Ice-Cream Puddles

In the parking lot of the Jewel Osco Grocery a neon fair with a tilt-a-whirl and Ferris wheel sets up.  The hairy armed ride operators are listless in the blacktop reflecting scorch, leaning.  Three-year-olds, with orange Popsicle tongues and sticky cotton candy hands, wail.  Droopy mothers, with Wet Wipes in their purses, sweat in stained tank-tops and pastel shorts.  Under a green and white striped awning, off to the edge of the roar, is the only truly delighted person in the throng.  He scratches the snout of a pot-bellied pig and feeds a goat kid a bottle of milk.  He carries a rabbit under one arm and lets everyone pet the guinea pig.  He leads his pack of agog to the last best place where chicken wire surrounds a straw-covered, shaded corner and the tortoise, Houdini, who may be immortal. He’s surely older than anyone there.  He eats a warm green grape and part of a taffy apple with the taffy nibbled off by a little girl in gingham.  He believes he is enchanted and will soon wake after a hundred year sleep.  There are finer places to be than in this reverie.

—Lisa J. Cihlar