The Amusement Park: For Kids of All Ages
It was Friday afternoon and Sheila was waiting on her kids to get home from school. It was the last day of school and summer break was about to begin. Sheila dreaded the thought of 3 long months with 2 bored kids.
She had gotten married later than most of her friends because she wanted a career. She had put off having a family so that she could dedicate herself to her business. Her ex-husband Mike had finally started pushing for a family and when she was 34 she had Billy, her first child. About a year later and she was pregnant again with Cindy. She worried that she wouldn't have the energy to keep up with the kids when they got older.
She now feels she was right. They were good kids she thought, but there was always, sports, or trips, or ballet, so much and the list just goes on and on. Although she had always kept herself in shape, at 44 she just didn't feel she could keep up with it all. Her ex-husband had taken up with a younger woman a few years back, a college student named Becky, and rarely had time for the kids.
"Mom? Mom, we're home!" Cindy shouted. "In here honey. I'm in the kitchen". 'Slam', she heard the front door slam and then heard both kids running toward the kitchen.
"Mom, look here we got tickets for Kid's World! " Billy breathlessly explained.
Cindy chimed in "Mom, can we go, can we, can we???!!!" as she handed her mom a flyer.
Sheila took the flyer and glanced over it 'Kid's World- Fun For Children of All Ages-Summer Grand Opening'. Sheila shook her head and said "I don't think so kids. I only see two tickets and you're NOT going there by yourself!".
Cindy started to whine "But mommmmm you can buy a ticket and we can all go!".
Sheila shot back "I'm not interested in watching a bunch of love-sick teenagers or waiting on Geraldo to come in and report on how unsafe the rides are!".
"Who's Geraldo?" Billy asked.
'I am old!' Sheila thought.
Cindy wasn't going to give in. "Mom we never do anything fun any more! Pleeeeease, Pleeeeease!".
Summer break wasn't one hour old and this was starting already. "No, kids! I don't want to hear anymore about this Park!".
Suddenly, Billy blurted out "You never wanna do anything fun! No wonder dad left us!".
Sheila was taken by surprise and started to yell but took a deep breath before speaking "Listen, your dad left me, he didn't leave you guys. Got that? We couldn't get along and he has someone else now. That doesn't mean he doesn't love you. Now go outside and forget about this Kid's World for now! OK?".
The kids sulked off but were perked up a bit because she said "....forget about Kid's World- FOR NOW'. Maybe she'll give in they hoped.
Sheila kept thinking about what Billy had said. She knew the kids wanted her to get back with their father but his girlfriend was still only 24 and she could never compete with that fact. Maybe the kids do need something special. After a while she started thinking 'why not go?'. What could it hurt? Finally she yelled "Kids! Come in here a minute".
Cindy and Billy both made their way into the house and looked up at their mother waiting for an order. "OK, I've thought it over and MAYBE we can go to Kid's World IF you promise to mind me and pick up your rooms, take out the trash without complaining, AND help with the dishes this summer. What do you say kids?".
"Yes, thank you, thank you!!! We promise! We promise! Thank you!".
Sheila was surprised at how much this seemed to mean to the kids. "Alright, it's a deal. We'll leave first thing Monday morning. Lord knows I could use some fun- if I haven't forgot how!" she laughed.
The kids both laughed too.
The kids were out of bed and dressed in record time. They each grabbed their favorite T-Shirts and big baggy shorts. Sheila chose a light summer outfit, loose shorts, a cotton blouse, and sandals. A quick breakfast and they were ready to roll.
"OK, everyone in the car!" Sheila announced. They all piled in the car and Sheila glanced at the flyer checking the directions once more and wondered out loud, "That's funny.... I was in that area not too long ago and I don't remember any Theme Park there. Things certainly change fast anymore!".
The kids looked at each other and laughed as the car backed out into the street. Down the road and up onto the Interstate and a couple of exits later they could see the huge parking lot of the Amusement Park. They pulled in and were directed to park in the 'Ponce De Leon' section. They parked and took the shuttle-bus to the turnstiles. The kids showed their tickets and were quickly in while the attendant stopped Sheila and told her admission was $10. Sheila took the money out of her 'fanny pack' and handed it to the attendant.
She started to go through the turnstile when the attendant grabbed her arm and put a colored bracelet on it.
"What's that for?" she asked.
"Oh, that's so you don't get lost from your kids, and ummm some other things.... They're each specially coded" the attendant added as she motioned her on in.
Hmmm she thought, 'coded?', and then shook her head in amazement.
At that moment Cindy grabbed her hand and said "C'mon mom, let's ride the Merry Go Round", and began pulling her toward the ride.
The Merry Go Round
The Merry Go Round was one of the first rides in the park. It appeared to be extremely old with all the horses intricately painted. Sheila admired the hard work that had went into maintaining such an antique.
They walked toward the ride and each chose a favorite horse to ride. It began to turn. Slowly at first, then faster. The calliope started to play. The music reminded Sheila of the carnivals she had attended when she was a kid. Just as the Merry Go Round's speed seemed to peak, Sheila felt a tingle that started in her wrist. 'Strange' she thought. The feeling passed quickly and it was soon forgotten.
The Merry Go Round began to slow and soon came to a complete stop. They all got off and Sheila noticed the kids staring at her. "What's the matter kids?".
"Oh, nothing" they giggled.
Sheila rolled her eyes and had begun looking around and admiring the other rides when Billy asked "What's next?".
"The Tea Cups are next!" said Cindy.
Sheila asked rhetorically "You kids have an order for the rides you want to ride in? Sheeez, kids!".
They all laughed and headed for the Tea Cups. They sat down in the Tea Cup and soon it started to spin. Billy grabbed the wheel in the middle and spun it causing the Cup to spin even more. The more Billy spun the wheel, the faster the Cup would spin. All of a sudden Sheila felt the tingle start in her wrist again. The Cup kept spinning and Billy kept making it go even faster.
Just then the hair-clip in Sheila's hair flew out and her hair began flowing wildy in the wind. She forgot about the tingling as the kids started laughing at her as she futilely tried to keep the hair out of her face. Finally, the Tea Cup stopped spinning and they dizzyingly got out of the Cup. Sheila started looking for her hair clip and asked the kids to "hold up a minute".
Cindy stopped and said "Mom why don't you just leave it! You look better without it anyway!".
Billy added "Yeah - you don't look like such an old 'fuddy duddy'!" And then they broke out in giggles.
"Oh, alright. I never liked that clip anyway. Sooooo, whats next on the 'list' kids?".
"The Funhouse!" Cindy replied. They all took off for the Funhouse with Cindy leading the way.
Sheila started to ask Cindy to slow down but decided to just pick up her pace a bit instead. As they hurried to the area with the Funhouse Sheila looked at a group of teens waiting in line for one of the rides. They were all wearing baggy clothing and she thought to herself just how odd teenager's fashion sense is these days.
There was a long stairway leading up to and old looking door made up to look like something from the Addam's Family. As they reached the door it opened unassisted. Not surprisingly a speaker played the sound of a 'creeeeak' as it slowly opened.
Cindy looked at her mom and said "You go first, OK?".
Sheila walked inside and now the speaker was playing some 'evil' sounding laughter. She looked at the line on the floor and followed it into the next room. A door quickly opened and a fake clown head popped out of the wall. They continued on deeper into the building.
Suddenly they found themselves in a dimly lit room full of mirrors. All distorted. All blurry. The dim, flickering light didn't help. They looked at themselves in the mirrors and pointed at their reflections.
One made them look short and dumpy, another made them look tall and skinny. Sheila's hair looked even longer to her in the mirrors.
She brushed her hair off her shoulders and then Billy grabbed her and said "Let's hurry".
They moved on to the next room which had a wavy floor that just kept moving under their feet. The sound coming from the speakers changed from the 'evil' laughter into 'screams'. The walls seemed to move in and out and there were pictures on the wall which had eyes that seemed to follow them. Just then Sheila felt another tingle.
Before she had time to even acknowledge the feeling the floor suddenly stopped moving and straightened out. A door opened leading them back outside. Outside, the bright sunlight was blinding after being in the dark Funhouse. Sheila took note that the 'shaking' floor had really ruffled up her clothing and she went into a nearby Ladies Room to straighten up. She looked around but nowhere was there a mirror on the wall. She just sighed and began straightening up. She tightened the straps on her sandals because they had started slipping in the room with the moving floor.
She noticed the movement must have made her fanny-pack's belt loosen because it was a little loose on her now. She tightened the belt some more. She had worn a loose fitting blouse and now it felt a little baggy. She unbuttoned it at the bottom and then tied it in a knot exposing her midriff. Her waist looked a little smaller and she was happy that her new diet seemed to be paying dividends. She rolled up the short sleeves on her blouse and then reached down and cuffed the legs of her shorts.
The sun was so strong and felt so good to her. She thought a little sun might be good for her. She couldn't remember the last time she had actually worked on a summer tan. A grin crossed her face and she loosened the top button of her blouse. She brushed her hair with her hand and thought it really felt full -'must be that new conditioner'.
Deciding she was as ready as she ever would be without a mirror to check herself in, she headed back out to see what the kids had planned next.
The kids looked surprised at her as she came out. "What's the matter? A cat got your tongues?", she asked laughing.
"Nope, ummmm just wondering what took you so long? We're not getting any younger!" Billy answered as he and Cindy burst out laughing.
Sheila was feeling frisky and ready for the next ride. "OK kids, so what are we going to tackle next?".
Cindy paused and then asked, "I don't know yet. So, Uhhhhh Mom, are you having fun?".
"Well, actually I haven't had this much fun in years! You kids were right. I feel great. The sun is great. I really am enjoying this. I even noticed a couple of those teenaged boys checking me out".
Cindy then looked at her more seriously and asked "If you were Becky's age do you think daddy would come back home?"
"Now honey, that's a silly question. Your daddy and Becky are together because they love each other. It doesn't matter what someone looks like or how old they are".
It was a good answer but she actually was thinking that if she was Becky's age she wouldn't give Mike up without a fight. She started drifting off thinking about how she should claw that little tramp's eyes out for what she did....breaking up her family....suddenly a tear started to form in her eye.
Billy tried to get his mother's attention "Mom?, mom?, mom? Is something wrong?"
"Oh I'm sorry....I was just thinking....It's nothing dear. Let's do something else". Sheila wondered why she had suddenly felt so passionate about Mike and Becky after all these years. She decided it must be because of all the fun she was having with the kids and just felt Mike should be here too. She noticed Cindy was suddenly looking sullen. "What's wrong Cindy? Aren't 'you' having fun?"
"I want you and daddy to be together again! I don't know why you're not!" she sobbed.
Sheila thought for a moment before speaking "Cindy your father is a good man but he has flaws. He left me for a younger woman. One of these days he might even leave Becky for a younger woman. He's looking for something to make him happy and maybe one of these days he'll find it".
Cindy looked up at her mother and asked "Younger than Becky?".
Sheila smirked and then deadpanned "Honey, your father would probably just love a cute little cheerleader".
Cindy seemed to liven up a bit and looked at Billy, "We need to go to the the Roller Coaster".
Billy looked back at his sister and said "I, I don't think so"
"I wanna go to the Roller Coaster. It'll be perfect!" Cindy said with a new determination in her voice.
"Look kids if Cindy wants to ride on a Roller Coaster then I do to!" Sheila turned and took off walking toward the Roller Coaster area. Suddenly, she spun around and yelled back at them "I'll race ya!" and took off running with the kids hurrying to keep up.
The Roller Coaster
As they waited in line Sheila noticed how many young people were waiting to ride in the Roller Coaster. There didn't seem to be too many people her own age anywhere around now.
'They don't know what they're missing' she thought. 'It's not how old you are but how young you feel, and today I feel like a 20 year old!'.
The wait was long because the Roller Coaster only had one car and they only let people who came to the park together ride in the car. Finally it was their turn. They got in the car and Billy looked uneasy.
"Just settle down silly. We'll go up and down a couple times and that'll be it" his mother told him.
"I'm just not sure about this...." Billy mumbled and let his words hang in the air.
The car jerked and then started rolling forward. Up it went, higher and higher to the first peak. Sheila grabbed the safety bar tight and prepared to clear the top. Then she felt the strange tingling again.
'What is that?' she thought. Over the top and down toward the bottom the Roller Coaster raced on the tracks. Sheila looked at her hands as they gripped the safety bar. They looked different to her. Trying to rationalize what she was seeing she thought 'maybe it's the tan I'm getting....but they look smoother, softer...'. The ring on her finger wasn't tight at all.
Cindy told Billy "See, it's working better now. She's much prettier than Becky."
'What's going on? What are they talking about?' Sheila wondered.
Just then the coaster quickly went back up another steep climb. At the top Sheila again felt the tingle only this time she was prepared and was looking at the hand with the wristband on it. As the coaster dropped she actually saw her hand shrink slightly. Her long nails weren't so long anymore, her sandals loosened. She looked at her chest and could see it wasn't so 'full' now. The kids were staring.
Finally, Billy spoke, "Mom- you look so young....too young! I didn't know this could happen like this. It's....".
Cindy cut in cheerifully "Mommy you look like one of the babysitters from the highschool! You could be a cheerleader!".
Sheila looked down at her legs as the Coaster was going through a series of turns and noticed how skinny they were now. "What have you kids done....MY VOICE! This can't be real! No, we have to get off this thing! It's got to stop!". The coaster went around another series of turns and then headed for another steep climb. "No! Stop! Please!"....Up, up, up the coaster went. Again, another tingle came over her, and then even another. This time the safety bar seemed to move away from her. She was in total shock. The floor seemed to fall out from under her feet leaving her sandals behind. The safety harness suddenly got really loose for a second before it began to pull tighter against her body.
Unlike when they first got in the Coaster, this time the harness was able to pull flat against her chest. She started crying as the car continued on. Her tears began to slow as the Coaster leveled off and rolled to a stop at the other end. A large looking man came up to them and released them from the car.
Sheila was confused and stunned. Nothing felt right. She almost fell as she tried to step down out of the seat, totally misjudging the distance. It didn't help that her shorts had fallen down around her ankles as she had stood up. The blouse that she had once tied up to expose her midriff was now hanging down to just around her knees.
Cindy took her hand and they began following the large man as he motioned them to follow him into a room down the hall. Sheila stared blankly at the two other children. She recognized them vaguely but couldn't quite place them. As she walked along she began to feel very shy and started looking down only stealing looks at the others with a quick glance and then turning her eyes back toward the ground.
They took a seat in the room at the end of the hall and the large man left without saying anything. A woman in a white coat then entered carrying a few medical instruments. She looked over at Billy and asked for his mother's name.
"Ahhhh, It's Sheila. Uhhh Are we in trouble?".
"I'll deal with you two in a minute. First I need to give your mother a hand. This is very difficult for her. Sheila, honey, I'm Doctor Kelly and I need to take a look at you.You come here and hop up on the table so I can have a look at you." Sheila took the doctor's hand and walked to the table where the doctor helped her up and onto the table. "Do you know your name?".
Sheila shook her head indicating 'yes' and then looked back down at the floor. "Tell me your name and how old you are sweetie".
"Shewa", she said slowly and held up her hand with all 5 fingers up.
"Are you 5 years old honey? Is that what you are saying?" the doctor asked.
"Uh huh.... I'm fi yeara" was her reply.
Dr Kelly turned around and said "Son, do you see what you both have done? You're old enough that you should've known better. The Roller Coaster is NOT to be used on someone against their will. It's too much. The regression is complete. There's nothing I can do. According to my papers you were to return your mother to her early twenties. She would've been a vibrant young woman and no doubt would have appreciated the treatment. Do you think she wanted to be reduced to a kindergarten child?".
Billy swallowed hard to answer "I'm sorry, my sister thought if mom was younger that she and dad would get together again. When mom told her even if she was the same age as dad's girlfriend that dad wouldn't come home...."
"And you don't think that IF she KNEW she had really become 21 that she might feel differently?" Dr. Kelly shook her head as she asked the question but didn't wait for an answer turning back around as little Sheila started crying.
"What's wrong sweetie?"
"I'm 'fraid. I want my mommy" she sobbed. "Now don't worry. You're a big girl and you don't need your mommy right now do you? huhhh? Look at those two over there. I bet they'll play with you. Would you like that? If I go find a dolly would you play with it?" Sheila's face lit up and she shook her head 'yes'.
She sat on the table with her legs dangling over the edge with her bare feet swinging in the air. Her daughter Cindy came over and took her hand and told her she was sorry. Sheila looked at Cindy but didn't understand what she was sorry about.
Dr. Kelly brought a doll in for Sheila. She had called Sheila's ex husband Mike and tried to explain what had happened. She was finally able to convince Mike to come to the Amusement Park. When Mike arrived at the park Dr. Kelly had him escorted down to the room where they were. He still wouldn't believe any of the story until he noticed a birthmark on Sheila. All of a sudden he started to believe.
"How?" he asked.
Dr. Kelly said "'How' is not important right now. We have 3 kids who need to be taken care of and I'm hoping you'll be able to since you are the only family they have now. Now, we DO need to keep this quiet, as I'm sure you can understand. We will, of course, pay for all your trouble quite handsomely."
"But how will I explain this to Becky?" he asked.
"I'm sure you'll think of something, Mike."
One Year later-
"Sheila, make a wish and blow out all 6 of your candles", Cindy told her 'little sister' "If you blow them all out at once your wish just might come true!".
Mike and Becky were able to move into a new house and quit their jobs with the money they received from the Amusement Park. Their three 'kids' have all taken to their new surrounding quite well.....And Cindy is very happy that her plan worked after all. Sort of....