Barry and Alex strutted down the street, arms swinging, buoyed by the smoke bombs and bang snaps bulging in their pockets. For them, the sidewalk was for stepping on the curb and pretending to dance a tightrope. Cars beeped at the two boys when they passed in their small New England town. Alex and Barry just got out of the way. Their minds were on how they could put a fizzle on Barry’s older sister’s day, not about being a nuisance to the public.
They walked out of town and saw a flyer on a telephone pole that changed the track of their thoughts. Waterford Carnival (Fri, Sat, Sun). There were exact times and details underneath the title. But for the boys, the carnival was back in town, and that’s all they needed to know, “Do you think they already started setting up?” Barry asked.
“Let’s find out,” Alex answered. The boys detoured from their path home so they could pass by the elementary school that was separated from the main road by a patch of woods. They walked by a green-water pond and saw the school on a low hill across from them. At the bottom of the hill, the boys looked at an open field penned in by the woods. Alex and Barry ogled the scene before them much like they would view the girls in their classes over the next few years, Barry’s sister included for Alex.
Giant machines that looked like Transformers in disguise towered over everything. These metal monsters were not complete, but the boys already knew what the future held. The scrunched up zig-zag ride was waiting to extend its arms and drag humans in all directions. The Star Trooper would unfurl its neck and arms and reach up to the sky to spin teenagers around at speeds that would make stars blur. But off in the corner of the field, two rides appeared complete. The Ferris wheel and the giant yellow slide, “Do you think we would get away with a closer look?” Barry asked while he bounced on his toes.
“Let’s go,” Alex answered. The boys walked across the field with heads craned like kids in New York City. They looked from the rides to the booths covered by metal shutters that blocked the view of the games inside. Their minds poured over the rationale of which games would be the easiest to win, but before long, they were distracted by tents with decorations depicting cotton candy and caramel apples.
They wandered through the field, led by unselfconscious curiosity. Navigating their way through the maze of modern magic, they found the corner by the woods where the Ferris wheel and the three hundred foot yellow slide nestled side by side. The yellow slide glinted in the falling sun, drawing their attention. Their eyes went from the slide to the stairs beside it. Only a dangling chain and a sign barred the the way up. Barry and Alex looked at each other. Questions were not needed, “I didn’t see anybody around,” Alex stated.
“School’s been out for a few hours. It’s already starting to get dark,” Barry added. Their eyes lit up their faces like the stars would light up the night sky in only a few hours. But it wasn’t dark yet. And as the boys ignored the sign and climbed the stairs, anyone who cared to look would be able to see them.
Around halfway up, they were already taller than most of the rides. They looked over the rail behind them. Without the large crowds below, they felt their heightened surroundings. It was in the tightness in their chest and the slight dizziness that swept over them with the wind. For the last bit of their ascent, they crouched and climbed on shaky hands and feet. They felt the surge of adrenaline that blasted through their bodies and wavering limbs. At the summit, Barry and Alex whooped! They looked out over the carnival. They gazed out over the woods into town. They even saw Barry’s house half a mile or so on the other side of the pond.
“Hey! Where are the blankets?” Barry asked. The burlap sacks, which provide the slip to the slide, were nowhere to be seen. It was something they hadn’t thought through on the climb.
“I’m sure we’ll be fine,” Alex said, his voice a little dry. The boys crept over to the edge and sat down in separate grooves. Their hearts pounded against their ribcages and fluttered against their shirts. They glanced at each other and pushed off. The wind whipped at their bodies and filled their ears as they whooshed down the soaring yellow slide.
Because of this, they didn’t hear the voice that shouted at them. They did when their momentum slowed at the first hump and stopped them by the scrunch of their pants. “HEY!”
Panic now spiked with the adrenaline. Without speaking, Alex and Barry scooted to the next drop. They whooshed down the next part of the slide but had one more hump before the bottom. The smooth and speedy drop was replaced by the tug of their clothes and a quick stop. They pulled at the sides on this level out while they squirmed to the edge of the final drop. Sweat poured from their hands and mixed with a sticky surface on the slide.
They crested the last ridge and saw a man in a gray jumpsuit with a tool belt reach for a walkie talkie. He was about fifty yards away, by the Ferris wheel, and sprinting towards them. As the boys slid down the last slope, it seemed like they were going to slide right into him.
The bottom of the slide had a runoff of about thirty feet at ground level. The man slowed his run and caught his breath as he reached the low fence around this area. The boys slowed down immediately when they hit the flat bottom. Alex and Barry traveled only three of the thirty-foot stretch across the ground. They saw the man’s eyes bulge from this distance. A good interval and a fence were between them and getting caught.
No thank you.
They didn’t need to hear the lack of command in the man’s voice to spur the instinct to bolt. They were already doing it. Hopping the fence and running for the woods, Alex and Barry looked back. Over their shoulders, they saw the man start to chase them and quickly give up. His scowl and curses at the boys admitted defeat. Barry and Alex now knew there was no way that man would be able to catch them in the face of a chase into the woods.
Their panic turned to elation. They jumped over fallen trees and skipped through a stream on their way through the woods before they came out on the main street. They caught their breath and began to slow down on the side of the road. If they paused and stopped to think about their situation, they might have realized bursting out of the woods laughing on the main street was a bad idea.
But boys with smoke bombs and bang snaps in their pockets don’t think of the consequences. They just think about the thrill. And if they need to get out of trouble, they improvise. Usually, it works out. They thought it did this time.
Barry and Alex strutted back down the street with their hands swinging and their pockets still bulging with smoke bombs and bang snaps. Cars that passed them slowed but didn’t beep. As they walked through town, they didn’t understand why everybody looked at them.
They decided to walk on the sidewalk for a change. They wiped their sweaty hands against the front of their pants. A smudge of yellow came off, but they didn’t think anything of it. Barry and Alex didn’t know the sign on the stairs of the yellow slide said Wet Paint, not Keep Out. They didn’t know that the seats of their pants were streaked with yellow paint. Everybody else did.
Drew Alexander Ross studied business and film at the University of San Francisco. He hopes to be a successful writer one day and currently works at a middle school in Los Angeles. Drew has placed in two screenwriting competitions and has a short story accepted to be published by DrunkMonkeys.