Art Pact 186 - Fun Park

Having driven three hundred miles to find the place, though, dad was not to be so easily dissuaded. Our mother, looking at the rusty gates, immediately began to try to argue that if the front shown to the outside world was so decrepit, surely it was unlikely that the machinery inside - particularly that running the rides - was going to be in good repair.

"You know I have nightmares about the kids dying on a rollercoaster," she said, clutching onto his upper arm. "You know that!"

He nodded. It was mother's common gambit, upon waking, to describe some dream or other she had had in which either we, or our father (never mother herself) were killed in some horrendous but easily avoidable fashion. Since there was no way to repudiate these claimed dreams, we were forced to accept that perhaps she had had a dream about us being disembowelled by lions at the zoo (for example), but the wide variety and the unfailing nature of the dreams had begun to suggest that perhaps our wily mother was simply covering her bases. It would not have surprised me if we had come across some list of possible deaths that she was working through methodically, crossing one off each morning as she described our grisly demise over the cornflakes and toast. Our mother described her nighttime visions as though they were ironclad prophecies, conveniently glossing over the fact that if we were to suffer death in all the ways she had predicted we would need thousands of lifetimes to complete our to-die list.

"They don't have to go on a rollercoaster," dad said, peeling her hand free finger by finger. "They can go on the merry-go-round."

Danielle and I looked at each other and pulled a face, but dad had already begun to pace away, taking mother with him and preventing her from seeing our displeasure. It was ok, though - I doubted that dad meant it, he played at being out of touch with us, but in his own way he was far more knowledgeable about what we had become than our mother. She was proud of Danielle's shooting awards, constantly crowing about them to her friends on their women's nights out, but it was dad who had quietly bought her the correct equipment - without, Danielle told me, having been prompted. He surely knew that we were too old for merry-go-rounds, the remark having been more for our mother's benefit than an actual suggestion.

We crossed the enormous car park in silence. As silent as we ever got, anyway, our mother chattering away with her litany of potential disasters. The concrete-topped plane was just as run-down as the gates, great cracks cleaving the surface of the car park and tufts of hardy grasses and other weeds poking up at regular intervals through escape holes they had carved. Corroded drinks cans, flattened paper-thin by the wheels of some long-ago visitor's car, littered the place, and Danielle and I scuffed at them with our shoes, sending them skimming through the bays, skipping when they hit the thick but faded lines of yellow paint that crisscrossed the concrete to mark out individual parking bays. There were other cars, but naturally they had parked closer to the gates, and also naturally they were parked across bays at strange angles. If they were other customers, they did not expect to be called out for their terrible parking, and if they were staff they obviously were not expecting a bonanza day.

The large gates themselves, the rusted artifacts so visible from the motorway, were closed and locked with an enormous brass chain and a steel-faced padlock the size of a large rabbit - which it resembled, the two sides of the loop rising up from a rodentine face with a keyhole cover which looked just like an oversized incisor. Admitting entry, though, was a single gate to the right of the main one. Smaller, but no less rusty, it had been propped open by means of its own padlock, which had been driven into the dirt in such a way as to prevent the gate from swinging closed. The padlock loop, open, still trailed its chain from it, snaking across the ground so that as we entered Danielle's famous clumsiness allowed her to catch her foot in a loop of it, stumbling her forward so that I had to catch her by the arm to prevent her going over completely.

"You see?" asked mother. "We're not even inside yet, and already this place is trying to kill us. Your instincts were right in the first place. You should trust them!"

A row of ticket-booths ten wide stretched across the entry. When the large gates were open - perhaps in my dad's day - the booths must have been necessary to service the crowds of park-goers. Now most of them were closed, and the dusty look of the windows suggested that they had been closed for a long time. The only clean booth was the open one - on the far left, so that it was the furthest point away from where we had come in. Behind the crystal-clear glass sat a young man, perhaps the same age as Danielle, who looked up and smiled pleasantly as we approached.

"Welcome to Lansbury Park," he said before our mother could get out a word, a feat that I had never seen a stranger perform before. "I hope you are having a great day already, but if not don't worry - you're about to!"

"Hello," said my father, fumbling in his pocket for his wallet. "Uh, two adults and two children."

"Daaad..." moaned Danielle.

"I mean, uh, four tickets please."

The boy looked us over. He was jaw-aching handsome, and I stood up straight, stuck my chest out, and tried to look as much of an adult as I could. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Danielle doing likewise.

"One family bundle," he said, rendering his terrible verdict. "Twenty-two pounds fifty please!"

My pride punctured, I let my chest deflate again.


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