Eddie, his sister Stacy, and parents rode through the night in near silence, only broken by Eddie’s occasional heaving sobs. He drifted in and out of fitful, frightful sleep, trying to shut out the events of the afternoon. The shame and terror were miles behind him, but that was little comfort.

That morning, Eddie was so excited he could barely keep his cotton-candy coated hands from shaking. He’d been waiting for this day for what seemed a lifetime. The long trip from the wastelands of mid-Texas couldn’t dampen his enthusiasm, even though his mom and dad had clearly been sick of travel for the last 4 hours.

For weeks, he’d had the flier from the theme park taped to the ceiling over his bed (a trick he’d learned at the dentist’s office). After a month of begging, his parents relented and decided to take the family for a quick vacation. At 8 years old, he considered himself to be a real roller-coaster enthusiast, so this park simply had to be conquered.

It was mid-week, and the lines were moving quickly. He’d mapped out their route through the park from the entrance gate to the Drop of Doom, the Salad Shooter, the Amputator, and the Spin Cycle. After a break to have overpriced, oversteamed hot dogs, they continued down the Lazy Falls to the Skywire. From this height, he could see the new coaster rising from a muddy construction site. The landscaping, tags still on the plants, was dwarfed by the enormous steel track soaring into the air. Patience, he told himself. They’d arrive soon enough and he’d get to ride the Plush Moth. Two turns on the Lung Extractor, a very fast ride with no line at all, and they made their way toward the far end of the park. Tiki torches flamed, jungle drums beat through the hidden sound system, and mechanical mannequins menaced from perches along the winding, wooded path. Thick trees blocked the view above, but the screams of current passengers cut through the scenery like poison frog blow darts. A sign warned that the Plush Moth was just ahead, and escape would be impossible if one wandered too close.

Eddie gripped his mom’s hand as they rounded the corner. His dad whistled through his teeth as he focused his camcorder on the entrance, then zoomed in on Eddie’s face. His expression transformed from nervous anticipation to stark raving terror as he saw the entrance: A giant bug staring down at them, 40′ long antennae waving to and fro, and the path to the coaster running directly under the insect’s furry mandibles. Eddie froze, wet his pants, and bolted back down the trail.plushmoth

Mom and dad looked at each other over Stacy’s cries of ‘Eeew! He made a puddle!’ At first bemused, then concerned, all of them hurried to follow the boy to the park entrance and to the car. Mom tried to comfort her son through snot and tears, but he was inconsolable. “Maybe next year,” Dad said softly.