Pulling the right kind of fast one.
Ernest gazed down the length of the midway. Ramshackle games booths and rides sagged under a patient, dark rain.
“Well,” his breath misted into the air, “The season’s gotta start sometime, don’t it Bert?”
Inside the whiffle-ball toss a tall man moved around silently, hanging garish stuffed animals on empty hooks. After that, he shifted his attention to moving the winning colored cups closer to the throwers.
Ernest leaned out of the booth again. Some distance away, a little girl in a bright purple raincoat was coming down the midway holding her father’s hand. She fidgeted at the end of his arm as she hopped into every puddle and talked and talked. Her father answered her babbling in curt, sing-song monotone: “yes,” “no,” and “mm-hmm.”
“Well, I’ll be damned, Bert.” Ernest said on spotting them. “Customers.”
His fingers picking through his wallet, the father followed the little girl, who had already thumped into the side of the booth. She bounced under a large, pink lion dressed in a yellow-and-white striped shirt while urging her dad to hurry.
“Gotcha, huh?” Ernest smiled and shook his head.
“What are you gonna do?” After handing over some money, he asked, “Do you want to throw, Melanie, or should I do it?”
“Aww, that’s too bad, sweetie. So close!” Ernest pouted, looking between father and daughter as if sharing the loss.
“I have an idea.” Bert moved around the booth to where Melanie was throwing. He smiled kindly at her as he spoke. “Throw under hand. And throw…right here.”
Ernest looked to where Bert pointed and saw a dozen colored cups clustered in a corner. He glanced at Bert, who beamed back at him.
Her father helped Melanie get her lion inside her coat so its head would peak out. He followed behind as she tore away from the booth asking the lion twelve questions at once.
”Geez, Bert.” Ernest joked. “Why not just give it to her?”
“They’re cheap, Ernest.”
“Ernie, remember? You call me Ernie and I’ll…”
“My name’s not Bert. It’s Bertrand,” he replied. “Anyway, I just figured her dad was having a bad day.”