The Merry-Go-Round

Write On! Fiction Prize Silver Winner, Ages 13-18

by Anjali Zyla

Everybody loved the carousel. The exquisitely designed carousel–so obviously loved by its architect that many would call it a work of art–drew flocks of people like no other attraction at the carnival. A large field surrounded it for crowd space, like the frame on an ancient but beautiful painting. The carousel, large enough to prevent anyone from seeing completely around it, filled up a large portion of that field. A gentle piano, so unlike traditional circus music, accompanied the smooth humming of the gears, delighting young children and seasoned adults alike. Bold colors and intricate designs covered the horses, the regal blend of blues and golds startling in the midday sun.

The carnival arrived in Cedardale on the same day every year for the past fourteen years. Both locals and tourists traveled from all over the state to see “the magnificent carousel”, as many newspapers fondly dubbed it. William stared at the carousel, his look of boredom incongruous to the other stares of awe. Where others saw beauty in the familiar circles the horses made, he saw monotony. Even so, he stood before the carousel with his little brother tugging on his sleeve.

“Please, Will? Just one ride?” Jacob looked up at William with wide eyes and a pouting mouth. Even with the eight year age difference, William and Jacob strongly resembled each other, with deep brown eyes and sandy blond hair.

William looked to his parents pleadingly. “Can’t you just go with him?” he asked.

“No, William. You need to get over your fear of carousels. Otherwise, you won’t be able to take Bethany to the carnival tomorrow,” William’s dad said with a wink.

William’s face flushed with both embarrassment and indignation. “I’m not scared of carousels!” he insisted.

His dad only shrugged in response.

Groaning, William grabbed Jacob’s arm and dragged him over to the lengthening line to ride the carousel. As he was walking away, he could hear his father mutter, “Works every time.” William rolled his eyes and joined the carousel line with Jacob. He stood in line for nearly thirty minutes, all the while wishing he was playing his bass instead. When the gates opened, allowing the brothers through, Jacob rushed forward, squealing in excitement, and hopped ungracefully onto a bright blue horse. William slid over the closest available horse, a simple pegasus with white wings and a gold body. It was one of few horses on the carousel that had wings, but William only noted the discomfort the wings caused.

The carousel gracefully came to life, the keys of the piano providing a soothing ambience. The talented pianist had a strange yet beautiful style that somehow fit the carousel. William rested his forehead on the mane of the horse and closed his eyes to better enjoy the music. He didn’t care for the unrelenting spins of the carousel, but he appreciated that someone had the taste to pick out good music. William hoped to one day move to New Orleans and join a jazz band as a bassist, but his parents insisted that music was no way to make a living. Instead, they said, he should focus on his academics.

The piano expelled all the negative thoughts from his mind, until only the melody filled
his thoughts. This was the peace he craved, this harmony that only music could bring.

He adjusted his position on the horse as the wings began to dig into his legs. He eyed the wingless horse next to him. The carousel moved slow enough that he could switch horses easily, but he decided that he didn’t want to move. Besides, the carousel was passing right by his parents; they would be worried if he dismounted. He waved the obligatory wave and smiled the obligatory smile for the obligatory picture while Jacob beamed at their parents. They responded by smiling proudly at both their sons. William’s mom rested her head on her husband’s shoulder, looking content. An involuntary smile arose from William as he saw how happy his parents were together.

William’s parents met in high school in the very town they lived in now. They went to college together not far from Cedardale and returned immediately after graduation. Looking around, William saw many locals that he recognized, more than when he first arrived. Every year an unofficial holiday occurred in the small town of Cedardale to celebrate the arrival of the carnival. Consequently, a large amount of locals swarmed through the gates of the carnival on the first day, and many crowded around the carousel. William noticed that nearly all of the locals in the gathering crowd had lived most of, if not all, their lives in Cedardale. Much like his parents, they grew up in the town, went to college in-state, and returned soon after. With this realization, William understood for the first time that he was not, in fact, on a carousel.

He was on a merry-go-round.

The pegasus’ wings spread apart jerkily, as if for the first time. William yelped as he felt the wings shift under him and nearly fell off the horse. The pegasus flapped its wings once, twice, three times, and William flew high above the carnival, away from his home and his family. The thought of leaving Cedardale nearly caused William to try to coax the pegasus back to the ground. He hesitated, though, because somehow he knew New Orleans awaited him. Everything awaited him.

He looked back at the retreating town of Cedardale, the carnival that he found so boring year after year, and the minuscule silhouettes spread around the field. He didn’t want to become just another silhouette in Cedardale, staring at a merry-go-round. William urged the pegasus forward, certain that he would reach his destination at last.

Version 2

Anjali Zyla is a high school sophomore in northern California, where she enjoys reading, writing, and playing music.