The other night at dinner, my non-existent son, Lemuel, was too preoccupied with doing that flossing dance than he was eating the fine meal my also non-existent wife, Sheila, had made. I looked at the boy and said: “Son if you eat all your broccoli, you can play a Fortnite.” The flossing stopped, the eating began. As we conversed during dinner, my Son began to bemoan the fact that due to my busy travel schedule—my job as a sales rep for rubber duckies hits its peak during the Summer—that we didn’t have time for a family vacation.
It’s true that at the start of the Summer I had toyed with the idea of taking the fake-family to one of those popular themed parks. There’s the giant of Disney World and it’s neighbor Universal Studios in Orlando or the always wonderful Dollywood that we are so lucky to live close to. But, alas, my time on the road kept this from happening. I knew that it was something that bothered Lemuel, for as he resentfully ate his broccoli, he said to me—just under his breath—“You know, if you were a cool dad, you’d build me a theme park.”
Sheila hushed Lemuel and piled more broccoli on his plate. She knew that these words were hurting me, she could tell by the look on my face. My face was sunken, and I was looking off into the distances, staring slightly at the floor. You see, last summer, one of Lemuel’s friends—Tommy Tart—had his dad—Bobby Tart—built him a theme park in their back yard. Tart Land opened to rave reviews and peak crowds. It also was a point of personal embarrassment for me, as my condemnation of the idea got me kicked out of the “Cool Dad’s Club.” They revoked my blazer and everything.
That night I couldn’t sleep. Lemuel’s words stung deep into my brain meat and I kept thinking that maybe he was right. Maybe I should build a cost-effective, theme park that would put Tart Land to shame, make my son proud of me, and get me back in good standing with the “Cool Dad’s Club”—I miss my blazer. In the light of day, it wasn’t that far a stretch to make my theme park in the backyard. I do go around branding most of the shenanigans I do under the banner of “Andyland” anyway—so why not make it a real thing?
I called a meeting of my brain trust. I laid out the plans for them and they told me I was a fool but were willing to go along with this when I tossed novelty-sized sacks of money at them. The nice kind with the dollar signs all over them like you see in a cartoon. Thus, the all-night planning session began. We ate coffee cake and drank gallons of strong coffee well into the hours of dawn’s early light.
We hit our first snag early on when we realized that we would need to clear out about half of the neighborhood to build out the park the way we wished. I thought this was no trouble, I would just annex all my neighbor’s land. However, it turns out that standing on someone else’s property dressed like Napoleon and yelling “I annex thee!” is not only not legally binding in away way, but it also gets the cops called on you real quick.
With my backyard now the only space available to us, we had to rethink everything about the park. If we wanted to offer several rides, and a little food pavilion, the only option we could do was build one motion simulator building and program it for a variety of rides. It wasn’t as fancy as most theme parks, but it did mean you could get the experience of riding a roller coaster rain or shine. Which is to say, if it was raining outside, we’d squirt you with the garden hose during the ride.
I won’t bore you with the details of the construction or the other setbacks we encountered. But after six months of hard work, I was happy to have in my backyard a small building housing a motion simulator capable of seating six people who were ready to undertake my new adventure ride “Exploring Space with Commander Johnny.” For the opening day, I invited Lemuel to be the first to ride, along with the “Cool Dad’s Club” committee members.
I couldn’t ride the first ride, I had to operate the control panel. 90% of everything was guided by the computer, but I had buttons to stop the ride if I needed to, plus a little screen showing me what was playing on the large projection screen inside the ride. As the ride played out I could hear my voice—as I was Commander Johnny—say “Greetings space travelers, you’re about to come with me on the adventure of a lifetime, let’s blast off!” That was the first big motion moment for the simulator and I could hear excitement coming from all, especially my fake-child.
As my chest swelled with pride there was a song in my heart and a tear running down my cheek. That’s when I turned to my friends who had helped me with this project to express my gratitude, I rested my hand down on the control console as I did this. In doing so, I accidentally pressed the turbo button, which speeds up the ride. Soon, I hear the wiring of all the hydraulics firing left and right. Sounds of people in a panic, and sounds of things flinging around like tennis balls inside a dryer.
I rushed to hit the giant cancel button that would stop the ride safely and immediately. But the button didn’t work, instead, the ride got faster and I could the speakers say “I am the A-1000 Fun System, smiles for all, won’t’ stop till the ride is over.” A friend of mine in a panic screamed “It’s become self-aware! Hit the kill switch!” I did, and the ride stopped suddenly. There were sounds of discomfort from the ride module, and as people left they expressed nothing but discontent for me.
Lemuel refused to speak to me, and the committee from the “Cool Dad’s Club” burned my blazer right before my very eyes and gave me a paddling. I was the most ashamed and heartbroken I ever had been in my entire life. My friends tried to comfort me, saying I did the best I could and that I should be proud of it, it was “middling-Disney level quality” they said. But the sting of the failure not only lingered long but still lingers. It’s why I now live in a small shack out in the woods. Waiting to come back to society. See you next week.