by P.S.Gifford
forum: Sid
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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       Sid sat there reading his morning newspaper. He couldn't help but glance longingly at the empty chair across from him. It was May 12th today - his 75th birthday.

       "75 years," he mused. "Who would have ever thought it?"

       The day was noteworthy for another reason: the carnival was back in town. In fact, it was the very same carnival that had been traveling West to his little town of Mulberry, Oregon for a little over fifty years. It was the place that he had proposed to his wife, Mildred, an amazing forty-seven years earlier.

       Cancer had abruptly and unexpectedly taken her away from him just three months before. Sid had been desperate, yet tender, at her side. She had died at home, where she belonged, with the bed facing so that she could admire the garden that she had loved so much. As Sid had kissed her on the forehead for the very last time, he had been taken aback by the expression on her face. She looked at peace, and finally out of her pain. When she died, a large part of him died with her.

       Sid almost smiled as he read the advertisement in his paper for the carnival. Yes, he had proposed to Mildred in the tunnel of love all those years ago, back when he was nothing more than a nervous apprentice engineer with minimal prospects at best.

       Mildred was a first year nursing student. He hadn't expected her to say yes, yet she did without a moment's hesitation. That was the humble beginning of spending almost half a century as man and wife.

       They never were rich, but they managed to acquire a cozy house and live a contented life together. Their only regret was that they could never have a child; Mildred was unable to conceive.

       Every year, the carnival returned and Sid and Mildred went to relive the moment in which he proposed.

       This year was going to be different. His beloved best friend was not going to be at his side. He considered the possibility of not going, but he felt somehow Mildred would have wanted for him to go, to reflect on the memories they had shared on that seemingly magical ride.

       His mind made up, he grabbed his hat and coat and got into his red 1976 MGB. It had been Mildred's dream car. Despite being almost thirty years old, the car ran and looked as good as new. As his arthritic fingers fumbled with the key in the ignition, he only longed to feel as strong as the car did.

       In a few moments, he was pulling up into Mulberry City Park, where the carnival was being held. Sid parked the MGB and struggled to his feet. It took some time to get to the entrance as his age was definitely starting to show with the wear and tear upon his body. His muscles ached and complained at
every step. Yet it was a perfect May morning and he breathed in the scent of the flowers.

       "Mildred always loved the spring," He remembered.

       A tear started to creep from his eye, but he bit his lip and forced back the sentiment, dabbing his eye with his handkerchief. "A man should never cry in public," he remembered his father telling him. "Grief should be a private affair."

       Sid dutifully paid his seven dollars to the vendor, remembering when it had only cost a quarter to enter. He was only going to go on one ride and then his task would be complete.

       It was still early, and there wasn't much of a crowd. The carnival wouldn't get busy until the sun went down. It would be full of kids and hoodlums then. He and Mildred always despised that. Over the years they had been attending, the teenagers seemed to be getting more and more ill behaved and disrespectful.

       As he waited in the short line, he passed the time quietly surveying the faces of the folks operating it. Many of those faces had also been returning year after year.

       It struck him as odd that he always remembered the carnival as being twice this large and three times as grand. Paint was starting to chip and fade, the place was long overdue for a face lift. In fact, there was evidence of signs of aging all about. It was like glancing into a mirror, he thought.

       Just as Sid was about to board, a young giggling couple exited the ride. They almost bumped into him; having only eyes for each other. He smiled as he remembered what that felt like.

       The carnie in charge of the ride looked surprised that the old man was going to ride alone. "We don't get much of that on this ride," he sneered, revealing a distinct lack of teeth in that weather worn face.

       Sid took no mind, he was on a mission. Once fitted snugly into the seat - which felt much more cramped than it had before - he looked at the empty place next to him and the tears began to well up once more. This time, he allowed them to trickle gently down his wrinkled cheeks as his journey began with the flashing of lights and he vanished solitarily into the tunnel.


       Six and a half minutes later, as the ride pulled back into the loading area, the carnie spied the old man, slumped down over the safety guard. Startled, he rushed over to lift the man's head, amazed that the still body appeared to be smiling and looking completely at peace.

       There was much fuss and excitement as police and ambulance sirens filled the air. After a few photographs, the officers were satisfied as to what had happened and the body was taken away.

       "He must have had a heart attack," the carnie said to anyone who would listen. "The old fool should have never gone on a thrill ride by himself. No sir, he never should have done it..."


       Sid opened his eyes, finding himself still on the ride. Staring at his hands, he was taken aback at how the skin was smooth and had a shine about it that he hadn't known in years.

       "What happened?" he wondered. "Where am I?"

       His aching bones no longer throbbed and even his fading vision seemed better. A strange and wonderful feeling of well being had suddenly overtaken him.

       It was then that he recognized the perfume. How could he not? It had been his Mildred's favorite; she had worn it for years, never tiring of its delicate, floral scent.

       He glanced to his right, straight into the green eyes of his beloved wife, looking as beautiful as the day they had met. As his heart beat faster and with shaking fingers, he reached out his hand to hers.

       Suddenly, he knew where he was.




copyright 2005 P.S.Gifford.

P.S.Gifford is a transplanted Englishman who now enjoys the life of Riley in Southern California. He has had numerous of stories published in various places on the web. He does have a website