The chubby little hand held tight to the security of his father’s strong, calloused one. Short legs pumped hard to keep up as bright lights beckoned from every direction. Suddenly before them appeared a most wonderful thing! Bathed in light, it whirled and danced while the music swirled catching him in its spell.
Horses, elephants, and lions marched by and, just behind them other animals, strange and familiar, rose and fell, appeared, disappeared and reappeared as the music filled his curly head with laughter. Stock still he stood, unaware of his father’s hand, or his smile.
There were children on the animals! How did they get there? How could they climb up so high or catch the animals as they flew so fast? Then another wonder! The animals began to slow down! Slower and slower the animals moved until they had stopped completely. Children were climbing down or being lifted off by their parents.
The little boy took it all in with large dark eyes. How wonderful it would be to ride up high on a beautiful horse, or that deer that looked like one of Santa’s own. The father looked down and said something to his son. Suddenly, the wonderful machine was wonderfully terrible! All the little boy could see was the great lion with his mouth gaping wide, showing sharp teeth.
“Not yet!” his baby brain cried, but his body said the words by stiffening and throwing both arms around the father’s leg. The little boy’s father was very wise for a grown-up and he picked up his son and held him in strong arms while they watched the other children clamber up onto the backs of their chosen mounts. Again the music wrapped its magical ribbons around his heart, and the machine began to move.
Three times the little boy watched the machine begin and end its circular parade. He saw the children laugh and wave to everyone. He saw big people holding little ones so they would not fall off. He especially watched the lion. Never once did its mouth close. (Of course, he couldn’t see the other side, so he wasn’t’ exactly sure.) But the boys and girls always looked fine when they came round the bend.
Finally the boy leaned around to his father’s front, looked into his face and pointed. They stepped into line and his father bought tickets from a man in a shiny red and gold booth.
The horses slowed and stopped. The little boy’s heart beat hard inside his chest. His mouth was dry and he held very tightly to his father’s neck. He knew the big, wise man would not let him get hurt. They stepped onto the platform. The boy could feel it rock a little under their weight. Strange smells wafted by; oil and hot lights, the smell of paint and popcorn.
Before them stood a great black horse. Its head was tucked tight against its chest and it was covered with bright silver and gold armor. The saddle was slick and shiny, and a golden pole rose from the front of it. The father gave him a minute to touch the horse and feel how sturdy it was. Then he put him on the saddle. If his father’s big hands had not been firm and strong around his waist, the fear might have overwhelmed the little boy..
My, he felt brave! Until with a slight jerk, the horse began to move. The boy flung both arms around his father and buried his face in his shirt. He could feel the movement beneath him even though his horse did not jump up and down. His heart beat so loudly he could not hear the music.
The little boy opened one eye. He saw, around his father’s shoulder, a little girl holding on with one hand and waving! Not to be outdone completely, he slowly removed one hand from his father’s shirt and grabbed the golden pole. Slowly he drew his face away from the safety of the rough material and looked at the marvelous horse he was riding. And the animals near him. Fear was replaced by a new sense of freedom and adventure. He was actually riding on the glittering machine!
Soon, only one hand was steadying him, and by the time the ponies began slowing down, the little boy was just one of the laughing children on the carousel.
His chubby little hand found his father’s as they walked away. The curly head turned back toward a world of magic. Somehow he knew they would be back again. And again.
c.2011 by Donna Swanson