Joey went to bed to a candy floss sky, the sun catching the clouds with a pink hue as it drifted beneath the horizon. Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight, that’s what they said. Tomorrow was the big day, they’d been talking about it for months now, ever since Mayor McGarrety had made the announcement on the beach front, and everything had to be perfect. Just perfect.

There had been a stream of construction trucks coming into town ever since then. Cement trucks, dump trucks, trucks laden with steel, timber and glass. It was a daily convoy, clogging up the main street much to the consternation of the local pensioners. They couldn’t see what all the fuss was about, but then it wasn’t for them, was it.

The work had seemed slow to begin with, just mounds of rubble being piled up as the construction workers levelled the old shoe factory and ground down the bricks to be used as foundations. There had been plenty more murmurings from the old folk, complaining about the jobs that wouldn’t come back this way. It didn’t matter that no shoes had been manufactured in the town for the best part of ten years. Change was change and some folks were never going to like it.

Gradually the site took shape, rising from the ground like some grotesque, metallic skeleton, a dinosaur struggling up from the grip of history. Steel pillars welded together, great tracks twisting and turning between them as they kissed the sky. All in all there was over two kilometres of hair raising, pulse racing, heart stopping track galvanised together ready for the grand opening on the fourth July 1994.

The whole town had been decked out for the occasion. Red, white and blue bunting dripped off main street, hanging from the shop fronts in the glorious sunshine. The skies were the deepest blue, not a cloud in sight, broken only by the flocks of seagulls that wheeled against the horizon. Marching bands paced along the parade to the seafront, adults accompanying small children over laden with xylophones too large for their frames as they tried to keep time.

Joey had slept in fits and starts, so eager for the day and now it was here. The breakfast his mother had made, double eggs, bacon and waffles was wolfed down in seconds, a memory seconds later as he sprinted out the mesh door.

He was at Danny Kranztenheim’s within ten minutes, banging with such gusto on the metal shell of their home that Danny’s mother came bursting out with her sweeping broom raised high over her head. Normally Joey would have flinched,  but today was different, today was a special day.

“Good morning, Mrs Krantzenheim,” he chimed, happiness infecting every syllable as they rang from his mouth. “Is Danny home?”

Before she could answer, Danny came bounding out of the home, almost knocking his mother over in the process.

“Be back later, mom. Love you,” shouted Danny over his shoulder as he and Joey scampered off without a care in the world and the sun on their back.

They made it to the seafront in double quick time, weaving through the crowds that were starting to form. A stage had been erected at the front, dwarfed by the behemoth standing behind it, cordoned off by a giant bow carefully tied by the organising committee the night before. At the head of the stage was a podium, a microphone was connected to it ready to broadcast the words of Mayor McGarrety as he opened proceedings later that morning. His speech was prepared, ready to tell the town how this was the dawn of a new era, a time where visitors would flock to Providence Beach once more, where money would once again flow into the town and unemployment would be a thing of the past. He would say all this and more, smiling the big smile that he always wore when the papers where there to take his picture.

Joey and Danny didn’t care about any of that. They were here for one thing and one thing only. They would wait patiently for the speeches to begin, the fireworks to bang and the ribbon to be cut. They would let the grownups do what they needed to do but that wasn’t for them. Today was about one thing and one thing only. Today was the day they became men. Today was the day that they rode the Big One.

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Phil A

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