“You’re all hungry, arencha?” Judy asked her boyfriends, as she picked up a tray of half burnt cookies. “You should buy some of this stuff. It’s really yummy. All for a good cause, you know, my dad’s fire company. You don’t want your house to burn up, do you?”
The boys shook their head in earnest sycophant fashion and pulled their wallets out of back pockets.
“You should get some to bring home too,” Judy added, packaging some things for each of them.
Within a few minutes, every soggy fruit bar, crumbly cookie, crispy rice square and mediocre cupcake was either eaten on the spot or wrapped up and taken away. Judy waved them all off and shouted, “I’ll catch up with you guys soon.”
She then helped Violet clean up and stack whatever trays were left. “So, um…did my dad ask ya out yet?”
Violet pretended not to hear.
“He really likes ya. He told me,” she said.
Violet said nothing and wished to be rid of this nuisance too, but how?
“My mom told me he liked ya forever, since high school.”
“I very much doubt that, Judy,” Violet said, adamantly. “They were dating back in high school.”
“I know, but it’s true. Mom said he had a huge crush on you anyway.”
“No, I…I don’t think so. I had a boyfriend in high school, only one and I married him.”
“Yeah, I know, cuz he knocked you up,” Judy said shrugging. “But he’s dead now and my dad…”
“Thanks for all your help, Judy,” Violet forcefully interrupted. “I’ll close up now. Thank your father for me. I have to get these kids home.”
“Uh…” Judy said, only just then noticing Peter and the still sleeping baby. “Oh, okay. Um, but my dad wants to ask ya out. I’ll tell him to call ya, okay?”
“I beg you to do no such thing. I…” Violet bit her lip then took a deep breath before adding. “I have a boyfriend already.”
Judy looked thoroughly disappointed. “Oh, that’s too bad…uh, I mean for my dad. He really likes you.”
“I’m sure he’ll find someone special soon enough,” Violet said going to the baby and carefully lifting her up. She then grabbed her purse and said, “Peter, let’s go find the others.”
He eagerly jumped up and took her other hand. They were gone before Judy could wave. She snapped her gum and grumbled, “Dang it! She woulda made a great stepmom, too.”
Violet felt as if she’d just escaped a terrorist attack. She rushed through the crowds of people, impatiently waiting for some to move out of her way, so she could peer into tents, at the sundry gaming booths and other attractions. She looked all over for a telltale sign of any of the angel kids, but she knew it would be far easier to spot Victor, who was likely to tower over most everyone else. To her amazement, they were nowhere to be seen.
“Where could they be?” she muttered staring at the Ferris wheel.
“Der! I see dem!” Peter shouted and let go of her hand to sprint to the end of the aisle.
“Peter!” Violet yelled, as he vanished behind a group of men boosting of their superior pitching arms. She fleetingly wondered if it was John they had just dunked and she hoped the water was cold.
After the men cleared away she saw Victor scooping up Peter, his eyes searching and quickly finding hers. He then smiled and motioned her to join them at the dunk tank where Joaquin was systematically and expertly pitching ball after ball and dropping the man inside with a big splash into the water, to the whoops and hollers of the other kids.
“I think we have the next pitching phenom for the Mets,” Victor told her, grinning devilishly. “And if I’m not mistaken, that’s your friend from before in the tank?”
“He’s no friend of mine,” Violet mumbled.
“Poor fellow. He looks cold,” Victor stated unconcerned. He handed Joaquin a twenty dollar bill and said, “Here ya go, Joaquin. You need to practice if you’re gonna make to the big leagues.”
“Victor, how many times has he hit the target?” Violet asked.
“But how many?”
“I lost count. So, how many is that?” he asked no one in particular.
“Ten times! Ooh, eleven!” Claire said, laughing and clapping again.
“Um…don’t you think that’s enough?” Violet said, now feeling bad for John, but only slightly.
“All for a good cause, you know,” Victor replied, putting an arm around her.
“Victor…” she said, but hesitated.
“Can I try?” Peter asked.
“Sure, Buddy,” Victor said, taking a ball from the dozen Joaquin just bought and bringing him closer to the target. “Okay, you aim and then toss it as hard as you can.”
Peter threw it but missed.
“I’ll show you how to do it, Pete,” Joaquin said.
“Me too!” Billy said.
“You can all take turns,” Victor said, handing more money to Claire. “Get some for everyone.”
“Victor, you’re spending a fortune,” Violet scolded.
“For a good cause,” he replied, taking the baby from her. “She’s getting too heavy for you.”
“Nonsense! Babies are never heavy.”
“Only a mommy would say that,” he said and they both laughed.
They watched as each child got to throw two or three balls each, most of them missing the target by quite a bit and some just barely hitting it but not hard enough to even make a sound. But something odd was happening. Every time the target was hit, even the tiniest bit, John, who was still in the tank--soaked and shivering madly—would drop like a stone into the freezing water.
“What the hell!” John shouted after getting dunked for the seventh time in a row. “Check on the trigger. It must be broken.”
For a few minutes several men checked and fiddled and tried to find a flaw, but nothing was amiss and John grumbled and had no recourse but to get back into the tank.
It was Sally’s turn—the last one of the bunch to go--but she was certain she’d never hit the target.
“Give it a try, Sweetie. You never know,” Victor said.
She stepped up to the line, made a face then tossed the ball. It missed by three inches.
“See? I tolcha I’m no good,” she whined.
“Nobody’s great the first time. Just try again,” Joaquin said.
This time she stuck her tongue out as she stared fixedly at the target and then tossed it as hard as she could. It just hit the edge and ker-splash! John went down cursing all the way.
“Mind the language, bud. There are children present,” Victor sternly said.
“I did it!” Sally shouted as the other kids clapped and cheered.
“Well done, Honey,” Victor said and he and Violet steered the kids away.
John was still cursing a blue streak and shouting for them to check on the trigger, but they would never find the cause…mainly because they couldn’t see Richard’s ghost standing right beside the target with a mischievous grin on his face and his hand on the bull’s eye.
“Richard, you do realize that’s cheating,“ Heidi scolded.
“Hey, it was your idea!” Richard said.
She giggled. “Yes, but I thought he was your friend?”
“Friend my ass!” he shouted, and just for good measure he hit the target just as John settled onto the platform and there was no one aiming for the target that time!