The daylight is waning and I
know I'll have to plan my moves wisely. We, my mom and dad and
I, have been browsing the game machines in Nautical Playland
here at Revere Beach. The dings and buzzers and flashing lights
are going full throttle in this arcade that overlooks the indoor
miniature golf course. I want to move on, though, as there are
more spectacular things to see and do outside.
And so we begin our stroll up
the boulevard, past Hurley's Carousel, Kohr Brothers' Frozen
Custard, Joe and Nemo's Hot Dog Stand (there are two of them
here), and the constant 'crack-clang-crack-clang' of the shooting
gallery. My mother always hustles us quickly past the gallery
and reminds me about the sailor who was shot there during WWII
when a chum was clowning around with the rifle, not realizing
it contained live ammunition.
Harsh reality among the unreal,
but I'm soon distracted by something looming just ahead, right
next to the giant Cyclone roller coaster. I want to take a closer
look, so my parents stop and let me satisfy my curiosity. It
is like nothing else on the beach:
a stage-like area adorned with jungle imagery and with a set
of doors on either end, each with a fierce tiger face painted
on it. At the top is a sign that reads: 'Treasure Island'. Every
few minutes a small car comes banging through the doors on the
right, bearing a couple of riders who are sometimes laughing,
sometimes rolling their eyes as if to say: "Let me out
of this thing!".
The noisy little cars with the
curly shapes on the sides dissappear through the doors on the
left and are gone from sight for three or four minutes. Where
they go, and what happens to the riders, I cannot see. Elsewhere
on the boulevard I'd seen the Whip, the Auto-Skooter, and the
building that houses the Tilt-A-Whirl and Bubble Bounce. With
these rides, I could always see what all the cars were doing.
But this one was strange. How do I know if I want to go on it
if I can't see what happens? Plus, it seems to be totally dark
where the cars enter...very mysterious.
But something else draws me even
closer. I walk up to the blue-painted wooden railing which is
slightly sticky with the dew of the ocean air. At age seven,
I can barely see over the fence. Beyond the rail a huge figure
of a woman is standing before me, arms outstretched. She has
a broad open-mouthed smile and her head rolls around as her
torso lurches sporadically forward then rears backward, over
and over. Every part of her jiggles and sways and I hear her
loud, high-pitched laughter filling the air above the buzzing
motors of the cars and the clattering of the wooden doors as
they slam shut after absorbing another collision.
The laughing lady is missing
her right front tooth, and is dressed like a farm girl. And...she
has a companion. To her left stands a man dressed in coveralls
and straw hat, equally convulsed in laughter. He, too, is missing
that same right front tooth and I assume they are brother and
sister. But what are they doing here, some ten miles north of
Boston, where farms are very scarce indeed? The farmer's laughter
also spills out onto the sidewalk. It is a coarse, braying laugh,
seeming to taunt the riders of these oddly-shaped vehicles as
they lurch ahead and then take a sharp turn into the eerie darkness.
But it seems that none of the riders is any the worse for wear
when they finally do emerge into the daylight, only to be laughed
at all over again.
I'm too stunned by the sight
of the unusual couple to laugh back at them, yet I'm not afraid
of them because I know that they're not real people, that their
movements are repetitive and mechanical, and that their expressions
never change. My parents, seeing that
I am transfixed, inform me that it's time to move along. I plead
for a little more time but settle for a promise to ride Treasure
Island with my father on our next visit. That, plus one more
slice of pizza tonight.
We make our way up the boulevard
one last time as dusk settles and the moon rises over the ocean
on our right. To the left, the arcades and game stands flare
up in bright colors, and slashes of yellow fluorescent light
shimmer on sizzling hotdog grills. I look backward a few times
at Treasure Island and catch the last few giggles as they dissolve
into the music of the night-time midway. We pass the Virginia
Reel, then the colossal Bluebeard's Palace funhouse and arrive
at the Hippodrome with its massive five-row carousel and Anna's
Pizza stand (my favorite) flanking the entrance. Gazing at the
wooden horses as they hypnotically float past my weary eyes,
I begin to surrender to the drowsiness that has at last caught
up with me.
Night has fallen, and my dad
lights up a Pall Mall as he backs our Plymouth out onto the
road and steers northward for the half-hour trip home. Lying
on the back seat with my eyes closed, I sense the glare of each
overhead street lamp as it sweeps across my face. But my thoughts
are elsewhere, back at Treasure Island with that strangely merry
couple whose job was to simply laugh and to bestow a light-hearted
mood on all who passed their way.
I knew I would never forget them.