The Operator at the Ferris Wheel

The little boy could no longer wait

for his mother to shave the cherry ice

until it sold out. We had just met

at the church fair. His mother knew mine

in youth. She owned an ice stand with her husband,

watched his son wait on the ferris wheel line.

The ferris wheel operator would not permit

the little boy to ride alone, although he was

first in line.  I stood, without a ticket,

the tallest and oldest in line.

The operator looked past the boy,

into a sea of eager faces, selected two

for the empty cage.  Another cage reared,

and the operator, once more, sought a pair.

The little boy, crestfallen, looked at his feet.

I raised my hand.  The operator waved

the boy and me in.

We circle the axis five times. I do not think

of rusty hinges, crooked screws, this machine

that needs oiling. Perpendicular to earth,

the wheels stops. The boy grips the bar

across his lap. “I hope we don’t

turn over,” he says. Unsure of myself

with this young stranger, I say, “Me too.”

The spokes flash colorful light as

people below us gesture with white palms.

The little boy lets go of the bar. “It’s not scary,”

he says.  “It’s not.”  I call him brave

not knowing what else to say.

Ground-level, the wheel stops,

the operator offers me his hand.

“Are you all right?” he asks me.

The little boy, quiet, disembarks.

The operator should have asked

the little boy

if he had fun.

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