Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 59 of 61

I went in through the Main Gate, not a castmember any longer, a Guest with barely enough Whuffie to scrape in, use the water fountains and stand in line. If I were lucky, a castmember might spare me a chocolate banana. Probably not, though.

I stood in the line for the Hall of Presidents. Other guests checked my Whuffie, then averted their eyes. Even the children. A year before, they’d have been striking up conversations, asking me about my job here at the Magic Kingdom.

I sat in my seat at the Hall of Presidents, watching the short film with the rest, sitting patiently while they rocked in their seats under the blast of the flash-bake. A castmember picked up the stageside mic and thanked everyone for coming; the doors swung open and the Hall was empty, except for me. The castmember narrowed her eyes at me, then recognizing me, turned her back and went to show in the next group.

No group came. Instead, Dan and the girl I’d seen on the replay entered.

“We’ve closed it down for the morning,” he said.

I was staring at the girl, seeing her smirk as she pulled the trigger on me, seeing her now with a contrite, scared expression. She was terrified of me.

“You must be Jeanine,” I said. I stood and shook her hand. “I’m Julius.”

Her hand was cold, and she took it back and wiped it on her pants.

My castmember instincts took over. “Please, have a seat. Don’t worry, it’ll all be fine. Really. No hard feelings.” I stopped short of offering to get her a glass of water.

Put her at her ease, said a snotty voice in my head. She’ll make a better witness. Or make her nervous, pathetic — that’ll work, too; make Debra look even worse.

I told the voice to shut up and got her a cup of water.

By the time I came back, the whole gang was there. Debra, Lil, her folks, Tim. Debra’s gang and Lil’s gang, now one united team. Soon to be scattered.

Dan took the stage, used the stageside mic to broadcast his voice. “Eleven months ago, I did an awful thing. I plotted with Debra to have Julius murdered. I used a friend who was a little confused at the time, used her to pull the trigger. It was Debra’s idea that having Julius killed would cause enough confusion that she could take over the Hall of Presidents. It was.”

There was a roar of conversation. I looked at Debra, saw that she was sitting calmly, as though Dan had just accused her of sneaking an extra helping of dessert. Lil’s parents, to either side of her, were less sanguine. Tom’s jaw was set and angry, Rita was speaking angrily to Debra. Hickory Jackson in the old Hall used to say, I will hang the first man I can lay hands on from the first tree I can find.

“Debra had herself refreshed from backup after we planned it,” Dan went on, as though no one was talking. “I was supposed to do the same, but I didn’t. I have a backup in my public directory — anyone can examine it. Right now, I’d like to bring Jeanine up, she’s got a few words she’d like to say.”

I helped Jeanine take the stage. She was still trembling, and the ad-hocs were an insensate babble of recriminations. Despite myself, I was enjoying it.

“Hello,” Jeanine said softly. She had a lovely voice, a lovely face. I wondered if we could be friends when it was all over. She probably didn’t care much about Whuffie, one way or another.

The discussion went on. Dan took the mic from her and said, “Please! Can we have a little respect for our visitor? Please? People?”

Gradually, the din decreased. Dan passed the mic back to Jeanine. “Hello,” she said again, and flinched from the sound of her voice in the Hall’s PA. “My name is Jeanine. I’m the one who killed Julius, a year ago. Dan asked me to, and I did it. I didn’t ask why. I trusted — trust — him. He told me that Julius would make a backup a few minutes before I shot him, and that he could get me out of the Park without getting caught. I’m very sorry.” There was something off-kilter about her, some stilt to her stance and words that let you know she wasn’t all there. Growing up in a mountain might do that to you. I snuck a look at Lil, whose lips were pressed together. Growing up in a theme park might do that to you, too.

“Thank you, Jeanine,” Dan said, taking back the mic. “You can have a seat now. I’ve said everything I need to say — Julius and I have had our own discussions in private. If there’s anyone else who’d like to speak –“

The words were barely out of his mouth before the crowd erupted again in words and waving hands. Beside me, Jeanine flinched. I took her hand and shouted in her ear: “Have you ever been on the Pirates of the Carribean?”

She shook her head.

I stood up and pulled her to her feet. “You’ll love it,” I said, and led her out of the Hall.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)