Bethany Schultz Hurst
Every Couple before Us
This is a love story: It turned out
the tattooed man and the bearded woman
were just mannequins doctored with Sharpie
and fake hair. What did I expect? No freak
would work for a fifty-cent show. You could still see
the perfect mouth behind the mannequin’s beard.
Such defacement seemed both shameful and
deserved, especially because I was sixteen.
I was there with David, whose pregnant girlfriend
was too embarrassed to go out. I thought of her
just once in a funhouse mirror. The realest thing
was the two-headed piglet in formaldehyde,
and I couldn’t tell if it had actually been born or not,
or which way would be worse. I was glad
I wasn’t the one who had to choose. I was sick
with fried dough and cigarettes. We passed
the booth where lost kids were supposed to go
to find their families. Then we found the main
attraction, the Ferris wheel, grinding against the sky.
When we were suspended at the top like every couple
before us, I realized David’s leg was touching mine
as if we were fused. The houses below looked so small,
only broken people could have fit inside. Then the wheel
resumed its lurch and reminded me that I’d be dropped off
later, too, at one of those houses, and on the way back down,
I wondered who got their money’s worth.
Bethany Schultz Hurst has had work appear in journals such as the Cortland Review, Rattle, Rhino, Smartish Pace, and Willow Springs. She currently lives in Pocatello, Idaho, where she teaches writing at Idaho State University.
“Every Couple before Us” appears in our Summer 2011 issue.