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The Carnival

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The drive there seemed like the longest car ride I'd ever experienced in all of my nine years. I knew we were getting close though. The black, paved roads turned into narrow paths, red and brown with dirt. The car moved differently when we drove over the dirt roads. Not smooth like in the neighborhood where we lived. The scenery was different too. Instead of the neatly-manicured lawns that I was used to, here, there were endless fields, filled with amber stalks and uniform rows of green.

"Are we there yet?" I asked, growing impatient. It seemed like an eternity ago since we had left.

After a moment, my dad answered with his booming voice that I loved. "Yes, Johnny, we're here. You can get out of the car now." I looked out the window. I didn't see anything that looked remotely like a carnival. It was still the same thing I had been seeing for the last couple of hours: fields. How could this possibly be the place and if it was, why hadn't the car stopped? Then it dawned on me.

"Dad! You're joking, right?" My dad shared a look with my mother and laughed. I could feel the deep vibrations of it through my feet on the floor. His laughter was contagious. Soon, all of us were laughing together. When we were out of breath, I finally saw something that broke the pattern of farmland. There, looming in the distance was a huge red tent with white stripes.

It was hot outside; hot and sticky. The sun was shining brightly down on the top of my head and my legs itched to run. I was anxious to be through the gates and under the shade of the tent. Unfortunately, there was a long line of people ahead of me who had the same idea. I stood behind all those people. Directly in front of me and my parents, a mother held a crying girl's hand. Behind the three of us stood an elderly couple. They had the distinct smell of old people. Wrinkling my nose, I tried to distract myself. I looked up at my dad. Small beads of sweat had formed along his hairline. I couldn't stop moving even after my mom told me to be still. This was all just too exciting for me and I couldn't stand that all these people had to make me wait.

When we finally reached the front of the line, Dad paid the teller and handed me my ticket. He knew it made me feel older to hold my own ticket. Walking underneath the arched entrance, a man in a vest welcomed us with a smile. The air was thick with the smell of popcorn and cotton candy. My mouth watering, I heard music coming from all directions. Each song mingled with the other songs, blending into a sea of noise. I decided I would go on as many rides as I could first. That way, I could play all the games after lunch when Mom wouldn't let me go on rides anyways. The Whirligig was probably the most fun. It spun around in circles. Every time I came around, my parents would wave to me. When I got off the ride, my legs felt like jelly and the background was still spinning.

Lunch consisted of a jumbo hot dog and potato chips that left my fingers greasy. I didn't finish all the food though. I wanted to save room for dessert. I ate a whole thing of blue cotton candy, the kind that leaves your mouth stained. We were about ready to leave when I saw the greatest game of all. The prizes were real live goldfish! But, I had a dilemma. I couldn't win any games. My dad said that they made games that way, so that no one could win. I thought that was pretty dumb of them to do. But I wanted a goldfish so badly!

My last two tokens clutched tightly in my hand, I marched over to the bright, yellow booth. I held out my palm to the person behind the counter, who took the tokens and replaced them with three balls. I had just three chances to knock down the milk jars; three chances to win a goldfish.

The ball felt big in my hand. My heart was beating fast. I could feel my pulse all throughout my body. My dad was standing next to me. I could easily ask him to throw my shots. He could win me a goldfish, no doubt. Yet, deep down, I knew I needed to win this myself. I pulled my arm back and threw the ball. It didn't even graze the jars. Instead, it landed to the far left.

I sighed loudly in frustration. "It wasn't even close!"

My dad smiled down at me sympathetically and said, "Try again." Those two words fueled my next shot. Again, I pulled my arm back and with a forward motion, I threw the ball. This time, it hit one of the jars, but it didn't knock them down. I had only one more shot. I was determined to win. With all the strength I could muster, I whipped the ball at the jars. I heard the sound of glass falling. I hadn't realized that I had closed my eyes. When I opened them, I saw the glorious scene in front of me. All the jars were knocked down!

Back in the car, I sat with a small bag carefully on my lap. Inside the bag was my goldfish swimming rapidly through the water. I couldn't decide what to name him, but I figured I'd sleep on it because I was worn out from such a long day.

I woke up to the sound of my mother's voice. "Johnny, we're almost home!" Groggily, I opened my eyes. It was dark outside and the familiar sight of suburbia was passing by. I was still holding the bag with my goldfish inside it.

"Have you decided on a name for your goldfish, son?" Dad asked, looking at me through the rearview mirror. I smiled happily and glanced down at the bag.

"Yeah, I'm going to name him Zippy!" My parents agreed that it was good name for him.

I laughed seeing Zippy in his bag. "Hey look! Mom, Dad! Zippy's so funny. He's swimming upside down!"





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