Words: barnstorm, saffron, native
It was the last night of the county fair.
Delia twirled in the sawdust, her saffron cotton skirt billowed around her. She grew up in this rural Indiana county, a prodigal whose peripatetic wanderings had taken her around the globe before returning to her native soil. The fairgrounds were growing quiet, or as quiet as a county fair gets with all the livestock and carnival rides. Earlier, she’d covered her ears during the “Barnstorm Biplanes” show. The August heat and the roar of those ancient engines had given her a throbbing headache. She was glad she’d missed the tractor pull.
It had been years since she’d come to the fair. As a girl, she begged her parents to take her every year. Most every year, the answer was an emphatic “NO.” Too much noise. Too many lines. Too many people. Too much money: for ride tickets, for games she couldn’t win, for food she shouldn’t be eating.
Come to think of it, the answer was almost always “No” where her parents were concerned. She’d had an adventurous spirit as a girl, and it had frightened her parents. Sometimes it seemed like all those NO’s had turned her childhood home into a big, grey box. No matter how much love was in the box, it was still… a big grey box she had to escape. When a young soldier had asked her to marry him and move away, the pressure of all those years of NO’s squeezed a great big “YES!” out of her. She and the soldier had bounced from one faraway locale to the next. It turned out he had a lot of NO’s to dispense as well. His starchy military presence seemed to wear away at her softer and brighter self, till her new world had faded to the same drab grey box she’d left behind.
But that was also years ago. Now, her parents and her husband were gone. She felt adrift, a sail with no mast to anchor it. After a lifetime of bending to stronger wills, she would have to find her own strength.
“You there! You’d like a caramel apple, wouldn’t you ma’am?” The carnie was smiling, holding out the glossy piece of sugar-coated fruit like a scepter.
She accepted it, and handed him the money to pay for it.
It was long past time to start saying “Yes.”