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Merry Mint

by Brad Ashmore

I was reminded of the ragged hole in my pants pocket when the coins from my Hershey bar purchase dribbled down my leg and onto the platform of the merry-go-round. As the great wheel spun, my hands slipped on the greasy brass pole that anchored my bounding zebra. This animal was sized for a child instead of a misplaced paunchy office worker on an idiotic escapade.

For one extended lunch break, I was AWOL from my ham-handed manager at a job that squeezed me as lifeless as a bloom wedged between the pages of a book, a book at the bottom of a stack, a stack that grew each day as he added to the pile. I was frantic to run away, but I could only hold tight as I spun in circles.

I wiped sweaty palms frantically across my crisp white shirt. The clattering coins maintained an unsteady balance as they rolled and bounced outward from the hub of the spinning contraption.

The racket triggered the avarice of every child in sight. “I saw them first!” “Mine!” They rained down from bobbing horses and giraffes and unicorns in a frenzied scramble for my money. Elbows jabbed, hooves scraped, and fists punched as the children fought each other as much as the centrifugal force that shoved them away from the center.

I would have ordered them to stop, if I thought anyone would heed my words. Why expect to have any more authority here than where I earned a salary?

The operator of our rotating world, like my manager, was a grizzled and bulky chap. I could catch a glance of him with each revolution, though he only stared straight ahead from an overburdened chair parked next to the spinning platform. He had seen it all and, every day, with every revolution, he saw it again. But this moment interrupted the flow.

The operator’s hand rested on the end of the control stick and, with a casual pull of the brake lever, the merry-go-round decelerated. The children were thrown off balance and the coins abruptly changed course. Deftly avoiding the jungle of protruding hooves and horns, the children landed on the platform.

When the great wheel finally ground to a halt, I saw my coins roll in a single file over the edge of the platform. And then I heard them strike the operator’s black dusty boot. One-two-three-four.

The operator peered down at the coins and then lifted his head to consider the misfit who had lost them. I dismounted from my zebra. He bent over, picked up the coins, and then dropped them into his pants pocket.

The children turned their heads to stare at me. The operator tightened his grip on the control stick when I stepped toward him. I paused to summon courage; alas, none replied. I turned back and remounted my little steed.

Seeing this, the children clambered up to their places on their animals. Then we waited, silent, obedient, and attentive. The operator took a moment to wallow in his miniature victory and then smirked as he eased back on the accelerator.

And as the world once again began to spin, we could hear his laugh orbit us like the full moon hanging in the sky behind him.

Copyright © 2018 by Brad Ashmore

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