My Summer Stories: An Unforgettable Ride on the Merry-Go-Round
When I was around 10 years old, I went on one of countless trips to the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach, Del. At the time I assumed that all beaches had boardwalks with touristy T-shirt shops, salt water taffy stores, pizza joints and stands selling fresh cut French fries with malt vinegar. The actual beach featured a crush of people with blankets and umbrellas covering almost all of the available sand. It wasn't until years later when I moved to North Carolina that I realized the serenity of beaches without a boardwalk — where just a handful of other people are spread out down the coast line. But as a kid there was nothing better than what was essentially a carnival at the beach.
On this particular trip I accompanied some of my younger cousins to Fun Land, which was the portion of the boardwalk where a variety of rides and games are set up. Games where you use water guns to spray at a target to blow up a balloon, or use cushioned clubs to hammer the shit out of fiberglass rodents popping their heads out of holes. The rides were of the kind you'd see at a state fair, but these hadn't been hastily assembled the day before by a hungover Carny.
My cousins wanted to go on Fun Land's answer to Walt Disney World's tea cup ride. But at Fun Land they weren't cute little tea cups. Instead, they looked like something designed by an unimaginative engineer and described in a patent titled "Cylindrical Aluminum Spinning Vessels." They weren't even painted in bright kid-friendly colors — just industrial grey aluminum. There was a wheel in the center that you could turn to control how fast you would spin — or what I like to call, "the design flaw."
Once the ride started, one of my cousins revealed an early proclivity for sadomasochism and started spinning the wheel as fast as he could. The other cousin joined in. I tried to counter the two of them to slow it down, but I was outnumbered and too busy screaming like a girl. I started getting that feeling you have when everything on your inside suddenly wants to be on your outside. Luckily, the ride ended before that could happen, but not before I lost faith in a benevolent and loving God. I wasn't sure what I had done to deserve this punishment, all I knew was that I had been forsaken.
Reeling from the spinning aluminum vessel, I suggested that we try a much tamer ride. "Let's go on the Merry-Go-Round," I said. I considered myself to be too old for the Merry-Go-Round, but I was trying to occupy my younger cousins. We weaved between the various animals that have always seemed to me to be a menagerie from the Island of Dr. Moreau. Cats and rabbits are not meant to be the same size as horses. And I don't care what anybody says: nobody wants to ride a six foot tall rooster.
As soon as the ride started I realized I had made a terrible mistake. Even the slow turning was too much for me.
I puked on the Merry-Go-Round.
As a 10-year-old boy, it is quite a blow to one's ego to throw up on the Merry-Go-Round. I quickly pushed past the toddlers riding their mutant animals and left my cousins in the care of my aunt before running to the bathroom.
While I was in the bathroom cleaning myself up, I thought about how humiliating it would be to go back out there. How everyone would point and stare at the boy who got sick on the Merry-Go-Round. On the Coolness Scale, that had to put me below the kid at school who ate paste, and solidly on par with the kid who would see how long he could let a string of spit get from his mouth to the ground before slurping it back up.
Just as I finished cleaning myself and was washing my hands, a teenager walked into the bathroom laughing. "Dude! Some kid puked all over the Merry-Go-Round!"
As I walked out of the bathroom door I replied, "What a wuss."