I spent my first quarter on cotton candy, the next on a corn dog, and a handful more of change on the carousel and a solo ride down the dark and lonely tunnel of love. I would’ve loved to ride the roller coaster instead. Or the Octopus, the Zipper, even the Ferris wheel. Anything but the boring carousel. But . . .
Must be as tall as this sign
As for the tunnel of love? Maybe I was just curious what all the fuss was about.
My last coin, a dime, landed in a teacup atop a stack of plates. It won me not the giant stuffed bear as tall as my dead father, but a duckling. It would have to do.
The carny, whisper-cursing my lucky aim, plopped the duckling into a
Chinese take-out box, folded the top and secured it with rubber bands and strapping tape. Wouldn’t want him flying away, I guess. Or breathing.
“Air!” I said. “He needs air!”
The grumpy carny punched two holes in the top of the box with a jackknife and handed me the box. I peeked through the holes. No sign of blood. Oh so clever beyond my years, I named my little friend, “Lucky Ducky.”
Mom banished Lucky D. to the garage, to the dusted-off parrot cage. Mister Buttons, one-eyed and clip-winged, gone missing two months ago, Polaroid fading on the telephone pole: Have you seen Mister Buttons? He with the unfortunate gift of mimicry, limited to four-letter words he’d picked up somehow, somewhere.
A few nights later, Lucky D. vanished. Just like Mister Buttons had. The cage door shut tight, no sign of a struggle. Not one feather remaining.
“No worries, dear. He probably went south for the winter.”
“It’s . . . summer, Mom. Summer.”
She shrugged. She went to the dryer, unloaded it, and carried the hamper into the kitchen, closing the door behind her.
Down two pets and a dad, I turned off the garage light and sat down on the cool concrete, next to the empty cage. There, in the solace of darkness, I plotted my next move.
Ray Nessly‘s work has appeared in Literary Orphans, Thrice Fiction, Boston Literary Magazine, Apocrypha & Abstractions, Blink-Ink, Yellow Mama, Do Some Damage, and the Irish literary magazine, The Penny Dreadful, among others.
–Art by Chelsea Sturgill