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by Michelle Ceasar Davis
Devin licked his lips. Sawdust and manure, with a touch of salt. Yuck. The carnival had definitely arrived to town on that sweltering July night. At 9 o’clock, it was still 90 plus degrees with a humidity far too high for comfort and not a suggestion of a cooling breeze. Everyone he knew was standing in line for the swing ride or the beer tent. Everyone but Josie.
No, Josie wanted to walk the midway and have him spend his week’s paycheck winning her all those crap prizes that the carnies drag from town to town. She didn’t have to spend 14 hour days in a stamping factory where the sweat ran into your boots like a river. She sat in an air-conditioned beauty parlor and talked to all the old ladies about who was sleeping with whom at the nursing home. That money was his reward for losing five pounds of water weight every day he crossed that threshold into hell and he wasn’t going to let any woman with a pretty face tell him when he could and couldn’t go the beer garden.
Except whatever Josie wanted, Devin did give her, like walking the midway and throwing balls at milk bottles that were glued together and squirting water into balloons that had holes in them. He watched her stretch on her tiptoes as she selected the large monkey that cost him over $25. Her tank top rode up, revealing a beautiful bronze belly and glittery belly button ring. He smiled. Yeah, he wanted to drink beer out of that belly button tonight.
He reached out and cupped Josie’s ass, his fingers lingering along the frayed edge of her cutoffs.
“Not here,” she said, swatting his hand away. “People are watching.”
“When has that ever bothered you?”
She stomped her foot, raising a small dust cloud. “Hold this.” She pushed the monkey into Devin’s arms, sidestepping him completely.
Devin rolled his eyes. He picked up the stuffed pink alligator and three mirrors from the counter and followed Josie. “At least let me take this shit to the car.”
She stopped and turned, her hands on her hips. “I told everyone that you were going to win me everything at this carnival, and I’ll be damned if they don’t see us with everything with any value.”
“It’s too friggin’ hot to carry this crap around. Let’s go cool off with a few drinks in the beer tent.”
“We haven’t done everything yet. There’s still that ring toss game, the guys who guess my weight and age, oh, and that boy who does the drawings.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” He tried to change the arrangement of the prizes in his arms but his sweat made the animals cling even closer.
“You know, the boy who draws faces. I want to have our faces done.”
“Can we do that and then find some place cooler?”
She smiled. She quickly closed the gap between them and linked her arm through his, pushing the plush monkey even closer to him. “Whatever will make you happy.”
The caricature portrait booth was on the other end of the midway, providing Josie with many opportunities to have Devin win her more prizes. By the time they reached their destination, his skill at games of chance rewarded them with two more large stuffed animals, an extra-large beer mug, and a few Metallica and Iron Maiden tee shirts. The chair was empty when the couple approached and Josie skipped to sit in front of the boy.
“Make me look gorgeous,” she said, pulling down her tank top to reveal even more cleavage.
Devin noticed the young man’s eyes didn’t move to her. In fact, they seemed to be everywhere but on Josie. “Is he all right?” he asked a much older woman who stood nearby.
“His name is George, and he’s my son,” she said, placing a protective hand on his shoulder. “He’s perfectly fine, just blind. And mute.”
“Blind? How can he draw?”
“God gave him the power. We don’t question why He did, only use it to support us.”
Devin waved his hand in front of George’s face. His eyes didn’t focus on the hand, only darted in different directions. “How much for the drawing?”
“Twenty dollars for just her,” George’s mother said, pointing at Josie. “Twenty-five to include you.”
“Devin, just pay her the twenty-five dollars. I really want this.” Josie’s bottom lip protruded slightly.
That damn pout. Nothing was sexier on her than that. “Fine.” He removed the bills from his money clip and took a seat next to Josie.
“If he’s blind, how does he know what color my hair is, or how long it is?” Josie asked. ”Or the shade of my lip gloss? Or how tan I am?”
“Stop talking so he can do his work,” George’s mother said.
Devin saw a man approach from his left, a caricature portrait in his outstretched hand. “I want to talk to you!”
“We’re in the middle of a seating. Come back later.”
“No, I want to talk about this now.” He put the drawing in front of the mother’s face. “What the hell is this?”
“It’s a drawing of your wife. I remember her from yesterday.”
“And what’s this?” He pointed to something else on the drawing, something Devin couldn’t see.
“It’s a car.” She rolled her eyes. “We do lots of drawings with cars in the background.”
“But it’s not my car,” he said. “And it’s not her car either.” He paused for a moment. “Whose car is it?”
“It’s just a car.”
“No it’s not. A car identical to that one hit my wife today when she was crossing the street. She was in the damn crosswalk! Do you know where she is now?” The man stepped in front of the mother. “Do you? Do you know where she is? She’s in the fucking morgue! The fucking morgue! This car ran her over! I want to know why it’s in this picture.” He moved in front of George and started to shake his shoulders. “Why did you draw this car? What do you know?”
“Stop it! Leave him alone! Security! Help! Help!” The mother tried to pull the man away from George. “He’s hurting him! Make him stop! Make him stop!”
“Do something,” Josie said, pushing Devin toward the commotion. “You can’t let him hurt George or our drawing.”
Devin got up, walked to the shouting two-some, and tapped the man on the shoulder. “Hey, leave the kid alone. He didn’t drive the car.”
The man turned around. “Who the hell are you? Stay out of this.”
“Tell him,” George’s mother said. “Tell him what I told you.”
“The kid is blind,” Devin said. “He didn’t have anything to do with it.”
“She could’ve done it. Obviously she can see.”
“What’s the point, man? It was an accident, a coincidence at best. Just go and grieve for your wife.”
“These two are responsible for her death, I know they are. This,” he pointed to the car in the picture, “can’t be a coincidence.”
Devin looked at the picture and understood what the man meant. That car wasn’t a non-descript silver automobile that Detroit or Korea or Japan turned out by the millions. No, that was a 1969 Ford Thunderbird with a custom metallic blue paint job and white hard top. In fact, it looked so good, it almost looked brand new, like it left the showroom floor only minutes before.
“That’s the car that hit your wife?” Devin asked, shaking his head.
“Yeah. It happened about three miles from here. And of course it was the only intersection without a working closed circuit camera.”
“Still, you’d think the police would be able to find a car like that that needed a lot of body work.”
“They can’t find anything around here. All the garages service new vehicles, nothing this old. The guy probably works on it himself.”
“That’s another reason why it can’t be the kid,” Devin said. “He’s blind.”
“But he can draw.”
“I know, but somehow that’s different.”
A rent-a-cop ran up to Devin and the other man. “Which of you is going to jail tonight?”
“He’s the one, officer,” the mother said, pointing to the widower. “He’s the one that threatened me and George.”
“He didn’t threaten anyone,” Devin said. “He’s upset and looking for someone to blame for his wife’s death. Just let him go home.”
The security guard grabbed the other man’s upper arm. “No can do. We have a zero tolerance policy about violence, mister, and this guy needs to cool off in jail.”
“Whatever,” Devin said. “You’re gonna do what you think is right anyway.”
“Don’t get involved,” Josie shouted. “Get back here so we can get our portrait finished.”
He rolled his eyes. Get involved. Don’t get involved. If it weren’t for her body and looks, there would be no reason to stay with her.
Instead, he resumed his pose next to Josie and waited for George to finish the drawing. Ten minutes later, George put down his pastels and handed the picture to his mother.
“Very good, dear,” she said, placing a loud kiss on the top of his head. “This one is excellent. You really captured the soullessness in her eyes.”
“The what?” Josie asked, walking toward George.
“It’s nothing to worry about. He prides himself in depicting the essence of his subjects.”
“I don’t like that way that sounds,” Devin said.
“Again, it’s his style. All the art critics like that about his portraits.”
“What’s this?” He pointed to a small line drawing in the background of the caricature.
“Oh that.” The mother took a magnifying glass out of her bosom. “It’s obviously a train.”
“Really.” Josie bit her lower lip. “Maybe he thinks we’re going on a cross country trip somewhere. Maybe to California or Seattle.” She tugged on Devin’s arm. “Wouldn’t that be great? A real vacation!”
The expenses of a vacation flooded his brain. “Sure, a vacation out West. Maybe we’re also supposed to rob a train to pay for it.”
“Stop being that way.” Josie took the picture and held it out at arm’s length. “I think this is a great picture of us. Probably better than any photographer could do.”
“Sure.” He gathered up their prize winnings. “All I know is I can finally get a drink at the beer tent.”
“It’s too hot. Let’s go for a drive with the air conditioning on instead.”
“You were fine with it before.”
She stomped her foot again. “That was before we sat there for, I don’t know, like 20 minutes. I want to get cool and sitting in a tent with a bunch of your beer buddies is not my idea of getting cool.”
“Josie, I have done everything you asked here. I’ve carried all this shit around with the thought that I’d have a few beers at the end of the day.”
She slid against him and ran her finger down the side of his cheek. “But if I can get out of this heat and cooled down, I’ll do something that can get us all hot and sticky again,” she whispered near his ear.
Beer or screwing? It was no contest, screwing would win every time.
The search party found the 2004 black Chevrolet Impala two days later near the railroad tracks. According to witnesses and the official police report, it appeared the car had been struck by a train, even though it had stopped running through town 25 years ago. A resident who lived near the scene, a Mrs. Vivian Rasmussen, told authorities she heard a train whistle that night and thought she had even seen the light from an engine.
The bodies of Devin McClinton and Josie Fitzgerald have yet to be found.
Anyone may enter the giveaway. This includes the artist and writers contributing to the Dark Carnival, as well as the readers of the stories. Enjoy! Muahahahahaha! Ahem. I mean good luck.