He said something to the other cop, and the patrolman produced a notebook from his hip pocket.
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He wet the ball of his thumb, opened the book, and strolled to the nearest car, a converted Cadillac hearse of early-sixties vintage. He began writing it up. He did this with great ostentation. When he had finished, he moved on to the VW microbus. Oshkosh approached Hopley and began to speak urgently. Hopley shrugged and looked away. The patrolman moved on to an old Ford sedan. Oshkosh left Hopley and went to the young man. He spoke earnestly, his hands moving in the warm spring air.
For Billy Halleck the scene was losing whatever small interest it had held for him. He was beginning not to see the Gypsies, who had made the mistake of stopping in Fairview on their way from Hoot to Holler.
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Juggler abruptly turned and went back to the microbus, simply allowing his remaining Indian clubs to drop onto the grass the microbus had been parked behind the pickup with the woman and the unicorn painted on the homemade camper cap. Oshkosh bent to retrieve them speaking anxiously to Hopley as he did so. Hopley shrugged again, and although Billy Halleck was in no way telepathic, he knew Hopley was enjoying this as well as he knew that he and Heidi and Linda would be having leftovers for supper.
The young woman who had been shooting ball bearings at the target tried to speak to Juggler, but he brushed by her angrily and stepped into the microbus. She stood for a moment looking at Oshkosh, whose arms were full of Indian clubs, and then she also went into the bus. Halleck could erase the others from his field of perception, but for a moment she was impossible not to see.
Her hair was long and naturally wavy, not bound in any way. It fell to below her shoulder blades in a black, almost barbarous flood. Her print blouse and modestly kick-pleated skirt might have come from Sears or J. Penney's, but her body was exotic as that of some rare cat - a panther, a cheetah, a snow leopard.
As she stepped into the van the pleat at the back of her skirt shifted for a moment and he saw the lovely line of her inner thigh. In that moment he wanted her utterly, and he saw himself on top of her in the blackest hour of the night. And that want felt very old. He looked back at Heidi and now her lips were pressed together so tightly they were white. Her eyes like dull coins. She had not seen his look, but she had seen the shift in the kick pleat, what it revealed, and understood it perfectly. The cop with the notebook stood watching until the girl was gone.
Then he closed his notebook, put it back in his pocket, and rejoined Hopley.
The Gypsy women were shooing their children back to the caravan. Oshkosh, his arms full of Indian clubs, approached Hopley again and said something. Hopley shook his head with finality. And that was it. A second Fairview police cruiser pulled up, its flashers turning lazily. Oshkosh glanced at it, then glanced around at the Fairview town common with its expensive safetytested playground equipment and its band shell.
Streamers of crepe still fluttered gaily from some of the budding trees; leftovers from the Easter-egg hunt the Sunday before. Oshkosh went back to his own car, which was at the head of the line. As its motor roared into life, all the other motors did likewise. Most were loud and choppy; Halleck heard a lot of missing pistons and saw a lot of blue exhaust. Oshkosh's station wagon pulled out, bellowing and farting. The others fell into line, heedless of the local traffic bound past the common and toward downtown.
I'm full Daddy, are those people -? They always knocked Halleck out. Heidi looked at him briefly, coolly - Oh She lit a Vantage Billy ended up eating both of the Ring-Dings. Heidi smoked half a pack of cigarettes before the band concert was over, and ignored Billy's clumsy efforts to cheer her up.
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But she warmed up on the way home and the Gypsies were forgotten. At least, until that night. When he went into Linda's room to kiss her good night, she asked him: 'Were the police running those guys out of town, Dad? She went to Heidi when she wanted to know how many calories were in a piece of German chocolate cake; she came to Billy for harder truths, and he sometimes felt this was not fair.
He sat on her bed, thinking that she was still very young and very sure she was on that side of the line where the good guys unquestionably stood.
She could be hurt. A lie could avoid that hurt. But lies about the sort of thing that had happened that day on the Fairview common had a way of coming back to haunt the parents - Billy could very clearly remember his father telling him that masturbation would make him stutter. His father had been a good man in almost all ways, but Billy had never forgiven him that lie.
Yet Linda had already run him a hard course - they had been through gays, oral sex, venereal disease, and the possibility that there was no God. It had taken having a child to teach him just how tiring honesty could be. Suddenly he thought of Ginelli. What would Ginelli tell his daughter if he was here now? You got to keep the undesirables out of town, sweetness. Because that is really what it's all about - just keeping the undesirables out of town. But that was more truth than he could muster.
They were Gypsies, hon. When they come to a town like Fairview, the police ask them to move on.
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Usually they put up a show of being mad, but they really don't mind. A little flag went up inside his head. Lie 1. After a few days they leave.
What do they do? And there are games of chance. Usually they are crooked. He saw the kick pleat of the girl's skirt shift again as she stepped into the van. How would she move? His mind answered: Like the ocean getting ready to storm, that's how. He hadn't seen any Gypsies in almost twentyfive years.. They weren't supposed to allow anyone under sixteen to play, but of course if you had the coin or the long green, you could step up and put it down. Some things never changed, he reckoned, and chief among them was the old adage that when money talks, nobody walks. If asked before today, he would have shrugged and guessed that there were no more traveling Gypsy caravans.
But of course the wandering breed never died out. They came in rootless and left the same way, human tumbleweeds who cut whatever deals they could and then blew out of town with dollars in their greasy wallets that had been earned on the time clocks they themselves spurned.
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They survived. Hitler had tried to exterminate them along with the Jews and the homosexuals, but they would outlive a thousand Hitlers, he supposed. The taxpayers. Lie 2. Taxation had nothing at all to do with common land in New England, ownership of or use of. See Richards vs. Jerram, New Hampshire, or Baker vs.
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Olins that one went back to , or Lie 3. That idea had been overturned in , when a bunch of poor potato farmers set up a Hooverville in the heart of Lewiston, Maine.
The city had appealed to Roosevelt's Supreme Court and hadn't even gotten a hearing. That was because the Hooverites had picked Pettingill Park to camp in, and Pettingill Park happened to be common land. Thank God. Not in Fairview. Not when you see the common from Lantern Drive and the country club, not when that view is part of what you paid for, along with the private schools which teach computer programming on banks of brand-new Apples and TRS's, and the relatively clean air, and the quiet at night.
The Shrine Circus is okay. The Easter-egg hunt is even better. But Gypsies? Here's your hat, what's your hurry. We know dirt when we see it.