Girls on Fire


August is dying at the Ohio State Fair.  The leaves will soon turn but some have died already, curling green in the blasting heat.
      You come late in the day, after work, and you know just where to go.  You have to see it all together.  Like a painting that moves.
      You soar high above the crowd on the chairlift ride watching them kick down the pounded dust of the hot midway at sundown.  They are like meat scissors with meat heads, sweaty and squashed like bugs on windshields.  Sometimes they look up.
      The sun is falling on a thousand girls below your blue Converse kicking feet.  It falls on pretty bare brown legs and some pale white.  On fat puffy legs too, and legs like sticks.  On sick knobby knees and perfect sexy ones.  You hate to see jeans on any of those girls, knowing how they're sweating underneath.  You like to watch them eat pink cotton candy and laugh.
      Sometimes they look up.  Yes sometimes they do, and if they make eye contact you feel a little hot jolt, and it reminds you of putting your wet tongue on the tips of a nine volt battery when you were a kid, when you had a little radio with a crooked antenna and listened in the cricket song summer night hush to Columbus Clipper games but pretended to be asleep if your mom came in to check on you.
      And fell asleep in the ninth inning and dreamed of bare brown tanned legs and woke up wet and weird.
      Finally your chair swings around and you head back up the midway looking down on happy bored sad excited girl faces red lips shining hair bouncy flesh curves.
      They are so young it hurts almost, and you're not young at all anymore, but it only hurts when you see the young girls and think about what it used to be like.
      Angry-faced mother catches your eye: screams at kids "no more candy!" pulls their arms jerks them through a tunnel between tents and then under the flickering shade made by the Witches Wheel.  You remember riding it and laughing years ago.
      Red fading light strikes deep into shining hair below.
      A thousand perfect heads of young fire hair and bluegrass music playing somewhere on a little wooden bandstand, and the memories of other fairs other years other girls, and wet kisses taken trembling at night high above swinging on top of the ferris wheel in the neon flicker new happiness.
      With a jerk your ride is over.  You walk on tingling rubber legs and go buy a blue snow cone to wash the dust out of your throat.
      The midway cools.
      All the girls.  The girls with the brown legs and fire hair are going home, laughter fading, footsteps fading, dust settling in silence.
      But the ticket booth is still open so you go and buy a roll of tickets for tomorrow, the last day of the fair.  They feel warm in your cold old hand and the tickets are red the color of fire.  
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