Moose continues to write about the storm that hit this year’s County Fair:
Sheets. Torrents. So much rain. The wind could barely move it from vertical—it fell at a weird angle that always seemed to be right in your face. The lightning had moved on after its spectacular strike on the Ferris wheel (though there was still plenty of thunder) and it was pretty much pitch dark.
What should we do? There was a kind of yelly, fighty discussion. We were all soaked through, and you know how people screaming at you always makes you mad even if you know they are just doing it so you can hear. Pounce and Mr. Spit were in favor of running for our bikes and making our escape, while Lee, Nina, and, I will admit, me thought the only smart thing to do was to find shelter close by, in the fair itself. Buildings, you know. Actual dry buildings. With roofs.
Murphy was staring off into the distance and not paying attention. (I was going to say “as usual”, but that would be mean.) It was Lee who first bothered to try to figure out what he was looking at, and it took him a while to get us all to stop with the high volume bickering and notice what Murphy’d noticed. It was a light. A nice, warm, yellowy orange light, like a campfire. It looked warm, even though you could barely see it through the rain.
“That’s gotta be the sideshow,” said Pounce, who never gets confused about directions. “We don’t want to go there, remember?” Because we had agreed on this before. Sideshows are exploitative and fake and a ripoff. Everybody knows that.
“So what,” said Murphy. “They’ve got lights. We know they have tents.” This made sense to some of us, so there was more yelly discussion. Even Pounce ended up thinking a light we could see was better than a whole fairgrounds in the dark, basically chaos with everything blown over and people and maybe animals panicking and loose power lines and who knows what. I looked at Lee, who was the only other holdout. I knew his reasons for wanting to stay away were sensible. The sideshow was isolated, and there were bound to be strange grownups there—strange in the sense that we didn’t know them, and maybe strange in other ways, too.
Me? I wasn’t sensible. I was just scared. The sideshow, even the banners for it, always gave me the creeps, and I was always glad to hide behind people with reasonable objections to going in so I didn’t have to admit it. I’m Moose, right? I’m brave, and if nobody ever figures out that I really, really don’t want to look at a two headed calf, that’s just fine with me.
But majority rules, or at least Lee and I really didn’t want to be stuck on that hill all by ourselves in the storm. We followed close behind Pounce until we could see that the yellowy orange lights were coming from clusters of kerosene lanterns hanging from the poles of the sideshow booths and banners, which were arranged in most of a circle around a tramped down area. As we approached the lantern light we noticed (for the first time?) that there was a light tent over the whole sideshow, and when we stepped inside the circle, it was dry.
And we were alone. In spite of all the people running around out there on the downhill side, we were the only ones there.