Riding the Tilt-A-Hurl

Aunt Opal was a talker–fancied herself a writer as well, and thought writing letters to her local, state, and federal government representatives was good practice–and no one could accuse her of riding the fence (or carnival rides after a certain September night in 1961). If she didn’t see the merit in a person or thing she would say so, and there was never anything vague or left out when she expressed her opinion.

She came home from the county fair on that September night when she was just a teen and wrote a scorching letter to her congressman, insisting he take action against the inventor, makers, and owners of the tilt-a-whirl. In a post script at the end of the letter, she added the ticket-takers, and said perhaps even the tilt-a-whirlconcessionaires selling the corn dogs were involved in the conspiracy. She had a more than slight suspicion they may have had something to do with her horrible experience. (She didn’t put it in the letter, but she vowed to herself never again to eat ketchup on anything when on a date. Grandmother had cautioned her against it, saying ketchup was the devil’s condiment and would give her gas, but she’d ignored the warning; it was mustard for sure from then on.)

In the letter to the esteemed congressman, she blamed all of the aforementioned (noting the list might be incomplete) for the bad dream she would no doubt have that night, and went on to say she was quite disgusted by the sheer audacity of people who could conjure up such tortuous and evil devices.

Topping things off, Jimmy had insisted on walking her home, which was additionally mortifying. She had looked down the entire time, and that did little to alleviate her pain and humiliation, as she could not take her eyes off his bare feet; even his toes had a certain attractiveness about them and added to his already over-the-top allure and dreaminess. He’d removed his shoes and socks to wash off the mess she’d made of them when the tilt-a-hurl had come to a dipping-one-last-spin stop, and carried them in his other hand—the one that wasn’t trying to take her hand and hold it, which was not going to happen.

She closed the letter to her congressman with a curt request that he please not send one of his infuriating form letters in reply this time. This was not about the budget, or the deficit—whatever that was—it was about the evil allowed to run rampant in this world, destroying the lives of young women in small towns all over this great land. How, she asked him (wanting to use all caps in the word, but thinking it might appear she was shouting at him and that would be rude) could anyone think a person would want to spin around at a high rate of speed, bobbing up and down, until they lost their lunch? Well, she concluded, for this young woman, the siren song of the county fair is forever gone! (She was actually shouting in her mind as she finished with that final flourish, and thought the explanation mark was fitting. She thought, too, the use of the term siren song would probably impress him. She didn’t know what in the world it meant, but had read it recently in a famous poem in Miss Chapman’s english lit class.)

Copyright © 2013 C Mashburn

Sharing this with Kellie Elmore on her weekly Free Write Friday feature. Her prompt this week was to use the words, opal, vague, whirl, dream, sheer, conjure, bare, and allure in a story or poem. I normally don’t go in for these types of writing challenges, but for some reason the word opal set my mind to whirling. Go figure.


  1. Susan said

    I bow to the random word story master. Great post!

    • Ha! I’ll have you know I am a jack of all trades (or should I have said tales?) and master of none!
      Thanks, Susan!

  2. Sherry Mashburn said

    Made me laugh out oud! I can just picture Aunt Opal penning her letter with such righteous indignation.

    • Me too. Actually, I can picture Ma (my grandma, and Opal’s sister) doing it more than I can Aunt Opal.

  3. I giggled as I saw a woman with a pen and paper, scribbling intently as the recalled the events of the tilt-a-hurl lol! This is gold!!! Love how you were able to come up with such a rich narrative from the few words. And it’s not at all cliche or something I was expecting. PERFECT is what it is.
    Thank you for writing for me again! ♥

  4. What a story. I love it. You spun the word list into quite a tale.

  5. Loved this story … kept seeing my Aunt Opal in my mind … she was a feisty one as well

    • Actually, my Aunt Opal was my mom’s aunt, but we called her Aunt Opal, too. An interesting side note; my grandmother–Opal’s sister–was named Jewel, their other sister was Ruby, and their brother’s name was Jim.
      Thanks for stopping by, Annie!

  6. […] Charles Mashburn https://charleslmashburn.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/riding-the-tilt-a-hurl/ […]

  7. heidi said

    Really funny story here. I think that I want to meet Aunt Opal. I love the way you used the FWF prompts, they blend in effortlessly. I am also a little envious, I wanted to write a short story with the word bank, but I ended up with a poem. I am so glad that you wrote this one.

    • Thank you very much, Heidi!
      And, listen, I checked the rule book, and found nothing in it regarding multiple writings on the same prompt. Write a story! I’d love to see what you come up with!

  8. Raivenne said

    Oh my! I can envision it all, What a great take on the prompt, Charles.

  9. Mark said

    Charles, that was fun! Haven’t we all been in some situation like that before. Great story!

    • Thanks, Mark! This was actually a severely imbellished account of an actual occurence–back in the day. 🙂

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