Franciose operates the Breakdancer ride at Coney Island. He'd like to call himself a carney, or something, but carnivals travel and he isn't going anywhere.
He likes to think he's made an art out of making people sick. He doesn't count on the twirling, spinning, up-and-down whipping ride to get the job done. Instead, he puts a little extra effort into the enterprise.
Grabbing the microphone to the ride's P.A. he speaks over the grinding techno-beat. "What I'd like right now baby," he croons using a voice he insists is as sexy as Barry White's, "is to take a bite out of a greasy pork and relish sandwich served in a dirty ashtray."
A hand shoots up, and he smiles. It's the couple in car number seven signaling him to stop the ride. He jumps her forward one quick jolt. "That ought to get 'em," he says and slows it down. For some reason car number seven seems to spin just a little faster than any of the others. He knows he can rely on it in a pinch.
Both passengers in car number seven are getting sick. "Double play," Franciose says and pumps his fist in the air.
Fredo, the ticket taker, confirms it in the ledger he keeps.
The rules for a confirmed vomit are: The ride can last only three and a half minutes. The person or persons must vomit on the ride or when exiting. Once they are beyond the platform railing it's no longer valid. Intoxicated people don't count.
At the end of the week, the operator with the most confirmed vomits takes the pool, splitting 10 percent to each of the ticket takers to keep it fair.
As the ride's machinery softly groans, just before it shudders into a full stop, Franciose is out on the platform, walking straight through the collective dizziness. He grabs car number seven bringing it to a premature halt, and unlocks the safety bar letting the couple out.
"Are you okay?" He asks.
"Fine, fine," the woman says weakly, waving him off. It's the same way his girlfriend, Ro, answered him this morning, just before the shouting. Over and over again she shrieked, pregnant, until it meant something ruinous.
Franciose unlocks the other cars, smiling at the beach clad girls who answer him by rolling their eyes. The neighborhood boys, struggling to become men, always challenge his gaze with a stare. A faint pubescent down shades the slight musculature of their chests. "Chick ride," they say, mugging, before slowly strutting away on uneasy legs and throwing their arms around their dates.
Another person wretches and Franciose is quick to point it out as he unlocks the remaining cars.
Fredo nods, licking the tip of his snub pencil, the kind he steals from OTB, and records the score.
Franciose, with well-practiced speed, unravels the hose and sprays down car number seven and the platform, aiming the spray at the remnants of a mural, the one his cousin Ebarto painted some 15 years ago, on the back wall. The mural is just as dated as the ride's name, taking its styling from TVs Miami Vice and Traci Lords' first xxx video, New Wave Hookers.
Some of that old music is still around. 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' and 'Rio'. He plays it sometimes because he still likes it. Reminds him of the summer he quit school and coming to Coney Island was cool instead of embarrassing.
Fredo starts directing people toward the cars whichays.
"You're old," the boy says.
"I'm getting there," the man says, groaning slightly as he gets out of the car.
Franciose makes the rounds unlocking the rest of the cars, but looks over and watches as the man safely guides his son down the stairs.
Fredo meets up with Franciose, "She's not allowed to ride."
"Yeah, I know. She'll hang with me in the booth. She's probably just trying to get her friends in for free."
"Should I let her?" Fredo says, smiling his devilish smile.
"Yeah let them in, I'll give them their money's worth," Franciose says, lightly nudging Fredo with his elbow. "Do I have a chance at the final pool?"
"Hard to tell right now."
"About how many more do I need?" Franciose asks.
"Three or four, but I'm not real sure."
"Lets do it," Franciose says, and heads to draw the chain across the exit.
Ro strides over to car number seven. "Spin it to the limit," she calls to him and locks herself in. One of the rules is two persons per car, but she's too big to share.
"You can't be riding," Franciose says, leaning into the car for a kiss but gets brushed by her cheek.
"It's the only way," she says while the golden crucifix he found and gave to her dances and twirls on an angels chain above the deep cleave between her breasts.
He tries to unlock the safety bar, but she stops him.
"It's too soon for us," she clenches and unclenches her hands on the brushed aluminum bar. "Let's just get through this ride, together."
"This isn't right," he whispers.
She looks right at him, "It's not a sin if it's an accident. I asked."
Under the shadow of the rotating Wonder Wheel, he hang-dog's it back to his control booth and starts it up. In a fit and scream of poorly greased metal the ride begins anew, chugging to its top speed, whipping and whirling to the techno-pop's thud and beat, as the unbroken lights blink to their own silent impulses. Franciose sits back in his booth not willing to acknowledge his relief, and waits, ready to ignore anyone's signal wishing that the ride was over.