They past exit 102 to Waterville/Orono when Jon realized that they really had no destination except for Bangor.
“So…” he said.
“Where do I want to go?”
Jon let out a nice “Ha.” He followed this with, “Yeah, so….yeah, where do you wanna go?”
Linda smiled at him just a little. “Well…” she said, “there’s a record store in Orono that I hear good things about called Dr. Records. My friend Sheila”
“Sheila the Stealah?” asked Jon.
Another laugh from Linda. “Yes. Indeed. Sheila thee stealer. And it was just a pack of Airheads from one of the guys cabins, and she admitted immediately to it, and who gives even three shits about it. Yes. She recommended it. I guess it’s in a basement of some old building across from a pizza place.”
“Honestly, can we stop there tomorrow? I love record stores and all but something that involves walking around sounds a bit more appealing. We’ve been in the car for, like, fuckin’ 80+ miles. For the love of Christ, woman…let’s go do something.”
Linda looked at him as if she thought he was both the most stubborn asshole and the sweetest fuckin’ person on the planet. Adoration and “get over yourself” wrapped in one. “You’re an idiot” and “I respect the assertion” bonded together like Christian newlyweds.
“Alright, yeah, my legs are a bit cramped up. You know, the Bangor State Fair is going on still. Let’s go to that,” Linda said.
Jon nodded then said, “Right on.”
So they drove towards that destination. Jon had been to the fair many times before. As a kid and as a teenager. He drove the Dodge Dart to Bass State Park, where the fair occurs every summer. The parking lot was full except for a couple spots that Jon managed to find. It was at the very end of the large rectangle, and there was a wooden fence separating the parked cars from a perhaps 2 acres of land, which was populated by construction equipment. Bulldozers. Tractors. A John Deer lawnmower that was green. Some rusty metalic huge things that were either some crude and outdated farming equipment or an antique torture device of sorts.
He put the car in park and both stepped out into the summer breeze at about the same time. Linda was still a bit dazed from the very odd autobiographical information that Jon shared with her. She still didn’t know what to say. Jon hadn’t talked about this whole thing in several years. So they just walked side by side and didn’t say anything.
Linda pulled half a joint out from the back pocket of her denim shorts and then a lighter out of Jon’s pocket. Still walking, she clenched the joint between her lips, shielded it from the wind with her hands, and then lit the thing. It stayed lit on the first try. The sky and air seemed to get darker around them and the temperature just slightly cooler, even within seconds. She handed it to Jon, who took a reasonably sized hit, then another, then one more, then gave it back to Linda. Her brother wasn’t exactly a drug dealer, but he always managed to get some incredibly potent marijuana off of some old college friends that he had kept in touch with. Up ahead, she saw the ticket booth was coming so she finished up and through the butt into the woods that they were walking beside.
The ticket booth was a tall, rocket shaped enclosure painted orange and covered with white lights. There was a pleasant-enough looking clown painted on a sign, above which read “Tix: $5.” Inside the rocket was a bespectacled woman, probably late 40s, smoking a cigarette that dropped ashes into a metallic money box. She had a hell of a sharp perm, a luscious tank top that said “Relax,” zero bra and even less of a smile. She looked up at Jon and Linda Lee.
“You both smell like ya got sprayed in the tits by twelve skunks and then dipped in a vat of old peanut buttah,” she said, dropping a couple very large ashes onto a $5.00 bill and a couple smaller ones onto a twenty.
Jon and Linda Lee said nothing.
“Don’t worry, you’re not in trouble. But I tell ya what. My lunch is coming up real dahn soon and my fluffahnuttah would taste pretty fuckin’ magnifique is you shared the gall dahned wealth. I’d be willing to comp these heyah tickets.”
Linda Lee loved this woman. She smiled at her. “May I see your pack of Reds, m’am?” Linda asked.
The rocket booth woman turned up the first smile she’d given all day and slid the pack of smokes underneath the piece of plastic that separated her from her new friends. Linda opened the pack, tucked one of her two remaining joints into it, and then slid them back through. The woman who liked perm and fluffernutters slid a couple of bracelets underneath the plastic divider.
“You two have a good night.”
“Hey, you too,” said Jon.
“Ya’ gall dahned right I’m gonna have a good fuckin’ night,” she responded, followed by a warm, witchly cackle.
Jon and Linda put on their bracelets and continued walking. Within ten steps or less the two were quickly engulfed by a circus-like bombast of electricity and black extension chords that snaked and hissed across the grounds in every directions. Each one plugged into everything from Gravitron and Tilt-a-whirl rides to shooting gallaries, to the flickering spotlights that shined on tiny splintered stages that showcased a fantasia of strange performers, women with beards and kids with real devil horns shooting from their noggins, clowns that looked happy, clowns that looked miserable, fun houses that looked fun and maybe, hopefully even haunted. Out of the corner of her eye Linda saw a small chubby boy standing next to his chubby dad, both wearing matching sombreros and flexing their biceps into a curvy, shape shifting mirror on the outside of the fun house. Out of the corner of his eye, Jon saw a roller coast race by, hearing and seeing a bunch of screaming strangers hanging upside down, whizzing by at what seemed like a trillion miles an hour.
There was a bench in front of a foot long hot dog stand. Jon and Linda Lee took a seat on it and took in their surroundings. Just across from them, maybe one hundred feet away, was another identical bench just to the corner of a small, silver snow cone booth. On the bench were two drag queens, both were black, one had a pink bouffant and the other a green one. Green had their hand on pink’s thigh. They were laughing and talking while sharing a cigarette. Pink turned her head towards Linda and Jon’s bench, then back to Green, then back to Jon. Pink started to say something to Green, then pointed to Linda and Jon. Or at least it seemed that way.
“I think they are talking about us,” said Jon to Linda, with a chuckle.
“We’re good looking people,” Linda replied. “Get used to people looking at us.”
“They are really beautiful,” Jon continued. “I mean that. I mean, it’s pretty easy to figure out that they are two men dressed as women or whatever way you should refer to them. But yeah, they look good.”
Pink looked right into Jon’s eyes, then kept staring, then would look back each other, then they started making out on the bench. Without seeming to care even a little about the many people who might be bothered by this. Pink flipped Green on her back and the two created a scenario where “get a room” would eventually and absolutely be said in reply.
Which it was. A gentleman named Gilmore Slicks walked by, inhaling a cigarette and an elephant ear simultaneous. Gilmore was an unemployed mill worker who attended the fair simply for the tractor pulls and because his famous mince meat pie was a blue ribbon winner in its category of the yearly Bangor State Fair Pie Baking Contest 6 years in a row.
“Geez, would you bitches get a room.” Pink and Green continued as usual. Gilmor Slicks had made this clever reply whilst chewing the aforementioned elephant ear, so perhaps they didn’t hear him or just didn’t care. Pink stopped only to look up at Jon one more time, blow him an almost motherly-like kiss, and then continued on until a portly security guard asked them to stop, which they did after continuing for about 30 more seconds.
Jon had just seen a lot so he wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Linda Lee had as well, though she didn’t really think much of it.
“Those….girl-guys were starting at me,” Jon said to Linda.
“What, does that kind of thing gross you out? Geez, get over yourself. My aunt was my uncle before she was aunt. Don’t be such a fuckin moron…”
Jon shook his head. “No, I don’t care about that. But the one in the pink hair just kept looking at me. Like, several times. I’m surprised you didn’t notice this.”
“Eh, I’m just sorta taking this whole odd vibe in. Sorry, I didn’t notice the ‘girl-guys’ as you so charmingly called them checking you out.”
“No…that’s not it. I could care less who checks me out. It’s just….I don’t know. Let’s get up and walk around.”
Linda rolled her eyes. “Um, sure, alright, I’ll do my people watching on foot. Yeah, let’s stroll a bit.”
So they did just that. They walked past carousels and caliopes, clowns and cuddly bears that you could win, by accurately shooting a red star with a gun that shot suction cup bullets, the Gravitron that apparently could make vomit float, a tilt-a-whirl that looked like it was just waiting to crumble into a million pieces, a grandstand with a KISS cover band playing not-terrible versions of the real band’s tunes, and a whole lot of little rides and details that floated into the corners of Jon and Linda Lee’s vision. All in all, Jon and Linda were having a good evening so far.
Linda Lee giggled. “You know, it’s funny that we are at a fair. I remember having this odd dream when I was a kid. My family would take me to the circus. Except it was very different. In the ring you could see people doing really, well, I guess really boring things. Like there was ‘The Amazing Iron Man” and a guy would start ironing his slacks. Then there was “TV Woman” or something like that, and in the dream I expected to see a woman with a TV for a head, because I had a lot of dreams where people had strange heads. But instead it was was just a woman lying on the couch, drinking tea and watching TV. Then they would leave and someone else would come on and do something incredibly dull, for a circus at least. You know, there’d be a ring of fire and in the middle of it was a guy brushing his teeth, then he’d notice “Oh now. There’s a fire in the kitchen, and then did what any rational person would do and used a fire extinguisher on it.”
“Huh. That’s quite the exhilarating circus,” John said.
Linda giggled again. “Right, incredibly exhilerating. Of course like any dream I remember the sexual parts most. The ringleader was like, ‘And now….the fantastical. The magnificent. The UNBELIEVABLE SEX HAVERS!!!’ Then suddenly a bed popped up from underneath the floor in the middle of the ring and there’s this, I’m assuming, married couple on the bed, all fat and naked and the guy was balding and they both had razor burned legs. They both just start fucking in the middle of the stage. Then when the guy starts to go doggy style on her, the crowd goes, “OOOOH…AHHHH.”
Jon laughed, pretty loudly in fact. He got a real kick out of this dream.
“Then I look around me and all the people sitting with me on the bleachers and in the audience…they are all the kind of people you would see at a circus. You know, there’s a fire eater, a sword swallower, a guy juggling, a tiger and a lion, all kinds of oddballs. And they are just looking on with fascination.” Linda stared at a ferris wheel in the distance and stared at it pensively. “I know this sounds like some really bad short story a first year creative writing student would write in college but, swear to god, I had this dream.”
“Should I read into this one,” Jon asked.
Linda shook her head. “Neh, don’t bother. Kids think of a lot of odd stuff. But I have had a zillion dreams, like everyone, but that’s the kind of dream I actually remember.
Jon nodded. “I’d remember it too. I like it. That’s a good dream. I like it a lot.”
They kept walking and, without even realizing it, were suddenly near the line to the ferris wheel.
Jon could see a guy in a gorilla suit walking around about one hundred feet away. He didn’t seem to be doing a whole lot. Just sorta meandering, looking at the rides and games, mostly keeping to his own business but also playing along with the people who’d walk past him, usually making a monkey noise, pretending to jerk off for a sec, taking pics, whatever. Though of course his was just a man in a monkey suit, it was a pretty convincing one. Jon kept starting. The gorilla guy started kicking a can around on the ground, then juggling it impressively about with his feet like it was hacky sack. Jon found this mildly entertaining.
“I think that gorilla actually, is staring at you,” said Linda.
Jon chuckled, “Yeah….right.” Thing is, Jon really did think the gorilla might be staring at him.
And he was right.
It was a good time so far. A great time, even. Jon was happy. Linda was happy. They felt everything a fair was supposed to make you feel: young, joyful, magical, horny, strange, entertained.
Create in your head, if you will, one of those montages you’ve seen in picture show. Jon and Linda Lee walking the storm-and-time cracked cement fairgrounds. Cigarette butts accompany each step. The sky, an ‘almost-evening’ mix of gray, blue, silver, even just a little pink. Stars are starting to pop up here and there, sparkling like pieces of effulgent tin foil galaxies away.
Underneath it all, they stroll and eat cotton candy as candy-striped tens pass their heads. The next second they are screaming with a flying line of strangers on a roller coaster that is both safer and less safer than it looks or feels. The next second they are inside of the spinning, B movie-like spaceship known as “Gravitron, hanging upside down, looking into each others’ eyes. A girl three spots down from them vomits and it floats in the air. The next moment, they are in the back seat of the Viking-like Seadragon ride as it sways 90 feet in the air to the left, then 90 feet in the air to the right, then continues this pattern. Linda Lee’s hair is blowing with the movement of the ship. Her pants are unbuttoned, waist to the knees, as Jon touches her. A passerby named Wallace Moon thinks he notices this but isn’t sure.
Then a moment later they are heaving softballs at a candy striped target, which Jon misses but Linda Lee hits, in turn proudly dunking the clown who, just a millisecond before his dunking advised, “Hey Sugartits, learn to throw!” A fire fly moves past their faces, then another one does, then they are in the dark-blue funhouse, wherein they can see nothing but fog, mirrors, and then faint blue light.
Since Funhouses are interesting, let us now return to real time.
“I hate to keep sounding like some paranoid, pompous asshole who thinks the world revolves around him,” Jon said while staring at his fat, discombobulated reflection, “but, Jesus H. Christ, Linda, I swear people keep staring at me and giving me double looks and…it’s weird. And I’m not even a paranoid person. I’m not. I’m absolutely not.”
Linda nodded. “You aren’t a paranoid person. But honestly, I haven’t noticed it. I think those pink and green ladies were just wanting some attention period.”
“They may have been. But, seriously, I…I just have had this odd feeling that every so often people are staring at me. It’s just weird.”
“Yes, I feel weird too. We’re at the fucking fair. The only requirement to working here is to be weird. And just look at all the weird people. And right now you and are are incredibly misshapen, and you’re weird and, you know what? Maybe you’re just more paranoid than you and I realize.” Linda flexed her biceps in the mirror.
This was true. For as laid-back and at times indifferent as he could be, Jon did have a paranoid vibe to him about certain things. He had an unhealthy trust of the U.S Postal Service and, for some reason that was in truth no reason, refused to open up any letters addressed to him unless he was certain who the sender was. In 2016, at the ripe age of 46, he’d be professionally diagnosed as a moderate compulsive hand washer.
Yet he never felt like people were watching him. That wasn’t his thing. A lot of people in school watched him but he didn’t really notice this. Jon wasn’t an attention-hungry person. That’s one reason why he had some mystique. He was rarely conscious of the fact that he could step into a classroom and everyone looked at him. He truly had no idea how cool and dangerous his classmates considered him.
But in this case, on this summer evening at the Bangor State Fair, a lot of people were looking at him. Staring at him. All over the fairgrounds. Almost at every turn. The tattooed lady standing next to a circus barker on a small stage by the lemonade stand stared straight at Jon’s head while they passed. The circus barker did the same. He even stopped barking for a bit.
There was the black dwarf who was grilling and selling Italian sausages inside of a covered, onion stinkin’ eating area, all of which he was able to do whilst hoolah hooping. He stared the whole time while Jon and Linda were sitting and eating. His hoolah hoop stopped, which it never did.
Then there was also the elderly siamese twins who were frying elephant ears. The dirty, tall technician with the “Russ” name tag hanging a “Repairing” sign on the gate of the Tilt-a-Whirl saw Jon’s face out of the corner of his eye, then flung around just to take a second look.
“Well, I’ll be goddamned,” Russ said.
The “Super Towel” salesman at the stand just outside the civic center where Chubby Checker would be playing that night saw Jon and stared. The one legged contortionist performing ona small stage not far from a line of blue Portopotties did the same. So did the dog walking a person. The kid with devil horn did while taking a smoke break.
“No shit,” said The Devil before taking the final drag off his cigarette. “That’s Rev Davenport’s son, right there.
“Let’s get a hot dog,” Jon said as they exited the fun house. As the moved through the door, a gentleman dressed like Frankenstein’s monster was pushing a broom. He looked at Jon, kept pushing the broom, then threw the broom down. He jerked towards Jon then slapped his heavy, green hands on his shoulder and spun him around.
“I know it’s you. I knew he had a boy! I’ve been looking for you for years and you’re here,” gargled the monster. There was a scar across his neck that reddened the green makeup with its infection.
“MY FUCKING GOD WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!?! GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME!” yelled Jon.
Frankenstein’s janitor withdrew them but kept them out in front of him.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” he replied. “We’re here for you. We’ve been waiting for you. And you’re here! You’re here. The reverend’s boy is here, in the flesh!!” The monster rang his hands in front of him with delight, then started jumping up and down.
Linda grabbed Jon by the hand and the two ran off. They ran past people, through people, no excuse me’s or even watch outs or get the hell out of the ways. A rotund woman in a thin sun dress dropped her cotton candy. Her husband almost dropped his. Streams of party lights and roller coaster lights and the sounds of hammers hitting bells and the smells of cigarette smoked flashed by them. Some people they pushed out of the way. Others they managed to slip between. For the 7th or 8th time that night, Jon was freaked-the-fuck-out. For the first time that night, Linda was scared as well.
They ran through the fair together. Linda wasn’t sure where the hell to go but definitely wanted to leave the fair. Jon wanted to go to the parking lot and then just leave the city altogether. Neither of them planned on running clear into a small hot dog stand that the aforementioned vampire was operating.
Crash. Boom. Hot dog in air. Bun in air. Mustard falls and is stepped on by vampire boot. Vampire says, “Jesus-fucking-christ!” and smacks his knee on the ground. His teeth fall out. Jon tumbes over the front and hears wood crack. Linda trips over a corner of the booth and lands on her chest and loses all breath. Gilmore Slicks walked over, grabbed a dog of the dirty ground, and nibbled on it as he continued to stroll the fairgrounds, unphased.
The Vampire who, they’d learned was named Louis, got up, brushed himself off, looked at Jon and Linda like he was about to gnaw their faces off, then calmed down when he saw Jon’s face.
“Wondering why everyone’s looking at you?” the Vampire asked Jon.
The vampire let out a laugh that was actually a bit monstrous
“It’s alright, Captain. I ain’t mad at ya. I buy hot dogs cheap and sell them expensive. Also, I used to run an elephant ear tent with your preacher dad.”
Jon remained frozen.
“How….how’d you know….”
The vampire unrolled a black garbage bag from a spool of them that was on the ground, then started throwing the spilled dogs into it. “How’d I know? Did your mom get rid of all the pics of your dad when he left you all? You two look more alike than some twins I’ve seen. Same face. Same build. Christ, you two even talk the same.” All the dirty dogs were now in the garbage bad, though the mustard puddle remained. He started to pick up some napkins and join them with the dogs.
“And you’re probably wondering why all of carnie fucks are staring at you, amiright?”
Linda Lee nodded.
“I was fine for the most part until Frankenstein grabbed me,” said Jon.
“Oh, fuck you you were fine,” said Linda. “He’s been pissing his panties about all these weirdos looking at him all evening.”
The vampire let out another laugh. “You know, that guy really is named Frank. And he looks just like Frankenstein’s monster. I mean, yeah-yeah I know the doctor and not the monster is named Frankenstein but, seriously, what in the bloody Christ were his parents thinking when they gave him that name? Parents, man. They’ve got to be the stupidest human fucking beings that have ever been placed on God’s green goodness. I liked your dad, though. Jon, right?”
Jon was slightly thawed at this point though no less confused. He nodded.
“You know, help me clean this fucking place up and I’ll take you out for some pizza. Let’s get away from this garbage dump of a fair and I’ll fill you in on why all these circusy Mainers are giving are flashing their fuckin-four-eyes at ya.”
Jon was no longer frozen.
“That would be great. Thanks. “