Pull impatiently on your father’s hand.
Wait for the crossing light, your mother will say.
Try to be good. Fidget. Watch the red and brown leaves swirl; listen to them crunch under your new boots-a-half-size-too-big. Feel the cold on your cheeks and nose; feel the warmth inside your knit mittens and knit tights.
I hope it doesn’t rain, your mother will say.
I don’t like the look of those clouds, your father will say.
The light will turn green.
Skip when you cross the intersection. Wave at the police officer with the whistle and yellow vest. Phtweeee! his whistle will shriek. There will be many families all smushed together on the other side. You will see other children running and laughing and drinking hot chocolate. Ask your father—pretty please—for a hot chocolate. He will grumble about the price, but he will buy it. It will be watery and hot and so sweet sweet sweet. Hold with both hands, careful.
You will hear the music first. Dart forward, around the knees and hips, and under the bags of the strangers. Do not hear your mother shout. Press your quivering body to the barricade.
The turkey will be thirty feet tall and riding a truck. It will have two small pilgrims on its back. A woman holding a pumpkin will hand you a red balloon. Another woman will give the boy next to you chewing gum.
Wish you had been given chewing gum instead.
Look up. Beautiful giants will swim across the sky, lead by long strings. Charlie Brown. Babar. Kermit. Shriek with delight. Clap.
Santa fifty-feet-long will loom over you. His shadow will stretch half the block. Santa six-feet-tall will follow on the street with his sleigh and his reindeer and his Mrs. Santa. Wave at him until your elbow hurts.
Time to go now kiddo, your mother will say.
That’s the end of the parade, she will say.
Ask to say just five minutes more—But look there are more balloons! Please just to see those? Point down the street. There will be a host of shining white figures floating uptown.
A new part of the parade maybe, your father will say.
I didn’t see anything about it in the paper, your mother will say.
The shining white figures will come closer. Watch them. When they reach your block you will see that the figures are children. They will swoop and twirl and play. Shriek with delight. Clap.
There’s no strings, your mother will say. Her hand will be on your shoulder.
Where are the people controlling them, your father will say.
A shining white girl about your size and age will pass overhead. She will be dressed in old fashioned clothes like the costumes you have for your doll.
Wave at her. She will wave back.
Smile at her. She will smile back.
Hold out your arm and open your mittened hand. Watch your red balloon float up up up to the shining white girl. Watch it pass through the space of her chest and keep floating towards the blackened clouds.
The screaming will start further up the block. Your father will lift you to his chest. He will try to push through the crowd but it will be too thick.
Hurry, your mother will say. Her hand will hover over your head.
Above you the shining white girl will burst. In a spray. Of blood.
More inverted pops—like gum sucked in through your teeth—will sound up and down the street.
Shriek with delight.