Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
By August we had made our way into Connecticut and Paul had gotten us a spot at a local fair. You know the type I think, not quite a livestock show, not quite a carnival but any number of lawsuits and injuries just waiting to happen.
I got to watch the people manning the games of chance do their thing; there was the guy that told you it was three shots for a dollar and every shot was a winner. There was the pretty young thing standing before her booth, telling all the young men passing by that she would ‘Show them how to do it’. There was that old geezer that goaded fathers and husbands into spending twenty bucks to win a four dollar stuffed animal. There were the men running the rides that looked like they were capable of killing someone and there were the women running the concession stands that looked like they probably had.
We weren’t there to do anything more than sell pictures and honestly with all the other attractions the fair had to offer we didn’t sell all that many. The Casey brothers had lost themselves somewhere among the rides and attractions almost the moment we got set up. Paul and Debbie were off pricing candy apple stands, apparently the Desanti business empire was about to expand again.
That left me alone with Athena. I could feel the summer drawing to a close and with it my chances of ever getting anywhere with her.
I decided it was time to go for broke.
Athena nodded in agreement, “You’re right! I always thought the same thing. Our parents get all upset about sex and violence on TV and then teach us the Canterbury Tales and the works of William Shakespeare in school?”
“Exactly,” I said. “Why is it that older people, you know people in their forties, can’t see the how intellectually dishonest the world is?”
“I doubt it’s that…” Athena’s voice trailed off as a customer approached our stand but a heartbeat later he headed into the nearby restroom. “I think it’s just that as you get older you learn that there is a certain amount of bullshit that you have to put up with.”
“Well,” I said thoughtfully. “I’m sure our generation will fix everything.”
“Oh do you now?” She laughed as though I had said something witty instead of something naive; I was content to let her go forward from that premise.
Besides it was just an hour before the fair closed down for the night, if I was going to start seducing her I better darn well get started. I looked back to Athena, she had pinned her hair back and it had given her a strange kind of Earthly elegance. I could feel my eyes being drawn down from the soft slope of her neck to… well you know where.
The battle to keep eye contact with a curvy girl is something every man must face every day of his life. How many times have I struggled to keep my eyes from drifting to a particularly daring neckline or overly tight sweater? I can only say I am a veteran, but not a hardened one in most cases.
“You know Athena,” I began. “I could talk to you like this all night. How about it?”
“What? You mean at the bar later?” she said. “Sure. Who else is there I can talk to that isn’t crazy or sporting a criminal record?”
“I thought maybe we could talk privately,” I gave her a sly wink. “Kinda face to face if you know what I mean.”
Her laughter was uncertain, “Are you getting weird again?”
“If you’re lucky we both might get a little freaky.”
“Maybe afterwards we can get a little Jacuzzi action going.” I was determined to use this next line. My brother said it was a deal clincher and I was going to make a man of myself tonight a man forged in the fires of lust and mild friction burns.
“Al this isn’t…”
“I mean there isn’t a Jacuzzi in my room but if you’re a nice girl I’ll let you lie in the tub and I’ll blow bubbles between your legs.”
The smug, sexually confident grin was knocked off my face by Athena’s first punch; my red, oxygen rich blood was sent running from my nose by her second. I went sprawling into a mass of cheaply made paintings; the King and the Duke watched me blunder to my feet and dab at the blood and tears that were running down my face.
“What the hell was that for?” I was surprised at the sound of my shout.
“Where do you get off thinking you could talk to me like that? You think I’m just some slut?”
“I was trying… I was just…”
“I know what you were doing and I hear even stupider come on lines from the guys I have to deal with back at college!” She got right up in my face, angry spittle flew from her lips, “Tell me something Al, if I really had been stupid enough to fall for one of your lines what would that make you? What would that make me?”
“… I don’t know?” I said. “I’m sorry?”
“You’re sorry?” She pressed the heel of her palm against her face and wiped something away, “Get out of here Al. Go back to the motel.”
“Just go, unless you’re an even bigger asshole than I think you are already.”
A kind of sickness settled into my gut and worked its way out from there. I headed for the exit to the fair, just glancing back once to see her straightening pictures. Paul had my car but at that point a ninety minute walk didn’t sound like a bad idea at all. Along the way the tears and blood slowed to a trickle but I never bothered to wipe any of it away. With each footstep I asked myself, What have I done? What have I done?