Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 55 of 61

“Can’t you see that we’re carrying on your work? That we’re tending a legacy you left us?”

“Are you through?” Rita asked.

I nodded.

“This place is not a historical preserve, Julius, it’s a ride. If you don’t understand that, you’re in the wrong place. It’s not my goddamn fault that you decided that your stupidity was on my behalf, and it doesn’t make it any less stupid. All you’ve done is confirm my worst fears.”

Debra’s mask of impartiality slipped. “You stupid, deluded asshole,” she said, softly. “You totter around, pissing and moaning about your little murder, your little health problems — yes, I’ve heard — your little fixation on keeping things the way they are. You need some perspective, Julius. You need to get away from here: Disney World isn’t good for you and you’re sure as hell not any good for Disney World.”

It would have hurt less if I hadn’t come to the same conclusion myself, somewhere along the way.

I found the ad-hoc at a Fort Wilderness campsite, sitting around a fire and singing, necking, laughing. The victory party. I trudged into the circle and hunted for Lil.

She was sitting on a log, staring into the fire, a million miles away. Lord, she was beautiful when she fretted. I stood in front of her for a minute and she stared right through me until I tapped her shoulder. She gave an involuntary squeak and then smiled at herself.

“Lil,” I said, then stopped. Your parents are home, and they’ve joined the other side.

For the first time in an age, she looked at me softly, smiled even. She patted the log next to her. I sat down, felt the heat of the fire on my face, her body heat on my side. God, how did I screw this up?

Without warning, she put her arms around me and hugged me hard. I hugged her back, nose in her hair, woodsmoke smell and shampoo and sweat. “We did it,” she whispered fiercely. I held onto her. No, we didn’t.

“Lil,” I said again, and pulled away.

“What?” she said, her eyes shining. She was stoned, I saw that now.

“Your parents are back. They came to the Mansion.”

She was confused, shrinking, and I pressed on.

“They were with Debra.”

She reeled back as if I’d slapped her.

“I told them I’d bring the whole group back to talk it over.”

She hung her head and her shoulders shook, and I tentatively put an arm around her. She shook it off and sat up. She was crying and laughing at the same time. “I’ll have a ferry sent over,” she said.

I sat in the back of the ferry with Dan, away from the confused and angry ad-hocs. I answered his questions with terse, one-word answers, and he gave up. We rode in silence, the trees on the edges of the Seven Seas Lagoon whipping back and forth in an approaching storm.

The ad-hoc shortcutted through the west parking lot and moved through the quiet streets of Frontierland apprehensively, a funeral procession that stopped the nighttime custodial staff in their tracks.

As we drew up on Liberty Square, I saw that the work-lights were blazing and a tremendous work-gang of Debra’s ad-hocs were moving from the Hall to the Mansion, undoing our teardown of their work.

Working alongside of them were Tom and Rita, Lil’s parents, sleeves rolled up, forearms bulging with new, toned muscle. The group stopped in its tracks and Lil went to them, stumbling on the wooden sidewalk.

I expected hugs. There were none. In their stead, parents and daughter stalked each other, shifting weight and posture to track each other, maintain a constant, sizing distance.

“What the hell are you doing?” Lil said, finally. She didn’t address her mother, which surprised me. It didn’t surprise Tom, though.

He dipped forward, the shuffle of his feet loud in the quiet night. “We’re working,” he said.

“No, you’re not,” Lil said. “You’re destroying. Stop it.”

Lil’s mother darted to her husband’s side, not saying anything, just standing there.

Wordlessly, Tom hefted the box he was holding and headed to the Mansion. Lil caught his arm and jerked it so he dropped his load.

“You’re not listening. The Mansion is ours. Stop. It.”

Lil’s mother gently took Lil’s hand off Tom’s arm, held it in her own. “I’m glad you’re passionate about it, Lillian,” she said. “I’m proud of your commitment.”

Even at a distance of ten yards, I heard Lil’s choked sob, saw her collapse in on herself. Her mother took her in her arms, rocked her. I felt like a voyeur, but couldn’t bring myself to turn away.

“Shhh,” her mother said, a sibilant sound that matched the rustling of the leaves on the Liberty Tree. “Shhh. We don’t have to be on the same side, you know.”

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