It had been years since the carnival had visited your small town, in fact, not since you were at high school. Annually a protest by do-gooders complaining about rising criminal activity, noise pollution and environmental damage would prevent this 3-day event from occurring. Only by some miracle, this year the town officials had thrown out the complaints and declared “the carnival’s coming to town.”
Talk around the office coolers across your little neighbourhood had been gossiping about it for weeks now. Everyone you knew was planning on attending, and even at the age of 28, you couldn’t miss out of this spectacular. Undoubtedly there would be obnoxious teenagers to deal with, high on excitement and too much cider, but it was the most exciting thing that had happened in Little Lakeside in the last year, and no doubt for some time to come.
Your office window has the best view over the local park. Amazing how suddenly so many people needed to speak to you, ask you something or bring you paperwork this afternoon as the carnival group set up their rides, booths and refreshment stands. Hardly any work was completed all day, but since your boss was one of the worst for ogling the progress, you have a feeling no one is going to mind.
Everyone rushed home after work, all making a speedy return to the town centre. You and your best friends Rosa and Emily, also fellow work colleagues, meet at your house before making the 15-minute trek to town on foot.
So, you are finally off to the carnival!
The infamous thud of fairground music is pulsing through the air, audible three blocks away. Arriving at the park you remember just how loud this music can get. It takes a matter of minutes for your ears to adjust and reduce the pounding to nothing more than background noise.
The sweet smell of candyfloss and toffee apples assaults your sense of smell, and the hot buttery popcorn stand beside you is too much to resist. You grab yourself a bag, indulging in the fatty, but gloriously tasting snack. Well there goes your diet. Since it is out of the window for the night, you make a promise to indulge in candyfloss and a nice sticky toffee apple before you crawl home to bed.
Strings of lights hang everywhere you look - although the walkways, in the trees, around every building and tent around. Lights flash all around, each ride flashing in time with it’s own music beat. The lights are alluring and heighten your want to get on in there and ride.
But Emily has other ideas.
She drags you all over to a card game where a smarmy old man convinces you to part with a few pounds to play his card game. He hands you three darts insisting you throw them at the various playing cards attached to the wall behind him. Make 21 and the main prize is yours, hit two cards of any value and you go home with a goldfish, miss and you go away empty handed.
This things are rigged, they always are; you are destined to win a goldfish. Carnival goldfish are notorious for not surviving long, but it doesn't stop you from playing. Your darts magically hit two cards, but the final one bounces off the board as you aim for the eight of clubs. You win the shiny orange goldfish that has already slowed to a gentle swim in his clear plastic bag.
The stall owner tries to sell you a tank and food for your newly acquired pet, but you insist you have sufficient housing already. The shoebox-sized plastic storage box will do nicely for the 24-48 hours this little creature might survive. Shame you didn’t win the main prize, but you doubt anyone will win that tonight. You doubt anyone will win it the entire time the carnival is here.
Rosa is already insisting she wants to ride everything available, and that you need to get a move on. Riding some of these rides could be tricky with a goldfish, but you don’t shy away from a challenge. Besides, maybe the little guy wants to live a little before he is laid to rest in the toilet bowl.
So now you are all faced with a decision - what to ride first?