Written by Dan Micklethwaite
“Grandpa Jeff! Grandpa Jeff! I wanna ride the alien!” Bernice tugs at the hem of his cream and teal shirt, and jabs her free hand towards the rundown pavilion — all patchwork tarpaulinand wrinkly tin — that plays host to an ancient mechanical bull.
“That’s not an–” he starts, before remembering what his daughter, Chantelle, had warned him: that Bernice isn’t old enough to hear what had happened, let alone understand it.
The Great Global Cull.
“That’s not for little children,” he finishes, thinking maybe this trip wasn’t such a good plan. The old water park would probably have been a much better option, now that it’s dried up and they’ve let all the jet-skatersin; the thought takes him back to the stunts of his youth.
And whilst Chantelle had also told him, on several occasions, to keep his granddaughter clear of such daredevil pastimes, he figures of the two she’ll be less annoyed about that. Perhaps, if they set off now, they can still cover the distance with daylight to spare.
But Bernice begins crying, refusing to leave.
“Come on now, darlin’,” Jeff says, hoisting her in a bear hug that puts strain on his spine; left weak by an accident. “It’s okay,”he winces, as she nuzzles his shoulder, the striped polyester of his shirt going damp. It’s really testing the strength of his lumbar support, but she clings onto him tighter and he can’t put her down.He’s a soft touch, and she knows it; she starts sobbing louder.
“Don’t worry,” he tells her, stroking her hair. “I reckon we can find you some other aliens to ride on. Really pretty ones, too.”
He takes a step just to check that his back brace’s holding, and then strikes out in search of an antique carousel.
If you liked this story a second story by this author in the same setting is available to supporting members.