Chapter 52:

Line Trouble


“B-back, villain! Or I’ll- I’ll crush you! …Oh, god… let this end already…”

Frankie died a little inside as she flailed her arms about in the likely centuries-old rat costume, tail stitched back on millions of times. In front of her, Katie was having the time of her life as she gave quite the inspiring performance.

“You actually think I fear you, Ratguy? Me, the almighty Bewitcher? Mwahahahahahahahaha!! You are a fool!” Katie made sure as many people nearby could hear her as possible, though was careful to keep her excited laughs in-character, lest she reveal how much fun she was having.

“T-take this!”

As the girls stage-fought in the misfitting costumes assigned to them by their new boss, more and more people gathered onto the stairs connecting the ride platform to the sidewalk below. With Mr. Stamos shepherding them onto the ride, business was booming. It was a pretty stupid idea on paper, but it worked.

“Hey!” The Texan boss ran over to his new employees. “Great work, you two. I just need to go uh-“ the man gave the ugliest chuckle anyone had ever given- “fix a little problem with the seatbelts, we almost had someone fall out!” He laughed a second time as if to punctuate his insensitivity. “Can you check tickets and all that for a while? I won’t be long.”

“Sure!” Katie said, already imagining interacting with guests in-character. Frankie stifled a groan as she pictured the beautiful sea again and hurried to get to work.

The two stood at the front of the line sending people up to join the next batch of lucky guests to ride Ratguy’s Rampage. Plenty of people were now eager to check out the spinning antique mess, and plenty of said people were kids without tickets or rider’s licenses, adding plenty extra to Vincent’s, and by extension their earnings.

“This batch’s full!” Stamos called out to his workers. “I’ll start them just as soon as I get this dadgum belt system to work… come on…”

With nothing to do for a short time, Katie looked to the people first in line. Ahead of them all, a guy somewhere in adulthood looked up at the nearby skyscrapers with his subtle-ridden face as he puffed a cigarette, not giving it any mind as the ashes fell to his stained white tank now and then. The guy just behind him, a shorter tourist with glasses and a rider’s licence over his Tough Boys Comics tee, was not having it.

“You’re getting us killed, asshole. Can you put that thing away?”

“I don’t see you up there at head of the line. It’s fine, right, girls?” The smoker asked the employees.

Katie despised being the bearer of bad news, but Frankie was far too shy to do it herself.

“Oh, um, we don’t allow smoking near the ride… you don’t have to put it out, but then you’d have to lose your spot in line… I’m sorry.”

“Oh, gimme one break. This is for my nerves. I'm not used to these scary rides, ya see.” A couple people giggled further behind in line, providing him an audience.

“Heh.” The licenced rider scoffed. “If you can’t stand the heat, get outta the kitchen.”

“Hell of a thing to say after pissin’ yer jeans at the sight of a little smoke.”

“Hey, screw you. You’re making this worse for everybody.”

One guy further back in the line gave a passionate “yeah!” for some reason.

“Sir… please…” Katie tried to reason with the smoker.

“Will ya at least tell this guy behind me to cool his jets?”

Katie leaned to face the upset customer and gave an understanding look of apology as she tried to convince him to play along.

“…It’s whatever.” He said crudely, crossing his arms. “You know, really? I didn’t care that you were smoking. I’m just bothered by your lame-ass attitude. You think you’re so cool, but you don’t got any balls. You think smoking that artificial rolled-up shit makes you tough, but I can tell you’ve never had a tough day in your life. Go to hell, weirdo.”

Katie was screaming internally at the guest for escalating the situation even further, but to her surprise, the smoker responded with calm silence. Removing the stick of lung cancer from his lips, he faced the man evenly, and asked him something without a single hint of aggression-

“I’m sorry. But you just don’t go saying that to people. Look, I have had it tough. To be honest, some days it feels like things just get worse and worse and worse and they don’t never get better. And yeah. That’s why I’ve got this stupid addiction I can’t shake. I can tell you were more lucky than I. When’s the last time you smoked?”

“It’s been ten years.” The guest responded firmly, but with patience.

“Then you know how hard it is being in this place. I envy you. I really do. And you have every right to look down on me. But if you think I ain’t tough- that just hurts. Buddy, I’m just as tough as you are.”

“Prove it.” The tourist grinned, sun reflecting in his frames. The smoker signed.

“Well… alright.”

He opened his mouth, sticking out a vulnerable and pink tongue. Without hesitation, he pressed the lit tip of the cigarette into it, and then again, putting it out for good on the surface of his tongue.

“Holy shit…”

He crumpled the rest of the white stick, and stuck it in his pants pocket.

“Dude! How’d you learn to do that?”

The smoker laughed. “Sixth grade!”

“You’re sick, you know that, right…” the guest kept laughing, as the smoker laughed with him. Even Katie and Frankie laughed, albeit extremely uncomfortably. “Thanks for… putting it out though, sorry for being such a douche about it. Dude, you’re crazy!” He riled himself up into more laughter, the smoker resting his hand on the man’s shoulder as they wheezed together, holding their stomachs.

Then, the smoker punched him in the jaw.

Katie outwardly gasped- Frankie took her shock in silence, just staring at the blood pooling on the steps that began to make the line back up a little as the smoker was now the only one laughing.

“You are one sorry little guy, aren’t cha? Ha-ha! That’s what you get…” he lit a second cigarette to replace the one he quenched with his tongue. Setting the thing in his mouth, he shot a look at Frankie and Katie.

“What? Got a problem?”

Just before either of the sisters could react, someone else did far sooner.


As soon as he saw the tall operator bounding towards him, the smoker leapt to climb down the side of the stairs. Before he knew it, he was on the run as Vincent Stamos pushed through the line to follow him, stepping on the head of the bleeding guest on the way down.

Steward McOy