The officer gave the boy a piece of paper and said write it down. "Tell what it was all about," he said.
People are stupid is probably what it's about. Billy snuck into one of the trailers figuring they would be empty since the carnival was hopping. He couldn't get into in his head that the carnival workers live in those trailers. I don't mean they have a real life. They just work their scams and pitiful shows. But they do live there doing all that people do at home like sleeping and going to the bathroom and the other thing. And so Billy was out of line from the start. I tried telling him how things were. He was bent over. Panting. Hands on his knees. "A guy's after me. Look for a broom. Warn me."
"You shouldn't be fooling around." That's me telling him this. "Those trailers are like their houses."
"I know, but still."
"That's him!" Billy took off. A tall skinny guy no heavier than a goodsize TV went after him batting at Billy with a broom. You bastard he kept calling out. "Bastard! You took anything I'll break your face." He had a shaky little voice like the squeaks that come from those frogs we sometimes catch and cut and drop into a girl's purse where they bleed and wriggle all over her stuff.
I admit it. We did things like this.
"Warren!" This is Billy hissing at me from behind one of the tent stakes. He leaned out and looked for the man chasing him. "Look what I got."
We ducked behind the fried chicken booth where there was a lightbulb hanging on a wire. Al and his girl came up to look. "Let's see it." Al says this.
"I think it's a jewel case." Billy held the thing in his palm. It looked like the front of a phone.
Al's girl laughed in Billy's face, quick and hard. "Them are pills."
"I know they're pills." Billy jumping back and forth--one leg, other leg. "I think they might be drugs or something."
"Let's go." Al pulling his girl by the arm. "I told my cousin I'd go see her a minute."
"Why are you doing it, Billy?" That's me asking him. And I'm telling the truth. I DON'T THINK STEALING IS GOOD.
"Give me another sheet of paper," the boy called out.
The officer placed the paper on the table in front of the boy, holding it flat with both hands. He leaned forward and looked the boy in the eye. It was Saturday; he was annoyed at being called in to bother with this juvenile matter. "What have you gotten to?"
"I'm at the place where Billy stole something and I'm telling him it's wrong."
"Get to what it's about," the officer said, taking his hands from the paper and walking back to his desk. "Don't fool around with all the before stuff."
"It must have been the fat lady's trailer." Billy is telling me this. "It smelled like wet dogs in there. Big dogs. There was some big balloon clothes laying around. I might have got something really good. Maybe jewels. But the broom guy nearly caught me."
Billy was saying these things and some more. I'm giving you the important stuff. We walked along the path between the tents and the trees. He wanted to show me. Golf balls and plastic cups were scattered in the grass next to the path. The fairgrounds was next to a cemetery and golfing course. At the edge to the golfing course were the OB signs. Out of bounds this means and there were the gravestones just behind. Even if their balls go over there golfers aren't allowed to shoot off the graves. But I'm trying to tell you that's just the kind of thing Billy would do and think was funny. We came up to the trailer he had snuck into. The windows were too high so I gave him a boost. He whispered down that the fat lady was back, sitting there doing nothing, and the thin guy with the scraggly mustache was bending over her. Like he was trying to convince her of something important Billy said as he dropped out of my hands and we both crouched down. When it was my turn to be boosted for a look I wasn't so sure. I decided that the guy looked too scared to convince anyone of anything. He hands were shaking and drumming the sides of a chair and his eyes jumped around.
"I'm going to have some fun." Billy's voice was wobbly coming up my legs. "I'll go up to them and drop these drugs on the ground. See what they do."
That was dumb. People in carnivals don't care if you take drugs. They wouldn't either one of them be embarrassed. They'd just laugh. "Besides that guy doesn't look like he's trying to sell her anything. At least not drugs. He looks like he's proposing to a pretty girl."
"Wait a minute. He's taking his clothes off!"
Billy dropped me to the ground. "You're lying to me." We looked at each other. Both of us had seen that fat woman. Billy balanced his fingertips on the side of the trailer waiting for me to cup my hands. "Lift me up there."
"More paper," the boy said, looking up. The officer groaned. "I'm getting to it," the boy said.
"What happened--just write down what you remember happening. That's all we need for now." The officer licked his finger and separated one sheet of paper from a stack next to the typewriter. He walked across the room and sat on the corner of the table where the boy was looking up at him expectantly. He held the blank sheet next to his face, showing it to the boy as if it were a cue-card. "Why you did what you did," he said, dropping the paper on the table.
"No!" I'm telling Billy now. There was a clatter from inside the trailer. It sounded like a chair had fallen over. I was getting a pain in my stomach sinking into my thighs.
"I'm serious!" Billy's whisper was louder than a shout. He was flapping his hands like they were wet. "I want a look." I shook my head. "I got a plan." Billy says this to me as though because two carnival freaks were about to do the dirty thing something had to be done. His plan was doors and windows and loud noises and fire crackers. I turned away and ran back down the path until I got to the spot where I could jump into the open. The ground was softer out there where the crowds moved around in bunches. My shoes pounded up dust. Al's girl was leaning on a post. She says this. "Has your friend tried his pills yet?" Smirking. She was blonde. I guess she was pretty.
I guess that has something to do with what happened.
"I'm getting to it!" he called out to the man.
It was about love I guess. Not my parents kind. And I was stupid before this night I'm telling you about. I thought love was something somebody gave to you, but the look on the fat lady's face and the skinny guy--man, they were going to grab at it. Hard. I wondered if Al's girl got that look. I'm asking her "Where's Al?""He'll be back."
I looked in the direction of the trailer. The sounds those two freaks must have been making were louder to me than the cranking of the Ferris Wheel or the drum beats of softballs bouncing off the milk jugs in the booth next to us or the rat rat rat of the toy guns knocking down ducks. Thinking about it lifted me right out of there into the bright night above the fairgrounds brighter than anything down here. I didn't like it. My stomach was in knots.
"I'm only fifteen." Al's girl started telling me this. She was scared that Al was still not back. "He told me she was just his cousin. Cousin my ass. I told him he better be careful and love me all his life or I could get him in trouble. He'll be back. It's statue rape."
"I've seen what people do." That's me saying this to her. "A couple of the carnival workers here--I saw them taking off their clothes and kissing. I know what people do."
"One more page! Last one."
The officer shot his left arm straight out, twisting his wrist to let the boy see his watch. "I'm giving you five minutes and one last piece of paper. Finish up."
"You don't need Al."
"How old are you?"
"That's awful young." She.
"You just said you were fifteen." Me.
She didn't say anything else. Billy ran up panting and grinning. "This is how it went." He told us how he had walked into the trailer and caught the two naked. "They weren't even using the bed. She was the bed. He was on top of her. This time he couldn't chase me because he was busy."
I looked at Al's girl. She was walking up and down in front of the post not really listening. "Why can't you leave people alone?" This I say loud to Billy so she would have to hear. But she didn't look my way or say she knew I was right. To her we were just two kids. The same.
Then she turned quick to face us. She says. "Listen you're old enough. Why not? You want a date?" I nodded. "Both of you." She says this looking at Billy. "How much money you two got?" We counted out a pocketful of dollars and change. "One at a time." She turns for the trees saying this.
"I'm older." Billy says this to me. "I'll go first. I know something about it already."
I stood by a guy. He was trying to win a panda bear for a pair of girls that had asked him to toss the softballs for them. He was getting red in the face because the balls kept spinning off the rims of the jugs.And I never got my chance. Billy came back looking stupid and scared. I know he lied to me. He didn't know anything about it. He was yanking at the bottom of his sweatshirt like it didn't fit good enough. He kept stopping and poking his leg. Then he started looking everywhere but at me, around at the rides, up in the sky. Like he suddenly had something more important to think about, like it was the man with the broom that was important still. She walked out behind Billy and was in the open before I had a chance to move for the trees. Not that I wanted to anymore. She was crying.
"Have you gotten to what it's about?"
"Just did. She's crying. I'm embarrassed. Billy's a jerk."
"So you're finished now?" He motioned for the sheets of paper.
"Yes," and he finished it on the back of the first sheet.
I caught up to Billy and jumped him. Rode his back until he fell. Me hitting him in the shoulder. In the neck. Broke his arm I guess. Kicked him in the back of the head. Because. The world is sad because of love or something. But I'll take knowing this. It's better than being stupid all your life.
About the author:
Kurt McGinnis Brown has published stories in Glimmer Train, Denver Quarterly, New Letters, American Literary Review and other national journals. Awards include first prize in the Academy of American Poets' Award for Fiction and in the New Letters Literary Awards. His novel Why It's Not Forever was a finalist in the James Fellowship for the Novel. As communications director of an international research center at the University of Wisconsin, Kurt has traveled and worked in El Salvador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Peru, Russia, and St. Lucia. Tales of experiences in developing countries form the basis of an ongoing work called The Motion Stories.