The Iron Writer Challenge #203
2017 Summer Solstice Challenge #9
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
(Authors names will be posted to their stories next Thursday, after the voting is concluded.)
A State Fair
Nursing a broken heart
A Song to Soothe the Soul
As the radio wailed, he took a swig from his longneck, his eyes on some distant spot only he could see.
When you can’t find the light
That got you through the cloudy days
When the stars ain’t shinin’ bright
You feel like you’ve lost your way
When the candlelight of home
Burns so very far away
Well, you got to let your soul shine
Just like my daddy used to say
He used to say soulshine
It’s better than sunshine
It’s better than moonshine
Damn sure better than rain…
“That’s Soulshine. You know who wrote that?”
“I always thought it was Greg Allman.”
“Close. Warren Hayes. He played guitar with the Allman Brothers.
“Man, I sure felt like I had no more soulshine when she dropped me. Guess she thought Mama knew best. I was so glad to get that gig at the state fair in Perry with that group out of Muscle Shoals that I broke my own rule about working in one-horse towns where the sidewalks close at dusk. The band had just finished its last set and we were breaking down the stage, and there she was. Big old blue eyes, cute little figure. By that time any hope of finding a beer was gone ‘cause everything was closed, so I thought, what the hell. Nothing better to do. ‘Excuse me, do you work here?’ she asked, her eyes all shiny like watching us break down that stage was the most exciting thing in the whole world. If all you’ve seen is Perry, Georgia, I guess it was.
“So, after the gig ended, I figured I’d stay a few days. Six weeks later I’m still there. I’d pick her up from work. Went to church with her. She even got me to lay off the booze for a while. I’d gone from being a roadie to being a toadie. When I think of the money I blew trying to win her that teddy bear. And then we watched those little bitty six-year-olds showing off their baby lambs. Okay, I’ll admit that those kids were something else. So cool and composed. Maybe that’s what growing up on a farm does for you. Hell, you know I normally don’t go in for that kind of small-town B. S. Very Andy-effing-Griffith, without Opie and Aunt Bea.
“In the whole time we were together, all I got for my trouble was lots of smiles and a few kisses at her door before her mama chased me away with those laser eyes that could kill. After all my good behavior, her mama still hated me. Knew I was bad news. She could see me coming a mile away.
“I am one big, certifiable Class A dope, but maybe that life has some appeal. Does love make us that stupid, or are we just trying to live in a Father Knows Best rerun? From now on I’ll invoke the mantra of the four F’s like when I was in high school—find ‘em, feel ‘em…you know the rest.
“Thanks for listening, man. Maybe I’ll catch you in Nashville. I just got hired on with Vince Gill.”
It is once again time for the state fair in Toad Lick, Kentucky. The locals look forward to this every summer. It’s a week-long event that is part of the Founders’ Day celebration. Along with the normal carnival rides, there are different events all week long. They have the pie judging contest, the watermelon seed spitting contest, demolition derby, a sister cousin beauty pageant, and many other events, but tonight is the awaited moonshine tasting event. Billy Joe Bob is proud of his entry. He proudly calls it Starlight. Of course, it’s about 180 proof so he thinks he has a very good chance of winning.
Poor Billy Joe Bob just has to win tonight. You see he is nursing a broken heart. He received a note the other day from his girlfriend, breaking off their relationship. She wrote:
Dear Billy Joe Bob,
I can’t be your girl no more because I loves Cooter Floyd Delmont. You are really nice an’ all but Cooter has his own pick-up truck and a brandy new trailer. I still like you some and we sure can still be cousins, but that be it.
Cousin Claudine Jo Clifton
So you see why that winning tonight is so important to him. He figures if he wins tonight then Claudine Jo will come back to him and he won’t have to wait for family gatherings to see her. Winning the best moonshine is very prestigious in Toad Lick. As a matter of fact, the winner last year was voted in as mayor and trailer inspector, so good things do happen to the winners.
It was time for the moonshine tasting and Billy Joe Bob is as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. His is the last one to be tasted and he didn’t like the looks on the judges’ faces as they sampled the jars before his. They were seemingly very impressed with what they tasted before they moved down to his jars. The three men soon approached the young man and each tasted his shine. He heaved a sigh of relief when the judges seemed to enjoy it. A few minutes later, the judges returned to the table and took a drink from two other contestants and from Billy Joe Bob.
The judges huddled up and made their decision. Billy Joe Bob shouted for joy when they placed the blue ribbon on the jar they tasted from. Billy Joe Bob was even more excited when Claudine Jo Clifton, smiled proudly, showing all four of her teeth and rushed up on the stage, hugged him. She told him she was sorry for leaving him and asked if he would take her back. The judges then asked him to be the grand marshal in the Founders’ Day parade and Billy Joe Bob beamed with pride. He won the best moonshine contest, was asked to be grand marshal in the parade and got his cousin girlfriend back. All is right in Toad Lick tonight.
Saved by the Belle
Even the moonshine wouldn’t numb the pain from his bleeding heart. “Alcohol fixes everything,” they said. But not this time. Neither could the beautiful lights nor the jovial energy that flowed at the State Fair, bring him out of the dark hole that love, rather the lack of it, had dumped him into.
Thousands of stars above, reminded Adrian of the tears he had cried, over the recent loss of his relationship. The starlight too, proved useless in brightening up his mood.
“Why did they have to drag me out of my room? I was perfectly fine wallowing in my misery. Nobody at college even noticed I was gone,” he shouted to nobody in particular.
“Maybe they just felt guilty for leaving you behind?”
He jumped, almost dropping the blade that he was holding. It had become his accessory over the last week as thoughts of suicide played on his mind with every aching second that passed.
The unexpected reply caught him off-guard and he squinted as his eyes adjusted to see the person it came from.
“It’s not nice to eavesdrop, you know,” he said, still unable to grasp a clear view.
“Well, you’re the one shouting, I wouldn’t like unanswered questions, so I was obviously doing you a favor!” She said. “By the way, what’s eating you?”
Wow, she’s blunt. Maybe if I ignore her she’ll go away.
He stared on in silence.
“I’m Belle, just so you know. I too, was dragged here. I’d rather be home with my nose in a book instead of this over-the-top celebration. It’s so commercialised, these fairs. And everybody just goes wild over it. There are more important things to spend money on, but hey, what to I know?” she said, brushing her hair back in exasperation.
She was a beautiful girl around his age, he noted still brooding in silence. She sat beside him seemingly oblivious to the absence of his speech while she rambled on, making up for the loss of conversation from his side. She was clearly not taking the hint.
“Go away, please. It was hard enough finding this secluded spot away from all the “happy people” and now you’re intruding on my isolation.”
“Excuse me? You’re the intruder. I was here first!” She said, bemused.
Standing to go, he halted in surprise as she grabbed his hand. Using him as a lever, she stood. “Wait,” she said as their eyes met.
A heavy sigh escaped him as she scribbled something onto a page from the notebook she had used as a seat, earlier on.
“Here.” She placed the paper in his hands. “Sometimes all we need is a stranger to listen.” And with that, she had disappeared into the night.
That was the night, ten years ago, Belle had saved him. Deep down, he knew that she knew it too. They became good friends since he took that leap of faith and called her.
Happily married for five years, they sometimes still laugh nervously about their initial meeting, lucky to have found each other on the night, that life would have been lost.