Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 45 of 61

“You’d better watch those accusations, Julius,” Debra said, quietly and intensely, almost hissing. “I don’t know who killed you or why, but you’re the one who’s guilty here. You need help.”

I barked a humorless laugh. Guests were starting to stream into the now-open Park, and several of them were watching intently as the three costumed castmembers shouted at each other. I could feel my Whuffie hemorrhaging. “Debra, you are purely full of shit, and your work is trite and unimaginative. You’re a fucking despoiler and you don’t even have the guts to admit it.”

“That’s enough, Julius,” Lil said, her face hard, her rage barely in check. “We’re going.”

Debra walked a pace behind me, Lil a pace before, all the way through the crowd to Adventureland. I saw a dozen opportunities to slip into a gap in the human ebb and flow and escape custody, but I didn’t try. I wanted a chance to tell the whole world what I’d done and why I’d done it.

Debra followed us in when we mounted the steps to the meeting room. Lil turned. “I don’t think you should be here, Debra,” she said in measured tones.

Debra shook her head. “You can’t keep me out, you know. And you shouldn’t want to. We’re on the same side.”

I snorted derisively, and I think it decided Lil. “Come on, then,” she said.

It was SRO in the meeting room, packed to the gills with the entire ad-hoc, except for my new recruits. No work was being done on the rehab, then, and the Liberty Belle would be sitting at her dock. Even the restaurant crews were there. Liberty Square must’ve been a ghost town. It gave the meeting a sense of urgency: the knowledge that there were guests in Liberty Square wandering aimlessly, looking for castmembers to help them out. Of course, Debra’s crew might’ve been around.

The crowd’s faces were hard and bitter, leaving no doubt in my mind that I was in deep shit. Even Dan, sitting in the front row, looked angry. I nearly started crying right then. Dan — oh, Dan. My pal, my confidant, my patsy, my rival, my nemesis. Dan, Dan, Dan. I wanted to beat him to death and hug him at the same time.

Lil took the podium and tucked stray hairs behind her ears. “All right, then,” she said. I stood to her left and Debra stood to her right.

“Thanks for coming out today. I’d like to get this done quickly. We all have important work to get to. I’ll run down the facts: last night, a member of this ad-hoc vandalized the Hall of Presidents, rendering it useless. It’s estimated that it will take at least a week to get it back up and running.

“I don’t have to tell you that this isn’t acceptable. This has never happened before, and it will never happen again. We’re going to see to that.

“I’d like to propose that no further work be done on the Mansion until the Hall of Presidents is fully operational. I will be volunteering my services on the repairs.”

There were nods in the audience. Lil wouldn’t be the only one working at the Hall that week. “Disney World isn’t a competition,” Lil said. “All the different ad-hocs work together, and we do it to make the Park as good as we can. We lose sight of that at our peril.”

I nearly gagged on bile. “I’d like to say something,” I said, as calmly as I could manage.

Lil shot me a look. “That’s fine, Julius. Any member of the ad-hoc can speak.”

I took a deep breath. “I did it, all right?” I said. My voice cracked. “I did it, and I don’t have any excuse for having done it. It may not have been the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but I think you all should understand how I was driven to it.

“We’re not supposed to be in competition with one another here, but we all know that that’s just a polite fiction. The truth is that there’s real competition in the Park, and that the hardest players are the crew that rehabbed the Hall of Presidents. They stole the Hall from you! They did it while you were distracted, they used me to engineer the distraction, they murdered me!” I heard the shriek creeping into my voice, but I couldn’t do anything about it.

“Usually, the lie that we’re all on the same side is fine. It lets us work together in peace. But that changed the day they had me shot. If you keep on believing it, you’re going to lose the Mansion, the Liberty Belle, Tom Sawyer Island — all of it. All the history we have with this place — all the history that the billions who’ve visited it have — it’s going to be destroyed and replaced with the sterile, thoughtless shit that’s taken over the Hall. Once that happens, there’s nothing left that makes this place special. Anyone can get the same experience sitting at home on the sofa! What happens then, huh? How much longer do you think this place will stay open once the only people here are you?

Debra smiled condescendingly. “Are you finished, then?” she asked, sweetly. “Fine. I know I’m not a member of this group, but since it was my work that was destroyed last night, I think I would like to address Julius’s statements, if you don’t mind.” She paused, but no one spoke up.

“First of all, I want you all to know that we don’t hold you responsible for what happened last night. We know who was responsible, and he needs help. I urge you to see to it that he gets it.

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