Over The Falls

Patsy and Hank go over the falls.

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1. Over The Falls

When the Fair comes to town, breath in and you can smell the hay and straw everywhere you go. They put down straw on the grass, preventing it from getting too muddy should it rain. They put bales down for folks to sit on. Bales are piled up at the side of the rides in the eventuality of someone coming unstuck from their seat and falling out. And the animals get straw to sleep on and hay to chew. 

For weeks after the Fair has moved on to the next town folks are still finding pieces of the stuff in their hats, their clothes, their pockets. Places that don’t even come into contact with the Fair still end up smelling like the barnyard. 

When Hank and Patsy awoke in their motel room on that Saturday morning, near on half a mile from the Fair, the first thing they could smell was the straw. And then the alcohol. 

Patsy reached for the crumpled cardboard cigarette pack on the dusty nightstand and shook one out. She sat up in bed, mouth full of dry spittle from the previous night’s liquor. While fumbling with the lighter she turned to Hank and jabbed him hard in his fat, hairy shoulder. 

‘Hey Hank… Hank! Be a dear and go on out and get me some coffee, won’t ya?’ 

Hank groaned, cleared the mucus from his throat, but didn’t wake. Once Patsy’s cigarette was lit she held the burning lighter next to Hank’s back singeing the thick black hairs. 

‘What the fuu…’ Hank yelled as he jumped out of bed. Patsy creased up with a dirty, phlegm-soaked laughter. 

‘Go on, y’lazy bum. Go get us some coffee.’ She pointed her cigarette towards the door. ‘My mouth’s drier than a nun’s nasty.’ She took a long drag while Hank stumbled around the bedroom trying to work out where he was. In the corner was a large wooden barrel painted in yellow and red and blue stripes. Patsy exhaled, the smoke plumed blue in the morning sun that snuck through the cigarette burns in the untidily drawn curtains.  

Hank pulled his beige wool trousers up on over his grubby grey long johns. He stretched the braces over his shoulders and looked for a shirt. 

‘And bring back some toast too. And jam.’ Demanded Patsy while she leafed through some trashy gossip magazine. 

Hank managed an ‘uh-huh’ in reply as he buttoned up his shirt. His thoughts were thick like porridge and he felt like he had elephants using his head for a dance floor. 

‘And get some bananas down yer neck,’ Patsy shrilled as she lit her second cigarette using the dying embers of the first. ‘I’m gon’ need you to get it up for once ‘fore we go over, d’ya hear? I’ll be wanting a tumble b’fore we go a-tumblin’’. 

Her dirty wet laugh could still be heard through the door after Hank closed it shut. He looked left and right, trying to remember where he could get food. The constant, inescapable mist in Niagara felt cooling on his face. 

 

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Hank and Patsy lay out of breath in the bed, the wreckage of bedsheets pulled up round them. Patsy already had another cigarette on the go and she drained the last from her coffee cup. She contentedly patted Hank on the crotch through the sheet. His expression had changed from the confused bear with the singed shoulder hair from half an hour previous, to more of a bewildered hound.  

“I’m gon’ take a shower, Hank. Gimme something to dance to, hey sweetie?’ She pointed her cigarette toward the accordion and arched her eyebrow. 

Patsy rolled out of bed and took the sheets with her. Hank’s naked body was suddenly hit with the chill of the room. He dragged his heavy bones over to the bathroom door and took down one of the room’s complimentary towelling dressing gowns. He reached over to the accordion and pulled the straps over his shoulders. In his sluggish mood it felt like he was strapping on a fidgeting overweight dwarf.  His mouth tasted of Patsy’s cigarette’s and lipstick. As she turned on the shower Hank opened up the accordion and started to play ‘La Mer’. It was an accordion and they were near the Canadian border, anything other than French chansons would have been rude. 

 

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Shortly afterwards they were dressed. The make up had been applied. The costumes were on. They always wished these Fairs had changing rooms on site because now they had to schlep across town in their outfits which, taken out of context, made them look like secondhand superheroes. 

They both pulled on long grey raincoats and upped the collars in attempt to cover up as much of their outfits as possible. Now they looked like secondhand sex offending superheroes. 

They kicked the empties from their path to the room’s door, loaded up and left. 

As they drove the short distance to the falls Patsy’s restless left leg bounced at a rate as frantic as Hank’s back just an hour before. She sucked hard on three cigarettes during the ten minute ride. 

Hank steered the rusty pickup through the brightly coloured entrance bearing the lightbulb lit legend, ‘Fair’s Fair! Come one! Come All! To the Fair’s Family Fair!’ They rolled their eyes and pulled onto the straw-covered grass, parking in the artist’s area. They could see a crowd over the low fence coo-ing over something. Patsy looked at her watch. 

‘That must be the Strongman pulling ‘em in.’ And sure enough they saw two children rising above the heads of the crowd, being picked up by Walter, a strongman with a list of misdemeanours as long and as thick as his arms. 

Patsy went on ahead while Hank took their gear from the back of the truck. 

 

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Patsy finished her cigarette and got inside the barrel. Hank was already there. The New Orleans’ jazz sounded muffled through the wood. She kissed Hank hard on the mouth, her hands holding his face while she did so then strapped herself in on the opposite side to her husband. There was perhaps about two feet distance between them. They looked at each other, only half aware of the introduction being given to their ‘act’. 

‘You all good, sugar?’ Said Patsy, with a tremble in her voice. 

‘Uh huh’, replied Hank. 

‘You know how I love you so, don’t’cha, Hank?’

‘I know,’ came Hank’s reply. ‘I loves you too, Honeypie.’

They sat in the barrel waiting for the music and introduction to end. Waiting for that damned drum roll to start. 

‘Did you lock the door?’ laughed Patsy. It was something she said to him the first time they did this almost twenty years before. It had since become their little joke, a superstitious charm of sorts. Patsy looked up at the cloudless sky. 

They both smiled nervously and caught each other’s gaze as the music came to an end. The drum roll began. Gorgeous George, the Fair’s compere and roll up man and who only spoke in exclamation marks was reaching the end of his introduction. 

‘Ladies and gentleman! Boys and girls! You’ve travelled from the four corners of the globe to witness the most marvellous of death defying deeds! You’ve seen lion tamers put their heads between the jaws of death! You’ve seen women fighting bears! Strongmen juggling dwarves! You’ve seen sword swallowing savants! But now, hold onto your hats, hold onto your loved ones! The famous husband and wife team - the Masters from Munich!’

Patsy and Hank braced themselves. They knew what was coming next.

‘Audience hold your breath - they’re about to go… over the falls!!’

And with that cue they felt their world begin to spin. Round and round they went. Until there was finally no more ground to roll over and they fell, over the falls. 

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