The Death Walk

The boys and I took a mini-vacation at Busch Gardens this past weekend. Normally, we would camp on an adventure like that, but this time we ended up a hotel just up the street from the parks.

As we checked in on Friday night, we asked the hotel clerk the easiest way to get to the park.

“Just walk,” she said. “There’s a tram that runs to the edge of the parking lot. They’ll pick you up.”

The next morning, excited to be going to an amusement park, we were up and out of the hotel room with plenty of time to do make the journey. We walked down the road, then turned into the parking lot.

Not only wasn’t there a tram, but there wasn’t anything resembling a tram stop.

As we started the walk across the huge expanse of blacktop, I spotted a friendly looking older guy setting up a gate. He didn’t know anything about a tram to the edge of the parking lot, so I asked him what we should do on our way home.

I really didn’t like the idea of walking through such a huge parking lot in the dark, when it was filled with drivers tired from a long day of roller coasters.

“No problem.” He turned and pointed toward the far edge, where a eight foot concrete wall bordered the pavement. “There’s a sidewalk next to that. Just follow it.” He moved his pointing finger to the lot’s exit. “The wall ends there, and you can get out.”

“Cool,” my oldest son said. “Thanks!”

We proceeded to the park, and had a legendary day, one that included a night time concert, and only ended when violent thunderstorms rolled in.

“Uh-oh,” I said to the kids. “That parking lot is going to be bad.”

“No problem,” my youngest son said. “We’ll just go to the sidewalk.”

We did just that, jogging across the dark wet pavement to the nearest part of the wall. All around us, cars were gunning engines and pulling out of spaces, jockeying for position to get out of the lot the fastest. The rain was just a light drizzle, but lightning flashed across the skies and thunder boomed all around us. We stayed together, kept our eyes up, and made it to the wall.

There was no sidewalk.

Instead, a five foot wide stretch of grass bordered the wall.

“That’s weird,” my oldest son said. “That guy lied to us.”

“It’s better than a sidewalk,” his little brother answered.

We walked along the wet grass, with me in back. The flow of the parking lot traffic formed two lanes that paralleled where we were walking, and cars zoomed past us, so close we could have reached out and touched them.

Then the grass verge we were walking on disappeared. The curb continued along the edge of the wall, but it was only about ten inches across, and we’d be balancing on it, sandwiched between traffic and an eight foot concrete wall.

The boys stopped and looked back at me, their eyes wide.

I looked up at the wall. There was no way we could climb it. To our left, the traffic was fast and irregular, with cars racing for the exit while others tried to merge with them.

“Stay on the curb,” I said, “as close to the wall as you can.”

“But–” my youngest said.

“No choice,” I interrupted. “Go when I say go, stop when I say stop. If I say run, I want an all-out sprint for the gate.”

We did just that, plastering ourselves against the wall when cars drove by, then balancing along the curb during gaps in the traffic. Finally, there was a big enough gap that I gave the order to run.

The boys jumped off the curb and raced for the gate, with me close behind them.

Once there, we stopped to gather our breath.

“I can’t believe that guy lied about there being a sidewalk.” I said.

“I know,” my youngest said. “He looked like such a kindly old man!”

“Yeah,” his older brother said. “A kindly old man that trying to kill us.”

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