After forty-seven years of operation, the front gates of Jasper’s Joyland will be closing for the final time. The visitors have long since stopped coming, what remains of the skeletal staff has been discharged with severence, and the park swept of any lingering vagrants and trespassers. As inheritor and custodian, I have only one remaining duty to perform once the sun sets.
Jasper’s Joyland was both the brainchild and later the bugbear of my father, Jasper Jorgensen III. He conceived it as a midwestern bastion of family entertainment to rival Walt Disney’s west coast amusment empire, even going so far as to name one roller coaster the “Crazy Mouse” as a snub to his percieved rival’s most famous icon. In reality, though, it proved to be anything but. If Disney ever took notice of Dad’s little enterprise, it was the same attention a whale gives a single flounder.
Not for a lack of trying on Dad’s part. He concieved of characters, hired engineers to design rides, divied the park into areas such as “Jollyroger Jasper’s Pirate Cove” and “Westernville, USA.” He put up billboards along every highway in the state, advertising discounts and package options for families. In his head, each action was but a single step in a nascent business, one destined to flourish and grow.
It never did. Despite all his efforts, despite all his dreams and hustles and the financial capital he sunk into the endevour, at best it was a third rate amusement park, akin to a traveling carnival that taken root somewhere and simply stopped moving on. Oh sure, people came, sometimes in droves; that was the sole virtue of living in a region not reknowned for scenic landmarks and other entertainments with which to occupy oneself. But while we made money, and sometimes plenty of it, it was never enough to do more than add the occasional new ride or some such.
If any of this frustrated Dad, he never showed in front of the vistors. Joyland was just that: a place of fun for both staff and family, where everyone left with a smile on his or her face. But I knew his frustrations, his anger at seeing his dream thwarted by one circumstance or another. There were special duties I had to perform, after hours inside the maintenance shed or out back behind The Lumberjack’s Logroller or Astronaut Annie’s Stratosphere Blaster. This in addition to my work as a snack vendor or ride operator or groundskeer, special work we never spoke about, activities where Dad could relieve himself the pain of his thwarted ambitions.
He died never seeing them fulfilled, and in death willed the burden of them even further onto me. Like any good son, I took up my father’s work, though I had no heart for it.
That is all over now. The park has long since passed financial solvency, the land it sits upon all but worthless. The rides will never run again, and whatever Joyland once offered to attending crowds has passed into memory along with my father. Time to let the last vestiges of his dream fade with him.
I am dilligent with the kerosene, spreading it evenly and continuously throughout. At the front gate there is not even a moment’s hesitation as I light the match and touch it down to the fuel. I close the font gates and lock them with the master key for the final time. Then I turn and walk away, not even bothering to watch as the flames speead and consume my father’s land of joy.