Scrap Boys have each other. Scrap Boy 1, Scrap Boy 2, Scrap Boy 3, three prepubescent bodies lean and sharp as barbed wire, three backyard haircuts, three thunder-clap voices, three tornado spirits joined like the three chambers of a rattler’s heart. And tonight the Scrap Boys have the fair. Tonight they have snow cones and onion rings and rides that spin the Scrap Boys around and around and around and around until they can’t tell up from down. Tonight they have rock songs banging out of rickety speakers rattling their ribs. Tonight the Scrap Boys breathe humid night air full of promises of big winnings shouted by the bulldog-faced men running the milk can toss and the shooting range. Tonight they walk together, shoulder to shoulder to shoulder, bare chested and loud through the swirling crowd. Tonight the Scrap Boys watch mothers pull their toddlers closer when the Scrap Boys walk by.
Tonight the skinny blonde girls from school eat cotton candy, pink clouds of sugar filling their hands, their mouths, sticky and sweet. They travel the midway in a pack, five of them, their hair sparkling under the lights that flash from the Gravitron. They speak in high twittery syllables, voices like birdsong, call each other slut and bitch and laugh and laugh and laugh, but when the Scrap Boys call out to the skinny blonde girls from school, the girls don’t call back. The girls look at the Scrap Boys, look past the Scrap Boys, look through the Scrap Boys. Under the gaze of the skinny blonde girls, the Scrap Boys become ghosts.
Tonight the ghost Scrap Boys haunt the fair studying girls with an astronomer’s zeal, keep a tally of all the different girl bodies spinning through the universe of the midway, each new body an epiphany, each new body worthy of further study, if only there was time for that, if only there were not so many other bodies demanding attention, if only it was possible. The tall bodies, the short bodies, the brown bodies, the white bodies, the hard bodies, the thick bodies, they all spark a longing in the ghost Scrap Boys, a heat like an electrical fire crackling where their blood used to be.
Tom Weller is a former factory worker, Peace Corps volunteer, Planned Parenthood sexuality educator, and college writing instructor. His fiction has appeared recently in Synaesthesia, The Molotov Cocktail, Pidgeonholes, Booth, and Barrelhouse. He lives in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania.
Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower