NT FRANKLIN - SHORT-STORIES
NT Franklin - I write after my real job hoping one day to have it be my real job. When I’m not reading or writing short stories, you might find me fishing or solving crossword puzzles.
Me and Bart Go to the County Fair
August was here and that meant two things: school next month was a bad thing, but the county fair coming to town this month was a good thing. Me and Bart had been saving half the summer for the fair. Minus what we spent on fries and Cokes, we had enough for a good time. The best rides of the year, hot dogs and cotton candy.
Bart was walking across the street smiling like all get out. This had to be good.
“Do you know what I have?” Bart asked. Before I could answer, he says, “Ride tickets for the fair. Tons of them. They can be used at the midway for games and stuff, too.”
“You heard me. We can ride free all night and do the midway games on the first day of the fair.”
“With these tickets! A friend of my mom is a sponsor or something. Doesn’t matter, but he gave me 100 tickets. Free.”
“Wow, your mom has some nice friends,” I said.
“We don’t have to pay for rides and stuff. Do you know how many hot dogs we can get now?”
“And cotton candy,” I chimed in. “The fair starts this Thursday. That seems like forever.”
It turned out it wasn’t that long until Thursday. Me and Bart were there at the 4 PM opening of the fair. Hungry and ready for rides. My first order of business was to get a cotton candy. Been a year since my last one. The best way to eat the sticky pink threads were by pulling chunks off using fingers. Never mind getting sticky fingers, it was cotton candy, like eating a pink cloud. I took my time savoring the pink delight. Bart pounded down a couple hot dogs while I enjoyed the cotton candy. Then I had two hot dogs. Loaded with mustard. Bart had three more hot dogs with me.
“Maybe five hot dogs in ten minutes isn’t such a good idea,” Bart said, rubbing his stomach.
“We got these tickets so we’re going on rides,” I said. “We’ll start with easy ones. The Zipper will have to wait for a while. I need to settle my stomach for that ride, too.”
After the third time on the tilt-a-wheel, we decided to ride on the spinning saucers. Two times on the spinning saucers and I couldn’t stop smiling. Once a year was not enough for this kind of living, and we still had tons of tickets in our pockets. The lines were getting longer at the rides so we headed to the midway games after a stop at a candy stall. One ticket for Baby Ruth was a bargain to me.
I always did well at the booth where you throw a baseball at a stack of milk bottles. By fair time, my fastball is tuned up from a summer of pitching. I always get a couple of big stuffed bears there. My mom has quite a collection.
We waited our turn at the booth. There was a group of three younger girls, one of them desperately trying to win a bear. I don’t know how many tickets she went through when we were waiting.
“She’ll never get a bear,” I whispered to Bart. “She throws like a girl.”
“She is a girl,” Bart whispered back.
“Line ‘em up,” Bart called to the person in the booth. “And prepare to give up some stuffed bears!”
SLAM! Milk jugs went flying. Three consecutive times all three jugs went catapulting off the stand. The three girls stood there watching in awe. It felt pretty good.
“That gets me a bear doesn’t it?” I asked the man.
“Tell you what, young fella, I don’t think you can do it one more time. You knock all three down the next time, I’ll give you one of the big bears. You don’t, you go away empty. Deal?”
“Here’s a ticket. Line ‘em up.” I was ready. “One more time and I get one of the big bears, right?” I asked.
“Yup,” was the answer.
Everybody watched me wind up and deliver a fastball.
SLAM! All three milk jugs went flying. Everyone clapped for me.
“I’ll have a pink one,” I told the man.
“Doesn’t your mom have enough of these, you bring at least one home every year to her?” Bart asked. He was right.
“Yeah, she kinda said that this year, too.”
“How about giving it to the little girl that tried so hard but couldn’t?”
I turned to the girl and said, “Hi. My mom has lots of these. We saw you trying to win one, would you like this one?”
Her eyes lit up. “Really?”
“And here’s some tickets for you and your friends. The midway games are hard, you might use them on the rides,” Bart said.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” came the replies.
The trio of girls skipped away headed to the rides.
“Thanks, Bart. That felt nice.”
“It did. Besides, we won’t use up all the tickets we have anyway. Just as good to have them enjoy them, too. How about we use some up on rides?”
We went on the Ferris wheel, the haunted house, the house of mirrors, just about everything but The Zipper, my nemesis. Things were going great. Still had a lot of tickets left, though.
“Look ahead,” Bart said. “Do you know who they are?”
“Nope, must be from another town.”
“See that? The three of them took a prize away from a kid and took his tickets.”
“Wow, some towns have worse bullies than our town,” I said. “Oh, my, they’re headed this way. What do we do?”
“We don’t have any prizes,” Bart said.
“But we have tickets. Should I hide this string of them in my hand?”
“Too late. They’re headed here. Just act calm,” Bart said.
I have no idea how Bart could stay so calm in dangerous situations, but he always did, and with a smile on his face.
“Hi. Enjoying the fair?” Bart asked the trio of guys.
“Shut up, stupid. I see you runts have tickets. Give them to me,” the biggest one said.
Now we are going to get pounded. Bart just stood there smiling. Not at the trio, but at something else. Even when they made a grab at my tickets, he just smiled.
“There they are,” a little voice shouts. It was the little girl with the big pink bear. The three turned around, scoffed, and returned their attention to me and Bart. This was not looking good.
Four big high school guys with letter jackets appeared out of nowhere.
“These three morons bothering you two guys?” asked one of them.
“Nope, these three morons were just about to leave us alone,” Bart said. Now he really breaks out into a huge smile.
“Well, GIT you morons!”
I ‘bout never saw three guys in a bigger hurry to leave, stumbling all over each other.
“I want to say thank you for being so nice to my little sister and her friends. This is their first time at the fair without parents. She really wanted a stuffed bear.”
“Glad it worked out. And thanks for saving our evening,” Bart answered. I stood there looking dumb. The four letter jacket guys nodded and walked away.
“Do you know who that was?” I asked.
“Well, yeah. That’s Tim Donavan, star running back and captain of the high school football team,” Bart said.
“You knew that was his sister all along?”
“Sure. She wanted a bear, that was all.”
“Well, it worked out okay, then didn’t it?” I asked.
“Sure did. How about some more hot dogs and then The Zipper?”
I had another cotton candy and two more hot dogs. I lost count on how many hot dogs Bart ate. No challenge doing the ride on an empty stomach. Our last tickets went to ride The Zipper. It went higher and faster than any other ride and spun you upside down, forward, and then backwards. Bart made it through but I didn’t. Maybe next year I will be able to keep my hot dogs and cotton candy down after riding The Zipper. All in all, it was a good day and who knows, there is always tomorrow.
Me and Bart Go Trick-or-Treating
School had been going for almost two months. The only good thing to look forward to was Halloween; Me and Bart had to get enough candy to last until Christmas. We had a route all planned out where the houses were close and had the most candy handouts in the past. Worked the last two years.
Me and Bart always dressed up as hobos. Easy costume with a floppy hat, an old shirt and some dirt smudged on our cheeks. This year I had a walking stick just to mix it up a bit.
We jumped the gun a little because it wasn’t quite dark when I waved goodbye to my mom.
“And yes, we will remember to say ‘Thank you’ at every house.” I wondered if Bart’s mom told him the same thing.
It was a little cold and damp, but it always was on Halloween. At least it wasn’t raining. Not like a weather could dampen our spirits.
“Another good haul at that house, Bart, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yup. Not the little candy bars but the big ones. My pillow case’s over half full.”
“Mine, too. I have a whole bunch of Baby Ruth, my favorite. Ssssh, the door’s opening,” I said.
“Trick or treat?” We asked in unison.
“Oh my, two little hobos. Here are a couple extra boxes of Milk Duds, those train rides can be long sometimes, right hobos?”
“Yes they can. And thank you. We’ll be thinking of you and enjoying the Milk Duds when we hop a train,” Bart said and then smiled at the woman.
“Oh you. Here’s another for each. If every trick-or-treater were as polite as you two, I’d want to do this every week.”
“Thank you and bye,” I called out as we turned to go down the front steps. “She was nice,” I said.
“Hey watch it,” Bart yelled at two boys who bumped into us. “Dressed like hobos. Who do they think they are? It’s so dark I didn’t see who they were, did you?”
“Yes. Fred Wick and Billy Ferber. Again. Do those jerks ever change?” I asked.
Bart helped me pick up my candy that spilled on the sidewalk.
“Don’t worry about them. We’re here to load up on candy.”
“Those two jerks can’t be doing very well running empty handed like that.”
“I guess,” Bart replied.
“We should leave the flashlights on all the time so we don’t get bumped into again,” I said.
As we walked up the steps at the next house, Bart said, “Hey look, there’s a mess on the picture window.”
We rang the doorbell and an old man opened it. He stared hard at us and looked confused. I was a little worried.
“Trick or treat?” Bart said.
“What? Now you want my candy? What’s wrong with kids today?”
“Uh, trick or treat?” I didn’t say it very loud.
The man’s eyes brightened up and he offered us ten candy bars if we’d help him change a light bulb in the dining room.
“My daughter won’t let me stand on a chair anymore,” he said.
“Glad to help you out,” I said. “We don’t need 10 candy bars; one each will be fine.”
Bart was up inside the house and on the chair when blue lights flashed outside.
I looked at the old man and said, “I hope you have more candy because the police are coming to the front door.”
The two officers were huge standing in the doorway. The older one asked, “These the two boys, Mr. Henderson?”
“Yes, officers, they egged my windows. The glass rattled and the noise nearly gave me a heart attack.”
The younger officer stepped forward and said, “Let me handle this.”
He pulled me and Bart aside and said, “You boys are in big trouble. Bart, I know your mom and this isn’t your style.”
“But officer, we didn’t do it. We’re loading up on candy,” I said.
He ignored me and spoke to Bart, “Let’s see if this can be fixed nice and quiet like.”
We all gathered on the front step and the younger officer said, “Mr. Henderson, what do you need done to resolve this situation?”
“Tomorrow is Saturday; if they come in the morning and clean the window and promise not to do it again, I guess that would be punishment enough. That sound alright, officer?”
“I think that will do just fine, Mr. Henderson. Jail’s pretty full right now anyway.”
“But we didn’t do it,” I protested.
“Sounds like a deal,” Bart said. He stuck his hand out to Mr. Henderson and they shook hands. I stood behind Bart.
“Bart, don’t make me regret this. I don’t want to hear from Mr. Henderson that you didn’t show up tomorrow morning,” the younger officer said.
“Me and Bart will both be there,” I said, not knowing how to get out of it. “Can we go and finish trick or treating now?”
“As long as you are here tomorrow morning.”
“Promise, officer,” Bart said.
Once we were away from the house, I said to Bart, “I’m sure Fred Wick and Billy Ferber did that to the house. I know we didn’t.”
“I know. But the old man can’t clean off the window so we might as well do it.”
We did a few more houses but our hearts weren’t really much into trick or treating after that.
“Candy take is down; we’re gonna have to ration to get to Christmas,” Bart said.
I met Bart in his driveway the next morning. Nine o’clock sharp.
“I had to beg my mom not to get involved and finally she agreed,” I told Bart the next morning. “She believes me when I told her we didn’t do it.”
I didn’t tell my mom,” Bart said. “Not much she can do but let us go clean up the window anyway.”
It was unseasonably warm that morning so water from the garden hose wasn’t very cold. Bart borrowed the same chair he used to replace the light bulb to reach the top of the window.
A blue car pulled into the driveway as Bart was climbing down from the chair. The lady smiled at him and said, “thanks for cleaning up, boys.” She walked into the house and called “Dad.”
Bart took the chair back into the dining room and stopped in the doorway. He motioned me over and we both listened to the conversation.
“Dad, where did you find these boys to help you?”
“Honey, those are the delinquents that egged the house. The two cops you called came when they were still here. The cops made them come back today and clean up the mess.”
“Those aren’t the boys that did this. I chased them in my car half way around town until I lost them then went home. I saw them. They were dressed as hobos, but they weren’t these two. I know these two kids are not the ones that egged the house,” she said.
Me and Bart’s eyes met and he smiled. I knew we didn’t do it.
“Hi boys, I’m Becca, Mr. Henderson’s daughter. There’s been a terrible mistake. I chased the boys that did this. I know you didn’t do this. My dad gets confused sometimes. Please accept my apologies.”
“I told the police we didn’t do it, but they wouldn’t listen,” I said. “Bart said your dad couldn’t clean off the window so we might as well do it for him. Besides, we weren’t going to get much more trick or treating after that anyway.”
“You know, I’ve been looking for some nice young men to do some yard work for my dad. Interested?”
“We’re not going to jail if we don’t?” I asked.
She chuckled and then said, “Heavens no, I want to pay you for it and for the cleaning of the picture window. Think you have time to rake the leaves off the lawn? There are two rakes in the garage.”
“Sure do,” answered Bart.
“I’ll stop at the police station and clear all this up. You two are good boys. One more thing, wait right here.” She came with a big bag and handed it to me. “Please take this candy so my dad won’t eat it all. That’ll help with your candy shortage from your shortened trick-or-treating.”
I opened the bag. “Thanks. Baby Ruth! My favorite.”
We raked the lawn in no time and were well paid for the effort. It turned out to be a good day and who knows, there is always tomorrow.