The Night the Carnival Came to Town: A Summer Memory

I love summer nights- cool breezes after a humid day, crickets chirping, the star-filled sky and staying up late.  But, some summer nights are more special than the rest. Some nights are just so much fun that you feel sad when they must end.  The night when a carnival came to town was one of those magical nights. My mom, dad, little brother and I were at the carnival at the high school, just within walking distance of my house. As we walked to the back of the school,  I was filled with anticipation. I loved carnivals, not just the rides or games of chance but the excitement in the air.  

When we first arrived, we didn’t know where to go first.  We walked along the row of games; little white lights framed the game booths.  Life size hairy gorillas and smiley pink teddy bears dangled from pegs in the roulette booth.

 “Does anyone ever win those big ones?”  I asked my brother, Bobby. I turned my attention to the large roulette wheels.  The barker shouted, “Lay down your quarters” He spun the wheel so hard that I thought it would come right off the wall and roll down the middle of West Rocks Road.   My head rolled in circles as I followed the blurred numbers. The tick, tick, ticking sound meant that the winning number would be revealed in… a … moment. Someone was about to be a winner.   I want to play roulette until I win. The sweet smell of cotton candy filled my nostrils, and I sprinted over to the cotton candy machine, watching how blue sugar turned to sweet clouds that spun onto paper cones.  “Want one? asked my brother. “Nah, I just like to watch. I don’t like the sticky fingers!” My parents stopped to talk to neighbors while my brother and I wandered toward the ferris wheel. The sights, sounds and smells turned this ordinary schoolyard into an amusement park, right here in my own neighborhood.  This only happened once a year, and I wanted this night to last forever.  

I glanced at the parking lot and remembered last Saturday when Bobby and I rode our bikes in this parking lot. That morning was so quiet.  There were no cars or people in sight. Bobby and I pedaled our bikes around the parking lot. On that morning the high school looked so ordinary.    

The night was filled with rides and games.  Bobby and I raced from one to the other. The words I dreaded came from my mom, “ We should be leaving soon, kids.”  “Not yet, please, mom,” I moaned. “We didn’t get to see everything,” I said, not sure this was even true.  

As we took our last look around, my eye was caught by something in the grass.  Probably just a piece of garbage, I thought. I’ll just pick it up. Right away I noticed that this piece of paper had a different feel.  The paper was thin and smooth, like an old dollar bill. Why, it was a bill. I unfolded the crumpled paper. My excitement was mounting.  In the faint light, I could see it was a five dollar bill! “Mom, Dad, look!” “I want to spend it at the roulette table.”  

It really was time to leave.  I trailed behind my parents as they walked toward the exit.  I glanced back at the carnival, the sounds of excited children, the soft white lights outlining the games of chance, the smell of burnt sugar in the air.  I’ll be back next year, I whispered to myself.

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