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Fiction Inspirational Contemporary

“One cotton candy, two popcorns, and a lemonade,” the mother perching behind the stand hollered towards Christie. Two toddlers were tugging on her pant legs, causing the mother to lose her balance, as she knocked the metal container of straws over.

“You said one or two popcorns?” Christie shouted back as she reached over and lifted the container upright, shoving the paper straws back in.

It was too hard to hear her customers over the music. Her stand was located right across from the balloon dart game. Earl, the guy who ran it, had a microphone attached to his shirt and speakers the size of a cow’s ass poking out of the booth. When patrons would walk past him, he’d heckle them, attempting to get them to play a game. He’d offer three darts for five dollars. Five darts for three dollars. He’d tell men to win a stuffed flamingo for their girlfriends. Tease kids to beg their moms and dads to let them play if they loved them. And when Earl got bored, he’d blast country rock music so loud, Christie could barely scoop popcorn out of the vat without dropping some on the ground. And right now, Earl was bored. If Rascal Flatts sang Life is a Highway one more time, she was going to stab a paper straw in Earl’s eye.

“Two!” the mother roared as her whiney kids pointed to the pink and blue fluffy clouds of cotton candy floating above Christie’s head.

Christie’s feet stuck to the lemony floor as she shoveled two heaping scoopfuls of buttery popcorn into red and white striped paper containers and placed them on the ledge. She poured some sugary lemonade mix into a large yellow cup and added ice and water, giving it a rough shake. Homemade lemonade my ass, she’d thought when she’d started working there awhile back. In reality, they used the cheap, big-store vat of lemonade powder and added water and ice. But her customers never complained. They happily sipped away like it was freshly squeezed on a farm.

“Thirty-one dollars,” Christie shouted, handing a plastic bag of pre-stuffed cotton candy to the mother. She watched as the mother fiddled with her wallet, grabbing various bills and shoved them across the stand towards Christie. She grabbed the popcorn and lemonade as she scurried away with her toddlers in tow, shoving popcorn in their tiny mouths.

Christie counted out the cash. Thirty-three dollars. She wondered if the mother had meant to leave her two extra dollars for a tip, or if it was a mistake. Either way, she stuffed the two dollars in her back pocket, satisfied for the extra cash. Ever since Billy left her last year, she had to pay double rent. Any little bit she could scrape up helped. And she couldn’t believe how much money patrons would spend for food at a fair. Christie herself wouldn’t spend more than a couple bucks on popcorn. She always brought her own food in her oversized purse when she went out places. People ripped you off.

Christie took a big sip of her Mountain Dew and plopped down on her stool, leaning her face towards the little fan in the corner of the stand. It was hot out. It was before noon and already almost ninety degrees. She wished she’d worn a thinner shirt. Something more breathable. She rested her feet on the ice chest. She’d worked an eighteen hour shift the day before and her feet hurt. She was tired. The only good thing was that it was a school day, so she was slow. Her only customers were parents with toddlers and retired people without jobs.

Christie’s belly growled. She was hungry for something other than popcorn and cotton candy. She ate it day in and day out, being that it was the only food she could eat for free. She should’ve picked the soft pretzel stand when she’d applied for the job a few months before. At least they had hotdogs too. Some protein would be nice. And the soft pretzel stand was across from the funhouse. It would’ve been nice to watch people go in and out, laughing as they balanced on the moving cylinder. But instead, she was stuck with Earl and his loud country rock.

She stood up when she saw a kid she recognized who ran the tilt-a-whirl approach her. He sometimes stopped by for a lemonade or a cotton candy. He was about sixteen and tried to look tough, but still a kid at heart.

“Hey kid,” she said, hearing a crack as her knee locked when she rose from the stool, “What can I get ya?”

She watched as the kid held up a paper bag and shoved it towards her. She furrowed her brow and looked at him curiously. Was he offering her some sort of drugs? What in the world was happening?

“This is for you,” he said as he pushed the bag closer towards her, “From Cody.” He turned and walked back in the direction of his ride.

Christie squinted in the sun as she watched the boy march back to his station. She glanced back down towards the mysterious brown bag and slowly opened it up, halfway waiting for some sort of rodent to jump out. That would be just her luck. As soon as she opened the bag, an overwhelming aroma of barbeque pit beef filled her nostrils and she felt like she was going to faint from the heavenly scent. She peeked inside and spied a sizeable barbeque sandwich on a pretzel bun topped with creamy coleslaw. Her mouth watered. Who did this kid say this was from? Cory? Cody? She didn’t know anyone by either of those names. Was this some sort of a trick? Was someone trying to poison her?

Her belly rumbled again, and she reached her hands in the bag and pulled out the juicy, mouthwatering sandwich, shoving it in her mouth as if she were a heroine addict and she’d found a needle. She closed her eyes in pleasure as it hit her tastebuds. The smokey meat and sweet and tangy coleslaw blended together perfectly to make the ideal sandwich. She took a sip of her soda and washed it down, not being able to remember a time she’d eaten such a delicious lunch. As she devoured it, she tried to decipher all the food stands at the fair. There were three popcorn/cotton candy stands (she had one of them), two soft pretzel stands, two funnel cake stands, one turkey leg stand, and four barbeque stands. How would she ever be able to figure out where and who this came from?

As she finished up the sandwich, she felt more satisfied than she had in a long time. She smiled and rubbed her belly, peering down at her soft, doughy middle. She’d once been quite a catch in her twenties. A real looker. She’d had a little red string bikini and men would stop what they were doing as she’d passed them on the beach. But now, in her fifties, she wasn’t what you’d call, “a catch”. She’d grown soft in the middle. Wide in the bottom. Flabby in the arms. But her heart, it was still the same as it'd been all those years before. Her heart still had a lot of love to give.

As Christie took one last sip of her diet coke, she took the bag and crumpled it up to toss in the trash bin. But as she did, a little post-it she hadn’t noticed before, fell off the side, landing on the sticky, lemony ground. She raised her eyebrows and reached down to pick it up, observing some messy scribble on it. She grabbed her readers from the side of the register (she was, after all, in her fifties) and put them on to read the note:

Christie,

I’ve been admiring you from afar all season. How do you look so beautiful all the time? You take my breath away. I would love to take you out on a date. Can you meet me by the Ferris Wheel when you get off at five?

-Cody

Christie opened her eyes wide and pressed the note against her bosom. Her heart felt like it was going to beat out of her chest. Me? Beautiful? Take his breath away? Christie couldn’t remember the last time she’d been pursued by a man. Had she ever? Billy and she had met in a bar. They’d gone home together that first drunken night. Had he pursued her? Not unless you called grabbing her tit while she sang karaoke was pursuing. Her boyfriend before that she’d met on a dating website. He’d lied about his height and weight and dumped her after their third date. She didn’t think anyone had ever pursued her. She didn’t think anyone had ever called her beautiful.

She felt butterflies in her stomach for the rest of her shift as she served buttery popcorn and sticky lemonade. She wished she’d worn something nicer. She wished she’d worn some makeup. As five o’clock came around, she double checked her reflection in her pocket mirror and dug in her purse to find an old mascara, lathering it on her lashes as a last-ditch effort to look like she wasn’t covered in the day’s food waste.

She pulled her sweaty hair up in a ponytail and headed towards the Ferris Wheel, the note clutched tightly in her fist, as if it were a ticket for a ride. Admit one for love. Her eyes darted around nervously at the growing crowd, waiting for Cody. School had let out and the teenagers were congregating in, lining up at the rides, gathering in groups, gossiping about what happened in school that day. She didn’t know who she was looking for. Was Cody short? Tall? Fat? Thin? Old? Young? Maybe he was a she?

But suddenly, as if a clearing of sky through the clouds, she saw a smiling face appear through the group of teens. He was holding a funnel cake bouquet, enveloped in powdered sugar and she knew it was him. His kind eyes, soft smile, worn hands of a working man… she felt like maybe she’d met him somewhere before, but didn’t know where. Or maybe she was just always supposed to have known him.  

“Cody,” she said his name instead of asked it. She stepped towards him, hand reaching out with her post-it note. Her ticket for love.  

“Did you like the sandwich?” he asked as he held out the funnel cake towards her, a gesture most woman would find odd, but Christie found endearing. Food was the way to Christie’s heart.

“Loved. I loved the sandwich,” she said as she took the funnel cake from him and handed him the note.

“Would you like to take a ride on the Ferris Wheel with me? Get to know one another?” he asked as he gestured towards the grand ride in front of them. He nervously held his hand out towards her.

For the first time since he’d approached her, Christie broke her eyes off his, and looked towards the Ferris Wheel. She felt like she was dreaming. A dream filled with barbeque sandwiches, funnel cakes, Ferris Wheels, and Cody.

“I’d love to,” she said as she grabbed his hand and stepped towards the ride, her shoe sticking to the ground, still gummy from the lemonade. She could hear Earl blasting Rascal Flatts, Life is a Highway, and realized that she was humming along as she stepped with Cody onto the ride. 

September 06, 2022 00:23

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25 comments

14:39 Sep 11, 2022

I really loved this story!!! So sweet and filled with beautiful, well-executed descriptions of the main character's emotions as well as the story environment. Plus, the conclusion was perfect. Awesome job. 🙂

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Kathleen Fine
21:14 Sep 11, 2022

Thank you so much Cynthia!

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Sarah Martyn
12:57 Sep 11, 2022

Very descriptive! I can really imagine being there.

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Kathleen Fine
21:14 Sep 11, 2022

Thanks Sarah!

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Mustang Patty
10:34 Sep 11, 2022

Hi Kathleen, I enjoyed this story - our State Fair was last week, so I immediately identified with the smells and sounds. Wonderful pacing and a sweet ending, ~MP~

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Kathleen Fine
21:14 Sep 11, 2022

Thanks Mustang! I was also at our state fair which gave me the idea:)

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Lily Finch
23:35 Sep 07, 2022

Captures the essence of every day in a good way and holds the reader's interest. Great work. I thought Christie and Cody could be many people in their fifties. LF6

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Kathleen Fine
21:13 Sep 11, 2022

Thanks Lily!

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AnneMarie Miles
20:26 Sep 07, 2022

Simply divine. As a toddler mom, the beginning immediately drew me in - that is EXACTLY what it's like to order with a small human, LOL! Also I just love how this love story featured characters in their 50s rather than a younger couple. Very refreshing and sweet.

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Kathleen Fine
21:13 Sep 11, 2022

Thanks Anne! I am a toddler mom as well and can commiserate with you! lol

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Wendy M
18:33 Sep 07, 2022

Loved this, it's a great human story, full of love and longing, but not sickly sweet like the lemonade.

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Kathleen Fine
21:12 Sep 11, 2022

Thanks!

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H L McQuaid
14:12 Sep 06, 2022

Great job setting up the context (and making me hungry for BBQ!) and developing such a real, honest voice of the protagonist. I could picture that fair, smell the food, hear the music. And so many sharp little details that brought things to life, like "...speakers the size of a cow’s ass" and "...the note clutched tightly in her fist, as if it were a ticket for a ride. Admit one for love." I have to say, I'm quite grumpy about 'romance' stories, but this was fresh, and real, and I really hoped her suitor was worthy of her. Thanks for w...

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Kathleen Fine
21:12 Sep 11, 2022

Thanks HL! I'm not one for romance stories either, but am one for second chances:)

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Kevin Marlow
04:25 Sep 06, 2022

Such a timely story. I can't imagine landing a date at the fair, yet the way you scripted it is totally plausible. Finding love at any age is a blessing.

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Kathleen Fine
21:12 Sep 11, 2022

Thank you Kevin!

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Roger Scypion
02:01 Feb 14, 2023

A very nice story with a nice ending. Very well written and engaging throughout.

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Isa C
00:40 Sep 15, 2022

The descriptions of the environment were so vivid and I like seeing Christie's character through her actions, cute ending!

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Madison McClure
23:50 Sep 14, 2022

This is absolutely adorable!! I adored it. It actually made me go "awww." Great writing style. Your imagery and descriptions and very vivid, and even though it was short I got a great feel for both Cody and Christie. I know they are going to end up together happily. Very sweet story.

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Mary Lehnert
01:26 Sep 13, 2022

Many of us can identify with the protagonist. Thank you, Kathleen.

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Laurie Roy
17:43 Sep 12, 2022

Could hear the music, took me right to the Deerfield Fair, or as we say in NH Fai-yah.

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Ian Matonti
16:57 Sep 12, 2022

I loved the narrator's voice in this. It's easy to hear and see everything. It also made me a little hungry, nice work!

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Daniel E Gagné
14:03 Sep 12, 2022

Great story! I could really relate as I just visited a fair this weekend and the desriptions of Christie's popcorn stand are very true. Thanks for sharing!

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Charlie Murphy
17:11 Sep 11, 2022

Such a sweet story full of visual descriptions! Great job!

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Kathleen Fine
21:12 Sep 11, 2022

Thanks Charlie!

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