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American Contemporary

The Fair Of Fear—George Davis

  I fell asleep in my dark-brown recliner. I guess I was tired, though I do not know from what. It was Saturday, and since I didn’t have to go to work. I watched TV most of the day. Something that is not conducive to good physical health. 

  I did mow the lawn before I settled down with the television programs. It was late afternoon; the sun was still moving across the azure blue sky overshadowed by a few white, misty clouds floating lazily in the atmosphere. 

  I hadn’t been sleeping long when I was disturbed by thoughts. I wasn’t asleep. I was stirring. A strange feeling came over me. I felt something terrible was about to happen, and I was going to experience whatever it was to be. 

  I went into the kitchen to make a sandwich, discovered I didn’t have anything to make a sandwich with. My refrigerator shelves were nearly empty. I had a loaf of white bread, two celery stalks, one slice of cheddar cheese, one slightly ripe tomato, and ahead of wilted iceberg lettuce. To my disappointment, I drove over to the Wayfarer Diner on Main Street. 

  “Morning,” Winnie the waitress, and half-owner said. “Oh, I guess it’s afternoon, Damien.” 

  “Afternoon,” I said. “What’s your blue plate special, Winnie?” 

  “Ken made some nice lasagna this morning. He makes it from scratch, using homemade pasta with three kinds of cheese. It’s great, Damien. I recommend it. 

  “That’s good enough for me, Winnie. I’ll have a plate of lasagna.” She was right. It was good. Ken, her husband, using nothing but the best ingredients in his meals, and they are all cooked from scratch.

  As I was sitting there, Winnie said, “Are you going to the fair, Damien?” Bickford, Maine  has a county fair every August. I haven’t missed one in years. “Yes, I’m going.” 

  “I’ve talked Ken into setting up a food cart on the midway this year. My brother, Al will do the cooking while he’s gone. Susan Wright will replace me. You know Susan don’t you, Damien?”  

  “Sure, she’s helped you out before now. She’s a sweet young lady.” 

  “That she is, Damien.” 

  “Then I guess I’ll see you and Ken at the fair,” I said. 

  “Yes, we’ll be there.” 

  I ate lunch, paid my bill, and left Winnie a good tip. I was going home to get ready for the fair. I have a hot dog stand at the fair every year. 

  On my way home, while driving Main Street, I had a vision. I saw the grandstand at the fair catch on fire. The people were running amok. Many were lost in the fire as it raged out of control burning flat to the ground. I saw Ken; Winnie’s husband leave his cart and run over to the grandstand to help. He was carrying a man away from the fire toward the rescue unit, parked on the midway. Ken was a real hero. I saw many people crying, lost in the roaring fire, unable to escape the flames. They died. 

  I drove into my driveway, the vision gone, and went inside to call Winnie at the diner. To warn her of the peril that would plague her and Ken. 

  “Oh, Damien. Thank you for calling. You must have had a bad dream. That grandstand has been there over eighty years with no mishaps.” 

  “I’m telling you, Winnie, what I saw. I was not asleep. I was driving home when I got the vision.” 

  “Again, thanks, Damien, but Ken and I will be there nonetheless. We’ll see you there tomorrow. Take care, Damien. Have a nice rest of your day.” She doesn’t believe me.  She thinks I dreamt it. What more can I do? I’ve warned her. The rest is up to her. 

  The fairway was alive with the odor of cooked food; the fried dough, the hamburgers, and corn on the cob wafted over to my hot dog stand making me very hungry. 

  Something was nagging at me. I couldn’t get over that premonition. Nobody believes me. I feel like the prophet Jeremiah. He preached for many years, and no one took heed to his preaching.

  Under the grandstand, the women of the local Grange were serving beans and homemade breads and pickles, and, of course, hot dogs. The aroma was breathtaking, its smell drawing old-timers into their kitchen for a good old Maine Saturday night meal. It was a place where neighbors met and talked over the week’s happenings. It was a time of fellowship and food.

   I didn’t look at my watch, but I could smell the smoke. Something was on fire, and it wasn’t fried dough or my hot dogs.

  “Hurry, the grandstand is on fire,” a voice cried. I watched as Ken Rideout, owner of the Wayfarer Diner left his cart and ran toward the fire. I heard screaming, and a hundred feet stomping on the weather-worn planks in the tiers above the Grange’s kitchen.

  I had one customer at my window who, when he heard the screaming, left without paying me, and ran over to the grandstand. I didn’t see him again. Someone later told me, he had vanished in the flames. 

  When all the smoke cleared, and the fire was extinguished, the ones that perished numbered twelve souls, the wounded, including Ken Rideout, came in at four. 

  The next week at the diner, Winnie said, “Damien, I should have listened to you. Ken was burned, but he’s doing all right. My brother, Al is having a ball cooking. It has always been a hobby of his. He and Susan fill in when Ken, and I go back home in the late fall. They both are great workers, and we sure do appreciate both.  

  Don’t feel bad, Winnie. I told my sister and her husband, my cousin, Fred, and my aunt, Louise. None of them believed my vision would come true. 

  “Well, Damien, I, again am sorry I doubted your word. I know you to be a good Christian man; the head usher at Bickford Community Church, and a lay preacher.”

  “Nothing like that has ever happened to me before, Winnie. It was the strangest thing. I knew something was going to happen at the fair. I didn’t know what, but I knew it was not going to be anything good.”

  Tragedy always leaves a hole in someone’s heart. Nothing will bring back those who have gone on to their reward. It seems shallow to say, life must go on. Nonetheless, it is true. As hard as it might seem, we must not let their memory fade. 

  God is merciful and just, a stronghold in times of trouble. Run to Him in these times. He will never fail you.

June 14, 2021 09:20

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1 comment

02:38 Jun 24, 2021

The premonition sounds contrived and it is said is unlikely to occur in reveries. I would like to read a more convincing account.


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