I put my glasses on and realized that the two girls on the bridge were engaged in a spitting contest.
They threw their heads back, holding onto the bridge rails firmly, then hurled themselves forward and spat into the Back River waterfall, following the results with steadfast gazes of the Olympic Games judges and victorious shrieks.
“How do you think the man in the Dunk Tank felt?” I stopped rapidly on the street corner preventing Monkey Princess from seeing the spitting tournament.
Monkey Princess was very happy with the Springfield, Vermont, street fair in general, and its biggest hit, the Dunk Tank, in particular. The dunkees were all middle-aged men, dark-tanned, soaked and mumbling incoherently. The dunkers were all children, wet from the splatters, crazy with the entertainment allowing them to humiliate one adult at a time, by sending him into the water.
It took Monkey Princess five balls to hit the mark on the lever, but the impact was still too weak to make the seemingly sleepy man with a horseshoe-shaped moustache in the chair above the water tank fall. Shots were free (“Pay what you want. A dollar is fine,” the lady in charge of the madness repeated, making the point that the purpose of the entertainment was the not the money). The line was too long and impatient though. So, the dunk tank lady put the sixth ball in Monkey Princess’s hand, pushed her toward the lever, and hit the mark with Princess’s hand holding the ball.
“Well, I dunno.” The Monkey Princess shrugged. “I guess, that’s his problem!”
Metida caught up with us, chewing on a grilled corn.
“Cha-arming town!” She announced excitedly. “We’re so lucky that we chose a nearby hotel on our way to Canada, and they happen to have a fair today! What state are we in again, Vermont or New Hampshire? Anyway, I’d like to find some local architectural attractions!”
Metida rushed towards the girls on the bridge who were arguing about who won the last spitting round.
‘Wha-at?” The girls stared at Metida, puzzled.
“This is Springfield. Our Springfield.” The blonde girls with tattooed thighs sniffed. “There are no architectural attractions here. Unless you count a movie theater where premiere of ‘The Simpsons Movie!’ was, since the cartoon Simpsons live in Springfield, too. There are thirteen Springfields in the country, so we beat the others for the premiere.”
“Nothing is going on here. Ever!” The brunette girl with pierced lips complained. ”Well, during the World War Two, we were named the seventh most important bombing target in the country, because of the military factory here. Nobody even bothered to at least bomb us!”
At the hotel, Monkey Princess couldn’t fall asleep.
“That must be his problem!” She whispered. “Nobody forced this man to sit in the dunking chair, right?”
She rolled over in the bed.
“Why was he there?”
“I dunno.” I mumbled. “Maybe their community pool got closed. Or they don’t have one. And these men were dying to swim a little. Or they just like to make children laugh.”
In the morning, Monkey Princess refused to get in the car.
“I’m a terrible person!” She cried. “How could I do that? What was I thinking? I sent a grown up man into a tank filled with cold water, and for what? Just for the laughs! I can’t live with myself now! I need to apologize to the man I dunked yesterday!”
Metida and I looked at each other.
“I guess, it’s only ten extra minutes of driving,” I sighed. “Let’s see what happens.”
There was nobody on the town square. Springfield was empty and eerily quiet, as if all living souls abandoned it for good.
Monkey Princess resumed her desperate crying.
When we were passing the bridge over Black River Waterfall, a police motorcycle appeared on the opposite side of the road, moving very slowly.
“Hey, officer!” I pulled over and got out of the car, waving. “Can we ask for a little help?”
The officer stopped and looked at me as if I was a dangerous criminal.
“We’re a little lost. Is this the right way to Hanover?” I decided to start the conversation lightly.
The officer nodded, with a sigh.
“Thank you so much! By the way, do you know a good place to eat there?”
“Sorry.” The officer looked at me perplexedly. “I’ve never been to Hanover.”
“You see, they had a Dunk Tank here yesterday.” I pressed on. “And our daughter here wanted to say sorry to a man whom she dunked. But he is not here, obviously. He had these distinctive moustache, shaped like a horseshoe.”
“That would be Rick.” The officer stated.
Monkey Princess got out of the car and whispered:
“Can you tell him that I’m sorry?”
“Yes, could you do us a huge favor and please tell Mr. Rick, whenever you see him, that our daughter was so sorry for dunking him in the water yesterday? Please!” I begged.
The officer checked our New York car plate number, and shrugged understandingly:
Monkey Princess smiled and made a cartwheel on the pavement.
“These bums,” the officer muttered, starting his motorcycle engine. “Why are they even allowed to play cards? If they can’t pay their card debts, well, at least they could entertain children once a year at the fair instead, for their debts to be written off. Kids are happy. The old penniless sluggards, I guess, should be, too.”
“What a good hearted child we raise!” Metida said, happily, getting inside the car. “Hey, where is our good hearted child?”
We looked around, in horror.
Monkey Princess stood on the bridge, holding onto the rail firmly and spitting into the Black River Waterfall as far as she could.
After an especially long spit, she whispered “Yes!”, gave herself high five with both hands – and looked at us victoriously with her bottomless blue eyes, changing shades, with each new blink, in the light of the rising sun over the apricot mountains.