A Day at Coney Island
The Coney Island air in July is thick with the laughter of Children and the smell of regurgitated fried-dough. You almost feel pity for the man panting in the “Coney the Ice Cream Cone” mascot outfit under the heat of the summer sun, but you think better of it. Truly there is no place on earth further from God’s light.
You fume at the indignation. To think, after 15 long years at the flip flop factory, they handed you out on your ass without so much as a severance package. All they could spare was one VIP ticket to Coney Fucking Island.
You push through the crowds of screaming children and exasperated parents, towards no destination in particular. You feel an obligation to have fun, to stick it to your boss and every one of those flip flopping fat cats. Then, at the intersection of fun-fun alley and the swirling tea-cups, you see it.
It’s a relatively hidden booth, despite being in plain sight. At the back stands a dunk tank, with a large target at the side. A figure sits patiently at the top, but you can’t quite make out their features. At the front stands a man with a glazed look on his face, sporting a red-lined jacket and a hooked bamboo cane reminiscent of vaudeville. His eyes glance up and catch yours, and his face instantly lights up.
“You there, yes you! Say, you’re a strapping young man aren’t you? A real Babe Ruth!” He shouts, beckoning you to come forward. You appreciate the compliment, and briefly imagine what it would be like to be Babe, audibly shuddering.
“I knew it when I saw you, you’re an ace! A front line man, a real bang-janger! So whaddya say, ace, only 3 tickets a ball!” The man has a wild grin in his eyes, and a crazed look in his teeth.
You mull it over, and decide “what the hell.” It’s a miserable day anyway, maybe dunking some shmuck will offload some of that misery. You hand the man your tickets and take a ball. You feel lucky.
The ball feels good in your hand, and your aim feels true. One ball is all you need. You wind up your arm to the glee of the man, and decide to look in the eyes of the poor sod who it is you’ll be dunking. You look up to the tank, and your arm goes limp. The ball falls to the ground with a *thud*
“What’re ya waiting for sonny? I haven’t got all day here!”
You are at a loss for words. “Is he supposed to be in there?” you manage to spit out
“that’s what they pay him for! Now, why don’t you put that big veiny arm of yours to use and throw a pitch!”
At the top of the tank sits a baby, maybe six months of age, with a look of utter ignorance on his face.
“Is that your baby?” you ask the man, some semblance of control returning to you
“Yessir, I’ve been with ole ‘splashomania’ nearly 30 years now. They don’t make them like this anymore!” He slams the side of the tank, rattling the insides and shaking the baby ever so slightly. The baby giggles in response.
“No I’m talking about the baby inside of the tank!”
“That guy? I already told ya ace, it’s his job. He wakes up every morning and gets up there, the same way I wake up every morning and pee a little blood!”
You consider that it would be better to avoid this situation altogether and leave, but you remember the big sign at the front of the park: “All ticket purchases are NON-REFUNDABLE”.
“To be clear, he’s not in any danger is he?”
“I’m telling ya Champ, he’s a pro. We don’t just let any old jawn get up in that booth, he’s in less danger up there then he is out here!”
At least you’d have plausible deniability. Still, could you really, in good conscience, dunk that baby? How could the carnie be sure this baby would be ok?
“Who says the baby has to be ok?” says a voice, but there is noone else around.
“Look at his stupid face” the voice proceeds “He doesn’t have a care in the world. He’s sitting on his tushie thinking the world is his oyster. Look at how he looks at everyone here, look at how he looks at you. He’s barely even started forming syllables and he already thinks he’s better than you.”
That’s ridiculous, you think to yourself. This baby hasn’t done anyone any harm, yet. But, don’t all bad people start out as babies? You think about what your boss might have looked like as a baby. His balding head and fat cheeks translate concerningly well to a baby’s body. The baby smiles at you, the same way that your boss did before he told you to pack up your desk and take off your company flip-flops. He goos and gas, making silly faces and generally makes an ass of himself. You think about all the harm that this baby could do in the future, the lives he could ruin.
Shouldn’t someone put a stop to this? Isn’t an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure?
“But, how could I be the one to dunk him?” You ask yourself more than anyone
“Why, it’s all in the wrist buddy!” the Carnival Man replies, twiddling his candy mustache with glee.
The baby is laughing at something. you think it might be you
The gears in your brain start to turn.
“Just to be clear” you choke out to the man, who is currently licking a corn dog like a popsicle
“yup” he slurps back
“It’s totally fine for me to throw this ball”
“at that target”
“and drown that baby”
the baby opens his mouth but no sound comes out
“alrighty then! It’s time to play Splashomania!”
Before you know what’s happening, the ball leaves your hand and flies towards the target.
The board falls out from under the baby and he falls, making a resounding splash.
“Oh you devil! You monster! You cretin! I knew you’d do it, I knew it! You sick sick bastard, how could you condemn this innocent child to a watery grave!?”
You could not respond if you wanted to. At the exact moment of impact between baby and water, a cage pops up from under you and traps you inside. A sign extends out from the top of the booth that says “BABY DUNKER” in bright neon letters. As the Carnival man frantically fishes for the baby with a long net, an alarm starts blaring. Everyone within earshot turns to see you, trapped in your cage, and begins screaming profanities at you.
“Booooo!! Boooo!! Shame! Crook! Heathen!” cry the crowd, as they start pelting you with rotten tomatoes and half-drunk slushies.
As the produce and syrupy ice floods your vision, you wonder what might have happened if you’d gone on the twirl-a-whirl