The Potential Writer
by Firdaus Parvez
When Little J saw a carousel for the first time, this is what he didn’t do. He didn’t squeal with excitement, neither did he clap his hands with glee. He just stood there with a bored look on his face.
His Mother shot a glance at his Father.
What did I tell you.
The father just shrugged and mouthed.
He’s only six.
Rolling her eyes she bent down to speak to her little boy, “Little J, sweetheart, don’t you want to take a ride on that?”
“Why would I?” he looked baffled.
“Well, because it’s fun. Look at the horses and lights.”
“Where do the horses take you?”
“Round and round with the music playing.”
“Why would I want to go round and round?”
“Because children enjoy that sort of thing…look.”
Several children were screaming as they went round and round on the glossy white horses.
Little J just stood and observed.
“I think that boy is going to be sick, mom,” he pointed to a boy on the carousel, “and that girl in the pink dress is crying because she’s scared. I don’t think all children enjoy this stupid thing.”
The mother straightened up with a sigh.
“Let’s take him where he wanted to go all along.” she remarked.
Little J squealed with delight.
When they reached the bookstore Little J was flushing with excitement.
“Is there anything other than reading you’re interested in, boy?” his father asked.
“Yes of course,” Little J shouted before he ran off to the children’s section, “WRITING!”
War is a Carousel
by John Guzlowski
The painted, hard horses, their big chiseled teeth grinning, their heads thrown back in rage and joy, rising up and falling down.
Dark haired or light haired? Aryan or subhuman underman? Christian or Muslim?Gentile or Jew?
It doesn’t matter which.
The whirling carousel draws them in like a whirlpool, picks their bones in whispers, leaves their rags and brine.
by Jack Koebnig
There would be no second chances. This was it and he knew it. Last time had been close, but as his father had been fond of saying: you can’t spread butter without a knife.
He’d missed them by a matter of hours. ‘Sorry fella, but you’re too late. Cleared out of here the day before yesterday. Left a helluva mess too. What? No, they won’t be back. Good riddance is what I say.’
Good riddance, what did he know? He checked the boot of his car and reassured himself for the umpteenth time that everything was where it should be then jumped in behind the wheel and pushed his old rust-bucket harder than he’d ever pushed her before.
He drove through the night and arrived at the site where Jude and the guys were already unpacking their gear. As always the sight of the huge red and white striped marque triggered a tickle at the base of his stomach which made him feel both ravenous and nauseous.
He parked beside the long transport vehicles and climbed out. His back was stiff and it popped painfully as he removed his case from the boot.
‘You can do it. You know you can.’
As he approached the largest caravan he spotted the Merry-Go-Round and stopped. It was amazing. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. He was so enthralled he didn’t hear the door directly in front of him open. ‘I see you’ve finally caught up with us.’ The deep formidable voice belonged to Martha Cairns, proprietor of the travelling carnival. He acknowledged her with a brief glance then returned his full attention back to the ride. ‘Hope you brought your brushes,’ she continued, ‘those horses could do with lick of paint.’
The Odd Looking Man In A Green Velvet Coat
by Stephen Shirres
“Look Daddy.” Alice pulls me towards the centre of Carroll Park where, in the middle of the standing stones, is a grand, golden carousel filled with ivory horses, two abreast, each with perfect make up. Sitting on the edge of the platform, his feet barely touching the ground is an odd looking man in a green velvet coat.
“How much for a ride?” I ask him.
“For you, a single gold coin.” He snatches the pound coin from my hand and he bites into it. Alice hides behind my legs with a squeak.
“Select your steed.” The odd man steps back. Alice dashes to the closet horse with a silk blue mane. I help her up onto the scarlet saddle and get on behind her. The tune starts up. We are off: up and down, round and round. Alice squeals with delight. I enjoy her happiness.
“Your daughter’s mine. She didn’t pay.” His words slither into my ear. I see a flash of green velvet, again and again as we go round and round. I hold Alice closer. The turn of the carousel reveals him.
“Have it. Have it all.” I throw all the money I have at his feet. A ten pence coin bounces up and into his face. I’ve never heard a noise like it; pain being pulled apart by rusty hooks. He claws the silver disc from his face leaving the Queen’s image branded into his skin. With a snarl he disappears, along with the carousel. Like a character in one of Alice’s cartoons we sit in mid air for a moment before gravity takes over. I make sure she is between me and the hard ground. The impact stuns me.
“What happened Daddy?”
Hugging Alice I say, “I don’t know sweetheart, I don’t know.”
by Danielle Matthews
The carousel beckoned with gaudy fingers of lacquered gold; its song thin and reedy in the close summer air. Round it span on legs of gilded wood aching under years of use. I approached with trepidation the lights shining bright and twinkling, a stick of candy floss nearly forgotten in my hand.
An old man leaned towards me, cap thrust down, his eyes in shadow.
“One pound a ride.” he informed me in a voice speaking of cigarettes and smoke. He pocketed my coin held out in a suddenly sweaty palm and jerked a thumb to some small steps aside. “Up you go.”
But my legs held to the ground with the weight of worlds attached. My face a sickly green in the fluorescent lights’ sickly yellow glow.
“Come on, then.” the old man lifted his cap to squint at me through glassy eyes. In their reflection lived the tortured mouths of painted horses whirling ever round their circular open cage.
“I can’t.” I whispered through a mouth pasty and gritty with spun sugar. My stomach was turning, keeping pace with the carousel before me, and I tasted bile in the back of my throat.
“There’s a line.” Someone behind me reminded me tartly, and I shrank before them, becoming smaller and smaller until I fancied I could disappear.
“Get on or get out of the line.”
I hadn’t disappeared, only stood dumb staring at the whirling dervish casually cantering before my eyes. The horses terrified me.
I ran, shame burning on my heels and chasing me back to the shadows falling on trampled grass. On a tract less muddy I collapsed to the floor and wept.
Pretty in pink
by Cath Barton
She shouldn’t have worn pink. I might not have noticed her. Then again, how could I not? Sitting there, so coy, legs swinging. She wanted me to look at her.
And where was her Dad? He should have been watching, waving and smiling as she came into view. Poor little thing, she looked so forlorn. Anyone could see she was desperate for someone to lift her off that cold hard seat and sit her on his knee.
When the carousel stopped I asked her whether she’d like to ride a horse. One of the big horsies with a pink saddle to match her pretty coat, I said. Her blond hair fell over her face because she had her head down. I couldn’t hear what she said, I had to bend towards her, brush her hair back. It was only a little touch. It was her own fault. If she’d looked up I wouldn’t have had to do that.
She shook her head and she might have made a little cry. I can’t be sure she didn’t. She was clearly cold. When she put her hand in mine it was freezing. I warmed it up between my two, made it nice and warm and soft again. They shouldn’t have sent her out without gloves. It’s a crime, letting a child go off on her own like that, not properly dressed.
We walked across the fairground and I bought her some candyfloss. She liked that. I watched her licking it, taking her time, her little tongue working round the soft pink sugary mound. But then she dropped some on her coat and it upset me to see the sticky mess. So obviously I had to take her coat off.
Then she definitely started crying. I had to stop her. Obviously I did.
The Last Ride
by Steph Ellis
“It’s like a graveyard for fairgrounds,” whispered Liam peering through the broken fencing.
“Bloody strange place for it,” said Lou. They’d been hiking for some days across the wilds of Cumbria and nothing had prepared them for this.
“Come on, let’s take a look,” said Liam
Lou glanced at the ominous sky. At least they might be able to find some shelter. He followed Liam through the gap.
Decaying stalls lined mud-filled tracks, tattered awnings drooped down, rotting shelves sagged under the remnants of unclaimed prizes. The beady of eye of a mouldy teddy followed them.
“This is really creepy,” said Lou. “I don’t think this is a dumping-ground. It looks as though it was set up and then just left.”
“Who would’ve come though? There’s no one near for miles,” said Liam.
They both fell quiet as the approaching storm corroded their bravado; passed a fortune-teller’s tent, a shooting range, a haunted house, without comment. Lou shivered. It was as if the old attractions seemed to be waiting for something.
“There!” said Liam, as the first drops of rain fell. “Come on. We can leave once the storm passes.”
He darted off before Lou could object, leaping up onto the boards of an old carousel. Lou reached him just as the heavens opened.
“One way to ride out a storm,” laughed Liam, clambering onto a horse’s back.
Lou chucked his camping gear into an old carriage and climbed onto the horse next to his friend. A blaze of light illuminated their surroundings, would have shown them they were not alone … if they’d noticed.
“Hello, there boys,” said a voice from the shadows. “Nice to see fresh customers enjoying our little funfair. But you do know you have to pay … don’t you?”
Ride of a Lifetime
by Alyson Faye
‘Come on Harry you’re not too old are you?’ Jim’s spectacles glinted in the drizzle. He’d always had a childish sense of humour. Which was why the two of us were here, mid -winter, loitering on Bridlington’s sea front, gazing at the carousel.
‘It’s bloody cold out here mate, can’t we head back to the pub?’
‘Lighten up. Trip down memory lane. I’ve got the keys, owner’s a pal of mine.’
We’d spent our youth hanging out here and in the arcades. But forty years separated me from that spotty lad. Now I was a Sales Manager, based in Hull with all the usual middle aged responsibilities.
As for Jim, I wasn’t sure what he did. ‘Freelance,’ he’d said. In the pub he’d mentioned being in ‘Quality control.’ I knew he’d moved around a lot. He’d always pop back up though. Tied by our history of daft pranks, first fags, one shared ex- girlfriend and many boozy nights I always caved in and met up.
The carousel gears ground into life. I climbed aboard a bright red and gold equine, checking there was no one around to witness my idiocy. We were alone.
Jim was shouting, ‘Gee up!’
Feeling slightly pissed, I closed my eyes, enjoying the mild spinning sensations.
I heard nothing. The first I knew was when I felt fingers grab my neck, in a choke hold and smelt Jim’s beery breath on my face.
My eyes sprang open, ‘What the f…?’
‘Bye Harry. Your number’s up.’
I felt a sharp pain in my side, glancing down I saw red stain my jumper. Wobbling, I grabbed onto Jim. His face was strangely calm, almost blank.
‘Just a job, sorry ‘mate’. I’m paid to get rid of inferior product. Paid by your boss.’
by Jan Kaneen
The bedsit was stale and shabby with an avocado hand basin and a single bed. It was one of many that ran along the promenade of the faded seaside town. The walls were bare and the only other furniture were a squat bedside cabinet placed under the dirty window, an ashtray and a green plastic should-be-in-a-garden chair, where Svetlana sat smoking, watching the outside world, below.
She took a drag and looked at the Clock Tower. It was 1.55pm, five minutes before the next client. She lit another cigarette, sucking it alight from the dying embers of the last, sighing out a new bruise of smoke, well it sounded like a sigh but she’d stopped sighing months ago.
On the promenade the carousel turned round and round as it did every day, its gaudy pink and gold horses galloping up and down, suspended from twisted, gilt poles, their wooden faces frozen under fairy lights, always shining, always dead-eyed; beautiful and ugly at the same time.
A fond couple were watching their little girl. They waved every time she came past and the little girl waved back, laughing. The ride finished and the music stopped.
When Svetlana had first arrived, she’d hated that music, hated its dissonant modulations from hopeful major chords to sinister organ grinding minors, the music of nightmares or worse than nightmares.
The couple went to help the little girl down. The man turned slightly as he raised his arms. Svetlana recognized the face. It was Brian, or the client that called himself Brian. His gaze flitted up to her window. She recognized fear and self-loathing when she saw it.
The family turned for home as the next chattering batch of never-ending riders mounted their wooden steeds. The music started up again and the bedsit door clicked open.
My Only Hope
by CR Smith
The music increases slowly until I’m humming along to the cheerful organ music spilling out. We start to speedup, going faster and faster, causing me to tighten my grip. The rush of air chills my cheeks and whips up my hair. I laugh with glee as my horse rises and falls. We’re going so quickly now everything we pass is a blur. I’m giddy with joy, my laughter mixing with snippets of conversation coming from the crowd as we go around and around. But when I turn my head to smile at my sister my heart misses a beat. She’s gone.
My head twists franticly from side to side, searching for her. I’m thinking she can’t be far away, but I’m worried — she was behind me only a few minutes ago. I call out her name, stopping the crowd’s conversation mid-sentence. Faces fly past me, staring in my direction as I begin to shout. The roundabout slows, but I can’t wait for it to stop, I need to find her now. Jumping off my horse I collapse in a dizzy heap on the grass, leaving one shoe behind. The music stops at last and I hear someone screaming. I soon come to realise that someone is me.
“Three–Two–One, ” My eyes open to clicking fingers. Tears trickle sideways as I stare up at the ceiling. I’m gasping for breath and feeling quite dizzy. My heart’s beating as if it’s going to break in half. It’s been twenty years — twenty years since I last saw my sister. Despite an extensive police investigation she’s never been found. My only hope is to try and remember something new about that day — to try and shed light on what really happened to her. Hypnosis is my only hope.
by Lee Hamblin
-Here, where’s my change?
-Oh, sorry guv. Weren’t it a 5 you gave me?
I pull another fiver from my pouch. He gives me a stare, incredulous – ain’t that the word? I like words, I’ve even read dictionaries and that, but I don’t get to use ‘em much. Round here, they all take the mick out of me if I let one slip, and out come the stinky face ooos and look at yous. Especially dad. This is all he knows, all he’s ever known. He thinks it’s all I should know.
That guy I just tried to hustle is still staring me daggers. I put his little girl in the wagon and made sure she was strapped in tight; told him she wasn’t safe on a horse. She wanted to go on a horse. She’s not happy – but thems the rules! Every time we go round, him and his missus wave and holler like they’re 5-year-olds themselves, click-click-click go their smartphones, imploring her to have 2 quids worth of fun. Ha! As if that’s ever worked!
Once she’s out of sight they go back to droopy-mouthed malaise.
And here she comes again! Quick everybody – smile!
After all the punters have gone, I get on board Sindy and pump the creepy organ music up full blast. I untie my hair and let it fly in the wind. Round and round and round we go.
Nailed to the floor, we’re never gonna catch the gelding in front, and we’re never gettin caught by the filly behind. We’re moving, but going nowhere, and I know I’m getting off at the exact same place I started.
Then I lean over and whisper in Sindy’s ear that I’ve got plans, and I ask her if she wants to come too.
by Daisy Warwick
The ride attendant walked off without a smile.
Daphne sighed. What did she expect?
‘Get in touch with your inner child’, her new therapist had said.
It wasn’t like it was Daphne’s choice to ride the carousel. Well ultimately it had been, but her therapist had given her the ticket for inspiration.
She leaned into the horse’s neck and tried to people watch as the ride began to bob up and down, but it was spinning too quickly for her to clearly focus. Suddenly the horse jolted forward and Daphne found herself screaming involuntarily.
Lunging through the air with her legs wrapped like a bear trap around the cold uncomfortable frame of the badly painted horse, she was surprised to find that the impact that she braced for did not come.
Instead, the horse shook its legs out and galloped enthusiastically into the sky, whilst Daphne discovered that her hands were now clutched deep within its luxurious, cascading gold and green coloured mane that, only moments before, had been plastic.
Glancing back towards the ground it seemed that her exit had caused no disturbance. Stunned, she hugged the mysterious creature and sure enough, it breathed. She’d barely time to think of asking questions as they cantered in a circuit around the town. Could horses talk? They certainly didn’t fly.
It was all over so quickly.
Minutes later, Daphne stared gormlessly at the carousel figures. The horse she’d ridden was fixed into the structure as though it had never broken away – ugly and plastic again. She wasn’t quite sure how they’d landed.
“Hey! What’s the matter?” shouted the attendant.
“Nothing,” stammered Daphne. She’d never had a therapist like this before. Although she was confused she felt excited. For the first time in a long time, she believed that anything was possible.