Sunday, October 12, 2014

Four Minute Horror

Johnny, 1989

 Sometimes, as parents, we make mistakes.  Well, actually, it’s more like frequently.  And when we do, there’s not much we can do about it.  Except listen.

Four Minute Horror

The horror, the four minute horror of the fair last night, the excitement in Johnny’s face, the trusting, “I can handle anything” look, so sweet, considering he didn’t even know there was anything to handle.  This was the trust of a four-year-old, expecting it all to be fun as he walked up the ramp and proudly showed the carnival man the unlimited ride stamp on his hand. 

I watched it all.  I watched as he squeezed in between his older brother and sister, the rock and roll music blaring, his brother, double-checking twice the crossover bar strap.

It had seemed like a simple ride, round in a circle, up and down, wavy.  I hadn’t noticed that it went so fast.  There were other young children.  They seemed to do fine.  But in retrospect, none were quite as young as Johnny.  There wasn’t one of those ‘must be taller than this’ signs so I trusted their judgment.  I hadn’t noticed that the ride goes faster and faster and that it lasted such a long time until I heard the voice of the DJ say, “let’s go a little faster” and I watched my son’s face.

The first time around was fine but the speed picked up and the music grew louder and lights started flashing and then I noticed the wave affect.  The second time around the face of fear set in.  I never really heard his scream.  I only saw him scream.  I saw a scared scream, a real scream, a “I’m not having fun” scream.  I saw his screaming eyes.  I saw his screaming mouth open wide.  The music grew louder and the lights flashed and again the DJ says, “let’s go a little faster!” And everyone was loving it, laughing and swinging their arms, except one little unsupecting, trusting soul.

Stop! Please stop! I wanted to scream. “I made a mistake.  He isn’t old enough.  I didn’t know.”  But I couldn’t stop it.  I could only stand there and watch as it went round and round, picking up speed each time.  His frightened face flashed past, faster and faster, his older brother struggling to comfort him, covering his eyes.

I saw his screaming mouth open wide and then close, his body go stiff, his brother’s arms wrapped around him as they flashed past, again.  “Let’s go a little faster,” the DJ says again.  NO! NO! STOP! STOP! How much longer is this going to last?  Fun faces flashed faster, dotted with the young frightened face of my child and then, the music finally slowed and the lights dimmed as they climbed out and staggered towards me.  I sighed, relieved, picked him up and asked, softly, “how was it?”

“Dead,” he said.  “I got dead.”

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