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Don't be a Sissy

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It’s the summer of ’63, and I’m at the Ohio State Fair. My ten-year-old friend, Gary, reaches out and grabs my hand, pulling me toward an enormous ride that looms high into the cloudless sky.  At my resistance, he clicks his tongue and says, "Come on, Becky, don't be a sissy!"

 

My heart pounds as we approach the ramp leading up to The Bullet, a huge metal shaft with a capsule on either end.  A scruffy-bearded attendant with tattooed arms takes our tickets, snaps the security bar over our laps, and slams the door, locking us into our half of the four-person capsule.  The vein in my forehead throbs as we wait within the claustrophobia-inducing confines for the other two passengers to be secured into their equally small compartment.

 

The security bar feels cool to my touch.  Hands gripped around it, I squeeze my eyes shut and gulp as the machine lurches and begins its ascent.

 

"Now whatever you do,” Gary says, “don’t scream!" I open one eye and acknowledge his reproachful expression.  Although muffled shrieks from the other passengers filter through our capsule, I vow not to make a peep, telling myself that just ‘cause I'm a girl it doesn’t mean I’m a sissy.

 

We ride high into the air, and then the capsule turns upside-down.  As we rocket toward earth, the velocity lifts my body off the seat and presses me against the safety bar.  Scared out of my wits, I clamp my lips together and don’t let the panic escape.  My ears are pierced by a blood-curdling scream that slices the air.  I jerk toward Gary and gasp; his mouth is open so wide, I can see that little punching bag thingy in his throat.  His scream dies out, but the terror in his eyes frightens me even more than the horrific ride.  I grit my teeth as perspiration oozes from my palms and causes my hands to slide up against his.  Inching them over to the original spot, they boomerang. I don’t try again.

 

After what seems an eternity the machine comes to a jarring halt, and the attendant releases us from our confines.  I wobble to a nearby fence and lean against the rail until my legs stop trembling. Having just experienced the longest few minutes of my entire eight years, I tell myself I'll never go on a scary ride like that again, no matter how much a friend begs or pleads!

 

Flushed and giggling like the screaming sissy he warned me not to be, Gary nudges my shoulder and offers to spend some of his allowance on Snow Cones.  I grudgingly accept, and we slurp the delicious, grape-flavored treats until our tongues turn purple.  But on his way back from dropping our empty containers into the trashcan, I see him look over my shoulder.

 

His eyes light up.

 

A sense of foreboding sweeps over me just before I hear him say, "Let's go on the Round-Up!"

 

I suck in my breath, hold it, and shake my head, but he grabs my hand and pulls.  With a click of his tongue, he has the nerve to say, "Come on, Becky! Don't be such a sissy."

 

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