I bit into the hot jam donut and thirty-four years dissolved off my skin.
The first bite was just right, a slight crunch of the fried outer and then teeth hit the fluffy of inside. A fine dusting covered my lips and I tried and tried not to lick the tiny crystals, tried and failed like every other time. I stepped forward in the line, one step closer to that sugary smell. I read the sign one more time: 20cents each, or 6 for $1. So two dollars meant twelve donuts. I pretended to decide if I would have six or twelve, teasing myself with the idea of being able to resist, and saving a dollar for later. A later that added up to; one packet of Cheese Things, one White Knight, five Redskins, one pack of Fags and about six Cobbers or Freckles or Milk Bottles. But I already knew I’d choose the donuts, which I may or may not later vomit up on the Spew Ball. I stepped forward again and held and held and held my breath until I got to the window on tippytoes, so that my first gasp was of pure happysweet.
I got ready for the next bite, prepared, for you never know just when that scalding glob of fluoro pink will fly out of the donut and onto your delicate tongue, searing it for three days. The process is: bite, pant with mouth open, and swallow, allowing the deliciousness slide down, forging a molten path along your oesophagus. I handed over my two dollars, clutching the straining paper bag to my royal blue parka. It was already becoming translucent with grease, and I had to be careful not to shake it too much- I could hear the waterfall of sugar falling from the donuts with each step. I found a spot on the cold ground away from the annoying seagulls that were my brothers, and inhaled, like a sommelier. The first bite was always the best and the trickiest. Too big, and the scorching jam would shoot out and burn my fingers: IwontdropitIwontdropit, too small, and all I’d get was the dough.
Bravely, I popped the rest of the donut into my mouth and savoured the burning sensation, the touch-memory warming up old synapses that recalled the frigid wind coming off Albert Park Lake, making the metal rungs and handles of the play equipment so cold they burnt my fingers like the hot jam. We called it Special Park for it was magical… Towering, curling slides, strange swings with almost evil leering kite-faces that went ‘swing-swong’ as well as ’round and ’round, orange and green balls that spun around and around whilst we chanted “FasterFaster” to our Dad on the outside, whose big arms never seems to stop or tire, ’til we came tumbling out, drunk on donuts and the spinning and the taste of hot, almost-vomit in the back of our throats. Parents sitting in the idling warm of the car, listening to Fleetwood Mac or maybe Bob Marley, and imagining stealing a moment for themselves away from wide and innocent eyes, whilst outside we ran and ran from fort, to swing to see-saw and back, beanies pulled down tight but ears still numbing to deafness as we ran, almost weeing our pants with joy and daring when they honked the horn to go home and we scattered like Autumn leaves over the park so they couldn’t drag us home.
Special Park. Special Days.
Did you ever go to Special Park? It’s gone now of course, there’s a race-track and restaurants and the gentry enjoy the space that children once ruled. The dirty-white of the donut van, ne’er to be seen.
Did your family have their own Special Park?
…From The Ashers (And the McShane-Rolfes) xx