Coaster Town (Finish The Story #59)

in #finishthestory2 years ago (edited)

Opening by @zeldacroft

“Carl, I’m not telling you again. No.” The teen shook his head emphatically as he shut his locker. John started to walk away, with Carl close behind. Most of the students had already escaped after the release of the final bell, leaving the two teens mostly alone as they exited the grimy public school halls.

“Aw c’mon, man, my first shift starts tomorrow and I promised you’d be there,” Carl begged.

“I don’t understand, why did you even take the job if you knew you needed another person?”

“Because I knew I could count on you. My oldest, most bestest friend. Buddy, Old Pal?” He nudged John in the ribs, who rolled his eyes and started walking faster out of the building. John could feel his resistance waning under the shallow arguments and incessant prodding. Saturdays were valuable, but it was almost summer and getting a job wouldn’t be so bad if he could do it with a friend. He could still make Carl work for it though.

“I don’t know, I’m not liking all this peer pressure,” he teased. “Mrs. Campbell would be very disappointed in you.”

“Peer pressure doesn’t include perks like Coaster Town has,” Carl clarified.

“What perks?” John questioned.

Carl stopped and faced him, taking a dramatic, deep breath.

“Fifteen percent off park entry!” He exclaimed, inciting an amused eyebrow raise from John and a chuckle from a passing teacher. “Plus a free pass for the Twister of Doom and free hamburgers from the café!”

“Oh, I’m sure unlimited hamburgers won’t get old fast.”

“They pay over minimum wage, too. Seriously, this could be our big opportunity for some cash before summer hits.”

They were nearly outside, the fresh late-spring air drifting in through the open door. It was a nice change from the mustiness and body spray overdoses, and it made John almost look forward to working at a theme park. He felt the call of freedom in the form of sunlight breaching through the school windows. Stepping outside, the afternoon warmth of the sidewalk between the brick institution and the emptying parking lot won him over.

“Did you say we get to work outside?” John asked. Carl’s face lit up with optimism.

“Yep, at least most of the time.” John stepped next to his bike, one of the last few chained nearby. He ignored the eager inquisitiveness emanating from Carl as he unshackled the bicycle and stood up.

“Well, I suppose I could give it a try, anyway,” he conceded. Carl did a strange sort of clapping dance motion as his grin grew its customary vastness.

“Thanks John, you won’t be sorry,” he promised as he proceeded to unhook his own bike. “And don’t worry, they provide our costume and everything.” John halted.

“Wait, our costume? Singular?” John could have sworn he heard the job description as entertainers, plural.

“Yeah, the mascot costume. I haven’t seen it yet but I’m sure we’ll fit.” Carl climbed onto his bike as John filled with horrific regret.

My Ending

The memories lingered, as clear it had happened, well-worn over the tellings since. That hazy summer; those shifts buffooning around Coaster Town. John as the front end of a horizontal hot dog costume he very nearly walked out after seeing. Dancing in the thing; swinging his hips side to side next to Carl, Carl’s floppy, blonde hair exaggerating every move. The days off at the cabin. Swimming in the lake, the sunlight dappling through the big tree catching that same rope swing that’s there now.

John had to admit Carl had been right, it was easy money. The little kids couldn’t care less about teenagers promoting the café. They dragged exhausted mum's by sticky palms from queue to queue without giving Carl and John a second glance.

John always joked they should’ve got fat, all those hamburgers, the mega sized sodas, but they never did. As the weekends trickled into summer the sun dusted streaks through Carl’s hair, drawing out his freckles, washing John a darker shade of bronze, but the hamburgers never did get old, and between the swimming and that ridiculous hot dog dance, neither gained a pound.

It took weeks for Carl to convince John to ride the Twister of Doom though.

Carl had been so excited in the queue, they’d got season fast passes for the whole park, it wasn’t a long wait, but it was long enough. John hadn't registered the familiar jitters of Carl excitedly clapping his hands together, all too aware of the sweaty sheen creeping over his own skin, anxiety snatching his breath, while he tried his hardest not to let it show.

The carriages were tiny, shooting up and down, racing round the tracks, the passengers squeezed together. By the time they got to the front of the line, John’s heart was at his rib cage, demanding he see it through, or turn back. He hadn’t been able to tell what he wanted more at that point.

His knees had been jelly, padded in the wobbly, fresh scent of doughnuts filling the park.

John had held his breath, the restraint lowering over his head, pressing him next to Carl. It was too late to back out then. John was always glad he didn’t.

With a slow juddering, the cart took off, rising up the track; lifting them both away from the theme park, the town, the world they knew.

Somewhere up there, the fear that had rattled around John’s chest like a loose bike chain was replaced with something else. A fear of coming back down, of reality, of it being over, of missing a chance.

His fingers let go of the plastic handle, edging over the harness. The electric that drove him on equally repelled him. The tip of his forefinger, finding sudden, uncertain skin contact, sparked with the sensation. The roller coaster had been lost in the background of that feeling.

John smiled at the recollection. The fear had melted into a happy fizzing tablet of that awful Berocca Carl insisted they both had with breakfast these days.

John sank back on the deck chair. Carl’s hair had thinned, the grey strands still held the luminosity of their former blonde as the summer rays caught them, sun coaxed freckles hiding the years of adventures etched on his skin. Beneath the heavy foliage, in the shifting light, John still saw the teenager who tentatively held his hand atop the twister. Carl didn’t notice John's wistful gaze, he was preoccupied, re-knotting the branch at the end of rope swing down by the lake, it would see a lot of use this year.

We do love a challenge, having an opening like this, that sets a strong direction hit me with a whole host of ideas of ways to take it in unexpected detours, but then coming up with ones that stayed 100% positive was a lot harder, which we didn’t have to do, but seemed like a fun thing to try for, and I ended up with this idea. I also ended up skilfully smashing the word count so this entry won't count for the top three spots, can’t have it all. There is still plenty of time on this round, and this is one of those openings that as soon as you start to play with, really could go a lot of ways. For an extra challenge, you can write a positive ending, but any ending is welcome, and with something like this, where so very much could happen, before, during, after - or even instead of, what's been set up, it's an enticing pool of potential.

This is an entry to @bananafish's #finishthestory contest which is out every week! This week, @ntowl is hosting and judging for us, and our opening has been provided by her wonderful daughter @zeldacroft! Check out the latest round for all the details on how to join in!

Photo Credit

By Pixabay photographer Venno


What a sweet, perfectly told story of that moment and a great use of all the sights and sounds of a fun fair as metaphor. As soon as we got a description of Carl's freckles I knew John was in looove and was happy when it worked out!

Awww woo yeah, so glad you spotted that, i did like that doughnut one tehehe, I very nearly gave you a shout out at the end, pretty certain it was your ending last week that had the retrospective approach fresh in my mind ;)

Awww! yey!! I am not sure how happy i am with the whole thing on reflection, i think i had liked another of my ideas better, I had some words on Carl helping John through his parents divorce before I realized as positive as friendship through adversity may be, it's not actually a positive ending, although maybe tormented myself a bit much on the question of, "is it positive enough, is it original enough" but so so glad someone appreciated it! <3<3 Thank you so much @sidequest, I was wondering when that would come across, and I love a comment that let's me know things like when a plot point fell into place!

There's still time, will you be inspiring me again with an ending this week? ;)

The idea you didn't use is always the better one when it's still all perfect in your head. I have an idea for one but I'm not sure if I'll have time. I have to catch a plane tomorrow morning and still need to pack and everything.

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Awww! Thank you!!! This scary little girl says it best haha

isn't it hard to write when the characters don't kill each other?

I didnt follow much this edition but if I was you I would have surely raised hell proportionally to the cuteness of the prompt.

and everything has to be sweet and nice and only good things happen. it feels like lying haha

Hello there

I love the way you highlight every detail in your narration. One of the most charming things about your stories. You must be a very inquisitive person.

You should be a detective 😁

Thank you @calluna for gracing us with this reminiscent piece looking back at John and Carl's summer adventure. I have to say my eyes got a little wet at the end. It's so easy to feel what it's like to look back on something so fondly, something you know you can never have again and would never change if you could. I'm so glad you went for it!

haha gosh, no one should feel graced by anything i do, grace is most certainly not in my skill set, all the grace of a rhino with cake crumbs in her coat lol. You've done an awesome job of inspiring all different kinds of directions this round, and of getting people involved, i love it when we have a pairing of hosting and author, I can't wait to see what your daughter thinks of the endings as well. It is fun having a different challenge, and different people involved, but very much hope we get an @ntowl original at some point ;)

Next round I'll do the prompt and think about how to make my "lighter side" a little more tempting...

I can only speak for me, but I found it was that combined the cliche/trite part that made it seem a much harder thing. And it was totally understandable to want a happy ending and only to have good things happen especially ith this opening, it can be hard seeing people twist things into dark sinister places, I still get heart pangs thinking of some of the poor representation a character of mine endured in the endings she got, but it is part of the fun, and I was glad I got the whole spread in the end. You'll just have to make it an opening that's too much fun not to keep light, only then that would just be offering even more of a challenge to make it sinister lol. It's hard to stop people wanting to express the emotions they have to bottle in real life and stay light and happy even in their fiction, but then you did such an awesome job of motivating people to find the fun and the challenge in it, and it might not have been the usual cathartic and expressive experience, but it was more like an exceptionally fun puzzle box, pushing and pulling the panels, trying to unlock the cube and come up with something different.

Who could turn down all the free hamburger and large cokes? I would have eaten the park out of house and home.

Exactly! Gotta make the most of them free perks! I do love the ripple of ideas in FTS endings, @sarez had free drinks with the free burgers, and it just felt right, course they would, oldest trick in the book to stop people over eating, fill them up with liquid lol

damn... gunna be dreaming of burgers all the way through my healthy lunch

I love the aura of reminiscence you weaved through this! It felt glazed with fondness, all culminating in older John and Carl preparing to spend a summer with later generations. You certainly embraced the positivity challenge, it’s good to have a happy ending sometimes. Also, John’s anxiety about the ride and trying not to seem worried was so relatable! You described it really well, and good thing he had Carl next to him 😊

Awww i am so glad you liked it, and that you picked up on the later generations, I hoped playing it subtle may carry better, but then knew not saying more was a risk. I tried, for you guys ;) hmmm... I normally avoid typical these sort of happy endings where I can, they don't make me happy for sure, so to write one was an experience lol. I do love a bit of trepidation, and it's amazing what we can do with the right person by our side - talking of which, you guys make an awesome team <3

Hello @calluna, thank you for sharing this creative work! We just stopped by to say that you've been upvoted by the @creativecrypto magazine. The Creative Crypto is all about art on the blockchain and learning from creatives like you. Looking forward to crossing paths again soon. Steem on!