Midway

The escaped murderers have me on edge. A few hours north, two convicts broke out of the prison almost two weeks ago. The closest town is Plattsburgh, so I don't imagine they hung around the area.

Not that I think they'll show up around here. But it makes me a little nervous sometimes, working in a bar. Anyone can walk in.

On Sunday, Hudson was eerily deserted. The weekend crowd had gone. A few customers were sitting quietly with their books and drinks when an older, sunbaked couple hobbled in. He had on a plaid shirt (but not ironic dad-plaid shirt, more like a farmer's going to town on Sunday shirt), wispy white hair and spectacles. She had a face like one of those apple dolls I used to make in Girl Scouts, where you stick a knife in to make slits for the eyes and mouth and then dry in the sun, only when she'd pop open her eyes they were the vivid blue of a colored glass patio candle from TJ Maxx. Dyed brown hair and a navy blue shorts ensemble like she was still dressed for Flag Day the day before.

"I guess I'll have a...Budweiser?" she said in a smoker's croak. Pop go the blue eyes, looking somewhere behind me. I offered her a lager that was the closest thing to a Bud. Farmer grandpa accepted a stout and left to browse the books.

"How much are them dogs up there?" She pointed to the row of stuffed dalmations on a shelf.

"Um, they're pretty expensive," I said, not wanting to get out the ladder and climb up to heave down a huge stuffed animal.

"I WANT ONE." Blue eyes start blinking like crazy. "How much?"

"I think they're around sixty dollars," I said, aiming high.

"That's too much! Make it thirty and you've got a deal."

"I can't really haggle over the price," I said.

"Oh I don't care how much they cost, I WANT ONE."

I stood on a ladder and wobbled a massive dog off the shelf. She grabbed the white and black plush animal out of my hands and clutched it to her chest. I hoped the brown on her arms wouldn't rub off on the white fur.

Farmer husband or customer (I started thinking maybe she was one of the old prostitutes Hudson was famous for up until the fifties and sixties...trying to do the math, if she was twenty in 1965 she'd be...70 now? It made sense) shuffled over and she held the dog's face up next to her own and gave him a pleading look. "I want this dog!" In her mind she was Shirley Temple, or Goldie Hawn. He shook his head no. "I WANT HIM!"

This is where feelings of dread and panic start creeping in. I regretted taking the dog down. Why hadn't I just told her they weren't for sale, were all in fact for use on a float in the Pride parade next weekend? I wished I was working next weekend instead, for Pride parade. That I could handle. This was Midway At A County Fair. The lady could go off like a powder keg. The upstate effect. The two prisoners popping out of a manhole cover - it isn't all antique dealers and big city day trippers. Rich people are so easy to placate. With these two, I didn't know what I was dealing with.

A few more "I WANT HIM"s vs a couple steely head shakes from the man and I was hiking the dog back to the rear of the store and sticking him in a dark corner. I was afraid to get up on the ladder, imagining Blue Eyes' brown claw closing around my ankle, the ladder toppling; a fight over a stuffed animal. I was pretty sure who the winner would be.

When I made it back to the bar, the couple was gone. They hadn't finished their beer.

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