Read Funland Online

Authors: Richard Laymon

Tags: #Fiction - Horror

Funland (7 page)

BOOK: Funland
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“Feeling brassy,” she said.

He smiled and nodded. “Well, ready to go?”

“Yep.” She pulled the door shut, stepped up to him, and took his hand. He squeezed it slightly.

“I think you’ll enjoy tonight’s film,” he said as they walked toward his Volvo.

“Does that mean it doesn’t have subtitles?”

“It’s Polanski’s

“Really? I thought Shakespeare was the brains behind that one.”

“You’re awful.”

“I’m not awful, I’m a wag.”


He opened the passenger door for Joan. As she climbed into the car, she watched him. He stood there and never once glanced at her legs.

Typical. But she’d thought that the new dress might spark some interest.

Could’ve saved my money, she thought as he shut the door.

She looked down. If the dress were any shorter, her panties would be showing. She felt the seat’s upholstery against the back of her thighs.

Harold slid in behind the wheel.

“What do you think of my new dress?” Joan asked.

“It’s very becoming,” he said, and started the car.

“Why don’t we skip the movie?”

“But it’s a classic.” He pulled away from the curb.

“I’ve seen it. It can’t hold a candle to the Orson Wells version. The height of its innovation is having some gals parade around bare-assed. Is
why you’re so eager to see it?”

“Don’t be silly.”

“Let’s go to the boardwalk.”

He looked at her. He looked aghast.

“Have you ever been there?”

“Once. And I assure you, once was enough.”

“I’d like to go. It’ll be fun.”

“Joan. You
the boardwalk. You’re there every day. Have you lost your senses?”

“What do you think I do while I’m on duty, ride the Ferris wheel and carousel? You know what I did today? I checked out the rest rooms about a dozen times and listened to a bunch of lunatics rant about flying saucers and visits from the Virgin Mary.”

“It’s a disgraceful place. And dangerous.”

“‘Danger knows full well that I am more dangerous than she. We are two lions, whelped by the same—’”

“And dirty. That park is filthy, and you’re wearing a brand-new dress—a
dress. You’ll ruin it the minute you sit down on something. It’s madness. Sheer madness.”

“I’ve seen enough artsy-fart films the past three weeks to choke Renoir. So how about it? Come on, let’s go to Funland. Please? I’ll buy you a cotton candy.”

“I can’t stand the stuff.”

“Party pooper. Okay, never mind. Let’s see
I’ll go to the boardwalk some night when you’ve got a class. Maybe meet a nice sailor.”

Harold drove to Funland.


The age guesser said, “Twenty-three.” Joan showed her driver’s license to prove she was twenty-seven, and he gave her a pencil eraser shaped like a dinosaur.

She tried to get Harold to have his age guessed. He said, “That’d be pressing our luck.”

The way his hairline was receding and his somewhat paunchy stomach held the front of his sport coat open, she figured he stood a good chance of winning. The guy would probably suspect he was closer to forty than thirty-four. Harold, self-conscious about his looks, no doubt preferred to avoid the embarrassment.

They wandered up the boardwalk.

Joan hadn’t been here at night since last summer. It seemed so much more festive after dark: the game booths were brightly lighted; the names of rides and attractions blazed with neon; everywhere she looked, she saw strings of multicolored bulbs. The familiar aromas of cotton candy, popcorn, hot dogs, french fries, machine oil, perfumes and after-shave, and the ocean all smelled more fragrant and alluring than during the day. The crowd was larger. She felt an aura of mystery and anticipation.

It’s like this every night, she thought, and I’ve been missing it.

If Harold would just get into the spirit of the thing…

“What do
want to do?” she asked.

“I suppose it’s too late for

“There must be something here that you’d enjoy. How about the Tilt-a-Whirl?” she asked, stopping to watch people climb out of the hooded cars. Girls laughing. Couples holding each other and staggering. “Come on,” she said. “There’s no line. We can get right on.”

“You go ahead. I’ll stay here and watch.”

“Oh, that would be loads of fun.”

“No, do it. I insist. I don’t want to be responsible for spoiling your fun.”

Joan shrugged. “Maybe later. Come on.” She took his arm and led him away. “We’ll find something you like.”

“Approximately in the year that hell freezes over.”

She spotted the hag with the sock puppet. The old crone hadn’t moved all day. Her sock was darting out, “talking” to people unlucky enough to be passing near her. Joan was tempted to steer Harold in her direction.

After all, he was hot to see
tonight, and this gal was certainly a weird sister.

But that would be cruel.

She remembered how the puppet had gone for Dave’s leg, and laughed.

“What?” Harold asked.

“One of my favorite bums.” She nodded toward the woman.

Harold looked. “I don’t see anything especially amusing about her.”

“Her puppet nibbled Dave’s leg today.”

“Did you read Gloria’s piece on trolling?”

“She laid it on pretty thick.”

“I thought she did an admirable job.”

“She ought to get off her high horse. Accomplices, my ass. Typical bleeding-heart bullshit. We’re
guilty?” She flung an arm up, pointing at the high, down-sweeping tracks of the Hurricane’s steepest drop. “Dave and I, we risked our butts climbing that damn thing to rescue that derelict she was rhapsodizing about. Either of us had slipped, we would’ve been dead meat. Don’t tell me about accomplices. She knew we did that, too. But did she put it in her sermon? No way. Her whole point was to make the town—and the cops—look like we’re all in favor of trolling. Called us a booster club, no less. I don’t know how she could look Dave in the face after writing that crap.”

Releasing Harold’s hand, she strode over to the Bazooka Guns. She paid the man behind the counter. He loaded the feed trough with five tennis balls. Joan jacked one into the chamber, sighted down the wide barrel, and fired. The first ball poomphed out, rocketed forty feet, and whacked the suspended dummy. The ball caught it in its belly. Its legs flew up and it twirled on the end of its rope.

She glanced at Harold. He looked as if he regretted mentioning Gloria’s article.

She blasted another tennis ball at the dummy. This one knocked its stuffed head backward.

“We might be able to
the goddamn Billy Goat Gruff if we got a tiny little bit of cooperation from the victims. They give us nothing. Nothing. Do you know what we’ve found out so far?”

She shot a ball into the dummy’s chest.

“It’s teenagers. We’ve been told they’re all girls. We’ve been told they’re all guys. There are anywhere from three to fifty of them, depending on which victim you listen to. The leader is Satan replete with horns and tail, a gorgeous blonde, Mayor Donaldson, a giant black guy, Charles Manson’s twin brother, Zarch from the Sixth Dimension…”

“I get the point,” Harold said.

Joan missed the dummy.

“Ignorant, self-righteous bitch.”

Her last ball struck the dummy in the face.

Harold put a hand on her shoulder. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Who’s upset?”

“Gloria’s only doing her job.”

“And we’re doing ours, but she conveniently forgets to point that out.”

They wandered into the stream of the moving crowd.

“Want to try the bumper cars?” she asked.

“In your mood, you’d probably hurt someone.”

“My mood’s fine,” she muttered.

“Step right in, folks!”

She glanced at Jasper Dunn. The cadaverous old man leered at her. She quickened her pace.

“Don’t rush off, Miss Cop. Step right in, you and your handsome beau, and see the amazing, astonishing wonders of Jasper’s Oddities. Lead her this way, fellow. Right this way. Don’t miss out. See the two-headed baby, the hairless orangutan of Borneo, the mummy Ram Cho-tep, and other rare and mysterious wonders. She’ll quiver and shake at the sights. She’ll swoon in your arms.”

She kept walking.

“I take it,” said Harold, “you’re not interested in Jasper’s Oddities?”

“That guy’s swamp scum.”

“Has he done something to you?”

“Just with his eyes. Every time I walk by…Fortunately, he spends most of his time inside with his Oddities. Sometimes I go a whole shift without seeing him. He likes to go in and watch the reactions. And ogle the females.”

“Enjoys watching them quiver and shake,” Harold said. “Have you ever gone in?”

“Just once. Some gal had fainted.”

“Those Oddities must be something to see.”

“I think it was the heat. She was on the floor and her skirt was hiked up around her waist and Dunn was on his knees. I’m not saying he fooled with her or anything, but he sure looked startled when the boyfriend towed us in there.”

She stopped and looked back. A couple of teenage guys with their dates were climbing the stairs, giving tickets to Dunn. One of the girls was husky, but the other was slender and wore a halter top and white shorts. “Watch,” Joan said. “He’ll follow them in. Goddamn lech.”

Dunn followed them through the doorway.

“I wish the creep would dry up and blow away. He’s the guy that owns the Funhouse, you know.” Joan nodded toward the two-story building that stood adjacent to the Oddities. The dark neon sign above its front door, visible in the glow of nearby lights, read, “Jasper’s Funhouse.” All the windows were boarded with sheets of plywood. “I’ve heard he had a grating in one of its corridors. On the floor. And he used to hide under there and look up the skirts of the women when they walked across it.”

“Charming fellow. Is that why it’s closed?”

Joan shook her head. “A couple of his freaks got loose in it one night. He used to have a freak show. In there with his Oddities. Some pretty hideous…people. That’s what I hear. A couple of them got into the Funhouse. This was five or six years ago, I guess. I was still at Stanford. Dave told me about it. He said they jumped a little girl and her grandmother.”

“Terrible,” Harold muttered.

“The old woman keeled over with a heart attack.”

“What about the girl?”

“She wasn’t hurt. Some sailors came to the rescue. But the grandmother died. Dunn was forced to shut down his freak show. Then he couldn’t afford the liability insurance to keep his Funhouse going, so he closed it. He still owns it, though. Nobody can get him to tear it down.”

“Maybe he wants to reopen it someday.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised. He doesn’t have
a grate
on the floor of the Oddities place.”

Harold looked at the abandoned Funhouse and shook his head. “I might’ve enjoyed that,” he said.

“Right. That’s a real shame. The one attraction on the entire boardwalk that you might’ve enjoyed, and it isn’t open.”

“No, I mean it. When I was a kid, I used to go to Riverview in Chicago. I guess Riverview’s long gone now. But they had a funhouse called Aladdin’s Castle. Or was it Palace? I don’t recall. But I used to love it.”

“Gee, there is hope for you.” She took hold of his arm, and they strolled on. “So, you used to enjoy amusement parks. In your callow youth.”

“Before I became a stick-in-the-mud.”

Joan smiled. “Tell me more about your prestick days.”

“I was always too timid for my own good.”

She squeezed his arm, said, “Just a minute,” then smiled and raised her other hand in greeting. “Hiya, Jim, Beth.”

The two officers walked over to them. Jim looked at her legs.

“Don’t you see enough of this place during the day?” Beth asked.

“Dave won’t let me ride the Hurricane.”

“Just lets you climb on it,” Jim said.

She introduced them to Harold. He shook hands with them.

“Be careful with her, Harry,” Jim said.

“Is she fragile?”

“She’s got a black belt.”

“And I’m not above hitting people with it,” Joan said.

“Don’t let her cuff you to the bed. Once she’s got you helpless, out comes the belt.”

“Are you speaking from personal experience?” Harold asked him.

“In his dreams,” Joan said.

Beth nudged Jim with her elbow. “Come on, Casanova. Nice meeting you, Harold.”

“Yeah,” Jim said. He slapped Harold’s arm. “Got one word of advice for you, Harry. Go for it.”

Harold grinned and nodded.

“That was three words, dipstick,” Joan said.

“But who’s counting?”

He and Beth ambled away. Before they vanished into the crowd, Joan saw them look at each other and start talking. No doubt discussing her boyfriend. Jim, for one, would not be voicing approval.

“Interesting fellow,” Harold said.


At least Jim goes for it, Joan thought. You may not
him to go for it, you may have to inflict some pain to stop him, but he’s interested enough to make the try.

“Is it true that you have a black belt?”

“I have a black garter belt.”

“Would you like some cotton candy?”

“Sure. That’d be great.”

What does it take to get a rise out of him? she wondered.

He bought a cotton candy for Joan, nothing for himself. She tore off a puffy wad with her teeth, drew it into her mouth, and felt it dissolve before she had much chance to chew it.

“So at that Riverview place,” she said, “what did you like besides Aladdin’s Castle? The roller coaster?”

“They couldn’t drag me onto the Bobs. Or the parachute drop. As I said, I was timid.”

“How about the Ferris wheel?”

“I wouldn’t go near it.”

“How about the Ferris wheel right now?”

“Oh, I don’t think so.”

“I do.” The sign by its gate showed that five tickets were needed. She headed for a nearby ticket booth, Harold hurrying after her.

BOOK: Funland
5.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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