Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Octopus circa 1957

“What time we leavin’, Ma Ma?” Andy said sitting on the bottom step of the stairs.
“I’m almost ready, we’re gonna meet Gladys and Jolene at the front gate at six, so we have plenty of time.” Andy’s mother walked out of the bathroom, stopped to look at him and said, “My, don’t you look handsome.”
“I wanted to wear my blue shirt but I got it dirty and forgot to bring it downstairs.”
“Well, that one is just fine. It’s been a long time since we haven’t been to the fair in a long time have we?”
“Nope.” Actually this was the first time Andy could remember going anywhere with his mother since she started working the swing shift. They some times when to visit his grand parents on their farm where he usually spent most of his summer, but they never went any where fun.
“well, we will just have to make up for that tonight. We’ll have a lot of fun. Are any of your friends going to be at the fair tonight?”
Andy wondered if his mother was hoping there would be so she could go off with her friends. He hoped not. “I don’t know. Maybe Jerry if his mother will let him.”
The fairgrounds weren’t far from their home so they were able to walk. Andy could hear the rides running and the music playing. When they turned the corner of their street he could see how the midway was lit up even though the sun had not set. Andy could feel the excitement in the air.
“What do you want to ride tonight?”
“Well, maybe not everything. But the Tilt-a-Whirl for sure.”
His mother pointed to the front gate of the fairgrounds, “Oh, there is Jolene.”
Jolene was standing just outside the gate. Andy knew her because she came to visit his mother often.
“Well, you have a fine looking date tonight.” Jolene smiled at Andy.
“Isn’t he something?” His mother replied. “Says he wants to ride everything tonight.”
“Me too.” Jolene giggled. “Gladys will be here in a sec, I saw her come in but parking is tough tonight. I think the front is full.”
Andy saw the other woman walking along the fence and headed their way. “There she is.” He pointed towards her.
His mother waved and the woman waved back.
“Whew, I had to park all the way in the back. That is a long walk. Have you all been waiting long?” “Just got here.” Andy’s mother said.
“Well, come on,” Gladys said, “I need a Sno- cone. What about you, Andy, you need a Sno- cone or maybe some Cotton Candy?”
Andy smiled.
The four of them walked down the midway amid a barrage of clanking bells and barkers touting their goods and games. “Hey, Lady, come on over and win that boy a bear. Three balls for a quarter... come on..”
Andy’s mother ignored the man but Andy was fascinated by him watched him as they passed by. He was watching so close he almost tripped over a cable. Something about the man scared him. Andy took his mother’s hand.
“Look at tall these rides, Andy, do you think we can ride all of ‘em tonight?”
About that time they were passing one called The Octopus. It had seats a lot like the Tilt-a-Whirl but they were more enclosed. The difference was, this ride had long arms and when it was running the seats spun around and the arms went up and down in the air. It looked real scary to Andy.
“I don’t know if I want to ride that one or not.”
“Oh, sure you do.” His mother said, “It’s the best one they have.”
Andy frowned.
“Well get our Sno-cones and ride the Tilt-a-Whirl first.” His mother grinned and squeezed his hand.
They all sat at a picnic table and ate the Sno-cones while they watched all the people milling around. Many were headed into the grand stands to watch the horse show.
“I hope we have time to see some of the show.” Gladys said. “I really like the ones pulling the little carts.”
“Oh, yeah, me too,” said Jolene, “Do you like to watch the horses, Andy?”
“Yeah, I’d like to ride one of ‘em someday. Those with the carts, I mean”
Oh the way to their first ride, they passed by a tent where several women were standing on a stage and a man out front was shouting, “They wiggle, they giggle, they strut their stuff for just a dime you’ll get enough… come and see them perform.”
Andy looked at the women on the stage. His buddy, Jerry told him about this kind of show. Jerry’s dad called it a Hochie Cochie Show but Jerry wasn’t sure what that meant and Andy was afraid to ask.
The Tilt-a-Whirl was a lot of fun. Andy and his mother rode in one and Gladys and Jolene rode in another. Sometimes it seemed they would crash into each other and Andy’s mother would squeal. Andy would laugh and try to make the cart spin around.
When it was over, Andy’s mother said, “Ok, come on, Andy, let’s go ride The Octopus.”
“I don’t think I want to ride that one.”
“Oh, come on, Andy,” Jolene said, “We’re gonna ride everything tonight, right?” They bought the tickets but Andy still was not convinced he was going to ride.
“It’ll be fun, Andy; it’s just like the other one except it goes up in the air. You’ll love it, I promise.” Andy listened to his mother but still had doubts.
“Ok.” he finally agreed.
The man locked them in the car and gave them a spin. He did the same thing to everyone until all the cars were filled. Then he shouted, “Hang on, you’re going for the ride of your life.” And then he laughed.
It was slow at first and barely got off the ground. Andy held on to the bars so tight his knuckles were white. His mother knew he was scared so she didn’t make the car spin.
The ride picked up speed and Andy slid up next to his mother and the car began to spin. Now the ride was going faster and faster and the arms were going up and down, up and down. Andy’s heart raced.
“Ma Ma, I want off.”
“You can’t get off, Sweetheart, not until the ride is finished.”
“Please make them stop, Ma Ma.” Andy begged but his mother just grinned. Up and down, spinning around and around, around and around.
Andy caught a glimpse of the man on the ground and began hollering at him, “I want off, Mister, let me off.”
The ride just seemed to get faster and the man laughed harder.
“Please, Mister, Please.” Andy cried.
His mother tried to make the car quit spinning but since all their weight was on one side it wouldn’t stop.
Spinning and spinning, up and down, around and around, “Please, Mister, please.”
Finally the ride started slowing down and cam to a stop. It seemed like forever to Andy. Now, he wanted off and as far away as he could get. But they were the last to get released.
When the man unlocked the bar, he said to Andy, “Here wanna ride again?” and handed Andy a free ticket, then laughed again.
Andy didn’t take it; he just rushed to the gate leading back into the midway.
“Are you Ok, Son?”
“Yeah, I guess but that was way too scary.”
Jolene and Gladys came over and Jolene asked, “Did you all hear some kid screaming on that ride?”
Andy didn’t answer and his mother only said, “Let’s go see if we can win a bear and then see some of the horse show.
As the four walked off, Andy took his mother’s hand and said, “Maybe we’ll ride that again next year.”


  1. Great story Tony! 1957 - is this one of your new short stories for the collection? I can so remember riding the Octupus for the first time at the Mercer County Fair - just like Andy, I wanted to get off. Although I love roller coasters, I still can stand to go around in circles.

  2. I begged to get off the last I went on too. I'm not sure we were wrong with the stories in the news about carnival rides lately.

    well, we will just
    well should be capitalized.

    “Let’s go see if we can win a bear and then see some of the horse show.
    Needs " after show.

    The back story seems to be Andy's father is out of the picture eithter through death or divorce and his mom neglecting him because of her job and friends. They definately were going through a rough patch - Actually this was the first time Andy could remember going anywhere with his mother since she started working the swing shift.
    Andy seems to have wanted an evening with his mother to himself.

    As to whether the dialog is believable, it is mostly except at the end when Andy says
    “Maybe we’ll ride that again next year.” My impression is Andy is young, five maybe? and I am not sure he would have the maturity to say that right after having the daylights scared out of him.
    Hope this helps.

    Is there any way to change the color to help with the critique?


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