The Gonzo Journals
May 18th, 2023
I’ve heard this phrase a million times in my life. Today, we’re going to give examples. Let’s see if I can make you feel those thousand words. I’m a professional, after all. It shouldn’t be too hard, right?
Here is the picture:
This was the very last day I worked on the railroad at Six Flags Over Texas. Click here if you don’t know the story of what happened https://cderickmiller.com/2023/04/21/to-my-six-flags-family/
What you’re seeing is an employee area which the public doesn’t get to see. What are they going to do? Fire me?
I’m pretty sure it was a Saturday, and I was the first person who arrived in the roundhouse. I always liked to get there first so I could spend some alone time with the locomotives. They had such an awesome history and I loved to share in that energy.
This was Charles Jefferson Patton, named after one of the original engineers who worked for the park. The maintenance foreman who lit the fire had yet to arrive, but the scents from shutting her down the night before still lingered heavily in the air. This locomotive was built by Porter in 1897 and used to haul sugarcane on a plantation in Louisiana until 1948. The plantation stored their locomotives at that point since trucks became more readily available to the general public. Patton stayed in storage until Six Flags Over Texas leased her from the plantation in 1961. It is still under lease to this very day. These engines were my friends.
I’m not quite sure if that’s a thousand words about this photo or not and I’m not going to bother counting them.
After I was fired, a publisher reached out to me to be part of an anthology containing short stories about theme parks. For the sake of this blog’s title, here is the first one thousand words to my story “Full Circle” from the upcoming PsychoToxin Press release titled 666 Flags!
It was too late to turn back. The decision came not at my own expense but by others who tended to lean more into the numerical side of things. A man’s heart was of no interest to the bean counters, but I had every intention of supplying those beans. Those bloody, mangled, newsworthy beans who would cease to be upon this day, but live forever in infamy. Who doesn’t want to die a legend? No need to thank me, my dearest passengers. Oblivion awaits.
I glanced back over my shoulder once last time for a sort of mental souvenir photo of smiling faces and bouncing babies. All the other rides in the theme park offered those, didn’t they? Why was it something only the bravest of the brave got to enjoy during the final run of the rollercoasters? Think of all the cowards who missed out on such memories just because they didn’t want to share this morning’s breakfast burrito with whomever was unlucky enough to be sitting behind them? I truly care about the wellbeing of my guests and it’s high time I showed them all. Crossed arm, silver eyed examples of how not to react to sensitive situations. I’m a dreamer, you see. I can’t help it that lately I’ve dreamt of nothing but red.
There’s a special place in Hell for men like me and, fortunately, I won’t have to dwell there alone. Statistically, a little less than half these souls will dive for the dirt nap and spend the Biblical definition of tormented eternity holding hands among the flames. I’m sure it only hurts for the first few seconds. A human body’s nerve endings would all be severed by then leaving only the fresh scent of scorched flesh to fill the noses of the condemned. I’d bestow that same gift to the first responders who’d eventually wish they’d arrived last, or not at all. Paychecks would surely be earned upon this day.
The vaporizing fuel feeding the boiler’s fire almost choked me as I inhaled deeply, praying to the gods I’ve never met to guide my twisted mind. If it were up to me, I would make this journey as painless as possible for myself, those within my care, and the guests out of reach of my wrath who would look upon the carnage with unbridled fear. Pain, however, is the most sufficient teacher upon the face of the Earth. Think about it. Do you remember every time you were shoved into a ‘time out’ during childhood? Of course, you don’t. Now, do you remember every time you had your ass handed to you by an irate father’s belt or a furious mother’s open hand? Yes, you do. We remember pain, whether it be inflicted upon our own bodies or felt empathically for others. Pain is what drove my vengeance and pain, in return, would be an overwhelming normalcy for what remains of this place from now until the end of time. Famous for all the wrong reasons is still fame.
I could feel my own smile cross my face as I placed the Johnson Bar in the forward position. A slight bend in the right direction brought the couplers to maximum allowance so I nudged the throttle a bit and released the automatic brake. Surely those settings would be enough to deliver the train full circle back to this exact spot at Smithwick Station for the finale of my newest of grotesque masterpieces. That same smile stretched further bringing slight discomfort to my cheeks. I didn’t smile much in my day-to-day life which is why such muscular initiation was normally avoided on my part. An illusion delivered by whiny nerve endings, pain. To hell with it all, and to Hell with this train.
The unfamiliar whistle cord graced the curl of my fingers and I pulled hard for all it was worth. The bray of excess steam through the tiny opening pinged ears from the front car to the rear where my conductor’s perch awaited. I’d never blasted the train’s whistle because it was something I had yet to earn. My conductor’s exam was easy as pie and my fireman’s training was nearing its end. Still, only the engineer got to blow the whistle, and that glorious graduation would never commence if I managed to fulfill today’s plan without a hitch. Indeed, there was no time like the present, and I yanked that ancient rope one last time for good measure. I had no engineer on this train, after all.
Stepping out of the engine and onto the raised platform, I glared curiously as my souls blurred by demonstrating glimpses of happiness and finality. Scalding water, flesh peeling steam, and devil’s fire never delivered quick endings which is why it took everything I had within myself not to abandon my destiny, or theirs, for that matter. It was the children’s giggles that drew me down redemption’s road, but I tried to ‘about face’ that shit as quickly as possible. No, these fine folks were going to get their money’s worth on a fine, Wolf’s Hollow theme park Saturday. I hopped aboard the last car, pressed the transmit button on the microphone, and began the last great spiel of my career.
“Well, howdy y’all!” I bellowed to little response. No sir. Not quite good enough for the likes of me.
“Oh, come on now,” I added. “It’s still early in the day and I know you all can’t be that tired. Let’s try it again. We’ll howdy y’all!”
“Howdy,” the crowd responded with enthusiasm, knowing damn well I wouldn’t stop my typical introduction until I was satisfied with their cooperation. Some of them had ridden this ride before.
“Well, that’s more like it!” I laughed with satisfaction. “Welcome aboard the Wolf’s Hollow Railroad! Much like many of the folks who work for it, or at least those who used to, the Wolf’s Hollow Railroad is the oldest operating attraction inside the park!”
My brain paused momentarily. Sure, some of the passengers laughed at the joke I made regarding the average age of the people who operated this train, but none of them picked up on the two key words giving a hint of things to come. “Used to” triggered the great mystery too cryptic to crack. I knew, though, and that was enough satisfaction to keep myself entertained for the next fifteen minutes. The final fifteen minutes.
Well, there you go. I have managed to take a horrible situation and turn it into something entertaining. When it’s all said and done, I will add about nine thousand more words to this. I won’t post them here. You’ll have to purchase the anthology when it is released in June. All proceeds will go to a legal fund for authors who go through situations like mine.
Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy it when it’s finished. At this point, I’m not even sure where it’s headed. Somewhere dark, gory, and unforgettable. My kind of story!
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