A Fair Tale

As fair season draws to a close here in Randomville, I can't help but think back to the Flower family's first foray into the midway.

It was our second year in Randomville. We didn't know it, our first year, but the fair is kind of a big deal around here. My friends were getting checked out of school to go to the fair. People would come to church and tell us all about the rides and the concerts and the food. We didn't really feel like we were missing much.

The next year, though, I was a freshman in high school, and EVERYBODY WAS GOING TO THE FAIR BUT ME. That is NOT FAIR. My parents were MEAN to keep me away from the singlemost important event of my ENTIRE LIFE and if they'd only remember what it was like to be YOUNG they would know how HUMILIATED and OSTRACIZED I would be if I didn't go to the fair. I'd be an OUTCAST. I'd have to spend the rest of my life looking in from the outside, and I wouldn't get to go to a Good College because it's PRACTICALLY A CLASS REQUIREMENT, that's why, and I bet my REAL PARENTS would take me to the fair WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO MEAN ???

(I have always had a flair for the dramatic.)

So, one Sunday afternoon, we all went to the fair.

We waited in line for like, an hour, to get in. It was Wristband Day, which meant we could buy a wristband and get into everything without paying for tickets. The wristband cost $14 apiece, and that was back in 1989; it was expensive, for a fair, is what I'm saying.

We snapped on our wristbands and then ... we stood around and looked at each other. We'd gotten in; now what?

Our wristbands gave us admittance to all the rides, but my dad doesn't like rides and my sister throws up easily. We went on, I think, two rides. So that was about one-third of the available resources that we did not take advantage of.

There were a lot of huge outbuildings in one section. We headed toward them, only to turn right back around when we got a whiff of the unmistakable scent of Cow. We are not hardy farming folk; also, we are not big fans of the poo smell. So that was another third of the available resources that we had no interest in.

The final third is made up of food and freak shows.

You know you cannot go to a fair without sampling some of the culinary delights, especially since they are the most sugar-loaded, fat-laden, artery-clogging, indigestion-giving tasty little bites of heaven-on-earth you will ever partake of. They are YUMMY, I mean. There were turkey legs, bratwurst, candied apples, funnel cakes, cheesecake-on-a-stick, fried pickles, corndogs, cotton candy ... pretty much anything you had a taste for, the fair's got it. And there is nothing, I mean NOTHING, like a tall souvenir cup of freshly squeezed lemonade with two cups of sugar poured on top and shaken together. That is one delicious diabetes-maker, right there.

And that left us with the freak shows.

Freak shows are an iffy business. They're exploitative, and they make me uncomfortable. Is it exploitation if a person volunteers to put himself on display? Is a freak show Art? And if so, is it Art on the level that putting a crucifix in urine-filled jar is Art? And is it that freaky, nowadays, to look at a little person who is billed as Little Thom, the Sideshow Midget? Is it okay to stare at an unusually hirsute woman? Is it bad that I kind of wanted to see the Crocodile Man, if only so I could secretly give him my sample-sized bottle of Jergens? I wasn't really clear on the political nature of the freak show.

On the other hand, I had to get my money's worth on that wristband. So to the freak shows we went. Well ... to ONE freak show.

While we'd been waiting in line--FOREVER--to get our wristbands, we'd been next to this giant truck with a huge advertisement on the side.


it screamed, in huge comic book letters.

The entire sordid story of the Headless Woman was written on the side of the truck.


Mistie May Jones was an aspiring model whose career was on the rise. Designers were starting to ask for her by name, and she was engaged to be married to a film star who was well-known for his action movies. She had the perfect life, until ...
One night Mistie May was driving to her next modeling job. It was a small-town gig, booked before she became someone to watch. But Mistie May wanted to keep her obligation to the town, so she was driving in the dead of night, through the mountains of North Carolina. The sky was cloudy, the moon was dark, and the roads twisted and curved. Mistie May fell asleep at the wheel, and was suddenly awakened by the frantic honking of a huge eighteen-wheeler that was directly in her path! She stomped on the brake, but her car spun out of control! Mistie May could only stare, terrified, as her car raced directly toward the oncoming truck! The truck driver slammed on his brakes, and his truck jack-knifed in the middle of the road! Mistie May could not stop; her convertible headed straight toward the trailer of the truck!
When the police arrived at the scene, they found the truck driver kneeling next to Mistie May's decapitated body. Miraculously, she was still alive! Even without her head!
A medical marvel, Mistie May knew only one trade: modeling. And so she continues to model in towns across the country, showing people all over America that one can be beautiful, even if one is THE HEADLESS WOMAN !!!!!

I cannot explain how badly I wanted to see a headless woman. I mean, SHE DID NOT HAVE A HEAD. How could I pass that up? So I talked my family into it, and we headed toward Mistie May's trailer.

My anticipation grew with every step I took toward the trailer. Oh boy! A headless woman!

But when it was my turn to step up on the platform to take a look, I paused. Because ... SHE DID NOT HAVE A HEAD. Why would I want to see that?

My dad went first. He walked up to the window of Mistie May's trailer and peeked in. And laughed.

I was just infuriated. How dare he? Like that woman didn't have enough problems, now she's got to deal with insensitive onlookers?

I stomped right up to that window, outraged on behalf of the Headless Woman, and on behalf of Womankind, who always had to think of innovative ways to make money, even when their heads were cut off. I looked in, preparing myself for the worst ...

and there was a woman, sitting in a wheelchair, with a box where her head should have been and a huge curtain behind her. It was obvious, even to me--THE MOST GULLIBLE PERSON IN THE ENTIRE WORLD--that this was nothing more than a woman with her head tilted back behind the curtain.

Well, I surely did NOT feel as if I had gotten my wristband's worth of freaks, let me tell you. The scales fell from my eyes, and I began to notice how things were kind of shady around the fair, and how people were spending three dollars to plays games and win prizes that they could have bought at WalMart for a dollar fifty, and how it cost almost as much to get into the fair as it did to get into the amusement park where the fair was located, and how my dad had paid $1.75 for a can of soda, and how I was just a big ol' dummy and the fair stunk.

We kind of lost our enthusiasm for the fair after that, so we ate a funnel cake and then we left. It didn't seem like such a big deal anymore.

I didn't go back to the fair for five more years, and I didn't go this year either. In fact, I'm still so mad about this whole affair that I may never go again.

Stupid Headless Woman.

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