ut instead of that, I just grabbed Juliette firmly by the wrist, which to tell you the truth seemed oddly willowy, I mean to say, fragile, in the bulk of my hand, I took her by the wrist and started dragging her off the fairgrounds. It may sound peculiar but everywhere I thought to look there was a fat man in a checkered suit leering purposefully at us, but that might have more to do with the state of my nerves than whatever was going on in, well, you know. Juliette had a thoughtful expression on her face. Well, what is it I said. My shoulder-bag she said absently I think Iíve
      The scraping of some confounded carnival canzonetta censored the finish of her sentence. I pulled on that spindly wrist of hers again and got her to the relative tranquility of the stalls where heavy-built men were aiming toy rifles at plastic mock-ups of water-fowl, saying damn the noise in this place. I think I have left my shoulder-bag somewhere, probably said Juliette wiping her nose in the toilet (ping, ping, ping, ricochetting all around us). Juliette was born in Europe and still had the foul habit of calling it a toilet instead of a washroom which made me wince inwardly. Well then I muttered with a rising feeling of dread weíd better have a look. Juliette moved through the crowds as though pulled by an intangible Ariadne and it was all I could do to keep an eye on that undulating bun of hair submerging and then reappearing like a frolicsome porpoise a few armsí reaches ahead. I kept up for a few minutes but then from the corner of my eye I saw what looked like a beheading taking place on a stage to my left. I turned around quite abruptly but it proved to be only a device used for gauging oneís strength by means of a mallet and a machine like an enormous thermometer. It was encircled by young men whose wolven grins exposed rows and rows of sturdy teeth masticating bread and meat. I blanched at the thought, my mind travelling through a grey parade of free associations, coffee mill to tourniquet to mousetrap I reached in front of me to clutch onto the wrist but I grabbed only air. Turning back to try to spot Julietteís bun I saw only the backs of one hundred fat men in checkered suits and letting out a little whimper of horror I started running towards the food area.
      As might be imagined the food area was a strategically bad decision. Man eating is man at his most misshapen and grotesque man the pointless assembly of ligaments fatty tissues and gelatinous organs bundled up in a swath of rubbery skin. But surely the toi... washrooms were nearby that much coud be counted on. I made up my mind to ask a waitress.
      If only there were one about. My attention wandered from a great luminous game-board levitating in mid-air above the diners to the tables with their screaming children hopping about the furniture like contagious infections the puddles of spilled ketchup and squished french fries. To my immediate right sat an overweight gentleman with an orbicular nose engaged in the laborious consumption of large pieces of meat. The chewing sounds he made reached my ears with uncommon clarity the slurping of saliva the clicking of the jaws the juices of the meat savoringly sucked the little gagging noises at the back of the throat the elaborate finale of the swallow. I steeled my nerve. Have you seen a waitress I stammered my voice quavering. The man continued chewing although more contemp-latively. I waited a minute and then said again with more of a note of urgency in the voice have you seen a waitress sir. The man pointed a corpulent finger at his lips and muttered canít you see Iím chewing. At the fairgrounds they always answer your questions with a question. Well yes sir I can I said fairly choking on my oversized tongue I can see that youíre chewing. At my house continued the fat diner his mouth full of half-chewed pork when a manís eating thatís his chance for a little private time and his time for reflection and deep consideration of the dayís happenings and nobody but nobody feels at liberty to jostle him out of that. The father sits himself at the head of the table and raises a fork in his right hand he recited while demonstrating with his own plastic fork and after that the family knows the time for talking is through and itíll be only the content harmony of jaws workiní for the coming twenty minutes or more. Itís all finished when the father puts down his fork onto the plate and you hear that clink and again the fat diner tried to demonstrate and frowned at the failure to clink on the part of the plastic fork and plate. Meanwhile the lumpiness of his cheeks had reminded me of the incident that had taken place not half an hour ago I was with Juliette on the merry-go-round which was the only ride her delicate stomach would permit us to venture upon and we had compromised on the gray horse (I had wanted a fiery black mare: Juliette some limpid white specimen) and seated ourselves upon it only a moment before the thing thrust forward with a mechanical lurch causing Juliette to half fall off of it. She laughed because the situation had its comic side but there was a fanged shadow of fear beneath it because I couldnít pull her all the way back on the gray horse and she was left in the absurd predicament of dangling half-on and half-off with me holding on to her left calf for all I was worth. Which was fine at first but then it seemed that the merry-go-round was collecting speed and soon it was causing the children to holler.
      In scene two we are standing behind the scenes aka amongst the leviathan dump bins while Juliette tries to coax her prudish throat into vomiting. It had been a fearful ride after all. I started wandering off to give her a bit of peace and also because she hates the smell of my cigarettes when of all people who should step out from behind a wall of garbage bins but this fat man in a checkered suit halfway to balding bolero and over-polished brogues. I took out a little box of wooden matches and with my spidery index finger pushed out the miniature drawer to reveal a nursery of eleven match heads and then to my surprise the fat man in the checkered suit was practically breathing down my neck I mean he was right on top of me. I lit myself a cigarette. That smile of his was positively sinister. Our proximity was making me anxious but he wasnít doing anything so I had nothing to react to. The worst part was that he reminded me of my dead uncle Moe yes he was Moe all right down to the suspenders down to the slovenly way he pared his fingernails down to the creamsoupiness of his convex eyes. Uncle Moe was a man who tormented us all with the fact of his company laughed when I hurt myself and when I call to mind Uncle Moe it is in his workshop surrounded by long hanging bodies at that uncomfortable in-between stage not animal and not yet meat and I swear to you that smell haunts me still. This man wasnít Uncle Moe whose body wasnít recovered by the police until five days later incidentally he was his own corporal entity all right but the UncleMoeness in his every gesture had my nerves a-tingle from the start I tell you. He studied the way I lit my cigarette and pseudononchalantly breathed in a bit of smoke and then he said Iím surprised you have left her alone. Sorry I mumbled absently that girl with the straight brown hair he quickly clarified which was odd enough for me to look him in the eye which seemed to be free-floating unhooked from its moorings. It was Juliette the girl with the straight brown hair. What the hell do you mean by telling me that I blurted as he held up the palm of a hand to test if it had started to rain (it had; little pearls of rain-water were slipping into the finely-wrought canals in his palm). His reply was to flash me his macabre grin which he then concealed so instantly under a poker face that I was to doubt the efficacy of my own senses i.e. did the smile ever exist at all before turning on his heel and making silently off.
      Landscape with bewildered, smoking man and garbage-disposal units.
      Wherein I moved with a grave immediacy to the spot where I remembered depositing Juliette whose face was strangely colorless when I at last saw it. She claimed she had staggered off to the toilet and when she came out there was this obese checker-suited... but whatís the matter she crooned I had presumably blanched like a boiled almond.
      Well and then we were off! Wrist crowd bun beheading wolves jaws snap-snap fat man food-area and thenÖ
      Iíll tell you a thing or two chum about why the familyís in such a sorry state know what Iím saying. It is because the sacrosanct zone of the supper table father children salt and pepper mother cutlery what have you is being sold for a song.
      He paused here and in fact Pop Goes the Weasel was shimmering was echoing through the length of the food pavilion. The pause allowed me to focus why was I listening to this man sermonize on his two-penny dinner-table philosophy anyway. With the flat of my open palm I brusquely pushed the fat dinerís nose so that he toppled over in his chair cursing loudly. Everyone swiveled to have a good look. The diner resembled to no small degree an overturned turtle and the combined chaos of the place compelled me to look for the washrooms on my own waitress or no. I looked up again and there were those blinking lights whose constellations formed numbers I fancied that they were part of some great bingo game or something and what if the numbers continued to grow higher and higher until all of the game-players stopped in mute awe and something was reached that wasnít just another number but something hit my jaw a fist probably and I went swooping to the floor.
      I woke up and thanks to the blood my ear was stuck to the floor. The setting had changed a third time I mean it was the same dingy food court but the light had dimmed the numbers had stopped their twinkling there was the sound of a broom in some remote corner sweeping up broken glass and the pale glow of a piece of the moon visible through the window. All the people had gone home for the night except that fat man in the checkered suit who was standing just over me and lighting himself a cigarette. My heart unused to such exertions as the day had showed it gave an audible groan of anticipation as this new trauma caused it to thrash about in my chest like a fish thrown in a boat. It was no picnic I tell you. I lifted my ear off the ground and it made a sound like a cork coming out of a bottle of wine and with difficulty I tottered to my feet brushing the food bits off of my pants and noting with annoyance that I had been lying in a puddle of cola. When he spoke it wasnít to me but it was an address to the cosmos hurling abuse casting scorn shaking his fist reddening in the face dabbing the sides of his face with an enormous cotton-candy colored handkerchief. Then he cut himself off in mid-sentence as though something had just occurred to him and he looked as though he were about to sob. Pardon me I said but have you seen my friend and noticing the benumbed expression on his face I clarified with the straight brown hair. His features thawed and he ran his great hands through his sweat-soaked hair causing it to stand up on end saying in a hushed voice by the time I arrived at the ferris wheel there was nothing anyone could possibly do.
      Of course, when I think of Juliette... when I think of Juliette I know that these are hopeless falsehoods. I know that I received a smallish white envelope with my name badly misspelled in a crimpy hand as the addressee. I know that the contents assured me of the untimely death by drowning of Ms. Juliette Tartan. That it happened at the fair. I will sound as though I am justifying my harmless fantasy by dint of absence of factual details. On the contrary; my shame lies in the current explanation and apology, attached with a garish and conspicuous bit of twine. But how else to make you flip back to the start, where I am grasping still through that surging crowd for that perennially absent wrist? To plead with me to extinguish an untimely cigarette from behind the muting curtain of years?