Foul Play in Funland: Charlie

 Sidenote: This short story/poem was inspired by season one, episode eight of Scooby Doo: Where are You? That’s where these first lines of dialogue are pulled from.

“Hey, don’t you wish Funland was open? The rootbeer floats, the chocolate custard, the rides? Man, that’s livin’.”

“Yes, but right now it looks a little spooky. Even haunted.”

“Haunted?”

“Don’t be silly Daphne.”

The lights start coming on.

“Hey, look at that!”

“But that’s impossible. That place won’t be open for weeks.”

Clicking of roller coaster as it pushes the invisible riders up the track.

“Look!”

The ride rolls across the screen, silently. No screams of joy, no playful chatter. 

“Well, this calls for a little investigation.”

As night sweeps over the fall horizon, the lights turn on in Funland. 

The roller coaster clicks as it pushes the ride up the track. The cash register opens with a loud ding. The cotton candy machine whirs into motion. The ferris wheel squeaks as it rolls around the moon. 

But no one’s there. 

Except for him. 

His name is Charlie. Or, at least his maker calls him that. He doesn’t know what he calls himself.

A blue robot with a pale face, completely smooth and without features. Mechanical parts that make his mouth perpetually frown and glowing yellow eyes that flash when he’s excited. 

He zooms back and forth across the park; making hot dogs and shakes, playing carnival games, and riding the ferris wheel. 

Floating through the tunnel of love with a bouquet of flowers clutched in his hard metal wrist. 

Eyeing himself suspiciously in the mirror maze; the different ways his body contorts confusing him. 

Riding up the roller coaster, click, click, click. Sitting in the front seat. No smile to curve, but eyes beaming like headlights with the hazards on.

In the summer, families come from all across the country to visit Funland. 

In the fall, there’s Charlie.

Eyes flashing, always flashing.

Sunset

I always write poems in motion:

a man spilling his coffee,

wind currents dancing with a flower petal,

or listening to love in a public place.

But you paint our moments,

capturing our memories with your colors.

You make me wait,

hold my breath for the next stroke of your brush on canvas.

Only then do I truly see the importance of stillness.

You see the world the way it was meant to be seen;

through iridescent waves of bright oranges and deep purples.

You’re my sunset,

so no matter where I go I’ll always have you on my horizon.

And when I don’t know where I am: lost, confused, and afraid

you paint me a map

that leads me home.

The man on the train

Is he cursing at his god?

He slings a slurry of swear words to the heavens,

gradually increasing his passion as he continues to curse.

He’s visibly drunk,

motions slurred and unwieldly,

like a baby learning how to move for the first time.

Greasy grey hair hangs thinly around his rosy cheeks,

but I’m too ashamed to look at him,

too afraid to provoke,

so I don’t catch the color of his exasperated, almost pleading eyes.

And he’s begging for what?

For a god to answer his anger?

For a friend to help fuel his thoughtless fury?

For someone,

anyone,

to meet the gaze of his eyes?

I can’t help but empathize with his soul shattering, empty rage.

But I can’t help,

so I file off the train.

Big city rats

When the air is hot,

hanging over your body like wet laundry,

the rats come out to play.

At first they’re a visage,

a hallucination at the corner of your vision.

Zoop! — There goes one,

diving into a horde of trash,

Bop! — There goes another,

squeezing between moldy building bricks.

As the lights of the city pollute the heavens,

the rats roll out in droves,

clumsily stumbling over each other like drunken fools,

searching for sewage,

searching for stink.

Brushing my teeth

Sometimes I find myself trying to force out a poem

squeezing metaphors and similes out

like my words are toothpaste at the bottom of the tube.

The words come fleetingly so I grab and paste them together;

parts of a nonsensical collage.

An attempt to find meaning

out of the nouns and verbs that tumble out of my memories,

landing on the floor in a pile of rubbish,

or as toothpaste on my toothbrush.

But if I take a step back,

notice the rusty drain in my sink,

the dark brown hair that curls on the counter,

the paint chip off my light blue mirror frame,

I realize that I already brushed my teeth this morning.

‘Star Wars’ fan

I can tell from the retro font boldly outlined on the front of your grease-stained black t-shirt, that you like Star Wars. I can only assume then, that you watched Leia chained up to Jabba the Hut with a similar shrewd slyness.
You, a balding man in his mid-thirties could picture me, a 19-year-old girl working a minimum wage fast-food job, in any way you want. I’m the half-naked Leia trapped in your clutch.
I take a side glance at you grinning at your imagination (like you’d already gotten what you paid for) and my cheeks flush with anger. As I hand you your drink I imagine I’m Leia, using the chain around my neck to wrap it around yours, squeezing out all of the humiliation you’ve caused me and others;
joyous retribution.
Instead, I swallow my bile and hand you the rest of your food.
“Have a wonderful rest of your day.”

Firelight

The lone mercenary walks into the town at midnight,
his slow footsteps silenced by the cold dirt road running through the middle of town.
As he passes by various barred and broken windows decorating the gloomy scene,
flames lick the tips of trees,
growing inwards like an incurable disease.
Soon, the fall light will fill the lane in a blazing final fury,
then spread through the deserted buildings with the ashes of leaves.

At the far edge of the town, a single oil lamp hangs from a slanted roof beam. Even in the end of the world, the few remaining people cluster together at bars.

The man reaches the door of the saloon
-or where the door used to be-
empty hinges a sobering reminder of the world that once moved.
He doesn’t acknowledge the only patron,
an elderly man staring blankly into his beer glass,
most of the rim layered in a fine ring of dust.
The lone mercenary goes up to the woman behind the counter,
too busy cleaning the dirt under her nails to notice the gun pointed at her head.

After the bang, screams, then silence, the man knocks down the oil lamp,
letting the flicker catch on the wooden porch.
Inside, the old man watches the dust as it floats in the air,
and sinks down to the rim of his glass.