Psychopomp Magazine Spring 2016 - Page 33

Ron Burch | 33

we were on, we unrolled our sleeping bags underneath the float itself, sleeping in the tall grass matted down by our bodies, the crickets singing a choir as if we were not even there. If the weather was cold or snowing, we tried to find a motel or a barn offered by a friendly farmer, but if there wasn't one nearby, we huddled under the float, wrapped in all the clothing and blankets we had. If the weather was too bad and could hurt the float, we'd take the day off under shelter. Even though Mr. Merkin always proclaimed: Patriotism and love of country don't have a weatherman.

Sometimes, in the night, when Amica and I were camped in our sleeping bags near each other, we reached out. If we slowly shimmied up, freeing our heads from the float, we witnessed the night sky and the stars and the moon and held tighter hands and told stories about where we had been and where we were going. We didn't do more than hold hands because Mr. Merkin was a light sleeper and there was not a whole lot of privacy. Nothing worse than thinking we were the only two awake, only to realize Ben's been staring the whole time and asking if we're gonna do it. Go to sleep, boy, I would say, but I don’t think he ever did.

I worried that Amica and I would never be able to get together as long as we were on the Parade. We would be playing this for years until I replaced Mr. Merkin and Amica would become my play-wife only since fraternization on the floats was punishable.

Things had gotten weird on the Parade. Not everyone who came out was friendly. Some people brought handmade signs and there was yelling and fighting between different groups of people. In the last couple towns, we maximized our speed in order to get out of there to escape the brawls. The protestors, shaking their signs, yelled that we were just trying to cover up problems, the same thing Amica said, and I started to wonder if they were right.

She and I made a plan. We talked about running away at the next town.