Saturday, April 3, 2010

Night at the Fair

Night had fallen at the fair. Nan walked through the midway stalls and watched people get sucked into difficult games of skill or chance. One stall was drawing quite a crowd. She stopped to look and see what kind of game it was.

It was a simple game- for 50 cents you could shoot targets through a small window and get a toy. Nan eyed the prizes hanging above the booth.

One prize in particular caught her eye. It was a stuffed bear with a red Christmas vest and long ears. She looked again. Or was it a reindeer with a badly shaped muzzle?

She wasn't sure, but it was charming. It had character, and she wanted it badly.

The truth was, this Christmas-vested mishap of a stuffed toy did have character. A mind of its own and a heart. A heart which belonged to his Lady Love, a delicate ballerina who could hold a pose for days. Who had held that exact pose for as long as he could remember.

His admiration for her knew no bounds. He knew he was ugly and awkward by comparison, but felt that if she would drop her pose just once and turn around, his chivalrous qualities could win her.

Entranced by the lights and goodies, Nan was easy prey for the hawker. "50 cents is all you need to play the game and win a prize," she said to the crowd in general. Nan glanced sideways at her. The hawker leaned over.

"Why don't you give it a try. I'm sure you'll be good at it."
Nan considered. The little reindeer was looking more and more like it should belong to her by the minute.

"This is the cheapest game at the fair. 50 cents today. 50 cents tomorrow. Always 50 cents. And it's a sure shot at a nice prize."
Nan knew in her heart of hearts that she should not play- these games were risky, designed to make the player lose. But she couldn't resist. Getting a shot at that bear, or reindeer, or whatever it was, was definitely worth 50 cents in her mind.

"Sure, I'll try," she said.

"Fantastic!" said the hawker. "Leave your bag there and choose a weapon. And be thinking about which prize you want!"

Nan already knew. She shook out the last bit of change from her satchel and handed it over, even the wheatback penny she'd saved for two years.

She chose a gun with a long barrel. "Going for precision, eh?" said the hawker, as she moved towards the edge of the tent. "That's smart. You have 3 shots. 5 points wins a prize. Light green soldiers are worth one and a half points each. The dark green guy is worth 5 but he moves so he's harder to hit."

Nan felt a little jittery. She swung the gun around and aimed through the window. Slow and steady was the way to go about this game.

She lined up the first soldier, made sure it was right, and took the shot. Much to her disappointment, she found that it was an air-powered gun. Instead of a loud bang it gave only a small pop, and the beanbag "bullet" fell short of the window.

"Hey!" she exclaimed. "This isn't working."

"Maybe your aim was off," the hawker shrugged. "Try again."

Nan scooted the box forward with her knee, but the hawker snapped, "Now leave that be. Moving my setup isn't going to help you if your aim is bad."

"My aim is not bad," she said slowly. She entertained brief thoughts of setting her sights on the clown and then seeing what she had to say about her aim, but there was only one bullet left, and she would rather have the stuffed toy than exact revenge on a peevish clown.

Nan put it out of her mind and took aim at the dark green soldier. She took her time. She counted the number of seconds it took him to move from one side of the window to the other, and then the number of seconds she would have a clear shot at him, and then tried to guess how many seconds it would take to fire the gun. Her finger twitched on the trigger. 3, 2,-
"Don't take all day, kid, we've got other people waiting," the hawker interrupted. Nan jumped and fired by accident. The pellet skittered around on the ground in front of her.

The bear reindeer- lost! Her wheatback penny- gone! Nan put her head down and cried.
"Stop it!" the hawker hissed. "Get out of here."

"That was not fair!" Nan yelled.
"Shut up and get out of here! I've got a business to-"

A shadow fell across Nan. The hawker herself shut up.
"That still was not fair," Nan said sullenly.

"Sure it was," said a voice behind her. "You look like a smart kid. Don't you know you get what you pay for at these things?"