Summary and Analysis
Part I: Chapters 21-23
Will is sure that he will receive "a sign" from Jim, this time hoping to hear his call from the pine-plank boardwalk behind their two houses. Over the years, the boys have tuned the planks so that special tunes can be danced out on these boards, and these tunes are a signal of the specific adventure of the night. Tonight, although he hears nothing, Will's strong desire to hear Jim's call causes him to imagine that he hears Jim sounding out the calliope's tune. He soon realizes, however, that tonight, Jim never intended to call him. Jim wants to return to Miss Foley's house alone.
Here, Bradbury again differentiates between Jim and Will. The two-minute head start that Jim's birth date has given him on life, as well as his deep perceptiveness to life, make him an independent spirit who, at this moment, has no desire to be accompanied by his bodyguard-like friend, Will. When the two boys meet in Miss Foley's front yard, Jim makes this fact quite clear. Will's protective spirit causes the boys to argue loudly enough to attract the attention of Robert, the friendly nephew. Robert watches the scuffle for a moment. He then enters the house, reappears, and tosses some of Miss Foley's jewelry onto the yard next to the boys.
Will realizes that if they are accused of burglary no one will ever believe any of their tales about the evils of carnivals carousels or mirrors. Further intimidated by Miss Foley's startled cry of "Police!" they chase the nephew to the Carnival. When they next see him, he is already riding the merry-go-round, which is going forward. If they are to save their reputations, they must catch the nephew before he grows older and physically larger due to the merry-go-round's powers. Jim, characterized by Bradbury as already being old in the ways of the world, wants to be older in body too. Consequently, this merry-go-round is also alluring to him. The nephew recognizes this attraction and beckons for Jim to climb on with him. Jim almost yields to the nephew's offer, but Will jerks him back, and, in another tussle, the boys fall against the carousel's control box. The carousel, now out of control, begins to spin forward at lightning speed. Mr. Cooger, here posing as the nephew, has often ridden on this carousel, alternating between youth with its complexion as smooth as a peach, and age. Cooger has, however, taken one ride too many. The runaway carousel sends Cooger on so many revolutions forward in time that he ages to an impossible one hundred thirty years old.