“That new?” Terri nodded at the date inked onto Jenner’s arm.
He spat. “Yup.”
Terry felt faint stirrings of hope. Since high school, she’d pined after Jenner. “I wish you’d settle down. Carnival life…”
“Is perfect for me.”
“I see you once a year.”
“I’ll come for Christmas.”
Terry sighed. Ten-year-olds in manure-caked boots and faded denims cowboyed across the fairgrounds, blue ribbons angled across puffed-out chests as they elbowed their way into food lines: Deep fried pickles. Cheese on a stick. Cotton candy and…
“How’d your pie do?”
“Judging is tomorrow.” A group of girls in shorts of questionable length strode past, waving their fannies like American flags. “I won’t win.”
“Don’t say that.”
“Nellie Johanson’s won everything this year, same as last.”
“She buys jelly and repackages it in her own jars. She bought an Amish quilt and put her initials on it.”
“I can fix Nellie.”
“Woman ain’t broke.”
“She will be.”
“How you propose to do that?”
“Carolina Reaper Slingblade.”
“Just a touch.”Jenner made a pouring motion. “Let’s manipulate Nellie’s recipe a bit.”
“We can’t do that!”
“When everyone’s dreaming of ribbons, we’ll dose that pie up good.”
“You need your own sleep.”
“I sleep on my feet ten hours a day. Taking tickets, buckling kids into seats, pushing a green button. I could do with a bit of interest in my life.”
Of course, they got more interest than they bargained for. Fairground officials were interested. Police too.
Nellie ran to the IGA and bought a new pie which, naturally, won first prize.
Jenner was fired.
Terry was permanently banned from the fair.
Was it worth it, the newspaper reporter asked, skepticism scattered across her face.
Terry took Jenner’s hand. “We exposed Nellie for the liar she was.”
Jenner gave a secret smile, knowing that his wife didn’t give a diddle about exposing Nellie. “Naw. It was worth it because it brought us together.”
“Finally,” Terry said.
This was written for this week’s Trifecta Writing Challenge. The word was manipulate