Wednesday, August 6, 2008

No Stomach for Romance

Bill, Dudley and I were taking a walk around Noble Park early one morning not long ago. And as we strolled here and there, watching the ducks, enjoying the dew-covered grass and the smooth, serene waters of the pond, I thought of Noble Park as it used to be.
"There was once a little fun park here," I said.
"Where?" said Bill.
I suddenly realized I had forgotten exactly where it was.
But I have not forgotten the mouthwatering scent of sizzling corn dogs, the taste of sticky-sweet cotton candy that disappeared like pink mist each time I took a bite. And the crackle of excitement that swept through us all when it was time for our class to make its annual trip to Noble Park.
We looked forward to it each year and had great fun. But our sixth-grade trip is the one I remember most vividly:
It seems to take forever, that thirty-mile ride from Bardwell to Paducah. Several kids have opened their lunch bags and are nibbling on sandwiches or cookies along the way. But I am saving my potted ham and pimento cheese sandwiches, Twinkie and banana. I'm looking forward to sitting at a picnic table under the trees with my friends, savoring each bite of the delicious lunch Mother has prepared for me.
When we finally arrive at the park, we tumble out, like a bunch of inmates released from jail, and take off in all directions.
There are only a few rides, but it is like Disneyland to me. First, Karen and I head to the concession stand and buy cotton candy. And then we ride the Ferris wheel.
As we are getting off, classmate Bert is waiting in line with a couple of friends. He holds a Cherry Hump candy bar in one hand and a big bag of popcorn in the other.
I have a crush on Bert, and I think he likes me, too. But I am surprised when he motions to me.
He throws a kernel of popcorn in the air and catches it in his mouth. "Wanna ride with me?" he says, taking a big bite of his Cherry Hump.
I look down, moving my sandals around in the gravel. "I guess so."
Since I have never ridden the Ferris wheel with a boy, I'm a little apprehensive. And I am even more apprehensive when the man locks us in with a clink of the bar. What will we talk about? What if he puts his arm around me?
As we move upward, Bert turns to me, a mischievous look on his face. And then he suddenly begins throwing his body forward and backward, causing our seat to tip.
"Stop it, Bert," I say, clinging tightly to the bar, "Don't do that!"
He laughs, shaking it faster.
Suddenly, I hear laughing and cheering. It is coming from Bert's friends on the ground. "Way to go, Bert!" they yell, "Way to go!"
I am furious. But it's too late to get off now.
He begins swinging it from side to side and backward and forward, his friends clapping and cheering him on. I'm terrified, suddenly seeing myself pitched out of my seat and crashing head-first on the rocks below. Dying in a pool of blood as my classmates look on.
My heart is thumping as we arrive at the top and stop with a jerk. I close my eyes and hang on for dear life, waiting for Bert to start shaking it again.
But all is quiet.
When I open my eyes, Bert's face looks strange; it has turned gray. He's neither laughing nor looking down at his friends. He sits quietly for a moment, sliding further and further down in his seat, and then his whole body jerks and he slings his head to the side, vomit spewing from his mouth.
Screaming erupts from the seat below us, and two girls begin shaking their hands in the air, bouncing up and down in their seats. One girl pulls at her hair, strings of vomit dribbling down her forehead. "Let us off, let us off!" they scream, "Let us off right now!"
Bert, whose color is beginning to return to his face, looks at me. And I look at him. Not another word is spoken. When the Ferris wheel stops, he leaps out of his seat and takes off running. I don't see him again until we are in the bus, on our way home. He is still very pale, quiet. And he won't look at me.
It was just as well. By then, I had no stomach for romance.
* * *
*Didn't want to embarrass "Bert" by using his real name!


Chris said...

Wow. Poor Bert!

Suzanne said...

Love this post!

mlh said...

Oh man! I feel sorry for those girls who had been in the seat below you. Nice post!

Anonymous said...

Karma's a kicker, huh Bert...

Suz said...

A well-told tale. Thanks!

Sandra Ree said...

Bless his heart, he'll remember this forever. As will the girls below. Good story, Brenda.

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley