The daylight is waning and I know I'll have to plan my moves wisely. We, my mom and dad and I, have been browsing the game machines in Nautical Playland here at Revere Beach. The dings and buzzers and flashing lights are going full throttle in this arcade that overlooks the indoor miniature golf course. I want to move on, though, as there are more spectacular things to see and do outside.
     And so we begin our stroll up the boulevard, past Hurley's Carousel, Kohr Brothers' Frozen Custard, Joe and Nemo's Hot Dog Stand (there are two of them here), and the constant 'crack-clang-crack-clang' of the shooting gallery. My mother always hustles us quickly past the gallery and reminds me about the sailor who was shot there during WWII when a chum was clowning around with the rifle, not realizing it contained live ammunition.
      Harsh reality among the unreal, but I'm soon distracted by something looming just ahead, right next to the giant Cyclone roller coaster. I want to take a closer look, so my parents stop and let me satisfy my curiosity. It is like nothing else on the beach:
a stage-like area adorned with jungle imagery and with a set of doors on either end, each with a fierce tiger face painted on it. At the top is a sign that reads: 'Treasure Island'. Every few minutes a small car comes banging through the doors on the right, bearing a couple of riders who are sometimes laughing, sometimes rolling their eyes as if to say: "Let me out of this thing!".
      The noisy little cars with the curly shapes on the sides dissappear through the doors on the left and are gone from sight for three or four minutes. Where they go, and what happens to the riders, I cannot see. Elsewhere on the boulevard I'd seen the Whip, the Auto-Skooter, and the building that houses the Tilt-A-Whirl and Bubble Bounce. With these rides, I could always see what all the cars were doing. But this one was strange. How do I know if I want to go on it if I can't see what happens? Plus, it seems to be totally dark where the cars enter...very mysterious.
      But something else draws me even closer. I walk up to the blue-painted wooden railing which is slightly sticky with the dew of the ocean air. At age seven, I can barely see over the fence. Beyond the rail a huge figure of a woman is standing before me, arms outstretched. She has a broad open-mouthed smile and her head rolls around as her torso lurches sporadically forward then rears backward, over and over. Every part of her jiggles and sways and I hear her loud, high-pitched laughter filling the air above the buzzing motors of the cars and the clattering of the wooden doors as they slam shut after absorbing another collision.
      The laughing lady is missing her right front tooth, and is dressed like a farm girl. And...she has a companion. To her left stands a man dressed in coveralls and straw hat, equally convulsed in laughter. He, too, is missing that same right front tooth and I assume they are brother and sister. But what are they doing here, some ten miles north of Boston, where farms are very scarce indeed? The farmer's laughter also spills out onto the sidewalk. It is a coarse, braying laugh, seeming to taunt the riders of these oddly-shaped vehicles as they lurch ahead and then take a sharp turn into the eerie darkness. But it seems that none of the riders is any the worse for wear when they finally do emerge into the daylight, only to be laughed at all over again.
      I'm too stunned by the sight of the unusual couple to laugh back at them, yet I'm not afraid of them because I know that they're not real people, that their movements are repetitive and mechanical, and that their expressions never change. My parents, seeing that I am transfixed, inform me that it's time to move along. I plead for a little more time but settle for a promise to ride Treasure Island with my father on our next visit. That, plus one more slice of pizza tonight.
      We make our way up the boulevard one last time as dusk settles and the moon rises over the ocean on our right. To the left, the arcades and game stands flare up in bright colors, and slashes of yellow fluorescent light shimmer on sizzling hotdog grills. I look backward a few times at Treasure Island and catch the last few giggles as they dissolve into the music of the night-time midway. We pass the Virginia Reel, then the colossal Bluebeard's Palace funhouse and arrive at the Hippodrome with its massive five-row carousel and Anna's Pizza stand (my favorite) flanking the entrance. Gazing at the wooden horses as they hypnotically float past my weary eyes, I begin to surrender to the drowsiness that has at last caught up with me.
      Night has fallen, and my dad lights up a Pall Mall as he backs our Plymouth out onto the road and steers northward for the half-hour trip home. Lying on the back seat with my eyes closed, I sense the glare of each overhead street lamp as it sweeps across my face. But my thoughts are elsewhere, back at Treasure Island with that strangely merry couple whose job was to simply laugh and to bestow a light-hearted mood on all who passed their way.

I knew I would never forget them.


©2003 Laff In The Dark/