They stood at the colorful, metal carnival fence surrounding the ride. The little boy climbed onto the bottom rail and peered at the giant wheel before him. His mother guardedly put her left hand on his shoulder.
What was it about fairground carny rides? They looked terribly flimsy. The rigging haphazardly erected and spiked into the ground. She looked at the hypnotic red, blue, and green lights chasing each other around the large metal circle. It was just a distraction from the truth that the ride was nefarious and a certain deathtrap. The children in the ride car giggled nervously. Her heart dropped into an anxious pit, a dizzying unease as though she was looking over the edge of a deep chasm. She watched as the teenage girl checked that all the riders were buckled. It didn’t instill any confidence in her.
The nine-year-old boy watched in amazement. His eyes tried in vain to chase the red, blue, and green lights around the tall circle. His senses were bombarded by youthful laughter, comical music, the clanging of metal bottles being knocked over by some unseen thrower, hundreds of lights all blinking, twirling, and glowing bright, the smells of hot dogs and cotton candy and spilled soda mixing with freshly cut grass. He watched as the ride began to move; the car slowly rocking to and fro on its track. Higher and higher with each semi-revolution, his eyes grew wider and wider as he watched the people raise thir arms with each forward and back roll.
The rigging tensed. She was certain that she could hear metal creaking. The ride attendant looked disinterested as she blew and burst her gum repeatedly. Any moment she expected to hear the distinct ping of a metal cable snapping, sending the entire ride toppling to its side. She fully expected the girl leaning against the electrical panel to be completely oblivious to it all. Her hand tightened on her little boy’s shoulder. She could hear the whimpers of children who hadn’t won the teddy bear at the ball toss game, the frightened screams of a rider’s second thoughts, and she could smell stomach’s that had become upset during and after a ride.
The pounding of his eager heart pulsed in his hands and feet. He watched as the car raced toward the apex, slowed, and left the riders dangling upside down for a moment. The red glowing words Ring of Fire beckoned him with a sly siren’s call of enticing lights. The patriotic display of five American flags crowning the top of the ride proclaimed its rightful place as the show stopper in the fairground. Six tickets. That was all it cost to spend a few moments defying gravity. He looked up at his mother with a longing in his eyes.
She watched in silent, petrified horror as the ride slowed at the top of the circle, though outwardly she tried to remain as stoic as possible. Despite the red cage surrounding the people in the cart, she couldn’t help but imagine one of them coming loose and falling. Ring of Fire glowing red with yellow chasing lights didn’t build up any confidence in her. In her mind she saw images that were a cross between Dante’s Inferno and Johnny Cash singing “falling into a burning fire.” She could feel her little boy twitching beneath her hand, a subtle but distinct pull toward the mechanical harlot. She didn’t need to look down to know that he was pleading with his eyes.
Maybe they shouldn’t have come after all, she thought to herself.
Prompted by Studio 30+ “Fairground”