Traveling Amusement

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
A coming of age story of a complicated young woman.

Submitted: February 20, 2014

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Submitted: February 20, 2014

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Traveling Amusement by Bekki Pettitt

Yesterday I decided that I was not cut out for this gypsy life anymore. Everyone just sees me as ‘Little Robyn’, daughter of the ever so popular Trixie-the footloose and fancy free carny-or carnival ride operator, as the proper speaking people like to say. I want so much more for myself.

We travel from city to city, state to state. I watch the families with their children paying for tickets to ride our broken down rides with their bright lights and cheap thrills. I always find myself wishing I was one of those kids, with a normal life-with a Mother and a Father-maybe even a younger sister or brother. I would love to have some stability.

So yesterday, like I said, I got the idea in my head that I was going to do whatever was in my grasp to save some money and make my escape. Sure, I don’t have a plan yet. Trixie would say, in that raspy-chain smoker voice of hers, “You are a dreamer little girl.”

I can’t listen to what she says anymore. Just because Trixie is a lifer doesn’t mean that I have to be. I turn seventeen in just two days. My Uncle Gideon, the man who’s in charge of our little group-The Jolly Frolic Carnival (which I think is a name that lacks character), has ever so generously offered me a job. I believe that Uncle Gideon (who’s not really my uncle at all-I now know that’s a term that means ‘a man that Trixie is currently fucking’) said that I could operate one of the impossible to win games. I believe he said that the object of the game was to pop balloons with darts to win cheap stuffed bears and shit. This is what my life is reduced to.

I finished my online G.E.D. course last month. I just spend a lot of time in our shitty camper listening to music or watching videos on You Tube. My life is a giant suck fest. There have never been any attractive guys that work in our group that are my age. So friends are few and far between-My Mom and the other ‘carnies’ are literally my only real friends. I can’t take it anymore. It feels pointless to make friends on the computer. They aren’t real to me. It’s not like I will ever have the chance to meet any of them. So herein lies my dilemma-or should I say my dilemma’s plural?

This is not what I want for myself. I don’t want to be a middle-aged woman like Trixie who has to sleep with her co-workers because she hasn’t had the education or opportunities that a normal woman has.

Tomorrow we will be arriving in some small town in Iowa and it will technically be my first day working. I hear Mom in the front of the motorhome laughing with Gideon, and we’ve stopped. I have to see what the heck all of the commotion is. Or if it’s my lucky day, we will be at a truck stop and they will leave me behind.

“What’s happening baby?” Trixie exhales, blowing her rancid cigarette smoke directly in my face. Hello Mom, ever hear of second hand smoke? Obviously not!

“Where the heck are we?” Why did I ask? I could’ve just looked out the window. Duh!

“Gideon has to take a piss break. Everybody thought that Sammy’s looked like a good restaurant to have dinner at.” My Mom would be so pretty if she cared to take care of herself. I swear I think that every time that I look at the woman.

Sammy’s does look interesting. I check out the mirror, it’s a truck stop diner with a neon sign that looks like it climbed right out of the 1950’s, that’s calling my name. “Where is Gid, inside with everybody else?”

Trixie points out the window, and I swear the clouds parted. Well at least they did in my head…Who is that tall fox that Uncle Gideon is talking to?

Trixie is putting on bright red lipstick, looking like she’s fixing to pick up some truckers. I know it is just a reaction to her seeing the ‘hottie’ that Gid is out there conversing with. God Mother, isn’t one man enough for you? The thing that frosts my ‘proverbial Wheaties’ is that since Trixie has hooked up with Gideon, she hasn’t used drugs. He is actually a great influence on her, and sad to say is the closest thing to a positive male role model that I have had in my life-like ever.

Don’t screw this up Trixie-he is the only man that has ever even remotely acted like he loved you.

“Hey kiddo, do you think that Gid will like this new shade that I bought?”

O.k. maybe I was wrong…Oops, I shouldn’t jump to conclusions about my Mother being a whore just yet.

Did I mention that I have to meet him? I throw open the back door of our crappy Bounder Winnebago and scurry over to my ‘favorite’ uncle. Again, not really my uncle but right now he’s definitely my favorite. Sure, it’s only because of his great taste in company, but hey…that counts doesn’t it?

Gideon looks surprised and confused at the same time. It’s not often that he sees me smile. I’m usually in one of my dead-eyed, stone-faced, teenage mood swings.

“Robyn? Does Trixie need her lighter? Gid is puzzled.

Can’t he see that I’m like a hungry puppy begging for a treat? I thought for sure that my longing wide-eyed gaze would give me away. But no, it’s not working. I’d better put on my game face. What do I say? Work! Yes! I will mention the dart booth! “So Gideon, do I really get to work the dart booth tomorrow?” It’s not a very creative fake question, but the enormously tall stranger made eye contact with me, so in my eyes it was a success.

Is it possible that this man is even more handsome up close? He has an impossibly thick head of sandy brown hair and the smile of a game show host. I wonder if Gid has figured out why I’m stalking them?

“I think you’re ready for a booth Robs. You need to start making your own money.” Gideon winks at me with a devilish gleam in his tired puppy dog eyes. “You can do what you want with it.” Yeah, he’s on my side. He is a good guy.

“Who’s your friend?” I can’t help myself, I have to ask.

The gorgeous friendly ‘giant’ brushes some dust from the knee of his incredibly tight faded jeans. “I’m Cash Travis, Ma’am.”

Did he really just nod at me? Why am I picturing him riding in slow motion on a bucking bronco? His aura screams Wild West Cowboy.

Smart-ass Gideon has to open his smart-assed mouth and embarrass me. “He didn’t even have to make up that name either.” He chuckles, punching the ‘tall game show host’ in his long arm to let him know that he means no harm. “Only kidding man…Hey Robyn, meet our newest addition!”

I feel thrilled and faint all at once as Cash shakes my hand.

“It’s nice to meet you, Robyn.” His voice is deep.

I’d better go inside the roadside café before I begin to drool or spontaneously combust. “Nice meeting you Cash. See you around…” I try to smile seductively at my new co-worker, but worry that I probably look like a stupid little girl. At sixteen, who knows how to be sexy anyway?

As I’m walking away, I overhear Trixie’s scratchy voice mixed in with Gid and Cash. “Wow, you look strong…” I wonder if she knows how ridiculous she sounds.

Gid’s witty comeback makes me laugh and puts everything into perspective. “Yeah, I told him that I need an able pair of hands and a strong work ethic.”

I look back to see Mom and Gideon holding each other’s hands like an old married couple. She keeps surprising me. I hope it lasts.

I wasn’t exceptionally hungry at dinner tonight. Trixie and Gid introduced Cash to the other members of our ‘traveling circus’, for lack of a better word. He seemed to fit right in and chose to bunk in another trailer with Rosie, Marvin and Jasper, who happen to have all at one time been referred to as my ‘uncles’ as well. But that was before Trixie and Gideon got serious.

I felt so exhausted and bored-my usual combination-shortly after we left the diner. So not feeing much like hanging out with Trixie and Gideon while they cranked up The Grateful Dead and talked inappropriately, I retired to my personal bunk and put on my headphones. As soon as my head hit the pillow I was out. I had this vivid dream of a starry night. It was all very much like a Van Gogh painting. I was alone on a carousel riding a horse. Then Cash and I were riding the Ferris wheel together. Naturally I woke up smiling.

We set up in a large dirt parking lot in ‘Nowhere-ville Iowa’. The wind was especially chilly and I was not in the mood to be out in the public eye. I’m sure that it had something to do with the crankiness and that time of the month when a teenage girl wants to be left the fuck alone.

The sweet aroma of barbeque ribs, corn on the cob, caramel apples, Indian fry bread and kettle corn is making my stomach grumble as I walk past the food booths. Rosie calls out to me from inside a makeshift kitchen, “Hey Robby! Have an ear of corn! You’ll waste away to nothing!”

Somehow, that goofy hippie handing me a buttery ear of corn and a foam cup of sweet pink lemonade made me snap out of my ‘fuck the world’ mood. “Thanks Uncle Rosie!” I have gotten used to eating while walking and I think that I do it very well. Unfortunately, no one was around to warn me about the butter dripping down my lower lip. And who should walk by with no shirt on, a tool belt and those damned tight jeans? Yep, you guessed it-Cash!

“Hey Robyn, your booth is set up!” ‘Mr. Tall and fit’ calls out to me in passing. “Jasper said he would show you the ropes anytime you’re ready.” Then that damned able handed man with his strong freakin’ work ethic handed me his handkerchief winking at me. I think I’m ready to crawl into a hole and die now.

“Thanks Cash.” I am a blushing, buttery, mousy-voiced puddle of mush.

Thank you Cash-thank you indeed! Thank you for noticing me at the most grotesque moment of my day. Having him around is very visually pleasing, but now I feel like I have to watch what I wear, check that my hair isn’t a mess and most importantly, that I don’t have butter smeared all over my chin.

Now that humiliation has gotten the better of me, it’s time to put my plan of making some money to escape into action.

Starting this job today is the first step towards that. Jasper is waiting for me at a cheaply constructed booth that’s covered in colorful balloons and stuffed animals. “So word around the midway Robby-is that tomorrow is your birthday, what do you want?”

I can think of only one answer, but it’s not appropriate to discuss with one of my Mother’s sex buddies. I am going to kill Trixie for opening her big mouth.

“Did my Mom tell you? She needs to learn to stop talking about me to everyone.” I pout and groan, like a child. “I don’t want anything.”

Jasper-who’s ready to give the booth to me and go on his merry way, tries his hand at being a comedian. “I didn’t hear it from Trixie. I have it marked on my calendar. I do own one you know…” The fuzzy faced carny flashes me a yellow smile.

As Uncle Jasper so kindly shows me the ropes, I notice Trixie stumbling out of a port-a-potty. What the hell?  “Hey! Hey Trixie! Mom!” I call out to her, but she is preoccupied with trying to walk. She reminds me of a turtle ducking into its shell to find shelter. What’s going on?

Jasper so kindly offers to see what is up with mom, being that I am at my station and have to remain here until the midway closes. What the hell is wrong with her? Maybe she’s not feeling well. Eating deep fried food day in and day out is not exactly healthy, maybe she has food poisoning.

Gideon is doing his rounds making sure the rides and stands are up and running smoothly. “How do you like your booth so far Robs?”

I’m preoccupied with worry right now. I can’t think about darts and balloons. “Something’s wrong with Trixie, Gid. I saw her a little while ago and she was stumbling out of a portable toilet. She didn’t look good. When you last saw her, was she acting weird?” I figure that if anyone would know if something’s amiss it would be Gideon.

Gideon gives me a concerned glance and rushes off to find the woman that he loves. Mom is so lucky to have him. She better know that.

It’s getting dark now and I still haven’t heard back from Gideon or Jasper. Kids with sticky hands keep coming to the dart booth, handing me sticky dollar bills. They’re getting my darts-well, sticky. Two very different worries plague my mind right now; first and foremost is Trixie’s well- being. My second worry may sound strange-but in the short time that I’ve been working at the dart booth-I’ve been obsessively panicked about dart backfire.

I’m not enjoying this work stuff so far. As far as first days go, this one sucks complete ass. Curiosity about my Mom’s whereabouts is getting the better of me. I know Gid would probably throw a hissy fit if I left the booth, but I decide to do it anyway. I figure that I can use the port-a-pot, grab some dinner and maybe get some answers, hopefully all very quickly. I lock the darts away safely in a box hidden under the counter. I can just see some little devil child stealing my darts and throwing them at unsuspecting customers on the midway. That would be a complete disaster!

I decide to use the same rancid John that my Mom stumbled out of earlier. Maybe she left a clue behind. Now I know that sounds totally gross-but if you knew Trixie the way I know Trixie-you’d understand.

“Jesus!” I gag, choking while trying to hold my breath. Despite the stench it’s clean in here-no clues. What the hell was I thinking?

The burger hut is the closest stand to mine. My Mom’s close friend Leticia works there. I’ll ask her if she’s seen or heard from Trixie. Leticia and her husband Pedro have a crowded, ear splittingly loud line. It would take me too long to wait in this line.

I decide to go around the corner and quickly grab a slice of pizza. I pray that Gid doesn’t catch wind of my disappearance. I’d be fired for sure.

While on my way back to the booth, carrying my enormous slice of mushroom and pineapple pizza-I overhear Gideon and Jasper. They must be in the ticket booth, because they’re nowhere to be seen. I know I’m breaking all the rules but I can’t move. I must eavesdrop.

“I don’t know what the fuck she was thinking! If Trixie thinks that I’ll just stand by while she totally fucks up her life and Robyn’s-she has got a big wakeup call coming her way.” Gideon’s words are paralyzing me with fear.

“Maybe it’s just a one-time thing…” Jasper sounds a little too nonchalant and it’s pissing me off. “I’m sure it won’t get as bad as before.”

Tears immediately free fall from my eyes-I have heard this conversation before. My Mom used to be pretty bad off on heroin. Gid helped her clean up but gave her an ultimatum: if she used again it would be over for them.

“I can’t breathe.” I exhale the words causing their conversation to come to a halt. Oh crap, I think they heard me. I’ve been discovered. I’m totally busted now.

“Oh Robs…No honey…” Gid looks up at me with understanding and pain in his blank stare. “How much did you hear?”

“I heard enough…” I can’t deal with this right now, I have to keep moving. I’ve got to get back to the dart booth. “I’m sorry I left my station Gid. I had to pee and I got hungry.” I start to bawl loudly. I feel like I’m Alice in the hole-crying a river and Gideon is the white rabbit drowning in the maelstrom of my tears-no short joke intended.

“Robs, you have the money with you, right?” This must be what a father sounds like. “You locked up the darts?”

I nod, apologizing. I don’t want to hear his explanation. I hope he keeps it to himself. I’ve decided to shut off my ears to any mention of Trixie’s name for the rest of the night. Gideon walks behind my booth to a wooden picnic bench. “I’d better let you two do the talking, Robs. Maybe you can get somewhere.” The way he hangs his head in utter sorrow just kills me.

“I’ll talk to her later. I just want to work now Gideon.” I pat my only positive male role model on his shoulder. “Are you alright?”

Gideon looks like a lost puppy searching for its master. I swear it’s disheartening. “I’m short in stature, but I’m full of piss and vinegar.” He takes my hand in his. I can feel his rough callouses from years of hard work. “We’ll get through this Robyn. I promise.” We hug it out and I’m still sick to my stomach. Gid’s worried about me being alone, but doesn’t want to leave Trixie alone either. His solution: calling ‘Mr. Tight jeans-talk show host’ on his walkie-talkie.

He asks him to be my helper for the duration of the night. Thanks Gid! You could have at least let me wash my face. My mascara has probably run from all of the crying-leaving me looking like a puffy faced raccoon. Will this be a trend? Every time I meet up with Cash, Am I going to be in some awkward part of my day, looking like shit?

Gid hurries off to the Bounder to be with Mom; after reassuring me that he’ll solve everything. I dip my napkin in some water and gently wash any trace of mascara residue away leaving my eyes with the illusion of having sexy smudged liner. I scarf down the mouthwatering pizza, remembering to wipe my face off this time afterwards.

Cash strolls over wearing the dusty tight jeans and a flannel shirt with the sleeves cut off. “How’s your first night of work going?” His grey-blue gaze is giving me the chills. “It’s pretty cool that Gideon’s letting us work the booth together. I’ve been on hard labor detail all day, so this-hanging out here with you Robyn-is a real pleasure.”

“Thanks.” I blush, wasting a good eyelash batting on the tall stranger who’s no longer looking at my face. “I’m doing alright with the booth. It’s my life that’s hard right now.” I sulk.

“Wanna talk about it?” His eyes connect with mine. “I’m a great listener…”

Surprisingly this night is flying by. I’m sure that it has something to do with Cash being here. He’s a man of very little words, but he wasn’t kidding about being a great listener. At first I had my guard up about opening up to a total stranger. Then, once I let loose I was on a roll.

I opened up about never having a real family, about being born into a traveling sideshow-without any idea about who my real father is. I came clean about my plan and recent obsesson of saving enough money to leave. I even told Cash that tomorrow is my seventeenth birthday. When it came to the ‘Trixie-talk’ I spilled my guts. What the hell? Why shouldn’t I tell a complete stranger about my Mom’s loose morals and reoccuring heroin problem? “So, I have to go confront her tonight after my shift.” I don’t know where they came from, but waterworks were iminent.

“I’m so embarrassed. Please ignore me.” I wipe away a stray tear that’s rolling down my cheek.

Now I’m expecting Cash to clam up and be weirded out by all of my recent blubbering. But he just listens. For what feels like an hour now we’ve had no customers. I figure that maybe they saw me crying or overheard my sad sad tale. I picture mothers covering their children’s eyes and ears. I tend to lean on the overdramatic at times.

“Robyn, I know this hurts like nothin’s probably ever hurt before…” Cash is now not only making eye contact, he’s holding my face with those giant worker’s hands of his. “My Grandpa used to say: Keep on keepin’ on. I used to wonder what he meant by that, but I got to thinkin’ that he was talkin’ about moments in life like this-the difficult ones. Life moves forward. You go on. You get better. I hope that brings you comfort.”

For a moment I just feel dazed. I can’t believe that he touched my face. Then I process his heartfelt words. “Thank you Cash. I love my Mom with all of my heart, but I can’t take care of her. I’ve got to get out of this damned carnival before I end up like her.”

Cash is looking at me differently now. It’s like he’s trying to figure out a puzzle.

“Did I freak you out? What are you thinking?” The silence and his grey-blue stare are making me squirm.

“Miss Robyn, I was just thinking about when I was your age-well nineteen to be exact. After my Granddaddy died, my Grandma developed herself a bad drinking habit-kinda’ like your Mama’s problem. I couldn’t handle watching her do that to herself any longer, so I hit the road. I’ve been livin’ a gypsy’s life life for almost eleven years now.” Those dreamy eyes of his look like they’re lost in the past now, or maybe lost in the stars. “I called my Uncle a few years ago to see how Grandma was doing and he told me that she’d passed sometime back…I guess what I’m tryin’ to get at Robyn-is that I shouldn’t have ran. Maybe I could’ve helped my Gran. Maybe my staying wouldn’t have helped at all, but I’d have been by her side.”

While his story did torment me it actually shed a lot of light on the subject. Although I feel deep down in my heart like I still want to leave and never look back. “I’m sorry about your grandparents, Cash.”

At ten o’clock we hear Gideon’s voice over an intercom announcing to the dwindling crowd that the midway will be closing shortly. While I am relieved, I am also terrified. I have no idea what to expect when I get back to the Bounder.

After we close the booth, Cash walks me to the tiny trailer that acts as Gid’s office. At the end of everybody’s shift we’re supposed to meet there, turn in our earnings and have a group meeting.

It’s the weirdest thing-Marvin is coming out of the trailer with a duffle bag in his hand. His head’s hung low and his face looks like he’s seen a ghost. “Bye Bye Robby…” He waves at me and walks towards the road.

“What’s up with Marvin?”

When I take one look into Gideon’s eyes, my question is immediately answered.

“That spineless piece of garbage supplied your Mom with the smack. He’s gone…” Gid looks heartbroken and exhausted. He counts my stack of bills and congratulates me on a successful first night.

When everybody else arrives, we have a breif meeting and discuss any problems that any of us had with rides or games. Tonight being a success, Gideon didn’t have to talk for long. Before we’re all dismissed he announces that he had to let Marvin go.

I believe his excuse was that they had: creative differences. As the crowd begins to disperse, Gid pulls me aside. “Go easy on your Mom. She feels horrible about her relapse. Let her explain her side to you, but make sure that you tell her that she can’t do this anymore.”

I hug him tightly and turn to leave. I can’t help but open my mouth. “Gideon, you’re an amazing human being. You’re so good to us.”

He thanks me and I notice a pillow and blanket on the couch in his office. “I’ve decided to give your Mom some space. She’s got some stuff to work through.” As he tells me to go on, my heart breaks a little for him. Are they calling it quits?

As I begin my long trek to the Bounder-I wish I had someone to hold my hand and talk me through things. This sucks.

Cash spots me passing by his camper as he’s getting ready to go inside. “Hey Robyn, come here a sec!” Before I know it his long arms are around me in what I wish could be more than this ‘brotherly’ embrace. “Everything’s gonna be just fine. You’ll see.” He whispers in my ear. Then as if he’s got to take a pill, he’s gone.

I open the door to the Bounder quietly in case by some luck that Trixie may be asleep. As I tiptoe up the stairs, I hear her moaning and sobbing in the back bedroom. “Why did I do it? Why…Damn it Gideon…Where are you? Why did I do that to you? Robyn, no baby I’m so sorry.”

My stomach is sick as I walk towards the bedroom. I am so nervous. What will I say to her? This doesn’t feel like real life, it’s like a nightmare. I remember the words of advice that Cash and Gideon gave me, and somehow I feel strength. I can do this.

“Mommy?” I sound like a child. It’s really disturbing. Even more disturbing is the image of Trixie that will forever be burned into my subconcious.

She is laying in the fetal position on her and Gideon’s king-size bed. Her eyes are red from crying but there’s absolutely nothing inside of them, a complete darkenss, a blank stare. Immediately I am six years old again and I feel like I have found her passed out in the bathroom. “Trixie, can you hear me? It’s Robyn, your daughter. Are you alright?”

Mom starts babbling incoherently. “Sorry baby, I tried to say that I didn’t want to come to Iowa. I can’t see her. She’ll take you away from me…”

“Mom, I don’t understand…What are you talking about?” I help Trixie to sit up. “Why don’t you want to be in Iowa? Who’s gonna take me away from you?” I grab a wet washcloth and wipe my Mother’s face gently. It somehow helps her come to. “What was all of that about? Or are you just high Trixie?” My tone becomes motherly and scolding.

“Spare me the parenting Robs. I know what I did was wrong. I have probably just given up everything and everyone that I ever loved. You’ll never forgive me, and Gideon is sleeping in the office tonight. I know that I should have never asked Marvin to score that smack for me from the trucker at the restaurant. I was just weak. It’s Iowa…Fucking Iowa…” It’s almost as if she’s sober now. Trixie is making sense, even though I am still angry and puzzled about why she hates this place so much.

“Are you ever going to fucking do it again?” I scream at her.

“No.” She shouts back.

“Fucking liar!” I throw the washcloth, it hits her in the face.

“Watch your mouth little girl. You don’t talk like that. I know that you’re mad at me. You may be even angrier after I tell you about Glenda…”

Oh she’s got that right. “Who’s Glenda, your dealer?” I know that was wrong, it was a dig-but I had to. I am angry at her.

“Glenda Wills is your Grandmother. She’s my Mom.” Trixie lights a cigarette, rolling her dead-sea foam eyes at me.

“What the hell are you talking about Mom? You said that your parents died in a car crash…” I am utterly confused. Then something makes sense. This is the reason that she’s been acting so unlike herself. This is the reason that she used.

Alright Trixie, I have almost had enough of you. I am ready to abandon the plan and throw my arms up in the air and walk-just let the first car to stop pick me up. Don’t care where it takes me to-I don’t care if I even have a cent in my pocket. This is bullshit! “So Mom, you are telling me that I have a Grandmother? Why did you keep this from me for almost seventeen years?”

Trixie starts sobbing and choking back tears. “I hate her. She kicked me out of the house when I got pregnant with you. She said that I was a whore and that if I didn’t get an abortion that she’d never talk to me again.” My Mom sat straight up with a burning glare locking her eyes with mine. “This is the truth. She didn’t want me to have you. She hated the fact that I didn’t finish high school and that I got pregnant so young. She really hated the fact that I didn’t know who your father was.”

O.k. Now I am really sick to my stomach. “How could you not know who my father is?” I have never asked her this question before, but now she better come clean. I will get answers.

“I have done things that I am not proud of. I was very promiscuous in school. It probably stems from not having a father myself. I didn’t want to tell you this Robs. I didn’t want anyone to know. I had sex with three guys from the senior football team. Your father could’ve been any of them. I don’t even remember their names.”

That’s it! I am out of here! This monster has spoken her last word to me! I can’t hear another word! I storm out of the Bounder not looking back. “You’re disgusting Trixie! I wish you weren’t my Mother!”

My heart’s racing to the point where it feels like it’s going to explode. Who is that creature inside of the Bounder? She looks like Trixie but she can’t be Trixie. I don’t know her. That evil entity is someone who’s taken over my Mom’s body as far as I’m concerned.

I can’t stop running, I don’t know where I’m going to and it’s incredibly dark out here with all of the midway lights off. But I will run until I’m nowhere near the camper.

What the…? I slam hard into something or someone. I have no wind inside-I’m a deflated balloon.

“Robyn? What are you doing running around in the dark?” Cash is down in the dirt with me.

Oh shit! I ran into Cash. I brush off my shorts and get up. “Sorry, I’ve got to go.”  I begin running once again until I reach a large field. I see nothing but open space and stars. I feel safe here, I can’t explain why. Why do I get the feeling that I’m not alone.

A bright light shines in my face. “Robyn, what’s gotten into you?”

“Cash, I don’t want to talk right now. I’m going to lay in this field until I fall asleep. Then when I wake up maybe I’ll realize that this day was one big messed up dream.”

Cash-that crazy drifter plops down on the grass next to me. “Well, if you’re sleepin’ out here, I am too.”

I don’t care if he thinks I’m crazy, I start cracking up like a maniac.

“I’m takin’ it that uh, things didn’t go well with your Mama?”

I know he’s being a friend and caring about me, but I just can’t talk about it. “Can I just lay here in silence and look at the stars? Consider it my birthday present, technically it is my birthday. It’s after midnight.” The stars shine as bright as the lumiscent carnival lights from Gideon’s colorful midway. I just want to beam myself up there and become one of them. Happy Birthday… I think to myself closing my eyes with a lump in my throat.

“What do you want for your birthday?” Cash laughed, remembering my wish for silence. “Oops…I talked didn’t I? Sorry Robyn.”

“I don’t want anything…” It doesn’t bother me when Cash talks, as long as he doesn’t ask about that person who’s name I’ll no longer speak. I breathe in and out and decide to ask questions about his life. It’ll be a good distraction. “Let’s talk about you.”

Yes, I admit I sound forceful, but I can’t help it after the insane day that I had. “Is your name really Cash or is that a nickname?”

He is obviously entertained by my question. I can tell by his scarily unattractive snorting cackle (the only thing about him that’s unattractive).

“My Dad was a musician. Johnny Cash was his favorite. I like it now, but I was teased mercilessly in school.”

I decide that I’m not going to delve into the family life questions too deeply. His parents obviously weren’t in the picture if he was raised by his Grandparents. Deep seeded family shit is messed up and too depressing to discuss. I think the no-talking about family vibe is catching on. Neither one of us have a single word to mutter now. We just lie on our backs in the damp grass and take in the grand view of the Iowa sky.

“A polaroid…” I am half in and out of conciousness now. You know those times when words just slip out of your mouth and you don’t know that you said them. Then it’s over. I’m off to la la land-fast asleep. I dream of a little strawberry blonde girl on a swingset singing happily. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”

Sunshine! Sunlight! Those words trigger my heart rate. I wake with a start and a blade of grass in my mouth. The sun hasn’t come up yet and Cash is still fast asleep. I lay on my side for just a quiet moment staring at him. Head to toe, this man is perfection. Not that I see his toes. It’s just perfect that he has dirty leather cowboy boots on. It’s perfect that his dusty tight faded Wranglers cling to his thighs. It’s perfect that his flannel is halfway unbuttoned and his toned, tan chest is showing. This is my birthday present to myself-this little moment of tranquility lying next to this deep beautiful man. I needed this moment. Now I can go on with my life.

It’s a new day and I’ve decided to be a new me. From now on, I’m all about me. I’m all about my plan. I’m not going back to the Bounder and I’m not having anything to do with Trixie. She can keep all of my shit. I will ask Rosie is they have an open bunk for me.

“Robyn? Good mornin’.” Cash yawns, stretching and turning on his side to face me. “I haven’t slept under the stars for some time now. That was nice. It’s good to see you smiling. Your smile is truly lovely…”

What? Did I just hear him correctly? My smile is truly lovely? I must be asleep. “Thank you. I’ve never slept in a field before, but it may become a habit.” I laugh, though I’m totally serious, noticing my stiff body aching. “I’m not gonna stay in Mom and Gideon’s camper anymore.”

Cash reaches out rubbing my arm softly. Grey-blue eyes search mine for some understanding. “You do what you have to do. I’m here for you. But I think you should go find Gideon and have a talk with him before people start to wonder where you spent the night.”

I agree with him, even though the fact that he’s right annoys the rebellious teenage girl inside of me to no end. I don’t want this morning to end yet. I can’t believe that he spent the whole night watching over me, making sure that I was alright. I know that he is protective of me, and I am sure that it’s only in a friendly way, but in my daydreams I see him sweeping me off of my feet and lifting me up on the back of his horse and riding the two of us off into the sunset. Jesus, I am pathetic.

I feel stiff and sore when I try to stand, frankly a little wobbly. “Ouch, this is the bad thing about sleeping out under the stars I guess…” I laugh, clumsily tripping right into his arms. “Sorry.” I can’t take my eyes off of him. I don’t care what he thinks.

“You’re alright Robyn. You need to go find Gid, maybe have some breakfast. I will see you later.” Cash smiles that bright white ‘game show host’ smile at me, he’s all teeth and grey-blue eyes. He hugs me tightly, his bare arms touch mine and I swear I feel electric currents flowing through the two of us. “Go on now.”

I smell coffee waifting out the crack under the office door. This is a sign that not only is Gideon up, but he obviously brought the coffee maker with him when he grabbed his stuff from the Bounder-this means Trixie can’t tell him that I left last night and didn’t come back. Hopefully he doesn’t know. I have this habit of knocking softly, guess I acquired it from years of trying not to disturb the hardworking people that shared our living quarters.

“Gideon, it’s Robyn.” I call out quietly, politely. Out of the corner of my eye I see Cash walk by. I must admit that just now-when he winked at me, it gave me a cheap thrill. We share a secret. Granted it’s not as dirty as I’d like it to seem. Regardless, it’s official-after this morning, I have a confirmed crush on Cash Travis.

Gideon opens the door wearing the same clothes from yesterday (hmm, guess we have that in common). “Robs…What’s going on? Why are you all covered in mud and grass stains?” I can feel him eyeing my messy hair.

I’ll come clean, but I’m keeping Cash out of it. He doesn’t need to lose his job or be accused of being some creepy perv, just because he wanted to be a friend. “I slept in the big field behind the rollercoaster.”

Gideon looks at me with worry and remorse, taking me gently by the hand and leading me into his office. “Trixie told you about Glenda Wills didn’t she?”

“And then some…” I growl, accepting a cup of Gid’s Folgers dark roast. “I’m not going back to the Bounder.”

Gideon has never been one to tell me what to do, though he is a father figure. “Well then it’s settled. You’re sleeping in here at night. I’ll fetch your things when Trixie’s working the kiddie rides today.”

I don’t want to force this gentle sweet man back into Trixie’s bed. I can’t take his place to sleep away from him. “No Gid, I’ll bunk with Rosie and Jasper.”

Then that fatherly side of Gideon came shining through. “Oh no you most certainly will not! I will.” He laughed nervously. “Seventeen year old girls do not sleep in a trailer full of grown men. It’s just not cool.”

I want to scream out that I’m not like Trixie. But I could never hurt Gideon with the knowledge that the woman he loves is a disgusting tramp. “Gid, you really don’t have to…”

He places a tiny finger to my lips softly interrupting me. “Robyn, it’s settled. That is a direct order. I know that I am not your father, however you are my employee and I am your boss. You have to listen to what I say.” There’s a devilish gleam in Gideon’s sad brown puppy dog eyes. I have a feeling that he is going to be just fine.

“Yes Boss!” I snort, almost spilling my piping hot coffee in my lap.

After we are finished talking I make my way to the showers. It feels so good to wash last night’s grass, mud and grime away from my hair and body. When I close my eyes to rinse, I picture Cash Travis smiling at me while we lay in the dark talking. That man is going to be the death of me.

The booth is waiting for me just full of balloons and darts. I feel an almost melancholy whimsy as I twirl around behind the counter to the music of the midway. It reminds me of the dream that I had the other night.

“Robyn.” Cash walks up with a plate of Indian fry bread and two lemonades. “I know that this isn’t birthday cake, but I found a candle in Japser’s bunk.” He starts humming that familiar song to me. The one that every person dreads hearing sung to them once every year. This isn’t so bad though. I could get used to this. “Make a wish…” He says in that devastatingly low voice of his.

Oh I am making a wish alright. But I remember Gideon’s speech about what seventeen year old girls should and shouldn’t do with grown men, so I keep this wish to myself. “I wish…oh forget it, it’ll never happen.” I giggle. Then from somewhere inside I get a twinge of confidence. “I wish…for you to take me for a ride on the ferris wheel after we close tonight.”

Did I just make tough guy Cash Travis blush? I believe that I did.

“I’ll talk to Gideon and make it happen.” He looks at me very matter-of-factly. “I have to go do some manual labor now. See you later.”

I don’t actually believe that Cash took my proposal seriously. The effort that he made with the song and the Indian fry bread was enough for me. It’s slow going out on the midway today. I’ve had maybe five customers in two hours.

At lunchtime Rosie and Jasper stop by the booth. They hand me a plastic bag filled with birthday presents.

“Oh guys, thank you.” I hug my ‘uncles’ in appreciation for a Sammy’s diner t-shirt (size extra small), a stationary set with a matching pen and a stuffed mermaid-like the kind people win by grabbing for prizes with a claw. Not perfect gifts, but they’re from the men that have been my family for my whole life so to me they are pretty special.

Jasper takes me aside for a private moment and I know what’s coming next.

“Hey kiddo, Trixie’s going to give you your space. She wrote you a letter and asked me to deliver it.”

Even though I’m seriously sickened by my Mom right now, I appreciate that she remembered me, and thought enough of me to give me all of the space that I need right now. I give Jasper’s wooly beard a playful tug and thank him. “You guys made my day. If you see Trixie, tell her I’m still mad but thank her for me.”

Once I’m alone I force myself to open the envelope. There’s a birthday card with a picture of a dog on the front-inside she enclosed a letter and a crisp one hundred dollar bill. Thanks Mom! Not that money solves problems or anything, but it sure will help with my quest.

“Here we go…” I inhale deeply and begin to read the letter.

Dear Robyn Michelle,

Happy Seventeenth birthday. I just want you to know that I couldn’t be any sorrier for what I’ve done to you, to myself and to Gideon. I let my past get in the way of my future.For that I am a complete fool. I wish that I hadn’t told you so harshly about how you came to be. Just know that every second of every hour that you’ve been alive has been a joy to me. I love you more than anything-even though I suck at showing it. I stayed up last night thinking about what’s right and wrong. I thought about how my bad choices have affected not only myself but Gideon and you.

I never gave you the chance to meet your grandmother or even know that you had one. Robs, I did something crazy this morning. I called Glenda on the phone. I told her that I was sorry about how I behaved when I was a teenager. We mostly talked about you and what an amazing young lady that you are.

I’m not interested in a relationship with her. I probably never will be. This was for closure on my part. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get to know her. She very much wants to meet you. I enclosed her number if you ever feel like contacting her.

I’m sorry for being selfish. I just didn’t want the past to bite me in the ass. It’s hard looking back and seeing what a complete piece of crap that I was. I’m trying to change. I know that I have to deal with things. I want you and Gid to know that I will do anything to prove that I can stay sober. Take a few days to yourself. Then, if you feel like it come and talk to me.

I love you, Mom

 

I am in shock. I can’t believe that my mother, Trixie O’Neil-the woman that never follows through with a thing in her life and gives in to every temptation thrown her way, actually had the courage to call the woman that disowned her so many years ago. She had the nerve to make things right with her, and apologize for her behavior. This is so unbelievable. I try hard to hate her, but this letter makes it really difficult. This is hard to admit to even myself but, if she was in front of me right now I’d probably fall in to her arms and tell her that I love her. Pride is a bitch however, and mine won’t allow me to do that just yet.

Gideon comes by to do his daily checks. He hands me this wrapped package with a red ribbon tied to it. I can’t believe that he took the time to buy me something with as much as he’s been going through lately. “Gideon, you didn’t have to…” I smile at the man who in my heart is my father, even though it’s not on paper. “Thank you so much…” I notice that the card on the package says To: Robyn, but the ‘From’ part doesn’t say Gideon. Oh holy hell, it’s from Cash!

“Ha, Robs. The package isn’t from me. Cash hitched a ride into town with some guy and when he came back he left this in my office.” Gideon gives me that naughty smile of his. “Seems that he is rather fond of you, should I be worried?” Fatherly tone duly noted.

“Geez Gideon,” I sneer, “I’m seventeen, he’s what, thirty?” I try my hardest to hide the fact that I am exploding with rainbows and hearts inside right now. “We’re just friends.”

“Mmhmm-well let’s keep it that way.” He winks at me handing me a crisp hundred dollar bill. “This is from me. Happy birthday Robby. I love you kiddo.” It’s hard for Gideon to show his emotions, I know that is the reason that he has to walk away from my booth without hugging me righ now.

I can’t control my excitement. I tear the wrapping paper away from the package like a kid on Christmas. There is a box labeled Kodak. With a smaller package that says Polaroid film cartridges. Cash bought me a fucking Polaroid camera! How did he know that I’ve wanted one of these since pretty much forever? Then the field comes to mind. Did I say Polaroid in my sleep?

Customers coming and going in fast forward motion: paying, throwing darts at balloons, losing, winning-essentially that was my day. I work the booth, all the while wondering-where’s Cash?

I closed temporarily for a dinner break earlier, and while making my way to the barbequed rib stand I took the time to scan the rides and booths with a watchful eye. Cash had disappeared off of the midway completely. Paranoia began to kick in and I started to wonder if Gideon fired him. Maybe he was worried about our friendship. I passed the kiddie rides and had to duck behind a crowd so that Trixie wouldn’t notice me. Cash wasn’t working there earlier.

Now as I close up my booth for the night, I realize that it was precocious of me to even consider that Cash Travis had taken my little offer seriously. What, like his whole world revolves around my needs? Get a grip Robyn!

I can’t complain. Today was way better than the nightmare of yesterday. I didn’t have any personal tragedies, I handled the booth on my own and as far as birthdays go-it was definitely not the worst. Mom and Gid giving me two hundred dollars did not suck. Jasper and Rosie remembering me with their original, heartfelt gifts made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But Cash, the gift he gave me-the Polaroid camera-that sent me over the moon. It gave my adolescent naïve mind a fucked up sense of hope that I’m not even supposed to have. My warped mind told me that he had to like me, even if it was in an innocent way. Who goes out of their way to spend the night talking a person off of the ledge? Who hitchhikes miles into an unknown town and buys somebody a camera, all because they may have overheard mumbling from a sleeping person? He told me my eyes were lovely. What the fuck? Am I just a psycho that’s reading way too far into things?

Gid is particularly chipper tonight as he collects everybody’s earnings. I have a sneaking suspicion that he has ironed things out with Trixie, but I can’t be totally one hundred percent sure. I hang towards the back of the group, as if I’m actually unseen by Trixie. I hurry to Gideon while Mom’s over chatting with her friends. He hands me a key and points out that my stuff magically made its way to the trailer.

“You did really well today Robyn. I think you’re a natural. You’re very good with people, especially the children.”

I feel claustrophobic. Suddenly it feels like there are way too many people surrounding me. Maybe I’ll go for a walk until everyone leaves the office and goes their own way.

“See you later Gideon. I’m going for a stroll.”

He proceeds to tell me not to sleep in any open fields tonight, in that fatherly tone that I am beginning to know so very well.

The midway sleeps as the last of the crowd of customers and thrill seekers drive away. I love looking at the rides and lights when everything’s still like this. There’s a majestic beauty and art form to all of the intricate metal carriages, spokes and wheels. I feel completely at peace walking through the littered isles.

Oddly enough the silence doesn’t last for very long. The oldies mix that usually plays from the booth in front of the Flying Bobs begins blasting a 1980’s pop mix that I really kind of like. There must be some malfunction, or someone forgot to turn off their equipment properly. For a moment I get an eerie feeling and think of the old episode of Scoo


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