Thursday in the park with George

It was Audrey’s idea: a picnic in the park. She boxed up sandwiches, bread-and-butter pickles, red grapes and oatmeal cookies. Found the old checked tablecloth in the back of the linen drawer.

Never mind that it was 50 degrees and raining with wind gusts to 20mph. Carl and Audrey wore parkas. Joe and Evan had warmer things to do.

“It’s okay,” Audrey said. “It’s not a birthday party.”

“No, it’s the Mariners and the Rays,” Carl said. “Which I can easily record and watch later. Let’s go.”

• • • • •

The Ferris wheel stood empty over the carnival area, closed for the night. Audrey and Carl sat in the truck. The windshield wipers swished every few seconds.

Pam Wells/The Pullets

“How’re you doing?” he asked.

“Good.” She looked straight ahead at the trees.

“Are you gonna look at it?”

“Maybe.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I know.”

The sky was brightening, clouds were tumbling pink. Audrey drummed her fingers on her leg, then took a quick peek at the Ferris wheel. She took another peek, this time a bit longer. She looked at Carl and back at the wheel.

“Well?” Carl asked.

“Nothing,” she said. “I think I’m okay. I don’t know what was going on yesterday, but I’m fine.”

“That’s great, hon. Maybe it was just something you ate, or an allergic—” as Audrey jumped out the door “—reaction. Audrey?”

He caught up with her halfway to the giant wheel. Rain pelted their faces. “Hon, come on over here,” he said, and pulled her by the hand to the picnic shelter. She couldn’t take her eyes off the carnival ride.

“It’s actually very beautiful,” she said. “George Ferris would be proud.”

“Ferris was a guy?”

“Yes, Ferris was a guy. A civil engineer. He was only thirty-two when he designed his big wheel and convinced them to build it for the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. It was two hundred and sixty-four feet tall. What does this one hold, maybe a hundred people? His held over two thousand people. I mean, it was an incredible achievement, and some people thought it outclassed the Eiffel Tower. Of course, the Eiffel Tower is still standing and his wheel was demolished. Luckily he died before that happened, bankrupt and alone at the age of thirty-seven.”

“Oh, yeah, lucky. You spent all day on Wikipedia, didn’t you?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Did you look up Ferris wheel phobia?”

“I tried, but apparently there is no such thing.”

“Huh. So maybe… maybe you got a concussion from the typewriter.”

“It hit my leg, not my head. No, nothing happened at all. I ran into Evan with his new girlfriend. I mean, she’s lovely… you should hear her play… I don’t know, maybe it was the typewriter, because that’s why I went out and saw Evan and saw Danni and saw the Ferris wheel… do you think George Ferris ever took the day off and rode his own invention?”

Carl hugged her. He suggested they continue their talk in the truck and eat sandwiches. Once back in the truck, he suggested they go on home so they could eat sandwiches with a beer. Once nestled into the couch with sandwiches and a beer, and after watching Seattle fall again to Tampa Bay, Carl suggested that perhaps Audrey had transferred her post-parental anxiety onto the giant wheel of fortune which had appeared surreptitiously at the park.

“Post-parental anxiety?” she asked.

“I made it up. But it means—” He stretched.

“What?”

“It means you did a good job, dear, and now it’s time to pass the cookies. Thanks.”

©2010 Pam Wells


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