Following yesterday’s post on Masterchef challenges reimagined as writing challenges, one of my friends gave me the following challenge:
Mystery Box Challenge for you…
Flash fiction: 400 words
Narration: First person, 25 year-old male
Setting: A theme park
Must also include a symbol of some sort
Rage against the Roller-coaster
The little girl in the line in front of me is crying. She dropped her brand new, bright red ball and it has rolled away, into the box of cogs and ratchets and high-voltage electricity that controls the ride we’re waiting to go on.
My nails are biting into my palms. I can barely breathe. The rage pricks down my spine as I look up at the flashing sign.
The happiest place on earth – that’s what they tell you, but suddenly I can’t feel any joy.
I hadn’t remembered that we were supposed to come here, that we had the tickets, that my five-year old backpack had been packed in anticipation for a week before we were supposed to leave. And then, mom breathed or something, and sent you off into the distance. The typical “went out for a box of ciggies and never came back” story that has morphed itself into a meme. Dad, you left us the night before we were supposed to go to Disneyland.
Now, I know it’s been twenty years. I know that I could have a child of my own, be a young dad like you were. I’ve tried to rationalise it over the years – why you left. Mom couldn’t go through with the holiday on her own; she could barely cope. Over the next weeks, months, years, I just got dumped at day-care or with neighbours while she struggled and worked so we could eat frozen pizza and boxed mac and cheese. Because a bastard like you felt tied down by your family, and had slipped the noose you had felt tightening.
Five-year-old me had been heartbroken at losing out on the trip of a lifetime, and I didn’t really grasp that you’d abandoned us. Now I’m grown up, anger has deadened the hurt. I wouldn’t even have remembered to connect them, except that when I unpacked my backpack, my red ball hadn’t been there. I had left it in the footwell of the car you drove off in.
The line moves forward, and we climb into the carts and pull the safety harnesses down. The little girl’s sobs have slowed, and her mother promises they can find a new ball when they get back. We crank slowly upwards, building anticipation.
The ground rushes towards us.
I scream, as I think of the red ball that rolled away.