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carnival breath

we took stella to coney island so she could study the rides at luna park for inspiration. we also wanted to show her our ad, which streamed from a banner attached to the back of a plane.

the ad was for the carnival she’d soon be making. we were proud of our ad, but it reminded us of a sobering fact – we had just one more week to prepare.

for the past three years, stella had built us carnivals by breathing. last year, her magic breath produced a teacup ride that brewed real cups of tea for its passengers as a parting gift, and merry-go-rounds with planets instead of horses.

the roller coaster, its railing slick with stars, gave its riders a glimpse into a happy moment from their future.

at luna park, stella rode the cyclone, but she didn’t talk and she didn’t mention any ideas for our carnival.

we won her a stuffed rabbit at the ring toss. we hoped it would inspire her, but she barely looked at it.

one the way to the train, a homeless man with one foot asked us for money. we felt sad that he was homeless, but we also wanted to get away from him. he smelled bad, and his presence made us feel depressed.

but stella talked to him for a long time about his life – he lost his foot because he couldn’t afford his diabetes medication, and then he lost his home because he went bankrupt from treating his foot.

after she gave him $20, they discovered that they both loved synth pop, and that he used to be a synth pop dj.

we grabbed stella’s arms and dragged her away.

we said things like “you shouldn’t waste your money,” and “that man will just spend it on drugs anyway!”

stella argued with us for a long time. she said that she could not make something beautiful for people who were so cruel.

“we’re not cruel!” we insisted. but stella did not believe us.

she put on her headphones and refused to speak to us, even when we got on the d train and one of us sat down beside her. they suggested she look at photographs of people enjoying carnivals on the instagram page we had curated to inspire her.

she ignored the page, opting to donate money to a gofundme campaign belonging to a single mother who was about to be evicted from her apartment.

we chastised her. “what good will it do to pay her rent this month? next month she’ll just have the same problem all over again.”

stella argued with us until the d train arrived at our stop, which was 42nd street, bryant park.

when we got off the train, she gave the stuffed rabbit we won for her to a little girl dangling from her mother’s hip.

half of us wanted to tell her off for this too – that rabbit was for research! – but the other half thought it wasn’t worth it. the little girl was smiling and pressing her face into the rabbit’s head. stella was smiling, too.

we needed her to smile. we needed her to be happy. we needed her to create.

once we got off the train and got to the carnival’s future site in bryant park, one of us pulled up stella’s spotify playlist ‘carnival creation time’ on their phone. this, we thought, would keep her smiling.

“i want the carnival to be free this year,” stella said, drawing a ferris wheel in the dirt with a stick.

that, we told her, was impossible. we were in debt from securing the spot where she would build the carnival, not to mention buying ad space, and insurance.

we had to pay staff wages – surely she didn’t expect the vendors and custodians to work for free? we had investors who were counting on us to turn a profit. we wanted to make a profit. didn’t she?

“the only part i care about is paying the staff,” she said. “but we can pay them out of last year’s profits, or the business taxes you found loopholes for last year. or how about you pay for it?”

most of us were millionaires. stella thought this meant that we could pay for anything. we couldn’t do that if we wanted to keep being millionaires.

we tried another approach.

“if we make the carnival free, the people like that homeless man by the train station will show up. he’ll upset everyone else with his suffering, and his smell. we need at least a token price, to keep undesirables out.”

stella stood up and kicked dirt on her ferris wheel drawing.

she said, “you people are monsters, and i’m never helping you again!”

we begged her to stay. we offered to pay her double. we even tried to entice her back by turning up her spotify playlist. but she told us to go to hell, and stormed away.

without stella there to breathe us a carnival, we had to cancel the event. our losses didn’t force us to change our lifestyles much, but we lost the trust of our investors, and our parents were disappointed in us.

on instagram, we saw photos from a carnival in east new york.

it had a roller coaster that took riders into outer space, a merry-go-round made from plants that cured diseases, and a ferris wheel spoked with sapphire branches that patrons could break off and sell to pay their bills with.

there was also a synth-pop show, dj’ed by the man from coney island.

it was free for everyone, but donations were expected from the rich.

we talked about how naive stella was, and how disappointed we were in her.

while i was agreeing with them, i sent stella $10,000.

i thought she could put it to good use. better use than i could, anyway.

anna lindwasser is a freelance writer and educator living in brooklyn, new york. her work has been published in moss puppy, (mac)ro(mic), and with confetti among others. she can be found on twitter @annalindwasser and at her website


Published by Leo Flynn

Leo Flynn writes poetry & gripping SciFi, like The Mara Files, a science fiction series. Other galaxies consume his waking hours. Visit him on or @leoflynnwriter.

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