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Stories from the Midway

Hot Purple Thunk

Water parks -- all youth, false danger, and skin -- can't help but breed urban legends. Remember the one about the woman whose bikini top flew off going down the body chute? Or the one about the kid who fell to his death off the side?

My cousin Becky and I were water-park dilettantes. What we really loved were the corkscrews. Such clean and simple fun, the corkscrews. Nothing was better than the time we accidentally bumped into each other on our way down the dark tunnels. The water had stopped for just a moment, long enough for me to stick to the side of the flume, long enough for my giggling cousin to pick me up in her trajectory so that we tumbled into the wading pool below, our mouths open with laughter, our limbs tangled.

We had to do it again.

It was a simple plan: I would stop myself in the same place, then push off right as Becky appeared. Instead, Becky appeared and then seemed to somehow fly overhead -- a hot purple thunk to my skull -- and disappear down the flume. There I sat, stuck and disappointed.

What happened next I did not see, but I have imagined many times. I see Becky drop into the pool, hands cupped to her mouth, the hitched laugh-cry of children in shock. The water turns instantly red with her blood. I see the onlookers in slow motion, their happy summer faces curdled by the gore, good God the gore. Blood drips everywhere, pours from my cousin's mouth and down her chin, sloshes off the side of the ride, rains from the sky as the onlookers scream and hide their eyes.

Perhaps I exaggerate. The facts of the matter? My cousin's front two teeth had been knocked out. The hot purple thunk? That was her face. The wading pool did turn an instant red, or at least that's how it was reported to the Wet 'N Wild physician.

Later that afternoon, we found the bright spots. Dots of Becky's blood stained the concrete in a trail that stretched across half the water park. A crusty red train track was buried underneath my hair where her braces hit. And when my uncle told a park attendant that we were leaving early due to an accident on the corkscrew, the teenage boy said, "I heard some girl lost all her teeth on the corkscrew today. Is that you?" For at least one day, we had made Wet 'N Wild history.

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