FOR SALE AT THE CAROUSEL
We all came at the same time. Jet, a boy was first. Then Lola second and me – Star – last. Three of us; three is his lucky number, so he says, and thus he thinks we will bring him good fortune.
I know what he wants from us and it has the Queen’s face on it. Mother says we are her good fortune too, a blessing, a wondrous gift. She’s just happy Father is happy.
Music plays when he is happy. The chiming and tinkling of the carousel’s melody is literally music to his ears and how he makes his money. Father loves nothing better than the visitors coming to ride the colourful horses. That’s not strictly true – he likes the visitors who come to inspect us more.
You beauties will make me rich. Especially you lad, beautiful black boy like you will make them go wild.
I’ve grown to despise the sound of the horses at play. That up and down movement makes me feel queasy.
It is all I have ever known.
Many weeks have passed since Mother brought us here. We were blind for the first few. We’re blind still, not knowing what is going to happen to us. Mother’s words aren’t you all beautiful, aren’t you just perfect, I wish I could keep you all are hollow. All meaning hollowed out but days of darkness seeping into our bones. Yet, we grow strong.
Lola was the first of us to distance herself from Mother. Very little tolerance for fools has Lola, a lot like Father. A schemer. Ungrateful. She knows what is expected of her and she plays the tune as well as the organ that takes pride of place in the centre of the carousel.
I wish I could forget those initial days. Father prowling around and Jet quivering, his body pressed up to mine. Never has he displayed any big brother instincts, we don’t regard each other as such. We will not have a future together, so why form any great attachment? Warmth was enough. It was always so cold with Mother washing us, the air drying us and leaving us so much cooler than before. We were too young to try and fend for ourselves. She taught us.
I soon learnt there was a motive for her motherly teachings.
Footsteps pound above us all day and night; the carousel is a popular place. Everyone likes a ride. It’s cheap here. A novelty. I’d like to see the horses. Just once. Maybe one day.
I’ve grown to love the sound of the horses at play. That up and down movement is a comfort. It’s all I’ve ever known.
We don’t walk anywhere. We can’t. We dream frequently but we never share those private thoughts. We don’t talk much. We can’t.
Move! Come on, out of the way. I need to clear these beds. Make fresh. Visitors are coming later. Move it. Now!
She’s very loving, our mother. Always with a kind word. The thing is, she can smell a rainy day a mile off and we’re her savings pot.
From his comfy chair he watches us. Walking around at his choosing, eating when he wants. He always gets the best on offer. Please him, keep the master happy and business will flourish. Strong, healthy and contented and he will be successful again. Look at us; we are but his ambition coming to fruition.
Come here, bitch. Like the dutiful wife she follows his command and once more she is by his side. We are all but forgotten. Closed during non-business hours.
Hunger isn’t something we have to endure, however. The best cuts are not on offer but we have plentiful amounts up to seven times a day. Fattening us up for market, and that day is fast approaching.
Visitors. They touch us.
They are escorted in to see us. To judge. Face. Back legs. They stroke our bellies and lower. Ever so gently.
We get touched all over.
Mother and Father leave.
We are alone with the visitors.
Father is very happy tonight. He’s made a sale. Jet! Didn’t I say that beautiful black boy would be the making of us?
You did my darling, yes.
Who could resist that beauty?! No-one. Look at his legs, his flanks, that stunning face. Such intelligence behind those brown eyes. He’ll learn quickly.
Jet sits silently. Father continues.
You do whatever they say, boy. You listen and then act and you’ll go far. My name will be known for supplying beauties.
We are not all beauties to Father.
The horses are at play. Going round and round, up and down. We mimic this action down here, in the belly of the carousel. When the music stops we freeze, see who moves first. I’m very good at being still, playing dead.
Father is with us. This is rare. Mother’s job is done.
Jet is playing with one of Father’s toys. It’s a rope. Jet is allowed to call him Daddy now, he is lenient with Jet. He’s playing at being nice. Now that Jet has a new Father he is allowed out to go upstairs but only if he wears his new necklace. A symbol of his subservience. Obedient boy.
What are the horses like, Jet?
The carousel, the horses, the music, those delicious smells that waft down.
Dunno. Didn’t look. I had a job to do.
I would have looked. It’s a magical world up there. So much light and the sound of laughter. I hear that often but not down here. Jet is solemn these days, he knows he is to leave us all soon. It’s the unfamiliar that unsettles him; he has no allegiance to us.
Lola is quiet. Father beat her into submission. She wanted to play with the rope. Father said no. She attacked him. He tied the rope around her neck and he knotted the other end to a stake that was embedded into the ground. When we aren’t looking she gnaws at it; vicious, violent shaking of her head. Salvia drips.
Tonight we are to have visitors again. Lola is untied.
The big man wanted Lola. She left with him.
Another man came later and he took Jet. It is just me now.
The carousel begins to move. For days I have lain here alone listening to the music and allowing the vibrations of the horses galloping to comfort me. Father has gone away and Mother has been looking after me.
There have been no more visitors. Nothing has been required of me. I have grown quite bored.
It’s happened! I am allowed out. I cannot contain my excitement.
Father came back and shouted my name. My name! Star. Star!
I went slowly, not without trepidation I admit, up the small staircase. One step, two, three step, a few more. Light hit me, sound hit me, and smells hit me. All familiar, so so familiar.
There were many visitors there. Yet, they weren’t looking at me. They were handing money over to Father. Mother was there too. She looked to be sleeping.
I stood trembling. My legs were shaking so much. I thought I might pee myself.
The visitors smiled at me. Some stroked me.
Father shouted at me and I felt a warm trickle down my legs. His laugh boomed around the carousel as he flicked a button and the horses came to life.
He pointed towards a large cushion near to the ticket booth. I was to stay!
I lay down, happy.
Photography by Ryan Licata