A novella by Kathy Sattem Rygg
Genre: Tween Fantasy Magical Realism
Cover Designer: Charlotte Volnek
Ten-year-old Andy Ohman is spending his summer working at the Aksarben City Zoo where his dad is curator. There are rumors that the city might close the zoo due to budget cuts. An anonymous donor has given the zoo an antique animal carousel, and Andy’s dad is hopeful it will help boost attendance. Andy’s doubtful that an old kiddie ride will make a difference. He doesn’t see what’s so special about it. But when he takes it for a spin, he unlocks the magic that will help save the zoo.
A huge, circular carousel with gold-framed mirrors around the top filled the grounds between the petting corral and the picnic area. Red and white painted stripes colored its pointed canopy above the mirrors. Small, clear light bulbs covered the carousel’s ceiling. Long, brass poles placed in the wooden floor were attached to large animal figures. But not just horses. Each pole was attached to a different zoo animal. Curvy, gold lettering painted in between the mirrors read Magical Menagerie.
Andy slid between the short barricades surrounding the carousel to get a closer look. Other than a few areas of chipped paint, the animals looked brand new. He thought his dad had said it was really old.
“Isn’t she grand?”
Andy jerked. He hadn’t heard anyone come up behind him. A gray-haired man with tiny, round glasses perched on the bridge of his nose appeared next to him.
“Yeah, I guess. I’ve never seen one with gorillas and rhinos on it though.”
"It's called a menagerie carousel because it has more than just horses. It's also why I thought it belonged in a zoo." The man stared at the carousel.
“You donated it?” Andy turned toward him.
“Indeed. The name’s Zeb." He bowed his head. "My family owned a zoo in Europe, and this carousel was a part of it. When I was about your age we moved to America. The carousel has been stored in an outbuilding at our family farm all these years, and I thought it was time to bring it out. The animals were getting restless.” He winked.
“Are you sure it still works?” Andy said, spotting a broken light bulb.
“Oh, it works when it needs to."
“Why did you give it to this zoo?” Andy thought it seemed more like something one of the larger zoos would have.
“Because I think your zoo really needs it.” Zeb started walking away. “Make sure you take it for a spin when you get the chance. The zebra’s nice and smooth.”
Andy glanced at the frozen zebra in front of him. He turned to ask Zeb another question, but he was gone, as if vanished into thin air. Goosebumps prickled Andy’s arms. He rubbed them away and turned back toward the carousel.
He stepped up onto its worn, wooden platform and walked around the edge. As he passed each animal, he ran his hand over its glossy back. Their saddles were smooth and firm, like the old-fashioned rocking horse at his grandparent's house.
Pausing in front of the zebra, he placed one hand on the brass pole that ran up through the black mane on its neck. He admired the painted bright blue and green saddle. Making sure no one was around, he placed one foot in the stirrup and threw his leg over the other side. The curved seat was a perfect fit. Maybe Benny was right. The carousel didn’t seem so bad.
Andy relaxed in the saddle when, all of the sudden, every light bulb in the ceiling blinked to life. Blaring carnival music spilled from hidden speakers. The platform began to turn, and his body rose upward. He tried placing his foot in the stirrup to get down, but it was like his arms and legs were glued in place.
Confused, he glanced around. Had Zeb turned it on? He didn’t see anyone. The carousel picked up speed. Fear rose inside him as the zebra rotated up and down on the center pole.
Everything blurred as he continued to spin, so he focused on the zebra’s black stripes. When that didn’t help, he closed his eyes. The tighter he squeezed them, the less his stomach churned.
The carousel slowed down and came to a complete stop. The carnival music shut off, leaving an abrupt silence. Andy exhaled and opened his eyes. The whirling in his head faded. Then he heard a fast, high-pitched braying sound, like a donkey. Had it come from the nearby petting corral? The zoo didn’t have a donkey. The sound came again.
He was horrified to realize this time it sounded like it came from his own mouth!
About the Author:
Kathy Sattem Rygg is an author, freelance writer and editor. She earned a degree in magazine journalism from Iowa State University and has worked in corporate marketing for several Fortune 500 companies. Additionally, she worked at the McGraw-Hill Companies’ Business Publications Division in New York City and was the Editor in Chief of Women’s Edition magazine in Denver, CO. She currently lives in Omaha, NE., with her husband and two children.
Author's Other Works:
“Tall Tales with Mr. K”—published through CreateSpace, available on Amazon