things that cost a quarter are basically free. we got these kinds of things on myrtle. firetrucks, ponies with stars painted on their sides, giraffes in top hats, squirrels in sunglasses... they look like porcelain but are actually made of a much more durable space-age material. the children ride them and then they go to the store and buy ice cube trays with their mothers.

a lone, bug-eyed cow on the sidewalk, moving gently in a small, mechanical motion, playing music from atlantis. a just-barely-not-mickey-mouse mouse outside the drapes and blankets store. sometimes the kids are filmed as they ride them, up and down, up and down, smiling patiently into their father's telephone. i know that small children consider these rides a perk of strolling along myrtle. as an adult i know these rides are sacred things. they remind me of an irrelevant portion of my childhood that never took place. i walk past these things, i am doing something else.

i walked past an orange pelican ride and nobody was on it. the music was playing and the pelican was moving slowly up and down in the way it's paid to move, but there was nobody around except for me. i'm almost thirty years old and i am not the rider this orange pelican is looking for. a guilty feeling overcomes me like ignoring a beggar in your path. there were invisible children at the coffee shop that afternoon.