The Ferris Wheel

Submitted into Contest #86 in response to: Set your story at a park during a spring festival.... view prompt


Fiction Fantasy Funny

“I feel good!” Martin Feldman sings at the dinner table. This all-too familiar display of musical buffoonery is greeted by a range of reactions. Martin’s only daughter, Samantha, fourteen years old and no stranger to embarrassment at the hands of her father, folds over and buries her head into her arms. Eugene, a 17-year-old spitting image of his father and always one to nurture the immature side of his dad, offers an appropriately screechy, comedic “HEYYYY!” Eugene’s dinner guest and date for the night, the beautiful Victoria Rossi, awkwardly blushes as she looks down at her placemat. Isaac, not yet fourteen months old, adds to the fanfare from his high-top by tossing Cheerios, one by one, into the center of the table. Cheryl, Martin’s wife and the usual logical and moral backbone of the family, shakes her head in playful disapproval as she seizes Isaac’s arms. Isaac expresses a light protest to his mother by blurting a soft “ga!”

           “I knew that I would!” Martin continues. “You know something, I think I might have been James Brown in my past life. I can feel it.”

           “Marty…” Cheryl slowly admonishes, “That’s not how reincarnation works. You were about forty when James Brown died…And plus, I’m not sure he’s the person you’d wanna strive to be-didn’t he beat his wife?”

           “Well then for your sake, let’s hope you didn’t burn the salmon!” he quickly responds, following his remark with his own laughter, accompanied by both Eugine and Isaac.

           Cheryl, less playfully: “Marty, that’s not funny…”

           Martin turns to the toddler, who continues to bounce up and down in his high-top with a cheering smile. He joins his son, mirroring his movements as if they were on an invisible seesaw. “Isaac thinks it’s funny!”

           Samantha, arising from her resting arms, adds, “Dad. Isaac is literally one and so are you. Do you also need your diaper changed??”

           “Well-all I’m saying is I feel good. It’s been two weeks since your school fully vaccinated everybody, which means we are all Corona-free! That sounds like cause for celebration to me.”

           “Yeah, and just in time for the festival.” Dix Hills, Long Island, home to the Feldman family for generations, is hosting its 80th annual Spring Festival, a fun event for teenagers and young adults, with old-fashioned entertainment in the form of carnival rides, games, raffles, and live performances. This affair, suspended last year due to the pandemic, is promised to make up for lost time with five additional rides and a high-profile entertainment guest, the identify of whom is still unrevealed. Over the past few months, scrawny Eugene, although not likely to be voted “handsomest” or “most athletic” in his school yearbook, has managed to charm young Victoria into a few socially distanced dates. Victoria, whose lovely physical features are only complimented by her tenderness, acute intelligence, and easy-goingness, could have her pick in the grade as far as a friend, date or a boyfriend goes. Yet, she has been happy to spend time with Eugene, as she never finds herself short of laughs or in excess of dullness in his company. This is, however, the first time she has been in his house or spent any time with his family.

“Can I just ask you something, Eugene?” Martin adds, refilling his glass of seltzer.

Eugene adjusts his thick-rimmed, full-framed slick-black prescription glasses, which fit his style and personality so well, they seem to be a part of him as a shell is with a turtle. People who know Eugene, know that he usually does this little ritual before launching into a rant or making some off-beat joke. This time, he does not disappoint. “What a waste of a question-‘Can I ask you something?’ That’s a question right there.’ Just come out with it. Don’t waste my time with some preambulatory nonsense.”

Martin leans forward. “Well, an argument could be made that I’d have to prepare you for the weight of my words. Fragile minds like yours might not be able to handle, without warning at least, a question like ‘how does a beautiful girl like Victoria here decide to go out in public with a goon like you?’”

An awkward silence fills the room. Cheryl, returning to the table with the salmon prepared, shakes her head in disapproval. She was worried that Marty would do this. Since Corona started, the Feldmans have not had much company except their own, which left the family to continually be their free, uninhibited selves at the dinner table. As entertaining guests had been a foreign concept for the past year, tonight Cheryl warned her husband to be on his best behavior in front of Eugene’s new girlfriend. Of course, she did not reasonably expect such discipline to be exercised.

Eugene, however, seems unbothered by this question. He stretches his arm around a now tomato-red Victoria and lets a smile start at the corner of his mouth. “You know what it is? The Zoom talks. I’m actually much better looking in 2 dimensions. Especially when you’re too cheap to buy good internet service.”

Just then, a sleepy, bald, old man walks into the dining room, rubbing his eyes. He yawns as he sits down next to Samantha and eyes the fresh fish on the table.

“Eugene!” Cheryl cheers, grabbing an extra plate. “Just in time! Victoria, this is Eugene’s grandfather…also named Eugene. Marty’s father-if you can’t see the resemblance.” Skinny as a stick, as it runs in the family, Eugene senior puts on his glasses and it is apparent that he is the unquestionable father of Martin Feldman.

“It’s so nice to meet you” Victoria offers with a pleasant smile.

“All right!” Martin excitedly claps his hands together. “She talks!”

“It’s not like you’ve given her much of a chance, Marty” Cheryl adds while grinning at their guest of honor.

“Oh, she just knows I’m messing with her…Hey dad!” Martin shouts across the table, minding his father’s withered sense of hearing. “They’re going to the Spring Festival tonight. Remember those?”

At the word “festival”, Eugene Senior raises his eyebrows and tilts his head back. “Ohhh yes. I remember those. Good times. Good times.”

“Speaking of which” Eugene comments, as he looks at his phone. “We should get going.”

Just as Eugene remembered it. But bigger. Better. The rich smell of Kettle Corn. The effulgent, variegated lights. The cheerful howls booming from the dizzying rides, echoing throughout the park. If the COVID-19 pandemic was the flood, this was the rainbow. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Gripping the hand of his delicate date, Eugene smiles and takes it all in.

For the next couple of hours, Eugene and Victoria stroll through the carnival, meeting with friends while partaking in the festivities. They had been on just about every ride except one, the oldest and most modest one in the park: the Ferris Wheel. Excited by the ride’s romantic implication, Eugene persuades Victoria into unwinding on the big wheel before they leave.

           The wheel’s attendant is a skinny, pallid, freckled young man with red hair bright enough to blend in with the rest of the carnival lights. Greeting the couple with a jovial, yet somehow empty smile, the attendant pipes, “enjoy the ride! And make sure to strap in-she can get bumpy!”

           As the they hop into the blue passenger car presented at ground level, they notice that they are the only ones on the ride. Eugene shrugs. “Guess it’s later than we thought.”

           Creaking wood and squeaking metal pierce Eugene and Victoria’s eardrums as they start to levitate off the ground. As their boxed capsule reaches its first summit, 180 feet in the air, Eugene puts an arm around Victoria. With the same hand resting on her shoulder, he extends a finger out into the night, past the confines of the circus. “I can piss on my house from here” he jokes, which is met with a bashful giggle.

           Eugene then starts to become nervous. Although appearing perennially confident, especially around females, he is much less sexually experienced than he would like to admit. Now, as their car makes another lap, he realizes this is maybe his best chance at finally getting to first base. Eugene takes a deep breath and decides to use his palpable innocence and buoyant zaniness to his advantage. “So…what are the chances I can get laid right here on this Ferris Wheel?”

           Unthreatened and charmed, Victoria laughs. Seizing the opportunity after disarming his quarry, a heart-thudding Eugene Feldman leans in and puckers his lips. Before the two could touch, however, the ride comes to a halt, leaving them suspended at a 110-degree angle.

           Somewhat relieved, Eugene pulls away. “Old piece of junk. They probably had this same ride when my grandpa was a kid.” Suddenly the wheel starts spinning in reverse, rotating slightly faster than before. Velocity starts to pick up as they are now about double the speed as the ride’s original pace. Now triple. Faster and faster the wheel spins, bringing about screams that are born through a combination of thrill, surprise, and above all, fear.

           The vertiginous nightmare, which seemed to have lasted anywhere between 30 seconds and an eternity, comes to an end. As the wheel brings their car slowly to the ground, Eugene holds his stomach and stoically resists the urge to rematerialize his mother’s fish from earlier that night. Victoria, however, does not execute such restraint and announces their return by purging a moat in between the car and the metal platform. So long for first base. Eugene, nauseous and disoriented, awkwardly pats his retching date on the back of the head, as if to say, “Atta girl….Let it out.” If there were ever a sign to call it a night, this is it.

           Seemingly removed from any wrongdoing or mishap, the red-head attendant nods to the couple as they stumble off the ride. “Enjoyyyyy the rest of your night!” Nothing in the world could sound worse to Eugene right now than those words out of that man’s mouth.

           With Victoria propped up against his shoulder, and feeling feeble himself, Eugene suggests, “Let’s find a bench and chill a little bit before I drive us home.” A rag doll nod with half-closed eyes tells Eugene he should hurry to find a resting spot before his favorite pair of jeans becomes a victim.

           As they sit down, Eugene eyes the cursed Ferris Wheel. The wheel continues to turn until it stops and the capsule opens. Strange, Eugene thinks to himself. I could’ve sworn we were the only ones on that thing. Eugene glances back at Victoria, who is folded over into her legs, then returns his gaze to the passenger car. Out comes another couple, the girl is a pretty brunette with short hair and the boy is…himself? Eugene, convinced the vertigo is making him hallucinate, rubs his eyes and watches the couple continue to stroll to the cotton-candy stand. However, the same sight presents itself: a slender figure of about the same height (five foot eight), with slightly longer hair gleefully pays for the cotton-candy. A long-lost brother? Perhaps just as strange, these people seem unaffected by the over-exerting centripetal force of the ride.

Before Eugene can investigate however, another couple exits the Ferris wheel. Again! Another Eugene-look alike with a pretty date stumbles out of the passenger car. This couple, however, holding their heads and veering left and right, apparently are not as casual about their experience. This strange couple now stumbles towards them. Also seeking solace in body rest, they occupy the adjacent park bench.

           “Oh, those shmucks!” Eugene’s doppleganger shouts. “That’s not what a Ferris Wheel is supposed to do. I almost died in there!” Paying little attention to his date who looks just as pale and helpless as Victoria, the young man continues. “You know. I avoid all the rides in the park for this specific reason. I. Get. Motion. Sickness. They didn’t even give me a chance to pack my Dramamine!” Eugene cannot place his finger on it, but this man seems very familiar to him, even aside from the identical physical resemblance to himself.

           “You know something? I’d be throwing up now if I wasn’t so mad!”

           In between the young man taking a break for some air and continuing his tirade, Eugene decides to interject: “Umm. Excuse me, sir?”

           The man, who was turned towards the Ferris Wheel the whole time slowly turns his head. Another discernable difference is presented: instead of full-rimmed black glasses like Eugene wears, this man had coke-bottle glasses, a style Eugene had not seen other than in old movies. They both stare at each other as their dates, out of commission, lay by each’s side. The other young man, however, widens his eyes and simply asks, “can I help you?”

           Eugene’s nausea suddenly transforms into a more mystical uneasiness as he intently stares into the thick set of glasses. “Do you not notice…that we look exactly alike?”

           “Oh. Shit. Yeah, how bout that?”

           “That’s all you have to say?”

           “Yeah, I mean, people look like other people all the time. My girl here has a striking resemblance to Wilbur from Charlotte’s web. He nudges his half-passed-out girlfriend, who can only offer a closed-mouth moan to show her appreciation of the jest.

           “What’s…. what’s your name?” Eugene pries.


           Astonished, before he can fully process this moment, Eugene remembers his other look-alike, nibbling on cotton-candy. Before he can make sense of any of this, he feels it is important to gather him tooHe.  grabs Eugene 2 by the hand. “Let’s go!” Eugene demands, leaving their half-conscious dates on the benches.

           As Eugene and his doppelganger travel through the crowd, Eugene notices a different vibe. Full denim outfits, oversized sweaters, and bright, multi-colored windbreakers wander around the park. One couple glides through the walkway on roller blades, and he sees at least three different people with Walkmen. Walkmen! Before he can notice other anomalies, he finds his target (Eugene number 3?) and grabs him. The young man gasps as he is turned around and met face-to-face with Eugene. Horned-rimmed glasses this time. This man, stares at Eugene is confusion, then glances at Eugene 2.

           “What’s your name?”

           “Martin.” The young man replies. Gulps. “Martin Feldman.”

           Before any more words are exchanged, a stiff lady wearing a headset approaches the three of them. “There you guys are!” She holds her microphone, attached to the set, and says, “I got em.”

           Eugene, baffled, stutters incoherent babbles as she grabs his shoulder. Is he under arrest? “Let’s go!” she urges. “You guys are late!” Each Eugene, stripped of any sense of direction, allows himself to be ushered by this strange woman to the back of a stage, as the speaker system emits a most unpleasant feedback, followed by a mellifluous voice: “And now, our next act-the Stooglets! The curtains open as the three find themselves before a crowd of hundreds, squinting under bright lights. Eugene then glimpses the banner: “Dix Hill’s 50th Annual Park Festival.” 50th? It’s supposed to be the 80th

           “Wait” Eugene shouts out. “I don’t belong here! I-I-I think I just came from the future!” He turns towards Eugene 2. “What year do you think it is?”

           “Whattaya talking about? It’s 1961…”

           This exchange between the two Eugenes is received with tamed laughter from the crowd.

           “No, really!” Eugene persists. He pulls out his cell phone from his pocket. “This is an Iphone! These things haven’t even been invented yet. You can take pictures, record movies, and play stupid games on it while you’re on the toilet!”

           The crowd then roars with more laughter. Eugene 2 picks up where he left off: “I knew that Ferris Wheel man was up to something! That man working the wheel over there” he points accordingly. “He’s the devil! He brought us here!”

           The crowd continues to cheer.

           Meanwhile, back-stage…

           “Where did you find these guys?” Michael, the festival director, dressed in a grey suit and a subtle grin crosses his arms as he watches in amusement.

           Lindsey removes her headset and lets them rest on her shoulders. “I didn’t” She flicks her clipboard with her fingers. “I just saw on the itinerary we had three funny-looking identical triplets doing the comedy act at 8, and to find them near the Ferris Wheel. I didn’t think I’d find them. Was about ready to cancel, but I guess things just have a way of falling into place, huh?”

March 26, 2021 23:35

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