The girls were bubbling cauldrons of bright colored sugar as they climbed the metal staircase towards the worm. They clawed at each other in giddy explosions. “I can’t believe we are doing this! I can’t believe we are going to ride a REAL roller coaster!”
I didn’t want to tell them that “The Wacky Worm” was the furthest thing from a REAL roller coaster. In fact, it wasn’t even a worm; the cheap carnival ride was clearly modeled after a caterpillar. I stood patiently behind them, smiling in the dizzy blinking lights and noise of the dark evening and glanced across the platform to the mountain which stood in the darkness overlooking the fairgrounds. I reminded myself that I was once 7 years old. It wasn’t long ago, here under the ancient eye of this same mountain, that I had paid five dollars to enter The Dungeon of Doom, and then chickened out 30 seconds later. I remembered that in this exact same spot of dry dirt there once stood The Zipper, and how anyone brave enough to ride it was talked about in hushed reverence for the entire school year. I never once rode The Zipper.
So, I stood behind my girls, holding their tickets, but also physically blocking their escape if they were to suddenly change their mind. I had paid good money for these tickets, after all.
The cars came screaming into the station and the riders climbed off. The carnies were in high spirits, less than an hour before closing time. They took the girl’s tickets and told me to ride with them for free. I took a seat behind the girls and watched over their shoulders and they discovered that there were no seat belts, simply a metal bar that locked in place a good foot above their waists. They squealed and their grips tightened on the rail till their knuckle glowed white in the blinking lights, and the ride hadn’t even started yet.
I leaned forward and quietly offered some quick words of advice as the caterpillar shaped train started to inch along the tracks, “Okay guys, don’t let go. Don’t lean out of the side of the car. When we come into the station, don’t get out; I think they are having us go around the track several times before we get off. And by the way, you picked the car in the back, and you are about to learn that it goes the fastest down the hills.”
But “the hills” were only about ten foot drops at the most, and “the fastest” was still only about 5 miles per hour. But you would think from the screaming of the little girls, that they were being hurtled into outer space.
When they finally returned back to earth and dismounted The Wacky Worm they continued screaming. They screamed all the way back down the steps. They screamed up to their mother and little brother. They laughed and cheered, and crumpled themselves up into little colored balls of construction paper and threw themselves into each other over and over in chaotic exhilaration. We laughed just watching them. People passing by held each other closer and laughed. People from as far away as the top of The Zipper looked down at the girls and laughed.
“That was amazing!” they crowed. “It was so FAST!” they told people standing in line for the next ride. “It was so much better than I even imagined!” they told the smiling mountain in the distance. “I can’t believe we rode a roller coaster!!” they sang together at the moon as it peeked between the clouds curious to find out what all the fuss was about.
“So, you liked it?” Their mother asked.
“YES!” Lydia said, hanging onto her mother’s arm in order to not pass out. “That was the most wonderful and amazing thing I have ever done! It was so so so so so so so much fun,” she took a deep breath. “I am NEVER doing that again!”