“A rollercoaster is nothing like a woman, and Ian from Head Office should shut his stupid face” said Calumn. “He’s always saying words. Everything is like a woman to him: his coffee, his laptop…. He is such a… prick.” Little pieces of bread flew from Calumn as he chewed his sandwich. He continued, “Did you see him when it happened? He is such a… prick.” He straightened his back, his point made. Magnus didn’t know what to say to Calumn when he got this angry so he gave his best ‘yes I know’ nod – a nod that always infuriated Calumn. The two men stood together and looked out of the Portakabin window and looked at the rain on the rollercoaster. The only sound was Calumn eating his sandwiches.
“He’s such a Nazi for his health and safety, like the prick he is,” said Calumn as he fingered his gums. Calumn knew full well that he had said ‘prick’ too often and that Magnus hated swearing, but he needed someone to hear his hate.
“We’d better do what he says though” said Magnus, “he is in charge”.
“No he isn’t!”
“Ian from Head Office is in charge” said Magnus, “today at least. It is mostly our fault.”
Calumn sighed and glared out of the window, even more intensely than before. This time he imagined the rollercoaster driving hard into the dragon’s open mouth, and not a pretend fibreglass dragon, like the one they had on the Dino-Coaster but a real one that fed on children’s tears and fears; sucking out their screams before it swallowed. Again, he saw the girls’ arms hanging down. He took a sip from his instant coffee and pulled a face of disgust.
At least Calumn knew no one would like Ian from Head Office: a ridiculous little man. His hands were too small for his big fat arms. He couldn’t, or wouldn’t, speak properly; he used ten words when two would do. And his natural smile, that same smile he did at the press conference, it was sinister, slimy and paedophilic.
Calumn looked at Magnus. They had worked together for almost four years but they had never bonded. After the accident Magnus had touched Calumn’s shoulder to comfort him but it sent a chill all over his body. Magnus was a Christian and a married father of two but had a cult leader’s air. Magnus’s god had given him a bald head and huge unkempt, blonde sideburns, making him look 53 to Calumn. He knew for a fact, however that he was only 26 and Calumn envied his youth.
Magnus pointed at the rollercoaster. “Ian’s waving. He wants us to go down to him.” Magnus tightened his safety helmet. Calumn had a flash of hate for Magnus and his keenness to leave the Portakabin. Ian from Head Office whistled for the men like a jolly ringmaster. ‘The fat-armed prick,’ thought Calumn.
“Now then gentlemen,” said Ian from Head Office, “My duties in studying the health, and indeed safety, of this contraption will not be in any way near completion unless your good selves and I partake in the truth”. Today his smile was wide and full of teeth; battered and riddled with gaps, the teeth looked found rather than grown. Magnus and Ian from Head Office were waiting for Calumn to answer but he was lost in the man’s mouth.
“I’m sorry. Yes,” said Calumn, hoping a yes would cover it.
“You have the key?” asked Ian from Head Office.
Calumn nodded and brought the key out of his pocket and pushed it with some force into the door of the rollercoaster’s cabin. He pushed it open and sucked in the still air. The three men stood by the door and listened to each other’s breath. Inside, it smelled artificially clean. Calumn had cleaned it the day before the accident just to keep himself busy but now it felt like a prison morgue. Magnus and Ian from Head Office looked at Calumn. He knew those two were becoming best friends.
“So, said Ian from Head Office, I understand you were standing in here when the tragedy took place?”
No one said anything. Calumn looked at Magnus as he slowly, like a second cousin at a funeral, nodded his head and sniffed. “Sorry,” said Magnus, “When I think of those girls…” Calumn tightened his fist while Ian from Head Office ticked a box on his clipboard. Magnus was good at looking sad. Calumn was good at looking angry.
“I understand” said Ian from Head Office and ticked another box.
“I heard they lived for hours afterwards. We really thought they’d make it,” said Magnus. “They died in great pain.”
“Yes. So I believe,” said Ian from Head Office. The men shuffled their feet. Calumn focused on centuries-old looking chewing gum that he’d missed on the floor. He forced his mind to wander; anywhere but here. Who eats chewing gum now? Is it still a thing? Whatever happened to bubble gum? Calumn couldn’t remember the last time he saw a bubble burst between the lips of an arrogant teenager. Or peeled an old bit away from under a desk.
“Why did they let this happen, Mummy?” said Magnus. Calumn stopped thinking about gum.
“Mum” surely?” said Ian from head Office. “A teenage boy would never say Mummy; even at a time of great stress.”
“Moments before death?” asked Magnus.
“A few girls died. Maybe they said Mummy? Do you think?”
“Do you think they knew they were going to die?” asked Magnus
“Oh I think so. Hanging there, arms dangling… Those four minutes must’ve been torture. Waiting there… maybe they made their peace with God; only if they believed of course.” Ian from Head Office smiled. He continued: “They were all in the same rollerblading club. Best in the region.”
“Yes, I was reading about them in the paper. Did you see the paper? There was a double page spread and they had a picture of each victim next to a picture of their mum and dad. “Local Man Blamed” Magnus used his fingers to emphasise that he was quoting and pulled an exaggerated grimace. “Very sad.”
“Yes.” said Ian from Head Office as he sighed heavily, “Crying men.”
“Yes.” said Magnus. The two men waited. Calumn stood between them and looked out of the window.