"Oh, shit, I'm sorry, really, this is an abomination, a breast-brushing abomination, I didn't mean to, I mean, I was just, you know, saving you, and—"
"I'm just fooling with you. But I am grateful for your gallantry, so thank you. Tell me your name again."
"Charles Homar," and I proffered her my hand, a-tremble.
"Not the writer? New Nation Weekly?"
"The one and only, madam," and I bowed here like a squire or some-such. Someone who owns property, fights criminals, admires estrogen.
"I like your columns. I don't read them every issue, actually. But the ones I've read I like a lot. That silly one about how you almost burned down your house trying to kill the squirrel in your attic?"
"Oh, yes, that squirrel," and I feigned modesty, looked bashful.
"They make squirrel traps, you know. Or you could have called an exterminator. You didn't have to build your own flamethrower."
"Right," I said, her splendor slapping me sideways. "That makes more sense."
The end of rain, some orange sky aglow, and the carnival got hopping again. All around us families and teenage kids — some on skateboards, some smoking, some with arm tattoos in advertisement of their parents' bungling (even the girls! so unladylike and pubic) — scudded to and fro and fro again, clutching popcorn and cotton candy and the kind of acidic soda that makes lead vanish, all of them unaware of the enchantment happening right there in front of me, what the orange sky meant above.
Gillian said, "Is everything you write true, though? Sometimes I have a feeling you're making things up."
I must have been staring in silence, owlish, at those diamonds below her brows because she said, "Mr. Homar?"
"Yes, yes. I mean, no, no, everything's true, one hundred percent, absolutely."
"But why is a, umm, kind of famous magazine writer working a Ferris wheel?"
"Charity," I said. "Goodness. You know, Christian values. Hey, you don't sound like you're from around here. What brings you to the democratic state of Connecticut?"
"A job, what else? And I had to get away from my boyfriend."
The overeager wolf in me, all woof and wow, couldn't keep his jaw shut.
"So you don't have a boyfriend still?"
She only shook her head ever so wanly and glanced down at my sneakers, new Nikes that made me feel younger by three or four wrinkles. Of course, what followed was an awkward, sweat-inducing pause, me trying to summon a sentence devoid of degeneracy.
"Well, thank you again, Mr. Homar. I look forward to reading more of your memoirs."
She touched my shoulder just then before turning away, and I watched her leave, all the centimeters of me paralyzed in a way I had not felt before. But inside me: think Vesuvius. For many minutes I felt her hand still there on my deltoid, her scent lingering as if smoke from a much-needed flame.
Okay: I am not a deluded man — right? — nor barmy. My life was not lucky; beauteous females with a slight Virginia drawl did not often accept my offers. Past girlfriends had told me I was just a pinch shy of handsome, which I did not mind. And so I let Gillian stroll away that night, a dark cavern beneath my breastplate, all the bats slapping their wings wildly. Ten minutes later, the Ferris wheel now defunct, I went to grab my raincoat and saw her green umbrella hooked there on the entrance gate.