Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Park( 10/25/12)
The Sun's Rays, Through Rusted Iron
By Addie Pleasance
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Lisa is a writer, and her nomad feet have led her to the settings for all of her novels. A beauty parlor for the circus sideshow, with a profane beautician of uncanny compassion. A factory where a dozen workers spend their days making mousetraps. A house that a woman has filled with thousands of jars of mincemeat.
Today she wakes in a tiny motel on a coastal island somewhere in the south. The island has a beautiful name—Sofronia—and Lisa hopes to stay here for a while. She has a thought that maybe it would be nice to have a kitten.
After pulling on jeans and a tee, Lisa starts to walk. It’s early—not yet hot—and she follows the salt in the air, the loudening of the ocean. A battered boardwalk takes her to a wonderland of rust, faded paint, splintered wood. An abandoned amusement park. A faded sign reads “Ferdy’s Funland.”
Lisa walks under old roller coaster rails, sees a desiccated cocoon in the seat of one of the coaster cars resting on the track. The carousel has no horses; perhaps vandals have taken them away. In the funhouse, Lisa stands in front of a twisted mirror and sees herself in the shattered glass, oddly truncated. She starts to hear the voices of the characters in her next book.
A sound from the real world startles Lisa, and she darts behind the funhouse mirror. Tchk…tchk…someone is taking pictures. When the footsteps fade away, Lisa steps out to see who has invaded what she already thinks of as her amusement park. The characters are speaking loudly to her now, clamoring for her attention, suggesting conflicts and plotlines.
She watches the photographer, who is now taking pictures of the silent Ferris wheel. It occurs to Lisa that this man with a camera might be an interesting character. He appears to be talking to himself. She slips off her shoes and leaves them in the funhouse, then dodges through the bumper cars and the tilt-a-whirl to get closer—perhaps to hear what he is saying.
As the man walks around the Ferris wheel and the Scrambler, he stoops and ducks, exchanging lenses, leaning in close, lying on his back, snapping in a steady rhythm, constantly talking. Lisa thinks at first that he might be ill, delusional—but as his words settle into meaningfulness, she understands that she is hearing his part of a two-sided conversation, a dialogue with an unseen friend. Awesome, Lord, he says. Thanks for leading me here. This is great stuff. I love the angle of the sun’s rays through this rusted iron.
Lisa revises her character from ‘delusional photographer’ to ‘religious photographer’ and thinks there might not be a place for him in the book, after all. Religious people are not of interest to her. Still, she decides to watch him for a while longer. He moves further down the old boardwalk, past the popcorn stand and the Tunnel of Love, past the arcade. Lisa follows several yards behind, using the moldering structures for cover.
The photographer is still talking, still snapping pictures, and Lisa draws closer to listen. That shadow will make for an interesting effect, won’t it, Lord? There, the way nature is taking over these old structures, life always does…The man pauses, snaps a few more pictures, starts to talk again. Can’t you just hear the echoes of the people who used to come here? Do you wonder what their lives were like? Did anyone ever fall in love here?
Lisa is surprised that the photographer is talking to God like that, with questions she herself was asking. She peers around the corner of the crumbling arcade building to see that the man has turned around, is looking at her. Is talking to her.
“Well?” he says. “Do you?”
“Do you ever wonder? About the people?”
Lisa swallows, clears her throat. “It’s all I ever do.”
“Yeah. Me, too. Should we see what’s in there?” He nods toward a derelict concession stand, holds out one hand.
Crazily, Lisa thinks again about how nice it would be to have a kitten. A home. She steps away from the arcade and takes the photographer’s hand.
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