THE DAY HAD been hot, but it cooled off considerably by nightfall. Peggy wore a light striped sweater over a cheap navy maternity dress that made her look even heavier than she had become the past four months. Jesse wore a pair of tight jeans and a t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up to expose his arm muscles and secure a pack of Camels. The carnival was on the outskirts of town in a farmer’s field that was adjacent to the Mountain View High School’s football field. Jesse drove to the carnival in a 1935 Ford, which he had inherited from his alcoholic father, who had died from cirrhosis of the liver a year before Jesse and Peggy were married. Unlike Jesse’s father, the car drank only oil and gasoline.
As soon as they arrived at the carnival, Jesse headed for a tent ostensibly housing only a fortune teller and a section where the patrons were invited to knock down three steel milk bottles to win one of a variety of cheaply made, but colorful dolls. The gypsies had cleverly set up a back area for poker, which appeared to the unsuspecting observer as nothing more than the gypsies’ living quarters.
The rest of the carnival included three rides for the children and teenagers: a merry-go-round; a Ferris wheel; and a chair swing. Peggy walked around for about a half hour, talked to an old high-school friend for another half hour, and then sat down to play bingo with a group of people that included mostly elderly couples, elderly women, and younger women with elementary school-aged children. The Mountain View Volunteer Fire Department operated the bingo concession as part of a contract negotiated between the Borough of Mountain View and the carnival company.
Peggy played two cards at a time for ten cents a card until she had spent three dollars. She hesitated to spend any more, but decided one more round wouldn’t break her, and she’d still have enough left over for a Coke and a hot dog. Although she had won nothing so far, she lucked out in her final round and won five dollars. Given this unexpected, but greatly appreciated largess, she was tempted to keep on playing, but something inside her she just couldn’t explain seemed to be urging her to “quit while she was ahead.”
After walking around a while, she ordered the hot dog and Coke at a concession stand that also sold popcorn and cotton candy. She finished the hot dog, which was slightly undercooked, and the Coke in about fifteen minutes. She then visited briefly with a couple of the regular customers she knew from her work at the pharmacy. Finally, before meandering over to the gypsy tent to collect Jesse, she ran into an old boyfriend and his wife. This final interaction made her feel sad, since the old boyfriend and his wife seemed extraordinarily happy and very much in love. Her relationship with Jesse no longer made her happy. What feelings of uninhibited love, joy, and lust she used to feel toward him had abated shortly after they were married.