Photo (with slight changes) courtesy of Wikipedia

This very short work of fiction was first published on my old blog, Dough, Dirt, & Dye in September 2011.  It’s slightly spooky.  Wishing all you ghouls and goblins a Happy All Hallow’s Eve.


In a small town a death is reason for hurry; a murder assures great speed.  They would all come, even the ones off-duty and the ones who wish they were cops.  Certainly the radios were humming now.

The man had meant to do me harm, of that I have no doubt, but how would they know that?  My ties here are thin, though I’ve lived here for more than ten years.  I’ve kept to the outskirts.  I came from elsewhere.

As I sit waiting for them I know I should be planning for the critical moments to come: maintain a resolute silence; get a lawyer, and then calmly and clearly explain what had happened – but my mind keeps pulling my thoughts back to the summer after college when a friend and I went together to a carnival near my hometown.  It was raining lightly but not enough to have brought the rides to a halt and we gave the tall and too-thin, bearded man our tickets to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl.  The yellow clowns painted on the sides of the cars were vaguely sinister yet alluring, the deep red metal of the clam-shaped cars shiny with rain.  As the ride began we moved ourselves from side to side, urging the car to spin.  Before long the ride was in full motion and we pressed together and clutched at the wheel in the center.  When it would spin crazily tears of laughter poured down our faces.  We laughed so hard there was no sound to it.  Our grins flashing by must have looked maniacal to the spectators standing around the outside of the ride, as crazy as the painted clowns.  To us the crowd was merely a colorful blur.

The tall carny, seeing our efforts, worked his way towards us on the slick and undulating surface until he was standing in front of our car.  He grabbed the side and shoved it, sending us into a blissful spiral, but then suddenly he was gone, his footing lost in the rain.  He had slipped over the edge of the ride.  For a few moments more the ride continued, mechanically oblivious to what had happened.  My friend and I strained to see him, hoped to see him standing, unharmed.  Later we’d learned he’d broken an arm and was bruised and cut.  The joy in the day was gone, our thoughts playing over and over the image of the man disappearing over the side of the ride.  We’d done it to him with our quest for the sensation of spinning.

The afternoon light is soft and gray coming into the window.  The house is so quiet.  Soon it will be filled with strangers and the sounds that strangers make.  I rest my hands on the table and study the fingers.  They’re thin and white.  They’re mine and they pulled the trigger.

10 thoughts on “Tilt-A-Whirl

  1. biggsis

    So much packed into so few words. Very evocative and begging the reader to think about more and the rest of the story. Nicely done.


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