Last Night of the County Fair
Tina May Hall

You win a plastic frog at half-price ring toss, and the hawker urges another game on us, his fingertips stained indigo and trembling. "Something big," he yelps as each ring sails into the air. Across the way, the Ferris wheel endlessly cuts out its steep slice of sky. We've missed the monster trucks and rhinestoned crooners. The crocodile wresting pit is just an oval of damp sawdust. Only the dwarf remains, standing on the gold-painted box, yelling sonnets at the fat lady. A cloud of mosquitoes and pollen and cotton candy fibers balloons above us, some weird blessing. For a moment, I think you are going to propose to me in front of the fry-bread cart, but you are just tying your shoe. Fathers are dragging their children like wounded soldiers over the grass. The Gravitron is still, its doorway a dead mouth exuding the smell of steel and vomit. We are strangers here with the lightbulbs of the concourse burning out one by one overhead. In the corner are the animal sheds and the moldy pies. Someone has cross-stitched the ceiling of the Sistine chapel onto a pillowcase. In the last stall, there are day-old pigs worming against the big flank of their mother, an FFA project gone unexpectedly exponential. For a moment, I can't remember any dream I've ever had. And look at them; their eyes have yet to open.

Tina May Hall teaches at Hamilton College. "Last Night of the County Fair" is from her Drue-Heinz winning collection, The Physics of Imaginary Objects, which will be out soon from the University of Pittsburgh Press.

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Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Omar Omar.

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