Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lagoon (part 1 of 4)

The Centennial Screamer. Just swishing those words through my lips sent alternating ripples of bravery and shivers down my spine. The Centennial Screamer. It was the newest attraction at our local amusement park, Lagoon: mecca for all children in the greater Salt Lake Valley. And today, today I was going to conquer it. Of course, I still had to convert my little sister to the gospel of The Centennial Screamer. But, I had a plan.

Lagoon was a once-a-year-at-most prize and I was going wrap my arms around it and soak it in like a bee collecting pollen. The sun was shining, accompanied by a slight breeze, making it the perfect background for a day spent outside. My mother dropped us off at the entrance gate loaded with sack lunches and enthusiasm. Before she left, she gave us enough money for admission fees plus one entire dollar for each of us to spend at our leisure. At our leisure! She probably said something like, “Save some in case of an emergency.” But, I stopped listening once the coin was in my palm.

“I’ll pick you up right here at 8:00 tonight.” And then, she was gone. Gone! I turned around to face the enormous entrance gates and smiled. The world behind the metal bars was mine to consume. I was thirteen and primed for the task. There was four of us; my older brother Tom, me, my 11-year old sister Viki, and my 9-year old sister Emily. Immediately, we divided up to attack the park. Tom went with Viki and I had Emily. We set up a meeting place for a few hours from then and ran as fast as we could to wait in the nearest line.

Emily would have been easy enough to convince to go on The Centennial Screamer with me, but I couldn’t fool the height charts posted periodically throughout the park. She wasn’t tall enough. So, ‘The Ride’ would have to wait until I was with Viki, harder to convince, but several inches taller. Time launched by and soon we were meeting up and trading siblings. I didn’t waste anytime approaching my first order of business: The Centennial Screamer.

“No way I’m gonna ride that one!” Viki said.

I expected as much. She hated these rides. She got sick easily, and no one willingly repeats that exposure. So, I had to convince her to convince herself. I had to make her believe she would not get sick. If I was overly confident, my conviction might bleed onto her. If she just got into line, more than half the battle would be won. We’d be committed. But, I had to completely manipulate her without her being aware of it, and she was no idiot.

“You can do it! It’s not really that scary. Besides, you’re almost twelve years old.” The difference between eleven and twelve was so much more than a single digit. Twelve meant responsibility and dependability. Now, I needed to stay quiet and let my infallible logic sink it. Would she take the bait?

“I really don’t want to, though.” She almost sighed, as if preparing for resignation. Wow! This was going better than I thought. She had catapulted from ‘No way’ to ‘I really don’t want to’. Just a few well-placed shoulder taps, words, and smiles and we’d be wasting the near future waiting in a long line.

“Of course it seems scary, but look how many people are in line! And, you know how fast these rides are. It will be over before you know it. You’ll probably wish it was longer.” I playfully hit her arm and stifled a laugh to make sure she knew I meant no foul.

“But I might get sick. I..”

“Hey!” I interrupted before we went too far down that literally slippery slope, “You won’t get sick. It’s all in your head. Just tell yourself you won’t get sick and you won’t be sick. I promise.” My logic was impressing even me! Mind over matter. Simple as that.

“Can’t we just go on another ride instead?” Viki asked, with both hope and defeat in her eyes.

She paused on the word instead. It was her tell. She’d been had. I’d won. But, just to play it safe, I pulled out my trump.

“Look, if we get all the way up to the front and you are still scared, we don’t have to actually go on the ride.” Before I had even finished, we were moving toward the target. We both knew we’d go on this ride before the hour was out. There was no way we were going to spend time in a line without payoff. And the condition I slipped in? She had to admit she was too scared. It was never going to happen. I smiled inwardly at my sales skills.

The line was longer than the Oregon Trail. Everyone wanted to test their bravery on this ride. ‘You will Scream’ the tag line promised. And scream they did. And scream and scream and scream. Group by daring group, the passengers got into carts which would spin and spin, then, usurping the magic that only exists in metal form at amusement parks, the entire contraption would slowly rise up on its side and spin not only horizontally, but vertically as well.

As we got closer to the no-backing-out-now point, even I started to panic. There was a lot of screaming going on. But, no amount of money in the known world would have convinced me to walk away from what lay ahead. Okay, I’m sure anything over about twenty dollars could have lured me away, but no one was offering, so I was staying put. But, Viki was getting more and more scared. I could see it in the whites of her knuckles and how sub-consciously one hand would hold her stomach, as if trying to send it calming signals. One thing always worked well in situations like this one. A wonderfully useful friend called Distraction.

“Let’s try and guess which cart number is going to be ours!” My voice was falsely enthusiastic. “Winner gets to choose the next ride.”

It worked. Before we’d had time to change our guesses more than three times each, it was our turn at destiny. Neither of us guessed our cart number correctly, so ride dictatorship was still up for grabs. Number 16 was our home for the imminent future. We secured both the bars and our seat belts. It should have been a sign of potential disaster that there were two methods of protection. I had time to flash Viki one last smile and slough off some sincere words of encouragement before we started to spin.

We hadn’t been spinning more than two or three times, however, before my concern for the state of Viki’s stomach was thrown from my mind with overwhelming concern for the state of my own. It was well-past too late to do anything about it now. It’s all in my head. I tried my ‘mind over matter’ logic out. Yeah, right. This ill feeling is definitely NOT coming from my head. More like my stomach, esophagus, no wait, back down to my stomach, ooh! up it goes, this is never going to end. If I actually scream, more than a scared voice might just come out.

But, as all amusement park rides do, this one ended in just over a minute. As we started to normalize, I turned to Viki with a smile etched on my face from sheer necessity. If I got that sick, then how was she handling it?

Apparently, she wasn’t.


Marilyn said...

Good writing Jennie. My stomach got a bit queezy just reading this. Even though I know how the story ends I'm excited to read the rest of your posts on it.

Crystal said...

We went for our first time EVER to Lagoon just a few weeks ago. Even you, dear friend, could NOT have gotten me on that ride. I'm excited to see how it ends. Your writing is great! Excited to see how it ends!

VikiViki said...

You may KNOW how the story ends, Marilyn...but I can still TASTE how it ends...ugh!

Jennifer said...

That was one of my favorite rides and I hated how short it was. You are a very talented writer. I can't wait to read the rest of the story.

Diana said...

ugh! I have to go with Viki--I don't like those kinds of rides!

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