Each summer, normally the first weekend of August, my hometown of Benton, Mississippi sponsors something called 'The Catfish Festival' a town wide celebration that honors the important part that raising catfish and just general aquaculture plays in the local economy. Benton, is for the most part a rural township with most of the surrounding land being devoted to the raising of agriculture or aquaculture. Agriculture comes in the form of row crops, such as cotton, wheat, rice, sugarcane and corn. Aquaculture on the other hand comes in the form of catfish and crayfish.
The town wide celebration often draws tourists from the surrounding hamlets and towns, people come as far afield as Yazoo City, Rolling Fork, Greenville, Bentonia and even Clinton and Madison to take part in festivals. The quiet main street section of town is transformed into an open air bazaar. Local bands provided live music for all. And that was fine and good, but that was just for the tourist, the food trucks, the sideshows, the stalls selling worthless trinkets and novelties, items that would most likely break or become displaced within a week were just cash-cows for the often cash strapped local merchants.
Anyway the story I'm going to tell you, takes place not in the tame, boring daylight hours. But in the hours that follow the setting of the sun. A subtle change takes place, the true character of the town comes out. The music becomes more soulful and more savage. Blue's, that form of music that forged and shaped in the delta, that was invited to express the frustration of poor sharecropper replaces the other music being placed. The air becomes thick with the smell of huge fifty pound sacks of red crayfish being boiled in huge vats.
It was one of those rare summer nights in Mississippi, the wind was blowing just hard enough to cool the skin and to keep at bay the mosquitoes, horse flies and other biting insects that plague the south in the warm summer months. Halo's light bath the reddish brown bricks that paved most of the streets in the downtown historic district. The sidewalks were crowded with people, hawking their wares, their voices raised almost to a shout to be heard over the bedlam of noises that filled the gap formed between the two rows of buildings.
Local blue's bands played soulful ballads of love won, love lost, of depression, oppression and crop failures followed other bands playing other songs. The streets were filled with people milling with each other, groups of children rushed up and down, the boys often fought each other with newly acquired toy wooden swords and shields, the girls often dropped their quarters and dollars on fruity flavored ice drinks to ward off the heat.
And there I was, standing barefooted beside one of the oddest looking machines I've ever seen in my life. A black mop bucket was fixed to a system of pulleys and triggers. Sitting under the bucket was a old brown chair. Beside the chair, was a large wooden sign that read. "Annual Fundraiser – Five dollars for one ball, take a chance and slime the girl!" this was the slime booth. Each year the Lions Club sponsored it.
I read that sign once more, and once more I felt a deep, deep red blush color my cheeks. My mom was a Lioness you see, and I had volunteered for this booth to help her out. We'll, volunteer is not quite the word I'm looking for before I could get my chance to volunteer, all the slots had been filled. It was by pure luck that at the very last minute one of the girls had gotten cold feet and had backed out. Her mother was going around claiming she had taken down with the flu, but I knew better. She had just gotten cold feet at the last minute and backed down.
My mom at first had been wary about me volunteering for this thing as well. Now, I'm a cheerleader, I've been one almost my whole life. Now before you jump the gun, I'm not your stereotypical cheerleader. For one, I've never been voted homecoming 'Queen' or 'Princess' and I've surely as the day I was born never even thought about dating one of the football players. I've never sat with the cheerleaders at lunch, never gossiped about the other cheerleaders, never even really gotten catty with the other girls. In fact most consider me something of a pushover. But trust me, I'm far from a pushover.
Anyway, I'm not really into fashion unless you count cosplay. I don't really follow the teen idol crazy, unless you count the Japanese idols, and finally I'm something of an Japanophilia, if you can count being way into anime and manga as an appreciation for the culture of the Japanese people. I doubt it, but whatever.
Anyway, taking a deep breath I walked toward the chair and eased my bottom down and placed my arms down at my side. Now as a cheerleader, I've done messy events before, I once did a pie toss for a school fundraiser, and I've even set in a dunkinking booth once or twice. So I knew what to expect and with getting messy in mind, I had decided to wear my new two piece, baby blue bikini. The bikini had this cute skirted bottom that I thought was really alluring and the object was to get people to part with their money right? And what makes a better target than a cute girl wearing a blue bikini.
Once I was seated, the booth was open. And before long, a queue started to forum in front of the booth. I noticed a bunch of them appeared to be girls, and from where I sat, I noticed most either to be fellow cheerleaders from Benton Academy or fellow members of the Anime and Manga Club that meet Tuesday at Albert Sidney Johnston Memorial Library, the towns local library that was was named in honor of the confederate general who had held commanded of the southern forces in the Battle of Benton and later the Battle of Benton Road.
Anyway returning to story, the first girl who stepped up was a petite brunette with sparkling blue eyes.I knew her as Madeline Brewer, she was one of the founding members of the club and a part time waitress down at 'Sweet Magnolia' one of the newest small business that had open up in Benton in the last few years, the business was a small bakery/cafe that was model on ever growing 'Maid Cafes' trend that was all the rage in Japan right now.
I took a deep breath as I watched Madeline pay her five dollars and took in hand one of the round tennis balls. She then stepped up to the throw line and grinned as she started to shift her weight around.
"Hey Jenny!" She called out with a smile. "Sorry about this, you looking mighty pretty sitting there, you're just a little too clean." With that, she tossed the ball. And I closed my eyes and took a deep breath as the ball sailed through the air. A second later I felt something freezing cold hit the top of my head, a loud girlish scream escaped my lips as the cold traveled down my bare arms and down my front. As the seconds slowly ticked by, the goop rolled down my arms and spilled down on the bricks.
Slowly I opened my eyes, only to find Madeline sitting there, giggling like a madwoman. Finally, after a few long seconds she got herself under control. She then turned toward me and offered me a little smile.
"Hey girl! You look cute covered in slime! Looks like fun, kind of wish I volunteered for this instead of helping the Potters with theirs." she called out.
"You know, you can always take the next shift!" I said as flicked some of the bubble-gum pink slime toward her. It was thick like frosting and smelled just like strawberries. "Or better yet, you can take my spot!"
"Nah." Madeline said blushing. "This is your show! Besides, I gotta my hands full, I gotta help my sister with our booth and Jamie with her family's booth. But there always next year!" She said as she skipped away and then before my eyes, Madeleine vanished like a ghost into the crowds of people.
The next six or seven minutes was spent clinging to the edge of my seat. Dozens and dozens of people had started to line up to try their luck. Like I said before, there is something about a cute slime cover girl that draws in people. Short of like flies to an open pot of honey. By luck, none of them had any luck, their balls either fell short or missed the trigger. But as the minutes ticked by, I felt the slime starting to drip down, slowly working its way down from the tip of my head, running down my side, my back and down upon the ground. Then through the crowds there game another girl, a girl with long blonde hair, she also had sparkling blue eyes and walking side by side her was another girl, the girl had the same golden blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes, though she was a good head shorter than the other.
I knew both of them. The taller of the two was a girl by the name of Lily and girl standing beside her was her younger sister, a fellow geeket by the name of Jamie. I knew Lily from school, She was two years ahead of me, and was the the captain of the varsity cheerleader squad. Her claim to fame was the fact that she led 'The A Squad'. Now the 'A Squad' was a group of six sometimes seven but never more than eight girls who were the most skilled and talented of the cheerleaders. They were the ones who performed the most dare defining stunts and cheered at most of the football games or baseball games.
"Oh!" Lily cried out as she spotted me sitting there, blushing as I watched the last person stumble away. The fellow had dropped a twenty on four balls, and he had missed all four throws and was now slinking away to go nurse is wounded pride. The man pushed passed Lily and vanished into the crowd that was gathering around the booth.
"Jenny is that you!" She said smiling as she pulled her sister over to the booth. "Oh Jennifer it is you! Wow, talk about like luck! Like I had no idea you were into this kind of thing!" She said as she dropped a bill down on the table and was rewarded with two tennis balls.
"I kind of had to volunteer for it, you know, Ruth got cold feet at the last minute. And had to bail." Ruth was the girl who had volunteered first, and who's spot I had taken. Ruth kind of had this bad reputation at school for being something of a headline chaser. She loved getting showered with praise and being in the spotlight. Ruth and I also had something of a history together. Heck we even started kindergarten together. And yes, even in kindergarten she always had to be at the center of attention. Lily blinked and blinked again.
"I thought she was in King Daughters Hospital? Like I sent her a text, cause you know she missed practice last friday, and I wanted to know why and stuff. And like a few hours later, her mom sent me a text saying they were checking her in to the hospital about a bad case of pneumonia or something." She started to move toward the throwing line.
"More like she snogging her boyfriend down at Bran Park, snogging on one of the park benches and enjoying the cool air. Or maybe she getting a little snogging action from one of those male nurses!" I chirped back, that caused Lily to blush a deep red.
"Okay that enough throwing shade." Lily said as she locked eyes with me. "Anyway, I hope you're ready to get slimed again." She said as she drew the ball back and let it fly. The ball flew through the air and a half second later it smacked the old tin target that caused the bucket above my head to be released, pouring down another two gallons of cold pink slime down on my head.
For what seemed like a solid second and a half the gunge poured down upon me, adding a fresh coat of pink slime to the quickly drying first layer that had half dried due to the heat of the fairy lights and the heat of the night. I knew then, I was in for a hell of a time getting this stuff out of my hair, no doubt I'll attend services tomorrow morning at St. Mary's Episcopal Church with spots of pink gunge still in my hair.
"Wow," I said after the last few ounces of gunge dripped down. "Looks like there some muscle in that pretty little body of yours. I guess you're not such a frail little peddle after all." I said, taking a deep breath. Above me, I could hear another batch of gunge being poured into the plastic bucket. I had only a few more minutes left in my shift and it seemed I would end my shift on getting a third bucket of gunge!
"Wow," Lily said smiling, "I think pink really seems to suit you."
"It would suit you even better!" I said smirking as I watched her face flush with color.
"Maybe, maybe next year you know." Lily said grinning as she tossed her last and final ball toward the target. The ball sailed gracefully through the air and struck the tin trigger and once more the bucket above me was released, letting lose another downpour of gunge! a loud giggle escaped my lips as I leaned back and was rewarded with a face full of gunge. This batch was thicker and and more creamy than the last two. It kind of reminded me of a really thin strawberry milkshake. And we'll that's how my adventure came to an end. My shift ended a few minutes after Lily gunged me. Mom later said I had proven to be the most popular with me raising around a hundred fifty dollars for charity. The booth in total raised around five hundred or so dollars. And here my tales come to an end.