Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Botched Photo Interpretations # 6

What story can be conjured from this image?
(A draft for a short story I wrote based on this 110mm photo I took during my visit to Governors Island in NYC.)

It was two days after your 8th birthday. The sky was purple-bruised and cloud-clogged, foreboding of rain. Your mother took you to the carnival just two hours before it was slated to close. The tickets were discounted; five bucks for two entries. It was enough to buy happiness, to forget the eviction notice taped to the apartment door the previous day. You hadn’t known that at the time though; you just wanted cotton candy sticky fingers and cheap thrills.    

The game stalls were mostly empty of visitors as you wondered between them, lollipop sticks and popcorn crunching beneath your shoes. The prizes were packed tightly together on shelves, the counters strung with white and green Christmas lights, and the signs peeling yellow paint. It was a cheap escape to your mother. For you, it was everything you had ever wanted, and that’s what mattered.    

Go ahead,” your mother whispered, watching you shutter with barely contained excitement. “Have fun!

And so you did; she watched you throw soft balls at wooden bowling pins to win a stuffed animal. You had missed every time, your aim poor. The clerk was sympathetic and gifted you a sugar stick for your efforts. 

You went against her in a Ring Toss game, having successfully flung 2 rings on the slim necks of glass bottles, she none. However, you hadn’t known she purposely lost because this was your birthday celebration. You were supposed to obtain 1st place.

Your mother quietly watched the stack of bills diminish from her wallet while you rode Tilt-O-World, the Ferris Wheel, and the Grand Slide. You quickly devoured the funnel cake she bought you, unmindful of future stomach aches. It was your first time eating the sweet confection.  

Afterward, she grabbed your sugar powdered fingers and steered you toward the exit just as the carousal clerk called for last entries before shutting down the ride. You pulled at her sleeve, begging for one more ride, just one more, please.  

Your mother really wanted to say no. She had to go grocery shopping with a fifteen dollar budget, borrow money from her sister to pay for the antibiotics for the infection in your ear, sew the hole closed in your jacket before school on Monday, wash the dirty laundry piling up by the sofa, take the garbage out while avoiding the landlord-

She relented to your request.

You hastily shoved your remaining dollar bills in the clerk’s hand and ran for the carousal, unmindful of your mother’s scowl. You circled the decorative horses, analyzing each one in deep thought. She had never seen you so attentive. She guessed choosing a horse fit to your tastes was a serious affair.

After a few minutes, you chose a black mare with a pink saddle lined in blue glitter, its hair curled with brown and white highlights. You hefted yourself onto the saddle, gripping the gold bar attached to the horse’s neck. The clerk pushed a button and the music stuttered, dragged until it stabilized into an upbeat tune. That's when it started to rain.

Your mother wanted to stop the ride, and just when she was about to complain to the clerk, she halted upon seeing you come around. Despite your wet clothes hanging like wrinkled skin, you appeared regal, your back straight and chin confidently lifted, eyes alight with determination. The rain had not dampened your spirit, but imbued in you a heightened sense of imagination. Your mother could see it clearly. You were not her child in that moment, you were a leader heading into battle during a nasty wet storm, the remainder of the varnished horses your most trusted soldiers. They would follow you anywhere, act without question, bleed until you won the battle.

Sighing heavily, your mother sat on the bench directly across from the carousal, allowing the rain to soak her completely. She didn't have the heart to spoil your fun, to strip you of the happiness you seemed hard pressed to let go of for these past two hours. Her eyes landed lovingly on you, her smile slippery and wet. If you'd only knew how much of a solider she was willing to be in your sudden army. No eviction notices, no late bills, no angry landlords would stop her from giving you what you desired.

She wanted you to have everything, even if that meant she would end up with nothing.

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