Lauren and I spill out of her mother’s car at the entrance to the carnival. We wear T-shirts knotted at the side to reveal a sliver of stomach, Calvin’s so tight we laid down to zip them. After we buy spiraling strips of tickets, Lauren pulls me into the crowd. The smell of hot oil, of popcorn, of sweat. We’ve got to go on the Zipper, I say. When I was little, I found dimes, keys, condoms, slips of paper with phone numbers that fell from people’s pockets when the ride was upside down. All their hidden little secrets. I nudge Lauren with my elbow. She looks around: I had no idea this was prime guy territory. We consider the possibilities. We giggle at boys with pimples, boys in khakis, boys who didn’t look like they could play “Stairway to Heaven” on the guitar or pierce their ears with a safety pin and an ice cube. We like them punk; we like them bad; we like the rockers and the skaters. We bat our eyes at them—and then turn away. We share a plume of cotton candy and I wonder if boys’ kisses would melt in our mouths to syrup. In the stale heat of the fortuneteller’s tent, the fortuneteller tells Lauren, I see a green-eyed boy, a blue-eyed boy, three men with hazel eyes. You, she turns to me, I see a cage of your own making. Outside, we can’t stop laughing. I’m going to jail. Lauren asks, But for what? We consider the possibilities. As we stagger off the Falling Star, a green-eyed boy asks Lauren if she’s a Tri Delt; his friends cry jailbait and pull him away. Let’s find your blue-eyed boy, I say. On the Ferris wheel, we blow kisses to the boys in Germs concert tees swaying in the car behind us. We hide behind the Shooting Gallery when they look for us after the ride. We wait in line for the Zipper, Lauren’s hair in my mouth as I whisper in her ear. Screams come from the Zipper’s enclosed cars, as the cages spin, turn upside down. And then: a hand slips between my legs, from the back to the front zipper, squeezing, moving to the back again. I whip around. These boys in Polo shirts and OP shorts. Laughing. One boy says to the others, Smell my hand. My face heats. My legs squeeze together and I shrink. The carnival barker holds open a cage door. He leers; his pupils are dilated. My ladies. I look at the ground and follow Lauren to our cage. The barker pushes the lap bar snug, latches the door shut. The ride lurches forward. What’s wrong with you? Lauren asks. I make sure the pockets of my jeans are empty, clutch my purse on my lap. Hold my hand over my mouth. So none of my secrets will tumble out.
Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California. Her short fiction has been published in Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, The Rumpus, Little Fiction, Necessary Fiction, Sundog Lit, and elsewhere.