P. S. Gifford
Copyright 2004 by P. S. Gifford
Sid sat there reading his morning newspaper; he
couldn’t help but look longingly t the empty table setting
him. It was May 12th today - his 75th birthday.
“75 years” he muses, “who would have ever thought it.”
Yet today was noteworthy for another reason, the
carnival was back in town .In fact it was the very same carnival that
had been traveling West to his little town of Mulberry, Oregon for a little over fifty years. Indeed it was the place that
he had proposed to his wife Mildred, an amazing forty-seven years earlier.
Alas cancer had abruptly and unexpectedly taken her
away from him just three months before. Sid had been desperate,
yet tender, at her side. She had died at home, where she belonged, with the bed facing so that she could admire the
garden that she had loved so much. As Sid had kissed her on the forehead for the very last time, before the hospice
nurses took over, he had been taken aback by the expression on her face. She looked at peace, and finally out of her
pain. As she died though a large part of Sid died with her.
Sid almost smiles as he reads the advertisement in
his paper for the carnival. Yes, he had proposed to Mildred on the
tunnel of love all those years ago…Back then he was nothing more than a nervous apprentice engineer, with minimal
prospects at best.
Mildred was a first year nursing student.
He hadn’t expected her to say yes, yet she did
without a moment’s hesitation. That was the humble beginning of
spending almost half a century as man and wife. Right there in Mulberry….
They never were rich, but they managed to acquire a
cozy house and live a contented blissful life together. Their only
regret was that they could never have a child; Mildred was alas unable to conceive.
Every year the carnival returned, and each and every year Sid and Mildred relived the moment.
Sid decided that he must go again .yet this year was
going to be different. His beloved best friend was not going to be at
He considered the possibility of not going, but he
felt somehow Mildred would have wanted for him to go. To reflect
on the memories they had shared on that seemingly magical ride
His mind was made up, he grabbed his hat and coat and
jumped into his red 1976 MGB, this had been Mildred’s dream
car. Despite being almost thirty years old, the car ran and looked as good as new. As his arthritic fingers fumbled with
the key in the ignition, he only longed to feel as strong as the car did.
In a few moments he was pulling up into Mulberry City
Park where the carnival was being held. Sid parked the MGB
and struggled to his feet. It took a few minutes to get to the entrance. , his age was definitely starting to show with the
wear and tear upon his body. His muscled ached and complained at every step. Yet it was a perfect May morning and he
breathed in the scent of the flowers.
“Mildred always loved the spring…” He remembered…
A tear started to creep from his eye , but he bit his
lip and he forced back the sentiment, and dabbed his eye with his
“A man should never cry in public!”
He remembered that is what his father had often told him
“Grief should be a private affair”.
Sid dutifully paid his seven dollars to the vendor;
he remembers when it had only been a quarter to enter. He was only
going to go on one ride, and then his task would have been complete.
There is a little crowd there yet, it was still early, and the carnival doesn’t get busy until the sun goes down…
It would be full of kids and hoodlums then. He and
Mildred always despised that. Over the years they had been
attending, the teenagers seemed to be getting more and more ill behaved and disrespectable.
“What is the world coming too?” Races
through his mind as he waits in the short line, for his ride. As he
time quietly surveying the faces of the folk operating it, many of those faces had also been returning year after year.
As he examines the carnival, looking about him, it
struck him as odd as he remembered it being twice as large and three
times as grand, Paint was starting to chip and fade, long overdue for a face lift. In fact there was evidence of signs of
aging all about, just like him glancing into a mirror he thought.
Just as Sid is about to board, a young giggling
couple get off. They almost bump into him; they only had eyes
other. He actually smiles as he remembers what that feels like…
The carnie in charge of the ride looked surprised that the old man was going to ride alone.
“We don’t get much of that on this ride” he sneers revealing a distinct lack of teeth behind that weather worn face.
Sid takes no mind, he was on a mission.
He gets himself snugly into the seat, which felt much
more cramped than it had once. He looks at the empty seat next to
him; again tears start to well up and penetrate his stubborn eyes, this time he allows them to trickle gently down his
wrinkled cheeks. In a few seconds his journey began, the lights flashed and he vanishes solitarily into the tunnel.
Six and a half minutes later as the ride pulls back
into the loading area, the carnie spies the old man, slumped down
over the safety guard. He is startled and rushes over and lifts the head, he stares in in amazement, as the still body
appeared to be smiling, and looking completely at peace.
There is much fuss and excitement as police and
ambulance sirens suddenly fill the air. After a few photographs, the
police seem satisfied as what had happened, and the body is quickly rushed away.
“He must have had a heart attack,” the carnie cried in alarm.
“The old fool should have never gone on a thrill ride by himself, no sir he never should have done it…”
Sid opens his eyes…Discovering is still on the
ride. Staring at his wrinkled old hands, he is taken aback, the skin
smooth, and has a shine about it he hadn’t known in years.
What has happened” he reflects… “Where am I?”
His aching bones seemed to throb no more, even his fading vision seemed better. A strange and wonderful feeling of well being had suddenly overtaken him.
It was then than he recognizes the scent. How could
he not? It had been his Mildred’s favorite; she had worn it for
years, never tiring of its delicate floral scent.
He glances to where the vacant seat on his right
should be…Straight into the green eyes of his beloved wife,
beautiful as the day they had met, in fact even more so. As his heart begins to beat faster, with shaking fingers he slowly reaches out his hand to hers and their young hands grasp lovingly.
Sid suddenly realizes where he is.
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