Available June 15, 2015

"Dr. McFarland told us we were the only ones who could cure the unfortunates under our care. Our benevolent kindness would lead them to sanity. At first I believed him, but it was not long before I learned of unspeakable acts committed on those lost souls."
For Their Own Good
For Their Own Good

Available June 15, 2015 at
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The Last Ride

The carnie stopped the Ferris wheel, flipped open the bar in front of the plastic seat, and waited for the girls to walk up the ramp. Sharon smiled up at him as his dirty hands locked them in. The smoke from the cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth made his eyes squint, but he managed to grin back.

Rosie watched him grab the metal gear shift. “How can you smile at him? He’s creepy.”

Sharon rested her elbow on the side of the car and leaned back on the seat. “It’s a good way to get a longer ride. I do it all the time.”

“How do you know he won’t stalk you or something?”

“Hasn’t happened yet, but he did ask me to come around later.”

“You wouldn’t do that, would you?”

“Of course not. He’s not that cute.”

“Hey, look at that guy getting on after us. I didn’t see him waiting in line, did you?”

Their eyes landed on a pale man in a black suit and tie going up the platform. He sat in the seat in front of them, took off his wide-brimmed hat, and held it on his lap. The carnie leaned on the gear and the cars rushed through the air.

Their car stopped at the Ferris wheel’s highest point and Sharon rocked back and forth.

“Stop that, Sharon. Didn’t you hear about the Ferris wheel at the state fair that went out of control? Three high school kids were thrown out. They were fourteen, like us. I heard one of them died.”

Sharon leaned over the side, her dark eyes scanning the carnival below. The lights from the fairgrounds were surrounded by shadowy country fields. “How high do you think we are? If we fell from the top what sound do you think it would make? Splat? Thud? Crunch?”

The seat jerked and flew toward the ground. Rosie gripped the bar in front of her. “Shut up. You’re making me nuts.”

“I’ve never been around a dead body. Do you think there’d be a lot of blood? If I died I bet my dad would feel bad about grounding me last week.”

“What is wrong with you? Your parents would feel awful if you died.”

“All the same, they’d be sorry. Hey, look at that guy in the suit. He hasn’t moved.”

Rosie peered at the man in front of them. “I’ve never seen anybody wear a suit on a carnival ride. He kind of reminds me of a preacher or something.”

“Hey, maybe he’s an undertaker and they keep him around on the more dangerous rides in case there’s a body.”

“You’re crazy.”

Sharon shrugged her shoulders. “I’m just saying, things happen, and if our Mr. Black is in that kind of business and he happens to be here. Well, what do those nerdy boy scouts say, ‘Be prepared’?”

“I think he’s a businessman from out of town. He saw the fair from the highway and decided to stop. Look at the way he’s sitting with his back straight, staring in front of him. He’s probably from the city.” 

The wheel yanked them upward, over the top, and stopped half-way to the bottom. Sharon glanced above them and saw part of the man’s shoe edging over the floor of the seat. His feet were long. “I think he’s the grim reaper or the ghost of Christmas something. He’s skinny enough.”

“Those characters aren’t real.”

“How do you know? My grandma says she’s seen plenty of ghosts.”

The ride lurched, and the wind blew their long hair away from their faces. Rosie grabbed Sharon’s hand. “This guy is not a ghost.”

He was in front of them again, smoothing his black straight hair toward his neck. The bones of his hand pushed against his skin.

“I’m going to look at him the next time he’s behind us. I know he’s watching.”

Sharon held her breath and gazed behind her. The man’s bright eyes met hers. She turned around fast. “He’s staring right at us. He’s undressing us with his eyes.”

“Huh?”

“What if he’s a serial killer? What if he drags us behind a carnival trailer and has his way with us?”

“Stop saying that!”

“It could happen.” 

The ride slowed to a stop as the man’s car drew even with the platform. He slipped out of his seat, put on his hat, and darted through the crowd.

The Ferris wheel whisked Sharon and Rosie to the top and stopped. They searched beneath them and saw glimpses of the man walking between the carnival booths.

“There he is. Right next to the dunk tank.”

“I see him. Wait. Where’d he go?”

The carnie stopped their car in front of him, unlocked the bar, and flung it open. The girls ran past him, through the people waiting in line, toward the dunk tank until they saw the black hat sitting in the dirt.

Sharon leaned over and picked it up. “This is his. I know it.”

“I don’t see him anywhere.”

Two carnies in grease-stained coveralls watched them. “Where’d you girls find that hat? Hey, Buddy, it looks like Henry’s, don’t it?”

Sharon stepped closer to Rosie. “Who’s Henry?”

“Henry worked the carnival. Died a few days ago tightening the bolts on the Ferris wheel. Fell off the top. Killed him when he hit the ground.”

Sharon traced the hat’s brim with her finger. “What did he look like?”

“Oh, he was tall and kind of skinny. When he wasn’t workin’ he liked to wear a suit and tie—had a black one, matched that hat. We used to tell him how, with his black hair and all, he resembled death warmed over.”

Sharon handed the hat to one of the men and the girls walked quickly toward the entrance of the fairgrounds to wait for Rosie’s parents. They sat close together on the grass outside the gate, their backs to the carnival’s lights.

Before long a silver sedan pulled over to the side of the road. The driver leaned across the seat, rolled down the window on the passenger side, and looked out at a man standing on the edge of the road. “Almost didn’t see you with that dark suit and hat of yours. Need a ride? Get in.”

As soon as the car pulled away, Sharon and Rosie ran as fast as they could back inside the fairgrounds. Gasping for air, they stopped in front of the Ferris wheel. The carnie spotted them and nodded toward the ride. He pushed the long arm of the gear and the Ferris wheel whirled through the air fast before he brought it to a stop. He scoured the line of people waiting to get on, but he didn’t see the girls. They were gone.

 

Eternal Symphony

Before dawn the old woman rolled back and forth in her bed, trying to take her night gown off, putting the edges of the blanket in her mouth. All at once her body lay still and she moved her arm up and down like the maestra of a symphony orchestra. She reached high, the music crescendoed.  Her arm fell to the bed and the movement ended.

******

The baby was too still for a newborn. She looked toward her parents only once, her gaze dull and empty. In a second she closed her eyes and turned her head away. The mother and father leaned closer, hoping for a sign—a change in breathing, a cry, the sound of her feet moving against the pad underneath her.
The doctors had no answers. "For some reason your little girl isn’t thriving. Sorry, there’s not much we can do."
Putting his arm around the mother’s shoulder, the father spoke close to her ear. "Should we get another opinion? Could a different doctor figure it out?"
She wiped a tear from her face. Her eyes never left her daughter. "I must have done something wrong before she was born."
They watched the baby most of the night, until the nurse convinced them to go back to the mother’s room to rest.

******

The old woman’s daughter sat close to the bed, holding her mother’s hand. "I didn’t expect her to be like this." The son sat in a chair near the window and stared at his mother. "I had no idea it was this bad. Is there anything they can do?"
"No. She has a living will. She wanted to go peacefully."
Taking a deep breath, the son’s shoulders dropped. "She doesn’t seem like mom at all. She’s usually telling us and everyone else what to do."
"That’s for sure. When she wants something she never quits."
The old woman lifted her arm and began to conduct.
The son leaned forward. "What’s she doing?"
"I don’t know. It’s strange, isn’t it?"
They fell asleep and the symphony continued through the night. White lights came out of the tips of the old woman’s fingers. Rising above her bed, the beams formed a musical staff. Notes rose and fell between the lines. In an instant the treble clef flew toward the ceiling and disappeared. The old woman’s arm dropped.
The nurse came in the room and checked her pulse. She woke the daughter and son. "I’m sorry. She’s gone."

******

The baby gazed toward the ceiling, following the moving lights. She raised her arm and the lines of the musical staff flowed into each of her fingers. Her head jerked to the side and her legs kicked. Moving her arms up and down, she began to conduct her first symphony.

To read more of Bradette Michel's short stories go to amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com