FAIRGROUNDS

by Gretchen Williams

Business was good tonight. Hank is a good man: he pays well and never complains or asks why I bark at him. Honestly, I think he likes it. Something new and exciting.

I have to walk home from work. Irma doesn't have a car, and even if she did, I don't think she'd pick me up. But she's good to me. She took me in after I ran away from home. I was the middle child. My older sister was cherished because she was the first born, it was her birthright. Same thing with my younger brother, the only boy and the youngest. He was loved just because he was there, that made him special. But me-I had to work for everything. I had to make them love me by pleasing them. Great grades, I've always been the smartest, working hard, just like my dad, doing anything that would bring a smile on their FACE! FUCK! It's not like it was a bad situation or anything. No abuse or any other serious problem. I was treated well, given everything I needed and more. My parents were beyond well off. But, I couldn't be the scapegoat anymore, I couldn't be the one left out, the goddamn disappointment. The one who only got a smile when I taught myself how to use the bathroom, instead of all the screaming and fuss they made over Edward. Like I was supposed to know, I was expected to learn on my own without any assistance from them. That's how it's always been. I've done everything on my own, grew up on my own. That's why I left. I put too much effort into making them proud with no response. I knew I could survive on my own, without their money.

Why I chose Dwibe is still a question I have for myself. Its a dead little town and the only job I could handle was prostitution. But, perhaps I want to go nowhere. Stay here where time seems to stand still. Anyways, that's how I got my home.

Irma.

Since I knew when I arrived that I would have to whore my body, I decided to get a head start. I knocked on a trailer and offered the woman who answered sex. That would be Irma. For some reason, she thought it was entertaining and invited me in, although she never took me up on my offer. She let me stay, the crazy bitch. I pay bills now to keep up the house. In fact, I pay for almost everything, since Irma is too old to work. She still asks me everyday if I can get her a job down at the Brothel. I guess she thinks it gets funnier by the hour. I've grown to care about her over the last year I've been living here. She's a good woman, missing a few marbles, but nonetheless, a good woman.

Irma is not home. Where, in the name of god, would that woman go? I left the damn keys on the dresser in room #4. Irma hates it when I break window to get inside but I have no other option. There's no way in hell I'm walking all the way back there.

Madame is sending me to room #1 (I've never used room #1 or heard of anyone else using it). I ask "who" and the queer woman shrugs.

His name is James, he says. My first suspicion is Dad sent someone to find me. I know he wants me to come home. My hearts pounding. Jesus Christ! What is coming out of my mouth? Obviously, something crass by the look this "James" is giving me. I apologize. Instead of jumping on me like most of the men do since they pay by the hour, James wants to have intelligent conversation. Definetly sent by my dad. He's from Washington and is just passing through on his way to some big city in Iowa. Ummm. But as we speak, I think less and less of this conspiracy and more and more of James. He is quite handsome and a gentlemen. Such a gentlemen. I start to sweat, becoming uncomfortable, grinding my teeth, praying to the Lord that I don't believe in that I won't have an outburst. Not now. NOT NOW. Just then, he asks me to dinner. Without thought, I say yes. We'll meet at the fairgrounds. And he leaves.

I beg Madame for the rest of the day off and after much argument, she says yes. I run home (really I ran for about a hundred yards and was so out of breath I had to stop, but the urgency is what matters). Irma and I searched the house for something to wear. All I have are the dresses I have to wear to the Brothel. Panic. SHIT. I feel like I'm having a heart attack and I have to sit to relax myself. Irma is petting my head to stop me from screaming. Hot baths relax me. It's convenient. I would have to clean myself anyway. I get so worked up sometimes I just don't know what to do with myself. We combine a whore dress with one of Irma's sweaters. Looks respectable. Pretty. I paint my nails and toenails. I have to wear open-toed shoes to match my dress to the sweater and I can't do that with them looking like they do. Irma does my hair. It looks a little scary, but I don't want to hurt her feelings, so I leave it. I'll stick a brush in my purse so I can take it down later. James. James. James. I've never been on a date. Eighteen and never been kissed. I'm a whore, of course, but never been kissed for the right reason. Back home, I never had the time for a boyfriend or the interest in boys for that matter. They are all pigs. But, I live off them. I use their weakest spot to keep myself alive. James bought an hour and got nothing. Imagine the money he has. There's a man I could marry. He could support me the rest of my life. I wouldn't have to work. We would live in a beautiful home in Washington near the ocean. We'd take picnics on the beach. Irma's telling me to relax again. But I don't want to. I want to scream out the windows to the other trailers about James and the future I want with him. This is the first time I've hoped for something bigger, the first time I've asked for a better life. I think I deserve it.

Off to the fairgrounds. I can hardly keep myself from skipping. All the usual freaks are here. Pam, who I used to work with, but she made a career change. Now she juggles her cats for money. Helga, the sumo wrestler. Where's James? Cletus was somehow pulled away from his normal seat at the Brothel. I stop my searching to speak to him. Maybe if James sees me talking to another man he'll be jealous. Possibly make him want me even more. Cletus and I talk of the weather and other pointless topics. All I can think of is James and how if he were here we'd talk about something interesting and not about clouds or anything else neither of us care about. It's getting dark. Cletus and I decide it's going to rain. A wacky clown gives us each a balloon. Cletus excuses himself. Back to the Brothel, I suppose. I wait and wait. The first hint of romance in my life and the bastard can't even be on time. I know he'll show up. He has to.

After an hour by myself, the clown comes back and tells me it's never going to happen and pops my balloon. I'm not sure if that bitch knew what was going on or if she could just see it in my face. Either way, I scream at her until she is so far away she can't hear me anymore.

I walk home in the cold rain. I don't know what the wetness on my face is, tears, rain or both. It doesn't matter anyways. I get inside. Irma decided to wait up for me to hear about my night. I tell her of all the romantic things James did for me, buying me flowers and dinner, dancing near the hot dog stand while Pam played with her cats. It was a wonderful evening I tell her, the best time I'd ever had.