Chapter One: Fair is Fair
“Excuse me, small child, but where on earth are your parents?”
I should have known it would never be that simple. Good deeds never are. You think it will be easy, do your Good Samaritan act for the day, and then carry on with business as usual. But things always have to get complicated. Always. It’s like being good and kind has to be punished because no one is ever good or kind without having ulterior motives.
Perhaps they don’t.
I may or may not occasionally do it for the recognition (but seriously, who doesn’t?).
Most of the time, however, when I decide to do something good, it usually comes back to bite me in the arse.
Just last week I was accused of stealing from a woman who left her purse behind at the table I was waitressing, and when I hunted her down to give it back she said I took money. I ended up having to give back the two dollar tip she left me (cheap sod) and my manager offered her a complimentary meal just to keep me out of jail. She knew what she was doing. And it sickens me to think that this probably hasn’t been the first time she’s pulled the scheme.
Anyways, my point in all this is that when I, walking through the fair with my friends and a kid no older than six or seven drops down at my feet, there are many things I could have said. The predominant one is that this kid knows where it’s at, worshiping me for all to see (I may or may not have a few issues, but that is neither here nor there). But instead of all that, I had decided to rise above my usual-ness, and try to help the boy out.
What I got instead of an easy answer is a kick to the shin, a severe pout that will one day turn into an impressive glare, and the retort that “I am NOT small! You’re stupid.”
I have been called worse things.
“Okay then,” I reply evenly, massaging my leg and hoping that I don’t get a bruise from it. He’s a feisty little brat. If it does leave a mark then I will have to come up with a good story to hide the fact I was taken down by a kindergarten snot. Probably I got run over by a junior cyclist while helping an old lady cross the street. “What are you then?”
“None of your business. STRANGER DANGER!” he screeches.
My friends – the girls that I would go to jail for – do the appropriate thing and take their leave, running into the crowd to avoid being seen by fair security and subsequently handcuffed or banned from ever returning.
They are dead to me.
“Yeah!” I yell after them. “Run like the COWARDS you are! See if I care! One of you will pay my bail.”
That does not deter them in the slightest. I should have known it wouldn’t.
Meanwhile the small demon child is still screaming bloody murder and has drawn attention onto us. If I was this boy’s mother I would spank the sucker … then again, he is doing what my mother mandated for me to do if a strange man or woman ever tried to entice me into their vehicle with the promise of candy (ask for it upfront and then run like there’s a pizza just waiting for me at the finish line; oh, and screech for all the world to hear because that is a must).
But I never once offered the broken promise of candy. I simply asked after his parents. There is nothing wrong or sinister about that.
“There’s no need to shout,” I try to placate with an even tone, stepping away and folding my arms while hoping and praying someone doesn’t come to this kid’s rescue and tackle me from the side. That would hurt. A lot. “I just wanted to know where your parents are. You were the one who fell at my feet, need I remind?”
He stops with his face turning a shocking shade of red-purple to stick his tongue out at me.
“Very mature,” I snort. “Who taught you that one?”
Now that makes my eye twitch. Who taught this turd manners? Obviously they have refrained from imparting words of wisdom on simple matters of etiquette – like you never tell a girl she is ugly.
“And you are the spawn of Satan.”
This has the opposite effect of what I wanted. It seems as though the kid brightens at the comparison. He is practically beaming, puffing out his chest to say, “That’s what my uncle says.”
I blink, startled. “W-what?”
“My uncle says I’m the spawn of Satan. He also says my momma’s Satan.”
Well, that is a little harsh to be telling a child. Inappropriate, too. What is acceptable to teach children these days?
“Oh. That’s … I actually have nothing to say to that.”
“That’s okay. Neither does my momma.”
It seems calling him a child-Satan is the magic phrase because the kid is now a happy little camper. I don’t know how to take that. Maybe I should call Child Protective Services. Or maybe I should just run away like my friends. Surely this kid will turn into a serial killer in the years to come if he takes Satanic references as compliments?
“Is your mother here?” I ask instead of doing what my better half tells me to do. Stupid Conscience and Jiminy Cricket and his “let your conscience be your guide" philosophy on life. Curse you. It is that strange creature from Pinocchio that will lead to my death in some dark alley with a six year old holding a bloody knife that he keeps in his pocket.
Okay, that is very harsh but, well, I did just binge watch Criminal Minds yesterday and it has made me very wary of the world today.
“No. I’m here with Uncle Jen.”
Strange name that one.
“And where is he?”
The little demon shrugs. “I don’t know. I left him.”
“He wouldn’t buy me cotton candy.”
Wow. Spoiled much? Greedy? Who raises this kid? Rich farts?
“Well, what do you say we find him? He’s got to be worried sick about you.”
Oh boy. Here we go again. Time for bribery.
“How about we find him and I’ll convince him to buy you cotton candy?” I suggest, knowing that I am likely to be lying, but unconcerned by the deception. I’ll do anything to finish my good deed (which I’m really wishing I had never started to begin with) and get as far away from this brat as possible. I have some friends to find and disown, and then an afternoon to finish enjoying before going to work a glorious ten hour shift complete with listening to people ask for extra ice and then subsequently complaining about their drink being far too cold for their sensitive teeth. Humanity at its finest.
The child contemplates the offer, even going so far as to tap his ketchup stained chin. “I accept.”
“… What are you?” I hiss to myself. What kid does that? Seriously. Yay or nay is all I’m expecting. Not for a six year old to sound like a Harvard grad who has just constructed a life binding contract where someone has just sold him their soul.
“This way,” the spawn says, taking my hand in his sticky, sweaty one and pulling me through the crowd that is still giving us curious, worrisome stares.
He seems to know exactly where he’s going, weaving in and out and around vendor stands until we hear a man screaming. “That’s him,” the kid mumbles, getting all subdued.
My eyes widen. “Your name is Franklin? What kind of parents do you have? That’s horrible.”
“Momma says it makes me important,” he argues, feigning bravado even though I can tell he isn’t happy with it either.
I shake my head. “No. That sets you up for bullying your entire life. You poor little child!”
He frowns up at me, the powdered sugar smeared on his face and up into his hair taking much away from the effect.
… I am unsure whether to keep being afraid of this kid or wishing my future child(if that ever happens, which it probably won’t unless I adopt) could be almost identical – minus the Satan-esque-ness.
“I am not little.”
With a patronizing smile I pat the top of his sweaty head and say, “Honey, you’re not even at my hip. You are little, boy. But one day you’ll get big. Maybe. Unless your parents are dwarves. Are your parents dwarves?”
He has no idea what I am saying. I realize maybe I shouldn’t be talking like this to six year old.
… Oh well. Too late to take any of it back now.
“FRANKLIN!” the change in tone, from screaming in fear and growing anxiety to complete and utter outrage lets me know that the spawn has been located by his uncle. “YOU DON’T JUST DISAPPEAR LIKE THAT! YOUR MOTHER WOULD SKIN ME ALIVE!”
The demon child merely folds his arms as his uncle storms closer, planting his light-up Avengers sneakers into the concrete, almost like he is preparing for battle. “You wouldn’t buy me cotton candy. I want cotton candy.”
“You just ate fried dough, kid. You can wait an hour for cotton candy,” his uncle answers tiredly.
“NO! I want it NOW!”
The man lets out a heavy exhale, looking Heaven-ward as if to say “Smite me now”. “Good Lord, what did I do to deserve this?” he wonders instead.
“I’m wondering the same thing, too,” I tell him, effectively alerting Franklin’s uncle to my lingering presence. He drops his head down to blink at me, giving a once-over while I do the same. The bullet points go as follows: tall, blonde, handsome, and entirely too young to be an uncle to this brat. He looks to be about my age, twenty-one, maybe twenty-five at the oldest.“Hi. I found the brat—I mean, I found your nephew,” I say with a wave.
“I can see that,” he answers, smiling sheepishly. “I hope he wasn’t too much trouble.”
I shrug. “Just kicked me in the shin when I asked where his parents were.”
“SHE CALLED ME SMALL!” Franklin yells, completely indignant.
The uncle regards his nephew with a long-suffering sigh. I feel bad for him. “Hate to break it to you, buddy, but you are small.”
Satan’s spawn kicks his uncle’s shin, and from the lack of reaction, this man has taken many such hits. The nerves have been irrevocably damaged it would seem. “I HATE YOU! I want my momma!”
“You and me both, Finn. C’mon.” He holds out his hand for the brat to take, but the kid squeezes mine tighter and hides behind my thigh. “Finn,” the uncle says in warning. “We’re going home.”
“I don’t want to!”
“And I don’t care. You’re not behaving so we’re leaving. Now let go of Miss … sorry, what’s your name?”
“Sloane,” I offer.
He nods appreciatively. “Nice.” Turning back to his nephew he squats down and tries to convince the demon to get off of me. “Miss Sloane was very nice in helping you, but it’s time to say goodbye.”
“You’re not my daddy! You can’t tell me what to do.”
“Dear God, what did I do to deserve this,” the uncle wonders under his breath.
“You probably killed someone in a previous life,” I say helpfully.
He snorts. “I’m considering killing someone in this life, too. C’mon, Finn. It’s time to go.”
“I’m telling Momma on you,” Franklin threatens in the way only young children ever could.
“See if I care,” he answers wisely. And then he snatches the brat right up into his arms declaring, “Now say goodbye because we’re going home and you’re sitting in time-out until your mother comes home.” Then he turns to me and says much more pleasantly, “Thanks again, Sloane, although I would have been perfectly fine if you’d never brought him back.” The smile lets me know he is joking, but only just. I understand him, though.
“How dare you,” I gasp. “You would sick him on the rest of society? How selfish can you be?”
At first the uncle is stunned, but then when he realizes I’m just teasing he breaks into a lopsided smile that could make a girl go weak at the knees. “I think I’ve done my civic duty, don’t you?”
“Not quite yet,” I reply. I wave to Franklin, not because I care, but because I can’t be rude to the child. My own mother raised me the right way. With manners (most of the time). “See ya later, Finn.”
The brat pushes at his uncle’s face, trying to break free, but to me he says, “Bye. And you’re not ugly. You’re actually really pretty.”
What a randomly strange turn-around ... he must want me to do something ...
“Um … thank you … I guess.”
I get one more goodbye from the uncle, and then the two of them are marching to the fair exit. I can hear the older man demanding to know just why his nephew called me ugly and what planet he came from because surely the child is adopted and they are not related because his mother couldn’t possibly have spawned a child to be that uncouth.
“What a strange child,” I mutter to myself, watching them disappear. “And what a strange family dynamic.” I ponder it for a moment, and then decide that I really don’t care. I won’t see the duo ever again … please, God, I hope not. Once will last me a lifetime. “And now, time to punish the ones who have betrayed me. Let’s see how long it takes them to walk home.”
With that plan formed I skip merrily through the fair and to the parking lot, getting up behind the wheel of my cherry-red pickup. I crank the engine and pull from my space, rumbling through the lot and passing my friends on the way.
“SLOANE!” they yell at me, running to catch up. “WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”
I wave at them, smiling happily, basically bouncing in my seat (okay, I might actually be bouncing but that is because I may or may not have to pee). “You both have thumbs, right?”
They appear fairly confused. I have that kind of way with people.
“Have fun hitch-hiking!” Cackling I peel out onto the road, seeing my friends throwing rocks at me through my mirror.
We’ll be BFFs again by tomorrow.