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Haunted Amusements

By Ted Cromartie

By Ted Cromartie

I left my motel room just before dawn. I carefully placed a handmade sign clipped to the windshield of the brand new luxury car– Donated to Pandas. Sure, the fundraiser was over. But they’d figure it out. I walked down the two-lane highway. I passed dirt, stones, signs and dead bodies. No one passed me.

Near dawn, I came upon a dilapidated service station. The pumps out front were clearly inoperable. There was a car bay and the door was up but the glass was all broken out. There was a stack of old oil cans but someone had spray-painted WHORE all over them. Some of them had fallen over into the pumping lanes.

The service area door was open and an old man sat behind a derelict counter. He barely looked up.

“Life lost meaning for me a long time ago, I cannot even remember when that was,” I said.

“Boy, that’s too bad,” said the old man, finally. “You could try some of these candies.” He passed a dusty package of faded jelly candies across the splintered counter.

“Are these Goofs?” I asked. “I thought you couldn’t get Goofs anymore.” I couldn’t help myself– I tore the cellophane asunder with such force that many of the Goofs fell to the floor, rolled under distant objects. I ate one.

“Funny, as otherworldly delicious as these are, I don’t feel much like goofing. I feel the same ennui.”

And then the old man died, right there in his chair.

I peered out the door, down the highway in both directions. Seeing nothing but giant brown boulders, I knew it was safe. I removed the old man’s wallet and tucked it into my jacket pocket.

And then I felt better.

“It will be best not to donate that car to pandas,” I said aloud to no one. And I huffed it back to the motel. Some men in blue jumpsuits were just about to roll the luxury car onto a flatbed tow truck.

“No. I don’t want to donate it now,” I screamed. “Get out of here. Get away!”

The men left immediately.

And so did I.

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