Yvonne rides the merry-go-round. She straddles a white unicorn that is fashioned with a long, wavy mane and a mystical, spiral horn. The merry-go-round is a menagerie of such colorful, wood carved creatures and chariots; three rows deep, bobbing up and down on a colonnade of fluted, gilded poles. The poles ascend to a celestial array of sparkling red and blue light bulbs strung along the ribs of the gazebo-like canopy. It’s a mechanical wonder, a large, illuminated music box, spinning inside a large pavilion. At the center of the merry-go-round is the band organ that fills the air with the dreamy, melodic notes of a waltz. The band organ is a large cabinet decorated in rococo-style with pastel greens and violets dripping down it like icing on a cake and topped by a row of tooting pipes and snare drums set on edge keeping time with their mechanical rat-a-tat-tat. The inner mechanical housing of the amusement ride is decorated with a series of scenery panels depicting exotic personages and places. Rotating above the stationary housing is the rounding board with large mirrors in ornate, gilded frames that tract and capture the contorted images of the merry-go-round and Yvonne.
Next to Yvonne is a young mother sitting with her toddler son in a chariot. The chariot has clowns painted on its side and drawn by two loopy-looking kangaroos. The mother rests after spending time pointing out fantastic sightings to her son that tickled his fancy. The young tike is wearing a faded blue t-shirt and dungarees with little straps fitting loosely over his small shoulders. He has a large, round head and a fleshy face with big watery eyes. He twitches and turns his head and body about to catch all the imagery spinning about him then settles his gaze on Yvonne. The youngster stares unabashedly at Yvonne until she notices him and she becomes bashful and self-conscious. The boy takes his finger from his mouth and playfully points it at something vague to show her. Yvonne is reluctant to play along, but finally pantomimes an ooh which delights him and he quickly pretends pointing at some other imaginary spot and, again, Yvonne pretends to be amazed and smiles. A loud buzzer sounds and the merry-go-round winds down and comes to a stop. The mother stands and lifts her son up and plops his buttocks on her hip and heads off. The boy waves bye-bye to Yvonne from over his mother’s shoulder.
Yvonne lingers on her unicorn a spell as the ride empties. Outside the pavilion is a row of arcade booths bustling with teen participants. A sweltering, asphalt tarmac circles the pavilion and then runs off to the arched portal that is cut in a tall juniper hedge leading to the cool lawns and gardens of the park.
Yvonne slides off the unicorn and moseys along the sweep of figures until she comes to the tall, amiable giraffe. The cinnamon splotched giraffe is adorned with an intricate saddle, masterfully carved and brightly painted with a single carved yellow sunflower tucked in its braided bridle. Yvonne mounts the giraffe and wraps the leather rein around her hand. The giraffe has two mushroom-like horns and perk ears and was the favorite of Yvonne’s dad. He thought it was a lofty jumper of good sport and he would perch Yvonne up on its slippery saddle as he stood guardedly by her side. Her father was a broken man of few words and would stare vacuously and quietly ahead during the ride, his big hands girded about her waist. Occasionally, he would grace Yvonne with his solicitously paternal glance. When the ride was done he would lift her off as high and cheerfully as he could and they would leave the ride to spend some time strolling through the park. As they strolled, he would tell her what a pretty thing she is and how she will find her one true love some day and how he wished he had more time to be there for her. She would listen and hold his hand as they strolled through the greenery of the park.
Yvonne sees her reflection in the mirror as she sits on the elongated image of the giraffe. Yvonne is a plain girl with round moping eyes and a large nose that, in certain lighting, seems to have a crook to it, which worries her. The buzzer sounds and the rickety floor of the merry-go-round jolts and starts to rotate. Yvonne tightens her hand on the serpentine pole as the ride accelerates and the giraffe heightens its leaps forward. A boisterous pack of boys raids the area around Yvonne. They revel about the various figures as though playing on a jungle gym and they chatter like monkeys and guffaw at their silly antics. The tall hayseed boy puts his feet in one stirrup of a prancing reindeer and stands erect saluting off into space. The tubby one squirrels down on the floor beneath the neighing zebra. The short, skinny one scampers aimlessly about the figures until he finally settles on hanging under the neck of a loping camel. The ringleader of the boys settles on the back of a prowling tiger next to Yvonne. He has a fresh, freckled complexion, short reddish hair and green, probing eyes. His presence is intrusive and yet captivating. He gives Yvonne a smirk and then stands on the back of the tiger and climbs up the pole to just below the mechanical crank. He dangles there for a while until the merry-go-round attendant heads towards him. The boy slides down and jumps off the mount. He stands defiantly in front of Yvonne and gives her a gnarly, scrunched-up face and growls like a wild animal at her and then leads his buddies away, whooping and hollering. The attendant heads toward Yvonne, yawing as he moves down the narrow row of figures, retrieving tickets from the various patrons as he passes them. He stops in front of Yvonne and she holds out her ticket. He is a gangly palooka and smells of axle grease. His fingertips linger sleazily on her hand and then he takes the ticket from her. He simpers in a scoff, and saunters off. Yvonne is squeamish by the obscene touch and tries to forget it by listening to the grating notes of a ragtime tune blaring from the band organ. She looks up and gazes at the mirror and sees her broad face sitting airily on the giraffe.
Through the labyrinth of gilded poles and undulating riders, Yvonne espies a young man who wears the beige windbreaker. Yvonne whimsically studies him from afar. He rides a knight’s charger that is outfitted in silvery faux armor. The boy had chosen the black steed because it is on the outside row and he can go for the brass ring when he whirls by. The boy comes here often, perhaps a student between classes or on a break from work. He looks intelligent and sensitive, perhaps an artist, a loner as she, or a mystical spirit just passing through, but he is not like the other boys Yvonne sees.
Yvonne dismounts the giraffe and coyly meanders over to an ostrich just to the inside of the boy. The spunky ostrich has periwinkle-colored legs and neck and a yellow beak and bulging white plumage on its romantic side. Yvonne gets up on the saddle of the ostrich and waits. Perhaps he’ll notice her. Perhaps their eyes will meet. Perhaps he won’t notice her crooked nose and will find her pretty. She watches as he readies himself for the approaching ring contraption. He leans out and stretches as far as he can and snatches the brass ring and pulls himself back upright. Yvonne rejoices and flashes a smile that the elated boy glimpses just before he lowers his eyes to the brass ring he rotates in his hands. Perhaps they’ll speak now or exchange smiles again. Yvonne watches and hopes. But the boy remains quiet and contemplates the brass ring and doesn’t offer up another glance. She wants to say something to him, congratulate him, ask what he’s going to do with it, but she remains quiet and patient. The ride attendant comes by and straps Yvonne to her saddle, dallying with the leather strap about her waist too long, and then he sidles off along the sweep of animals, leaving Yvonne flustered and abashed. The boy despondently tosses the brass ring into the passing basket, setting off the short clangor of a bell, and then dismount the steed without looking over at Yvonne. The piercing buzzer signals the end of the ride and the boy steps off the merry-go-round before it comes to a complete stop.
Yvonne leaves the spunky ostrich and drowsily weaves her way toward the inner circle of the merry-go-round. She slips past a haughty, yellow-billed stork with stern, censoring eyes and a silly motley-green toad leaping frivolously into midair and then nudges around a ferociously fanged blue muzzled dragon. She comes to the royal carriage on the inner sweep of the merry-go-round and burrows herself in it. It’s an open carriage drawn by two harnessed horses in full, colorful regalia. They are gleeful steeds with blinders on and lolling tongues. The body of the carriage is thickly painted in a creamy white and decorated with gilded filigree. Stenciled on the dashboard of the carriage is a red and gold ribbon streaming from the beak of a blue bird. Yvonne settles in and rests her head on the back of the carriage bench. She blames herself. Why did she think he would notice her?
The buzzer sounds and with a jolt, the merry-go-round begins to rotate.
Yvonne muses on the poster-like lithographic scenery panels lining the inner housing. There is a panel of the Taj Mahal rising out of a mist, and then a veiled belly dancer framed in orange flames wearing a halter and hip scarves, and then ancient pyramids with dwarfed camels in front of them, an astonished fortune teller with tarot cards fanned out in front of her, the Great Wall of China snaking off through the hinterland, geishas dressed in carnation-red kimonos, a gilded Buddha temple, and then the Taj Mahal and the belly dancer and so on as the ride accelerate round and the band organ plays a ceremonial lilt with snares and cymbals. Yvonne lounges in her carriage and fancies the animals and riders around her as her cortege escorting her in a regal parade. All of the animals seemed decked out in ceremonial finery and all of their riders have a certain stately air to them. She lingers there in her carriage that carries her along under a canopy that glitters with a constellation of swirling, colored lights.
Suddenly, a boy hops in her carriage and hunkers down on the floor. He acknowledges Yvonne and motions for her to shush as he peers back out from where he came. He’s a scrappy looking lad with dark features and black cropped hair dressed in a t-shirt with a rock band logo on it, loose blue jeans, and black sneakers. Yvonne is intrigued and curiously permissive as she remains lounging with her feet up on the front dash of the carriage. The boy asks her if she’s going to snitch on him and she tells him no and why would she. He tells her he’s just hiding from a doofus and not to get her panties in a knot, which she says she won’t, and then he scoffs at the pedal pushers she is wearing and asks if she thinks she’s really cool. He gets up and slouches down on the bench close to her and tells her how she probably got the pedal pushers at Markies and how all the trendy girls go to Markies so she shouldn’t be so snotty. Yvonne wants to know who he is hiding from and if he’s in trouble. He finally admits he’s really not hiding from anyone and that he just wanted to meet her, he thinks she’s nifty-looking. He asks her about her friends and where she likes to hang out and then snatches her hand and tugs her away from the carriage and leads her down a sweep of figures. He loudly tells her he knows the best ride on the merry-go-round and that they should hurry before someone else gets it. He takes her to the large stallion that seems to be at the lead of the merry-go-round. It’s a breathtaking palomino jumper with an aquamarine mane that’s plaited along its arched neck and has a daunting, haughty glint in its eye. The boy helps boost Yvonne up and then swoops up and sits snugly behind her. It’s a ticklish escapade she is on, perched together atop a towering steed that races ahead in gigantic leaps and bounds. Yvonne tightens her fingers around the fluted pole then the boy’s arms pinch about her as his hands grab hold of the pole next to hers. She feels a strange intimacy between them, a familiarity with a boy whose body is gently rolling up against hers. The merry-go-round whirls like a pinwheel in one jumbo blur. The illuminated faces and glistening figures seem to be spinning forwards and backwards all at the same time. Bells and whistles cross each other through the air and mingle dazzlingly with the swooning notes of a carnival tune. It’s a wonderful galaxy of light and sounds spiraling off into space. A young girl on a leaping gazelle appears alongside Yvonne. The girl has rosy, pudgy cheeks and a tiny nose and a blue ribbon in her silky, blond hair. She holds a paper cone topped with pink cotton candy. The delicious burnt smell of caramel fills the air. The little girl offers Yvonne a tuft of the sweet confection. Yvonne is hesitant to let go of the pole, but then finally reaches a hand out to snatch the sweet morsel just as the little girl fades away out of sight. Yvonne quickly lunges upright and clings to the pole. The thunderous buzzer rumbles through Yvonne and the ride begins to slow down until it comes to a standstill. The boy leans his face up close to Yvonne’s ear and asks her if the ride wasn’t the most wildest and stupendous one ever, and with that said, he hopped down and scurried away without another word.
Yvonne is left alone and stranded atop the lifeless stallion that has stopped at the peak of its jump. Around her, the ride empties leaving her surrounded with just the staring eyes of an okapi and a disappointed visage of a mandrill and, off to the side, a lupine leer. There is a tinny, cartoonish tune blaring away that seems to go round and round.
She slides down off the palomino and wants to leave the merry-go-round when her girlfriends swarm around her and draws her off with them to their special rendezvous spot on the ride. The special rendezvous spot is a gondola resembling a pirate ship with seating on the front deck and on the raised rear deck. The girls are all agog over what they saw and how that boy had his hands all over Yvonne. They ask Yvonne what it was like. Yvonne tells them that the boy thought it was stupendous, but isn’t sure what that meant. Next to Yvonne is her best friend, Chloe, who is packed in a preppy, short pleated skirt and black leggings and her chest bounded by a layer of sweaters. Behind her in the back bench is grungy Molly brooding under the black cowl of her hoodie and next to Molly is the athletic Sally wearing her fluorescent lime shorts and running shoes with glowing neon-blue piping and laces. They chatter, noisily, as the merry-go-round gradually repopulates around them with a fresh batch of riders. The alarm buzzer cues the riders to get ready and then the floor jerks into motion and starts to revolve.
The ride attendant lingers on the concrete slab of the inner well as the ride gets up to speed and then he grabs hold of a gilded pole and oafishly twirls onto the revolving floor. He saunters over to the girls to collect their tickets. He collects the other girls’ tickets first and then leans in close to Yvonne to retrieve hers. He smells of beer and cigarettes. He asks her if she enjoyed the last ride and tells her how he has something that will really make her ride exciting. Yvonne derides his advances and tells him he’s a creep and to get lost. The bewildered attendant pulls back, speechless, and then smirks and slithers off down the sweep as the other girls squeal and guffaws over Yvonne’s newly found attitude.
A group of boys from school approach the girls to hang out with them. There’s the whiz kid, the air-guitarist, the jock, and the pretty boy. They stand outside of the gondola and chitchat and banter with the girls. The whiz kid stands next to Yvonne and begins explaining to her how merry-go-rounds are built. He tells her about the motor and ring bearing and how the figures are mounted, and how the suspensions rods and cranks work. Yvonne listens politely, though she feels he’s missing the whole point of the ride and is about to tell him so when the air-guitarist slides in between them and interrupts. The air-guitarist proceeds to grandstand his exaggerated parody of strumming and picking to the stanzas of “Waiting for the Robert E. Lee.” Yvonne nervously titters at the air-guitarist’s rendition until his buffoonery blocks her glimpse of the boy in the beige windbreaker who appears out on the tarmac and then disappears. She blurts out that the air-guitarist is a dork. She feels bad about that, but before she can take it back the jock shoves the air-guitarist off his spot. The jock tells Yvonne that he will be playing basketball Thursday night and she has to come and watch him play. He tells her that the game is at seven, but she should get there early to watch him warm up. She tells him she’s busy that night which is a lie, but she didn’t know what else to say since she is feeling anxious and wants to be left alone. The pretty boy rotates in and asks Yvonne if he had made a good impression with one of her friends he just dated, but before she could tell him to go ask her himself he begins sparring with the jock. Yvonne notices Chloe had left the gondola and is now over speaking animatedly with the ride attendant and pointing toward Yvonne. Yvonne is perturbed and glowers at her friend knowing she is setting her up with the attendant just to make her feel even more like a floozy. Yvonne leans her head back and rests it on the top edge of the bench. She stares up at the pavilion roof that is spinning backwards overhead. She rolls her head to the side and sees herself in the mirror. She has a gaunt, pale face with a large crooked nose and she feels dizzy and queasy. She hears the titillating clangor of the bell and looks over at the rider-less black charger. She worries about being alone.
Yvonne stands and pushes her way past the two boys and flees down the sweep of figures. She totters as she strays against the circular flow of the ride. She finds herself in the midst of a birthday party of youngsters teetering on grotesque creatures. She rests next to a young lad atop a galloping pony. The lad is decked out in a cowboy outfit and is frantically whipping the wooden neck of the figure with the leather reins trying to get it to giddy-up faster. The birthday party is for a girl dressed in a white ruffled dress on the unicorn with her dad in attendance. The girl seems pleased with it all and Yvonne gives her a cheerless smile and moves on. She nears the glowing gingerbread-like band organ where the athletic Sally is strumming a make-believe guitar in a duo with the air-guitarist. Yvonne gasps at such an odd mismatch. It’s just not right, not right, she says to herself. There is a haggard gal with smeared rogue and lipstick on her face and a shabby toy doll on her lap, cackling away as she rides sidesaddle on a jumper. Yvonne averts her eyes and sees the ride attendant sidling along the sweep, ogling her as he collects tickets. She moves on and sees Chloe standing on the shoulders of the jock that is balancing himself atop a glistering hippopotamus. Chloe crows triumphantly as the two swirl perilously along at a neck-breaking pace. It’s crazy, just crazy Yvonne feels, preposterous. She is startled by a vision of a moping Molly with fangs and darts away in horror to a quieter, unoccupied place on the ride. She glances back and sees the ride attendant talking to the pretty birthday girl. It’s sickening, just sickening, she concludes. She grabs hold of a pole and arches her head back and stares up at the bright nodes of lights running along the arms of the canopy. She closes her eyes tight and lets herself be pulled along by the centrifugal force until a ghoulish specter of a huge black octopus swoops down over her.
The abrupt silencing of the buzzer startles Yvonne and she opens her eyes and looks warily around. The amusement ride comes to a standstill and the riders dismount and trample off leaving the menagerie of carved and painted figures caught in a moment of eerie stillness. It is as though the whole world had been unplugged. The boy in the beige windbreaker asks Yvonne if she would like to join him for a soda or something. Yvonne smiles and loosens her grip on the pole and asks if he is speaking to her. He is and she accepts. The two leave the merry-go-round and walk past the bustling crowd at the arcade and past a clown holding a cluster of colorful helium balloons and through a group of young children chasing each other around. They go through the juniper portal to the park and are greeted by an iridescent kelly-green hummingbird that hovers momentarily in front of them. Yvonne is captivated by the delicacy and liveliness of the bird before it darts away. The two promenade along the path that winds through the pastoral greenery. Yvonne asks him if he likes the merry-go-round and he tells her that it’s an amusing ride at best and she admits that it’s a bit crazy and then tells him how her father would to bring her there when she was young. As they walk, he tells her about people he wants to meet and places he’d like to go and things he wants to do. Yvonne listens and strolls quietly beside him.