After the Thrill by Amy Lyons

The woman took herself to the amusement park instead of the motel. The man she’d met at the hardware store had ended it a week ago. In fantasies, her soft-spoken husband pounded the door of room six. Caught, she loved him again.

The woman had never ridden a roller coaster alone. A muscled arm sleeved in tattoos jerked her lap-bar. Did it ever unhinge? Hers could be the first. Evening news would outline her ejection at the second hairpin, feature the photo from yearbook, most likely to…what? She couldn’t recall. “Alone,” the reporter would make her voice grave, “in the middle of Wednesday.” They’d broadcast B-roll of a famed coaster’s hill, a longshot of the cart’s ticking ascent cut hard at the drop to unspooling track. TV audiences would white-knuckle couch cushions, grasp easy-chair arms, the point-of-view shift leaning them in.

“Weight distribution,” the Ferris wheel operator said, suggesting the woman join a father and son. The son head-locked a stuffed tiger and hid, suspicious of the woman’s smoky eye shadow, her greying roots. The father smiled an apology, lay a hand on the son’s half-buried head. Wanting the best for all parties involved, the woman stepped aside and a doe-legged teen sprang into the space, followed by her heavyset friend, who bore no shame in accepting a boost from the balding operator. They rose. Something like a confession welled up in the woman’s throat. When the umbrellaed cart drifted back down, the girl whose body refused easy containment channeled the tiger’s cheerful voice, climbed the big cat up the boy’s arm, roared it into his ear. The boy’s stuttering laughter dispersed into sky.

She whacked moles, hurled softballs at milk bottles rigged not to topple, joined a water-gun firing squad to shoot wooden clowns in their glory-hole smiles. Nothing unnumbed her. A cotton candy bouffant, a cross-hatched funnel cake dredged in old snow, a skewered corn dog reeking of oil. She chewed and swallowed and smacked, but could not make her body feel sated or sick.

Pinned to the wall as the Gravitron spun, she welcomed the pressure. One at a time, she unstuck her limbs and let the wind slam them back to her sides. She looked down just in time to see the floor fall away. She contorted her face into a smile at the sight of her dangling feet. Unseen forces held her aloft.

AMY LYONS — Amy has recent fiction in or forthcoming from No Contact, (mac)ro(mic), Anti-Heroin Chic, Literary Mama, and Lunch Ticket. Her short story manuscript won an honorable mention for Miami Book Fair’s 2021 Emerging Writer Fellowship.

Art by ROB KANIUK — Rob is a union carpenter in the city of Philadelphia.