The way Marco’s deal with the devil has been backfiring, you don’t think it’s wise to go to the carnival. But he says you never shut up and the next thing you know the air is filled with the smell of hot dogs, popcorn, and funnel cakes. You’re in line for The Screwdriver and a man smelling of pipe tobacco and sweat loosely chains a chipped metal bar across your lap. The Screwdriver turns this way and that, and when you see that metal flagpole adorned with a blur of rainbow bunting, you say nothing. Marco said once, “You just talk to talk, making no sense. Just talk, talk, talk.” So you don’t wave your arms or scream to the man below. You place your hands firmly in your lap while The Screwdriver swings out wide to the setting sun, then in toward a hive of carnival goers dappled in powder blue and pink cotton candy below. Marco says, in Sao Paolo, he knows he met the Devil. He knows because, before He appeared, Marco wanted something so very badly that he swore to himself that he’d sell his very soul. The Devil stood before him in the alley where he sat with his head in his hands. He felt the need to run – the way your heart races in your empty house, when you sprint up the stairs in the dark, running with the inexplicable sensation of being chased. Marco’s smile is bright and white, his eyes a fanfare of glittering neon when they meet yours, just before collision. You cannot tell you if you wished it into happening, but every time you play it over in your head, you see that metal pipe long before The Screwdriver passes it. You see it before The Screwdriver kisses the lake’s sunset, before it pulls back, whipping Marco into its path. Did you will it? In Brazil, the Devil asked Marco if there was anything he wanted, anything at all. Marco says he didn’t dare say but it all came to his head in a rush of Technicolor. Crowds screaming and Marco, waving to the stadium full of people with one hand on his guitar. When Marco collides with the pole, his arms are still aloft. You are lifting his arms for him from the back of your eyes. You imagine him a marionette, and you’re pulling from the top of the Ferris wheel through the center of his palms, straight into the sky. Motionless, taciturn, you keep them above his head with all your might. You hold your breath and watch his arm slip from his shoulder, just as you’d watch Angelo the butcher rip the meat from a bone when his knife won’t slide through. When they finally pull him from the train car of The Screwdriver, the severed arm is nowhere to be found. The speed of the collision made a cleaner break than you’d expect, the paramedics later say. Still, the blood is unfathomable and pours from the socket like a syrup of wine. You look away as the man from the train car behind you screams and his husband tries to stop the bleeding. You have a matter-of-fact conversation with the ambulance dispatcher and an unblinking Marco’s hollow left shirt sleeve hangs at his side. A one-armed guitarist. They load him back into the ambulance at the carnival entrance and ask if you’d like to ride along. You decline but find yourself back on the platform of The Screwdriver and wave to the ambulance as it pulls away. You walk the seams of the hastily placed aluminum planks and admire the pattern of Marco’s blood spattered across the pavement below. The ride operator picks up a hose and rinses the boardwalk. You expect he’ll look up to ask you if there’s anything else you want, anything at all. But the spectators have gathered – chattering and chewing and gawking in the hopes of glimpsing the gore, the spectacle, the majesty of the carnival.
Renee Agatep lives in St. Augustine, Florida with her husband and two children. She earned her master's degree at Northeastern University and is currently studying creative writing at the University of Central Florida. Her work is forthcoming in Texas Poetry Calendar and Dunes Review. She can be found on Twitter @GoingbyRenee.