While he was lovingly fingering the money carefully placed in his pocket, cold tears of excitement kept piercing his eyes. He tried to make out the details but all he could see was blurred light. Somewhere there, he knew, lay his joy, more joy, perhaps, than he could fathom. The joy wouldn’t have been so infinite, though, if mother hadn’t said her vague yes and if father hadn’t muttered his casual why not.
But all that anxiety was behind him now – presently there was anxiety of a new, different, more inviting kind. The desperate October wind, though, was not at all inviting, but it could well be disregarded for an hour or two. Having unbuttoned his heavy jacket, removed his tight knitted cap and shoved it with childish slovenliness into his empty pocket, he first approached what seemed to him most inescapable: the park’s lone roller coaster.
The man, having already settled two little siblings inside the cabin, was eyeing him expectantly. They both knew the password, but neither made a move. The man was warming himself with a scruffy cigarette end and didn’t want to break the spell while the boy was putting all his boundless boyish trust into the still undecided future. His heart trembling, his small fussy hands were groping for the certainty of the money.
“Want a ride, boy?”
In half an hour he tried it all: one small shooting gallery, two merry-go-rounds (one with horses, one with swans), a motordrome and even what looked like a spooky ghost labyrinth. He knew he wasn’t supposed to spend all his money, knew it was all he would get this month, but there he was now, so early in the evening, so early in October and with only a few crumpled, worn-through notes that didn’t amount to much. Was he happy? He didn’t know. The excitement of that first ride had hijacked all the happiness that his heart must have been secretly overflowing with.
It was cold, and he felt lost. The joy and excitement were subsiding, giving way to a wave of suppressed sadness he could not fully understand. He buttoned up his jacket and put his cap on. This way it was better. He felt grateful for the new warmth that was so distinct it seemed to overwhelm him for a series of long, long minutes. “The park will be there all October”, – they said at school. And he was already penniless. Meanwhile he found himself standing near the roller coaster again. Full of strange yearning, he kept staring at the awe-inspiring machine that was flashing with green and yellow and red lights in the autumnal eight o’clock dimness. He dreaded going home.
“Want a ride, boy?”
“I’ve no money”.
“It’s all right, hop in”.
The man pushed the lever down and the engine rustled. There were no cigarettes left, so he began shivering and shaking to comfort himself in this pre-winter weather. It certainly was a bit of a torture working here in October, for the whole month, particularly in the evenings. He had thought three packs would get him through, but it never worked out that way. He would have to get four packs tomorrow. He was told never to start the machine with fewer than three persons (that’s what they said: ‘persons’) inside, but what would they say if they knew the one ‘person’ wasn’t even paying? He couldn’t care less, though. For they were safe at home now, drinking tea or watching football. What did they know and who were they to tell him? Do they ever work in this cold?
He listened up. The boy was silent, so all he could hear was the grinding sound of the old machinery at work. Also, there was music playing somewhere in the background, but he could hardly discern the tune. There was no screaming around, that’s what he noticed. In the summer there was this grating screaming, but in October there was silence. He liked it that way. Kids were excited, he could easily tell that from their faces, but they hid it all inside. Was it the cold? What was it?..
And what about the poet? What about the poet who at some point happened to look out of the window for a second or two? Well, the poet just liked the juxtaposition: there was this quiet evening street, this cold, never-ending October with its downtrodden grimness and there was this small amusement park filled with brilliant lights, joyous music and happy children crazy with excitement.