They finally reached the park’s centerpiece—a brightly painted, early century carousel on a concrete pad, motionless and silent in its winter dormancy but nonetheless captivating with intricately carved wooden horses, gilded moldings, and bright brass fittings. For whatever reason, the children and their parents were avoiding the sleeping merry-go-round; and Zach and Becca had this whimsical enclave to themselves. Becca ran ahead and jumped on a white horse with a red saddle and gold harness. It was the horse Zach would have picked for her, though his choice would’ve been a nearby roan with burgundy saddle and obsidian trappings. He ran his hand over the smooth flesh of that horse on his way to sitting on an enameled white loveseat facing Becca who was laughing and swinging from side to side on her chosen mount.
He stared with dumfounded wonder at her beauty and overflowing charms. It wasn’t enough that they were floating through their dream of romance, now they’d landed in this tangible realization of that enchantment.
Becca stopped swinging. “What?” she asked, her eyes still glittering with that impossible vitality. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Zach could laugh then. “Just my vision of perfection.”
“Little old me?”
Zach nodded, his eyes locked on hers. “Young and beautiful and enthralling Becca Coles.”
Becca wrapped her arms around the horse’s silver pole. “You suppose if I wait long enough, someone will turn this thing on and give me a ride? Just one circuit—that’s all I ask.”
“If you wait long enough—sure. But we both might be old and gray by then.”
“That’s the price of a ride?”
“Sometimes,” Zach said, still smiling.
“Then I guess I’ll pass,” she said and climbed down off the horse and took a seat beside him.
This passage is excerpted from my short story “Carousel Ride,” recently published and available for free at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/317241. The story is fairly short, about twelve manuscript pages. The above scene occurs near the middle and is the moment of thematic climax, where the ascending passion of youth transitions into the descending reflection of adulthood. Of course, the characters don’t know this. It’ll take a lot more of life, and the associate disappointments and disillusionments, for them to perceive this subtle yet profound shift. But it’s this irony–the characters’ ignorance in the face of the reader’s awareness–that makes this story sad and touching, and something more than its simple plot.
Take a look, if you’re so inclined.