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by Sarah Stock

Ever wonder why grownups are so crabby? Crabby is the word my parents used because they couldn’t say “pissed off” in front of an eight-year-old. “Old enough to know what’s going on,” Daddy said when he swore in front of the Ferris wheel. Ferris wheel seats hold three people, but Daddy wanted to stay on the ground and watch. “Watch me ride with no hands, Daddy!” Daddy didn’t hear me because he was trying to ignore the empty seat next to Mommy. Mommy tried not to glare at the tent where the lady from Daddy’s office was giving away cotton candy. Cotton candy was my favorite kind of candy and the lady seemed really nice. Nice ladies worked with my Daddy all the time and he always told them all about me without mentioning Mommy. Mommy didn’t like that. That lady didn’t take her eyes off Daddy until we were all the way out of her tent.

Tents at the fair hold a lot of things. Things like pretty ladies that Dad likes and pretty clothes that Mom likes, but my favorite tents hold the tiny circuses. Circuses like that only need one tent and there aren’t as many people yelling. Yelling is something that I’m not allowed to do because sixteen years makes me a young lady. “Young lady, don’t be rude!” Mom said when I told her I didn’t want to ride on the Ferris wheel anymore or take a picture with a stupid circus clown. Clowns stare at you with their cheesy painted smiles. Smiles like that remind me of the first (and last) time we sat in the tiny circus tent together. Together meaning Mom and Dad and me — no nice ladies. Ladies did somersaults on horses and a man juggled chainsaws, but the threat of danger didn’t leave them with any fear. Fear was the moment I looked at my parents, holding hands without looking at each other before we rode the Ferris wheel, and realized that I would not be seeing tightrope walkers for the first time ever.

Sarah Stock is a student at Carroll University in Wisconsin.

Lead image: “Cotton Candy (Explored)” (via Flickr user Kate Ter Haar)