The Magic Whirling Light Show (ms)


It comes to town during the night, most often in the middle of it, at the darkest hour. I don’t imagine very many people even know it has arrived until the break of dawn but as they head off to work or school or just down for coffee and gossip everyone knows the carnival has arrived. Word gets around.

It isn’t that hard to miss, really. A vacant lot the size of three football fields suddenly has machinery sprouting up all over it; half-finished steel and iron skeletons stand shining in the morning sun. All kinds of trucks are parked in a pattern known only to those who actually work for the carnival. Various folks climb here and there setting equipment, starting engines, hanging signs. It’s busy, the old adage about time being money seems to have been written just for a carnival.

It all continues through the day so that by the time the first night has fallen there is merriment to be made, fun to be had, the good times are about to roll, twist and tumble.

There is much to be said about that first exposure to a carnival, the very first time you walk up to the entrance on a warm summer evening. There is a magic about it, anticipation, the scent of cotton candy and French fries, the barker offering darts for the balloon throw at three for a dollar. The noise of it can be nearly overwhelming, the screams of people on the rides frightening. The lights…the lights positively dazzling.

Fifty-one weeks out of the year you could throw a football across the field and lose it in the darkness but for one week it becomes the brightest spot in the county. For one week it is the center of the Universe, the Big Bang a millisecond after it began, the Fourth of July display from a half-dozen towns rolled up into one giant ball of blazing fire. It is almost more than the average person can grasp. Fortunately, we’re okay with it.

We stroll in confident that we are the masters of all we see. There is no ride we cannot conquer, no game we cannot win, no treat deep fried enough to deter us from dining. We are in control of it all. The masters of the carnival have seen our kind before and they watch inwardly smirking as we prepare to display our abilities. They know it is only a matter of time. A few hours later, it is that time.

We have been beaten up, slammed back and forth, twisted in circles and brought straight up at an estimated fifty miles an hour only to be dropped immediately at a speed nearing a hundred. And that was just one ride. The rest are not much different. We have tried each midway game twice and have eaten our fill of all things bad on the shop-worn premise that the carnival happens only once a year. And the lights, the lights have shimmered and glowed over it all blocking the stars overhead, creating a cosmos not found on astronomers maps. We leave it all behind as we walk toward our cars secretly wishing it were the start of the evening, again, and not the start of the year until the carnival comes back to town.

–Mike Stevens

~ by admin on June 2, 2011.

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