Doug wandered through Wombat Central Square, a fresh red bruise on his cheek from the purse he took to the face, wielded by the mother of the boy in the Kippy Kangaroo shirt.
“Earl,” Doug said into his walkie-talkie. “Been a half-hour since I’ve heard from you. Where you at, man? Riggs needs his Murtaugh, bro.”
The security guard leaned up on a fence surrounding a garden filled with leafy green bushes, each one trimmed into the likeness of a different Wombat World character.
“God almighty,” Doug said as he flipped the shades attached to his prescription glasses downward and watched the tourists pass him by. “I’m surrounded by rule breakers whose asses are covered by a corrupt system that won’t let me dispense my own brand of personal justice.”
A few feet away, a nine-year old boy leaned over the fence and blew chunks all over a bush shaped like Chester Chimp.
“Oh honey,” the boy’s mother said as she patted his back. “I told you not to eat all that candy. Are you ok?”
“Uh huh,” the boy said as he took his mother’s hand.
“Come on,” the mother said as she led her son away. “Let’s find a place to sit down for a little while.”
Doug stared at Chester’s barf covered face, then at the mother and son as they walked away.
“Not on my watch.”
The security guard was about to pursue the youngster when he heard a bunch of children laughing and instantly snapped his head towards them.
What a sight. Right in the middle of the square, an employee in a Willy Wombat mascot costume was lying down on the pavement, powerless against the hordes of small children who were jumping up and down on this poor individual.
Doug took one last look at the boy, who was now sitting with his mother on a bench on the opposite side of the square. “Shit. You just got lucky, punk.”
The security guard blew on his whistle and approached the scene.
“Hey you little criminals!” Doug shouted. “Attacking Willy Wombat is an official Wombat World offense!”
None of the kids seemed to think it was an attack. Some of the kids wrapped their little arms around Willy and hugged him. Others bounced up and down on his big belly. Some kicked, poked, and prodded him in the head and other assorted parts.
Doug blew his whistle again and tried shouting louder.
“Damn it! If you kids keep messing with the bull, you will get the horns!”
None of the kids paid the rent-a-cop any mind.
“Chief,” Doug said into his walkie-talkie. “I got a situation here. I’m going to need someone to bring me a stun gun and about twenty-seven cartridges. You know what? Make it an even thirty. Some of these kids are pretty fat.”
“Shut up, shit for brains,” the Chief’s voice replied. “Ellen’s on now and she’s going to dance with her guest. It will be heartwarming and hysterical.”
Willy flailed his arms and legs to and fro. Doug could hear a muffled female voice screaming from inside the oversized wombat head.
“Attention kids,” Doug said. “Free toys are being given away at the Wombat Gift Shop!”
The little urchins all looked up.
“That’s right,” Doug said. “Free toys at the Wombat Gift Shop.”
Like a pack of wild hyenas tripping on PCP, the tiny wackos stampeded away. Doug leaned over the mascot.
“Are you ok in there?”
“Unnghh,” growned the voice from inside the wombat head. “Holy shit.”
“Jess?” the security guard asked.
“Doug?” Jess replied.
“I thought you were Princess Paulina,” Doug said.
“I was,” Jess said. “But I turned thirty.”
“Oh,” Doug said. “Right. The official ‘no human character actors over thirty’ policy. My condolences. Happy birthday though.”
“Worst one ever,” Jess said.
Doug grabbed Jess by her furry hand and helped her to her feet. She stumbled a bit until she gripped Doug’s shoulder for support.
“It’s hotter than Satan’s asshole in here and twice as smelly,” Jess said. “I can barely see anything. I keep tripping over these giant feet. This whole suit must weigh like a hundred pounds.”
“Yeah,” Doug said. “FYI union rules require that mascots be led around the park by a handler. You got cheated today but next time don’t leave the backlot until they get someone to run interference on the kids for you.”
Doug led a very slow, extremely wobbly wombat actress to a bench in front of Jimbo Frog’s Pizza Extravaganza, helped her sit down, then joined her.
“I need to take this stupid head off,” Jess said. “I’m suffocating.”
“No can do,” Doug said. “Technically, I should run you in for breaking character. Using your own voice while in a mascot costume is a big no-no.”
“I could give a shit, Doug,” Jess said.
“I’ll let you off with a warning,” Doug continued. “The Chief’s been riding my ass to compromise my principles lately so I figure if all the little pukes running around here are getting a break then I suppose you should too.”
Jess sighed. “I once got a call back for a second audition for a lead role on a premium cable TV show.”
“Which one?” Doug asked.
“The one with all the gratuitous nudity, violence, and absurd, nonsensical plot lines,” Jess replied.
“Oh,” Doug said. “That doesn’t exactly narrow it down, but as my partner Earl told me this morning, ‘in horseshoes as in life, close doesn’t count.’”
“Earl’s your partner?” Jess asked. “I thought he was just an old man you stand next to.”
“Yeah,” Doug said. “I could see how a layperson such as yourself could make that mistake.”
The boy who vomited minutes earlier was up and feeling better. He and his mother were standing in front of Willy.
“Willy!” the boy cried. “Mom, it’s Willy!”
The boy’s mother handed Doug her camera. “Would you mind?”
“I absolutely mind, lady,” Doug said. “I can’t compromise park security by appearing in your photo.”
The woman glared at Doug. “I meant can you take a photo of my son and I with Willy?”
“Oh,” Doug said as he looked at the slumped over mascot, which he knew contained an aching Jess.
“Willy’s on break,” Doug said.
“No,” came Jess’s voice from inside the head. “Its ok.”
Doug stood up and pointed the lady’s camera at Willy as the boy and his mother hugged the mascot.
“You sound funny, Willy,” the boy said.
“Yeah,” Jess replied. “That happens when you get curb stomped in the vagine fifty times, kid.”
“Huh?” the boy asked.
Jess was quiet for a few seconds, then mimicked Willy’s squeaky voice. “Have a wombat-tactic day at Wombat World, little boy!”
Doug handed the woman her camera and sat down as the boy and his mother left.
“Hey Doug,” Jess said.
“Yeah?” Doug asked.
“You and I started working here right around the same time, didn’t we?” Jess asked.
“Hmm,” Doug said as he thought about the question. “Yes. The year was 2006. George W. Bush was in the White House and Dick Cheney had just shot his friend in the face. Justin Timberlake was bringing the sexy back and The Departed was on its way to winning the Oscar…”
“Didn’t ask for a history lesson,” Jess said. “Just seems like time has gone by way too fast.”
“Time is the cruelest of all mistresses,” Doug said.
“Where’d you think you’d be by now?” Jess asked.
“On the force,” Doug said. “Figured this security gig was just a brief stop until I got a state police cruiser of my very own. You?”
“Crushed under the weight of all my acting awards,” Jess said.
“That’s a big dream,” Doug said. “Me? I’d just settle for a nice wife to come home to.”
“Come to think of it,” Jess said. “I have been wondering where my handsome prince is.”
Doug raised an eyebrow. “Maybe closer than you think.”
Without skipping a beat, Jess replied, “I said, ‘handsome,’ dummy.”
“Eh, you know Jess,” Doug said. “No offense but I’ve always believed incredibly good looking women such as yourself are nothing but a major hassle anyway.”
“Seriously?” Jess asked.
“Yeah,” Doug said. “Give me a woman low on options who shares my interest in nerd culture and I’ll be a happy camper.”
“But you just came on to me,” Jess said.
“When?” Doug asked.
“When you said maybe my prince is closer than I think,” Jess said.
“Pbbbht,” Doug said. “Stop flattering yourself, woman. All I meant was that yes, somewhere around here there’s a handsome guy who will be willing to take on the arduous, unenviable task of keeping an attractive woman happy.”
“I’m not that high-maintenance,” Jess said.
“Jess,” Doug said. “Please. Accept your rejection and move on.”
“Really,” Jess said. “I’m all about grease and wrenches. I’m happiest when I’m working on my bike.”
“Shh,” Doug said as he held up his finger and pressed it against the mascot head’s fuzzy fabric lips. “You’re just embarrassing yourself now.”
“Uggh,” Jess said. “Whatever.”
Jess and Doug sat silently for awhile.
“Say Doug?” Jess asked.
“Yeah?” Doug asked.
“Didn’t you just cause a big headache for the gift shop?” Jess asked.
“Oh shit,” Doug said as he pulled out his walkie-talkie and pressed the call button. “Wombat Gift Shop! Wombat Gift Shop, come in!”
An employee of the gift shop returned Doug’s call with a deafening, “Arrrrrrggggh!”
Doug stood up and took off. “I better look into that.”
Jess remained on the bench, mumbling to herself. “Turning thirty. Losing my princess job. Being forced to wear a throw-rug shaped like a glorified rodent. Getting rejected by a male mutant I wasn’t even propositioning. Can this day get any worse?”