Maddy Rose leaped off the steps as Mom and I got back from the mall. It was our last night of freedom as school was starting on Monday.
“I’ve been waiting forever! Come on.”
I looked back at Mom, who gave me a smirk and a wave as Maddy dragged me off. It was bad enough trying to keep up with her when she walked, but when she got worked up about something it was nearly impossible to match her gangly strides. She flung her hair back.
“Wait until you see it.”
I hurried ahead, past the trailers, hopping over some trash and cutting between cars. Her trailer sat at the end of the lot, entangled in a heap of abandoned junkers with busted out windshields. Mr. Rose was kind of off. Could be why her mom ran off when she was little. Mom said maybe she’d gone and caught up with my long-lost dad. When I told Maddy that joke I got slugged in the arm.
More dusty cars lined the drive. Max barked like a loon. Mr. Rose drove a tow truck and could fix just about anything, but Maddy had to help him with stuff around the house. Figure the bills and whatnot. Mom had just been saying how Mr. Rose wasn’t going to be able to handle her once she wiped that smear of grease from her face and grew into those legs. But no one could handle Maddy Rose, she was the scrappiest kid at Maple Court
She stopped on a dime and I nearly ran into her. She spun around, the trails of her sandy blonde hair veiling her face. “We hauled it over today, welcome to MaddyLand!”
It was dusk, but I could feel Maddy’s stare on me as I took it in, “Is that a…”
“Daddy, Nat’s here. Turn it on!”
Mr. Rose climbed down from the structure. He fiddled with a box and it was like lightning struck. The whole place blasted to life. Even the crickets got quiet. The lights flashed and a real life ferris wheel stuttered. Maddy squealed, grabbing my wrist and yanking me along as she tore over and hopped in a cart. I was leery, eyeing the spread of tools and discarded cans of WD 40. Budweisers. Maddy must’ve saw what I was thinking because she did that squinting thing at me.
“Nat, if you don’t get in this cart, I’m telling everyone in Maple Court how you peed your pants at ParaNorman.”
“That was three years ago!”
She narrowed her eyes on me. Dead-to-rights, I climbed into the death trap.
“I told you I spilled my drink.”
Maddy scooted over and I scooted in, our legs rubbing together in the sticky evening. She turned to me and her eyes wide as those bulbs along the railing.
“Look are you sure we—”
We wrenched forward, a scrape of metal as the giant wheel clickaty-clacked into action. I held on to that rusty cart, and Maddy squeezed my arm so tight I thought it would break. We climbed into the night…tick…tick…tick…the wheel carried us out over the tin boxes in Maple Court. Tires on the roofs, long-lost footballs, I felt a bony elbow in my ribs.
Maddy pointed out the water tower against the horizon. I found the baseball stadium. We followed the sweep of traffic across the interstate then turned our attention to the mountains etched against the last squeeze of orange in the distance.
At the tip-top she took a breath. Bit her lip then said, “My mom and your daddy are out there…somewhere.”
I didn’t have much to say on that. Not after she took my hand. When I peeked over and saw the flood of tears on her face it felt like the whole world had changed. The wheel jerked, then stopped again. Some twangy country song leaked from Mr. Rose’s truck down there. Maddy wiped the tears and dirt from her face and I gotta say, looking at her right then, I realized what Mom meant.
There was nowhere to go but down. She let go of my hand. People had gathered around the wheel. Mr. Rose had them lining up. Another jab into my ribs brought me back to earth.
“You tell anyone about up there you’re going to pay.”