Ken, a bald beefy carnie, took the old womanâ€™s flabby arm to help her down off the last metal step. â€œWatch it.â€
She landed on the flattened crabgrass while hundreds of light bulbs flashed behind her. â€œWhat a sight!â€
He chomped down on his toothpick and said, â€œThe ground is a little bumpy here.â€
â€œWhoopsie daisy.â€ She let him hold her up as she looked down.
Ken pointed at her shoes. â€œRight here. It wasnâ€™t like that earlier today. The ground has wrinkled up a bit. Itâ€™s sinking or something.â€ He laughed nervously.
She didnâ€™t catch all that, having bad ears. â€œWhat a glass house!â€
He nodded. â€œItâ€™s a bit famous.â€
The old woman finally let go of him. â€œI couldnâ€™t believe it. That was really something. Just when I think Iâ€™m going to get ripped off at the carnival, I see something swell. That was worth every penny. Who was that ghost in the glass, or mirror, or what was that? What a sight! She was a doozy! The Bride of Dracula, I bet. What a sight! Howâ€™d you do that? It looked so real, so artistic!â€ The old woman laughed and patted the side of her neck as if she should check for fang marks.
â€œDid that scare you, lady?â€ Ken couldnâ€™t understand her very well, her dentures seemed to be in the way of her tongue, but he assumed she was talking about the ghost. At this hour, many people saw something odd in there and commented about it. Some came out screaming to bring attention to it enough to sell more tickets.
The old woman smiled big. â€œThat was a neat trick. The ghost lady looked like sheâ€™d seen something horrible, herself. The ghost has seen a ghost! That horrible sad face! Those eyes! Just full of terror. So real! But it seemed like World War II. That war was, what, how many years ago? It is today. Right?â€ She started to count on her fingers. â€œThat was a while ago. Where did that time go? I felt like I was in the â€™40s again as if it was just yesterday.â€
â€œWhatâ€™d ya say?â€
â€œItâ€™s like the â€™40s in there! The â€™40s! The â€™40s! No disco!â€
Ken thought she was saying orgies orgies oh disco. â€œPretty sexy, huh, to see something like that. Itâ€™s old. Old as the hills. Must be the wood floor. Itâ€™s all old. Weighs a ton. Nothing sexier than a good old hard wood floor.â€
The old woman looked up into the glass and tried to remember what sheâ€™d just seen. The memory was now oddly faded, like a dream. â€œSeems silly now. Itâ€™s only a maze. And I didnâ€™t even find my way out the other side. Is there one? Or is this whole thing just a trick? I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s a way out. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s big enough to have both ends. What a tiny thing. Shame on you.â€
The power cut out of The Emperorâ€™s Glass House and all its frantic lights went black. The bumper car marquee across the way brightly reflected off the front of the dark maze. Ken left her before she could cling to him again. He hurried off to reset the circuit breaker and grumbled, â€œYeah, a neat trick.â€
The old woman saw the ghostly figure again. The image was of a nervous looking woman in a 1940s gray wool dress, in the very back wall of the attraction; she was leaping from mirror to mirror as if terrified. However, the old woman couldn't be sure she actually saw anything like that at all. The fractured reflections from the rest of the carnivalâ€™s lights were so bright. She noticed backwards words flashing in the front glass. She wondered if it was a secret evil curse just for her.
She shuddered, turned, and saw that it was just the reflection of the bottom row of letters of the bumper car sign. She laughed at herself and put her hand over her heart. The power came back on and again the inside of The Emperorâ€™s Glass House looked bright and empty. The old woman took out her pocket-watch and frowned. The glass face had cracked in half and the hands were stuck on midnight. She touched her nose and remembered that sheâ€™d smelled candle smoke, saddle soap, kerosene, and all kinds of other smells that had no business inside a glass maze. Now she smelled cotton candy in the air.
A stern bearded lady came by and plopped a big thick mat down at the bottom of the steps, as she asked the old woman, â€œIs this where the ground is sinking? They say it got uneven overnight. Crap.â€ The old woman stared at the otherâ€™s beard. The bearded lady angrily kicked at the mat to straighten it. â€œYou okay? You look like youâ€™ve seen a ghost.â€
â€œMy watch! My watch!â€
The bearded lady continued, â€œSome people donâ€™t know what to say about that glass house. Itâ€™s a haunted place, many say. Theyâ€™re so touched that they bring the feeling home with them. Some people love it, but others just stay spooked for a while. I bet youâ€™ll tell all your friends and then theyâ€™ll come and buy tickets. Itâ€™s a shame we canâ€™t fit wheelchairs up in there. No, you have to be able to climb some stairs. Tell your grandkids.â€
â€œYour what? Whatâ€™s a what?â€
â€œWatch!â€ The old woman showed the bearded lady the broken watch.
â€œOh. Watch. Itâ€™s broke. Crap.â€ The bearded lady pointed down the midway. â€œYou can win a new watch if you blow out all the red star. Do you shoot a rifle?â€
â€œWhat?â€ The old woman pointed at her ear.
The bearded lady shouted, â€œDo you shoot a rifle?â€
The old woman looked at the glass house, remembering soldiers in long coats. She felt sick and looked at the bearded lady in irritation. â€œShoot guns?â€
The bearded lady was looking at the ground. â€œDid we have an earthquake?â€
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