Most of you know my friend April – funny, gregarious, willing to do most anything, always there to encourage you and help you realize your own dreams – an adventurous gal, always on the move, diving into the next new thing with verve or gusto or some other adjective that makes you feel a bit lazy. She’s kind-hearted – looking after abandoned people – abandoned pets. The kind of person that should be dressed in spandex, running effortlessly around in impossibly high heels and a flouncy long cape – her photo always taken from foot level, looking up into her face with Austin’s darkened skyline in the back.
But every hero has a tragic flaw and I’m here to share her darker side.
Our recent adventures began with an innocent question, “When would you like to go to the State Fair?” The cackle that followed chilled me to the bone and should have been a warning, but I wasn’t on my game. This would be the first sign. You see, I trust her. I was also filled with years of nostalgia for the State Fair – countless memories of Mom, of Big Tex, of the Midway and Elsie, yes, Elsie the cow clouded my judgment and a date was set. “I’ll drive.” The siren’s call of my pending demise sealed this Faustian deal.
The trip to Dallas began innocently enough – sure, there was no radio and we were forced to talk (THE ENTIRE TIME! I mean seriously, I have a handful of anecdotes and you’ve heard them all. Once you’ve heard them, what am I? I’m just a collection of People magazine headlines). Somewhere around Italy, Tx and likely sometime after I finished regaling April with the highlights of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall it was suggested we pull off the road to look at a little run-down starship of a restaurant called “The Pegasus”. It was easy to lure me out of the car by playing to my love of all things SciFi with dulcet promises of photo ops. Before I had time to run, we were besieged by a plague of locusts (or maybe it was just a colony of overly excited grasshoppers, who can keep up?) The second sign.
We reach Fair Park and it is decided, our first mission should be to locate a Fletcher’s corn dog in all its deep fried corn doggy glory. It was truly magnificent as only a corn dog from the State Fair could be. Corn dogs and lemonades in hand, April led me to a comfortable place to sit – a place that was soon quickly overrun by birds of prey and carrions; she squealed with delight as she carefully studied my reaction. Each bird took wing and carefully sized up the crowd for it’s next prey. The third ominous sign.
“Let’s go to the Ferris Wheel next,” I suggested. Did I truly come to this decision on my own? I’m deathly afraid of heights, but somehow it seemed like everything would be ok if I would just step into the gondola. I had my camera ready to calm my nerves. My camera that quickly got tucked away as the Ferris wheel came to a stop at the top and I realized I was trapped in a poorly constructed creaky metal cage – all the while April sat there carefully watching and considering me with a smile on her face. The fourth sign. We were doomed.
Signs aside – just a quick glimpse into my panic on the Ferris wheel. I had armed myself with my understanding of the physiology of fear and Jay’s words “if you get nervous, just look up”. Well, about two seconds in, I got nervous and let me just say – there is no “up” when you’re in a covered gondola. There’s only straight out or down. There’s no reasoning, “now Beth, this is a chemical response; you can out think it”. There’s no out thinking abject terror. The best I could do as my heart was pounding was not piddle in public. Yes, that’s my big win as they kept us hovering at the top of the Ferris wheel for an endless amount of time. Then, I snapped and it happened. I did the worst thing I could do when I get nervous – I got “funny”, but “funny” in air quotes and I stayed “funny” until they let me out and I wobbled onto the little deck just past the “Exit” sign. Have you ever seen people trapped by my “funny”? I have. I had three of them – two complete strangers and April. My little victims. Unafraid of heights, but subjected to long minutes of my terror driven humor. The only thing I did not do to wipe their “Ferris wheels are FUN” happy looks off their delighted faces was: I did not say, “oh God, was that a bolt?” because I was in super stressed out mode. My mantra became: “Don’t you dare piddle. Don’t you dare say the thing about the bolt.” Meanwhile, the unmoving gondola creaked and swayed in the breeze. When we got out of the gondola, our companions said, “I’m glad we had such nice people to ride this with.” Yeah, I can hear your sarcasm pal. I’ll “nice” you as soon as I stop clutching the ground. You better run.
Safe on the ground, we meandered around the Fair poking our heads in various buildings, hunting down livestock, concept cars, and other exhibits that caught our fancy. “We should try something else fried,” because really part of the State Fair experience is the various foods that they’ll drop into an industrial Fry Daddy. Did I truly come to that heart-clogging decision on my own? We sampled the chicken fried bacon. Delicious. “Beth, you should have the last piece.” Go ahead. Eat it. I did without a second thought, without so much as a nod to my manners. My Mom’s voice that would say, “do not take the last piece” was completely ignored. I greedily dragged that last piece through the last smears of Ranch dressing with a noisy grunt. Mmmm. My arteries tightened a bit. Later that night: “Let’s try the Fried Bacon Cinnamon Roll! You can have the last bite. My arteries tightened a bit more.
I barely escaped the deep fried temptations and did my best to undo all the damage by grabbing a salad and a large bowl of fruit. Maybe that’s why the gloves had to come off on the drive back.
As we sat in the car heading home I noticed my jeans were covered with an odd substance. I had over-stuffed the washer a couple of nights before and chalked it up to soap that hadn’t quite washed off. It started to irritate my skin and what started out as a humorous, “well, I sure am glad I didn’t wear these at the Fair” became, “I’m trying to pick the material off my skin; it’s really irritating.” I pitifully whined about the sensation on my legs – annoying myself and I was certain April, even though she had adopted an off-putting cackle with each new complaint. “Describe the sensation,” I imagined her saying. No new conversation topic was allowed to continue without paying homage to my burning legs. As I tried to pucker the material up and away from my skin, I noticed the denim started tearing. “I think this soap must be a bit caustic.” When I got home, I immediately pulled them off. The fabric was now burned to the tops of my legs; my skin a deep indigo blue. I popped into a bath to remove the fabric then showed Jay my chemical burns. “We need new soap!” The next day I noticed my travel bag had partially melted on our table and there were holes in my pajamas. Weird. The long and short of it was that my bag and clothes had inadvertently been sitting in battery acid while in the back of the trunk. When April said, “here we’ll throw your bag back here” I should have recognized this as one of the many signs.
But I’m here to tell you the despite April’s best efforts, I survived. April, I want to let you know that from here on, I’ll be watching you.
Disclaimer: When I presented the blog idea to April she agreed I could write it as long as I understood that things really didn’t happen this way. I tried to explain to her that to make it a good story some truths had to be embellished. So the more boring true version: We went to the fair, we ate some disgustingly bad but delicious food, we saw a great bird show, I panicked on the Ferris wheel, but not before getting really annoying and “funny” and then my jeans, that I wore on the way back home, really were covered in battery acid and that really smarted. Don’t soak your clothes in battery acid.
I guess I’m not supposed to end the story by mentioning that April forced me to sit in those acid soaked jeans and mocked me on the ride home – but this is “my” story – a “mostly” true story.