“Magic Mountain Pkwy—2 miles,” the green sign jeers.
There’s barely time to veer far right, and claim
last place in a line of cars that seems stopped
dead. Still, slow as a fault, we grind ahead.
“It’s taking years,” our son Ben whines. “Griping
won’t help,” Trudi reminds. “Do you have
an appointment?” I demand. Trudi’s driving,
so I pry off my shoes and read How To Pick Up
Hotties. I’ve changed its cover for one lettered, in gold,
Holy Bible. Now Trudi will never look inside.
Too late I see Bible’s spelled Bubble. Good thing
Trudi’s engrossed by Hayseed Doughie’s singing,
in his Parkinsonian baritone, “China Squirrel.”
“To pick up a hottie,” I read, “attach handles
when she’s lying down. If she’s not lying, ask her to.”
All nearby cars house dioramas—Washington
Crosses the Tupperware. Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Screech—
or is daylight playing tricks as, sun plunging,
we reach Park Here? My wallet leaves my pocket
with a sweaty schwuck. “Fifteen clams
to stow our Dodge Ram while they fleece us,”
Trudi groans. Ben—hearing roller-coasters roar,
riders shrieking too far off to see—cries,
“That’s recorded. I’ll bet there are no rides.”
“How does that speculation help us?” Trudi sighs.
Ben totters, glassy-eyed, then plops sunny-side-up
on the pavement. I luggage-nudge him forward
to a booth where I get dinged $119.85 (coupon-
reduced from $119.97), then have to taekwando our way
into the park. It’s almost dark as we stagger
toward a line marked Breath of Death. We’ve seen it
on TV: riders in coffins keening as they rim
the eye-holes of a skull. Beanied with snow, a mountain
magically appears. Condors ring its summit,
lit up by a neon sign: MAGIC MOUNTAIN IS NOW
CLOSED. HAVE A NICE DAY. “Where
is Ben?!” Trudi screams as, overhead, a small boy
dangles from a condor’s claws. The mountain,
big as Everest, grows bigger still, blocking—
beyond all chance of reunion—our way.