Jim Stone, owner of a traveling carnival buys an old calliope .
Annie sprinted down the empty midway. She passed the merry-go-round, then the lollipop swings, then turned left; skipping between the tilt-a-whirl and the Ferris wheel. Cotton candy and caramel corn aromatic scents lingered in the midway’s hidden passageways, all the places Annie knew so well; better than any member of her grandfather’s carnival troupe. She barreled through the aggregation of canvas tents and trailers, only stopping when she bumped into the bearded lady.
“Hey, watch where you’re going, Annie,” Elsie blurted. “Where’re you off to in such a hurry?”
“The calliope is here, Elsie. It was delivered this morning and Grandpa is unboxing it.”
The excited, freckled-faced ten-year-old disappeared beyond the temporary food stands, animal cages and crates.
Jim Stone, Annie’s grandfather and Stone Carnival's owner, stood next to his friend and oldest employee, Marko. Both men, with hands in their pockets, stood admiring the one-hundred-year-old calliope.
The calliope’s prominent metal whistles, standing upright like shiny copper towers gleamed in the morning sun, reflecting the images of circus scenes, animals and human faces carved in the polished wooden surfaces. The embellishments glistened lifelike, giving the calliope the appearance of movement and breath.
“She’s a beauty, Marko,” Jim said, as he reached out and ran his hands over the exquisite carvings chiseled into the ornate wood.
“Fire it up, Marko, I want to hear how this baby sounds,” Jim ordered.
“And the curse, Jim … the last owner went insane after he heard the calliope play,” the old gypsy said, as he hesitated to do as he was asked, “misfortune follows all those that claim ownership.”
“I don’t believe in such nonsense; like rumors or curses, Marko, this thing’s going to bring in the crowds, and crowds mean money, open the valves.”
The calliope’s boiler hissed and groaned as it brought the instrument to life. Annie was engulfed in a cloud of steam as she ran to her grandfather’s side. The calliope began tooting its untamed rendering of Yankee Doodle Dandy. Annie grinned, covered her ears and jumped up and down with joy. Unable to contain her excitement, she skipped around the calliope, circling it several times. Jim smiled, Marko frowned, and the calliope’s intrusive cacophony echoed across the carnival grounds and beyond.
Annie came bouncing around from behind the calliope once again. Worn out and breathless, she brushed her pigtails over her shoulders and rested against an intricately sculpted wheel. And then the unthinkable happened. A gray roiling fog appeared at Annie’s feet, moved up her body and she vanished into the nebulous haze.
Annie reappeared; not as a child, but as a permanent effigy; forever a part of the elaborate crafted ornate wood, nestled between a dancing bear and a crouching tiger.
Marko staggered backwards in disbelief and dropped to his knees as he crossed himself. All he could do was whisper, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Jim screamed, “Annie,” and then he fell to the ground clutching his chest, and the
calliope played on.