The first weekend of the Oklahoma Renaissance Fair is always miserable: a cold, wet, last gasp of winter fighting hard on its way out. This fact is absolute and predictable. You can plant crops around the Ren Fair schedule. It's better than any Almanac.
Pathetic in the light rain, I huddled in a camp chair under a tarp while my friends set up our booth before the Fair opened. Sarah, my best friend, passed me another blanket as she pulled up a chair next to mine.
"So, how are you enjoying the Ren Fair?" she asked.
I practiced my evil glare, but she only laughed.
When Nicole arrived, I practiced my glare on her son Noah, age four. Noah, shaking from the top of his head down to his cute little ren fair boots, red hair damp under his pint-sized cloak, took one look at my pile of blankets and crawled into my lap.
I made a mental note that the evil glare still needs work, but decided to make the most of this tiny heat source. I pulled the blanket close around us as Nicole set about organizing the merchandise table.
Sarah and I chatted for several minutes. When our husbands strung a rope across the booth, Noah, no longer shivering, turned to watch. “What are they doing?” he asked.
“They’re hanging a curtain,” Sarah said, “so we can nap behind it if we get tired today.”
The green sheets flapped in a wet breeze. “They look like ghosts,” Noah said.
“Nonsense,” I said. “They’re green. What kind of dead creature would leave behind a green ghost?”
Noah thought about this. “Trees,” he said with a nod.
I looked at the trees around us. There was certainly a lot of green about. “I suppose. Tree ghosts. Not the strangest thing I’ve heard. What about the red sheet over there?”
Noah looked in the direction I pointed. “Fire ghost,” he said.
“The ghost of a dying fire. That’s downright poetic,” I said.
Sarah sighed. I ignored her. “Tell me, young man: how does one go about fighting tree ghosts?”
“Optimus Prime could fight them,” Noah said.
I too believe Optimus Prime can conquer any foe, corporeal or otherwise, but I pressed on regardless. “Indeed. Well, sir, where do you suggest we find Optimus Prime at this time of day?”
Noah, immediately crestfallen, said, “I don’t know.”
At the sudden change in tone, I looked to Sarah for guidance. She shrugged. In the telepathy I have that comes and goes, I knew she was saying, “You started this. You’re on your own.”
“Why don’t you know where to find him?” I said.
“I had Optimus Prime, but I lost him!” Noah said, tiny voice breaking slightly.
With genuine feeling, I said, “I was the same age as you when my own Optimus Prime was stolen, but the important thing to remember is that Optimus Prime is always in your heart.”
Sarah’s husband Alex, who had stepped behind the booth for a drink of water, stopped at this and, shaking his head, immediately went back out again, leaving the tree-ghost curtain open behind him.
“Maybe Bumblebee and I can look for Optimus Prime together,” Noah suggested.
“Gosh, that would be quite an adventure,” I said.
“Can you take me to get Bumblebee? I left him at home.”
Sarah smiled. In telepathy, I said with a sidelong glance, “You knew this would happen, didn’t you?” Her sweet expression very clearly said, “Yes, and I’m enjoying the aftermath.”
I told Noah, “You can’t go on an adventure with Bumblebee.”
“Why not?” Noah said.
“You’re not old enough to drive. Bumblebee’s a car. How will you look for Optimus Prime together if you can’t drive?”
“Bumblebee can drive himself!” Noah said.
“That’s right, he can,” Sarah agreed.
“Hush you,” I told her. To Noah, I said, “You should wait until you’re tall enough to look out the window so you can search for Optimus Prime while Bumblebee drives.”
“We can’t wait that long!” Noah said. “What if Optimus Prime is in danger?”
“Yes,” Sarah said. “It could be an emergency.”
I practiced my evil glare against Sarah once more, but it did nothing to calm the child. Through the open curtain, I could see Charley, Noah’s father. I decided it was either him or me.
“I’ve never been to your house before, Noah. How can I take you to Bumblebee? Do you know the way to your house from here?”
“You have to find someone who knows the way. Maybe if you tell them Optimus Prime is in danger and it’s an emergency, they’ll take you home.”
Forsaking the warmth of the blankets, Noah leaped from my lap and ran to his father. “Daddy!” he called. “Optimus Prime is in danger!”
Across the space between us, Charley glared at me. In the telepathy I sometimes have, his eyes said, “What have you done?”
I whipped the tree-ghost curtain closed. “I really need to work on my evil glare,” I told Sarah. “Mine is nowhere near as good as his.”