The Long Way Home


The Sizzler
June 13, 2013, 9:33 PM
Filed under: Library | Tags: , , ,
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Photos by Lisa. Text by Mike.

The ride was called Sizzler. A rollercoaster with giant loops in the middle. Upside down for seven seconds at a time. Long enough to see God, his friend Jose had said at school.

The carnies came once a year, selling bland churros and crowding animals under a circus tent. He’d been too small to ride last summer, but his father made him a promise. If you grow. Now his father was out-of-town (again). He was at the fair alone. The biggest attraction was the Ferris wheel. Girls in his class rode it together, squeezed in side-by-side. He imagined being latched in there with them.

What would he do?

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A few feet away, blocking his path to the ticket booth, stood a giant woman holding a pink parasol. Something crazy about her. She kept the parasol perfectly perpendicular to her body. The sun cast her silhouette against the wall behind her. He watched this shadow instead of the woman. It felt safer.

It was almost dusk. Mothers taking their children home. Teenagers won’t show up to ride bumper cars and drink beer for another hour. Just him and the woman remained, though he could hear sporadic screams coming from a distant ride. He took a step closer. He needed tickets to ride the Sizzler.

She was a giantess.

The woman stooped down at the waist.  Her nose inches from his face.  The parasol remained rigid beside her.

“Would you like to know when your father will leave?” she asked.

 “He’s gone,” the boy answered.

 “That’s true,” the woman said, shaking her head, “but I mean forever.”

She stood upright, momentarily blocking out the sun, and reached to a little table beside her. She lifted a yellow saucer and light blue mug, perched them right below the boy’s face.  He expected to see hot cocoa but instead there was a clock inside.  He hadn’t heard its ticking but now the sound reverberated in his head.  When he looked inside the mug a second time it was empty.

“As long as you hear that sound,” the giantess said, “you’ll know your father is alive.”

That night in bed he tries to imagine the cars of the Sizzler racing through the loops—to picture himself hanging on for dear life—but his head echoes with a steady tick . . .tick . . .tick . . . tick . . . and he can’t focus. His father still isn’t home, but as long as he hears that sounds he knows he eventually will be.

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A Day at the Fair
July 12, 2011, 6:43 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , ,

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Things I learned at the Butler County fair: Hot waffle ice cream sandwiches are an amazing invention. Alpacas are addictive. Sword swallowing produces a white foam that coats the edge of a blade. Rastafarian bananas are a popular children’s toy in rural Pennsylvania. It takes at least 500 ring tosses to win a pocket knife. Jeff is pretty sexy in a pink cowboy hat. Corn dogs are best topped with sriracha. Dark rides do not scare children. An eye is a mirror.

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Side Show
July 4, 2011, 3:18 PM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , , ,

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Yeah, I know I wasted three bucks  looking at chipped wooden gaffs of JoJo the Dog Faced Boy but it was a birthday gift well-spent. I remember many summer afternoons as a kid, sweating my butt off in front of a metal fan blowing hot air on my back while reading my mother’s tattered copy of Guinness Book of World Records, shocked and amazed at a woman who was so tiny, she could have been one of my dolls; the tallest man in the world, towering over his parents in their Depression-era living room; conjoined twins who fathered almost a dozen children each; and the man with fingernails curling like delicate tendrils of skin. Happy birthday, America, and thanks for the trip down memory lane.

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