Fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from our favorite emerging writers
Our Last Date
In a crowded amusement park, in line for the barnyard bumper cars, we wait an hour, and as soon as the kid working the controls opens the little gate, you change your mind, grab my hand, and we go to the ice queen roller coaster. We’re waiting in line here for two hours. Sweat dribbles down our backs. We don’t talk—hypnotized by the three white carts that chug up the track, fall back down, and then start over. I’m hungry. So, we leave our spot and go to the popcorn stand. Ice cream is listed on the menu, but the worker dressed as a pig says he has none. Now you have a new mission. A parade starts down the mid-way. We flip-flop through strollers and mascots of cartoons I’ve never seen. You must have your ice cream. This is our only day here, tickets so expensive, and we will not return. We have yet to get on one ride.
Finally, two hours later, after we’ve eaten, after we’ve waited in three more lines, we sit in a gondola—its bottom attached to a track. We begin outside—I wave to the people still in line (Look at us! We made it!)—then our boat-for-two glides into a tunnel. A baby in another float down the line cries, hiccups, screams, and then a mother’s shrieks echo—did she fumble? The water is dark green, gears hidden there just a few feet below. Every gondola jolts to a stop. A recorded voice repeats: Mother Goose asks you to please stay in your seat. The emergency lights are on now. The walls are black. Since we just entered, there’s nothing to look at except each other and the murky water. An hour later, the boat jerks back to life and we pass Goldilocks and the three bears, Red Riding Hood discovering the wolf in grandmother’s bed, the smart little pig peeking out the window of his brick house at the wolf slumped in defeat, Jack and Jill on top of a hill of flowers, yet the robots are not moving—frozen in mid-action—and all the yellow beam spotlights blind.
Out of the tunnel, the moon and stars glow, the crowd’s smaller. You take my hand to help me off the boat once we reach the dock, and then we begin the long walk back to the parking lot. We don’t stop to pick up a souvenir or hit the restroom one more time. Once out the gate, among the cars, we can’t remember where we parked and search aimlessly. I asked for love in the boat, but you don’t have it, so I’m off on an abandoned broom I found next to the Dumpster. I will find that candy house where a witch works with sugar and ovens to make magic.
Cat Dixon (she/her) is the author of Eva and Too Heavy to Carry (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2016, 2014) and the chapbook, Table for Two (Poet's Haven, 2019). Recent poems have appeared in LandLocked, Anti-Heroine Chic, and Abyss & Apex. She is a poetry editor at The Good Life Review.