Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Carousel Hearts...



“If you stand in the center of the carousel, on the platform that the operator walks on while the ride is moving, you will not move.”

That’s what her mother had told her once, years ago at the carnival. Ever since she was very small she had loved the carousel, with its tinny fairground music, twinkly lights, and magnificent menagerie. Her older sister tried a different mount every ride, shouting and exclaiming at the wild-maned lion, the white-necked swan, the fiery-eyed dragon. But she wanted nothing more than to ride the cream and gold pony with the pretty pink saddle and the bright blue eyes. Sister would tease her for choosing the same animal every time, but she would merely look over her shoulder to where mother waited by the gate. Mother always smiled and nodded, and so the pony it was.

Those years are in the past now. Sister has gone away, still the same—always searching for something new, something exciting, something different. And mother—well. Mother is gone now, too. No more walking hand in hand to the carousel. No more encouragement. No more anything. Gone.

She tries to imagine the way it was, climbing onto the carousel pony, looking out as she spun past the world, mother appearing and disappearing in turn as she spun round and round on the back of the pony. Try as she might, she can’t conjure up the scene. Suddenly feeling trapped inside her small bedroom, she puts on her shoes and walks out the door, down the hallway, and across the kitchen. Out she goes into the starry summer night, locking the door behind her.

Her feet know the way to the fairgrounds. Quickly they move her forward as she loses herself in the memories of sister, mother, and carousel. So lost is she that she hardly notices where she is until she stumbles upon a raised bit of sidewalk.

There it is. The carnival, laid out before her. It is late enough that there is no one around. The lights are dark; the booths and shops are quiet. Swiftly and silently she makes her way through the town of tents until she finds what she is seeking: the carousel.

She has never seen it dark like this before. The music is stopped. The lights no longer blink. The wild-maned lion, the white-necked swan, the fiery-eyed dragon, all as she remembers them to be, sleep under the mirrored roof above them. And there—she squints in the darkness—it isn’t there.

Her breath catches in her chest and she runs forward, tripping on cords in the darkness. She grips the metal fence that surrounds the carousel, craning and straining to see through the shadows. It can’t be gone. It can’t be.

But it is. The pony—the cream and gold pony with the pretty pink saddle and the bright blue eyes—it’s been replaced by something else. She slumps against the fence and listens as her breath comes hard and fast. How can it be gone? How can something else be gone?

She closes her eyes, praying for some sort of memory to fill the awful, empty hole she feels inside. Slowly images come: her sister climbing aboard the wild-maned lion, whooping and waving her arm like a cowboy in the rodeo; her mother handing quarters to the ticket seller; sister scolding her for riding the cream pony for a third time; mother nodding and smiling, giving her the go ahead to ride the pony; mother laughing and waving to her as she spins by; mother taking her hand; the cream and gold pony with the pretty pink saddle and the bright blue eyes; mother; the cream pony; mother…

“Mother!”

The word rips from her throat unbidden, crashing into the silent night, thundering in her ears. She shakes her head, trying to rid herself of the sudden, frantic pounding of her heart.

The carousel. She looks up, up at the carousel before her.

“If you stand in the center of the carousel, on the platform that the operator walks on while the ride is moving, you will not move.”

Jumping the fence, she runs up the carousel ramp to the platform where the operator runs the machine. She knows how it works, having seen it hundreds of times. She even asked someone once, when she was not so small, to show her how to run the carousel. She finds the small key, left only where an operator or an operator’s friend would know to look, and places it into the slot. One turn to the left. Press three buttons. Flip one switch.

Lights go on. Music begins to play. And with one more knob, the carousel begins to spin. Round and round they go: the wild-maned lion, the white-necked swan, the fiery-eyed dragon. Round and round they go: sister, mother, pony, sister, mother, pony. But where she is, she does not move. Where she is, the world passes her by, spinning and spinning away by the light of the carousel.

2 comments:

Sierra said...

1. That song= amazing.
2. Have you seen the movie Carousel? I used to watch it every day as a little girl. It's a musical. I LOVE carousels. So I love this post.

Georgie K. Buttons said...

1. Song = amazing
2. Yes, I have seen it. It makes me cry every time!