Saturday, December 15, 2007

A small part of a larger story called, "Dreaming In Carnival Time"

I can see it now, the massive metal wheel of the Ferris Wheel turning giant cartwheels in the pimpled dusk of an August sky, the moon softly rising in the smeared thin blur of sight at the edge of the world, kids screaming high and quick and loud, sudden screeches like car crashes; pink tufts of cotton candy and the frozen explosions of corn kernels, which make the tiny cauliflower shapes of popcorn, spilled or dropped or thrown all over the dirt paths that are crowded with people moving in both directions, their faces just vague featureless things lost somewhere in my memories farthest universe. I can see my grandparents standing beside me. I can feel my hand lost in my grandmother’s hand, so much smaller than hers it seems ridiculous, as if she were holding onto a kewpie doll or a cigarette lighter. But she is holding my hand tight and it feels good and warm and safe. My grandfather is wearing red suspenders, a wrinkled white short-sleeved dress shirt with yellow stains under the arm pits, a purple tie with tiny bubbles on it, and faded blue jeans that are splattered with mud at the cuffs. He is watching people swing around on a giant Chair-O-Planes. The people sit on swings attached to long chains that swing out as the top turns. As the top turns faster the swings go out real far, and it’s like they are going to just fly away. They go almost sideways they go out so far. People scream and wave their arms. I hold onto my grandmother’s hand tight, without even knowing it. I want to be one of those people, to be flying high above the ground, lost in the sky, being wild and free and careless. My grandfather is smiling and smoking a cigarette. He laughs as he watches the swings spin faster and higher, and he turns to me and asks if I want to go up in one of those swings. His breath smells like cigarettes and whiskey, and his smile is gigantic. The wattles under his neck shake as he laughs and looks at me expectantly, mussing my hair with a large, calloused palm. Shaking my little head emphatically I tell him yes, yes, I want to go up in the air, I want to swing with the people in the sky, and he tells me ok kid let’s go get you a ticket, and I go with him and the air is dusty and the sun is going down and I know that there isn’t much time, that it will be dark soon, and I try to make him go faster and he is up way high above me and I can smell funnel cakes and hot dogs cooking and I see gum on the ground and leap over it, still holding fast to his hand, and people keep getting in the way but he pulls me through all the way to the ticket booth. His grip is strong and reliable and I don’t ever want to let go.
A dizzy rush, like my stomach has gone outside of me somewhere, and my head is lifting a little higher above my body than I’m used to. The belt holding me in is tight around my hips and shoulders. The swing shakes when I move so I hold as still as I can. Excitement is running over me like warm water in a bathtub. I look at my grand parents standing on the railing. They are waving to me and smiling and saying my name. The kids on the swings around me look scared and maybe like they have to go to the bathroom. The top of the ride is like a carousel with all kinds of colored light bulbs and painted pictures of animals all over it. It is so high up that I have to tilt my head all the way back to see it all, like I’m looking at clouds. The engine grinds and starts to whirr like my mom’s vacuum cleaner. My feet get lifted up off of the ground and I keep kicking them in the air as the swing starts to move forward and up. I look out ahead of me at some other kid’s back and it seems impossible that the swings will go as high as I saw them going from the ground. They move so slowly, and some bigger kids are dragging their feet in the dirt as they start to go in a circle. My grandfather is standing there, his smile like a sideways crescent moon, with his arm around my grandmother. His head is bald and round and he has big, gray sideburns crawling on his face. The skin on his face is rugged, worn and chapped and wrinkled. He holds my grandmother close, her head spilling out dark brown and silvering curls, her face shining and full, smiling too at me from a round face of sunspots and tanned, leathery skin. The smoke from my grandfather’s cigarette coils and curls and wraps around the air like a caduceus, little cloud tails whipping the air around his head and then disappearing. As I circle I try to find them again, but I lose track of where they are and I am starting to go up higher into the air. Some of the kids are swaying back and forth in their swings, but I try to hold really still, to keep the chains on my swing as straight as I can, so I can fly sideways, so I can go really fast like I want. The music is playing, some kind of harmonium or Wurlitzer organ, but it gets fainter as the swings pick up speed and start to splay out. Human voices are lost in the sound of wind. I can’t see the ground below me and the swing is up higher than I’ve ever been before, up where the clouds would be if there were any. The swings pick up speed, spinning faster and faster, but I’m not getting dizzy. I feel unattached from everything, out on my own, and there’s a certain kind of silence up here that gives me goose bumps and makes my head airy and light. There are no people down there on the ground, there is nothing, no world, no people walking around trying to win prizes at booths by throwing balls at stacks of bowling pins, licking ice-cream cones and staring at funhouse mirrors, only me up here spinning around in a giant fast circle on this swing, holding onto the chains so tight my fingers start to chaff, squinting hard against all of this wind blowing at my face, which prickles my skin and makes my eyes water. I look out and see mountains and open fields, and just below my left sneaker, when my swing comes around to just the right place, the moon. I lean into the turns, which are all just one turn forever turning, and my swing goes up sideways. I kick-out my feet and scream, louder than I’ve ever been in my whole life. Nobody can hear me way up here. I don’t ever want to go back down.