Vol. 7

CARY STOUGH
The Year I Apparently Didn’t Ride The Ride

 

I was at the county fair and spent my last ticket to ride the ride eponymously called The Ride. Here is what we’ve been waiting for, I thought. The Ride. To be honest, I didn’t even get on. I just watched the red cars glide. I took a swig of root beer and waited for the next line of cars. Children piled in from outside behind me on the platform. The red cars returned and still I felt compelled not to ride The Ride. Maybe I was blocking these kids, I thought, but when I stepped to turn the kids weren’t there. I watched the second train of cars depart. A whistle sounded, but sounded like a ghost whistle, not a train whistle, even though I just said “train of cars.” This was it, I thought, finally. I’m watching The Ride go on and on in an endless loop of red blur and whistle and I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. It’s moments like this I spend so many tickets in the first place. I could waste a whole summer here. Never have to go back to the factory or pine for lost objects, looking at the wall. The first cars returned and relaunched like a memory. I could waste what remained of my once perfect vision here, staring at the vibrating track and the dark clouds now collecting beneath them, pouring from somewhere beneath the platform. The cars hadn’t returned for quite a while and I doubted whether I was even there anymore, waiting to ride The Ride. But that was crazy. Of course I was there. The kids piled in behind me again. I couldn’t turn if I wanted to it was so crowded now. Also the clouds were pressing around and I could barely see. I could suddenly smell the dirty hands of all those children. Like they’d been working all day outside, they had outside hands. So this must be the grand finale, I thought, what the workers see after everyone’s gone. I heard what I still think was the sound of the second train of cars but I’m not sure. Then I heard the whistle again, the ghost whistle. This time, I knew I was determined to ride The Ride. Or I thought I was. I couldn’t move. I must have stayed too long. The child-laborers needed me out of there. Maybe earlier they were trying to encourage me, give me a little confidence boost, but I didn’t have the courage or was too hot and full of root beer to move. Sometimes I feel like a very large map lain out across the whole river valley, touching every green and fluid thing. This is exactly how I’m not supposed to feel. I closed my eyes and I wake up here in what used to be a Civil War battlefield, and what used to be the county fair. There’s probably a while before it returns but I’ll be ready. In the coming months I’ll regain my strength by playing baseball. I’ll walk up to the front of the line and prove I’m innocent enough. Finally living my best life, and at the same time, somehow much more than alive.

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