February 4, 2009
By Alaina Altamura BRONZE, Kannapolis, North Carolina
Alaina Altamura BRONZE, Kannapolis, North Carolina
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On any other Saturday night it would have been a cold and empty New York field, but tonight the air was made hot and feverish by rows of torches illuminating the colorful circus tents that seemed to have grown there over night. Mr. Richard Benet had had a long week but reluctantly had given in to taking his only daughter, Melinda to the circus. Though it had been several years since their daughter was born, Mr. Benet never thought he had gotten the hang of being a good dad. Nonetheless, he was now forcefully being dragged along by the excited eight year old who scampered from tent to tent clutching her ten dollar allowance in one hand and her father's hand in the other. The sweet scent of cotton candy poured into the air from a nearby food cart, coating the entire scene with a nauseatingly sweet aroma. Out of the corner of his eye Mr. Benet absent mindedly took in an array of splintering wood signs advertising 'The Tallest Man on Earth' and the 'One and Only Genuine Pacific Mermaid!' The pair wasn't heading to any of these attractions though, instead the girl continued pulling her father down a path towards a small wooden booth near the back of the fair. A man stood leaning against one of the cloth draped pillars supporting the stall, and a slanted blue sign hung above his head promoting some kind of card game. His deep-set eyes framed by a web of thin wrinkles held the young girl's gaze while a smile played across his dark skinned face. Unable to make eye contact with the man himself, a suspicious feeling came over Mr. Benet.
'Let's go get something to eat,' he bent down and said to his daughter.
Without breaking her glance from the odd man standing ahead, she simple replied, 'no,' and continued walking.
'Come on, Melinda, I'm serious. You can't win at those games, it's just a scam.'
'It's my money,' she retorted. 'You said when you gave it to me that I can do what I want with it, and I want to go see that game over there!'
Mr. Benet gave his daughter a small tug but to his surprise, she deliberately dropped her hand from his and kept walking until she stopped directly in front of the small stand. Mr. Benet knew what would happen now. After some vague instructions the game would begin, for the right sum of course, and inevitably the girl would lose. Instead of stopping her, however, he resolved to let her play. He knew she wouldn't win and he knew how the game would end, but he also knew his daughter would have to learn this for herself. The dark man leaned in, his breath smelled of some kind of liquor and herbs while he began to enchant Melinda with his magic card games. Mr. Benet watched as the money dwindled from ten dollars, to seven-fifty, to four-fifty, back up to seven fifty, and then down again until the final target of zero was reached. As they walked away from the booth defeated, the game leader called out, 'maybe next time!' and disappeared behind the curtains of his stall, ten dollars in hand. The girl did not look up at her father, but stared dejectedly at the ground below. A little smile arose across Mr. Benet's lips but he was careful not to let it show. Then he stopped, picked up his daughter and held her securely against his chest as they ventured out from the forest of tents, a soft tune from the circus band drifting in and out of the noise behind them. So maybe it hadn't been a huge lesson, and maybe it was only ten dollars, but it made Mr. Benet happy to know that his daughter had learned never to be tricked by one of those men again. As sheepish as it seemed, he was content knowing that he had taught her something, and that was a good enough start for Mr. Benet.

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