After our brief running from the bulls session, we slowed our gait. People along the parade route fanned themselves with flyers or used paper plates, and a few fortunate souls even showcased a couple of cardboard funeral fans fastened to extra wide tongue depressors, items I hoped didn’t give insight into their recent past experiences nor foreshadow their immediate future. I wore jeans and a sleeveless top, but even those seemed heavy under the sun. I looked back at Callie, who was raising her long hair and wiping her neck.
“It’s a lot warmer than I thought it would be,” she said. “I wish I’d worn shorts.”
“Let’s get something to drink.” We wove a trail over to a hamburger stand that advertised local favorites. As soon as I saw Fluffy Fries on the menu, I was on the hook no matter how deeply they dug into my wallet.
Six dollars later, I had a plate of both sweet potato and regular fries in one hand, and a small rainforest of napkins in the other. I spotted a small area of shade off the road, and we dodged other attendees as we closed in on the oasis. As with other mirages in blazing climates, this one also proved to be an illusion just a few seconds later.
I spoke to Callie, but the Harley Davidson segment of the parade was passing our piece of real estate at that moment, so I turned my head to repeat myself. That’s when I felt the telltale squish of a big pile of doggie remembrance. I stopped dead in my tracks and fixed Callie with a look that let her know we were at Defcon One.
She froze and her eyes grew large. “What is it, Aunt Traci?”
I slowly inclined my head to survey the damage and saw at once that while it was too late for my right foot, we could still salvage her flip flops and open air piggies if we kept our heads about us. “Don’t move, hon. I want you to slowly take two steps back and then wait for instructions.”
She looked down, saw the gravity of the situation, and gingerly began to retreat with the care one might use in a rattlesnake confrontation. As soon as she was out of danger, I tossed her my valuables and then used a long arm extension to transfer the Fluffy Fries. Once I had my hands free and could devote my attention to the task at hand, I began the extraction process. Callie called out encouragement, and I was keeping a stiff upper lip until I looked over and saw an overweight dad with a diaper bag laughing at my predicament. This was probably the type of man who knocked over little, old ladies and drop-kicked kittens on the weekends. He was lucky my niece was in charge of the fried delicacies, or he would’ve been wearing six bucks worth of Idaho exports.
I pulled my shoe free with a sickening suction sound, and the aroma that wafted up made my recent purchase seem like a bad investment. I was relieved that only one soldier was down, so I began a series of toe heel movements on the grass with my right foot that resembled a sock hop. After removing as much canine memorabilia as possible, we found another shaded location and sat down to eat. Ever try eating your lunch surrounded by number two? After ten seconds with my leg extended in The Karate Kid flamingo pose, I finally had to remove the offending apparel and cast it several feet away. I lacked my former enthusiasm for the Fluffy Fries and ate mostly out of financial obligation rather than for dietary desire. Callie also made a poor showing, so we finally just tossed the remains and I reclaimed my shoe.
We made our way around the various vendor stalls, and I must say, that if you’re going to step in dog poop, a parade is an excellent location because no one can smell you over the horse manure baking on the asphalt. We browsed through booths with painted gourds, crocheted pot holders, knives that hinted at 10 to 15 years in maximum security, and guns with interesting wood grains, because in South Georgia, it’s just not a festival until firearms have been displayed. Every time I passed a large breed dog, I’d shoot him an accusing look as if to demand, “Are you the one?” but no one confessed to petty vandalism. I bought some local honey and a mason jar of watermelon rind jelly, and we came to the end of the gauntlet.
Timing was finally on our side, and we saw the last of the horses ride past, denoting the end of the parade and the ability to cross the street again. As we crossed with the masses of people balancing funnel cake and pushing strollers with wheels that go in every direction except the one desired, I told Callie that I was planning to go horseback riding in the near future.
“I don’t know. It just sounds like something fun to do. Want to come?”
She evaluated the proposition before admitting, “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been horseback riding. Maybe one time when I was little, but then again, that could have been a goat.”
That answer stopped me in my tracks, and a lady hellbent on a slice of red velvet cake bumped into me. “What do you mean it might have been a goat? I’ve never heard of goatback riding before.”
“Well, I was little. It’s hard to remember.”
“Must have been Himalayan goats if they were putting children on them.” She giggled, and we bought our own slice of chocolate cake, which was a masterpiece of sixteen layers.
We melted our way down the other side of the street, and I had the good fortune to spy a puddle that was just deep enough for a sole cleansing. By the time we made it back to the car, we were sweated down like field hands and every bit as grumpy as some of the disgruntled toddlers we had seen earlier. The thermometer inside the car read 93 degrees when I first started up, and I could only dicker it down to 90 after ten minutes of full-blast AC. We pulled out of our roadside parking spot and made our way home, my naive nature thinking we were done with the excitement for the day.
© 2012 – Traci Carver