Sally and Georgetta sat in the grass on the hill that overlooked the county fairgrounds. Behind them was the McCarthy house in which no McCarthys had lived for twenty hears. No one else had lived there either.
At the foot of the hill on which they sat, the river road ran east and west, squeezed between the hill on which the sisters sat and the fence that penned in the fairgrounds. In the block to the east of the fairgrounds, the river road traded its shoulder and borrow pit for curb and gutter and began to run through the town of Lower Bridge.
To the west, just past the fairgrounds, the river road returned to its crowding up against the Pecatonica River, dodging north and south as the river bent one way and then the other. The road stayed just above the flood plane, a precaution that those who laid out the fairgrounds did not take–most of the year the Pecatonica looked like a river without any ambitions other than wandering muddily through the corn fields and hay pastures of southwest Wisconsin; as a result, those who had chosen the land for the fairgrounds could be forgiven for not foreseeing a time when the fairgrounds would be best located above the the river floodplain..
From their perch atop McCarthy Hill, Sally and Georgetta could have looked to their left where the river road disappeared, trailing the river itself into hills colonized by farm houses; but the two sisters were not looking at the vehicles entering the fairgrounds.
The county fair was to begin in two days, and the carnival that provided the games, rides, and food booths was arriving in semi-trucks, pickups, station wagons, cars covered in dust, and airsteam trailer homes.
The arrival of the carnival was more interesting to Georgetta than the carnival itself. “Do you ever imagine,” Georgetta asked her older sister, “that someone working at the fair is a prince or princess who is in hiding?”
Sally was never sure when her younger sister was serious, and as a result, Sally seldom answered her Georgetta’s questions immediately: sometimes she didn’t answer them at all. In this case, she studied the rigs that were pulling into the fairgrounds and watched as men and women emerged from those vehicles. Many of them were as dusty as the vehicles they were riding in, and most of them were wearing jeans, t-shirts, and baseball caps, even the women. “None of them look like princes or princesses to me,” Sally said.
“Of course not,” Georgetta said. “What would be the point of wearing your royal clothes if you were pretending to be a carnival worker?”
“Maybe the carnival workers are just carnival workers.” Sally said and then added, “Do you remember how our parents talked the other night about some of the ways we know we’re growing up?”
“Dad said that we should start using the word soda instead of the word pop. He said that’s one of the things people do when they start growing up.”
“Dad talks about soda,” Sally said, “when nobody asked him about soda, but Mom said that when we get older, the stories we like start changing and instead of thinking that a carnival worker is a prince or princess, we start noticing that there’s a different kind of magic to things like nature and planets and ancient civilizations.”
“I don’t think the carnival workers are magical, but I think that one of them might have lived in a place where they weren’t allowed to get dirt on their clothes or talk to regular people.”
While Sally was wondering what to say next to a sister who seemed to have a bigger imagination than an eight-year-old should have, Georgetta jutted her arm out and cried, “LOOK!”
Sally looked closely at the fairgrounds where a young man had stepped out of a trailer dressed in robes and headgear that could only be described as princely.
Sally said, “I can’t believe that just happened.”