Molly sometimes wondered if the other carousel horses became jealous.

She hoped not. It wasn’t that the prancing, cream-coloured pony with the brown mane was so much her favourite as it was that the rest did not belong to her. Of course, it didn’t really belong to her, but this one, with the colourful carved parrot and yellow rose on the blue saddle was the one she’d first ridden — the outside horses went the fastest, which also had appealed to her — and thereafter, always felt drawn to. Her carousel horse would feel sad, she thought, if she abandoned him for others.

Of course, Molly had ridden others — just for variety and so they wouldn’t feel as if she was totally ignoring them — but she always came back to the cream-coloured one so he would know she hadn’t forgotten him.

Sometimes, when Molly first arrived in the cool of the morning, her pony would be hidden from view. Her angle of approach was always the same, but the position of the carousel wasn’t. Wherever it had stopped, after the last circuit the previous night, was where her trusty mount had stayed.

This morning, the cream pony was right out front.

Movement at the interior of the carousel caught Molly’s eye as she came closer.

“Good morning, Jimmy.”

The elderly man, who didn’t seem the least bit elderly to her — he was full of energy and a youthful aura surrounded him – looked up from his safety check procedure.

“‘Morning, Molly. How you doin’ today?”

Jimmy, shortened from Giovanni years earlier, had never totally relinquished his original accent, even after decades, and even after acquiring the local vernacular. His words added a distinctly European seasoning to an American flavour.

“I’m good. How about you?” She laid her palm against her mount’s neck then patted him as she would a flesh and blood horse.

“Nyeh. Not bad. The pasta and vino keep me goin’, but…gettin’ old.”

Molly laughed. “Well, that makes two of us. Beats the alternative, I guess.” A sudden frown clouded the sunlight of her smile. Did she really believe that? Some days, the alternative seemed more than a little attractive.

Jimmy nodded and went back to his work.

“Almost done,” he said. “You’re early today.”

The smile returned. “Fell outta bed.”

“Ohhh, I hope not. Wouldn’t want you to bruise that lovely…well, wouldn’t want you to bruise anything you got.”

Her horse was in the mid-height position today, so Molly reached up and grabbed the brass pole. She raised her right leg, fitted her foot in the stirrup, and with an “oomph,” pulled herself up, hoisting her other leg over the saddle. She wore brown Capri pants, a flowing oversized, Hawaiian shirt with muted tones of orange, gold and green, and tan suede sandals.

Jimmy looked up while she wiggled herself into the familiar, comfortable position.

“You should wait for me to help you up.” Sometimes, he was quicker than she and assisted her before she could do it all herself. When the cream-coloured horse was in the highest position, Molly would make the concession to her age and knees and allow Jimmy to give her a boost.

“Oh, I’m not that decrepit yet, Jimmy. I figure as long he’s half way there and I can still mount up, I’m good to go another day.”

Another day. And another and another.

Where had all the other days gone?

In a few moments, Jimmy would start up the machinery and the carousel would grind into motion. Molly would start her day with the free ride, ten minutes of dizzying, carefree pleasure. She would alternately close her eyes and just enjoy the morning freshness, with the cool wind mussing her gathered up graying hair, or open them and watch the rest of the world go by in a blur from her spinning centre of the universe.

Before officially opening the park’s summer attraction for the day, Jimmy did this just for her.

“I have to warm it up, anyway,” he always said, “Why waste good rotations?”

Jimmy could have ignored her that first time, when she stood staring at the empty carousel in the long shadows of the early morning sun. He could have just warmed up the carousel riderless, as he had for years. It would have been safer. After all, the warm-up was, in fact, a process to ensure that everything was in perfect working order and that the carousel wouldn’t go spinning off into oblivion. Since he was meticulous in maintaining it, though, he thought it highly unlikely such a thing would occur, so that first time Molly had shown up and he’d asked, “You want a ride? You want a long ride?” was just the start of what became a summer morning ritual; at least, most mornings, from June through September.

If Molly didn’t show up, Jimmy never pried on her next visit. If she volunteered that she’d not been feeling well, or had someplace else to be, or just didn’t feel like getting out of bed on the day she’d been absent, that was good enough for him.

Molly grasped the brass pole with both hands then leaned back and stared up at the mirrors and the patterns of large round lights and rows of unlit bulbs imagining how they would look after dark, all glowing and glittering yellow-orange, as the carousel spun, and the mirrors reflected the images of time – past and present fused – hurtling into the future, but always coming back to the present and then the past again. Round and round.

“Remember what it was like, Jimmy? Remember when the fair would be here?”

“Sure, I remember. Not senile yet. You think just ’cause I’m older than you I lost my marbles?”

“Oh, Jimmy, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way. And you’re not that much older.”

She looked down at him and he glanced up grinning wide, his even white teeth, almost glowing in the shadows where he stooped.

“Just yanking your chain, Molly.”

She looked away, leaned forward again, but didn’t loosen her grip on the pole.

“I love the merry-go-round, Jimmy. I’ve always loved merry-go-rounds.Have I ever told you how much I appreciate you doing this?”


“Well, I’ll tell you again. I do. You have no idea.”

She lowered one hand to her steed’s mane and caressed the glossy, rigid swirls. Her fingers worried at the chips and scratches that were the inevitable scars of time. The flaws didn’t matter. He was a good horse and she’d stick with him no matter how may chips and scratches he got.

“I loved the fair, too, the whole feeling of it, the sounds and the smells. Even when I couldn’t afford the rides, I loved it. I always felt as if I was watching a movie, a movie I loved and could see over and over and never get tired of. Like ‘Casablanca,’ you know?”

He stood and stepped onto the platform, resting one hand on the third horse in.

“Ahh, ‘Casablanca.’ Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.”

“Do you think we have a beautiful friendship, Jimmy? I think we do, even if you don’t look like Humphrey Bogart and I’m not anything like Claude Rains. Great movie, ‘Casablanca.'”

“Sure is,” Jimmy nodded.

Molly gazed off into the trees surrounding the clearing that the carousel called home. The park was still deserted except for a couple of joggers and one cyclist on the bike path, who paid the two old
carousel haunts no mind.

Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.

“You know what I suddenly remembered, Jimmy?”

“Hmm.” He closed his eyes and pressed his fingertips against his temple. “Okay, okay. It’s coming. There it is.” He looked up at her. “You remembered that you forgot to turn off the stove?”

Molly turned her face towards him and gave him a withering look “No.” She paused then smiled. “No. I just suddenly remembered the toys, the toys on the canes. Remember those? They were thin bamboo canes painted dark green, or that awful, hideous pink or magenta, or whatever colour that was. I liked the green ones, even though the colour would come off on your skin if your hand was sweaty. And the toys would be tied to the canes with that thin white elastic. You could stretch that plastic Kewpie doll or stuffed animal or whatever, away, and it would bounce right back. Or sometimes it would break and snap back and sting like hell. Remember that?”

Jimmy laughed. “Sure I do. They don’t have those anymore. I guess they stopped doing that. Bamboo shortage or something.”

“Probably litigation. Too many snapped elastic injuries. And those canes? Lawsuit city. After all, they could be dangerous. Poke an eye out with one of those.”

“Well, me and my brothers, we used ’em like swords. We pretended we were Captain Blood or Zorro. My brother, Dom, he always wanted to be the villain, though… Basil whatsisname?”


“Yeah, that’s it… Basil Rathbone. Got a few welts outta those fantasies.”

“I had one for the longest time.”

“What, a welt?” Jimmy grimaced.

“No, silly. One of those canes. I kept it for the longest time. I still have the little bear that was attached to it, but I don’t know whatever happened to the cane. Guess it got broken, or lost in a move somewhere. I wonder if it would be a collector’s item these days? Probably not. Probably thousands of them around in the attics or basements of people who never moved in their lives. We moved lots of times before we ended up here. Just kept collecting stuff and moved it every time, but I don’t know what happened to that cane. I got so much crap in my house even if I still had that cane, I wouldn’t be able to find it.”

Molly wondered why she was obsessing over a worthless bamboo stick.

“I threw a lotta junk out this year. I thought it was time.”

“Really? I wish I could. I can’t bring myself to do it yet.”

Jimmy shrugged. “Give it time. It took me ten years.”

Molly went silent for long moments. Jimmy tinkered. She leaned forward, pressing her cheek against the cool brass and reached forward to stroke the molded jaw of the wooden horse.

The sounds of morning – car tires on pavement, dogs barking, some children shouting – filtered through to the carousel. The town was waking up.

“It will be three years next month,” she said quietly. “Where did the time go?”

Jimmy said nothing because he hadn’t found the answer to that question himself.

Molly sighed. “Three years. I can’t believe it’s been three years.”

Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.

“You okay, Molly?”

She turned to him and stared into his face, searching, her expression desperate, tears on the verge of flowing.

“Tell me, Jimmy, if you said good-bye to someone you love, or kissed them, or just talked to them, or if…if you went on a carousel ride with them and it was the last time you’d ever have the chance to do it – to do any of it – would you want to know?” Would you want to know so that you could make it last longer? Somehow make it last forever? Would you want to know?”

He bent his head as if to study his scuffed runners then looked up, his dark eyes brimming. “I don’t know, Molly. I don’t know what hurts more, knowing or not knowing. When the cancer was taking Josie, it hurt in a way no words can describe, knowing that every time I kissed her good-night at bedtime or said good-bye in the morning, when I headed to work that it could be the last time. I just couldn’t say,’Ti amo sempre,’ often enough. You can’t say ‘I love you always,’ too many times to someone you love, if you know what’s coming or not. I think it all hurts, and I think it hurts no matter how it happens.”

Jimmy wept and made no effort to hide his emotions.

Molly shook her head, and wiped away the tears that were making their way down her cheeks. “God, I’m being an idiot. I’m so sorry, Jimmy. I didn’t mean to get you started, too. It’s just…I still miss him,” her voice broke and she sniffed loudly, “I still just miss him so much.”

Jimmy wiped his face with the back of his hand then went to Molly. “I know, I know. It’s okay, Molly, I understand how it is. You two were married a long time. You don’t just get over losing someone, and it was sudden. There was lots of shock in that.”

Molly reached down and patted his shoulder. “Thank you. I’m sorry, sorry to bring you down. I didn’t mean to.”

“Don’t worry; I’m okay. And you’ll be okay, too.”

He smiled up at her then took her hand, lifted it to his lips, and bestowed a gentle kiss on the back then let her withdraw it. He grinned wide again, the dazzling smile that made her feel as if it might possibly be true that she would be okay.

“Thanks, Jimmy,” she whispered.

He nodded. “You’re welcome, Molly. Now, you wanna ride, or not?”

“Absolutely. Take me for a spin, oh, King of the Carousel.” She laughed, feeling warm, and not just from the sunbeams that had moved over the platform gleaming off the brass and mirrors and paint. Her steed poised, ready for the blind charge toward Helios.

“You want the music, too?”

“Oh, sure let’s go for broke. Let there be tunes!”

Molly had never asked Jimmy if it was his decision to keep the calliope music, or the absentee owner’s. The important thing was that it hadn’t been replaced with some modern system that didn’t play real carousel music.

Gears ground, the platform surged forward and her horse dipped earthward then leaped towards the golden orb in the east. The first tinkling notes of the tune that was the carousel’s namesake filled the morning. Passing joggers turned their heads in the direction of the resurrected merry-go-round. Dog-walkers stopped and smiled at the lone rider whirling through time and space.

Eyes closed, remembering other rides, rides when she hadn’t been alone, rides where she had stretched out her hand to the next horse and held another’s hand, Molly wanted to cry out for a life that had created memories of which she was now the sole guardian. More than anything, she wanted to reach out again and feel the warmth of that other hand.

Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.

The carousel and her thoughts spun. Memories swirled like diaphanous cotton candy, melt-in-your-mouth sweetness dissolving too soon. She gripped the pole tighter and sobbed out loud.

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

Molly opened her eyes and the image of Jimmy watching her, a big grin lighting up his face, flashed by. She threw back her head and let the rushing air wash over her. She was tired of crying, tired of spinning around trying to catch the past. It was as futile as trying to catch up to one of the other horses on the carousel.

Kiss me. Kiss me as if it were the last time.

When she went by him again, she smiled at him and he nodded. She relaxed her grip on the pole.

A couple more turns then she made a face at him, stuck out her tongue and saw him laugh.

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

On the next pass, Jimmy held up his arm in an open-handed salute.

Molly let go of the pole with one hand, stretched out her arm to him and waved.

© 2015 Rose. B. Thorny. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

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