All you can spin

Audrey saw legs sticking out from under the Volkswagen bus. “Joe?” No response. She kicked his foot. “Joe!”

Joe shimmied into view on the concrete garage floor. His hands greased black, he carefully pulled the earphones from his ears. “Hey, mom.”

“Have you seen Evan?”

“Not since he skidded out of here on his bike.”

Audrey smirked at him. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” He scrunched back under the bus.

Audrey started to leave but circled back. Her feet wanted to go but her curiosity was unwilling. “Did he say anything? Would he tell you if something was wrong?”

Joe shimmied back out. He held a sturdy don’t-ask-me look.

“Never mind,” she said, sure now that something was wrong. “You know, it’d be a lot easier to talk to you if you got one of those rolling things for under the car.”

“A creeper? Good idea, mom.”

“What are you doing under there, anyway?”

“Changing the oil.”

“You’ve been out here all day. Doesn’t take all day to change the oil.”

“Nope. Put on new brake pads and changed the spark plugs.”

Audrey stepped back to see the van in full, blue and white and recently washed. “Wow. Putting some TLC into the old hippie mobile, huh? You know, these are worth something now. Kind of funny—the people’s bus is a collector’s item. Like a Model T.”

“Not this people’s,” Joe said. He stood up, wiped his hands on a rag.

“No! I mean, it’s great you’re taking care of it. Then when you want to sell it, you know, it won’t have lost any value. It might even gain value. It’s an investment. You could keep this bus forever. Retire on it. Or even in it.”

Joe rolled his eyes. “It’s just my wheels, mom. Gets me from one place to another… though I probably wouldn’t take it to Alaska.” He spotted rust on a wheel rim and rubbed it with the rag.

Pam Wells/The Pullets

“Alaska? Joe—oh, forget it. I have to start dinner.” She headed back to the house, her thoughts now looping far from Evan.

• • • • •

Evan locked his bike to Danni’s wheelchair. He lifted her out of it, climbed the steps to the swinging car and placed her on the seat. This was a small Ferris wheel in a small park near the river, less imposing than the contraption which had inspired his mother’s Ferris phobia. He sat beside Danni and drew her near. They’d bought the All-You-Can-Spin tickets on the theory that many small revolutions could change the world, or at least keep her from moving to Tacoma.

©2010 Pam Wells

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