The sky was scattered with clouds that looked like rain cells. The wind blew them to the west and off in the distance I had seen the misty haze that signaled rain. But it must had been our good fortune that day because none had swept in to spoil May Fair.

The crowed bustled, some people dancing in front of the stage where a cheesy banjo plucking trio stood. One of them had a washboard hanging from his neck and they bounced in rhythm to the fast twang of their instruments. The smell of kettle corn a cotton candy and frying hot dogs and sweat hung about the fairgrounds. In the middle of all the striped carny tents was the maypole. Not yet weaved with colors, the ribbons were tied to a hook in the wood.

I could see Mom and Dad through a break in the cloud. They were holding hands sitting on the benches that were more like pews in front of the stage. It’d been a long time since I’d seen that.They bobbed in time with the music along with the dancers, but they didn’t seem to be conscious of it.


“What?” I asked, turning back to my friends.

Ricky was looking at Frank and shaking his head. “Can you believe this guy sometimes?” he said with his best De Niro. That was one of Ricky’s skills. He could impersonate anybody.

“Sorry,” I said. “What were you saying?”

“You want to–you know?” asked Ricky, and held his index finger and thumb together and to his mouth.

Now, I’ve never been much of a smoker but May Day was always one of the special occasions. It was like everybody else was having so much fun acting like kids I could smoke a couple hits and not feel like I was about to be discovered by somebody sober because everybody was acting high.

“Where? I got a little sketched out last time,” I said.

“I got my mom’s car.”

Ricky was always smoking in his mom’s car. It had leather seats so the stink didn’t stick to the upholstery.

Behind us the banjo trio ended and the MC got on the mic and announced to everyone that it was time for the maypole dance. Perfect timing for us to disappear. Most people who were coming would be there already and so very few people in the parking lot, if any.

In the parking lot we Ricky rolled a joint in his lap. I’d never learned how. It was fat one. He lit it up and puffed. I stood outside the car. the doors were open and Frank was in the passenger seat. There wasn’t anyone around that I could see. So when Frank handed me the joint I pulled in hard. It’s always been funny to me that filling your lungs with smoke always feels more like contracting them with cords. It’s like something wrapped around them so the volume of air they can hold is reduced to a fraction of their normal intake. Despite this when I coughed I released a cloud of smoke.



Then there was May Day. It very nearly ruined any chance I had at becoming friends with Veronica. I’d say it was my mother’s fault. But I wasn’t ever going to let her take the blame for it.

The May Day Fair took place at the Polk County Fairgrounds. It was typically a dusty old lot, but in spring the fields around it were bursting with green from all the rain in April. A wooden pole was stuck into the ground in the center of the events, ribbons tied to the top. At some point people would dance around the Maypole, weaving ribbons into an intricate pattern.

My parents gave me a ride as they were going anyway, but I ditched them pretty quickly in order to find Frank.

“Frank, yo,” I said walking up. He was in line for cotton candy with his younger sister, Jasmine.

“Tuck, can you believe this shit?” he asked.

Jasmine was only twelve, she looked up to Frank and all his friends with wide glittering eyes. When he swore she smiled, about to laugh.

“Yeah, I know,” I said.

“The same every year. It’s ridiculous. You’d think they’d give the kids of The Dallas something more interesting to do.”

I shrugged.

“You come with the parental units?” he asked.

“Yeah, but their off–I don’t know.”

“Same,” he said, handing money to the girl at the booth and receiving a bag of cotton candy.

Behind us a band played corny banjo music on a stage with benches that resembled pews in front of it.

“Here,” Frank said to his sister, after taking a handful of the pink insulation candy. “Go back to Mom and Dad and tell them I’ve met up with friends.”

Jasmine reached for the candy, but Frank held it out of her reach. “What are you going to tell Mom and Dad?”

“You’re hanging out with friends.”

“Right,” he gave her the candy. “I saw Ricky around,” he said, stuffing some of the pink cotton into his mouth.

“With his Mom or Dad?”

“Mom,” said Frank.

“Should we rescue him?” I asked.


Away from the stage and the food and candy vendors were striped tents and the unmistakable smell of carnies. It was a third sweat, a third pot, and a third sweet kettle corn. There were three rows of striped tents with games and challenges. Carnies called to us asking us to brave their fixed games. You could win a ringed tall tophat by shooting three pins down with an airgun that shot large balls. I wondered how heavy the balls were and how much air pressure would be needed to propel them. If it was a lot it would be difficult to aim. There was the darts you could throw and pop a balloon. All you won for that was a small cardboard poster. But at least there wasn’t anything fixed about it.

“Man, just one more month and we’ll be seniors,” said Frank.

“Yeah,” I said. “You doing football over the summer?”

“Thinking about it.”