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Twilight carnival presents Along for the Ride

Eleven Authors, Six Sentences, One Wondrous Carnival

Copyright 2009 Produced in concert by members of the Six Sentences on-line community ( : Absolutely*Kate, Chris Campbell, Cita, Daniel Stine, Harry B. Sanderford, Jodi MacArthur, Olive Rosehips, Pamila Payne, Rob McEvily, Scarlett Rose, and Tess Dickenson. Chris Campbell, general instigator and architect. Thanks to Jodi MacArthur and Pamila Payne for top-notch editing and thanks to Absolutely*Kate for general moral support. A special thanks to our illustrious 6S leader (and questionable security guard) Rob McEvily.

Absolutely*Kate – The Barker’s Spiel


Jodi MacArthur - Ferris Wheel


Chris Campbell - Roller Coaster


Harry B. Sanderford - Fandango


Absolutely*Kate - The Amazing Esmerelda


Tess Dickenson - Carousel


Scarlett Rose - Fairy Floss


Daniel Stine - Pony Ride


Chris Campbell - Bumper Cars


Olive Rosehips - Tunnel of Love


Cita - Log Ride


Daniel Stine - Tilt-A-Whirl


Pamila Payne - House of Mirrors


Rob McEvily - Security Guard


Pamila Payne - Fire Eater


Jodi MacArthur - Carnal Greens


The Barker’s spiel by absolutely*kate The adman, the shaman, the sorcerer's zeal of incantation had nothing, but nothing, on the carnival barker's spiel of presentation . . . at every small town's 'hear ye' today and gone in a few tomorrows location: "Ladieszzzz annnd Gentlemen ~ Kids of all ages, Step right up Yes, crowd right in Come one, come all to the traveling Twilight*Carnival! ENNNN’CHANTMENT is in store Games of chance, chances for romance and rides upon rides ~ spinning, tilting, climbing, floating and bumping galore: Pony up, then do the Fandango, Eat pink fairy floss or suck on a mango, Take a spin on the Carousel Go round and round the Ferris Wheel; Bring your best girl to the Tilt-a-Whirl then Bump her Car and Tunnel her Love under screams o’frenzy from the Roller Coaster above! At the Twilight's first gleaming Amazing Esmerelda foretells your meaning, while further down our garish concourse We taunt . . . and we daunt . . . where the House of Mirrors haunt the smoky essence of your being; Faint-of-heart, do take part ~ The Twilight Carnival is About to Start!

Yes, the FUN's just begun Magic crackles Midway air when you and your squeeze Log a Ride without a care . . . from here to there from there to here Toots and Bub, have no fear ~ The Twilight Carnival Is Rrrrrready To Appear! Be you sensitive of stomach or squeamish of disposition The Twilight's got lots for everyone; THIS WAY FOLKS for General Admission ~ Just a slim stack of Washingtons opens the gate, romances your date, maybe perhaps . . . changes your fate?" The wind power of the barker's bellows slowed at the conclusion of another day's spiel titillating illusion; quick as a winkexchange with the security guy on his nightly pass-by, a much quieter voice mused, "Y'know, we're pretty much the same you and I ~ I stir crowds to action and you watch crowds' actions stir . . . yes indeed sir."

Ferris Wheel by Jodi MacArthur The man in black pours out of the shadows like smoke from a bottle, his pale face glows under a dark hat brim; skeletal fingers extend bright red tickets toward you. "Would you like free tickets?" Intuition hits your gut like one too many chilidogs; you hesitate, looking beyond the pink cotton candy stands and dizzying swirl of rides, screaming children and sweethearts holding hands, you see port-a-potties with graffiti, used coffee cups lying on benches, coffee grounds spread like bad art against aluminum, secret whispers, knowing glances between carnies and painted ladies. A gypsy emerges from a silky aqua tent with a sparkly blue bag and turns to look at you with such intensity that your arm hairs prickle and you almost turn around and run - but it's the carnival! -The Carnivaland you've been waiting all summer to ride on the Ferris wheel. The Ferris wheel with rainbow buckets of promises, promises to sweep you up into the air where you can see an entire world of dazzling neon lights, kiss your latest crush, and feel what it's like to fly over the moon! The man in black begins to walk away and you cry out, "Sir! Sir! I'll take those tickets!"

Roller Coaster by Chris Campbell It’s the chunky – clunky - clacky sound of the chain pulling the roller coaster up the track - anticipation and doubt - (Will we make it? Will we make it?). Time stops at the top - joy and fear gravity (that bandit) tries to steal my stomach; hands up and scream! My heart pounds in its cage as we enter the shadowed valley and I remember Newton’s third law, and the Lord’s Prayer. Into the light, effortlessly, the car goes up again; we round the corner; the wooden trestle groans and complains (as it does every summer), then the track disappears beneath us and I’m an angel floating above my seat; only the metal bar across my chest keeps me from heaven; we fall and I feel the full burden of my corpulence. Now flying to the sun, I am Icarus; my wings melt; I see the ocean swirl beneath me; I rise again, this time not as high - three hills and I’m a bobble-headed doll, nodding in agreement. We come full circle - the fragrance of brake rubber and coconut sunscreen - I take my first breath.

Fandango by Harry B. Sanderford Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango? Queen

The Spanish dance it is named for is a courtship that starts out slowly (boy sees girl, girl runs away) and builds to a passionate whirlwind (boy chases girl, girl looks over her shoulder to make sure boy is still gaining on her). The ride is itself a rhythmic mimic of the dance, four enormous legs festooned with flashing lights suspend a giant pendulum that swings a whirling merrygo-round business end with increasing speed in an ever expanding arc. It is on the extreme perimeter of that spinning business end that you will find your seat and strap yourself in to ride Fandango. You laugh nervously with your neighbor hoping to appear fearless but secretly you're calculating consequential variants associated with centrifugal forces, corn dogs and candy floss consumption. The ride begins with a slow clockwise rotation and a gentle rocking motion that comforts you at first but it's gathering speed and span with every pass and before you know it you see the ground then you see the sky, you see your house, then you see your thigh, if you see your lunch you're gonna die, ayee-yi-yi-yi! At last it's slowing to a stop and wonder of wonder you didn't even chunder so bingo bango do the Wango Tango, you just tripped the light Fandango!

*THE AMAZING ESMERELDA ~ Knows all ~ Tells all* by Absolutely*Kate The deep paisley greens were familiar babushka colours his grandmother wore, crinkling into mystical swirls as movement gave swishes, but his favorite amusement park haunt had eerie brittle eyes whereas Grandma's were warm to draw strength by. Came the same hushed whisper every time: "Esmerelda, Esmerelda, tell me my fortune true ~ will I grow tall ~ will my life stand for something at all ~ will I have adventure ~ will I know the world?", accompanying clink of descending dime to glassencased shrine. Electric lights sizzle*flash ... magic music scores mood ... Esmerelda lifts head from silent brood ... breathes in, breathes out ... utters hand-of-fate truisms ... opens drawer ... tapers long fingers to appropo selection of neon fate ... holds him with her eyes, those eyes, like the Jesus painting at Grandma's that he knows can follow him to any corner of any room. Electric sparks in the dark zap enlightenment over the blue pasteboard fortune sliding through time as a silver chute: "YOU SHALL REACH HEIGHTS ~ TOWER ABOVE ~ THE WORLD WILL BECOME YOU ~ THIS YOUR ADVENTURE BE." "Hey Kid -- whattsamatta you -- youse a'gonna get shock of your life -can't you no read signs?", cussed Gus; his yellow hard hat rattling hard to the pavement as he bent to right a toppled placard: "Due to electrical difficulties / Fortune*Teller not operating / We apologize for inconvenience / ~ Twilight Carnival". Gus always got the creeps from this particular machine's emerald eye sheen, but today's startle came more from the solemn stare of the kid yet there, one moment handing over the yellow helmet with a quiet polite, "Sorry, Mister", the next a blur of a shooting star off on a sprint, All American Keds slapping the boardwalk doubletime, when some lady yelled, "Barack! Barack! Where have you gone off to this time?"

Carousel by Tess Dickenson A silvery strand of hair flitted across her face as she waited on the dusty walkway, aged hands grasping the metal railing, the calliope music filling the air, filling her mind, making time shift to a time far away. The air rests heavy with the pastel scent of cotton candy and popcorn, a cacophony of sound melting away the years between now and then… then when life was simpler, her hair a rich auburn, the hands smooth ivory, free from the ravages of time. The galloping horses stayed to their circuit, constant and sure, their colors blurring with the motion of time and space, carrying her to a time when the little girl now grown tugged at her sleeve, eagerly pleading “Mommy, mommy… the one with the pink flowers and blue ribbons… hurry, hurry!!” Years canter by as the horses revolve past birthdays, graduations, weddings, heartbreaks and joys… the smiles passing the time… little girls becoming young women as mothers become wiser women, both kissed by the feather wings of days, months, years. Joys and sorrows are blended in the shadow of the carnival ride, a kaleidoscope of colors, scents, touches, heart sounds blurred to a joyful melody. With a gentle smile, she is jostled into today by a small body colliding into hers, wrapping arms tightly around her legs, the sweetness of a child’s voice calling “Grandma, Grandma… the one with the pink flowers and blue ribbons… hurry, hurry!!”

Fairy Floss by Scarlett Rose I smell fairy floss in the distance and I see people walking with it in their hands, and I so badly just want…mummy’s words interrupt my thoughts as she turns to me saying, “Not now dear, just wait – Mummy’s a little busy right now.” I look up at her and she isn’t looking at me, a muscley man chopping wood captivates her, and I know how effortlessly I can slip away, so … I flit away amidst arms and legs and bodies of the crowd, towards the big scary roller coaster, and see the Fairy Floss booth - people hoard the stand, lining up for their puffs of pink magic on a stick, so I stop- the sight of it completely and utterly mesmerizing, and I crawl beneath the table, sneak my hand up, and pull down a bag of fair floss and sugar at the same time, and the sugar spills its contents everywhere – and that’s when I hear it, “Little girl, what on earth are you doing and why are all these people eating my house? It took me a long time to spin that! And where are your parents -- in fact, where are my parents? Hey! Are you listening to me?” My jaw drops in as-ton-ish-ment (mummy taught me that word) and my eyes almost fall out of my head because there is a fairy sitting at my feet, talking to me, and asking me questions, asking me to come with her and ride the rides and go on fairy adventures forever and ever - for real! The small fairy grabs my hand, yanks, pleads, falls backwards, and, silently, I nod my head yes, yes, I would fly with her and we would have lots of adventures! Then I feel myself picked up and mummy says, "Delilah! Honey, are you day dreaming? We can go get some fairy floss now!" and I am so sad, but I swear; I swear Mrs. Fairy, I will never eat your house again.

Mark of the Pony by Daniel Stine It’s a crazy colorful world of flashing lights and cotton candy breezes as a brass band marches through the air, a pied piper leading queued innocents to a ring of six midnight black Shetland ponies all prancing on a string, their long raven manes tied with vivid red ribbons of every shade imaginable. The haggard carnie hawker’s booming cry punctuates the nights rhythm with a raspy “Give’em a ride they’ll remember” as the last pony receives its excited payload of grasping hands and giggles. Slowly the ring of ponies begin their roundabout trot to nowhere, the clop, clop, clop of their hoofs increasing in tempo as red ribbons dance merrily and children lean forward with bright eyes. Ever faster go the Shetlands, the cries of happy children filling the night but now there’s a guttural rock ballad blasting and the dead-eyed carnie is laughing cruelly and the air is filled with a putrid stench and the flashing lights are flashing a solid wall of visual impairment and faster and faster go the ponies and no longer are the children smiling amid the carnivals cacophony of disguise. Red ribbons are now flames licking at the children’s legs, the Shetlands are in full gallop and when the maniacal laughing of the carnie hawker reaches a fevered pitch there is a black flash and barely discernible “crack” before the ponies begin to slow down and now the brass marching band is back and the kids are laughing again in the sweet summer air. The children exit the pony ride with an awkward gaiety and melt into the crowd as six more squealing bundles of joy are loaded upon the dark ponies… A mother notices a smudge on the back of her little darling’s neck, a curious ring design of three black horses all shaped like sixes that simply will not wash off...

Bumper Cars by Chris Campbell Black graphite and polished steel, the floor is slick and dangerous; crouching in the far corner, a pride of many colored tigers with metal tails that point straight up and lick the electric ceiling. I tiptoe toward the red one but a sneakered boy beats me to it (he knows, as I do, that the red car is faster than the rest) so I jealously hop in the green one. A sarcastic sign on the wall reads “No Bumping.” I glare at the thief in the red car as the attendant, ever vigilant, double checks our seatbelts, closes the safety gate and starts the ride. The ceiling cracks and sparks in excitement as I press the accelerator to the floor and … ooze towards my prey. The impotent car never gains enough speed to bump with any real force; no whiplashed necks, no gruesome pile ups, just feigned road rage, giggles and gentle kisses with the other cars - maybe it’s best that way.

Tunnel of Love by Olive Rosehips Hello ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Tunnel of Love. Meander in our sumptuous swan boats through our flower petal strewn waters with your beloved. Our candle lit ride travels through themed romantic destinations abroad where your ears shall sample serenading quartets. On board you will discover the finest chocolates, roses, and mints. We have photographers available at the end of our Tunnel of Love for those wishing to have a lasting memory of your experience.

Log Ride by Cita It’s the sexiest ride in the park what with its phallic shapes, chutes, and sluicing splashes of water. We'll tuck you inside with your honey between your legs while her elbows rest on your knees and the log bumps and grinds its way to the starting point and then floats innocently down the stream. She leans back against you and you laugh, laugh at the ideas and the nervous anticipation and her back against your thighs. At the peak of the climb you've only felt a few cools splashes and you put your face next to hers and smell her hair where it streams over her shoulder and look out over the rest of the carnival on this perfect of summer days, at the peak of loving and playing and hope. Its the downward whoosh that leaves your heart up there where things were perfect, that makes you throw your arms up instead of around, that makes you catch your breath and try to hold on, that leaves you open for the splash of total chill and thrill, and then her hair is streaming around her face and her shirt sticks to her chest, and there is water in your eyes, and now you are too cold, but all you can think is, "Man, what a ride!"

Tilt-A-Whirl by Daniel Stine Leslie Ann Philips: she was some kind of beautiful, Gaussian blur beautiful, like those movies stars in the old time movies where the camera would go all soft when ever SHE appeared and SHE was going to the carnival with me, on a date… with me. I racked my brains for a way to get close to her without seeming like a sex-crazed teenager, which of course I am, and I hit upon the greatest scheme ever. I’d take her on the Tilt ‘O Whirl, that ride that provides all the privacy you could want in a cup plus a spin guaranteed to bring us closer, and that’s when I’ll strike with a quick peck on moist, inviting lips, or at the very least I’ll cop a decent feel, Oh yeah! So the fair comes along and Leslie goes with me and we eat hot dogs and popcorn and drink a gallon of cherry cola and sample some authentic Mexican Nachos and everything is going super well when there it is… The Tilt ‘O Whirl. Casually I whip out a couple pre-paid tickets and in a voice dripping with coolness I suggest we go for a spin, to which she replies in sultry acquiescence and we board our own private tea cup for a rendezvous with heaven. Cocky now with my plan seconds from fruition, the ride starts and sure enough gravity does its thing and Leslie is laughing and sliding closer and closer, but now she’s not laughing and suddenly the Gaussian blur is replaced by a crystal clarity as nachos, soda, popcorn and chunks of dogs gone hot all explode in my lap and WOW… does this plan stink.

House Of Mirrors by Pamila Payne Dry ice fog rolls along the floor, swallowing your stuttering feet as you trip along the darkened labyrinth of silvered glass. The mirrors are clear, but spangled with the dancing flash of a galaxy of mirror balls hung above, and cut with shadows from spotlights set into the pathway that throw creepy, shifting bands of illumination up onto your face. Had you expected wavy caricatures; light-headed Jack Sprat elongation, laughable alienheaded distortions, the rounded jollity of exaggerated, but blessedly temporary girth, Siamese Twins merging and separating with mercury blob fluidity? Instead, you see only yourself, through a glass, darkly. You see: you, breaking a heart, a promise, your word, you, losing your ambition, your faith, your way, you, telling yourself lies, you, wasting your youth, your opportunities, your second chances, you, bemoaning your age, your isolation, your lack of recognition and blaming every other person but you for who you have become... but, the pathway will go on and on for as long as it takes to get the message across — that it all leads back to you. This is not a fun house.

Security Guard by Rob McEvily They say "birds of a feather flock together," and even though (on most days at least) I try not to listen to "them," for me, the triteness applies. Most of my friends are security guards. One works in a bank, one in an office building, one at a law firm, and one... well, I don't know where she works, actually. I've never asked. When we're all together, they complain mostly, so I don't say much, because I'm happy, and I don't want to brag or annoy; I keep my good fortune to myself. See, I work at the Twilight Carnival: a place filled with wonderful rides, pleasant surprises and remarkable people (my kind of birds, birds I'd choose to fly with anytime); a place I feel privileged to witness from a distance.

Fire Eater by Pamila Payne Outside the carnival grounds in a stand of trees, a man smokes a hand rolled cigarette, listening impassively to the last dying round of rising screams and falling moans. He is reminded of cattle, braying and staggering to slaughter as the crowds begin to exit, searching for parked trucks in a sea of parked trucks, counting dazed, wailing children, and gathering lost wits for the trip back home. When the time is just right, he jerks the brim of his sweat-stained cap down over his eyes and carries a large, battered metal watering can, wading through the crowd with all the unquestionable authority of a man with a job to do, just another roustabout on his way to work. An hour later, the wind is free to rush through empty corridors of closed up canvas tent flaps, wump, wump, wumping against the rope tie-downs, skitter empty paper cups and cotton candy cones, smashed popcorn bags and drifts of tissue-thin wax paper into senseless dancing spirals beneath dark, swaying string lights. He steps out of the shadows and commences to traverse the grounds in a sensible, orderly fashion, splashing liquid from the can outside the lairs of painted whores, ignoring snatches of coarse talk and shrieking laughter, outside lamp lit shaded windows full of deformed silhouettes – men who couldn't rightly be called men – stripping off sequins and tights, outside trailers shaking and booming with the boasting of crooks and thieves as they count their money, Satan-trained to lure the ignorant and soil the innocent, outside cribs of abominations best hidden away and left to god's reckoning, but soon to be released from their perverse display. It's a shame about the animals, he thinks, pausing to listen to the soft, far off growling of some large cat, the unnatural prehistoric blast of elephants and the more familiar shuffling whinny of horses, as he takes a wooden match from his pocket and strikes it alight with his thumbnail.

Carnal Greens by Jodi Macarthur A humid wind blows across the prairie causing Ol' Joe to raise his eyebrows. He smells sweet corn, clover, even Mrs. Hornsby's watermelons, but that isn't what makes him stand up and lift his face to the East. He also smells popcorn, tobacco, moldy hay, whispers, stabbings, lies– the quiet abominations that carnivals expel into a small country town. Ol' Joe drives his pitchfork deep into the earth, flipping the dirt's green sins, white petaled weedlings, to the side. Stopping, he raises his face again, watches curls of thick black smoke climb up between the stars and listens to their carnal screams, shrill and sharp, bounce and echo across the moonlit plains and valleys. He nods, satisfied sin had been averted, and goes about a good man's work.

Twilight Carnival: Along for the Ride  
Twilight Carnival: Along for the Ride  

Eleven Authors, Six Sentences, One Wondrous Carnival