Sunday Snippet – Benjamin

I’m doing more editing now than writing. The worst part of editing is trying to decide if something you wrote some time ago is worth rescuing… or finishing… or should be plopped in the digital dumper.

Here’s a piece of text that I was enthusiastic about when I wrote it… but now, not so much.

I don’t know, there might be something here or there might not.

Benjamin

With a resigned expression and a clumsy attempt at a dramatic flourish, Beauregard Evans slapped a crisp new bill down on the linoleum table. The small motley group that had gathered around leaned over for a good look. There was a collective sigh followed by a sucking in of breath as the implications began to sink in. Sam pushed between Sally Pumpernickel and Joshua Jones to get a better view of the fat aging hairy hippy, Beauregard, leaning over the table so far his belly pushed out under his dirty tie died T-shirt onto the table, almost touching the bill itself.

“Benjamin,” Sam mumbled to himself.

“A brand spankin’ new one hundred dolla bill,” Beauregard began his spiel, “Raught ‘dere. It goes to the first one to try the thing out. I needs ah test pilot. I need someone with the balls to ride da wild horse. Come on ya pussies! Who’s gonna give ‘er a shot.”

“Man, a hundred dollars won’t buy enough beer to wipe the horror of ridin’ that thing out ‘yer brain, that’s for sure,” said Jimbo. He stood off to the side, smelling of grease and ozone, still wearing his thick leather gloves, his welding helmet tipped up on top of his head, like some sort of degenerate knight, resting after a joust that had gone terrible bad.

Sally Pumpernickel said, “Well a hundred dollars will buy something more powerful than a sinkful of that cheap horse piss you call beer… that’s for sure too.” She blurted out a dizzy giggle at the thought of whatever she could plunk the c-note down on. She wriggled a bit as she imagined it hitting her bloodstream.

Sam broke away from the others as they were beginning to get restless, churning and murmuring, and crossed the room to the open porch, feeling the rough floorboards give with an aching creak as he walked. He looked out over the porch to the slopes beyond. Bits of the morning mist was still tumbling down the mountain, giving the park a surreal, blurred look. But the mist couldn’t hide it – there it was, blue as blue could be… right in front of his nose. The bright artificial blue of fresh paint, still giving off the soybean and solvent smell of drying enamel – the brushes tilted up from drying pools of leftover paint at the bottom of the abandoned open cans.

It was basically a huge iron tube, running down the side of the mountain. A sluice gate had been installed at the top, diverting a strong stream of the ice-cold water from the high spring-fed pool they called “The Dragon’s Cave” into the top of the steep metal pipe.

Sam tried to think it through. Really it was only an enclosed water ride, nothing much more. They had a half dozen just like it already. Jimbo and his crew had taught themselves how to weld the surplus plate steel, boiler iron, and ancient drill pipe they had scrapped and salvaged together into twisting and turning water-courses. The drunk, high, and poverty-stricken customers that on hot summer weekends enjoyed the cut-rate aqueous entertainment the park offered would throw themselves with abandon into the dark sewers – the longer, faster, twistier, scarier… the better.

The most popular enclosed slide was a real piece of work called, “The Devil’s Backbone.” It ended right behind the crude cabin that served as a workshop. The crew liked to hang out on the porch, drink, pass the bong and watch the customers tumble into the pool at the end of the ride. A particularly violent and unexpected isosceles twist right at the end tended to yank suit bottoms down and dislodge all but the most tightly secured bikini tops. It was great. Everybody, even the customers… especially the customers… loved it.

It had taken Jimbo a year to get the proper hang of the welding, and a lot of customers had been sent down the mountain to the emergency room while he was learning. He had been showing signs of mellowing… but now, this.

They had not named the new ride, the one that Sam was staring at, the one they were offering all the cash for the first one stupid and desperate enough to leap into. It was so simple. A simple tube running straight down the mountain at a very steep angle for about three hundred feet. It needed the run, it needed the speed, for at the bottom was a simple, elegant, round loop in the tube, shooting up about thirty feet in the air before looping back down and discharging into a generous pool at the bottom.

“Are you thinking about taking that thing?” asked Joshua Jones. He and Sally had followed Sam out on to the porch and leaned on the railing beside him.

“Yup.”

“You know what happened to the test dummies that the ran down there?”

“Yup.”

Jimbo had gone into Trinidad for a salvage sale at the “Platform Fashion Boutique” bankruptcy and bought their entire stock of realistic mannequins to use in testing out new rides. The water would wash them out of the bottom of the looping tube with their arms and legs detached, their necks bent at unnatural angles.

“Not a good test,” Beauregard Evans had said. “Those dummies don’t have no brains, no muscles, no reflexes. A human bean can wiggle through no problema. We’ll grease ’em up with Crisco to get em over the hump and make sure they keep their arms crossed over their chests.”

Now Sam, Joshua, and Sally leaned on the rail, looked at the tube, and thought of the crisp currency on the table and on the pieces of old mannequin stacked up behind some bushes.

“You still thinkin’?” Joshua asked Sam again.

“Yup.”

“You’ll never ride that thing,” Sally Pumpernickel said. “You don’t have the guts.”

Sam let out a sigh. No use thinking any more; now he had no choice. There was no way he could live the rest of his years… no matter how short, with Sally Pumpernickel thinking and saying he was a chicken. He pushed away from the railing, turned and walked briskly into the maintenance shed. He had to push the crowd aside – but he didn’t have to say anything – just reach out onto the table and snatch up the hundred dollar bill.

One response to “Sunday Snippet – Benjamin

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