Kim Frank

The Redshaw Sea Star

​The idea rose ten stories into the air. Open gondolas shaped like birdcages painted royal blue, canary yellow, purple, and green. Striped canopy roofs. Lit up spokes stretching every direction and all of it changing colors. “A Ferris wheel,” said Jimmy out loud to no one, “is exactly what we need.” He secured the replaced sections of rusted track behind the dragon’s head and climbed back into the train at the top of the roller coaster. The ocean was rough, typical for November. White caps chopped clear out to the horizon line, and high tide rushed up underneath the pier. He surveyed the park: torn leather Scrambler seats, Flying Swings clanked and tangled, an empty cement square where the Orbit once stood, and the faded blue ticket booth where a young Rosalind, with her blond ponytail and sweet sun freckles, had studied for a college entrance exam she’d never take. They’d been in this together, a family business. Third generation. Only Ros was gone, having just left him after twenty years. He rode the coaster to the bottom. Why not a giant Ferris wheel? Biggest on the Jersey Shore. He pulled out his phone to tell her, still doing even that after two months.
His grandfather, Frank, started Funland Amusement Pier in 1935 with a jumbo lime-green slide on a wide section of boardwalk that stretched out over 7th street beach. Grew it into one of the greatest parks on the Atlantic coast with an imported carousal and state-of the-art roller coaster. In 1982, when Frank was hit by a car while riding his rusty Schwinn to work, operations went to Jimmy’s dad, James Redshaw Sr, who added a water flume and the county’s first go-cart course in time for the upcoming season. That summer eighteen-year old Rosalind Cooper was hired as a ticket taker, and Jimmy became her first real boyfriend. By the end of the season, she was pregnant, much to everyone’s surprise, particularly Sherry, the girl he’d dumped only weeks before. But the future was bright and marriage seemed the easiest thing.
Two decades and not a technical glitch. Until last May when, without consulting him, Ros tried out for the beach patrol. A thirty-eight year old mother of two college girls! It had been a tough year. His father had died of a heart attack over Christmas, and Funland operations fell to him. Two weeks before opening day, Rosalind announced: “They took me.” As if he could simply replace her with any old high school kid still needing a seasonal job.
He was not entirely surprised. Eventually the Tilt-a-Whirl made the children too dizzy. Over time they lost interest in the galloping horse on the Merry-Go-Round, stopped stroking the coaster dragon’s golden head, screaming “faster!” at his iridescent scales—the days of half-expecting real fire to stream from his open mouth gone with a snap. Not for him, however. Never for him. The flume ride still made Jimmy’s stomach leap in a way that nothing ever could.
She’d left him the Thursday after Labor Day. He came home from work at 8pm after grabbing a hotdog on the boardwalk. The carousal horses were starting to flake and chip; the train couldn’t go another year without dismantling and oiling all the tracks. The house was dark. Ros had taken to staying out late those last few weeks. Guard parties after races. “They expect me,” she’d said. He drank coffee, surfed websites, and read customer reviews on the FunLand site. When he got around to checking the time, it was almost midnight.
The note was in their bedroom. Propped against layers of frilly pillows. The soft loops of her handwriting reminded him of others left in lunch boxes. He half-hoped a love letter, but it had been years. He called her phone. It was disconnected. He called again. Checked the number and called again. And again. In her closet were sweaters on shelves, some pants, winter things. The red velvet dress she wore when they took the girls to the Rockettes at Christmas. In the crowded theater row, her face had been shadows of green and red, she clutched each daughter’s hand. They were seniors in high school then, Jess and Jen. In a year, they’d be gone. After the show he’d taken them to dinner, a new restaurant at the top of the city. White search lights, bright yellow neon flashing in crystal, glass, and steel—all of it reflect