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A Cheerful Autumn Fair

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A cheerful autumn fair stirs the small southern town. Not much of an autumn with such weather, but the spirit endeavors nonetheless. Houstonians are more than accustomed to deviant conditions but the forecast announced a consistently baking week. The air lays still, static; the day plain and simple. The harsh sun stands boldly over the West sky before time comes to fade. Chuckles and giggles of innocent children can be heard in stereo, their joy encompassing. Across the cornfields towers the gleaming new highway bridge. A plethora of glistening cars zip over Willow Creek, indifferent to the happy scene bellow. Back in Eden the quaint little hayride puts along its circuit. Cocoa and cider warming souls despite the afternoon haze. Alluring, the smell of roasted corn and turkey legs sits dense in the dry autumn air, and “Uncle Ed’s Punkin Seeds” are surely roasting somewhere. The warm colors of Indian corn, Cinderella gourds, and patchwork scarecrows herald patiently the cold to come, but not today. Lumina pumpkins sit alone in a corner as white as ghosts but as soft as the moon. A rat scampers across and under a bail. Lurching hay under blissful, buoyant soles; it’s not a crunch but more of a chitch, nearly squeaking. Gnarled, ripened boot leather kisses the dirt, offering weary whimpers of stress. Worn in all senses of the word; they have been tried and tested. Like the feet they support and embrace so tenderly, these boots have seen hard times.


A change. It’s peculiar… a heavy wind picks up; there comes a sudden ominous descent of sinister clouds. Meek coughs can already be heard as the air goes dry. A reluctant pumpkin smashes somewhere and cold wails of a toddler pierce the air like a forcefully driven needle, the thread of her sobs increasingly painful. Another child’s face wrinkles like a raisin, as tangled locks lash squinted eyes. Her hair ribbons sail into oblivion. The wind smells old. Trees sway in dispute and then withdraw discouraged. Their leaves shrivel. Vengeful autumn comes irritably as if to chase off summer in a matter of seconds. The scene changes swiftly. This transformation is not dramatic, but significant. If one were to ask them, the carnival-goers don’t notice the change in atmosphere, but there is an obvious and tangible… presence. Poor children, innocence intact, souls pure, grow restless; but the adults are consumed by the secular world, oblivious. Two wandering boys run from behind a weathered shed to their mommies, one emitting a whimper as he trips. Roused here is a small patch of earth and the grass collapsed dead but the boy brushes it off. At the head of the mound behind a bramble of weeds lies a sunken chipped slab of black marble. What was once white embossed lettering can now be faintly seen under cobwebs reading: “Kritchens, 1987” and nothing more. Four sable crows perch on the fence, their caws sounding sickly and dull. They depart reluctantly at the tinkle of a black cat’s collar, her yellow eyes brazen and guiltless. Cattle grow anxious and a scarlet Longhorn Bull leads them home. The bright Texas eve abruptly turns dark, apprehensive… a chill settles. Calm, dark, placid.


Slam! Sigh, “let’s go, family!” through the dense air says a deep, authoritative voice right to announce a basketball team. A whole family files out of the ’84 model sea foam green Dodge van complete with curtains and three bumper stickers for every year of its life. The windshield hangs severely cracked forming a pattern almost as intricate as the roads it has traversed. There is a terrible series of dents and abrasions on the vehicle’s right side. Rattling as doors slam, the severely expired Texas license plate reads “Kritchy.” The driver struts with an odd, aristocratic air. He stands tall and pale with glossy jet-black hair and thick, coarse facial stub. He wears a homely outfit, oddly suiting the new weather. His moth-eaten power suit does not quite fit a carnival scene − let-alone the twenty-first century − but he pulls it off fairly well, cane and all. His eyes are dull and sunken, nonchalant. Behind him marches the family: a young man taller than his father is hidden behind a grungy black curtain of hair. His mournful expression glows in contrast to his manila teeth and bloodshot eyes. The Halloween season appropriates his outfit but it seems as though that’s not exactly what he is going for. “Punk” would be a suitable title if he didn’t look so submissive. Two little twin girls equally as pale with bleached hair to match wear pink floral dresses and stockings. But these girls are strange… they don’t giggle and play like children do. They just stride along as vacant as their brother, one clutching a fluorescent orange Superball. Prancing in the rear is obviously the proud housewife, shoulder pads stuffed in her tattered sweater, pointed nose up as not to let her cheeks drag the ground. Wrinkles on her forehead are not as visible while her hair lays pulled back tighter than her very corset.

Resolute, the family marches through the gate, chins up, without a glance at the high-school-blondie sitting at the ticket booth. She simply continues to smack her gum and twirl her hair, face void as if not to notice them. Passing the attractions they hike-on, determined. Not a head turns as they slip through a rusty gate into a barren quarter. Upon reaching the abandoned Ferris wheel, they climb aboard without hesitation, finally resting only to await their ascent; one-to-a-seat. These seats are so cold, and yet so familiar… too familiar. The giant halo screeches into motion for the first time in years, shaking violently, paint chips away. Carnival lights attempt, flickering eerily up the spokes and the struggling music doesn’t deserve to be called such. The family just sits patiently…waiting.

Across the elysian fields of corn and wheat, the traffic still bustles as commuters drudge home. The father checks his watch and takes a deep breath looking out and up. Suddenly, screeching tires. Time stops, the crowd gasps. The mother sheds a tear. From atop the corona, the family holds the perspective of the gods. The red Mac-truck swerves violently to avoid a frayed tire in the road, its cargo rocking out of control. The tumultuous trailer doubles-back and spills like a vomiting drunk. A bouquet of Superballs comes soaring into play as cars wrench to evade the glowing swarm. A gray convertible mustang tears through the defeated trailer like a high school football team barreling into oncoming traffic. The slightly overweight and considerably tipsy driver shrieks and recoils as her vehicle bounds into the driver-side of an approaching van. The collision is enough to send the old van’s tred-less tires spinning. Out-of-control, the green blur is rammed again from the right setting its path straight again, now off-course.

Back on the ground, all is still; a moment of hesitation. POW! Punching through the new steel railing, a faded green van sails into the heavens. Almost suspended in midair no one breathes as the vehicle plummets without haste. It falls forever. A hand hits the windshield in bracing and the faint but definite sound of a mother’s desperate cry can be heard from above. The still water is yearning for the stroke of a fender as it seems to rush upward. Everything goes tense, pressure of anticipation weighing like the gallons of water below. Hear it comes, hold your breath, don’t blink! But the car never hits. Where did it go? Just as the right headlight nearly kisses the static glass surface, the van vanishes. Slowly and softly the wind catches her, as if to say “hush, it’s okay now…” Like the serene weave of a magician’s white-gloved hand, God sweeps her up. Not a drop is to be stirred, not even for the plop of an orange Superball. Somber Willow Creek is not meant to shed a single tear, no… not again.

Lifted from the depths and hung out to dry, the van’s corroded soul is no longer forgotten. She sits no more, on the bottom alone. As the Texas sun sets behind the silent bayou, a gentle whine can be heard from the joints of the Ferris wheel which shudders and fades, empty.





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