The pink and lime-green teacups whirled around the platform, dizzy with squealing children. There were still several groups in the line ahead of Tony and Joseph. Tony ruffled Joseph’s hair, and said: “Not long now.”

The boy stared at the ride, all the while shifting from one leg to the other.

“Joseph, do you need to go to the toilet?”

The boy didn’t look up. Tony bent down and gently inclined his son’s face towards his own.

“Joseph, do you need to go to the toilet?”

Joseph’s eyes flicked this way and that, but didn’t focus on Tony.

“Joseph, yes or no?”

Joseph nodded his head slightly.

“Use your words, Joseph.”
“Toilet.” Joseph’s eyes were downcast as he spoke the single word.

Tony straightened up and sighed.

“OK then, let’s go. We’ll lose our place in the queue, I’m afraid.”

Someone directly behind Tony tapped him on the shoulder. He turned to see a man and a young girl aged about six.

“We’ll keep your place for you mate. I know what it’s like.”

Tony smiled gratefully. The fellow was lanky and wore a Metallica T-shirt. He should be easy to find again.

“Thanks, I really appreciate it. Come on Joseph, let’s hurry.”

They trotted towards the nearest toilet block. Once inside a cubicle, Tony pulled Joseph’s pants down for him.

“Sit or stand?”

Joseph glanced around the cubicle, not meeting Tony’s eyes.

“Joseph, what do you want to do?”

The boy lifted his hands and began to agitate the air as if trying to ward off the sound of Tony’s voice.

“Joseph, it’s OK. Let me help you!”

In response, Joseph clamped his hands over his ears.

Although Tony lost all track of time, he estimated that half an hour passed before Joseph had calmed sufficiently for them to step back into the sunlight. At the teacups, the queue had grown, and there was no sign of the tall man or his daughter.

“I’m sorry, Joseph. Maybe we can come back later?”

But Joseph grabbed Tony’s hand and dragged him towards a mini kids’ rollercoaster. There were at least fifty people queuing to get on. Tony looked at his son helplessly.

“Hey, bud, we’re over here!” The voice came from the front of the queue, where the man in the Metallica shirt was standing. He beckoned them over. “These guys are with us.”

The woman next in line merely shrugged. She was guaranteed to get on with her family anyway.

Tony and Joseph joined the man and his daughter in the four-seater carriage. As it rumbled up the first incline,

Joseph smiled at the girl and said: “Hello, my name’s Joseph.”

And even though they’d just begun, a sudden aching sense of nostalgia gripped Tony, as if the current moment was already lost to the past. He was looking back at it from a distant, unimaginable future, though the days spent in the sun were still to come, and many, many of them.

CategoryFlash Fiction

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