'Riding the Carousel' by Tracy Fells


I let Andrew have the aisle seat to stretch his legs. Boxing Day and the cinema is full. Half an hour into the film an attention seeking mobile starts up. It sounds close. Our neighbours start to fidget. 
            Leaning sideways I nudge my son. “Is your phone off?”
            He grunts. My translator is playing up, so I’m not sure if that’s teenage-speak for “Yes Mum” or “P-off, you sad old cow”.
            When Andrew was born I’d thought becoming a parent was like jumping onto a fairground carousel, relentlessly spinning, only to find you can never get off again.
            Twenty minutes on and the mobile trills again. Irritated murmurs trip along the rows, it seems the afternoon house is packed with snake charmers. I hear: “how inconsiderate”, “sssh” and the sharper “turn it off, you moron”.
            This time I interpret his answer. “I haven’t brought it with me,’ Andrew hisses. Since he’s been surgically attached to the new touch-phone - a surprise present from Juliet – I find this hard to believe.
            Every five minutes the ringtone chirps. It sounds even closer. A man taps Andrew on the shoulder from the seat behind and growls an unpleasant suggestion. The mob is curdling around us.
            “For God’s sake, switch it off!” My voice squeaks horribly loud just as the soundtrack softens. And then I see it – flashing like a beacon. The mobile has fallen between our seats.
            Earlier in the coffee shop, sipping sickly sweet lattes, Andrew chastised me for not “making an effort” with Juliet. Apparently I’d get on really well with her. I guess we’d have some common interests: like sleeping with his father.
            My hand retrieves a glossy pink touch-phone. It’s stopped singing to begin a tremulous rumba. I clamber for the exit; head down I start to run. Angry snakes chase me all the way to the swinging doors.
            In the foyer I spy an usherette. “Somebody’s lost this in the auditorium,” I gush. “Good job I found it; thought we were going to get lynched back there!”
            The girl’s eyes blink like a stoned rabbit, but she takes the phone.
            As the film ends I prod Andrew from his seat to quickly merge into the crowd. Elbows jab and vile comments whisper behind us as we jostle forwards.
            In the coffee shop Andrew had announced he was going to live with his dad and Juliet. Six months to start with, to see how it worked out.
            Outside the streetlamps glimmer.
            “Are you going to say sorry?” Andrew’s voice is teenage tart with a dash of hurt.
            “For what?”
            “You never listen to me, do you?” The accusation hangs in the air like our frosty dragon breaths. I lift the fringe from his eyes, revealing a shock of pimples. He flinches, pulls back and strides away.
            I used to paralyse myself imagining the carousel could ever stop. And nothing had quite prepared me for the devastation of being asked to leave the ride.

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