The Big One

Grant Farley

Georgia won two Disneyland tickets with her jingle: “Feel frisky with Fresca!”

I was her chosen one. Lucky me. Her skirt was just long enough and my hair just short enough for us to get in. Right away she had to buy Minnie Mouse ears. She bought the same cap every year since she was ten. That meant seven and counting.

I snapped her picture with that silver Kodak Instamatic: Sleeping Beauty’s castle looms in the distance beneath scattered dark clouds. Her cap pushes her bangs down over her eyes and skews her granny sunglasses. Her brown hair drapes across her peasant blouse. Her Indian purse-slash-bag hangs on her shoulder.

As we trucked down Main she stopped in front of a glass and china shop.

“In 1956,” she droned like some tour guide, “this was a store known as The Wizard of Bras. Some kind of kinky Victorian shop with these so-called 3-d Illusion Boxes showing and I quote intimate apparel of a bygone era.”

“Very funny,” I said.

“I never lie about Disneyland, Sherman. The shop was sponsored by Hollywood Maxwell, inventor of something called the ‘Vette Whirlpool’ bra. I am not wearing a bra.”

She had apple breasts, so I would have been hard pressed to tell, except those nipples poking out were a sure give away. Could that get us kicked out?

I thought she’d go through the castle right away, but she veered to the right into Tomorrowland. We climbed the ramp to The Monsanto Chemical Company House of the Future.

Georgia recited, “’the floors on which you are walking, the gently sloping walls around you, and even the ceilings are made of plastics.’” We stepped into the Atoms for Living Kitchen, with its revolutionary microwave oven, and passed pictures of the future nuclear family of 1986.

“My dad left us at Disneyland when I was ten,” she said. “He had been staring out this window into Tomorrowland and he turned to my mom and said: ‘If we can’t be happy at the happiest place on earth, we can’t be happy anywhere.’ Then he was gone. The nuclear family — Ka-boom.”

I followed Georgia into the living room. Well, wasn’t I stoked for the future of America as I gazed at a wide, flat TV hanging from the wall.

“My mom went through the day like nothing had happened, maybe figuring he’d come to his senses and pop up like a hippo at the Jungle Boat Ride. But he didn’t and it was my mom’s first drive on a freeway. Sitting next to her felt like the Matterhorn only if you don’t know how it ends. E ticket, for sure.”

She pushed the glasses back on her nose and turned to me. “Next stop, Sherman, the Skyway to Fantasyland.”

We climbed the long ramp and then the side door of the gondola was pulled open and we were practically shoved into the swaying death trap as it lurched past the platform and swung out into space.

“I sort of have this thing about heights,” I said. “Especially when the height sways underneath you and there’s no seat belt and your two stupid buddies when you were twelve got the thing swaying as they shouted down at tourists, ‘it’s the big one!’”

She ignored my babbling, undid her Wendy wristwatch and tossed it at me.

“Time it,” she said.

“Time it?”

“The ride. Time it!”

“Gotcha. It’s now twelve thirteen and eighteen. . .twenty seconds.”

Then I leaned back, clutched the handrail and waited for the big one. She sat across from me and I peeked into the tented shadow between her legs and then up at the nipples, which now that they’d been brought to my attention. . .well, enough said. I didn’t want to look out at the horizon anyway. She must have shared my phobia because instead of gazing over Autopia, she studied the floor between us. Then she stared up at me and then at the floor. Like I was being measured and this might as well be my coffin.

We drifted into the cave through the Matterhorn and Georgia tore out a primal scream louder than any of the tobbagonians. Just as I was about to join in we were back in the light.

She shook her head. “You’re a lost cause, Sherman.”

“I prefer my first name, you know.”

“Time, quickly.”


“Watch. Time. Now!”

The wheel hauling the cable clanked as we swooped down into the chalet and some guy dressed in lederhosen reached out and snagged our gondola.

“Twelve sixteen and. . .and forty-five. . .forty-eight seconds.”

“About as I anticipated,” she nodded as we climbed out and headed down the ramp. “Three minutes and twenty seconds give or take.” She grabbed the watch back from me. “And not more than thirty seconds to spare once out of the Matterhorn.”

A drizzle brushed our skin as we walked past Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and it thickened to a light rain near the Matterhorn and then Southern Californians all around us were hunching beneath their jackets and unfolding brochures over their children’s heads and scurrying any which way for shelter. We wandered around until we were pretty soaked then we sat under an awning at the Carnation ice cream parlor near the bandstand. Next to us sat the typical nuclear family of the 1960’s with a boy and girl buried in their ice cream.

“Two minutes and forty-five seconds give-or-take isn’t a whole lot of time.” She had taken the Kodak out of her bag of tricks and was aiming it at me.

“A whole lot of time for what?”

“Don’t move. Say ice cream.”

“Ice . . .”

“To lose my virginity.”

“. . .cream.”


I was tripping on a dose of flashcube blindness and ice cream brain freeze so that maybe I’d just hallucinated.

“Now that’s a picture.” She put the camera back in her bag. “Got this camera at Christmas. You know the gimmick. There’s a tag on the outside that says. . .” She leaned toward me and leered. ‘. . .open me first.’”

I hadn’t hallucinated.

The father at the next table was babbling about something, but I swear that the mother seemed to stiffen.

“But. . .how. . .”

“It’s generally accomplished one way, Sherman.”

I was about to ask where when the true significance of three minutes and twenty seconds give-or-take slid into the pit of my stomach. “No.”


“But. . .but. . .why me. . .if it is me?”

I meant it as a reasonable — maybe even inevitable — question. But it sort of squeaked out like some guy staring into the implacable face of doom.

She ignored the squeak and answered in a voice, well, a bit too matter-of-fact if you ask me: “First.” She held up her index finger and pulled it down. The mother leaned toward us as the father was preoccupied wiping ice cream from the kids’ faces. “You are cute and sweet.”

At seventeen you’d really, really rather hear something like, “sexy and dangerous.”

“Second.” She held up two fingers and pulled them down. “You’re short enough to do it given the confines of space.”

There was this Life Magazine article in my room about Tunnel Rats, the bravest and craziest Marines in Viet Nam. I was opposed to the war, of course, but these guys were way beyond bitchenness. They had to squeeze down into the tunnel complexes dug by the Viet Cong carrying only a flashlight, a .45 and a knife. They faced hand to-hand combat and booby traps and sharpened stakes and cave-ins and spiders. I mean, things could get pretty hairy down there. You had to be five six or less. That would make me one of the taller Rats. I felt like I’d prepared all my life for tunnel duty.

“Third.” Three fingers went up. “You’re discreet.”


“I know all about Abigail. She told us that the two of you did it and that you were such a gentleman you never said anything to anyone.”

“Who is us?”

“You’re missing the point.”

What Abigail apparently hadn’t said, or Georgia wouldn’t have picked me, was that we got really close. . .I mean really close. . .and then. . .well. . .I hate that term prematurely ejaculated. It reminds me of some panicky fighter pilot. So I didn’t really have much to be discreet about. Well, I did, but not what Georgia thought. Still, I couldn’t figure why Abigail (or any girl) would want her girlfriends to think she wasn’t a virgin when she was. It seemed to me it would be the other way around. The full scope of my ignorance about girls was rapidly unfolding.

“You can count on my discretion.”


“Oh, God.”

“Again, according to Abigail, you’re shall we say. . .fast. Really fast. Now, although ordinarily not a positive attribute, given the confines of time. . .”

“I know. . .Three minutes and twenty seconds give or take. . .”


And to think that I had been going to ask Abigail to the prom.

The father had apparently taken the kids somewhere because I just noticed the mother sat at the next table alone, with a smirk on her face.

“Fifth: Since I’m two months older and two inches taller than you, there’s no chance of us ever being boyfriend and girlfriend, so we can dispense with any fake relationship afterwards.”

She stuffed the camera in her bag and strode out of the parlor without looking back.

I might have called: “Did it ever occur to you that I might say, ‘no’?” Except that at the time it had never occurred to me that I might say no.

As I hurried after her I glanced at the scowling mother tossing the family trash in the canister. I imagined her scurrying to security where they would post some sort of
Dragnet all-points bulletin to be on the lookout for two horny teenagers. With a list of my attributes beneath.

The rain had temporarily let up as we looped around the Castle back toward Tomorrowland, but then Georgia veered left past the Matterhorn.

“The skyrail is this way,” I said.

She stopped. Sighed. “Nine p.m.”

“Nine? That’s. . .almost six hours. . .Why. . .” Then it hit me. “The fireworks show. Well, that’s just bitchen.”

“You know I find that term offensive.” She forged ahead.

“So we’re just going to go on rides for the next six hours like nothing is going to happen?”

“Haven’t you heard of foreplay?”

It was my turn to stop. She crossed her arms under her apples — which now that they’d been under careful surveillance looked like small honey dews — as a river of kids eddied around us.

“We’ll just have to take care of that before the sky rail, won’t we?” She turned and strode toward that enormous maniac clock, her long brown hair bouncing just above her ass.

We initiated contact with a few kisses in the dark as we floated past those dolls. “It’s a small world after all,” rattled around my head the rest of the day. Not real inspirational given the circumstances.

Fantasyland consisted of waiting in long lines followed by quick feels in the dark outside our clothes, the last of our childhood slipping away as we worked through Peter Pan and Sleeping Beauty and finally ended at Snow White.

“If you ask me,” she said as we emerged to dark clouds but no rain even though I hadn’t asked her anything. “It’s pretty weird all those little men sleeping with one sexy girl. Kind of like us times seven.”

“I’m only two inches shorter than you. And we haven’t ‘slept’ together even once.”

We had stopped at the entrance to the King Arthur Carrousel.

“I go on this one alone, Sherman. You stand over there and smile and wave.”

She practically ran over a couple of kids to snag the pink horse. She sat side saddle, chastely tugging the hem of her skirt.

I smiled and waved.

Beneath those Minnie ears and razored bangs and granny glasses beamed a smile of bliss and innocence and I had this Holden Caulfield flash of guilt and regret. But I snapped out of it.

We still had over four hours to go as we escaped the rain in the tiki tiki tiki tiki tiki room. Despite all that drumming and throbbing, it was anything but a turn on. Then it was a short walk to the Jungle Boat Ride. There wasn’t any alone space there, so other than accidentally sitting on her hand and her snickers about elephant trunks, it was pretty calming.

I was in awe of her carefully orchestrated plan. If Macnamara and all those generals had had such foresight, the good old U.S. of A. would have already won the war. But there was one glitch. One nearly fatal error in her strategy: The Matterhorn.

It has always amazed me that Walt would ever have allowed toboggans in which a teenaged boy can spread his legs and his date squirms in between them, rubbing up against him, with his hands free to finally slide beneath her blouse and along her soft skin to the bottom of her breasts and then sort of trembling they inch over the curves and slide to her nipples and gently roll them between his fingers as they careen through the dark and she screams hysterically and the g forces throw her ass back against his throbbing member until. . .well. . .I was grateful for the rain to explain my wet pants as we climbed out.

“Shit, Sherman, it’s 8:45!” She dashed toward Tomorrowland. “We’re not going to make it, hurry!”

As I followed, I pondered that age old dilemma. . . how long before I can get it up again? Then those breasts bounced against that wet blouse and I experienced an epiphany: What young men lack in longevity they make up for in rebounding skills.

“We could make it if we take the Fantasyland terminal back to Tomorrowland,” I shouted boldly.

She ignored me and kept running and bouncing.

The line of would-be fireworks sky riders cascaded down the ramp and snaked around the submarine ride. She stopped, blew her bangs out of her eyes, and assessed the situation. I girded my loins — so to speak  — against the gnarly possibility that she would order a suicidal assault up the ramp to cut in front of large, outraged dates.

But retreat is sometimes the better part of valor. She just scowled, as though making some mental calculations, shrugged and turned away.

KA-BOOM! I could only look up at the lights sparking the night sky and ponder, what if. . .

“My bad, Sherman.”

We wandered forlornly beneath the sparkling heavens.

I tried to devise the use of another ride. . .if only Tom Sawyer’s Island was open at night that could be very promising. . . but there were forces here beyond my ken.

“Buck up, Sherman. We still have eleven.”

Of course! The second fireworks show.

Eventually we found ourselves next to the stairways that held huge lines swelling toward the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean.

“I haven’t been at Disneyland since they opened Pirates,” I said.

“You’re a Caribbean cherry? Groovy.”

“Everyone says it’s boss.”

“The best ever,” she said. “My favorite.”

“Are we saving it for last, then?”

“No, Sherman. I told you it’s my favorite. We aren’t going on it at all.” She was staring through those granny sunglasses past the blackness of Rivers of America at some far off and far out land with its own laws of gravity that only she could defy.

So we ended up seated at the Blue Bayou restaurant next to the swamp where boats drifted past an old guy drinking moonshine in front of a shack on stilts. Banjo music played. Then the boats disappeared down rapids promising unfulfilled screams.

“Maybe we should just order a dessert and split it,” she offered.

“Okay, except it’s my treat.” She may have gotten us into the park for free, but this dessert was costing me more than a whole book of tickets.

“The rain clouds have cleared,” I said. “Look at those stars.”

“It’s a fake sky, Sherman.”

“I knew that.”

“What do you call a father,” she asked between bites of a chocolate volcano that had been plopped between us, “who shows up with a strange lady and a replacement little girl so they can take you on a fun outing?”

“An asshole?” I guessed.

“A Disneyland dad,” she said.

Georgia was pretty much consuming that volcano all by herself and it occurred to me that she hadn’t eaten anything except ice cream all day. Had she been bogarting a joint? No, I would have smelled and tasted it on her lips.

“His first words to me, Sherman — his first words after seven months — were, ‘What say we finish up that day at Disneyland that I regret had been so untimely interrupted?’ I don’t know which hurt more, his thoughtless suggestion or the rehearsed phrases. What the hell did ‘untimely interrupted’ even mean?”

“Well,” I said, just trying to be helpful, “when we were attempting to board the skyrail for. . .you know. . .Fantasyland. . .weren’t we sort of ‘untimely interrupted’?”

Another thing I learned about girls that day was that there are certain words that a guy just seems fated to utter and that he wishes he had back the second they leave his mouth.

She furrowed her brow, of course. Then, as I gauged the depths of the swamp for a place to escape, she smiled.

“That’s groovy, Sherman. You had been my default, but. . .”

“Your default?”

“. . .but now I’m glad it’s you. I could just shudder to think. . .”

“Your default?” I knew that I would never find out who — if anyone — I had defaulted, so I said in a truly feeble attempt at a threat: “Let me remind you that I am not the one yet.”

She scooped up the last of the chocolate syrup and let it dribble down her chin.

“A point well taken. Feeling frisky?”

And so, after depleting my savings, we forged ahead for a second siege.

“You know,” I said as we neared our target. “We don’t have to do this.”


“I don’t want to take advantage of, you know, your vulnerability?”

“And just maybe,” she said without slowing down, “I really, really overrated ‘sweet’ as a desirable attribute.”

Being veterans, our renewed assault on the sky rail went smoothly this time. As soon as the door slammed we went to work.

“Time, Sherman.”

“Ten fifty nine and forty-five seconds.”

The gondola wavered for a moment beside the inspirational rocket ship thrust up into the sky and then lurched out into space.

The roof and sides more or less sheltered us from the elements, but the floor was so caked and oozing from the countless wet, muddy shoes that the area was strategically compromised.

“Time, Sherman.”

“Eleven and thirteen seconds.”

As if in answer, a thundering KA-BOOM assaulted us.

We had precious few seconds to devise a new position. Something involving sitting, no doubt. A rainbow of sparks showered around us. But sitting meant issues of visibility, not to mention additional challenges to penetration of the virgin kind. And then there were the sticky plastic seats.


It was like we were inside the fireworks, tripping in psychedelic haze as the sparks drizzled through rain like melting Crayolas.

“Get your head in the game,” Sherman.

I turned and watched her felix a Sleeping Beauty beach towel from that bag of tricks and lay it across the floor.


Again, I admired her foresight, not to mention her grace under fire.

The direction she placed the towel made it feel as though I was about to perform a sexual act on Sleeping Beauty that is fondly referred to by a number.

“Time, Sherman.” She lay down.

“Eleven and fifty-eight.”

Now, on the one hand, the full, or at least significant, removal of clothing enhances the sexual experience. On the other hand, with less than two minutes left, it doesn’t allow much leeway, especially since the time must include getting clothes back on as well as off.

Hence, our compromise: Hers went up and mine went down.


Every once in awhile a guy gets a break. I found that with each random explosion, rather than reducing me to Jell-o, it further hardened my resolve, so to speak. A paradox I fully embraced.

“You sure you want to do this?” I heard myself ask in another of those doomed phrases.

“You sure you don’t want your testicles ripped off and tossed across the submarine ride?”

Let the assault begin.

“Wait, Sherman. Do I have to think of everything?”

Duh, yes, I thought. “What?” I asked.

She shoved a packet into my hand and I tore off the end, rolled it on, and tossed the wrapper over the side like a hand grenade. Maybe in the near future the Monsanto Chemical Company will invent a more efficient condom, probably involving several kinds of plastics and some sort of self-destruct.

It didn’t help me when she barked, “Time, Sherman.”

“If I have to keep looking. . .”

“Hmmm. . .” It was a sound of puzzlement at a slight glitch in her plans.

“What now?”

“Bigger than I thought, Sherman. Way to go.”

She adjusted so that her feet were up against the door and I prayed for a strong latching system.

On the ground beneath us people were oohing and aaahing. I felt pretty proud of myself until I felt serious resistance.

So much, in fact, that, well, I wasn’t sure I was in the right place.

“For God’s sake, just push!”

Several pushes and several adjustments later and we were in.

Then, as we swung into the darkness of the Matterhorn, she began to scream. I’d like to say it had been initiated by my prowess, but it was really just another primal cry mixed in with all the others sliding and twisting down their roller coasters. I screamed along this time, though more out of desperation. Then we were out of the Matterhorn and counting down the final twenty-eight seconds.

“Faster, Sherman. My God, faster.”

Oh, those words could be taken on so many levels. I complied with her request. We weren’t going to make it. Not even close if you factored in the clothing issue. I could hear the clank, clank of the machinery that pulled in the great cable. And then the gondola took on a tell-tale swaying.

We were, so to speak, screwed.

Now, you might not have heard of an earthquake in March of 1968. It was just a 4.7 on the Richter. But when the epicenter is half a mile from Anaheim and the cables holding your gondola begin to lurch, let me tell you, you feel it. And any time a trembler first hits, you’re just frozen, waiting for it to peak, fearing that it really will build to the Big One.

The cable ground to a full, dipping stop. We held each other, hidden beneath the gunwale.

You might not believe me when I say the fireworks continued. But they did. Maybe to the pyro technicians the quake just felt like part of the explosions. Maybe the fireworks were on some kind of timer. Maybe the pyros just had a sick sense of humor.

We lay gently swaying, bathed in the afterglow of the fireworks as time and our gondola stood still.

“I suppose the pain will pass,” she said.

GRANT FARLEY swears this never really happened. Well, sort of. At this very moment he may be huddled in his alcove overlooking L.A. harbor scribbling yet another demented story for his collection, LAmental.

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