Holiday Quandaries 

AnchorThe sirens blast through the town and then, some minutes later, the roar of the helicopter. It circles your house, getting louder and then fading, then louder again. You catch a glimpse of it. A great big dark military style yoke. Something is brewing. Your kids run out to see it, clasping cameras. You let them go. It gets a little quieter, the roar, but it’s still there. Somebody shouts ‘it’s landed’ and you look out the window to see your youngest child, laces untied, running around the corner, following the others. You must run too because you’ve no idea what they are running towards. There’s a road to be crossed. Will they just run straight out, the sound of the cars silenced by the whirr of the blades, the shout for them to stop drowned out? You run, faster than is respectable for a woman your age wearing flip flops. You see his new Messi football boots first, all luminous orange and black. He is across the road, upright, kind of, but bending now to tie. You breathe. They are all there because the massive helicopter has landed in the field where the pony show usually takes place. Your children are on a collective whoop of a high. It’s like the moment when you set the Christmas pudding on fire, only now it goes on and on. They snap and they video it. An army guy stands guard. It is then that you see the police car. Then the ambulance. Somebody is very ill or very injured you think. Others have gathered now too for this spectacle but what do you do? Do you turn your own away now, ask them to stop with the excitement and the pictures of the copter because some poor soul is to be airlifted out of here? The doors of the ambulance open. Tears sting your eyes. You cannot look and you say a little prayer of sorts for whoever it is. Then something breaks the tension, little murmurs all around. He’s talking and breathing, the man. Heart, somebody says. But he looks okay. Arms crossed over his chest as if to protect him. A young woman comes over to your husband to stroke the dog. Smiling now. She knows him. This man to be airlifted. And he’s talking so she can talk now too and talking to your dog is perfect relief. Her boyfriend joins her, stroking and talking. It’s going to be alright now. More than alright for your own kids. A highlight. 

The funfair has been spotted in another village at the set up stage. It begins. You know you’ll not get away with it now. It’s Friday and you’re heading home on Sunday and it’s going to rain between now and then. Do you take your kids to the funfair in the rain? You sit in the bar consulting the forecast, again. The bar man offers you a drink. You decline. You tell him you’d love one, but the kids think they’re off to the funfair. He looks out the window, raises a brow, laughs. It’s to be worse again tomorrow you say. 

You get there at night in the persistent soft drizzle. The potholed carpark ground is all puddles with a grey concrete milky mix. You must step into these puddles, too numerous to avoid, to get at the rides. Your dog’s white paws turn grey. You think about electricity and rain. Safety tests. How it’s only really you and your kids mad enough to come along. Your kids are the safety tests. You watch as they are spun on the waltzer for far too long. No one else waits. Then as the three older ones go to the big attraction. The Terminator. The one that spins them up into the air. You watch as they use a cloth to wipe it down for themselves. It’s only after they are raised up that you notice the duct tape holding the hinge beside your child. You see him notice it too. What do you do? 

The money flitters through your fingers. You stand beside a woman at the bumper cars. She has a dog that could swallow your one whole. She looks fumingly on as her husband and child collide with yours sending them crashing into the step where you are. They smile at you with a pinch of terror in their eyes. Keep your hands in, you think but try not to shout out. You are hating every minute of this as you knew you would. You put your thumbs up to them. The woman points to her feet. Destroyed she tells you. You look at her formerly white plimsolls, fully soaked grey. 

You pick your wet shivering dog up and wrap him in your hoodie. The youngest has noticed a ball throwing game and you wander over. Toilet lids flap at you. Get the balls into the toilet and win a prize. His aim is good. All balls in. Which prize would you like? The goldfish he says, eyes lit like stars. A brother tries to tell him there’s no such thing as winning a goldfish, maybe in the olden days or in the movies but sure enough there they are. Little fish shimmering in translucent buckets. You widen your eyes and shake your head at the woman, conspiratorially. You do not want one at all, at all. You’d have to play twice and win twice to get a goldfish she tells him. Phew. Good woman. Okay then, I’ll play again he says. Or what about me, his next up brother says. If I play we can combine and win the fish. He hasn’t gone on many rides, this child. He’s due a turn at something. It is somehow agreed. Everyone gathers. His left handed aim is not along the lines of his younger brother’s right. The pressure is on. The brothers will him along as the flapping lids trick him each time, just. Awww. There will be no fish (phew, but your heart sinks for him too, maybe you should not have set him up for this fall). Then the woman reaches behind her, grabs a bucket, hands them a fish anyway, and winks at you. What do you do?

You buy five rounds of pink fluffy candy floss, which dissolves efficiently in the misty rain, and you listen to the squawks of delight as they place a name upon their prize. Then you drive back to your own holiday town, a little faster than you should, hitting the supermarket just as it closes. You emerge clutching a half decent bottle of red along with the little tub of fish food. That’s what you do. 

Fish

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