May 27

Boardwalk Thrill Ride

(An Odd Adventure with your Other Father, part 1)

 

“Celia, as much as your other father hated water, my chances of getting Jack near the beach were pretty slim.  That year-long vacation after our senior year brought us close to monsters and magic, but kept us pretty far from sand and surf.

“We did make it to the beach that one time, during Memorial Day weekend, but it wasn’t the call of the ocean that lured Jack.  More like the promised thrills of a particular carnival attraction: the haunted house ride on the south end of the boardwalk.

“I’ll tell you about that ride now, and later this weekend you’ll get to experience it yourself.

“Though let’s hope, while you’re in that coffin-shaped railcar traveling from one scare set-up to another, you don’t actually see the world end,  the way I did those thirty-odd years ago…”

 

#

 

Traffic was seriously backed up:  the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was only twelve miles away, but at the rate we were crawling, it would take us an hour, maybe two, to reach it.

“You had to pick Memorial Day weekend,” Jack grumbled. “Everybody’s headed ‘down the ocean’ today.”

“It’s a beautiful, sunny day,  That’s why the road’s so crowded.”  We had the windows rolled down, because the VW Bug didn’t have air-conditioning.  Trouble was, we couldn’t build up enough speed to circulate any air.  I tried to remedy the situation by fanning myself with a folded road map.

“You know,” Jack said, “the energy you expend waving that thing actually cancels out the cooling effect.”

“I’ll take the risk.”  Then I fanned him a little bit.  He didn’t tell me to stop, so it must have worked.

We moved forward a bit, then the cars in front stopped again.  In the surrounding lanes, cars seemed to have better luck.  A blue van with a surfboard attached to the roof passed on our right.

“Hey, didn’t that guy cut us off a few miles back?”  Jack typically kept a mental list of other drivers who “wronged” us.  “I should play with him a bit.”

“Don’t,” I said.  “Remember Rule #1:  Not while we’re driving.”

Jack laughed.  “You can’t seriously call this driving.  We’ve barely moved an inch.”

The left- and right-lane traffic had slowed to match our own snail’s pace.  A few car-lengths ahead, a small bird flew over the blue van and did what birds usually do to a windshield.

Even from a distance, I could tell the bird was uglier than the usual gulls we’d spot along this stretch of highway.  Instead of white or gray, its feathers were a stark, shimmering black — as if it had been rolled in oil or tar.  The head was large, supported by a strange curved neck like a vulture’s.  Its thick reptile legs looked almost prehistoric, and the body seemed too heavy to be supported by the lazy flaps of the bird’s wings.

The other detail, too gruesome to miss:  the volume of white waste dropping from the bird onto the van, splashing onto the surfboard, foaming onto the roof and coating sections of metallic blue.  Then more splashing down, the chunked liquid growing darker, like something from a human, a horse, then an elephant with impossible diarrhea.

Until the van was completely covered.

(Don’t laugh, Celia.  It’s really childish humor, don’t you think?)

In that heat, the huge pile of animal waste should have produced a horrible stench.  Remember, we had our car windows rolled down.

But I couldn’t smell a thing.  That was one of the fortunate limitations  of Jack’s illusions:  they were visual images, but they didn’t make wet plopping sounds, didn’t stir up nasty odors.

“Not while we’re driving, Jack.”

He didn’t respond.  When the cars in front started moving again, though, Jack shifted the Beetle back into first gear, and the mess over the offending car magically disappeared.

I was the only one who got to see it.  Lucky me.

This was going to be a long trip.

 

[…continued tomorrow… for part 2, click here…]

 

Author’s Note:  this new mini-adventure features characters from my first novel, ODD ADVENTURES WITH YOUR OTHER FATHER, currently discounted to 99 cents at Amazon US and Canada, throughout the month of May! Get it while the deal lasts!

And, for other spook-house style thrills, please consider my latest, Life in a Haunted House, available at Amazon for only $2.99!