Twilight was settling over the fairground. The savory smell of southern cooking filled the cool, crisp early autumn air. The air was filled with the sound of children laughing and of vendors calling out the quality of their goods. Over the heads of many, bright Christmas lights burned. Adding their own flare to the colorful lights of the rides that tossed and spun around, those were the chief source of the many screams and swears that filled the cool air.
Toward the far side of the grounds, nestled among a collection of fair games and sideshows there stood a dunking booth. Now in the southern united states, the dunking booth was often crowned queen of the carnival/fair. And working the booth this year, where the girls of "Roses Tea Room n' Bakery." Behind the counter top constructed of cheap plywood and painted a dark midnight black and trimmed with a ribbon of pink. There stood four girls, all dressed in frilly dresses. Among them dressed in plainer versions, where three younger girls who were acting as helpers. With light feet they skirted around the area, collecting stray tennis balls.
Behind the helpers, there stood the dunking booth, a round oval pool, one holding roughly around three hundred gallons of ice cold water. Sitting upon a plastic plank was a girl, roughly around the age of sixteen or seventeen. She wore a peach colored dress that was trimmed with white lace around the helm and the sleeve. She had long raven colored hair that was pulled back in a nice neat bun. Her light blue eyes seemed almost to sparkle in the orange and gray overcast sky. Smiling a soft smile, she traced the tip of her toe into upon the coolness of the water.
"Hey Susie Q!" She called out as she spotted one of the younger girls collecting stray balls. The girl was one of the youngest of the lot. At there suggestion, she had pulled her long brown hair back in a high ponytail. A pastel blue ribbon had been tied at the base of the hair. The girl was short for her age, twelve or thirteen, she could not recall off the top of her head. "Go out there and give it a go girl. Maybe if the crowd sees you ducking me, that would bring them in. After all, if you want to catch catfish, first you gotta chum up the water really well."
Susan blinked and blinked again as she noticed somebody calling her name. Looking up from her collecting. She peered toward the girl sitting in the dunk tank. Knitting her brow in deep concretion she peered toward her for a good minute as she mentally scanned all the names of people she knew or had encountered in the last week or so.
"Oh! Okay Lana." Susan chirped as she finished picking the last four stray balls. Her basket now full, she dropped it with the other three baskets, all filled to the brim with neon yellow tennis balls. Looking up and giving Lana a wicked little grin, she selected four balls from the stack. "Gotta warn you though, I'm a pretty good pitcher."
Lana blinked and blinked again, smiling a little she stuck out her tongue and peered toward Susan. Susan was quickly becoming the pet of the group. A over eager learner and a silly goose to boot. "Now, I'm going to heckle you a little. Take notes, because after you dunk me, your going up here." She said with a wink. "And trust me, you get a good view of the fairground. Might even get your boyfriend to dunk ya."
Susan blushed deeply, that was one of the worst kept secret in the school, that she and Brian William Wayne Walker. Where a idea. Not that it mattered to anybody. Sue, despite a number of odd adventures and having some connection to the high rolling social world, was still at her core a simple, down to earth tomboy who liked to dress up for special occasions or when ever the mood took hold of her.
"Come on now!" Chirped Lana. "Stop all that blushing Susie Q and get with the throwing. Gotta give these folks a show. I mean how else are we supposed to raise money for the children's wing."
Susan smirked a little as she wrapped her fingers around the hard ball. Taking a deep breath she cleared her mind, she slowly released her breath, as she released, she drew back and let the ball fly. The ball sailed through the air and with a thud, it overshot the target and bounced back before landing on the ground.
"Dang Susie Q!" Lana said smirking as she peered toward the girl. "You missed on your first go! Gotta say you gave me a scare there. I mean with ya'll boasting about being a great pitcher and all." Lana gave her a toothy grin. "Seems like your nothing but hot air girl!"
Susan blushed a little and stuck her tongue out. "I'm going to sink you Lana. Just you wait and see."
"Shaking in my boots." She said grinning a little as toward Susan. A small crowd had now gathered around her. Young boys in jeans and button down shirts were not jostling to get a turn, for they too wanted to sink the pretty lady sitting above the three hundred gallon tank of water. Behind them stood older brothers, dressed in blue jeans, with white button down shirts tucked into the waistline. Caps of all kinds rested easily on their heads. Some of the caps featured popular sports teams, others featured a popular line of truck or car.
"Come on now." One boy, a little older Susan said from behind her. "Been mighty warm today. And the girl looks like she needs a nice cold bath to cool off." His voice was thick with the long drawn out twang of the hill people.
"Ya'll don't need to shy about it." Another boy chimed in. "Shushing about like that, teasing the poor girl like that. Naw have I seen such a thing." His rustic accent filled Susan's ears. And made her shiver.
"Come on Susan!" Shouted Lana from her perch high above the tank of water. "Toss that ball and let me have it, or give it to one of those gentlemen and let them have a go. These ones on the house now boys." She said winking toward the two country boys come to town. "But remember, next time you'll have to buy the chance to dunk me, three balls for five dollars. All profit goes to the children's hospital!"
Susan smirked a little. As she fixed her eye upon the trigger. Taking a deep breath she let the ball fly, a split second later, a loud digging sound filled the cool evening air as the trigger was hit and plank gave way, dropping Lana down into the freezing cold water below.
Lana barely had time to scream as the plank holding her up gave way, sending her dropping like a stone down into the ice cold water. A sudden chill passed over the whole of her body. For the longest fifteen seconds of her life, she floated around the bottom of the tank, allowing everybody on the fairgrounds to get a good view of her swimming around the tank.
Soon she resurfaced, her long black hair hung loose around her shoulders, dripping wet. Her lips were twisted in a pout. Taking a deep breath, she pushed the plank back into place and climbed back up. Susan still had one ball. After taking a minute to collect her thoughts, she breathed in and then out.
"Okay Susie Q. '' She said casually tossing around the girls nickname. "You still have one more toss to go. I think that strike was nothing more than a lucky toss. Y'all gotta do it again to prove you got the skill girl."
Susan took a deep breath and stuck her tongue out, then rearing back her tossing her arm, she let the ball fly again. The round, neon yellow tennis ball sailed through the air, and struck the trigger with a loud sounding ding.
Lana could only take a deep breath as she felt the wooden plank under her give way, sending her dropping again like a stone down into the three hundred gallons of ice cold water. The water was a little colder this time around, and her dress once more seemed to mold to her skin as she felt the water rush on her. Chilling her to the very bone.
Cleaning some of the water from her eyes, she looked over and smiled toward Susan. Grinning a big smile she turned toward the crowds and gave them a big thumbs up. This jester earned her a roaring applause. Still smiling, she gently climbed out of the tank and walked over to where Susan stood. Smirking toward the girl she reached over and brought her into a nice tight hug. For a solid minute, she kept her arms wrapped tightly around the girls slender frame.
Susan blushed deeply as she felt herself being drawn into the hug. Taking a deep breath, she hugged back, wrapping her slender arms around Lana's soaking frame. For a solid minute the two stood, there embracing each other as sisters. Then Lana finally broke away from the hug, smiling a broad grin she peered toward the gathered crowds. After a minute of prolong silence she spoke.
"Ya'll see." She started in a country twang. "We girls at 'Rose's Tea Room and Baker' are more than just coworkers, where a band of sisters, bringing you guys the freshest cakes and pies money can buy, and the sweetest sweet tea in the whole state. And we like to have fun too."
Lana squeezed Susan's shoulder and brought her close to her side. Allowing her to share in the spotlight. Blushing deeply, Susan offered a little wave to the gathered crowds. Quickly she took a deep breath and buried her blushing face, into the soaking wet folds of Lana's dress.
"Now." Lana said nudging Sue forward a little. "Susie Q here is going to take the stand, while I get cleaned up and dried off. And since Susie Q here is only a apprentice maid. Where going to cut you a deal, three balls for only four dollars. A saving of one dollar per toss."
Susan rolled her eyes as another deep blush colored her cheeks. Taking a deep breath she started toward the back of the tank, her heart was fluttering, her palms started to become sweaty. Bracing herself, she placed one hand upon the iron rung and her foot upon another. Pulling herself up, she climbed the small ladder, then easing forward a little, she scooted onto the plank. Once she was in position, she folded her hands in her lap and peered out over the heads of the crowd.
Evening had replaced twilight now. A full orange moon, a harvest moon hung high in the sky. Despite being autumn, the air was still hot and humid, and a dozen or so fireflies flicked around, and clouds of moths and other flying insects hovered around the bright burning lights and the lambs set up by the various venders. The fairground was starting to become thick with people. City accents intermingled with country slang, polished southern speech responded to the rough, course manner of the field and deckhands. The whole of Vicksburg society was there.
Susan felt a chill run down her spin as she looked toward the gathered crowd. People were lining up and putting down their dollar bills. A small smile crossed her face as she watched a boy around her age step up. He had short brown hair, a pretty face and a slender frame.
"There there pretty thing you." He said tossing the ball up in the air before catching it. "I hope you're ready to get wet, cause I'm about to dunk y'all silly. Brother Pool, said most them girls that work there are Episcopalians, and y'all nothing more than kissing cousins to the Catholic church, y'all need a good dunking." His thick, country tone of voice shone through. His words were long and drawn out.
Susan blinked and blinked again as she peered toward the boy. His accent and tone of voice bothered her a little, clearly he came from one of hundred or so isolated farms that dotted the ridge that ran from Yazoo City to Vicksburg and divided the rolling flatland from heavily populated towns that branched out from the capital city.
"Where are you from, country boy?" Susan said smiling a little as she dipped her feet into the cold water. Taking a deep breath, she peered toward the boy. He wore a simple, plaid ruby red shirt button down shirt. Old, clean blue jeans and polished cowboy boots.
"Satartia." The country boy said in a boosting tone of voice. "I attend William Seaborg Christian Academy there, yes I do." He said nodding his head. "And I'm a faithful follower of Brother Brian Alex Pool, who's the preacher of Satartia Baptist Church." He said the last part in something of a proud almost boosting kind of way.
Susan blinked and blinked again, she passed through Satartia a time or two, her mother's folks were from there. The place was nothing more than a collection of old houses, centered around a cotton gin. An old country store, and run down Shell station was all the trade the town could boost.
A loud binging sound broke her musing. Taking a deep breath she noticed a lose tennis ball laying on the ground in front of the dunking booth. The country boy was standing there, ball in hand, eyes leveled and a evil grin upon his face as he peered directly toward the target.
"Come on, y'all you can do it! Give this city girl your best shot…" She was cut off, when the plank under her gave way, dropping her into the ice cold water. For a solid minute, everything in her world turned blue, as she dived down in the water, her simple, light blue dress clung to her body, her whole form seemed to be surrounded and molded by water, ice cold water that cooled her blood.
As her head popped above water, she felt her lungs being forced to take a deep breath, grinning a little she then peered toward the fellow who dunked her. Smiling a broad smile she gave him a big thumbs up.
"Good shot there country boy!" She shouted with a broad smile.
She said grinning as she cleared some of the water from her eyes as she pushed the plank back into position. Taking a deep breath, she pulled herself up and peered toward the crowd. The country boy was still standing there, looking like a fox that had just been pulled from its den.
"Never expected that to happen." The country boy said taking a deep breath as he peered toward Susan with a look of utter shock and confusion written deeply in his face.
Susan blinked and blinked again as she climbed back up and eased her soaking bottom down upon the plank. She was slowly getting used to this feeling, the feeling of being helpless and sitting above a tank of three hundred or so gallons of ice cold water, waiting for that one lucky strike to send you dropping down into the drink.
"Can you tell me." She said soothing out her skirt as she peered at the dazed country boy. "What were you expecting?" She said taking a deep breath as she smoothed out her skirt.
"Brother Pool, here said, these things were a hoax. He said these things were not supposed to happen. I thought by hitting the target, that y'all just stay up there and not fall into the water." He shook his head and tossed down his last ball.
"Maw, would not approve of this, And y'all should be ashamed too, up there in that dress, and them stocking, and them things. Maw, like I said would not approve." And with that he stepped away from the booth and vanished to the gathered crowds. Leaving Sue utter confused.
"Man." Susan said, shaking her head. "Somebody needs to get off the farm for a while and come into the city."
"You can say that again girl." Lana said taking a deep breath as she watched the country boy vanish into the crowds. Slowly a little smile appeared upon her face as she watched a saggy black haired boy around Sues age step forward. Smiling like a wolf eyeing a sheep she looked up at Susan. Without pausing, she signed for the boy to come over to the booth.
Susan on the other hand, was blushing like a bride at the holy altar as she watched her boyfriend of eight or nine months slowly make his way through the crowds of people. Fighting through the swirling emotions, blowing round her head, she gently placed her hands down upon her lap and offered the shaggy boy a little smile. This would be the second time, he's seen her sitting above a deep pool of water.
"Hey Brian!" Lana shouted as she waved her hands frantically back and forth. "Over here! Come over here! Sue needs to see you!" She shouted with a broad smile as she then started to point toward Susan, perched above the three hundred gallons of ice cold water.
"Hush you!" Susan said taking a deep as she pouted toward Lana, who was trying to lure Brian over.
Soon though, Brian was standing before the booth. He wore faded blue jeans, a checkered red and white button down shirt. A simple, brown pair of loafers. His raven colored hair was just long enough to be pulled back in a short ponytail.
"Hey." Lane said standing up and walking over to the counter. Smiling a little she leaned over and placed three, round neon yellow tennis balls upon the painted surface. Smiling a little she held up three fingers.
"I'm going to give you one free chance, but under three conditions. The first one, if you dunk Sue, she has to give you a kiss. The second one, if you fail to dunk Sue after three balls, you have to take her place, and she'll be given three balls and a chance to dunk you. And finally, the third and final condition. You two have some fun tonight, take her out, buy her some cotton candy, win her a bear or something. You know, do normal teenage boy and teenage girl stuff."
Susan blushed deeply as she peered toward Brian and then toward Lana as they had there little exchange going on. Taking a deep breath, she leveled her gaze toward Brian. Slowly a little smile formed upon the bow of her lip as she gathered her courage. Quickly before her courage could fail her, she shouted out.
"Come on Brain!" She said grinning a little as she puckered up her lips and blew him a kiss. Her lips had been frosted a strawberry pink, the color of her chosen lip gloss. It was a jester that made the teenage boy blush like mad.
Brain was indeed blushing like mad, as he reached over and took with a trembling hand one of the offered tennis balls. Getting a good grip on the ball, he reared back and tossed the ball toward the painted target. The ball sailed through the cold autumn air. Susan's pale pink eyes followed the path of the ball as it sailed through the air, the ball came within a breath of hitting the target, but sailed harmlessly over the painted target.
"Awww." Lana said taking a deep breath as she watched the ball sail harmlessly over the target and into the waiting safety net behind the switch. "And I was hoping for a first hit wonder." She said shaking her head as she grinned toward the crestfallen Brian. "Anyway lover boy, two more chances."
Susan following Lana's act, folded her arms across her breast and started to pout a little as she peered toward Brian. Taking a deep breath, she eyed the boy. "And I thought you had it in you!" She said pouting a little as her frown turned upside down and a small smile formed upon the bow of her lip.
"Now" She shouted from the plank. "Dunk me and I'll kiss you so hard, you'll see fire workers!"
Lana chuckled a little and rolled her eyes. "And the lover girl raises the stakes a little." She said starting a slow clap. "We'll play Susan, well played." She said in a broad tone of voice. As she rolled her fingers a little. "Anyway take the chance!"
Brain, took a deep breath and once more he reached down and took one of the round, yellow tennis balls into his hand. Closing his eyes, releasing his breath, he drew back and smoothly released the ball from his grip, the ball sailed through the air. Lana's eyes followed it course, and Sue too, seconds later, a loud metal ding was heard, as the plank supporting Sue gave way, sending her down into the pool of water.
Susan blinked and blinked again as the plank, supporting her gave way, and for a brief second, a brief pause in time, she felt herself floating on thin air, before she came crashing down into the water, the coldness swept over her, causing her dress to hike up a little as she floated down to the bottom of the tank.;While Sue was floating, Lana who had been watching the whole thing eyed the boy standing before her.
"Go one." She said taking him by the hand and guiding him behind the booth. "Go ahead and claim your prize! You dunked the girl, now you gotta kiss her." She said nodding toward the edge of the booth. Susan was now starting to break the surface of the water, her long blonde hair hung in lose, tangled knots, her light cotton dress hugged her frame, exposing her budding curves and breast. Smiling a little she grinned toward Brian as she floated up and down in the cold water.
Brian smiled a little as he walked over and gently started to stroke Susan's soggy brown hair. Then it happened, their lips met and locked together, and the two kissed long and hard, under the clear, star twinkling sky of early October.