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“You people can’t hit a three-pointer to save your lives, you know that? Especially you Long Island guys…what the hell they teachin’ you down there?”
The bystanders near Cheap Shot Charlie’s laugh good-naturedly, but deep down want to prove to the scrawny carnival man with bad teeth that they can make a three-point shot. Even if it costs them five bucks, or ten—or twenty.
“Come on, big fella, put some mustard on this next one or somethin’, my goodness,” Charlie says, pocketing another five as the “big fella” steps up to the perimeter of the game. He lets the basketball fly and bricks it—right off the front of the rim.
“You better get out of here before you lose your date,” Charlie says, clapping the man on the back, as he and his girlfriend stumble into the brightly lit night—probably toward the beer tent.
Charlie scouts the passersby for his next participant and finds him: a worn-out dad with his five or six-year-old daughter.
“You wanna win one of these teddies for her or what, Dad?” Charlie says to the guy, who waves his comment away.
The girl looks over at the two basketball hoops and her eyes light up. She tries to drag her father over toward the game, but he in turn digs his heels in.
“It’s alright, honey, he woulda missed anyway.”
A group of nearby teenagers let out an “Ohhhh!”
It’s on. The dad removes his glasses, wipes them, and then walks toward Cheap Shot Charlie’s.
“That’s the spirit, my friend! Tonight’s about dreamin’, folks—come on over and take a shot!”
“Five bucks for a single shot?” the man asks, approaching. The ferris wheel lights reflect off his horn-rimmed spectacles.
“I’m afraid so, sir. Inflation and all that jazz.” Charlie grimaces theatrically. “Or I’ll cut you a deal and give you three shots for ten.”
The man forks over a five and steps up to the line.
“Daddy, wait,” the girl says. “Let me shoot it.”
“Honey…it’s far away.”
“She can shoot at this basket, Pops.” Charlie points at a lower hoop—closer than a regular foul shot.
The man hands his daughter the ball, and she steps up to the line.
Charlie claps his hands together. “Alright, kiddo, let’s see what you’ve got!”
The girl sets her feet, brings the ball back awkwardly over her right shoulder with both hands, and then sends it soaring with a jump shot. It rotates with a near-perfect backspin as it arcs toward the hoop, moving in closer, closer…SWOOSH.
The girl’s mouth opens wide before she lets out an excited yell, jumping into her father’s arms.
“What?! That was amazing, honey!” the dad exclaims, hoisting her into the air.
The fire in Charlie’s eyes dwindles a bit, but he’s a good sport. “Congratulations, kiddo. Best shot I’ve seen all night.” He points toward two different rows of prizes, and the girl settles on a pink and purple stuffed unicorn.
Before the father and daughter leave, the man asks Charlie, “Think I should go buy some lotto tickets or what?”
The showman’s voice vanishes momentarily when Charlie speaks: “Brother…you need to go buy her a basketball.”
The man tilts his head as he considers Cheap Shot Charlie’s words. And then they’re gone. The little girl drags her father away. They disappear into the crowd, engulfed in delicious wafts of cotton candy and fried dough—hopes and wishes. Carnival dreams.
Charlie watches them go. Then he blinks something out of his eye and clears his throat. “Alright, you three, I see you watchin’. If a little girl can hit that shot, so can you. What do you say? Five bucks. Later? Ah, sure, sure. How about you? Come on, my man, live it up a little—live on the edge. No? Over here, folks, come on over—take a shot!”
Thanks so much for reading “Carnival Dreams” today. I really appreciate it, and I’m grateful for you being a subscriber at Along the Hudson.
To my Fifties by the Fire friends: let’s meet up this Friday! I’ll send out the thread on Friday, September 1 at 3:00 PM EST.
Prompt: Write a fifty-word story (fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry) that follows one of these three ideas. Your “fifty”. . .
is written in the first-person point-of-view (I).
is written in the second person point-of-view (you).
uses the phrase “You and I”.
Have a wonderful week, everyone. See you by the fire!
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