The carnival came to town on a Saturday, they blocked off Main street with tall wooden signs; red and yellow balloons tied to every corner and traffic light through Skyville. My child eyes peered through looking glasses at the fantastical parade of animals strolling into the tents. To the left of my filed-of-vision a large movement caught my eye: a flicker of charcoal gray, a lifted foot, a swishing tail knocking dust off hind legs. A gentle giant entered into view, with ears the size of my body, soft eyes, and the most elaborate designs painted across its back; a collage of colors splashed in purple and white, red and aqua, yellow and vibrant orange. Pictures of the sky, of dancers on tiptoes, tightrope walkers hovering over canyons, rushing rivers and fire jugglers; my eyes were ablaze with the marvelous mural on the back of the carnival elephant. I named her Vida, Spanish for life.
As the sun began to sink over the water in our tiny beach town, the scene changed before my eyes. Sparklers lit up the night, drenching the ocean front in a fiery glow; musicians came out to sit on the streets, plucking fingers across strings and fret boards; drummers congregated in circles beating out rhythms as on-lookers joined in the dance. The night was infections, the whole town caught it, and soon even the elderly were barefoot, stepping to the jingles of the music people. With my head tilted back toward the starry hosts, I spun in circles, feet planted in the Earth, arms out wide making circles in the air around me.
Fire spinners came out to play, with batons taller than me, the ends soaked in kerosene; one spinner drew out a small match box from his pocket, striking the match to the gritty side of the box it ignited in flame. Setting it below the kerosene baton, I watched in awe as the spectacular blaze of blue and orange licked the top of the spinners head. He began twirling the batons around his body in lines of head, like the color of music pressing against the dark sky.
They strung a tightrope on the beach front, walkers and balances stretched their bodies out in elastic shapes, floating over the rope; bounders, leapers, and flippers came to toss tricks. From where I stood, I could hardly touch the taught rope even with lifted hands and on tip toes. Strong arms came, clasping around my waist and lifting me up, higher, higher, the balls of my feet found the rope beneath them. I teetered back and forth, the rope shaking, my knees quivering, but the hands held me firm in place; one toe, two toes, I slid my foot forward. Cheering erupted as I stepped onward with confidence.
When I found myself on solid ground again I was captivated by the scene before me: one of the animals from the carnival had escaped, and was leading a horde of newborn turtles to the crashing tide. With feet buried in sand I ran like molasses to the creature, with legs as high as my head and feathers as long as my arms; its draping neck dipped low to greet me. We looked at one another and back to the turtles, we were a team, this strange animal and I; together we ushered the newborns past the sand to the pulling tide, each turtle waving goodbye from the salty sea. The creature turned to me again, bowing low it slid its head between my legs tossing my body high upon its feathery back.
Slowly at first, we began to run, back toward the fiery light of the carnival; the sparklers burning, the music people beating rhythms loudly, the spinners and balances and barefoot dancers, Vida the mural elephant with people riding atop her back, laughers and smilers with sandy toes and burning lips; me, high upon my feathery friend. The biggest things to come to Skyville, burning into the night, Vida and the carnival, at the edge of the ocean.
By Riah Raine
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