Before he shoots them, he commands the man and the woman to put their hands in the air.
The couple complies. Playing along, they also throw wide their lids and lips – producing silent simulations of screams.
Then his shutter snaps, capturing a picture of the two of them sitting in the last Cyclone Racer car. Posted online later that night, it’ll look like a thrilling ride.
Truthfully, though, there is no need for the restraining bar the photographer snapped into place against their laps; the historic coaster car is secured to the floor of the informal museum of amusements in the entry to Looff’s Lite-A-Line.
There’s no one in line behind them, so the couple lingers in the black leather seat.
The woman lets her fingers slide along the red-painted panel on the front of the car, labeled 2B with a single golden number and a single golden letter. “So, this was an actual car on the Cyclone Racer?” she asks. “What did the rest of it look like? All I’ve ever seen is the old logo on those commemorative t-shirts that those hipsters wear….”
“Those hipsters,” the man snorts, “weren’t even born when the city tore down the Cyclone Racer in 1968. All they’ve ever seen are black-and-white photos. The background that those slanted letters were painted on, though, was green – and so were the faces of the riders after rattling out over the blue waves of the Pacific on that wooden dual-track racing coaster.
“Their knuckles were white enough, though. A lot of handholding on the Cyclone Racer. Great for first dates….”
With that, the man finally falls silent. He looks at the hand of the woman next to him.
Although, as individuals, the man and the woman are old, as a couple, they are young. This is, in fact, their first date.
In this instant, the man is wondering whether there will be a second date. Earlier in life, dating those first few women had felt like the Cyclone Racer – a thrilling ride so intense that you had to hold hands. After all, there were powerful forces that threatened to pull couples apart. He is wondering whether this last car, this singular relic, is similarly symbolic of dating later in life – merely a reminder what was there years earlier. No momentum, just two polite people sitting silently next to one another?
But then the woman holds his hand.
“Cyclone Racer” was originally published by the Portland Review in 2013 as a winner of its “Flash Fiction Friday” contest.