Friday, August 19, 2011

Death Coaster

I’m what you call a roller coaster freak. If it promises to kill its riders, I wanna go on it.

However, I’m a family man -- I have a responsibility to live, and I can’t do things that threaten my life anymore. So of course when an old friend who made it big in the roller coaster-making industry asked if I wanted to be the first to ride his newest creation called Death Coaster, I said, “Heck yeah! I’m in.”

Back in our bachelor days, my friend always needed a place to crash. I called him The Crasher. I let him crash on my couch on a weekly basis. And I let him bring his friends over, too, and let them crash . . . and control my TV and use my shower and eat my food. The Crasher owed me big, though I never asked for anything.

Then, the other day, he called out of the blue and told me what he’d been up to the last 10 years -- building roller coasters. And he wanted to pay me back for all I’d done for him by letting me be the first to ride his new deadly roller coaster.

My wife said that I couldn’t die yet, that I still had to help raise our 7-year-old son. I could see her point.

On my approach to Death Coaster, I noticed workers still at work on the steel beast. For all I knew, there was missing track. I was so in.

At the coaster station, I bumped into other people waiting to go on the ride -- old friends from the old days, giving me a hard time because I was gonna get to go first. The Crasher said I’d be first to ride and he meant it. I was literally taking the maiden voyage. This thing hadn’t even been safety tested yet.

Now, these other riders were dressed as if they were testing the space shuttle, wearing boots and safety suits. I had on shorts, a T-shirt and sandals. My shirt had the words Oh Yeah! written across the front, which is what I said when I heard this coaster had 20 loops in a row. My sandals: Psyclones—those are some bad sandals.

The Crasher told me to put on close-toed shoes. I told him not to worry. “I got it,” I said coolly. I didn’t even take off my fighter pilot shades, nor did I accept a helmet to wear for when the coaster leaves the atmosphere on that first big hill.

I strapped into the coaster -- the only rider on this run. The others waiting to go next heckled me. “Don’t cry,” these hecklers called out, and “Hope you’re wearing a diaper.” I shrugged them off.

As the coaster climbed that first big hill, my man-ness began to dissolve. That thing just kept climbing and climbing into the clouds, and it was eventually gonna go down. I was a family man with a responsibility to live, with a 7-year-old son to help raise. What the heck was I doing?

That coaster took the life out of me. My Oh Yeah! shirt turned into an Oh No! shirt. My fighter pilot shades turned into Hello Kitty glasses. And my killer Psyclone sandals turned into Crocs.

When the coaster came to a stop, my face must’ve said it all. The hecklers in line laughed, hung me from the proverbial hook. I couldn’t respond. I had to make sure I survived first. I had. That fact alone helped bring on my victory face. That’s right, I thought, I did conquer Death Coaster. I destroyed that thing, killed it.

“Aren’t you gonna ride it backwards?” The Crasher asked me. I only barely survived that thing, I thought. Is this guy out of his mind? But I’m a man and men never say no. So I said, “I’m so in,” and got back into the coaster.

The hecklers razzed me some more. “You want us to get your mommy?” they shouted, and “Premium Pampers give you 12-hour protection with three layers of absorbency.”

Going up that first hill I tightened my safety harnesses so tight I couldn’t breathe. I was really going to miss my family, miss even my son’s teenage years.

The coaster took off backwards and I was dead by the first loop. My Oh No! shirt turned into an Oh, You Fool! shirt. My former fighter pilot shades were lost in space. And my sandals had become Cracker Jack toys. I really wished I had those three layers of Premium Pamper absorbency.

When it was all over, I realized I didn’t actually die. I got out of that coaster faster than you could drop twenty bucks at a movie theater.

The Crasher asked how I liked it. Those in line anticipated my response. Death Coaster was not safe at all. I couldn’t let anyone go on it. They wouldn’t survive. And then I heard the hecklers, poking at me for my reply.

“The coaster is awesome,” I finally said. “Next!” I called out.

-June 2011

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