What can YOU say in six sentences?
With two rolls of quarters burning a hole in my jeans, I opted not to join my best friend and his date on any of the flashy rides. Paying for the privilege of puking up corndogs wasn’t my idea of fun, even if it afforded the potential of seeing a girl’s breast flop out of a dress.
I strolled alone down the beehive of a midway, intoxicated by the weird brew of smells. I passed tattooed men hawking two-bit peeks at freakish things in jars, giant and miniature horses with erections people pretended not to notice, a reptile-a-torium and a house of wax, which was filled with second-hand J.C. Penney mannequins made up to look like the famous and infamous: Abraham Lincoln and Lizzie Borden.
Beyond the neon rides and elaborately painted facades of the freak shows were the Budweiser tents and games of chance. With draft-filled plastic cups in one hand and stuffed animals the size of my little sister in the other, leather-clad bikers brayed as I passed, and I quickened my pace.
I was only 15, but I could pass for older. I started to go into one of the less-crowded beer tents, but I saw a couple of my parents’ friends and reversed course.
Into the testosterone haze I strolled, where dads and boyfriends were rolling up their sleeves and spending fortunes trying to win giant blue sharks (“JAWS” had hit the big screen the previous year) and Panda bears for the girls in their lives.
I eventually came across one put-a-quarter-on-a-colored-square game -- in which someone tosses a ball that has to land on a color -- that interested me. For the next two hours, I giddily parlayed half my quarters into two cartons of cigarettes I could’ve easily bought over any counter for the same price.
Twenty-five cents on the right color was worth a pack of unfiltered Chesterfields or Picayunes; a pack won two; two won five; and five was worth a carton of choice: Winstons, Marlboros and the like.
Later that night, the three of us went to the cinema across the street. My mouthfuls of popcorn couldn’t mask the disgusting smacking sounds of my friend and his girl kissing.
A half-hour into the flick, I began noticing things darting across the aisle. Rats!
I thought it was cool and gleefully pointed this out to my sore-lipped companions. And for the rest of the movie, the kissing ceased, the girl preoccupied with keeping her feet moving, and my friend glowering more at me than the screen.