Luc dipped a toothpick into the small puddle of plastic cement and gingerly applied a drop of glue to the assemblage of parts held in place by his bench vise. He worked swiftly, moving with a surety & dexterity that belied his 47 years, and selecting a pair of tweezers from his meticulously arranged tools, he picked up the tiny chrome mirror belonging to the scale reproduction 72 ‘Cuda. He placed the object perfectly on the body of his model car, and held it there until the glue started to set and he was confident it would stay in place. Rising from his stool, his face broke into a smug, self-satisfied grin, and he paused for a moment to gaze admiringly at his work.
Luc was also grinning partly because Jenny had taken the kids to her parents’ place for the weekend. It wasn’t that he wouldn’t miss her; he would, in some ways. But, truth be told, his relationship with Jen was more like that of a room-mate with whom he shared expenses and the occasional meal, and less like that of a husband that shared her bed. He couldn’t really say he’d miss the kids. Luc had married Jen when she was a single mom with three young children, and he had always accepted and loved them as his own, enjoying what he felt was a good relationship with them for the longest time. Things didn’t really go downhill until the kids had crossed the threshold from puberty into surly teenage adolescence. Ever since that seminal moment in their respective young lives, his relationship with the kids had completely disintegrated. It wasn’t that he didn’t like kids…he did, in fact. He worked as a school bus driver and volunteered his time as a Little League coach in the summer. Still, he wouldn’t really miss the kids. Besides, when they were around, there certainly wasn’t solitary time to spend building a model on a lazy summer afternoon – they just seemed to get in the way, always meddling in his business and foiling his plans. This was the first time in a long while that Luc could remember a free, unencumbered weekend to spend on his pursuits, and he was greedily treasuring the notion of some “me” time.
Luc left his basement workshop, padded up the stairs, and poured himself a fresh cup of coffee before settling into his favorite chair. “Two whole days all to myself.” he thought absent-mindedly, “What am I going to do to amuse myself?” Reaching for the remote control, he flicked on the television, hoping to find something of interest. After rotating through 250 channels for the third time without finding anything that could hold his attention, Luc finally admitted defeat and turned off the television. Rising from the couch, he walked to the front door and retrieved the morning paper from his front porch. Refilling his coffee, he casually opened the paper, hoping to find something that might occupy his time and kill a couple of hours tonight. He turned to the movie listings, but found nothing playing at the local multi-plex that justified parting with ten bucks of his hard-earned money. Nope, just the usual drek. Turning to the community calendar, one item caught his eye – the carnival was in town this weekend. Luc hadn’t been to the carnival in years, not since the kids had outgrown it, or at least outgrown the need for adult supervision to attend. Feeling somewhat nostalgic, he decided to go down to the exhibition grounds, eat some corn dogs and cotton candy, and check out the hucksters at the various game booths along the midway.
Luc smiled as soon as he arrived at the carnival. He reminisced fondly about his last time at the carnival. He had taken the kids here one Saturday afternoon a few years back so that Jen could take a much-needed mental health day, and not have to parent - for an afternoon, at least. Walking down the midway, he heard the shouts of the barkers drowning out the screams emanating from the Tilt-A-Whirl, The Scrambler and the other thrill rides.
Luc was snapped out of his reverie when he noticed a group of four boys bullying a smaller boy of about 12.
“Hey!! Break it up! Four against one, real fair…go on, beat it. Get lost!”
Luc dispersed the group of four young ‘toughs’, who retreated rather meekly and without opposition, other than the occasional vulgarity and obscene gesture directed his way.
Luc stopped and got two cotton candy’s, and he cautiously approached the young boy, who couldn’t have been more than 11 or 12. He reminded Luc of Jen’s son, with his unkempt mop of sandy blond hair and piercing blue eyes. Luc held one cotton candy out at arm’s length, waiting for the boy to take it from his hand.
“Thanks, mister. My brother and his asshole friends think they’re real tough, picking on a 5th grader two years younger than them”. The boy’s gaze hardened as he took Luc in, and assessed him and the situation. “No offence, but why are you here, anyway?”
It was an honest question—it wasn’t exactly normal for a grown-up to be at the carnival, unaccompanied by either a kid or a girlfriend.
Luc didn’t give an immediate response. This one is a little wary, he thought, wary but maybe not completely untrusting. Luc gave a wicked smile as if telling him that he didn’t have time to talk to children. After taking a sip of soda from his Styrofoam cup, Luc’s smile widened and he said sarcastically, “Yeah, kid – you figured me out. I’m a pervert, alright.”
A look of shock appeared on the boy’s face before the realization occurred that Luc was screwing with him. He grinned back at Luc and decided to play along, “Oh, right. Of course. So, having any luck?”
“Oh, sure, plenty of luck, kid. I mean, it’s the carnival, isn’t it? If you’re looking for kids, you gotta fish where the fish are, right?”
The boy laughed a bit, and as he reached for the cotton candy, Luc thought once more about how successful fishing trips were first & foremost about knowing & understanding one’s prey, and then choosing the appropriate bait.