This is a story about a man named Abhi and it begins at the end with Abhi dying in the sun. It might seen strange to start a story with an ending. But endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.
The last hour of Abhi’s life was spent, like most of the others at Ruby Pier, an amusement park by a great gray ocean. The park had the usual attractions, a boardwalk, a Ferris wheel, roller coasters, bumper cars, a taffy stand, and an arcade where you could shoot streams of water into a clown’s mouth. It also had a big new ride called Freddie’s free fall and this would be where Abhi would be killed, in an accident that would make newspapers around the state.
At the time of his death, Abhi was a squat, white-haired old man, with a short neck, a barrel chest, thick forearms, and a faded army tattoo on his right shoulder, his legs were thin and veined now, and his left knee, wounded in the war, was ruined by arthritis. He used a cane to get around. His face was broad and craggy from he sun, with salty whiskers and a lower jaw that protruded slightly, making him look prouder than he felt. He kept a cigarette behind his left ear and a ring of keys hooked to his belt. He wore rubber-soled shoes. He wore an old linen cap. His pale brown uniform suggested a workingman, and a workingman he was.
Abhi’s job was “maintaining” the rides, which really meant keeping them safe. Every afternoon, he walked the park the park, checking on each attraction, from Tilt-A-Whirl to the Pipeline Plunge. He looked for broken boards, loose bolts, worn-out steel. Sometimes he would stop, his eyes glazing, and people walking past thought something as wrong. But he was listening, that’s all. Afte4 all these years he could hear trouble, he said, in the spots and stutters and thrumming of the equipment.
With 50 minutes left on earth, Abhi took his last walk along Ruby Pier. He passed an elderly couple.
A: Folks, he said, touching his cap.
They nodded politely. Customers knew Abhi. At least the regular ones did. They saw him summer after summer, one of those faces you associate with a place. His work shirt had a patch on the chest that read ABHI above the word MAINTENANCE, and sometimes they would wave and say, “Hiya, Abhi Maintenance,” although he never thought that was funny.
Today it so happened, was Abhi’s birthday, his 83rd. A doctor, last week had told him he had shingles. Shingles? Abhi didn’t even know what they were. Once, he had been strong enough to lift a carousel in each arm. That was a long time ago.
“ABHI!” … “TAKE ME, Abhi!” …”Take me!”
40 minutes until his death. Abhi made made his way to the front of the roller coaster line. He rode every attraction at least once a week, to be certain the brakes and steering were solid. Today was coaster day-the “Ghoster Coaster” they called this one-and the kids who knew Abhi yelled to get in the cart with him.
Children liked Abhi. Not teenagers. Teenagers gave him headaches. Over the years, Abhi figured he’d seen every sort of do-nothing, snarl-at-you teenager there was. But children were different. Children looked At Abhi-who, with with his protruding lower jaw, always seemed to be grinning, like a dolphin-and they trusted him. They drew in like cold hands to a fire. They hugged his leg. They played with his keys. Abhi mostly grunted never saying much. He figured it was because he didn’t say much that they liked him.
Now dahi tapped two little boys with backward baseball caps. They raced to the cart and tumbled in. Abhi handed his cane to the ride attendant and slowly lowered himself between the two.
“Here we go . . . Here we go! . . .” One boy squealed, as the other pulled Abhi’s arm around his shoulder. Abhi lowered the lap bar and clack-clack-clack, up they went.
A story went around Abhi. When he was boy, growing up by this very same pier, he got in an ally fight. Five kids from Pitkin Avenue had cornered his brother, Joe, and were about to give him a beating. Abhi was a block away, on a stoop, eating a sandwich. He heard his brother scream. He ran to the alley, grabbed a garbage can lid, and sent two boys to the hospital.
After that, Joe didnt talk to him for months. He was ashamed. Joe was the oldest, the firstborn, but it was Abhi who did the fighting.
“Can we go again, Abhi? Please?”
34 minutes to live. Abhi lifted the lap bar, gave each boy a sucking candy, retrieved his cane, then limped to the maintenance shop to cool down from the summer heat. Had he known his death was imminent, he might have gone somewhere else.
Instead, he did what we all do. He went about his dull routine as if all the days in the world were still to come.
One of the shop workers, a lanky, bony-cheeked young man named Purab, was by the solvent sink, wiping grease off a wheel.
P: Yo, Abhi!
The shop smelled like sawdust . It was dark and cramped with a low ceiling and pegboard walls that held drills and saws and hammers. Skeleton parts of fun park rides were everywhere: Compressors, engine, belts, lightbulb, the top of a pirate’s head. Stacked against one wall were coffee cans of nails and screws, and stacked against the other wall were endless tubs of grease.
Greasing a track, Abhi would say, required no more brains than washing a dish; the only difference was you got dirtier as you did it, not cleaner. And that was the sort of work that Abhi did: Spread grease, adjusted brakes, tightened bolts, checked electrical panels, Many times he had longed to leave this place, find different work, build another kind of life. But the war came. His plans never worked out. In time, he found himself graying and wearing looser pants and in a state of weary acceptance, that this was who he was and who he would always be, a man with sand in his shoes in a world of mechanical laughter grilled frankfurters. Like his father before him, like the patch on his shirt, Abhi was maintenance-the head of maintenance-or as the kids sometimes called him, “the ride man at Ruby Pier.”
30 minutes left on Earth.
Hey so I’m back with a new story, hope you like it. Don’t forget to comment and check out my other story “If you stay with me.” And my sisters FF “Man Mayal” and “Love me till the end”