Copyright is held by the author.
THE FERRIS WHEEL SHUDDERS and screeches to a stop. Henry’s carriage pitches forward, throwing him hard against the guardrail and then back into his seat. The knot in his stomach coils. He tightens his grip on the rail and exhales an embarrassing little squeal. As he peeks out over the side, he feels the murderous pull of gravity. Perched 85 feet above unforgiving ground, the unending expanse of black sky surrounds him like a shroud. Below, thousands of fair-goers, illuminated by the glow of carnival lights, crowd the narrow lanes of the Dickenson County fair.
Henry takes a deep breath. Seconds pass as slowly as rivers carve canyons. He turns toward his secretary and traces the outline of her delicate profile. Her skin shines as if illuminated from within. We’re up here because of you, Henry laments. We’re up here because you went on and on about how you loved the fair, the rides — especially the Ferris wheel.
The boys in the car below him laugh as if it is all a joke. Christ. Don’t they understand the seriousness of the situation?
A gale suddenly blows in from the North. The wheel sways. In the distance, lightning flashes. “Great,” Henry groans. “A storm. Of course. Why not?”
The big wheel creaks again. “It’s the girders,” someone screams. “They’re crumbling.”
Henry closes his eyes. He reaches out for comfort. He feels Kara’s slender arm, her soft hand.
“What do you think?” Kara asks. “Mechanical failure?”
“I said do you think it’s a mechanical failure?”
Henry forces a smile. “Yeah. Probably.”
Kara slips out from the safety bar and stands. “What a view.”
“Oh God, Kara, be careful.”
“Don’t tell me you’re afraid. You’re scared?”
Of course, I’m scared. Damned scared, Henry thinks. I’m afraid of heights, water, germs, elevators and anything that creeps and crawls. The anxiety inhibitors in my brain should be sued for neglect. “I just don’t want you to fall.”
Kara leans over the side: “Perhaps it’s a murder?”
“Yes. A murder: Some angry, jealous lover has thrown his cheating spouse right out of the car?”
“That’s a dark view,” Henry says, voice trembling.
“Oh Henry, you’re more likely to be murdered by someone you know; someone you love. You’re more likely to murder me than a stranger. You could slip a pill into my coffee. You could cut the brake-line of my car. There are any number of ways I may die at your hands and it could be construed as an accident. You are clever, but you’re a jealous and insecure man. Your love for me is beyond strong, Henry. It’s obsessive, taut and stretched beyond healthy limits, ready to snap, and then . . .”
“Kara stop. You can’t believe I am capable of hurting you?” Henry says as the air rushes out of his lungs. He feels as if he will collapse in on himself.
“You think you won’t. You believe you’re a good man, and perhaps you are. But the statistics don’t lie,” Kara says. “But you can prove me wrong.”
“Yeah, Henry,” she says and crawls into his lap. Her arms cradle his neck.
Kara frees a hand and lifts her skirt. “Prove your love to me.”
Henry gasps as he feels bare skin. He pulls her tight, afraid his grip will slip and they will fall. “Up here? On the wheel? Out in the open?”
“Yes. I know you want this. You think about me all the time,” Kara whispers. “You stare at me when you think I’m not looking.” She tilts her head back, stares towards the stars and laughs. “Come, prove you’re worth my love, now at the hour of our death.”
The carriage reaches bottom. The carnival worker releases the safety rail. Henry stretches his legs, and pushes himself off the chair. He stumbles on the gravel. The worker grabs his arm.
“Careful sir,” the worker says, leading Henry away from the wheel. “I’m sure your legs are a bit stiff from the wait. “
“A mechanical failure, we blew a belt. It’s a wonder we got the wheel moving at all.” The worker shakes his head. “No, it’s more like a miracle. I swore we didn’t have a replacement.”
“Basic maintenance shouldn’t be a miracle,” Henry says.
“Hey, it’s okay. Don’t worry.” Henry pauses and looks back at the wheel. “Perhaps, it wasn’t so bad. We survived it.”
“Yes. Yes you did, and now you have a story to tell: how you survived the Great Dickenson Fair Ferris Wheel Disaster of 2012. Stranded alone, high above the earth, in the face of a raging storm, not knowing whether the wheel will stand or fall!”
Henry laughs and pats the worker on his back. “Yes, yes, a story to tell. Although, I might have to omit a detail to two.”
On Monday, Henry sits at his desk, wearing his best suit; accented by a colourful fish-tie his sister bought him for his 45th birthday. It’s 8:35, and Kara hasn’t arrived yet. Henry cringes. Every Monday morning it is the same: Kara rushes in, late as usual. She smiles and asks: ‘How was your weekend, sir?’
“Oh I spent the weekend reading. I watched a ballgame. I went to a stamp show.” Mercy. Perhaps, today will be different.
He looks at his watch, again. He doesn’t know why he is nervous. It’s not as if I am going to ask her out for a date. He tells himself. We’re a long ways from that scenario. Today, I am just going to be a bit more engaging. I will share my story: my night at the fair. She’ll be amused. Perhaps she will feel somewhat responsible given the Ferris wheel was her idea.
A few minutes after nine, Kara bounces in; her dress waves as if caught up in a breeze. Christ. She’s a dream: Too perfect. Too young. Too everything. Henry turns away and faces the window. His reflection glares back in cruel clarity: the narrow eyes, fleshy chin, large nose, cheap glasses and the ridiculous tie.
Tears emerge, just as they had on the Ferris wheel.
Kara taps on his desk as she scoots to hers. Henry watches her for a moment, seeking the right words, the right tone, the right anything. Nothing comes forth.
Kara glances at him. Of course she smiles. Her world is wide. Her world is not limited and tainted with dread where nothing goes right. Nothing works out. Everything turns to shit and then to dust.
Henry stands and quickly exits the motel office. Outside, among the blowing debris of the parking lot, he stares out past the freeway, past the railroad yard, and toward the fairgrounds
The motel’s door opens. Kara calls out, “Henry, what’s wrong?”
Nothing,” Henry says. “Everything’s fine. Everything’s the same.” Round and round. I don’t have a story for you. I don’t have a story for anyone.
Round and round.