Promise

The gentle summer breeze is heavy with the sugary scent of cotton candy and roasted almonds. The boy stands alone and waits, while a constant stream of visitors brushes past him. Flashing signs and brightly colored tents catch the eye. The soft thumps of the bumper cars, gleeful screams and all sorts of mechanical clatter from the rides form a marvelous symphony of sights and sounds. The boy holds his most prized possession in his clamped fist, gripping it so tight he can feel his nails dig into the soft skin of his palm. He stands, unmoved by the hustle that surrounds him, as his mind drifts to a sunny day many years ago. “This is your day, son,” his father said. “We can do whatever you want. Just you and me.” “Take me on The Devil's Drop,” the boy shot back without a second thought. “It's so fast, and so high. It's the most awesome roller coaster ever.” But back then, the boy was too young, too short. He shed heavy tears as he was turned away, and no amount of pleading by his father could sway the cashier. Later that same night, just before bedtime, his father handed him an envelope and in it were two hand-drawn tickets. “This is my promise: We'll go back on your next birthday. And if we have to, the year after that and after that, until you're THIS tall to ride. Just you and me.” The boy smiled, his tears all but forgotten, and repeated: “Just you and me.” The boy listens to the rattle and excited shrieks waft over from Blackbeard's Bounty, and his thoughts trail back to the year when the two of them had spent all day pretending to be pirates. They dug for treasure and explored the make-belief jungle of their backyard. His mother was furious at the sight of the dug-up lawn, and her precious flowerbeds cut down with cardboard sabers, but his father would make it all better. On another birthday, his father awoke the boy at the cusp of dawn and surprised him on a rented motorcycle. “Don't tell your Mom,” his father said, “This will be our little secret. You know how she feels about those death-machines.” All day they cruised through fields and forests, the boy holding on so tight that he could feel his father's beating heart as the world rushed past them both. For years they returned to the Devils Drop and every year the boy had grown a little bit taller, but every year it was not quite enough. The boy watches on as the sun sinks past the horizon and the crowds first thin out and then disappear. The carefree sounds of delight make way for the rattle of shutters closing and the soft whisper of sweeping brooms. The boy's fist clenches tighter around his treasure, feeling the coarse texture of the two worn, hand-drawn paper tickets in his palm. He wills his mind to let him stay a little longer in his most cherished memories, not take him to the day when his teary-eyed mother returned from the hospital and his father had not. Just you and me, the man whispers to no one but himself. With great care, he straightens the faded tickets and puts them safely away.

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Krister Axel

Music Blogger and Memoirist at CHILLFILTR.com

Ogdensburg, United States