Had conditions been different, the three of us would have crept with all due stealth down the side of the hill, however, the magic of Disney doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to covert operations. To be more specific, three men creeping down the side of a hill that was painted to look like the sky has a tendency to really make those three men stand out, and in a really weird way.
So we just ran down and screamed our asses off.
“Zodar! Shape Shifter! We’re coming for you!”
“Give it up G! I ain’t holding the down!”
“I’m Goose! I’m Goose!”
The sight of three crazed men armed with hedge clippers and safety scissors storming the gate effectively reminded the night crew that they all worked for minimum wage and that, with no other allegiance to the park of any significance, they were not honor bound to stand and protect their ground. It should be noted that whether or not these thoughts consciously went through any of their minds as they scattered like roaches is still a topic of much debate in many academic circles.
Things were going quite well until we came to the fence. In the classic theme park tradition of disguising things to look like something other than what they actually are, the fence was cleverly designed to bear a striking resemblance to the type of fence that might be found at someplace other than a theme park. By the look of it, we assumed that it fell into the category of fences that “aren’t too strong and will fall if hit with any reasonable amount of force.”
In this we miscalculated to some degree.
I found out much later that a crew of maintenance workers who witnessed the event from one of the towers of Cinderella’s Castle gave us a combined score of 9.4 for what they termed our “Triple-Thud”. The total would have been higher, however, a low score given by the lone French janitor pulled it down, thus arousing much suspicion in the process since one of Simon’s twice removed cousins is Canadian.
After a moment of stunned bird watching & stargazing, I shook off the pain and launched myself over the top of the fence, which achieved the objective of getting me to the other side much better than my first attempt. Jimmy, no stranger to pain himself and a regular frequent flyer when it came to colliding with wooden objects (like fishing pier foundations), followed a moment later and appeared relatively unfazed. Or, to be more precise, appeared no more fazed than usual.
The appearance of Simon, however, was less sudden than I would have preferred.
“Simon!” I yelled. “Come on!”
His continued lack of attendance on the business side of the fence was enjoying an apparently prolonged relationship with a rather annoying silence. Not being one to jump to conclusions, I resisted the urge to make any knee jerk assumptions, such as labeling Simon a coward of the type who would use this fence incident as an excuse to bail out on the team just when we needed him the most. Instead – and keeping my emotions in check just as I had been taught in my 12-Step anger management program – I quickly but calmly explored a few of the other possible scenarios for Simon’s absence:
a) he was dead
b) he thought he was dead and didn’t want to confuse things by speaking
c) he had booked an ill-timed vacation to Central America and was now being held at gunpoint by Panamanian rebels in a small warehouse near the Columbian border (there’s Columbia again; go figure)
d) he had found Portia and was trying to score
e) he had fallen into a den of boa constrictors and was fighting for his life with one that had wrapped itself around his neck
f) he had –
“Dick,” came the pitiful wail from the far side of the fence, “I’m hurt.”
“Simon!” I yelled, “Get over here! We’re right in the middle of an assault. This is no time to be goofing around.”
“But my leg hurts, Dick. My shin. I hurt it bad. I can’t make it. You guys go on without me.”
Coward it was. Always stick with your gut.
“Your shin hurts?” I said.
“Yeah, it hurts bad. Like I said, I don’t think I’m going to make it. You guys go on without – ”
“Is it bleeding?”
“I said, is it bleeding?”
“Um . . . well, no, but – ”
“Is it broken?”
“Yeah, broken. Is it broken?”
“Um . . . wait a minute,” he said. Then, a few moments later, “Well, I don’t think it’s broken per se, but I think there’s a good possibility that it might be slightly dislocated.”
“Really. You’re telling me you dislocated your shin.”
“Yeah, or sprained it or something. Hey, I’m not a doctor, but it’s a mess alright, that’s for sure. Listen, I don’t want slow you guys down. Just go, leave me here. I’ll make it back on my own. Somehow.”
“Simon?” I said.
“You got five seconds to get over that fence, and three of ‘em are already gone.”
In less time than it takes to say “Trix are for kids”, Simon landed smartly on his feet next to me.
“Dislocated, huh?” I said.
“Yeah, well,” he said sheepishly, “Prompt first aid, you know? And I’m a pretty quick healer anyway.”
“Good thing, because when we’re done with all of this I’m gonna beat the shit out of you. It’ll hurt me to do that, of course, but I’ll take comfort in knowing that you bounce back quickly.”
“Yeah, um, . . . hey, oh man, does my head hurt! I must’ve really knocked myself senseless there. What just happened? I remember hitting the fence, and now I’m standing next to you. How did I get here? What happened in between? I must’ve had a concussion or something. I usually start talking nonsense when that happens. Was I talking nonsense? Boy, I must’ve really been out of it just now. What could I possibly have said? I have no idea. Dick, did you happen to hear anything – ”
“Simon, shut up and just follow me, okay?”
“And wake up Jimmy, will you?”
Back to full strength and luckily having lost only a few moments to the entire fence incident, we resumed our charge, intent on a kill.
Jimmy had found a bucket of water somewhere and, screaming “Freeze, assmoose!”, promptly threw the entire contents on the topiary, drenching it’s delicate, painstakingly sculpted branches. An instant later, Simon and I hit it at full steam, our hedge clippers ripping into the dripping foliage with reckless abandon. Leaves and branches flew in all directions, and in a matter of seconds, nothing remained but a ragged stump amid a sea of horticultural carnage.
No way was Zodar shape shifting out of this mess. And if he did, it would have to be as a bunch of tiny little Zodars, and we would have just stomped the hell out of them.
Panting, dripping wet, and looking like we had survived a spinach explosion, Simon and I threw our clippers to the ground. Not breathing heavily, completely dry, and looking otherwise none the worse for wear, Jimmy threw down the bucket. His unused safety scissors remained stuck in his belt.
“Say, Jimmy,” I said, hands on my knees.
“Yeah?” he replied.
“What,” I said, still trying to catch my breath, “what was the deal . . . with the bucket?”
“The bucket?” he said. “It was full of water.”
“I know it was full of water. But why did you throw it at Zodar?”
“Well, I found it and got an idea. I figured I’d just get him soaking wet, and then the water would freeze, and then he’d be trapped. Frozen solid.”
Simon and I looked at each other a moment. He either had no clue what Jimmy was talking about either or was telling the truth about his head injury.
“Jimmy,” I said, “how was he going to freeze? It’s 87 degrees.”
“Did you just mean to make a rhyme, Dick?” Simon asked. “Because you just did.”
“SHUT UP Simon!” I yelled.
I turned back to Jimmy, letting my original question hang in the air. He was obviously thinking about it.
“Oh,” he said finally. “water won’t freeze if it’s hot, will it?”
“No, Jimmy. It won’t,” I said.
“Whoa. That would explain a lot. I was wondering why he just kept dripping.” The hurt look on his face inspired me to take pity.
“It’s okay, Jimmy. It’s okay. We got him. And if nothing else, I’m sure the bucket of water confused the hell out of him.”
“You think?” he said, brightening up.
The finality of any dangerous, difficult mission brings about a relieved euphoria, and we were all feeling it. Boyish grins and a shared giddiness at our own survival soon turned into chuckles and laughter, even as we stood among the chaos and devastation of the vegetation.
Simon almost made another rhyming comment just then, but saw the look in my eye and thought better of it. No need to ruin the moment.
“Alright men,” I said. “Looks like we’re going to have to clean up this mess ourselves. Wouldn’t want any small children to have to see this in the morning.”
Simon and Jimmy exchanged knowing looks and nodded.
“Jimmy,” I continued, “get that broom over there and start sweeping this up into a pile. Simon, why don’t you bring that trashcan over here and we’ll start scooping this stuff into it.”
“Uh, Dick?” Simon asked.
“What now?” I replied.
“The trashcan right over th – ”
I stopped. The trashcan was gone.
An uneasy feeling suddenly crept up my spine. There had been a trashcan, I was sure of it. I looked back a couple of pages to Chapter 29 just to make sure I remembered correctly. Yup, there it was alright, a trashcan with towel racks hanging off the sides. But where was it now? Where had it gone?
And then it hit me like a pillowcase full of canned corn.
“Those weren’t towel racks! Those were antlers!” I yelled. “He’s the trashcan! Zodar’s disguised as the trashcan!”
“You know,” said Simon, “I was going to ask you about that. I mean, who puts towel racks on a trashcan anyway? Seemed kind of strange to me. In hindsight, I probably should have mentioned it.”
“Dude, you mean he’s still alive?” Jimmy said.
“Come on, quick,” I said, “look for the trashcan! Where did it go?”
We spread out, looking frantically in all directions. Seconds passed, and I feared we had lost him completely, when Jimmy suddenly yelled out.
“Dudes! There he is!” he said, pointing. “Check him out! That trashcan is cruisin’.”
“After him!” I yelled.
We broke out in a full sprint after our clever quarry, chasing him toward Tomorrowland.
Somewhere in the distance, a clock struck midnight.