the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Fictional Characters of New York — #21


Stefan hadn’t stepped foot in Coney Island since 1975. Too many bad memories. It was a cesspool back then, attracting the lowest of humanity. Today, the area attracts gentrified “weirdos,” those who stroll in after a fancy brunch to show off their store-bought tattoos and fake breasts in selfies on Instagram. Back then, were real weirdos, men and women who yawned at the one remaining freak show on Ocean Boulevard as being too tame. A sword swallower will never impress an ex-marine living off of food stamps who once sliced his leg off with a Japanese sword on a dare, just to win a bottle of scotch.

Stefan had hallucinatory nightmares about Coney Island; even now, he could still see the lights, swirling colors, and Satanic clown faces of the fading murals, marred by the urban graffiti.  Stefan would often wake up all sweaty and alone, the rancid smell of polluted salty sea air in his lungs.

Today, thirty-nine years later to the day he left, Stefan made the decision to return to Coney Island, his former home. It was time to forgive those who hurt him in the past.

He would forgive the three black teenagers and their junkie mother who beat the shit out of him behind the Flintstones pinball machine, kicking him in the groin and face, mugging him of the five dollars of allowance money.

He would forgive his parents, and that heated argument on the beach that day, when they were slapping each other and forgetting him in the ocean as he almost drowned in the rising waves.

He would forgive the elderly man who managed the rickety Wonder Wheel, and left him stranded in the car alone, on the top rung, swinging in the wind, for three hours until the fire department arrived and fixed the faulty electrical switcher.  This was the most horrifying experience of his life. He was a young boy at the time, and there he was, looking down at the smallness of the world and knowing the dread of death.

Stefan was sure the old man who ran the Wonder Wheel in 1975 was probably deceased himself, but Stefan would inquire about his final resting place so he could place a bouquet of flowers in remembrance on his grave, completing his mission.

1 Comment

  1. Shannon akaMonty

    I’ve never been in any of those situations, but for some reason I’m really identifying with this story.

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