The Ferris Wheel
by Charlie Bartlett

Runestone, volume 2

It was an overcast day that hinged on gloomy, just enough to induce the slightest undertone of melancholy. I wore my usual uniform—khakis, a white polo shirt, and a black overcoat in case it became chilly. I boarded the first Ferris wheel car that was waiting for me and took a seat. I waited alone as the machine made its first routine loop back to where my car had begun.

The first woman who boarded opposite me was refreshingly average looking—brown hair to her shoulders, jeans, and a navy windbreaker—neither smiling nor frowning. She could’ve been the mother to a few children, perhaps even married; I didn’t get a good look at her left hand. When the car left the ground again, she reached forward assertively and took my head in her hands, pulling my lips to hers. Nothing special. Business-like, just short of mechanical. As our car touched ground, she unlocked her lips from mine and gave a curt nod, of what I wasn’t exactly sure (appreciation?). She gathered her purse from the seat and slid out of the car.

The second woman who boarded was more disheveled looking—tall and slender to the point of being waiflike, braces on her teeth, and a lingering smell of whiskey about her. I later attributed the scent to a black, plastic sports bottle she pulled from her purse as our car reached the top, sipping something that I was certain was far from water. It wasn’t long into our kiss that she began tearing up and telling me I reminded her of her ex-boyfriend, then proceeded to call me Logan for the rest of our rotation.

A man entered next, black haired and smartly dressed. He was more difficult to read than the first two, though his hazel eyes held mine for an uncomfortably long time. He was gentle in his kiss. When we reached the end of the rotation, he asked me what I was doing here. I replied that I could ask him the same thing. A small, fleeting smile crossed his lips as if to say touché.

It wasn’t my job to ask them who they were or where they came from. I was supposed to kiss them—professionally and without complaint.

With the next woman, I experienced a moment of familiarity, something like déjà vu. It crossed my mind that she may have come before, but no, I had a knack for remembering faces. There was nothing intrinsically special about her. It was a simple psychological phenomenon, and within seconds it had passed. She, like the others before her, took her leave when the faded white doors swung open, and I knew that I would never see that oddly familiar face again.

I may have had a knack for remembering faces, but rarely did I ever have to, at least not here. They wouldn’t return. I’d never know them beyond those faces, their simple mannerisms, their clothes, their lips. Like all things, they’d come fleetingly, and then they’d be gone. The only thing I could count on seeing day after day was the machine upon which I sat, dull and unflinching, fixed there regardless of who came and went. And, quite frankly, I preferred it that way.

The day proceeded like clockwork as it always did—the monotonous clicks of the Ferris wheel counting the seconds. The sky turned to dusk as my shift neared its end, the gloom of the day interweaving itself with the trappings of night, a time that I considered both peaceful and a bit forlorn. The Ferris wheel slowed, its rusty metal innards creaking at the sudden change in motion. It was a sound that no longer affected me.

As I walked toward my car, I glimpsed the woman with braces lingering near the gate. When I got closer, she approached me and asked if I would like to grab a drink. I declined as politely as I could and increased my pace without looking back at her. I had an old dog at home, a scruffy German Shepherd, blind in one eye, and he would be expecting me at 6:30 sharp.


University of Minnesota

Charlie Bartlett is a junior at the University of Minnesota majoring in English with a minor in political science. An aspiring novelist who enjoys exploring human nature, she has previously worked as a reporter for The Minnesota Daily, but her heart lies in creative writing. Her publication in Runestone marks her creative debut, and she is excited to continue sharing stories with the world.

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