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31 July 2016

Sunday Psalms: The Carousel

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Sunday Psalms: Fictional Narratives Inspired by the Psalms, Proverbs, & Other Biblical  Works

Round and round, in perfect rhythm with the Calliope music, the purple horse and I ride in circles. The reigns of my horse hang loosely in my hands. We’re not going fast enough for concern, but I hold them anyhow and imagine we’re traveling into the future. In a world full of colorful animals and haunting music, the impossible comes to life.

The blue lion is just ahead of us, stationed next to on oddly shaped creature whose identity I can’t quite ascertain. In front of the lion, a giraffe with green and pink spots holds its neck high above the rest of us, and I wonder what it would be like to be so tall.

I’m sixteen and a little too old for this, but my mom’s dead and my dad drinks. The carousel makes me forget how life is and imagine what could be.

It’s just about four in the afternoon when the carousel comes to a stop.

I roll my eyes at the control operator, a teenage boy who holds all the power. Would it hurt him to extend the ride a few minutes longer? There’s no one else in line. And why does he keep looking at me every time I ride by?

“You stuck?” the boy asks. All the other riders have peeled their sweaty legs off of the hot plastic animals, but I don’t budge.

“No, I’m not stuck,” I say and lean my head against the metal pole.

“Ride’s over.”

I was hoping he’d be cool and let me go around again, but I guess he’s not that kind of guy. I’ll have to cough up another four dollars. Four dollars! Four dollars for a three-minute ride…

“Miss?” Now he’s pointing at me. Do I have something on my shirt? “Next time, remember to buckle your harness.”

“Yeah, the ride got a little of control there.” I roll my eyes again. I think I can manage to keep from falling off a children’s merry-go-round.

“It’s the rules,” he says and shrugs his shoulders as I dismount.

He’s seventeen, probably his first real job. He’s wearing a dorky red visor with the logo of the parks department stitched in yellow thread. The brim of the visor keeps me from seeing his face very well.

“You’re still kind of a brat, you know.” I’m stepping off the platform when he issues this judgment.

“What do you mean, still?” Up until now, I’ve felt the lethargy of summer, but this remark makes me spin around and narrow my gaze.

“Do you still cuss out little boys?” There is humor in his voice. Maybe a hint of sadness too, hidden under the lightheartedness.

“No,” I immediately answer, even though I am well aware of my minor addiction to profanity. Not all the time, of course. Just when I’m especially angry.

“That’s good. I never forgot how bad you cursed me out the last time I saw you.” He takes off the ugly visor, and I can see his eyes clearly now. He doesn’t look so dorky anymore.

“Am I supposed to know you?”

“You don’t recognize me?”

“No,” I say, earnestly trying to place him. He’s several inches taller than me. His hair is twisted into a zillion dreadlocks that sway back and forth as he moves.

“Wesley.” As soon as he says his name, I am ten years old again.

“Wesley. Of course. Oh my gosh. How long has it been?”

“Oh, six or seven years I guess,” he says.

I haven’t thought about Wesley in a long time, but I can clearly remember the morning when the movers came. No one had bothered to tell me he was leaving. Maybe that was because I was ten, and ten-year-olds aren’t supposed to have feelings.

I was alone in the treehouse when the truck came rumbling up the driveway. Piece by piece, they had packed up every bit of Wesley’s home, and then he was coming into my backyard and telling me goodbye, saying he was leaving for some place I’d never heard of before. A place called Albuquerque.

“I did cuss you out, didn’t I?” I blush, recalling how I had screamed at him and proceeded to issue a string of offensive names I didn’t even realize were in my vocabulary. Since then my foul mouth has only gotten worse. I’ve got such a propensity for bad language that I avoid talking to people at all.

“I never heard cussing like that before,” Wesley says and gives a low whistle.

What can I say? It was my first relational breakup. What else are you supposed to do when you’re ten years old and you lose your best friend? Give him a friendly hug and wish him the best?

After that day, Wesley and I lost touch.

“I’m sorry, Wesley. I was really upset when you left. I sort of suck at expressing my emotions.”

“I think you express your emotions just fine,” he says, and I lower my eyes. I know he’s right.

“It’s okay,” he continues. “Don’t worry about it. That was a long time ago.” I feel a little better.

“How long have you been back?” I ask and kick the toe of my sneaker against the pavement. We’re alone, but with the carousel animals watching, it feels like the whole world can see me.

“About six months. Moved in with my grandfather. He’s got a little farm outside of town. Can’t keep up with it anymore,” Wesley says and returns the visor to his head. He strolls over to the control panel, and I follow behind.

“Do people still call you Charlie?” he asks.

I shake my head and tuck a piece of hair behind my ears. No one’s called me that in a long time. Charlotte is popular right now. I’ve settled for what the kids at school think.

“Not really. But you can. I like Charlie.”

The nickname is just one of the things I miss about Wesley. When he was around, we ate cold Popsicles and ran through sprinklers and watched Saturday morning cartoons. All that stopped when Wesley left.

“What are you waiting for?” He’s looking at me now like I’m supposed to be doing something.

“What?”

“Get back on,” he says and motions to the purple horse. “You know Danny Jupiter would.”

Danny Jupiter...That’s what he always used to say. You know Danny Jupiter would.

When we were eight years old, Wesley and I invented Danny Jupiter, an imaginary superhero who was capable of all things desirable. He could fly and travel through time. He could choose invisibility whenever the moment suited him. Danny never had to eat salads or take out the garbage. His parents adored him, his dad never hit him. Danny Jupiter was the ideal boy.

Come on, Charlie. You know Danny Jupiter would do it.

Danny Jupiter became the third member of our backyard treehouse, as real to us as any visible person. Wesley would invoke Danny whenever he wanted me to try out a new trick on the swing set or taste some strange food. I hadn’t thought about Danny in years.

Now I laugh, remembering the time Wesley dared me to sit backwards on my bicycle and pedal down the street, all because Danny Jupiter would do it. I was still mad at Danny for that one.

“What’s so funny?” Wesley asks, waiting for me to get back on the carousel.

“Nothing. It’s just that you haven’t changed that much. I mean, you look different. But you’re still the same.”

I’m fumbling here. Words are coming out wrong. I’m not saying what I mean. I take a deep breath and start over.

“Wesley, what I mean to say is that it’s good to see you.

This makes him happy, and I want to say more when a lady and her son walk up. The little boy sprints ahead and climbs on to the back of an orange elephant while his mother gratefully plunks down onto a colorful bench that has been sandwiched between the giraffe and the elephant. She fans herself with a National Enquirer and instructs her son to, “Hold on.”

I trail behind them and mount my trusty purple horse. This time I make sure to put on the safety harness. Wesley comes around after checking the little boy’s safety belt and grins when he sees I have complied with the harness policy.

“Are you free tonight? I get off in an hour.”

“Maybe,” I say, even though I know perfectly well I haven’t any plans.

“Maybe? Do you still live in the same house? I’d love to cruise the old neighborhood, see what’s happening. Is the treehouse still there?”

I’m not sure if I’m prepared for this. This is too soon. Not sure if I want him to see how the house has deteriorated, how my dad has littered the property with beer cans.

“Yeah, it’s still there,” I say slowly, thinking I ought to decline, that this isn’t a good idea. I open my mouth to tell him so, but then Wesley looks at me in that stupid red visor and says: “You know Danny Jupiter would.”

And Wesley is right. Danny Jupiter would. Danny would be thrilled to welcome Wesley back to the treehouse. Danny Jupiter wouldn’t let anything stop him from enjoying his summer.

Before I can back out, I say to Wesley,  “Why don’t you come by at seven? I promise I won’t cuss you out this time.”

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Let his flesh become fresher than in youth, let him return to the days of his youthful vigor; then he will pray to God, and He will accept him, that he may see His face with joy, and He may restore His righteousness to man. “He will sing to men and say, ‘I have sinned and perverted what is right, and it is not proper for me. ‘He has redeemed my soul from going to the pit, and my life shall see the light.’ Job 33:25-28 (NASB)

Rejoice, young man, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgment for all these things. So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting. Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 (NASB)

-Question to Ponder: What is your favorite summertime memory from childhood?

-Song Recommendation: Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel

-Read Previous Sunday Psalms: Season One Episodes, Season Two: Episode 1Episode 2, Episode 3Episode 4Episode 5, Episode 6, Episode 7, Episode 8Episode 9, Episode 10, Episode 11, Episode 12

Written by Heidi Sadler, Inspired by Job 33 & Ecclesiastes 11. Copyright © 2016 by Heidi Sadler, All Rights Reserved. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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