May 30

Boardwalk Thrill Ride

(An Odd Adventure with your Other Father, part 4)


Considering Jack’s mood, combined with how irritating that ten-year old kid was being, I expected the worst: swords falling from the sky and hacking off the boy’s limbs, blood splashing everywhere; or his head dropping into the basket beneath a materialized guillotine, eyes open after death, mouth stretching in a dwindling, agonized scream.

That’s not exactly what I got.

I mentioned earlier how the boy had puffed himself up, trying to stand tall in the midst of his childish tirade.  I guess Jack noted the same irony, and decided to make fun of it.

The boy puffed up, all right.  His angry cheeks flamed almost as red as his hair, and in an instant he’d ballooned as tall as the ride attendant, then as tall as his father, then towering over the two-story haunted house attraction.  He started stamping his feet again, and this time they were giant feet, smashing the little coffin cars, kicking them aside with an if-I-can’t-have-my-way-nobody-can gesture. He swung angry baby-balled fists at the air, then stomped his way to the front of the building.

A small stretch of track ran along a flat landing in front of the attraction’s second story — a part of the ride where the cars would venture outside briefly, a startling contrast of fresh air to interrupt the onslaught of darkroom shocks.  At that instant, a coffin car burst through and puttered along that upstairs track, perfectly timed to meet the crazy giant kid and his grubby grasping fingers.

Two adults sat in the car, two men, and I thought it was sweet that Jack included a gay couple in his projected display.  They might have been an older version of the two of us, revisiting a favorite ride from their younger days.

The giant boy scooped the two men out of the coffin car, stuffed them into his mouth and chewed like they were pieces of salt-water taffy.

I’ll admit the scene was pretty gruesome, as all of Jack’s images were, but it also had a kind of cartoonish element that kept it from seeming too realistic. That, and the lack of sound.  I could half smile, even feel like I was in on the joke — which wasn’t always true in those early days, when I was still getting used to Jack’s strange power.

(It’s pretty hard to explain, Celia.  No crashing sounds or screaming; the ground didn’t shake with each stamp of the boy’s giant sneakers.  But it was never quite as easy as watching a silent movie.  My mind tricked me sometimes, filled in missing sensory details.  In this instance: I’d imagine some of the screams, or get dizzy looking up, partly lose my balance as if the earth shook beneath me.  At the same time, the pieces didn’t quite add up.)

More ride attendants showed up, then the security guards who patrolled the boardwalk on bicycles.  They all had bows and arrows, pulling back the strings in unison and aiming high at the kid’s puffy face.

I noticed sharp metal tips, rather than suction cups, on the ends of the arrows.

Things were about to take a nasty turn.  The giant monster child stamped his feet in warning, and I thought I actually heard the thud of each pounding step.

Then the kid was gone.  Both the giant one, and the real-life pip-squeak.

The thump of giant shoes had actually been the family’s coffin car rattling through the double doors at the start of the ride.

I’d been “distracted,” so wasn’t sure if the brat got his way or not, but there was an empty coffin waiting for Jack and me.  We stepped inside, and the attending folded down the wooden lid over our knees.

With a jolt, the car lurched forward and we battered through the doors and into the pitch dark house.


[…continued tomorrow…]