She Only Says What She Wants To Say
When we last joined Moxie, her head was swimming because the King’s murder she witnessed was apparently death by natural causes . . .
After Officer Ormerod excused himself, Harry Hawkshaw handed his card to both Moxie and Nettles.
“Sounds like this is all wrapped up,” he said, “but, Nettles, I would still like a copy of Sir Gerald’s letter and if either of you remember anything you would like to tell me,” he looked Moxie in the eyes, “please give me a call.”
“I’ll fax it over first thing in the morning,” said Nettles.
“It was nice meeting you both. I hope the rest of the fair goes smoothly. This place has brought such joy to my family. Speaking of, I need to go find them. I bet they’re standing by the car in the parking lot. Oh gosh, and I have the keys. Be good you two.” Harry Hawkshaw dashed down the steps and across the joust field.
Not wanting to be left alone with creepy-smile Nettles, Moxie followed on Harry’s heals and hurried up the hill. Moxie expected a crowd of gawkers, but any gatherings must have dispersed when the police left. The only people left on the grounds were a few crafts people closing up their booths.
Moxie heard her name whispered as she walked past the buildings towards the forest. She wondered if she was still under some sort of suspicion, or if she was being mocked for causing the false report. Either way, she felt very alone. Her definition of the worst gig possible was quickly plummeting to previously unexplored depths, the kind of depths where the pressure will make your head explode and horrifying, mega-teethed fish lure their prey with appendages of biological light-bulbs.
The forest was surprisingly empty. She had expected a flurry of people returning home from work, but it was as if everyone from the fair just disappeared when the fair ended like some kind of Renaissance Brigadoon. She sat at her camp carefully watching and listening for skunks and listened to the never-ending chirp of the frogs. Before she could relax in any way, she felt someone’s eyes on her neck. A chill like the long finger of the reaper himself traced her spine and she jumped up looking for the threat.
Moxie didn’t see anyone, but heard an ethereal voice floating through the forest. She followed it to a tiny tent at the other end of the campground between a motor-home and the parking lot. Moxie recognized the costume girl who dressed her that morning.
“Wow. You got a crappy campsite,” Moxie said when the girl stopped singing.
The girl jumped and banged the body of her guitar against the ground creating a dissonant resonance. She looked up and smiled. “Well I’ll be. Miss Moxie Sharped come to pay me a visit.” She held up her hands to show Moxie’s signature hadn’t come off. “The site’s not so bad. Dana here is quiet and keeps to herself and the parking lot’s only a problem on fair days. The rest of the week, I like the quiet to work on my songs.”
She smiled again but looked down at the ground and drew a symbol in the dirt with her index finger. Moxie recognized the symbol. It was from the cover of her first album.
“I’m going to be the next Moxie Sharpe.”
“For your sake, let’s hope not,” said Moxie.
The girl looked up with frightened rabbit eyes.
“Don’t worry about me,” said Moxie. “It’ll do you good to ignore 99% of everything I say.”
“How will I know when it’s the one percent?”
“You won’t. So what have you been working on?”
The girl patted the ground which Moxie took as a sign to sit.
“This song’s about how love and hate are two sides of the same coin and the times when you have to flip that coin.”
From the first note, Moxie lost herself in the song. She rode the syncopation and wave-like melody through her many love-hate relationships, her thoughts drifting to summer before summer at Scandrum and landing squarely on her father’s long-faded grin.
When the song ended, the girl put down her guitar and said, “So what do you think?”
“What’s your name?” asked Moxie.
“Oh. I’m sorry. I’m Chancy Grave.”
“Chancy, that song touched me deep. You’ve got a unique style. And your voice. I rode your voice right out of my body. You got another one?”
“I’m trying to figure out what to play for the King’s wake tonight. It’s between that one and some 80’s pop cover. Her really liked 80’s synth songs.”
“Wait a minute. Someone already planned a wake? He’s barely been dead an hour.”
“Not like news had anywhere to travel. It’s nothing formal. A bunch of us usually gather on the bluffs by the lake after work. We didn’t change our plans, just added a theme.”
“Don’t you think this ‘show must go on’ attitude is a little dark? I mean, your star just died.”
“Maybe, a little bit, but you have to keep in mind, this show is a huge money maker. For most of these people, this is the majority of their income for the year. For some, it’s their entire income. If they don’t rally and keep the fair going, they might starve come winter.”
Moxie chewed on Chancy’s words. She knew what it was like to really need a paycheck. She hadn’t worried if she lost this job because Pearl said she would get paid either way, but not if the fair shut down. Plus, she always assumed that Pearl had her next gig lined up, but what if she didn’t? If Pearl was taking gigs like this, maybe things were worse than Moxie had imagined. Gigs had steadily become sparser with each passing year.
“Moxie, you okay?”
“Sure, Chancy. Can I ask you something?”
“You can ask me anything.”
“Do you think Sir Gerald just ran off? Decided to settle down with a new lady friend?”
Chancy laughed. “Who told you that?”
“That’s Nettles’s story. He said Gerald wrote him a letter.”
Chancy stopped laughing and a shadow fell across her smile. “This is only my second summer here. To be honest, I don’t know much about Sir Gerald. Nettles would know more about it than me.”
“But what made you laugh?”
“Nothing. I just . . . I mean it’s hard to imagine it is all.”
It looked like Chancy was trying to eat her own tongue, but then blurted, “Imagine Gerald spending more than one night with anyone. And I mean anyone. He was a non-discriminate super-slut and proud of it. I can’t imagine a person on this green earth that could pin him down or would want to.”
“Sounds like you knew him pretty well.”
“When he wasn’t entertaining company, we would jam sometimes. He was really talented.”
“You keep referring to him in the past tense. Do you think something bad happened to him?”
“I don’t know. The past tense thing is just the way we talk about people who are not at the fair this year. This life is really transient. It’s about living in the now. If you’re here you’re here, if not, you’re past tense. Make sense?”
“Yeah. Sounds familiar actually. So anyone else you expected to be here that’s suddenly past tense?”
“Not that I know of.”
“Can I ask you something else?”
“I said you can ask me anything. But I’m running out of time to prepare for the wake.”
“What’s up with the King and Queen?”
“What do you mean?”
“I heard them fighting, but I couldn’t figure out what exactly they were fighting about.”
“Oh, they’re always like that. Always bickering like an old married couple.”
“What do you mean? How long have they been married?”
Chancy laughed again, this time loud enough to scare some birds overhead to flight. “The King and Queen married? You must have witnessed better acting than I ever did. No. They hated each other. I mean, I know hatred and marriage aren’t mutually exclusive, but if those two were married, they liked to break their vows, a lot. And it would be news to everyone here.”
Once again, Moxie was more confused than when she started. She tried to replay the King and Queen’s exact conversation in her head, but everything was a blur of confusion at this point. She couldn’t seem to rely on any of her senses to give her correct information.
“Hey, Moxie?” Chancy had grabbed a guitar case out of her tiny tent. “Do you want to come to the bluffs for the wake?”
Moxie started to sift through probable excuses, but Chancy continued.
“I bet that’s where Dana is. Usually she’d be sitting outside her trailer hummin’ along with me about now. She’s been here every summer for the past twenty years. She’ll have the answers you’re looking for. Besides, you’ll get a chance to see your fellow re-enactors outside the fair. You’ll see some drastic changes when they get out of costume. I think you’ll be surprised.”
“I guess I can’t say no to that,” said Moxie.
“Do you mind if I call my mom and tell her I’m hanging out with The Moxie Sharpe? She’ll be so jealous.”
“You get reception out here?”
“No. Not here, but about a half mile down the road toward the bluffs there’s a sweet spot. Is it cool if I tell her? You were the first concert she went to. She’s gonna freak.”
“Sure. Just don’t let the other rennies know.”
“Oh, don’t worry about them. None of them have ever heard of you.”
Moxie felt irritated, like it was St. Patrick’s Day and she had forgotten to wear green in a place where pinching was the norm. She wanted to curl up in her tent and sleep until someone came to their senses and cancelled the fair, but curiosity overwhelmed her. She needed to see the uncostumed mourn and celebrate their fallen King.
Was someone watching Moxie at her campsite? Will she get her answers at the bluffs? Tune in next week for another spine-chilling misadventure.