We were on our way to the petting zoo when my life changed forever.
“You girls want a free keychain?” An old man in suspenders and a trucker cap was hunched over arthritically beneath a tent, dangling a beaded keychain. He could have been dribbling an atomic bomb and I would have approached him; the declaration of something being “free” gets me every time. Plus, he was only wearing suspenders and a trucker cap, remember. I love eldernudes.
The keychain wasn’t yet in my hand when Alisha became painfully aware of what was really happening.
“Oh OK, yeah. No thanks,” she said haughtily, veering abruptly away from the tent.
He was church people. Inside the small tent, other church people had stuffed innocent fair-goers into folding chairs and were working Jesus-spells upon their wallets. I turned around and found that Alisha had already been swallowed to safety by the 4H tent.
“Would you like to learn the meaning behind the keychain?” the old man asked in a voice quaking with age.
No, I didn’t really want to. But I still found myself saying, “Yes, please.” Old people. The men ones especially. They goddamn get me every time! Plus, he was from the Living Word Evangelical Free Church, and I didn’t think I’d ever had my Evangelical cherry popped. Hey Mormons, you don’t own me, OK?
So I stood there under this low tent, sweat rolling down my back, feigning interest in these plastic beads that are supposed to represent various parts of Jesus’s anatomy or something, I don’t know. He went slowly through each colored bead, taking the time to explain things like “purity” because it doesn’t take much more than a cursory glance to see that I’m missing that in my life.
I had a feeling the black bead was going to represent “sin,” so when he gripped it between his thumb and forefinger I interrupted him with an obnoxious “Ooooh, ooooh!” hand raise, and he reluctantly let me guess. And I was right! Obviously that’s something I know a lot about.
“Do you have religion in your life?” he asked, eying me up behind his dirty bi-focals.
I can’t remember the exact lie I blurted out, but I know it was strung together with anxious stutters and guilty eye-flickering, like it was God himself in front of me and not some half-crippled liver-spotted church recruiter.
“Well, do you believe you’re going to Heaven?” he asked.
“Um, I hope so?”
“You better KNOW so!” and his laugh was served on a bed of gooey death-phlegm.
He gave me some literature and showed me a picture of a waterfall. “Would you jump off that for $1000?” he asked.
“I mean, I’m a sucker, but no. No, I don’t think I would,” I said, hoping it was the right answer and that I wasn’t going to have to listen to him read aloud from the Bible while shoving snakes in my face.
“I wouldn’t either!” And he laughed that sick, hospice laugh again and clapped me on the arm with his bony hand. It stung a bit. “Well, I’mma let you catch up with your friend. It was very nice talking with you and I hope you enjoy your day at the fair!”
And he sent me off with my keychain which was probably made by the collective fingers of a scared and abused Bible camp, and my God brochure, which I used to jot down all the mean things Alisha said to me throughout the day. For instance: when I wanted to get my caricature done and she said they probably couldn’t make my head any bigger than it already is. I acted mad, but it’s actually kind of true.
I found Alisha inside the 4H tent, pretending to have a heart by cooing at goats.
“I’m religious now,” I panted with excitement.
“Oh, Jesus Christ,” she muttered.
A few hours later, I was waiting outside the restrooms for Alisha, who was inside a stall adjusting her prosthetic leg. There was a tractor-pull going on in the field behind the restrooms, and I was trying to peer around a pole to see it better.
“Why do you always look so creepy?” Alisha said, exiting the bathroom behind me. “It looks like you’re trying to pole dance.”
“I was just trying to see what’s going on behind the fence!” I explained defensively.
“Well, why don’t we actually over there and watch so you can stop looking like a creep,” Alisha suggested. She’s always trying to make sure I don’t get mistaken for a prostitute, that’s why I like her.
The stands were full so we found a patch of grass surrounded on three sides by a collection of exposed ass cracks.
“I’ve never seen a tractor pull before,” I said, full of the excited naivete of someone who had just left the porn shop for the farm.
“Trust me, it’s not that exciting,” Alisha warned.
“I’ll be the judge of that!” I yelled.
It was not that exciting.
Sitting there with a cigarette in her hand, Alisha got real serious. “Can I tell you a secret?” she asked. I love secrets, but no one ever really tells me any, something about me telling the Internet or something?
“I don’t like blond people,” she said quietly. I waited for her to follow up by saying she’s left a towheaded body count from Arkansas to Pittsburgh. “I just don’t trust them.” There was a young blond guy standing off to her left, and she pointed at him. “Mostly guys though.”
Alisha delved deeper, telling me personal experiences which have shaped her distaste of blond men.
I considered this. On cue, a blond douchebag in an Abercrombie shirt, wrists adorned with hemp, walked past in sandals. In my mind, I ran through a list all the blond guys I know. “Yeah,” I agreed. “Most blond guys are cocky.”
I thought about it some more. “To be honest though, I’m thinking of past cast members from The Real World.” Like that Ryan dickhead who’s on the current New Orleans season, what a prick, am I right?
Alisha sighed. “I love how I share something personal with you and you ruin it with your stupid Real World references.”
She was just bitter that I got an awesome keychain and she didn’t.