Tag Archives: short fiction; childhood

Christmas Present #2: Merry Go Round

Here is the full text of my short story, Merry Go Round, published several years ago in the literary journal Metamorphosis.


You are a skinny little girl, but you have a big round belly like a starving child.  “Barrel belly” your family calls you affectionately.

You watch the world from the safety of your mother’s body, peering out with longing eyes from behind her legs.  Your sister touches bugs, runs races with boy cousins, and chips her teeth riding too fast on her bicycle and falling off.  She has black grit under her ragged fingernails, and her hair is always messy.  When your mother brushes your silky, fawn-colored hair, you are careful to keep it as neat as she made it.

You are at a park today, and your sister has ridden all of the rides.  You are holding her hand.

Your father squats to speak to you.  “Wouldn’t you even like to ride the merry-go-round?  We’re getting ready to go home.”

“Don’t force her, Ken,” your mother cautions.

Your sister pumps your arm up and down. “Ride the merry-go-round!   Ride the merry-go-round!  Pleeeeease!”

You raise your  pale, round face to it.  The legs of the horses are at the level of your eyes.  They are brown, black, milk-colored.  They wear bright necklaces of flowers.  Some are still.  Some churn up and down as the platform spins.  Some rear their heads and show square white teeth.  Children laugh above the tinny, gay music.

Your hearts squirms like a minnow in terror and desire.

“Ride the merry-go-round! Please!” Your sister pleads again.

You remove your hand from her sticky, grimy one.  The ride has stopped.  Another group of noisy children teems toward it.

“Would you like to ride?” your mother asks.

You nod.

“Well, all right, then,” your father shouts, swooping you up and depositing you on a black horse.

“A white one,” you whisper.


“I want a white one.  One that doesn’t go up and down.”

He lifts you and plops you onto one of the milky-white horses, one that doesn’t churn. “Okay?” he asks.

You nod again.

Your father backs away.  The platform starts spinning and the music begins its skipping tune.

Your mother stands smiling.  Your father has raised the video camera to his eye, his cigarette dangling forgotten between  his slabs of lip.  Your sister bounces on her horse and waves wildly each time she passes them. 

You sit straight, both small hands wrapped around the metal pole.  You gaze straight ahead, unsmiling, in solemn dignity.