Wheelchair Waits by Bill West

Spokes flash orange under street lights. Tires rumble across pavement cracks. Andrew bats his wheelchair wheels. The tires suck a dry track, picking up chip wrappers and leaves to scatter them in his wake. He doesn’t care that the dogs bark and snap or that children jeer as he passes. He’s headed for the fair.

 

Music thumps in his chest; red, yellow and blue lights chase across his upturned face. He peers at waltzers, carousels and bumper cars. He licks his lips at the smell of hot-dogs and the sight of pink candy-floss on sticks.

 

He weaves amongst the crowd, his eyes fixed on the Ferris wheel with its red and yellow spokes reared up on a giant A and decked out with lights. Gondolas grunt as they are hoisted into the crisp, cold sky.

 

The man with slicked back hair and tattooed arms takes his money and lifts him into the gondola.

 

And then he rises. Each gondola fills with giggling girls and joking boys. The wheel moves again inching him into the sky.

 

He’s at the top. From here he can see the town, beyond the docks, across the river’s estuary. Below his empty wheelchair waits.

 

Stars rain pin-prick light on his face. The man in the moon swims out from a cloud and winks. That solitary cloud, green and ragged like floating seaweed, sweeps inland, bringing the tang of ocean- spray. Closer, it looks like a fishing boat with nets spilling fish and mermaids singing in its wake.

And on the boat will be Andrew's daddy coming home from the sea.

 

And tonight there will be boiled sweets and angel rides, fish and chips and games by the hearth. Mum will lock the door in the faces of 'uncles’ smelling of beer and Andrew will laugh as he rides on daddy’s shoulders again, arms out-flung, spinning round and round, higher than everyone.

 

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The Linnet's Wings is an Irish Bases Literature and Art Magazine