Short stories to be consumed with a favourite beverage
Wednesday, 11 July 2018
by Kim Martins
circus arrives in town every summer with its promises of pink cotton candy and
horses of the carousel always attract Kate’s son. "I want to ride the horses," James pleads,
pulling her towards the rides. She can never say no to her tousle-haired boy.
whirls and Kate catches glimpses of the excited faces of children, ice-cream trickling down their chins as they watch
a clown perform.
let's get off now, okay?" she says, as the platform completes its final
turn and slows down. She turns to look at the brightly-coloured horse her son
has been riding.
where are you? We need to get off so other people can get on," she says,
searching for her son in the jumble of lifeless eyes and carved manes.
need help?" Kate sees a young woman staring at her from ground level. She
is struck by the intensity of her hazel eyes and puzzled expression.
“My son,” she
says. “He is wearing a green dinosaur T-shirt and brown shorts. Have you seen
him? He was on the horse right behind me.” Kate steps off the carousel and
tries to calm her rising fear.
think there was anybody on the ride behind you,” says the young woman, her
voice calm and measured.
The horses set
off on another journey. The organ music cranking through loudspeakers
reverberates in Kate's head, making her feel dizzy. She looks for a place to
"My name's Naomi. There’s a bench over here. Let me help
you," she says, gripping Kate’s elbow and guiding her towards the nearest
bench. Naomi smiles but there is something about her that makes Kate uneasy.
She notices a small galloping horse tattoo on Naomi’s inner wrist and she’s certain she has seen it before.
your husband? Maybe James is with him or maybe he saw some friends and went to
be with them?"
clings to her back, slick with sweat. "My husband is in the city on a
business trip. I brought James here…", she says, feeling hot tears
brimming. She wants to find her son, not sit here wasting time talking to this
Kate feels she
is being watched and glances at the carousel operator, a gnarled man with a
salt and pepper beard. He is smoking a cigarette between rides, staring at them
why don't we ask the guy in charge of the carousel ride? He's just over there.
He might recall seeing your son,” says Naomi.
before getting up, unsteady on her feet. She walks the short distance but is frightened by a knowing look that
flickers between Naomi and the carousel operator.
have you done with my son? Where is he?" she yells. She knows she is losing control but her hands are
shaking, her breath short and fast.
take it easy,” says the carousel operator. His face is lined with wrinkles, his
expression detached. “I 'aint seen your son. I don't know what y'all talking
about and you best not go around accusing people of things.”
calm down,” says Naomi. "I'll go look for him and you should call your husband".
Naomi sets off
in the direction of the large red and white-striped tent. Kate fumbles for her
cell phone in her purse.
She calls and
waits for Tom to pick up, hoping he isn’t at a client function with the phone
Everything okay? I can't talk for long," says Tom. She can hear the unease
in his voice or perhaps he’s just tired.
"It's James. I can't find him.”
sake Kate -"
with me on the carousel ride and then he…".
calling Geoff. I know where you are. Stay there," Tom rings off.
back to the bench and waits for Geoff to arrive, watching the dips and curves
of the wooden horses as they glide by. She
squints as splintered reflections from the gold lights
that decorate the carousel bounce off its mirrored-centre. There are moments
when she wishes she had never brought James to the night circus.
later, Kate hears her name being called and senses a man sitting next to her,
the familiar smell of his aftershave a welcoming comfort. “You shouldn't be
here,” he says, reaching a strong arm across her shoulders.“It's been two years now.”
Kate’s head is aching and
she thinks, not for the first time, that perhaps she needs to go back to the
Geoff. I just wanted to feel like I was with him again, the place where he disappeared," says Kate,
almost whispering the words to her brother.
She looks up
and sees Naomi and the carousel operator standing together, deep in conversation, watching children ride the painted horses.