Short Fiction: Going in Circles

Carousel“His hands are sticky.”

Mallory rooted through the diaper bag for wipes. She stooped to be eye-level with their son, and the little girl behind them in line bumped into her. Again. Her knee hit the ground—hard—to keep from toppling over, and she gritted her teeth. Instead of lecturing the girl, she gripped the wipe tighter and scrubbed at her son’s hands and face with the damp cloth. He squirmed under her ministrations, and she struggled to get him clean before he could pull away. “Phew!” That was far harder than it had to be. “All clean, sweetie.”

Jared took his hand again. “Still feels sticky.”

She balled up the wipe and tucked it into a side pocket of the bag as the girl behind her kicked her ankle. Pain radiated up her leg and she turned around, but the girl was dancing with her doll and her parents weren’t paying attention. Mallory rubbed her foot and leaned over her boy to try to answer her husband without anyone else hearing. “You clean him, then. He’s trying to wriggle away. You’re not helping me. This line’s barely moving. The girl behind me keeps smacking into me. Everyone’s hot and tired. I’m doing my best.”

He hoisted the boy onto his shoulders. “Your best, huh? Isn’t that just sad.”

Mallory swallowed her retort. The little girl behind her plowed into her, knocking her into the group ahead of them in line. “Sorry.”

That mom lifted her child into her arms and that dad turned and glared at her. “Watch it, huh? We’ve got our kid here.”

“We’ve all got kids here,” Mallory said. “It was an accident.”

The guy scoffed and turned around.

“You could have defended me,” she complained to Jared.

“You could watch what you’re doing.”

She rolled her eyes and took a deep breath.

The line moved forward, and they finally reached the ride. Kids scampered onto the platform and ran for colorful horses, parents chasing after them and hoisting them onto ready plastic ponies. Jared put their son on a yellow animal whose tail and mane were molded to stand out, as though the wind blew through it as the horse galloped away. He held onto his son’s shirt, just in case he slipped, and Mallory stood beside him by the pony’s rump.

So appropriate.

The calliope blared cheerful notes, and the carousel rocked as a worker lumbered through the ride, adjusting children and bouncing off parents. Mallory closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Scents of popcorn, fried food, and sweat mingled into a nauseating cologne made even more oppressive and sickening in the humid evening.

She was tired. Of all of it.

“Jared, I—”

The ride lurched, and the pony started to rise.

“Not now, Mal. This is about him, not you.”

“Us, Jared. I had something to say about us.”

“When don’t you?” He kissed his son’s bare leg and looked up at him. “Having fun, buddy?”

“Jared. We need to talk.”

He turned and glowered at her, shook his head. “There’s nothing more to say.”

Her stomach flopped, and tears welled in her eyes. She looked out at the blurry faces as the ride ramped up its speed, then she looked at her husband again.

They just kept going in circles.

This post inspired by the WordPress daily prompt: Carousel.

15 thoughts on “Short Fiction: Going in Circles

  1. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links | Staci Troilo

  2. Ugh poor Mal. I love how you capture the atmosphere in your pieces. I totally felt her irritation and fatigue, the heat of the line, the annoying kid bumping into her, her helplessness at Jared’s ‘dickishness’. As per all of your pieces, this could be the beginning of something larger for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, dear. I think I’ve been on that ride before! You are so good at these vignettes, Staci. I really enjoy them! Watching someone’s life deconstruct is like starting at a roadside accident. Painful to see, but impossible to look away from. Good job. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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