Summer Carnival – A Short Story

Trigger warning
This story contains topics that might be triggering to some readers as it mentions behaviors associated with an eating disorder. Please be mindful of these and other possible triggers, and seek help through counselors who are available on campus if necessary.

As we walked along the boardwalk on the last day of summer break, my legs grew numb as I realized how witless I was wishing and hoping that things would get
better. While my mind cultivated colder and deeper thoughts, Jessica Sneer interrupted my focus as she began jumping and screaming: “Look at that ride! We should go on!”

Veronica Dowry started shrieking as well, signing to Jessica that her idea was a good one. Wanting to participate, I followed along as we scurried toward the line. At the front, we motioned to the roller coaster conductor that there were four of us. He shook his head and put up three fingers. Jessica Sneer, Rebbeca Watts, and Veronica Dowry looked back at me simultaneously. Suddenly, Jessica tossed me her purse and ran towards the ride. Without notice, the other two girls did the same and hopped in the other two seats.

There I stood, with three matching purses around my arm waiting at the exit.
My mind went back to cultivating deep thoughts as I watched the girls having fun on the ride without me. Then, interrupted again by Jessica’s mock sympathy, “Sorry you couldn’t join us, they should add more seats to those things,” she chirped.

“It’s ok,” I said with a fake smile.

“Should we go choose another ride?” I requested.

“No, no, it’s cool. I gotta go figure out my schedule for tomorrow anyway. Rebecca, Veronica, you guys coming?”


As I watched them leave with the sunset in front of them, the feeling of abandonment, and loneliness kicked in once again. The cool breeze hissed at me as a shiver crept down my back. It is truly the last day of summer. Although I’m alone I feel that I should enjoy the last carnival of the year before a mundane year of school begins. Electrifying orange and yellow lights captivate my mind along the dock with an array of games and food trucks. Little kids are seen winning prizes and eating cotton candy making their tongues blue and pink whilst teenagers make out inside the out-of-use photo booths along the pier. By this time, the sun has gone down and the once electrifying lit-up shops are being locked up for the night. Parents begin to leave with their crying children trailing behind. Teenagers start to leave as their one-night stands are finished for the night. I am left alone once again, first by my friends, and now summer break.

The walk back home is strenuous but calming since I am accompanied by smooth jazz emerging from my earbuds. The despairing reminder of school the next morning is apparent when I walk by the school sign with a big banner hanging from the side, stating,“Welcome back students.”

I arrive home just as the street lights come on and am welcomed by my mom, busy in the kitchen,

“So! I was right. Today is a waxing gibbous moon, which means you are doing laundry tonight,” mom shouts with pride.

“Well it helps that you saw the moon yesterday, which guaranteed the truthfulness of your prediction,” I reply with exasperation.

“Well you still bet with me kiddo, a deal is a deal. How was the carnival?” she asks while chopping carrots for soup.

“It was good, it’s always nice to see teenagers making out,” I say with a smirk. She sighs and reaches for the carrots.

“Did you have fun with your friends?”

I sigh even louder and reply with zest, “Did I ever! It was the most fun I’ve had in years!”

“Alright, alright. Sit yourself down for dinner and say grace.” She chuckles.

The table is nicely set with silverware, with sophisticated black plates and cups to match. Dad arrives home from work with a phone to his ear. He kissed me on the forehead while yelling at his secretary on the phone.

“I told you we should have done that two weeks ago!” he shouted, as if he wasn’t loud enough.

“Harold!” mom yelled, and gave him the look most popularly described as the death stare, but I like to call it the no-phones-at-the-table-or-you’ll-be-sleeping-on-the-couch stare.

He hangs up and sits himself down next to me.

“So, you excited about school?” he says with a big smile.

“Please don’t bring it up, dad!”
“What are those friends of yours, Veronica, Hanukkah…”

“I’d rather not talk about them either.”

“I believe it’s Jessica dear,” mom says as she places pasta on the table, then sits down in front of dad and me.

While I began scooping the penne from the cheesiest side of the bowl my mind went back to thinking. I didn’t want to go to school. Deeper and deeper my mind went conjuring up disparaging thoughts. And for a moment while pouring water into my glass I could see a tall dark figure standing behind my mother. A faceless being. I stared closer into its abyss of a face and became almost entranced…

“SAM!” mom yelped

“Pay attention!” suddenly, I feel cold water on my hands and lap.

“Sorry, it will dry,” Dad said as he gazed at the puddle of water on my plate.

“May I be excused?” I asked.

“But you haven’t eaten,” mom answered before almost choking on a piece of lettuce.

“I had food at the carnival.”

I stood up and walked over to the sink to wash off my plate.

While grabbing a sponge from the bottom cabinet, a pack of Rosebud matches caught my eye. I slipped the pack into my sleeve and continued to run water over the plate. Upon entering my room, I locked the door and cracked my window a bit. A sense of relief flowed through my body as I pressed the head of the match against the striker on the matchbox. The balmy flame sat still on the tip of the wood while slightly bending in the wind. I gazed at it for a few seconds before flicking it into a plastic water bottle half-filled with water from a few nights before.

This tranquilizing habit started when I was only six years old. I was sitting at the barbershop waiting for my father to finish getting his haircut when a drunken man sat next to me.

My father was so carried away with talking to his football-loving buddies that he couldn’t see what was going on. The man handed me two matches and instructed me to light his cigar. Being too naive to pass up the opportunity I did it without fail. The man laughed as he puffed smoke in my face and handed me a full box of matches with “Rosebuds” written in big red letters on the box. I placed them in my back pocket giving him a thumbs-up that they were hidden.

“Take care little one,” he said joyfully as I sat there watching him leave.

Luckily for me, my father was a huge smoker as well; boxes could be found all over the house. Although I had never noticed them before, I started to notice them more and more the moment I got home that day. Between the ages of seven and ten, I learned how to make shapes with them and stacked books underneath windows to let the smoke out.

I had never gotten caught which made it a lot more fun. It was a secret that kept me sane for years. This deep-rooted nostalgia brings me joy every time I strike a match. After lighting twelve sticks my mind was calm once again. A light smell of smoke lingered on my way to the bathroom. Seconds later I began to walk over to the toilet hunched over, pressing my middle and pointer finger together shoving both down my throat I started to choke, gag, and soon wretch.

Day three.

After doing so, I flushed the toilet and rinsed my hands.

Being alone gives you an awful lot of time to think; thinking is my worst enemy.

The second before one finally falls asleep, their mind races them off to dreamland. While my mind races me off to insanity, That’s why I watch reality TV so heavily. Before finally falling asleep, with my laptop at a ninety-degree angle and my fingers racing to find the best episode to watch, I have to turn on music before my mind gets to thinking too much. Once finally pressing the episode, I close my music tab and focus on the show.

My parents loathed the fact that I stayed up watching TV so I always made sure to bury my computer under multiple blankets just in case they came in unannounced.

Mackenzie Smith

Mackenzie Smith ’25 is a sophomore at Blair Academy. She has just started writing for The Oracle. She will mainly write short stories about horror or mysteries, and occasionally book reviews as well.

Blair Academy