Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Too Long at the Fair (a short story)

What happens when a woman who has used her looks to navigate the world without ever finding herself grows older? 

Maggie smiled over the scrambled eggs, hoping her mascara hadn’t smudged in the heat of the kitchen. “You want ketchup with those?” she asked prettily.

“Naw,” said the truck driver, without looking up from his menu. “Just sausage…and coffee, black.”

“Sure thing.” She smiled again for no apparent audience. “Come far this morning?”

He raised his gaze—a gaze made of chilled chrome and smoking rubber. “Not far enough. You wanna get that order in?”

“Be ready in a minute.” She felt like she had inhaled exhaust. The trucker picked up the newspaper, dismissing her.

She turned toward the kitchen, suddenly aware of the purple veins in her hands and the way she always smelled of fried food. She stuck the green paper ticket on the carousel and turned it toward Ralph, who never seemed to see her anymore. Life had become a perpetual post-coital episode. Men all around her turned their backs and went to sleep.

She paused to catch her reflection in the stainless steel cook hood. Central High’s best cheerleader, the homecoming queen, had grown grotesque—hidden behind wrinkles and eyes that were as red as they were blue. She felt choked, as though her spirit had been sucked up into the fan, propelled into the greasy black cloud that hung above the diner 24 hours a day.

A bell tinkled. Someone new.

She stepped to the doorway.

He was in his late thirties—maybe forties. Not too paunchy. Nice eyes. He sat at the counter.

She wiped a finger beneath each of her eyes just to make certain the mascara hadn’t smeared and rehearsed a quick smile. Maybe he would be the one. Maybe today was the day.

She imagined herself light and flexible as she approached him, remembering the looks her hips had once commanded.

“Hi, Stranger. What can I get for you?” Her smile dazzled, full of hope and promise and homecoming confetti.

“Just coffee,” he muttered as he checked his paperwork. “And hurry. I’m on a schedule.”

“Sure thing,” she replied, hearing her heart sticking on the greasy floor. “Be ready in a minute.”

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