from THE SEWANEE REVIEW
cover photo by Floyd M. Wright
THE QUEEN of HEARTS
She was an easy mark, standing there with her paper cone of pink cotton candy. The Teddy Bear she'd won got tucked under her arm while she watched Duane fumble in his billfold for money. The voices, calling out, were calling for her, seemed like, the Kewpie Dolls and colored lights promising something vague and ill defined. Looking up, she saw the Ferris wheel spinning above. The lights and little seats tilting against the black sky making it seem that she was about to spin away from everything toward something new.
Inside the tent Omar took her hand as he whisked her from the audience, his great red and black cape darkening behind her like a cloud. She felt for a moment like she was disappearing. And when he whispered in her ear, "Just follow me," she had to say, "What? What did you say?" And he said, "Just follow me. I'll show you what to do.”
But he must have had more than that in mind right from the start, even before he plucked those tiny bits of pink cotton candy from the corners of her mouth with his flitting tongue and laughed and said, "Now you see it, now you don't." He must have known before that night, before the umpteen million quarters he slid from her ears and the zillion hearts he flushed from the deck in her hand, the doves flying, the scarves unfolding, the ropes cut into pieces that grew back together with a flick of his wrist. He must have seen her coming.