Lost and Found
The coaster approaches the drop. The cars almost vertical. I enjoy a moment’s hesitation. Screams – high-pitched squeals and screeches, sounding like little girls about to pee themselves – spew from throats male and female, child and adult. I watch the cars plunge downward, downward – fast, faster. The cars round the first curve, passengers straining to stay in their seats, then the second curve. For the twentieth time today. I pull the lever, for the twentieth time, to start the braking action as the cars complete the circuit and shudder to a stop. They laugh. They talk loudly. They lift their harnesses and walk by me. They look without seeing. There she is, again. Laughing, smiling, hands moving back and forth as she talks to her friend, like it was her first time. Always like the first time. Her hair. Long, blonde, shiny. The kind of shiny that captures the gold of the sun in each strand. Even after inching upward at a 70-degree angle, dropping at 65 mph, rounding two neck-whipping curves…perfect. She doesn’t notice. If she did, I’d have to explain that my orange cast-member golf shirt with the name of the park stenciled in bright gold lettering and my khaki shorts high above my knees aren’t my normal clothes. I hold the lever and watch her exit, knowing she will be back…today…tomorrow…two days…next week.
I’d have to explain that I won’t be making minimum wage forever. That this is just a summer job. That I’ll be going to college in another year. She’d have to know that ‘cause I can tell she’s the type that’s used to having money. I pull the lever and hear the click-click-click of the gears catching the undercarriage, pulling the cars up slowly. I look to see if she’s lined up for the next ride, or the one after that. Mom forgot to pack me lunch today. I guess I’ll have to eat that soupy chicken crap they serve at the el-cheapo restaurant at the park with my discount. It’s all boney and fatty with that mottled chicken skin coming off of it. The bones are probably the healthiest part, and you can’t eat them. I’ll be playing with my bone tonight, ha-ha. Seergaard the Princess Gladiator – starting the next level. That’s who she reminds me of. My Princess Gladiator.
This guy gets off the ride and hands me a pair of sunglasses. Aviators tinted blue, with frames of yellow-gold metal, just like her hair. He was in the seat she was sitting in on the last ride. Avery says I should put them in the Lost and Found. Otherwise, Buzz will think I’m stealing. Buzz is what we call Mr. Harrington, the supervisor. Not to his face. He’s got this buzz cut, like he thinks he’s a Marine drill sergeant. Kind of looks like Sgt. Rottweiler in Seergaard the Princess Gladiator. The guy yells at and bullies whoever gets in his way. He’ll get away with it until Seergaard destroys him. You can tell it’s coming. Maybe the next level. Maybe tonight. I hold the glasses, waiting. She’ll be back. She loves this ride.
Mr. Harrington’s standing in front of me now. Asking about the sunglasses. He looks mad. Using words like “protocol” and “responsibility.” His neck is turning red. He doesn’t know that all his power won’t do him any good because, in the end, Seergaard will be victorious. I never look him in the eye. I tell him I know whose sunglasses these are, that they belong to a friend of mine who asked me to hold them for her until she got back. He tells me I better not be lying and walks away. It looks like steam’s coming out of his ears. I laugh. To myself.
Seergaard’s going to do battle. She’ll wear her tight, black armored bodysuit, the one that hugs her breasts, but just barely. And her ass shines as she moves in that suit. She’ll wait ‘til Rottweiler and his forces are at their maximum strength, when they think they’re invincible, then she’ll surprise them and, alone, defeat them all in hand-to-hand combat. One day, I’ll be down there with my princess, after she gets to know me a little, lying on the couch in the basement. She won’t mind the dank smell – I keep asking mom to air it out, but she doesn’t; no matter, I’ve gotten used to it –– because she’ll be watching me. One level to the next, until I’ve mastered the game. And she’ll miss me when I leave for college next year. I can see her eyes tearing up.
I wipe the sweat off my brow with my sleeve. I feel the dampness on the back of my shirt and under my arms. I look at the crowd loading up for the next ride and there she is, for the second time today. I get the sunglasses and hold them out. Her friend sees me and taps her shoulder. “Hey, Marci, aren’t those your sunglasses?” She stops in front of me. I smell strawberry and vanilla. Her hair looks so soft this close. Pinkness radiates from her glossed lips. She’s wearing a blue-gray loose fitting embroidered peasant blouse hanging off one shoulder, and tight white jeans. I think about reaching out and touching her bare shoulder, reassuring her that I kept her sunglasses safe until she returned. That I knew they were hers and how pretty they looked. That I didn’t put them in the Lost and Found where somebody else might have taken them. She reaches out and, as I hand her the sunglasses, I open my mouth, but what escapes could barely be called a squeak. I swallow hard to start again, but her friend grabs her hand, laughs, and says, “C’mon, we’re gonna miss the ride!” She glances at me, smiles and opens her mouth, then gives in to her friend’s tugging. I pull the lever. I hear the gears engage the undercarriage. The cars inch up, up, up to the top of the drop. I hear the screams, I hear the cars whipping around the first curve, then the second, and then I hear the deceleration, the people laughing and yelling, the mechanical sound of the harnesses raising, the footsteps as they step onto the platform and walk past me, as she walks past me, her sunglasses perched on her head, her frames and her hair shimmering gold, moving her hands in perfect rhythm, talking to her friend, and off the platform.
Tonight, Seergaard will be patient. She will bide her time until the moment is right. Until Rottweiler’s forces are at full strength. Until Rottweiler has defeated every army on the planet. The population will cry out in desperation. No one will rise to the challenge. No one, except Seergaard. She will swoop in, pluck out their eyes, and scatter them over Greenland’s frozen tundra.
About the Author
E.H. Jacobs is a psychologist and writer based in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. His work has been accepted by or has appeared in Santa Fe Literary Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Storgy Magazine, Streetlight Magazine, Aji Magazine, and Smoky Quartz. He has also participated in three fiction workshops with the Kenyon Review. He has published two books on parenting, professional papers in psychology, and articles for the general public on psychological topics and has been a contributing book review editor for the American Journal of Psychotherapy. He has served on the clinical faculty of Harvard Medical School. In addition, he was a finalist in the New Hampshire Writers’ Project Three-Minute Fiction Slam.