The Boy was on the verge of a breakdown the entire evening due to sheer adrenaline overload.
You guys, they have a new sideshow. Did you hear me? THEY HAVE A NEW SIDESHOW. The State Fair has been without a sideshow for about 10 years, since Angelo Helay retired from touring with his show due to health problems (correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m betting sideshows don’t have the greatest health care packages). Since then, the Fair has hosted little one-off sideshow attractions like the live mermaid and the world’s smallest horse, but they’ve been lacking a good old Ten-in-One for a while. Not any more. Can I brag and tell you that The Boy was selected by the Talker to verify the authenticity of a dollar bill they were using for a magic trick? You don’t know how proud it made me to hear my child’s name announced over the microphone as part of a sideshow ballyhoo. And no, I do not think this makes me a bad parent at all.
This was the first year The Boy was big enough to play the midway games himself. He is partial to the watergun ones, as he knows his way around a watergun. At one booth, he was dying to play, but there were no other takers, and, as you know, it takes two to tango, and to play a possibly rigged, overpriced midway game at the Fair. I was about to grudgingly shell out a second $3 for Tad to play against him when a grease-splattered, tattooed carny from the Italian sausage booth a few feet away stepped up and volunteered to serve.
“I ain’t doing nothing,” he offered, handing three crumpled ones to the girl in the booth.
I will admit that I was skeptical, it being the midway and all. And I felt that my suspicions were confirmed when he didn’t even make a pretext of letting The Boy win. Probably not the parent of a small child. We know how to lose graciously, or at least make it look close. When the bell clanged atop the carny's clown head, I figured he was going to swap the stuffed animal for his $3 back once we were out of earshot. It would be a pretty good scam, considering how often they could probably run it in one day.
“Hey, look at that, you won,” he said, clapping The Boy on the back and hefting himself off the stool. “I’m going for a smoke; give this guy his prize,” he advised the girl before disappearing around the back of the midway. The Boy was delighted, both with his “win” and his stuffed green alien. And I felt bad for ever having doubted the honesty and benevolence of the fine people of the carnival midway.
As we were heading for the parking lot at the end of the night, I nudged Tad and pointed toward the fun house. What could it hurt to let him go through one more time? Tad nodded in assent, and we let go of The Boy's hands.
The Boy took off running, the lights of the fun house beckoning to him through the darkness. As he clambered up the metal stairs, he screamed to no one in particular, “THIS IS MY ONE AND ONLY MOMENT!” With that sentence, he summed up the way I feel during the last week of September every year of my life. This is it, you guys. My one and only moment.
I will see you in 10 days.