Sunday, January 31, 2021

"Ellis"


A short story by Mary M. Isaacs



His wife came into the room mid-sentence. As usual. Enter talking, he thought, automatically.

"…so I thought, we should go to the park! We haven't been out, all together, for a long time. Ellis needs some fresh air."

He hated going to the park. He wouldn’t even look up as she spoke to him; he was watching TV and resented the interruption. He turned up the volume with the remote, but she kept on talking.

"I liked going to the park when I was little, like Ellis. I liked the swings and the slide and the sand, I liked everything in the park except I didn’t like the merry-go-round. I never did like merry-go-rounds, they always make me dizzy. But you could go on it with him. I could sit on the bench and watch. Why don't we go there now, this afternoon? It's a nice day. And Ellis needs some fresh air…" Her last words were spoken as she left the room, on her way to find their son.

His concentration was broken now--might as well get it over with. He turned off the TV and bent down to relace his shoes. The park wasn't too far away; he knew that she would insist on walking there.

She reappeared shortly, herding a small boy along in front of her. She had bundled him up in a warm jacket, cap, and neckscarf. Did she think there was going to be a blizzard? he thought, as they left the house. His wife held their son's hand and he trailed slightly behind the two of them.

"I told him he could play on the swings and the slide and in the sand for as long as he wanted. He needs some fresh air. I didn't tell him about the merry-go-round," here the child looked up at her, "because I thought it would be such a nice surprise for him! You'll enjoy that, too. I'll sit on the bench and watch you both. I better not ride on it, they always make me dizzy." The man stared straight ahead as he walked.

It wasn't long before they arrived at the park. They could see the merry-go-round off to the right, turning and turning while lively music played. His wife headed in that direction, smiling down at the boy. "Look, Ellis! It's the merry-go-round! Won't that be fun to ride on with your father? I'll sit on the bench and watch. I can’t ride on it, they always make me dizzy. What kind of an animal do you want to ride on? A horsey? How about that zebra? Or a giraffe? Which animal would you like to ride on? Pick one out quickly,

the merry-go-round is stopping now. It's time for you to get on! I hope you don’t get dizzy. I'll sit right here on the bench and watch."

The man bought two tickets at the tiny booth and stepped onto the merry-go-round with the boy. He lifted his son and set him on the nearest animal’s back--it happened to be a horse. He put the leather strap around the boy’s waist, fastening it tightly. Then he moved over a few steps and hung his arm over the neck of an ostrich.

The old-fashioned music began playing again. The merry-go-round shivered a little and then slowly began moving. It picked up speed and started turning around and around. The man saw his wife, over and over and over again as the merry-go-round turned faster and faster. She was smiling and waving at them. He could hear her yoo-hooing and calling their names as she waved. He pretended not to see her.

He ignored his son, who was perched on the wooden horse. The boy sat rigidly, with his little hands grasping the pole and his little face pressed up against it. There was a guarded look in the boy’s eyes and he said nothing. The horse went up and down, up and down; the child didn't move even a fraction of an inch.

The man looked out toward the circling horizon, seeing everything and nothing.

After a while the operator stepped up from the central area and walked among the carved animals, stopping at each rider. The man took their tickets from his shirt pocket and held them out silently. When the operator came to them, he took the tickets, glanced briefly at the child, and continued collecting tickets until he got back to where he started. He then swung off the turning platform, back down to the central area, and sat on an old wooden chair. He pushed a few switches on the console and the music changed once again.

Time passed. The woman kept waving, the boy clutched the pole, and the man stood by the ostrich as the merry-go-round turned endlessly. Melody followed melody in a tinny sort of way.

How much longer is this going to go on? the man thought to himself. Just at that moment, he felt an alteration in the rhythm of the engine. The spinning started to slow down, and the music came to an end. The boy's eyes flickered once in his father's direction, and then looked away again. He never let go of the pole.

The merry-go-round slowly glided to a halt. The man left the ostrich and unfastened the strap around his son's waist; he lifted him off the horse and into his arms. Angling through the carved animals and birds, he made his way to the edge and stepped off. The boy was silent.

"Did you have fun?" His wife started calling to them loudly while they were still on the merry-go-round. "I saw you going round and round. I hope you didn’t get dizzy. I waved every time you went by, but I guess you didn't see me. I guess you were having too much fun going round and round. I can’t go on merry-go-rounds, myself, they always make me dizzy. I saw you on your horsey, Ellis! And your father was standing next to an ostrich. I wonder why he didn’t ride on it. He could have ridden on the ostrich, but he just stood next to it. He didn’t climb up on it, he was just hanging on to its neck. I wonder why he did that. Did you like your horsey, Ellis? It was a nice horsey, wasn't it? Aren’t you glad to be at the park, all of us together? You needed some fresh air."

The man lowered his son to the ground. The boy took off in the direction of the playground while the woman turned on the bench to watch. He sped over the paved area around the merry-go-round and darted across the grass. Suddenly he tripped and fell flat on his face. The woman gasped, but before she could say a word, the boy rolled over, sat up, and brushed himself off. The man watched silently as the boy got to his feet and continued running towards the playground.

"Oh, my goodness!” said the woman. “Did you see that? Ellis fell right down on the grass! I wonder why he did that? He fell right on his face. I guess the merry-go-round made him dizzy, like me. I guess that’s why he fell down. Don’t you think so?”

The man didn’t answer; he looked at his watch. If they hurried, he could make it back in time for his favorite TV show.

The boy kept on running.



Copyright 2019
Mary M. Isaacs
Al rights reserved

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