which is actually the best quote: “One day things will be different for me. I just need to make it to that day.”
The hook for the sequel has the heroine saying, “Now I’m pissed,” but without the rest of the story it feels like a waste of time. Most of the last half rambles on, especially the middle section, which contains a far-too-long piece where Rain, the main character, is getting drunk or whatever they do in this dystopian future. Ditto when the commandos deploy to the bar to get Rain. From there it’s all about her trying to escape, barely managing it time and again, impressionistically drawn—some places unclear as to what I’m supposed to be seeing, more artsy than narrative—but not very eye-catching.
I’m just glad I found out what the girl with the cello was about. . .
2/5

The Tithe Volume 1
This story opens in a megachurch in Irvine, so I’m already liking the blasphemy. . . er, satire.
From there the plot follows a small group of “terrorists” who steal from the gigantic churches, and the FBI agents after them. The supposed bad guys are led by a fantastic character, someone we can identify with as far as her convictions, though definitely not her skills. She wants to bring down the churches because they steal from the poor, and are often committing crimes as well, but at the same time she’s got a much bigger moral compass than those she’s stealing from, those self-proclaimed bastions of righteousness; Robin Hood indeed. Of course there’s always a point where things go south, and though I kinda saw the last twist coming, it still provided an excellent closing, even with more to come someday.
It’s interesting to see the two FBI guys with such different viewpoints, especially toward religion. Not exactly Mulder and Scully, though; the highly religious older black man makes no concessions, while his younger partner, who has a history as a hacker, is much more sympathetic. One of those cases where both sides have points, but not enough to change a mind.
The artwork was good enough, but it’s really the story that’s the big thing here. I’d certainly want to be on Samaritan’s side, for more than one reason.
Almost a third is taken up by extras: some character sketches and alternate covers, but mostly where the author got the idea, with plenty of link to religious scandals. There’s even some letters from the public, followed by a 20-page preview of another series that annoyed me a bit.
4/5

Descender Volume 1: Tin Stars
On a planet far off in space, an alien machine parks in orbit and threatens a beautiful futuristic civilization; nice to see a future that isn’t Dystopian in a graphic novel. But that was just the prologue, as ten years later we’re on a mining moon, where everyone’s dead except a boy, who’s just woken up and wondering where his mom and brother are amongst all the bodies, which makes it look like the dead planet on Serenity.
Because of that I wondered if the boy knew he was a robot, but that was a red herring; he’s well aware. So he and his dog/robot companion, a la Muffy from Battlestar Galactica—aka Bandit aka Yappy-Bot—look around for anything alive.
At the same time a robotics expert is drafted by a redheaded captain—remember, it’s Telsa, not Tesla—to go looking for the boy bot before mercenaries can nab him, thinking he has something to do with the attack a decade before. After getting shot the kid bot is in some kind of droid purgatory which lasts for quite a bit. The best character might be the drilling robot, who comes up with lines like, “Gladiator bots! Oil will be spilled!” And on the back cover there a shot of little Tim totally channeling Luke Skywalker about to climb into his x-wing.
All in all this was a pretty good story, with fun though flawed characters. If there’s a way to describe the artwork, I would go with bright watercolor. As one would expect there’s a hook for more to come, and after that there’s a small lexicon of planets, but that’s all the extras. But it doesn’t really need anything else, being a complete and well-drawn-out story.
4/5

Jem and the Holograms: Showtime
An all-girl rock band with a cute redhead lefty keytarist has a lead singer with stage fright; you can see how that would be a problem. Luckily Dad left them a music-infused AI that turns the singer into a hologram—they do notice the irony with the band name—and allows her to perform in a battle of the bands video competition against an established group, almost all of whom seem rather entitled and serve well as bad guys.
“Was dad a superhero? Was he that iron guy?”
I am loving the humor here. The redhead is a hoot of an airhead; they even have her doing a happy dance that’s hilarious. At one point she goes to wake up one of the others and gets shoes thrown at her, which inspires her to shout, “You will eventually run out of shoes, Aja!” She also falls in love with her counterpart on the more famous band, inspiring a Juliet/Juliet storyline.
The others members of the rival band are either entirely apathetic or downright evil. Trying to kill The Holograms seems over the top, though they could blame it on their deranged manager/fan. They do have motorcycles shaped like guitars, which is beyond awesome, so they’re not completely horrible. There is a hilarious pie fight, but the pillow fight was over after the first blow, just a tease.
The artwork is just as bright as the humor. This is one of the few graphic novels I’ve read where I’d like to read the continuation, especially since it ends in a cliffhanger. Definitely the best of this group of books.
5/5

The Infinite Loop
Oh good! A snarky redhead. They know me so well. And she’s a time traveler. And of course she doesn’t care for love. This is the second gorgeous redhead of the week, and both are gay; I have horrible luck even with fictional women.
I’m not going to attempt to explain this plot, because as you would expect with time travel stories, you really can’t. But I will say that, for such a complicated time-travel storyline, I had no difficulty following it. I’ve read plenty of plots recently where with a much simpler premise I couldn’t say the same, although it seems strange for the Unit 70 asses to kill people for no reason, since it’s likely to alter the timeline.
More than anything else, there’s an undercurrent of snarky humor that often takes you by surprise. The flow charts are hilarious; the tough bad guys do pinky swears. A cute bad girl gets her head chopped off by a t-rex just as she was making a joke about extinction. Someone gets called a mushy unicorn lover. There’s even a perfectly appropriate Star Trek reference. But the best line has to be: “Those are some shitty choices. Like having to decide between Beiber and Kanye.”
Not sure I understood the conclusion, unless there was no conclusion and it’s gonna continue. Still, I enjoyed it more than most. My second favorite of this group, behind the one with the other redhead.
4/5

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Down Town
Heard plenty about the Dresden Files, never read them. Good wizard keeping Chicago safe from fantastical creatures, in a nutshell. This is a new story in the series, so I didn’t feel like I was left out because I didn’t know the backstory. He does have a padewan—his own word—and a semi-ghost dog, or something. Plus the nasty talking skull.
Basically a new big bad comes to town and makes what turns out to be a Golem to terrorize the villagers of Chicago’s south side. The local mob boss takes offense and thinks he can beat magical creatures, which of course complicates things for Dresden.
Probably the most realistic art, and therefore my favorite, I’ve seen; I haven’t read graphic novels very long, but this artwork is amazing. There are some exquisite. . . human form drawings, to be as subtle as I can make it; the blonde in the nightclub is particularly noteworthy, though all women are drawn stunningly.
The big extras are the character sketches and the rough line art for every page of the first issue.
The story was fine, but it’s the characters that shine the most.
4/5

;o)

My Favorite Thermometer

Throwback Thursday–as in #ThrowbackThursday #TBT–to one of the coldest nights of my life, in Copenhagen; the thermometer on the building shows early evening, it would get much colder than that. Luckily I had a choice from a ton of redheads to warm me up. . .

copen

;o)

Travel Thursday: Island of the Manly Men

I yawned as I lay on the grass, looking at the girl with the cat in her arms. Here on the Isle of Man, the cats were tailless–though just as bring-the-allergies–but that was just where the weirdness began.
I shuddered whenever I thought about what might have happened had I entered the motorcycle race; I’d be recuperating in a hospital bed, or lying in the morgue, instead of a redhead’s front lawn.
The first week of June brought the Tourist Trophy Motor Classic, renown around the world as the most dangerous motorcycle race, averaging four fatalities a year. Good thing I wasn’t much of a motorcycle enthusiast, so instead I waited a few days so I could go over the race course on a more usual and much less dangerous man-powered bike.
The sun was now in my eyes, so I had to roll over, catching a different view of the south end of the island. I knew the closest town was Port St. Mary, but if she expected me to remember words like Rhenwyllan and the Bay ny Carrickey, whatever the hell that meant, she way overestimated me.
As though reading my thoughts–not an impossibility in this place–she got off her porch swing and went inside. Now that I was alone, I replayed the ride in my mind.
The start and finish points of the race where right in the middle of Douglas, and from there it was a few miles southeast on A5 before making a sharp turn northwest on Al. The terrain rose ever so subtly, skirting the largest hills on the island, easily visible to the north. Halfway down that road I passed a camp, and a few of the bikers tried to keep pace with me, but I easily outdistanced them and then turned north just before St. Johns, which was itself just before the west coast giant, Peel. Now I was on the A3, in a valley between a few coastal hills to my left and the bigger ones on the right, with a plantation thrown in here and there. I could feel the ground below me climb steeper, though not nearly enough to tax the huge muscles I’d built up when playing soccer and never lost. But not long after that came a slight descent, so I practically coasted into the town of Kirk Michael. I could see the ocean now as the road turned slightly east instead of due north, making for a long curve up to Ballaugh. From there, still on the A3, it was a straight north-east-east line, past a wildlife park, until passing Sulby, where it became due east until I hit the east coast again at the port of Ramsay.
At this point the course designers could have made a leisurely run down the coast on A2, but instead opted to give the race competitors a view of the highest point on the island, a peak called Snaefell, right in the middle of the most desolate land. To this point I’d had no difficulties of any kind, but I also knew I was now entering the bad country that was the cause of most of the accidents and fatalities in the race. I would also be going from sea level to 600 meters in a very short distance, all the while having to watch the roads for any possible problems.
Much to my surprise I made it to Snaefell in a very short amount of time, and again I had no problems climbing on the A18, though my thighs were feeling the first twinges of burning. Emily had been on her daily walk up to the peak; she later claimed it was the only way to stay in shape on the island. Just then she was huffing and puffing from her climb, lovely bosom heaving with each breath and straining against the sweaty fabric of her shirt. We were heading in opposite directions, and she saw me first. Even from a distance she could see what incredible legs I had (so she told me later); she whistled unconsciously and waved as I passed by.
Trying to divide my time between precautionary looks at the road and more appreciative glances at the scenery, I fell under the spell of this fine example of nature’s bounty. The view made me slow down and turn my head back to get a longer look at this bountiful female, whom I couldn’t help but notice had turned her head as well.
I had experienced many things in life and been warned about a lot of others. One of the most important lessons, something I used over and over again, was to never underestimate the stupidity of sheep.
But what the hell where sheep doing here? This was mountain terrain, pure rock without a blade of grass. I tried to avoid them as they spilled onto the road, knowing the whole time it was much too late. Hoping there would be no more, I moved off the road, but the front wheel immediately found a ditch that sent me flying, clipping my ankle on the cliff face. As I rolled over, first in the air and then on impact, I was spared any further injury, and wanted to prove my Superman-ness to the redhead, so I stood up quickly with the momentum my body had built up. I took one step toward my bike. . . and promptly keeled over from the pain, the ankle much worse than I’d thought.
Emily, feeling immensely guilty despite the fact they weren’t her sheep, took it upon herself to completely rehabilitate me, starting by getting me off the most remote place on the island. Somehow she’d managed to snag a ride, the bike wheeling along on the side as I held on to it through the open window. In no time we were back in Douglas, where she quickly made arrangements, picking up my things from the hotel and then literally shoving me–and my new crutches–onto the steam train that took tourists on the scenic twenty-four mile trip down to Port Erin on the southwestern edge of land. From there it had been a bus to the place where the A5 joined the A31, with us doing the last leg on foot, even bad ones.
But now, a couple of weeks later, my ankle felt as good as new, thanks to her particular brand of healing, and I was more than ready to get some exercise. Ankle still too tender for pedaling, I figured I’d stick with walking, and since Man was such a small island–thirty three miles long and twelve wide maximum–I could walk as much as a quarter of the island on a long day.
But not today. Emily was waiting. . .
As I got up I saw the design on the front gate, the national symbol, one that was not only apt for the country but also for me at the moment. It showed three legs connected to a center, each running in a different direction, but always forming a circle. The words said: Quocunque Jeceris Stabit: “Whichever way you throw me, I stand.” It was one of the many reasons the people here were so loveable. . . at least in small doses. Despite how one writer had described it–”eighty thousand alcoholics clinging to a rock”–right now it felt like a paradise. . . not in the physical sense; there were certainly no apple trees growing in the lush grass of a jungle. It was also not a paradise for the mind; in fact, if I gave it much thought, it could become boring. The only way I could describe it would be as a paradise for the soul, a place to cleanse oneself from the nasty world surrounding the island. The locals often thought of it as a place with no crime, along with lengthy dissertations on the values of hard work, righteousness, and unfortunately a few votes for reinstating the birch, a subject I did not care to discuss and told me I would not actually live here. Aside from those scary quirks, I was hard pressed to think of another place in the entire world where so many people endorsed such wholesome values. . . while not running for office, of course.
Then I wondered what they would think of the special way in which Emily had healed me these past few weeks. . .

;o)

Travel Thursday: A Passage to Redhead, part 4

Strolling hand in hand now, not allowing me to go back to shooting, she recounted her previous stops on this trip, starting in London and making it almost all the way over here when she suddenly pondered if I would ask where she got the money to pay for all this. Instead I wondered where she’d gotten her love of travel, and she was so grateful she quickly gushed, “We had a station wagon when I was growing up, me and my sister and mommy and daddy riding all over the country every summer, seeking out every historical marker, national park and ‘World’s Largest.’”

Then, blushing at where she’d left that last part for my evil brain, she looked over at my face and was surprised to see me with myeyes closed, looking dreamy.

“Mmmmm, quiet while I try to imagine what your sister would look li–OW!”

She was still laughing about it when we came across yet another tour group, and since she’d had so much success with it the last time, she pretended to linger in order to overhear what the guide was saying. This allowed me to return to my photographic endeavor, so with only a psychic harumph! she let me go and concentrated on the words, trying not to smile at the combination Indian/Oxbridge accent.

“While the sexual nature of these carvings have caused the site to be referred to as the Kamasutra temple, they do not illustrate the meticulously described positions of this famous tome. The strategically placed sculptures are designed to appease malevolent spirits. Sexual images also imply a virile, thus powerful, ruler.”

Yeah, I can see that. . .

“A sculptor was brought in for a television interview to forensically examine the tool marks and construction techniques involved in creating the stunning stonework at the sites. He also recreated a stone sculpture under four feet that took about sixty days to carve, in an attempt to develop a rough idea how much work must have been involved.”

Two months? No way! Hope the models didn’t have to pose for that long. . .

“There were also experiments conducted to see how long it would take to quarry the limestone. It took twelve quarrymen twenty days to quarry about four hundred tons of stone.”

Holy cannoli, these guys musta been highly motivated!

“The temples are now set in a parkland landscape. When India gained independence from Britain in 1947, the landscape setting was semi-desert and scrub. The archaeological park now is compared to an English public park, with mown grass, rose beds and ornamental trees. This is popular with visitors but has no relationship with the historic landscape at the time the temples were built.

“Some people complain that the landscape should reflect its appearance in those times, however there are no records of what that original environment might have been. What he do know is that Indian gardens in the tenth century were predominantly tree gardens, without lawns or flowering plants.”

Dammit, way too early to be bored!

“You’re already in love with me, ain’t ya?” she beamed as she joined me again, not able to come up with a better opening line. . . plus she liked to keep up her image as a redhead, therefore overdoing it all the time.

“I think you’re a couple of folders short of a file. . .”

“Well said, sir. It’s almost like you invented sarcasm.”

I smiled paternally. “Of course I didn’t invent sarcasm.” Beat. “I merely perfected it.”

“Close enough.” Smirk. “Did you get far enough today with your photos that we can leave now? I think the sun’s getting to me.”

“If that’s what you need to tell yourself. . .”

“Hey, you’ve proven you’re the sarcasm king already! Don’t overdo it!”

“Let’s grab something cool to drink, or else I won’t make it back to the hotel.”

“Agreed!”

Not that it was that easy, of course. The first place we tried we were greeted by a nodding smiling man who had no idea what we were asking, but kept on nodding and smiling throughout. Even a redhead with a temper like Emily had been here long enough to sigh and bear it with those supposed smiles of acknowledgement; most claimed it was simple politeness, but I was sure it had to do with ego, not able to admit they had no idea what you just said. Worse than even New York!

But finally we made it back to my hotel, where she tossed herself on the couch with her six-pack of sodas and tried not to yawn as she watched me work on the laptop. I don’t know how long that lasted, but it felt like suddenly she was behind me, playing with my hair. “You look depressed, sweetie. Anything I can do?”

“Not even Carrie can get me out of this depression.”

“Who now!?”

My pretend yawn was a lot more convincing than I’d expected, even to myself. “This redhead I know in the Seychelles. Nurse, one of those girls who’ll do anything for her patient. And simply a monumental body. . .”

A strangled sound came from her throat, no matter how hard she tried to tamp it down.

This time I sighed. “I was thinking of visiting her when I was done here, figuring it wouldn’t be hard to get there from here. But when I called they told me the flight made a stop. . .”

Not quite thinking yet, she nonetheless managed to squeak, “So?”

“In Paris!”

A little shaken by this information–not about the scheduled stop, about the rival redhead’s monumental body–she nevertheless rallied. “Well, I’m better than Carrie!”

I looked at her interestingly. “Really? You realize I can’t just take your word for that. You’ll have to prove it.”

“Maybe I will,” she teased, not having planned anything but quickly becoming challenged. Seeing I wasn’t going to answer, she sighed, “Men! Can’t live with ‘em, can’t shoot ‘em!”

“Women–can’t live with ‘em, can’t have heterosexual sex without ‘em!–OW!”

And that was just what was needed to get her out of her funk, if her redheaded chipmunk giggles meant anything.

to be continued one more time

;o)

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.”
“Not.”
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.
“Always.”
“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. . .}

;o)