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Lakewood Times

Lakewood Times

    “Carnival” by Haley Schultz


    My hands were placed lightly on the wheel so I didn’t appear to be the crazy mom who holds onto her steering wheel for dear life. There was no one in my car except for Abby, my daughter, and the newest addition to the family I’ve begun to create. She was young, and I don’t think she could even notice how tight I did or did not grip the wheel. She would notice if I took my hands off, but I won’t do that. That would be reckless. I sighed realizing I started to hold the steering wheel tighter the longer I thought about it. I wondered if I could pop it if I squeezed tight enough. I heard a muffled noise over the sound of the radio and turned it down to hear what Abby was saying, “Can you change the song?”

    “Sure! I thought you liked these guys?”

    “No. I don’t like this song.”

    I scrunched my eyebrows but changed the song. I wondered what had changed to where she no longer liked the song, but who knows; kids are all over the place sometimes. I looked into my rearview mirror to see her bouncing to the song I had just chosen. I was glad I had picked a good one. I moved my eyes back to the front windshield and continued to drive.

    We were outside the city now, and the road was quiet. I kept my window shut; my ears pop when I’m in a car and the windows are open. Perhaps that happened to Abby too, but she hadn’t complained about it before, but that was probably because I always kept the window closed.

    We approached our destination, and I pulled into the

    large driveway; gravel crunching as I did. I turned down the music and looked back at Abby. She seemed elated. “Are you ready to go to the carnival?” I asked, trying to suppress my own excitement. I had gone here many times as a child, and I felt it fitting that I brought Abby as well. Abby responded with something, but her words were muffled. She reminded me of a puppy who saw their owner after a long time and couldn’t contain her excitement. I opened my car door and stepped out breathing in the excitement in the air. This was going to be fun. I moved to the other side of my car and opened the door for Abby. She reached her arms out for help getting out; I felt bad that my car was so big compared to her, but it made it that much safer. I placed her down on the ground and grabbed her hand. We walked toward the gates and I paid the man and entered the grounds. Abby looked around in wonder. I watched her face, mystified by how wonderful something new can be to people. It warmed my heart. “What would you like to do first?” I asked, crouching down to be able to look her in the eyes. The people surrounding us didn’t seem to notice our position and flowed around.

    “Let’s go on the Ferris wheel!” Abby yelled. I nodded my agreement and headed toward the large piece of machinery. When we got there the line was very long, and I suggested that we do something else instead. Abby reluctantly looked for something else. I noticed that she likes animals and so I suggested the petting zoo. She was more than happy to participate in this idea. The line was non-existent and so once we got there the petting commenced.

    After a short while, Abby no longer wanted to pet the sheep and talk to the llamas, and I was starting to get hungry. I told her that we should go get food. She responded that she had to go to the bathroom, and since they were adjacent to each other, I let her go by herself. I could see her without turning my head. The line for food seemed eternal, and I patted a song on my legs as I stood there. I kept my eyes focused on Abby as she approached the bathroom, but turned my attention forward once she was inside. There was nothing more I could do. I kept drumming the beat on my thigh and taking small steps forward while each person was served. There were five people ahead of me. I kept taking my baby steps until at last, I was next in line. I stopped tapping. It had been about ten minutes since Abby had left; she should be back by now. I hadn’t seen her come out so she should still be in the bathroom, but why was it taking so long? I stepped out of my place in line and headed toward the bathroom. All stalls were unoccupied except for one, I stood against the wall across from it and waited. The door opened, but Abby wasn’t inside.

    Panic shot throughout my body, and I ran outside. I frantically looked left and right for Abby, yelling her name as I did. Eventually, a boy dressed like the workers at the carnival stopped me to ask what was wrong. I explained to him that I had lost my daughter, Abby, and he told me not to worry, that usually kids just wander off to something close by without even realizing they wandered off. I tried to take a deep breath, but my body wouldn’t let me. “Where would she have gone!” I shouted, wincing at my own voice.

    “There is an area nearby meant strictly for kids, she probably heard the kids playing and decided to investigate.”

    “That doesn’t make any sense she wouldn’t just walk away from me.”

    “Like I said before: she probably didn’t even know that she was walking away from you,” he said this cooly, and I felt my shoulders relax. They could no longer cut through steel, but they could still cut through concrete. I asked the man where I could find the kid’s area, and walked toward it. The location had been moved since I had been here, and right now I couldn’t think. The kid’s area was, unsurprisingly full of children, and I couldn’t tell any of them apart. They all looked the same. I resorted to my earlier tactic of yelling her name as I walked around the area. I stopped for a moment to clear my head and think about where I would have gone if I were her. She was in the car singing when we got here so she probably went somewhere that had music. I listened to my surroundings and to my left there was a building that was playing 8-bit music; not necessarily what we were listening to in the car, but it was music nevertheless. I opened the door to the building and looked to my left and right. There was a jukebox in one corner surrounded by a bunch of games. “Abby!” I yelled thinking I saw her sitting on the bench by the musical machine. Her head turned toward me, and she got up and ran in my direction. The room became quiet as I was reunited with her. Nothing else mattered. I was so happy to have found her again. I sighed a sigh of relief and hugged her close to me, determined to never let her go again.

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