The carousel goes around again. The horses move up and down. The music plays. There are no children on it. The operator watches, his hand on the lever and ready to stop it in case anybody in the sparse crowd is drawn to the sound and motion and comes to ride. He had thought that maybe when the deflating bounce castle was finally taken away some of the kids might look his way, but so far he’s largely been disappointed.
A fairground without a fair on it is little more than an empty lot. This one was more so than most. It’s hard to tell if it’s a gravel lot with weeds growing in or a grassy one that’s overgrown and full of rocks. There’s only so much magic that the aging rides and fading canvas-sided booths can do to transform it into a land of wonderment and whimsy.
The sky is gray and oppressively low, and the day is hot and sticky. It hasn’t been a good day. It hasn’t been a good year for carnivals and this has never been a particularly good carnival.
A little girl, or pre-school age or just after, bounces towards him with the sticky remnants of a snowcone dribbling out of a crushed paper cone in her hands. The girl’s mother follows after, fanning herself with a program.
“Ponies!” she cries. The man brings the ride to a stop. She’s too small to sit on one of the horses, but there are sleighs and swan boats in between them.
The mother grabs the girl’s hand.
“Come on, April,” she says, pulling her away. “None of these rides look very safe. Let’s go see if the house of mirrors has air conditioning.”
Down the midway, a barker calls the few passersby to step right up and try their luck on the wheel of fortune.
The operator pulls the lever.
The carousel goes around again.