Twenty Years Ago
The sky cartwheeled overhead. A Ferris wheel continued on, carrying Aubrey Ellis past amber-tinged treetops and stringy power lines that looked like black spaghetti. She counted church steeples. This town had three to the north. Heaven disappeared, carrying Aubrey closer to earth. On the approach, Aubrey felt like any normal thirteen-year-old girl, in particular the kind who didn’t speak to the dead. The scenery leveled and the view changed. Carnival crowds thinned as she circled past Carmine, who manned the controls. “One more time, please!”
“Once more, Miss Ellis, then it’s back to work! Your grandmother will take us to task for slacking on the job.” But his mustache stretched wide over a grin.
Aubrey relaxed, her long arms resting lazily across the seat back. Her chin tipped upward and she indulged in nothingness, a soft breeze touching her face like a kiss. A cornflower September sky domed high while a white moon awaited its cue. Cool nutty air rode with her, and Aubrey breathed deep with each turn of the Ferris wheel. It was the Heinz-Bodette carnival’s largest, most spectacular ride. But soon cycles would come full circle and leaves would decay, signaling another season’s end. The troupe and equipment would break down into smaller units and retreat to various winter haunts. Some went to storage and some went to Albuquerque.
Aubrey inhaled halfway and the autumn air transformed. A chemical odor, like gasoline but stronger, seeped into her lungs. She inched forward, looking right and left, trying to match the smell to an earthly event below. There were only signs that a carnival had come to town: Sugared-up children begging for one more ride and another game of chance. The parents who’d spent their money on made-in-China memories, their children’s bellies filled with cotton candy and funnel cake. Aubrey saw nothing that explained the pungent air. The growing stench made her gag, and she pressed her hand to her mouth.
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