As long as he could remember, his father had talked to him about Disney World.
It was the inevitable pot of gold
at the end of the rainbow
, the reward for all they'd done, where they'd finally relax and have a great time.
Quite naturally, Mike watched every new Disney movie that came out. His bedroom had Mickey Mouse
sheets and pillowcases, and many Disney-themed toys. He watched the Disney Channel
. He pored over books about the various attractions, and he and his father spent many happy hours planning where they'd stay, where they'd go and what they'd do. Should they take a room in one of the Value Resorts, or rent a cabin with a kitchenette? Would they spend the first day at Epcot
or Blizzard Beach
, or go into the Magic Kingdom straightaway? Together they looked at each and every possibility, down to the very most obscure offerings: looking over the brochures, they learned of the working barber shop on Main Street and the Armed Forces resort, Shades of Green, closed to all but servicemen by night but welcoming to golfers on the links nearby during the day. They discussed pin trading, hidden Mickeys, and changes in the parks like frequent visitors.
Only, they never went there. His father worked really hard on his job, and so he had very little time off. Mike's mom worked too, and every year, something came up.
There was the year they were going to go in the fall, but that was the year there were all the hurricanes. There was the year he got a new baby sister, Willow, which meant that they couldn't go for at least a year or so. There was the spring their car broke down, so they had to go to Gran'ma's instead. It was too hot in the summer in Florida. But his Dad was still the best! He was going to take them to Disney World!
Only once, his faith in his dad was shaken. Charlie, the rich kid in class, went to Orlando
, and he said he wasn't impressed. "It's just another amusement park
." he said. "And it's full of crazy people." His parents had taken him everywhere. Why shouldn't Disney World be the best of the best? Why wasn't he happy?
Charlie said he liked going to his uncle's in Cape Cod
, where he had a boat.
"But, they've got boats in Disney World. Lots of them.You could be on a pirate
"It's just not the same."
Willow, too, was not as Disney-centric as Mike was. Although she'd gone through the Princess stage, she was uninterested in Miley Ray Cyrus
, Raven, or Lizzie McGuire
. She watched the Travel Channel, and National Geographic
, and sometimes the Style Network.
"You could go to Epcot
." he'd said, when he was thirteen. "They have French restaurants."
"Big deal." she said, a smart nine-year-old. "I'd rather go to the real Paris."
"Paris has Disneyland Europe."
"It also has real live castles that had real live kings living there. It's not some fake junk you can't walk around in."
"You can walk around in Cinderella's castle. They have a restaurant and a gift shop. If you're lucky you get to stay in the Dream Suite."
"Again big deal. It's fake."
"A real castle probably has real rats and roaches."
"You're impossible!" she said, walking out.
I'd like to say he grew out of it, but he was still hopeful when he went away to college. Naturally, his dreams weren't of meeting Mickey, but of male bonding: they'd stay at the Wilderness Resort
, or on the Bayou, catching fish and talking man-to-man. His father would be retiring soon, and he'd have plenty of time for such things. He saw the two of them walking through Frontierland, lost in a fantasy of life as it was, or playing golf on the links that surrounded the parks. He'd long since quit sleeping on mouse-printed sheets, but kept his father's picture in a Michael Graves
Mouse Ears frame. Now and again he toyed with the idea of simply going down to Florida on his own, but he reasoned that it just wasn't the same.
"His heart was never all that strong." his mother explained. "And he never really was as successful as he wanted to be."
"So, he was lying to us?"
"I wouldn't call it lying. He just loved the way your face always lit up when he mentioned Disney World. He could always get you out of a bad mood, make you do your homework…as long as he could tell you about Disney World, or get you something Disney. He even made me name your sister Minnie, to get you to like her."
"No. Wilhelmina. Minnie. You're Mickey and Minnie."
He sat in front of his laptop. The Goodnight Kiss, the light show and speech that ends every day at every Disney Resort, was playing, with "When You Wish Upon a Star" swelling in the background.
Goodnight Dad. Goodnight Walt. Goodnight Roy. Bon soir, Epcot. Goodnight, Celebration. Goodnight Snow White, asleep in the forest. Goodnight Cinderella, hope your dreams all come true. Pinocchio
, glad to have known you, and old J.C. and the Blue Fairy. Someday, you'll have a drink and not be an ass about it. Goodnight, Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Nemo
and Captain Hook. Goodnight Tinkerbell. Sorry I couldn't stay for the concert
, folks, I heard the Salvator Dali ballet
was amazing. Goodnight, Dumbo
. Goodnight Alice. Goodnight Pooh, Piglet, and Tigger. Goodnight bitch Lady and all your mutts. Sleep on Beauties, snug in your dreams. Good night Pluto, and Goofy and Unca Scrooge. Goodnight Donald. Goodnight Minnie, and goodnight Mickey. Sleep in the place of a million dreams, because dreams only come to those who sleep.
He smiled. He was wide awake, now.