Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of
Volume 12, Number 1
Copyright © 2017
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to
in the Apple Valley
Review are retained by
the individual authors
Fiction by Tom Gresham
Barry emerges from his bunkhouse into the morning, lifts his head,
and smells rain again. He sags and tosses away his cigarette. He’s
cursed his luck so many times this summer it feels recited.
Drought warnings throughout the Northeast, rivers at record lows,
reservoirs sinking to emergency status, but wherever Yankee Amusements
sets up its carnival the heavens open wide and the crowds flood movie
theaters and bowling alleys instead of Barry’s diversions. Already two
days of rain here at the Essex County Fair and now a third threatening.
Tomorrow morning, Yankee will break down every ride, stand, and
booth, and then caravan south to Oneonta, where they’ll try again.
Barry’s mind works restlessly, flitting among his problems, unable to
settle on one long enough to freeze it in his sights.
He hears dueling snores in the bunkhouse nearest his. He upgraded
some of the accommodations in a fit of independence at a winter trade
show, bought a couple of the new twelve-person models with two
bathrooms, AC, and an entertainment center. His dad, bristling and
bored in his second year in Florida, told him it was foolish and threatened
to return to regain control of the business he had built from nothing. Barry
answered it was time to modernize and join the contemporary world of
carnivals. His dad apologized last week after Barry sent him the books
for a perusal. With surprisingly little effort, he told Barry he was proud.
The old man is meeting him in Oneonta for a visit.
Barry steps from behind the concession stands that obscure the
bunkhouses from the amusements. The ground’s soft and wet, and mud
clings to his boots.
“Shit,” he says, noticing that someone has turned off the lights on the
Ferris wheel. He wants them glowing day and night, calling to folks,
offering a romantic detour they can’t ignore.
He passes the carousel, the inflatables, the Fun House. When the
base of the Ferris wheel comes into view, he’s surprised at the sight of
unfamiliar men by one of the tower supports, starting to break it down
with their own equipment.
He jolts into an unsteady run. Ferris wheel thieves are something
he’s never considered.
“Hey!” he shouts, running and waving a hand above his head.
He expects a scramble or resistance but instead arrives to bored
faces staring back at him. He finds it maddening.
“What the hell are you doing to my Ferris wheel?” he says. His
breathing is hard and jagged.
The group’s oldest, a gray-haired man with tired eyes, steps toward
him, a piece of paper held forward like a shield. “Easy, buddy,” he says,
the corner of his lips curling in contempt. “We represent Castle Bank and
will be reclaiming this Ferris wheel owing to persistent nonpayment on
your loan on it. Don’t get in the way or you might get hurt.”
An angry response catches in Barry’s throat. Every client left on the
calendar booked him with the same warm image in mind: A Ferris wheel
tumbling high above their scene, promising something like a dream.
“But the rain’s been killing us,” Barry stammers. “And the price of
The man chuckles and shakes his head. “I guess things are just
tough all over,” he says. He pivots and returns to the task at hand.
Barry stands in the mud and watches the dismemberment in mute
disbelief. There’s no explaining this away. His books will never match
the ones he sent to Florida.
Tom Gresham’s short stories have been previously published in Seven
Days and the Timber Creek Review, and his poetry is forthcoming in
Aethlon. Gresham received a bachelor’s degree from the University
of Virginia and an MFA in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth
University. He is also the co-author of A Baseball Guy: Former
Kansas City Royals Farmhand, Scout, and Major League Coach
Takes You Inside the Game He Loves.
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