Abby stood, all by her incredibly sad self, in a long line as she waited for her turn to enjoy the Happy Little International Children Experience.
The Floridian sun was hot and the rays beat down on her head. Everyone in front and behind her was sweaty. A pungent aroma of body odor invaded her nose.
She sipped on her non-Wombat World vended soda as her phone buzzed.
The caller ID read, “Assface.”
She clicked a button to ignore the call the, then turned her attention to one of the many monitors that hanged from the ceiling. Every few feet, there was another monitor. Thus, no matter where one was in line, one could always keep watching.
A pasty faced old man appeared on the screen. “Oh, hello. I’m Benny Walters. If you’re a fan of Carruthers Brothers films, then you’ll remember me from my roles as Billy the boy genius in Mister Dondlelinger’s Wacky Contraption and as Fred the boy detective in Kid Detective Squad: Operation Justice. Yes, I was such a spry, young whippersnapper in the 1960s. Now my face looks like a goddamn newspaper that was left on a bus seat only to get all crinkly after ten people sat and cut the cheese all over it. And I have to take a pill every three hours just to keep my heart beating. Son of a bitch, where did the time go?”
Benny looked off to the camera. “What? I can’t say, ‘bitch?’ Because it might offend the precious little ones’ delicate ears? Yeah, well, at least they didn’t get thrown off the studio lot with ten bucks and a bus ticket once they grew pubes…oh alright! I’ll play nice.”
The old timer returned his gaze to the camera and put his yellow teeth on display with a phony smile. “Journey back in time with me, will you?”
Abby’s phone buzzed again. She ignored it once more.
A video clip ran. It featured a tiny, googly eyed cartoon wombat in black and white, at the helm of a locomotive.
“The year was 1925. On a lark, Milton and Rutherford Carruthers scraped their last pennies together to create an animated short entitled, The Wombat on the Train. Reviews were mixed. Many people marveled at the sight of a cartoon marsupial. Others were convinced that the Carruthers Brothers were warlocks who had sold their souls to the devil in exchange for the power to bring their drawings to life.”
The next clip showed Willy behind the controls of a World War II era bomber. Benny continued his narration.
“Over the years, Willy grew in popularity, so much so that the government enlisted the little fellow as a public relations ambassador.”
Willy looked at the camera and squeaked, “Buy war bonds to help our boys purchase the bombs they need to drop on the dirty, stinking Japs!”
“This really needs to be updated,” Abby mumbled.
Princess Paulina popped up on screen, surrounded by her furry animal friends.
“But the Carruthers Brothers cemented their celebrity status with their nineteen-thirty-one classic, The Princess and the Witch,” Benny said in a voice over. “Many critics argued that the Carruthers’ Brothers’ animation was just a cheap parlor trick and that no one would pay good money to watch an entire animated film. Boy howdy, did they end up with egg on their faces.”
Abby sweated away in line and watched the monitor as the cartoon animals chatted with the princess.
“Oh goodness,” Princess Paulina said. “Prince Handsome just ran off to look for more princesses to rescue and accidentally locked me in here on his way out the door.”
“Tough luck, kiddo,” Willy said as he waved his magic wand. “You only get one wish so you’re on your own.”
Poof! The wombat was gone.
“Well, that’s it,” Chester said. “You’re totally screwed up the wazoo now, doll face.”
“Oh, but little friend,” Princess Paulina said. “Don’t you know that I have a dream?”
“What is it?” Chester inquired.
“Why,” Princess Paulina said. “I dream that one day I’ll be able to leave this dark, dank, nasty old tower and go somewhere far, far away from that nasty old witch.”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” Ferdinand said. “You’ll croak in here for sure.”
“Yeah,” Chester said. “Just give up all hope now.”
“Don’t you see, friends?” Princess Paulina asked. “As long as you have a dream, you still have hope.”
Chester and Ferdinand looked at each other in confusion.
“Here,” the princess said. “Let me explain.”
Soothing orchestra music played in the background as the princess exercised her vocal chords and sang ever so sweetly.
“A dream is a thing to think about…in order to avoid killing yourself…”
A little bird landed on Princess Paulina’s finger.
“…as you shuffle pointlessly through your soul crushing existence…in truth your life is the sum of your circumstances, but isn’t it better to delude yourself into think you have a chance?”
Chester and Ferdinand broke out their instruments, once again, from nowhere, and played along with the song.
“Whatever you yearn for you’ll never achieve it, but do not cry and do not grieve it, just trick yourself into believing that what you want is just around the corner…”
“Around the corner?” Chester and Ferdinand asked.
“Around the corner,” Princess Paulina sang. “Give it a little more time and your heart’s desire will be yours. It’ll never happen, for sure, but why cry over so many closed doors? For when those dreams they aren’t a-danglin’, yourself you will be a-stranglin’ with your own belt as a makeshift noose that you wrap around your neck as you close your eyes and give in to the fact that death is the only respite from a lifetime of inevitable disappointment…”
“Huh,” Abby said as she watched the monitor. “Still true after all these years.”
Abby’s phone buzzed again.
“What, Scott?” she snapped as she answered.
“Hey Abs,” Scott said. “Listen, I’m about to get arrested and I have like a minute before the cops take my phone away from me…”
“What?” Abby said. “Arrested?”
“Yeah,” Scott replied. “Turns out taking a whizz in a hotel fountain while fifty people are watching is frowned upon in Vegas.”
“What?” Abby asked. “Why?”
“I don’t know why,” Scott said. “If I can go to an all you can eat buffet for a buck ninety nine and watch a show where a transexual Elvis impersonator spanks a donkey wearing lipstick then surely one would think that no one would have any qualms about public urination but apparently, one would be wrong.”
“No,” Abby said. “I mean why are you in Vegas?”
“Oh,” Scott said. “A few of the boys and I were feeling restless so we decided to hop on a plane and try our hand at a little dice, a little black jack, maybe scope out a naked booby or two.”
Abby fumed. “You chose to go to Vegas instead of a trip to Wombat World with your wife and children?”
“Abs,” Scott said. “Do they have strippers in Wombat World that can pick up a dollar bill with their coochies? I think not. Best value I’ve ever gotten out of a George Washington portrait.”
Scott took a moment to burp and wheeze.
“Are you drunk?” Abby said.
“Of course I’m drunk,” Scott said. “You think I’d whip out Mister Winky in front of everyone if I were sober?”
“Don’t answer that…”
A gruff sounding cop’s voice could be heard in the background. “Time to hang up, sir. You’re coming downtown.”
“Abby,” Scott said. “I need you to bail me out!”
“How much is that going to cost?” Abby said.
“I don’t know,” Scott said. “A grand, maybe? Come on, Abs, I’m very delicate. I can’t spend any time in the lockup. It might be a day or two before the judge hears my case and I could end up anally violated the entire time. Is that what you want? For me to be anally violated for one, possibly two days straight?”
Abby thought about it. “You know what, Scott? I’m tired of being your personal ATM machine. If you don’t want me in your life, then figure it out.”
“Wait, no, Abs!!!!”
For Abby, that call ending swipe to the right on her phone felt like a relief. She returned her attention to the monitor. Benny was back on.
“Ahh yes,” Benny said. “‘A dream is a thing to think about in order to avoid killing yourself.’ Such a lovely classic song, isn’t it? I know whenever I feel down in the dumps, convinced that I’m little more than a sentient meat puppet and that there’s no god listening to my prayers and I’m so depressed that all I want to do is lock the garage door, attach a hose to my exhaust pipe and run the other end through my window, then just sprawl out in the back seat, close my eyes, and wait for the eternal nap, I play this song and tell myself, ‘Eh, who knows? Maybe some good shit will happen tomorrow.’ It never does, but what have you got to lose by waiting to see just in case, right?”
“Right,” Abby said to herself.