Kate roamed the fairgrounds awash in a cottonwood snowstorm. She drifted between past and present as she walked, like hitting the channel recall button on a remote control. The booths and concession stands shifted from sepia to high-contrast and back again. She saw herself as a high-schooler in the livestock barn, drunk on smuggled booze and itching with potential. The young Katie tumbled over a fence and vomited on a blue-ribbon hog. After a sojourn in the beer garden, Kate bought a corn dog and went to the midway. She passed a carnival game, the same one where Jake had won her the gigantic stuffed bear. She had blushed and declined. He’s a doctor now, she’d heard. She approached the ride, and her knees went out. The corn dog fell in the dirt. A ride operator helped her to her feet and asked if she was ok. Kate didn’t answer. She fixed her vision upon the Ferris Wheel. It drew her in.
The ride kicked into gear, carts rising and falling. The rhythm lulled Kate into the past. There was a stirring atop the wheel. A teenager freed himself from his safety belt and stood on the seat. He danced, arms waving about as his friends laughed. Someone on the ground screamed, Kate wasn’t sure if it was her. The young man tumbled off the cart and fell to the ground. She watched, helpless. The channel was stuck, and no amount of button pressing could return her to the present. “Nick,” said Kate, running to the fence around the ride. The operator eyed Kate, then the Ferris Wheel. Blood kissed Kate’s bare legs. She gaped at Nick, his head facing the wrong way, and the bone sticking out of his arm. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. Kate fell to the ground. She held Nick’s hand. “I drank too much, I would’ve gotten sick,” she said. “I should’ve stopped you.”
The ride operator helped her up. “It’s ok,” he said. “Let’s get you some water.”