Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 47 of 61

Chapter 8

Doctor Pete answered on the third ring, audio-only. In the background, I heard a chorus of crying children, the constant backdrop of the Magic Kingdom infirmary.

“Hi, doc,” I said.

“Hello, Julius. What can I do for you?” Under the veneer of professional medical and castmember friendliness, I sensed irritation.

Make it all good again. “I’m not really sure. I wanted to see if I could talk it over with you. I’m having some pretty big problems.”

“I’m on-shift until five. Can it wait until then?”

By then, I had no idea if I’d have the nerve to see him. “I don’t think so — I was hoping we could meet right away.”

“If it’s an emergency, I can have an ambulance sent for you.”

“It’s urgent, but not an emergency. I need to talk about it in person. Please?”

He sighed in undoctorly, uncastmemberly fashion. “Julius, I’ve got important things to do here. Are you sure this can’t wait?”

I bit back a sob. “I’m sure, doc.”

“All right then. When can you be here?”

Lil had made it clear that she didn’t want me in the Park. “Can you meet me? I can’t really come to you. I’m at the Contemporary, Tower B, room 2334.”

“I don’t really make house calls, son.”

“I know, I know.” I hated how pathetic I sounded. “Can you make an exception? I don’t know who else to turn to.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can. I’ll have to get someone to cover for me. Let’s not make a habit of this, all right?”

I whooshed out my relief. “I promise.”

He disconnected abruptly, and I found myself dialing Dan.

“Yes?” he said, cautiously.

“Doctor Pete is coming over, Dan. I don’t know if he can help me — I don’t know if anyone can. I just wanted you to know.”

He surprised me, then, and made me remember why he was still my friend, even after everything. “Do you want me to come over?”

“That would be very nice,” I said, quietly. “I’m at the hotel.”

“Give me ten minutes,” he said, and rang off.

He found me on my patio, looking out at the Castle and the peaks of Space Mountain. To my left spread the sparkling waters of the Seven Seas Lagoon, to my right, the Property stretched away for mile after manicured mile. The sun was warm on my skin, faint strains of happy laughter drifted with the wind, and the flowers were in bloom. In Toronto, it would be freezing rain, gray buildings, noisome rapid transit (a monorail hissed by), and hard-faced anonymity. I missed it.

Dan pulled up a chair next to mine and sat without a word. We both stared out at the view for a long while.

“It’s something else, isn’t it?” I said, finally.

“I suppose so,” he said. “I want to say something before the doc comes by, Julius.”

“Go ahead.”

“Lil and I are through. It should never have happened in the first place, and I’m not proud of myself. If you two were breaking up, that’s none of my business, but I had no right to hurry it along.”

“All right,” I said. I was too drained for emotion.

“I’ve taken a room here, moved my things.”

“How’s Lil taking it?”

“Oh, she thinks I’m a total bastard. I suppose she’s right.”

“I suppose she’s partly right,” I corrected him.

He gave me a gentle slug in the shoulder. “Thanks.”

We waited in companionable silence until the doc arrived.

He bustled in, his smile lines drawn up into a sour purse and waited expectantly. I left Dan on the patio while I took a seat on the bed.

“I’m cracking up or something,” I said. “I’ve been acting erratically, sometimes violently. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” I’d rehearsed the speech, but it still wasn’t easy to choke out.

“We both know what’s wrong, Julius,” the doc said, impatiently. “You need to be refreshed from your backup, get set up with a fresh clone and retire this one. We’ve had this talk.”

“I can’t do it,” I said, not meeting his eye. “I just can’t — isn’t there another way?”

The doc shook his head. “Julius, I’ve got limited resources to allocate. There’s a perfectly good cure for what’s ailing you, and if you won’t take it, there’s not much I can do for you.”

“But what about meds?”

“Your problem isn’t a chemical imbalance, it’s a mental defect. Your brain is broken, son. All that meds will do is mask the symptoms, while you get worse. I can’t tell you what you want to hear, unfortunately. Now, If you’re ready to take the cure, I can retire this clone immediately and get you restored into a new one in 48 hours.”

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