It was peak time between three and four. The carnival crowd milled about as Cara ushered in the next group of people for the ‘Vortex’ —a ferris wheel tipped on its side and capable of a sickening speed of seventy kilometres per hour.
Those who were vacating the ride staggered past her, some with patches of vomit on their clothing. The young children jostled each other, their voices high pitched with excitement.
Cara took the tickets as people passed, checking the height of the children against the measure board. Her husband came over every few minutes to make sure she was following procedures. He prodded her in the waist and spoke in a low voice.
“You’re not getting them on fast enough. If you take too long to get them on board, I’ll lose money. You don’t need to check the height of every kid. It’s absurd.”
Cara pursed her lips. She knew if she spoke, her words would not be pleasant. People were watching him press his face close to hers, spitting the words.
“Leave me be, Joachim,” she muttered.
Joachim was a squat man, with a face like a deflated car tyre. His coffee-coloured skin was stubbled, his eyes slits of brown. He wore the same olive green polo shirt most days. It was flecked with black spots of oil from maintaining the ride.
Cara sighed and inhaled the carnival scent of fairy floss, hot dogs and rancid sweat. She edged away from him, smiling at the next batch of passengers.
As the giant wheel started to turn she waited for the barrage. Joachim pressed his belly into her back and grabbed her ponytail, pulling her head back.
“You’re a filthy whore, Cara. A good-for-nothing ugly bitch. You just wait. I don’t put up with rudeness, with lip.”
Cara held her breath, perspiration prickling on her chest. She waited. His hot breath pulsed on her neck and he let go.
“I need to go to the bathroom,” she said, her eyes skittering towards him.
“Stay where you are.” Giving her a shove he strutted to their ticket shed, wiping oily hands on his trousers.
Sunset bathed the park in apricot light and the crowd dispersed. As the last stragglers left, Cara’s heart galloped. Joachim gestured her inside the ticket shed with an incline of his head. The first punches made her gasp, before a series of fast clips sent her reeling into the tin wall. She sank down to the ground, cowering and barricading herself with her arms. Joachim inflicted a few more half-hearted blows before sighing and stepping back.
“You’re useless, Cara. Worse than a dumbass donkey.”
Cara felt a warm trickle of blood leak from the corner of her mouth.
“Joachim.” Her voice was hoarse. “Joachim, I noticed one of the booths was damaged today. There was a split in the fibreglass. You know the park officials will be coming in the morning. It needs to be looked at.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Since when have you cared about the maintenance of the ride?”
“I care, Joachim, because otherwise I don’t eat.”
“Yeah, you fat pig. You need to eat don’t you?” he sniggered. “Come on, then. Show me before it gets dark.”
In her pocket, Cara could feel the bulk of the ride remote control. Her face and chest stung from his blows as she made her way outside. The sky was burnt orange as she led Joachim to the booth. Sure enough, there was a crack in the fibreglass.
“I think the main damage is on the inside,” she said. “You’d better take a look.”
Her husband stepped into the booth, his bum crack showing at the top of his jeans. Cara reached over and clicked shut the small door, before pressing the button on the remote control.
“Buckle up, Joachim,” she said in a cool voice.
“What the devil?’”he said as the machine lurched. He fell onto the seat and fumbled for the belt.
The motor groaned as it came to life and the wheel accelerated. Cara felt the wind of its velocity fan her face and tipped her head back, beaming into the sky. Joachim bellowed and roared, his cries faint as he reached the highest point.
She caught a few unpleasant words, flung down from the wheel. Yet they flew past her and did not penetrate her mind.
Dropping the remote control in the dirt she glanced around. Good, she thought. There is no one here. No one at all.
Cara fetched her bag from the ticket shed and strode out of the park, the screams of her husband fading into the distance.
Kate Murdoch exhibited widely as a painter before turning her hand to writing. In between writing historical fiction, she enjoys writing short stories and flash fiction.
Her stories have appeared in Eunoia Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Flash Fiction Press, Spelk Fiction, Sick Lit Magazine, Ink In Thirds magazine, Visible Ink and Firefly Magazine.