The Last Days of Yokohama Sid's Used Ferris Wheel Lot
A tragedy in 10 voices
Edited by jeffsoesbe
jaylake: Nothing groans like a Ferris wheel in the wind. I never did understand why anyone would want to ride one of the damned things. You can practically hear the rivets pop, if the drivetrain's been properly lubed. Thrown in some gusts and a little rain and it's enough to make you contemplate your sins. We got twelve on the lot right new, latest one just shipped in from Taichung. That bastard Sid made me assemble the whole damned thing. He likes the look, iron mandalas blocking the horizon in all directions from his shack. When they spin, they're the biggest prayer wheels on Earth. In the wind, it's a death prayer.
etcet: A more philosophical sort of person might look at 'em as metaphors: cycles, or wastefulness, or that Ourobouros thing chasing its tail forever. I don't know what Sid saw in 'em, and I sure know what we didn't - pretty girls, or even ugly ones. Just an endless train of midway hucksters, grinning or scowling in whatever way they thought would score them cheaper.
Yokohama Sid was a hard bastard to bargain with; at least I was on his side.
jeffsoesbe: You see, Sid was never much of a team player. He was a short man with long red hair and a flaming temper. Sid's pride and joy was his mustache, thick and fluid, combed and waxed into points that stuck out a foot from his face. Sid dreamed of being a member of the World Mustache Team but he never quite made it. He'd pissed too many people off along the way.
thexmedic: Still, that man could sure shift a ferris wheel. Weren't never a man or woman who came in here looking who didn't leave with something. They'd walk in alone and walk out with one of those things rolling right along after them, clanking all the way. Swear to the God man that there was something magic on his damn lips way he could sweet talk those men and women into opening their wallets. Never saw the like of it, and I been in this trade longer 'n I care to remember. S'pose I shouldn't be surprised by it all though. He went an' talked me into working this lot after I swore I was done with the damn things. Just kept at me, working his words out from under that moustache and soon enough they was all that was in my head. Soon enough after that, here I was on the other side of the Pacific, damn fool that I am.
jeffsoesbe: So I found myself a member of the staff at Yokohama Sid's Used Ferris Wheel Lot, along with Rio John, Sparky and Squints. None of those names were real, just nicknames Sid had given them on the first day of work. Me, he decided to call Tex.
Business was steady, we all made enough to barely get by and Sid took the rest. We were a family, if a very dysfunctional one. But it all made a downturn when the ghosts began showing up.
jeffsoesbe: It all started the day of the new commercial.
I'd been back in the lot doing inventory, clambering over the wheels like a 500-yen an hour helper monkey, passing the scanner over the memory ID chips welded to every part. It was Sid's favorite job to assign me.
"It's not just about the data, Tex," Sid would berate me when I returned to the shack after inventory. "It's about the story. Every wheel has a story. This here is your apprenticeship. You gotta learn to tell the story of the wheel. Every small wheel is a part of the Great Wheel that is Life. Now get your ass back out there before I fire it six ways to Sunday." Our conversations usually ended like that, so I wasn't too thrilled when the comlink beeped.
"Tex," Sid hollered, "get your ass in here! It's comin on again!"
I rappelled off a wheel and rushed back into the shack to find Sid dancing a jig in front of the vidscreen, where there was an anime version of Sid dancing a jig and singing the Yokohama Sid theme song.
"Ferris wheels small & tall,
Yoko Sid's got them all,
Take a trip in our big wheels,
Check the rivets, feel the steel,
Take home today, self-installable,
Interest free finance is available,
Prices so cheap it's almost a sin,
Come on by and take a spin."
jeffsoesbe: "Tarnation, I love that song!" Sid broke out the hip flask and poured a drink for me then took a big swig for himself. "We'll be having some big business soon, Tex. Drink up!"
The day of the new commercial was a good day. In fact, it was the last good day. The next afternoon, I got the first hint we'd reached the high point.
I was standing in front of the shack, watching the sun head drop the top of the westernmost wheel, a fifty-one foot Dremmler Q5123A. Sid was curled up in his rocking chair, enjoying his habitual afternoon nap.
manmela: A breeze blew through the lot, causing the wind chimes to sing to a chorus of squeaking, unoiled gondolas. It must have tugged at Yokohama Sid's beard as he stirred from his sleep on the porch of the cabin that acted as his office. He opened his one remaining eye, reached down for his pipe, lit it, and only once he had got the tobacco burning properly again did he call for his assistant.
"Yes Sid?" asked Rio John, popping his head out the doorway.
"West Winds-a-blowin," said Sid, sucking on his pipe. "Means the dead will be here soon."
jeffsoesbe: Rio John ducked back into the office, before I knew what was happening. Rio always was quicker than me.
"You ever hear about the haunted wheel?" Memories and drink were gnawing at Sid's soul. They always did, this time of day, when the sun was late into his journey across the sky.
"Yes, Sid" I said, "I have." But he didn't hear me when he was like this. He never did. Instead, he told me the story again.
alankria: "Once there was a girl who wanted to ride a ferris wheel. She was a small thing, all white skin and jutting bones, with dark hair like weeds growing out of her hair, all the way down to the ground.
She held a coin in her dirty palm.
With that valuable trinket she bought a ticket for the ferris wheel, and like the many other men and women and children she joined the long queue. The wind tugged at her hair, made it brush against other people's legs like small venus fly traps. She barely noticed. She had eyes only for the ferris wheel, its bulbs bright like cat-eyes, like fireworks against the night sky; she stared at it as if devouring the sight, her eyes slicing it carefully apart for pupil, iris, white.
Finally she reached the front of the queue. She handed her ticket to the young man and ran for a seat, laughing.
When the ferris wheel spun -- pink and orange and yellow and white -- her long hair spun out in the wind and was caught in the grinding mechanisms. It pulled her out, pulled her apart, and her hair bound her to the wheel in stitching no man or woman could cut or untie."
jeffsoesbe: Sid got real quiet and slowly rocked back and forth in his chair on the porch. "Why don't you go run some more inventory, Tex?" he finally said, so I grabbed the scanner and hightailed it to the lot. Way in the back, I found the haunted wheel.
alankria: That wheel sits in the back of Sid's yard now, quietly rusting. Step too close on a brightstarred night, and a peculiar wind curls around its long metal limbs, around the small bone-shaped and flesh-hued marks, around the long threads of dark hair. A peculiar wind like a small girl laughing.
mtrimm1: Funny thing about this business -- or any sales job, for that matter -- you never know who'll show up next, and you never know what they really want.
When the tall man in the black cloak and the funny-looking shoes showed up, Sid walked out like he always did, one hand leading the way, ready for that important first handshake. When he got closer, though, his hand sorta just drooped down to his side, like time-lapse photography of a dying flower.
His mustache, that proud, ridiculous explosion of lip-velvet, followed suit, melting around his mouth into something that looked more like a pair of mangy squirrel tails. His opening "Hello" shifted around behind his lips til what came out was "Oh, Hell."
jeffsoesbe: "Holy crud," Sparky whispered, "It's Satch. I thought he was dead."
lt260: We called him Satch. Sparky gave him the moniker, naming him after some mechanic he once knew that was never seen without a coat of grease all over himself and his clothes.
Satch didn t bother people, keeping to himself mostly, but Yokohama Sid had a soft spot for him if you could imagine that. That s right, the same red-headed ogre that yells and terrifies the kids hanging on the fence gazing at his damn Ferris wheels, never so much as raises his voice around Satch.
Satch moves deliberately. Not slowly or quietly, although that would fit what he does if you didn t look closer, but real exact and precise. Consequently, he sneaks up on us all the time. Never says anything. Just bows and gives us his ticket. You heard me -- ticket. Some scrap of paper from whatever. Packaging, newsprint, magazine, flyer . . . like I said: whatever. Always the same size, though, exactly the same size. You could stack them together and I ll bet there wouldn t be a millimeter difference.
Anyway, Satch bows to us in that polite way that his people have been doing for who knows how long and hands me his ticket. We then watch him take the most direct route to whatever Ferris wheel he wants to ride and stops in front of it. That's our cue to get him locked into a seat and start it up. Round and round he rides until he waves to us that he is done. We let him off the wheel and he bows to us. Yup, bows that greasy, whitehaired head to us and then heads out to wherever he goes afterward. And Sid not only doesn t mind, but he will come unglued if any of us gives Satch a problem or says anything about it. Most of us learn after the first time Sid chews on our asses. The few who do not are not employed very long -- leastwise not for Sid.
The last time Satch was taking a ride, I got up the gumption to ask Sid why he does it. He then proceeded to melt my ears with comments on my parentage, my IQ, my sexual inadequacies when dealing with midgets and donuts, infectious diseases that I have been exposed to and their obvious side effects on me, specifics as to what liquids I should use for a daily enema, and a few other delicate subjects. He then said, If you are so damn interested in knowing, why don t you ask him?
Truth be told, I had not thought of that. Satch was just not a person that inspired social conversations. He didn t smell good. Not that he smelled really foul or anything like that, but he definitely did not smell good. And he wouldn t look at you. And he was greasy. And he snuck up on you. One minute you re alone and then, poof, there he is. You sort of get used to it -- not completely but sort of. As I said, Satch was just not a person with which you would have a casual conversation.
Satch comes in for a ride a few days later and I watch him the whole time. He goes around and around in that damn ugly, old Ferris wheel. The blue and white wheel, that we are spending way too much time scrubbing off the rust and repainting. He goes round and round, same as always. I watch him as he looks here and there, scanning left and right, looking down but never up. He waves and we stop the wheel and let him off. He heads for the exit but I race ahead of him.
Excuse me. Excuse me. Please, wait a moment.
He stops when I get in front of him. As polite as I can, I ask him, Why do you do it? Why do you ride that Ferris wheel? Or any of them? Why do you do it? What do you get out of it?
Very exactly and precisely, he looks up into my face, straight into my eyes, and quietly says, It is the one time I can look down on all of you."
jeffsoesbe: And with that, Satch turned his back on us and walked out of the yard, head held high. Sid stumbled over to his rocking chair and started his drinking a little early. I grabbed the scanner from the office. I knew where I was going to be sent.
joycemocha: Ferris wheels. You either love 'em or hate 'em. I could always tell when the Ferris wheel lovers came onto the lot. They'd bypass the used cars out in front, the stuff that Yokahama Sid kept out there for the steady income, glancing side-to-side furtively as they wandered through the rows of cars, then quickly duck into the Ferris wheel lot, their eyes lighting up as if they'd snuck into the back entrance of Heaven without having to pass St. Peter.
Sid usually took care of the Ferris Wheel customers himself. But this day, Sid was gone, and I was in charge. The lady was sharp, pale, and dark, all at once, and one look from her glowing black eyes was enough to make me shiver.
jeffsoesbe: I hustled over, before anyone else could get her. I always had a thing for women who gave me the creeps. "May I help you, ma'am?"
She pointed deep into the yard, towards the back. "That one."
We meandered towards the haunted wheel. My attempts at pleasant conversation met with silence. When we arrived at the wheel, Sparky was using a stripper to get the latest coat of rush off the base.
The dark lady edged towards the wheel and reached out for the lowest circle element.
"Ma'am," Sparky said, "There's sharp edges. I wouldn't -"
She touched the wheel and there was a sound like metal on flesh on metal and a light brighter than a welding torch. I closed my eyes and covered my ears, trying to shut it all out. When the sound ended, the lady was gone and all I heard was the creak of base struts and the ping of tension wires against the background of what was left of Sparky coughing out his last breaths.
That was the second ghost. And the third.
jeffsoesbe: The next thing that happened, it was the thing with Squints.
lt260: I don t know where Sid found him but Squints is the best cracker-jack, pick-up mechanic anyone had ever heard of. Mind you, he is definitely not the fastest, but anything broken that Yokahama Sid gave him became fixed -- eventually. The marvel at what Squints can do turns to absolute wonder the first time you lay eyes on him. He s just a scrap of humanity with fingers longer then they have a right to be, hair that never grows, the beadiest eyes that would be the envy of the Dick Tracy s criminal underworld, and sonarbig ears that should have been declared a military secret at birth.
Squints would show up to work in a black kosode and waraji, change into boots and a monkey suit three sizes too big, then head into the yard to repair whatever Sid had on his mind. He d disappear and we d forget all about him until he shows up to go home. About the only time we could confirm his presence in the yard was when he completed a project and a Ferris wheel, usually one that had been given up for scrap, would start turning round and round. It never ceased to amaze the lot of us.
Now and again we wouldn t see Squints knocking-off work. The next morning we would arrive and one wheel would be in motion with a single passenger. We d shut it down and Squints would get off. Then, without a word of thank you or so much as a how-do-youdo, he d disappear out into the yard and we wouldn t see him again until quitting time. A bunch of the guys were all for laying in wait for him or searching him out to find just what he was up to, but I always put the kibosh on that kind of silliness. Sid had hired him, Sid is happy with him, and Sid was all for minding your own beeswax.
Oh the grumbling I took for that stance. They d howl and jowl how full of it I was and how Sid would never know and wasn t I curious in the least about Squints? I d slap them down hard and remind them of the three unbreakable rules of Yokahama Sid s Ferris Wheel Emporium. The first was not to piss-off Sid. The second rule was, if you are going to do anything that might piss-off Sid, see rule number one. The third and final rule was, well, you don t ever want to know so don t piss-off Sid. All of us had had a run-in with Sid at least once. The smart ones maintained that number. The rest of us kept it to one hand with fingers left over. The more fingers that were left over, the more life meant to you. A little bit of that and they would leave it alone until next time.
lt260: That one part they chimed about always gave me the creeps. See, the thing is, I had been curious about Squints. It so happens that I had worked overtime once that had coincided with one of Squints night time forays. I watched him start riding the big blue and white wheel, round and round and round, until I came to my senses. Here I was, a fairly intelligent grown man, and I was watching someone going around in a Ferris wheel that I knew for a fact would be riding it until the rest of us came to work the next day. I shook my head to cast off the moron daze I was in and headed out for home, resolved to arrive at work early in the morning to find out what was what.
The sun had just begun to warm things up when I walked through the gates at the emporium. Old blue and white was still turning but I didn t see Squints in any of the cars. I waltzed over to shut it down, thinking maybe he had jumped off and gone back to work, although something in the back of my mind itched about that not being the case.
The wheel slowed to a crawl and I turned to walk away when I heard a muffled noise, a soft whimpering. Carefully checking each car as it came down, I found Squints huddled up in one of them. I backed the wheel up and brought him down.
Walking over to him, I could hear him saying real soft like, Stars. He just said that one word, again and again. Leaning over him, I said, Hey, buddy, it s OK now. The ride is over, time to go to work. You gonna be Ok, Squints?
He got this real lost look on his face, like he was ready to weep, and said, Home. He said just that one word and nothing else. He swung the safety gate open and climbed out. He looked at me and I could tell he was just as miserable as a house cat caught out in the rain with nowhere to hide. Home. he said sadly and disappeared out into the yard.
jeffsoesbe: I didn't worry about it at the time, but when Squints didn't show up for work for a couple days after I searched the yard. I never found him, nor did I ever see any trace of his presence. All I found was a note, in small-child handwriting: "Beware the Ninja".
Another ghost riding the Great Wheel of Life.
jeffsoesbe: I thought the note a byproduct of Squints's obsessed mind and didn't give it much credence. As the security recordings showed me after the next incident, that attitude was a big mistake.
jackwilliambell: Sometime during the night the ninja struck; scaling the fence and moving throughout the lot with a stealth that left even Sid's dog Yaki sleeping under the steps to the sales trailer.
We didn't find out until morning, when Sid sent me down to throw the main switch and start the wheels turning; he felt that a moving ferris wheel sold itself, but no one was interested in a static one. Even if it had nice lights and clowns painted on the cars.
Anyway, I pulled down the double bar switch that controlled power to all the wheels and it made the usual clunk-crackle sound as the contacts rammed home and thousands of watts poured across. Nothing seemed amiss at first; there was the usual creaking and humming as the motors started to work and took up the slack on the chains. But then the first wheel came loose...
It was one of the little ones, a nice double car from Shibuya that had been sold when the monks at the Meiji shrine complained about people being able to see into the back of their complex. It came free from its mounts with a horrible grinding noise rolled right through the fence into the bay, water spraying everywhere.
I just stood there, mouth wide, as Sid shrieked from the sales trailer and the second wheel (a big one with nice lighting) began careening down the main street, sparks coming up as each car hit the pavement. I saw it run right over two taxis and then it hit a bus and spun sideways into Queen's Square mall. It bounced off, glass flying, and did one of those spin-around-the-center things that coins do. Only in slow motion. With dirt and concrete spurting up all about.
I didn't see it come to rest because Sid pushed me aside, screaming, and slammed the switch up. It was too late however, all the other wheels came lose at once right then. Every single one. They went off in different directions, some towards the bay and some down streets and the biggest one of all bouncing upwards like a tire rolling free to clear several buildings and slam square into Landmark tower.
It bounced off. Sid was still screaming at me when I grabbed him by the shoulders and spun him around to see it coming back. Directly at us...
jeffsoesbe: I froze, and Sid froze. We were screwed.
There was a whoop like a cattle drive cry and Rio John came tearing out of the office, lasso in his hand. He roped the both of us and pulled us free then flicked his wrist and the lasso arced back above our heads.
Somehow the rope caught up in the wheel as it passed. I'd swear that wheel knew exactly what it was doing. Rio John jerked like a cartoon character then was pulled right into the wheel, screaming all the way, as the wheel carried him away down the road towards the river.
I heard that scream in my sleep, for a long time afterwards.
jeffsoesbe: Sid restocked and tried to keep the shop going with just him and me, but mostly he drank while we waited for the final blow. It wasn't long in coming.
cithra: There's more stories than spokes about Yokahama Sid and the crazy sorts of folks interested in a used ferris wheel. But all things come to an end, and like everything about Sid, the demise of Yokahama Sid's Used Ferris Wheel Lot was a stunner. I'll take the memory with me to my grave.
A monster monsoon storm had blown up, and we'd had nigh a week of the wind howling through the struts, shaking and twisting the metal 'til the big wheels screamed and strained to break free. The ground was mostly mud by now. I'd taken shelter from this afternoon's onslaught in the equipment shed, banging my shins on oily-smelling wrenches and spare ties and whatnot. The roof not being exactly what it should be, I was scrambling around for a dry spot when I heard the first crack. Lightning, I thought, counting for the thunder - but I'd not seen a flash.
I stepped to the door of the shed and had a look, the water streaming down on my head from the eaves making it a bit of a chore, and the wind trying to drive me back inside. I could just see the shimmering arcs of our current stock of ferris wheels up the hill, in the back lot. Shimmying, I should say, dancing and bouncing and starting to spin - which wasn't right, we'd lashed the beasts down as tight as usual when the monsoons started blowing. Rain in my eyes, I'd decided, when I heard another crack, then a string of them pop-pop-pop like them firecrackers Sid liked to let off for holiday. If I hadn't of been there I wouldn't believe my own story, so I'll forgive any disbelief of what happened next. The ground gave a shudder, the wind kicked up fierce, and with a noise like thousand dinner-gongs Sid's stock was on the loose. Half a dozen ferris wheels rolling down the hill like some mad god's game of hoop-stick multiplied. Away from me, thank the stars, and cutting huge ruts through the mud, off down towards the bay, and
Sid was devastated - he loved the blamed contraptions so much it was hard to get him to part with one when we did make a sale, and he saw this as a betrayal, that his beloveds would up stakes so uniformly and run away to the sea. I'd learned a while back it was better not to argue with Sid's view of the world, so I just cleaned up the lot as much as I could and went about looking for another job. Sid, his once proud mustaches in bedraggled decline, took to sitting up on the hill where the wheels had been tethered, staring off along the huge gouges they'd torn on their flight toward the water. It was the beginning of the end for Yokahama Sid.
jeffsoesbe: It took me another year to get out of Yokohama, another year I spent slowly gathering enough cash and momentum to finally leave town. After that, I kept moving, going from prefecture to prefecture. I never settled down, and I never found a home.
Sometimes, the fair would come to where I was currently living. At night, after the gates had closed and the carnies were passed out either in their trailers or in someone else's bed, I'd go down to the big parking lot where the fair was situated.
I'd stand next to the chain-wire fence, as close to the Ferris Wheel as I could get. I'd listen to the pops and groans of the structure and try to hear its history, the story it was telling me. But I never could get it. All I ever heard was the aches and pains of my own tired, worn-out heart as the Great Wheel of Life kept on spinning me up and down.
And I never again rode those Ferris wheels at the fairs. After all, I didn't know where they'd been. Or what ghosts might be riding along with me.
© 2007 by the authors. Edited together by jeffsoesbe from the comment thread on this post concerning Yokohama Sid.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.