Joe cursed himself for not driving. His wife was on her third loop around the county fair parking area, looking for that one spot that was ten feet closer to the entrance than the four others they had just passed. He let out a louder than necessary breath, which meant, park the damn car.
After parking, Joe got out and opened the backdoor of the SUV to free his excited son, James, who had now changed from yelling that he was hungry to “flarris wheel, flarris wheel!”
Joe laughed to himself. Two minutes ago he would have paid money to be back home doing much needed yard work. But now, after seeing the genuine excitement in his young son’s eyes, he calmly said, “Yes, you can ride the Ferris wheel.”
The family of three walked across the parking lot. They had only taken a few steps before they were stopped by someone they knew. Joe thought to himself, in this small town it was hard not to see someone you knew. With his wife gossiping with her friend and James tugging on his arm, Joe scanned the area for others he might recognize. Around him he counted eight families he could name each member of, all of which Joe had seen at this county fair last year. It was all the same as last year, just a little older.
Finally James’ insistence that they keep going persuaded the family to keep moving. James led the way, pulling his father by the arm between cars the parked cars. Joe struggled to maintain a bridge between his excited son and his ever-ready-to-talk wife.
After stopping three more times (twice for more gossip and once to tell his son that they would leave right now if he didn’t straighten up), the trio finally made it to the entrance. “Two adults, one kid,” Joe said to the young girl behind the ticket counter.
“That’ll be twenty-five,” the girl said in an accent that was not local.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” Joe asked in an attempt at small talk.
“No, I’m –“
“Tell her I’m not riding anything,” his wife interrupted. She was standing right beside him, but for some reason there was an invisible barrier which stopped all communication between herself and the ticket girl.
“My wife ain’t–” he started. “She’s not going to be riding anything,” Joe finished.
“In that case it’s twenty.”
Joe started to tell his wife that they could spend the extra five dollars in case she changed her mind later, but thought better of it. Joe shrugged his shoulders and gave the ticket girl the money. She placed a band on James’ wrist. This proved to be a difficult task with James jumping and pointing at the sights inside the fair grounds. Then she placed a band on Joe’s arm. Joe extended his arm with a tightly clenched fist. While unsteadily attaching Joe’s band, the girl’s hand brushed Joe’s. The touch, though brief and accidental, caused a reaction that Joe noticed and hoped his wife did not. The ticket girl was blushing. Smiling, Joe led his family inside.