Art by Norman E. Masters
scurried away with the bill and back with the tickets.
The girl's nickname was Binnie. She was small and bobbin-bright, in a blue dresscoat and white heels which were nothing, but pretty nothings. Her skin was mellow as cream. She was sincere and warm, not at all cotton-candy-brained. In her left hand was a packet of Kleenex. She met me at the place we'd planned on, near the penny arcade. I smiled and watched the reflection of it in her face.
There were rides.
The scooters: for two bits you could get even with the world, your left foot jamming the gas of the clumsy but powerful car. NO HEAD-ON BUMPING PLEASE. "Hey: You there -- counter-clockwise only."
Sound from shooting gallery: Ping, ping, ping... Voice: "Win a PANda bear. Win a PANda bear. C'mover here a minit, son. Yeah, you. Hey, now don't go 'way." (with awe) "Don-cha wanna win your girl a BEAR?"
We went past.
Ferris wheel: up and around and stop and turn and down and down and down, swaying.
Voice: "Popcorn. Crackerjacks. Getcha fresh popcorn. Jumbo red hots. PEPsi COLa."
"Wanna hot dog?" I said.
"Sure," Binnie said.
"Yessir." (Wiping spidery hands on slop rag.)
To Binnie I said: "Drink?"
"No, thanks." Her face was neon-embraced.
Deft motions: two dogs off steaming griddle, each into a bun, buns into napkins, all shifted to left hand, right hand flipping cooler cover up and back, scooping Pepsi from ice water, wiping on slop rag, de-capping, setting on counter next to dogs, buns, napkins. Time: Not more than ten seconds. "Fifty cents. Ketchup and mustard there: straws right down the counter." To cash register. Back. "Fifty, one, two, three, four and five. Thank you." Moving away. "Yessir, what'll it be?"
The whip: shay and scream, coast and slow and slow and almost stop, then snap. "EEEEEEEEEeeeeee." What a bunch of hams. People like to tease death, flirt with it.
"Gee this is a big little crowd," Binnie said.
"Hey, it is, isn't it?" I said, not having thought of it that way.
Sound from merry-go-round: "It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dry. The sun so hot I froze to death: Suzanna don't you cry. Oh, Suzanna..."
"Let's go out on the yacht," Binnie said.
We walked over to the ticket booth on the pier.
Animal eyes peered out from the booth. A wrinkled hand scurried away with the bill and back with the tickets.
"Watch yer step, young lady." The ticket-taker eyed Binnie's heels.
"Wanna sit on deck?" I said.
"Up to you." She neatly palmed a yawn. "Makes no dif to me."
"Might as well sit on the deck then."
The boat started.
Looking back: lights bead-strung along the shore. Up: a sky was pierced with stars. The throbbing of the motor, gentle, the rocking of the boat, waves rolling away into darkness. Italian Caprice and more. The silent pink arc of a cigarette, the fssss as it hit the water and was gone.
"Got an iced band-aid?" the girl beside me said softly.
"My cold cut."
I laughed, not because it was funny, but because I like Binnie and the beach, and I held Binnie's hand, and would've held the beach's too, if it had one.