Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 21 of 61

Lil rolled her eyes and made gagging noises. “Jesus, Rita, no one needs to hear about that part of it.”

Tom patted her arm. “Lil, you’re an adult — if you can’t stomach hearing about your parents’ courtship, you can either sit somewhere else or grin and bear it. But you don’t get to dictate the topic of conversation.”

Lil gave us adults a very youthful glare and flounced off. Rita shook her head at Lil’s departing backside. “There’s not much fire in that generation,” she said. “Not a lot of passion. It’s our fault — we thought that Disney World would be the best place to raise a child in the Bitchun Society. Maybe it was, but. . .” She trailed off and rubbed her palms on her thighs, a gesture I’d come to know in Lil, by and by. “I guess there aren’t enough challenges for them these days. They’re too cooperative.” She laughed and her husband took her hand.

“We sound like our parents,” Tom said. “‘When we were growing up, we didn’t have any of this newfangled life-extension stuff — we took our chances with the cave bears and the dinosaurs!'” Tom wore himself older, apparent 50, with graying sidewalls and crinkled smile-lines, the better to present a non-threatening air of authority to the guests. It was a truism among the first-gen ad-hocs that women castmembers should wear themselves young, men old. “We’re just a couple of Bitchun fundamentalists, I guess.”

Lil called over from a nearby conversation: “Are they telling you what a pack of milksops we are, Julius? When you get tired of that, why don’t you come over here and have a smoke?” I noticed that she and her cohort were passing a crack pipe.

“What’s the use?” Lil’s mother sighed.

“Oh, I don’t know that it’s as bad as all that,” I said, virtually my first words of the afternoon. I was painfully conscious that I was only there by courtesy, just one of the legion of hopefuls who flocked to Orlando every year, aspiring to a place among the ruling cliques. “They’re passionate about maintaining the Park, that’s for sure. I made the mistake of lifting a queue-gate at the Jungleboat Cruise last week and I got a very earnest lecture about the smooth functioning of the Park from a castmember who couldn’t have been more than 18. I think that they don’t have the passion for creating Bitchunry that we have — they don’t need it — but they’ve got plenty of drive to maintain it.”

Lil’s mother gave me a long, considering look that I didn’t know what to make of. I couldn’t tell if I had offended her or what.

“I mean, you can’t be a revolutionary after the revolution, can you? Didn’t we all struggle so that kids like Lil wouldn’t have to?”

“Funny you should say that,” Tom said. He had the same considering look on his face. “Just yesterday we were talking about the very same thing. We were talking –” he drew a breath and looked askance at his wife, who nodded — “about deadheading. For a while, anyway. See if things changed much in fifty or a hundred years.”

I felt a kind of shameful disappointment. Why was I wasting my time schmoozing with these two, when they wouldn’t be around when the time came to vote me in? I banished the thought as quickly as it came — I was talking to them because they were nice people. Not every conversation had to be strategically important.

“Really? Deadheading.” I remember that I thought of Dan then, about his views on the cowardice of deadheading, on the bravery of ending it when you found yourself obsolete. He’d comforted me once, when my last living relative, my uncle, opted to go to sleep for three thousand years. My uncle had been born pre-Bitchun, and had never quite gotten the hang of it. Still, he was my link to my family, to my first adulthood and my only childhood. Dan had taken me to Gananoque and we’d spent the day bounding around the countryside on seven-league boots, sailing high over the lakes of the Thousand Islands and the crazy fiery carpet of autumn leaves. We topped off the day at a dairy commune he knew where they still made cheese from cow’s milk and there’d been a thousand smells and bottles of strong cider and a girl whose name I’d long since forgotten but whose exuberant laugh I’d remember forever. And it wasn’t so important, then, my uncle going to sleep for three milliennia, because whatever happened, there were the leaves and the lakes and the crisp sunset the color of blood and the girl’s laugh.

“Have you talked to Lil about it?”

Rita shook her head. “It’s just a thought, really. We don’t want to worry her. She’s not good with hard decisions — it’s her generation.”

They changed the subject not long thereafter, and I sensed discomfort, knew that they had told me too much, more than they’d intended. I drifted off and found Lil and her young pals, and we toked a little and cuddled a little.

Within a month, I was working at the Haunted Mansion, Tom and Rita were invested in Canopic jars in Kissimee with instructions not to be woken until their newsbots grabbed sufficient interesting material to make it worth their while, and Lil and I were a hot item.

Lil didn’t deal well with her parents’ decision to deadhead. For her, it was a slap in the face, a reproach to her and her generation of twittering Polyannic castmembers.

For God’s sake, Lil, don’t you ever get fucking angry about anything? Don’t you have any goddamned passion?

The words were out of my mouth before I knew I was saying them, and Lil, 15 percent of my age, young enough to be my great-granddaughter; Lil, my lover and best friend and sponsor to the Liberty Square ad-hocracy; Lil turned white as a sheet, turned on her heel and walked out of the kitchen. She got in her runabout and went to the Park to take her shift.

I went back to bed and stared at the ceiling fan as it made its lazy turns, and felt like shit.

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