Feb 2, 2023
The Devil Of Ocean Paradise
The resort town's boardwalk is partially open during the cold winter months for the hardy of spirit. The stores that remain open were purchased mostly by middle eastern immigrants, who overpaid for their piece of the American dream in the dying resort. Their mortgage demands every nickel they can muster, and their large families are eager to practice their broken English on the few customers willing to brave the boardwalk's cold winter wind.
All their stores sell the same things... brightly colored candy, souvenirs and small toys designed to make children nag and beg. Along with the stores there is a strip of game stands, where during the warm summer breezes, fathers and boyfriends hope to win a stuffed animal. During the winter, the steel garage doors are closed on all these stands, except for one. The immigrants with their broken English cannot lure in players, but the Devil can.
Oversized brightly colored stuffed animals adorn the stand. Music from the 70's pulses from one loud speaker, while the Devil commands the occasional passing man to "show her that you care by winning a bear." Please don't misunderstand me, he is not Satan himself, but a minor devil. He can give you a cold, or ruin a first date, but he has no power over life and death. Even those he afflicts can purchase redemption.... Inside the stores there are chocolate wafers for sale, covered with white candy sprinkles. For a mere $26 a pound, the bad omen can be eaten away.
This minor devil came from Coney Island a decade ago. Brooklyn's Brighton Beach area started gentrifying in the late 90's, and the dress up spread to adjoining Coney. Doc, the minor devil, thrived on hearty spirits, but not heady minds. His move to Ocean Paradise was a win-win. While the owning immigrant gets to keep almost all the money the stand takes in, Doc gets to dispense a headache or two each weekend. He has a room at a nearby old motel owned by the same family, and enjoys the middle eastern food that he has eaten since time immemorial.
If you walk on the boardwalk during the winter, you better dress warm, and not be tempted to show her that you care.
reprinted from November of 2018
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