“Theme Park Love Story” by Charlie Hill

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The new boy, Tom, was leaving. This came as a surprise to Rose and Jake. He’d only been there a season. Tom worked with Rose and Jake as pirates. The first thing he’d said to them was that Jake was “a very apt name”. The second thing he said was “Shiver me timbers shipmates, that coffee’s bad.” Rose liked Tom. He liked making people laugh. It made a change from Jake. Lately, Jake could be very intense.

The three of them worked five shows per day through the summer. They were on at twelve and then one, two, three and four. The shows were twenty minutes long. The stage was by the side of the lake. It was designed to look like the wreck of a pirate ship. Rose and Jake and Tom sang and danced. There were acrobatics. In the finale they used a trampoline. At the end of every show, Jake used to end up in the water. Then they swapped and it was Tom.

Tom told Rose and Jake his decision over a Rib Meal from the Princess’s Restaurant in the Fairytale Castle. The Fairytale Castle smelt of animal fat. Tom suggested they eat there as a joke, but he wasn’t smiling when he did. The three of them sat and watched the Dragon Ride, listened to the screams of children. Reward Yourself! it said on the arch above the drawbridge.

“Mate, I’ve got to go,” said Tom.

“Why?” said Jake.

“Oh come on. Look around you.”

Jake wasn’t going to look around. He knew the place. There was a Medieval Kingdom, an Alien Planet, a Wild West Town, an Aztec World.  There was candy floss, hot dogs, rotisserie chicken, slush.  He knew the rides. The lake. The muzak or instructions that came from the loudspeakers on poles. He knew the games where you had to throw a basketball through a specially-narrowed hoop. You won a cuddly toy.

“All this,” said Tom, “it’s just horrible. It’s getting me down.”

“I know what you mean,” said Rose.

“What do you mean?” said Jake. “It’s not real enough for you? Or too real?”

After Tom left the restaurant, Rose and Jake walked back to their rooms. They were staying in the staff quarters of the theme park’s hotel. They walked through the theme park.

“What was that for?” said Rose. “What’s got into you?”

“He’s a prick,” said Jake. “Pays his wages doesn’t it? The fuck does he want?”

“You used to think like that.”

“Yeah but it’s too easy isn’t it? So it’s a theme park. Big deal. We’re actors. Life’s a theme park. Nothing’s real, everything’s real, blah, blah blah. Get over it.”

Jake and Rose spend the evening apart. Later they are in Rose’s bedroom. They have been fucking for three seasons. Last year Rose asked Jake if he loved her and he said “If I get this wrong, does it mean we’re going to stop having sex?” and they both laughed. It had been the first time in a while.

Tonight, the night that Tom has told them he’s leaving, Rose says, “Look. Do you mind? If we don’t… You know. If we just hold each other?”

And to her surprise, Jake says, “No. No, that’s okay.”


Charlie Hill is a writer from Birmingham. His short stories have appeared in Ambit, Stand and Litro. His first novel was described in the Observer as “rich in wry social commentary but also funny and linguistically dexterous… an inventive work that shows much promise.” His second is due out in November 2013.

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