Monday, July 19, 2010

The Magical Kingdom of Ideas

By Steve Weddle

Where do your ideas come from? Why, from Walt Disney World, of course.

We were on line at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café waiting for, well, let's call it "food." We had the dining plan and had eaten some good food in the park. We'd eat more good food later in the trip. Just not at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café. I ate before I visited the toilet, so it wasn't the site of a couple of short curlies on the urinal lip that turned my stomach. Heck, it wasn't even the two boogers and what I assume was half a scab down there in the pee drain. No, the food was just kinda lousy. Which was a rarity in the park. But the vile bathroom wasn't where a decent noir idea began burbling. No. That was on line waiting for the food.

We were in front of a few teenage boys. I'm guessing two were brothers and one was a friend. The older brother on my right was saying to the younger brother: "You know nothing about how to inflict pain on the human body." I slid my daughter to my left. The younger brother allowed as to how he might just punch the older brother in the throat. They had short, curly hair. If I'd seen them after my visit to the toilet, I'd have thought of them as "dickheads" and grinned. I hadn't, so I'm grinning about it now, as I write it and think of it. Because that's how these here fancy ideas work.

So the older brother shows that he's not impressed. By his younger brother? You kidding me? Pshaw and all that. No, the younger brother can't cause the older brother any pain, which the older brother explains. "A chop to my throat?" He laughed. A big "ha" laugh, as if he were in some high school play reading his lines. "Ha. My neck is all muscle, kid. You know nothing about pain." Neither of them did, really. Not the kind that you wake up with. The kind you limp along with for a few days before you go to the doctor. The kind you look up on the internet during lunch. The kind you worry about until it's too late. The kind you don't want to tell your wife about because you don't want her to worry. What if it's nothing? What if it's something? No, neither of them knew anything about pain.

Our Disney food was ready, so I left Tweedledee and Tweedledumb talking about inflicting pain on the human body.

Of course, I thought about putting a quick elbow into the older boy's nose, pushing off with my leg, turning my hip, shoving cartilage back into his skull cavity, watching him raise his hands to his face to try to hold the blood in. Because that's what people do when they're punched in the faces. They grab their faces and try to hold on. When you feel pain, when you're punched right in the nose, you try to keep it together. That's the lesson you learn when you're hit. Keep it together. There's another round of violence coming.

But I didn't punch the kid. They have rules about that. Laws, I think they're called. And I had my family with me at the happiest place on Earth.

But those boys could have gone out after lunch and tried something. They were stupid like I was at that age. A different kind of stupid than I am now. They could have tried sneaking in somewhere and gotten into trouble. Some silly little thing that grew into a violent stain that spread among more and more people. No, there wasn't any chance at all that I was going to "inflict pain" on a teenager, but I was going to think about it. I was going to take that one little thing and move it somewhere else. A series of "what ifs" running through my head.

Stopping at a Valero for gas, I met a woman at the counter who must have been remarkably good looking before the meth. What happens if these boys run into her? A couple of weeks ago on a "World's Mostest Dumbest Criminals" show, some old guy used a pocket knife to try to rob a convenience store. The cash register woman chased him out with a broom handle. Put those kids in that situation. The older kid trying to impress the younger ones with his talk of "inflicting pain" and then having them doubt him. Egg him on. Peer pressure. Pretty quickly they're trying to rob the store and the woman chases them out with a broom handle. Fight. Struggle. Someone dies. By the end, whoever is left now understands how to inflict pain, how pain moves. How pain isn't just a broken nose. How pain is a thing, a wicked, evil thing always just in reach, a darkness outside your bedroom window. All you have to do is open the window a crack.

You can get noir ideas from the weirdest places these days.

No, those kids at Disney World probably didn't know anything about how to inflict pain on the human body.

But the day was young.

They'd learn.


Hilary Davidson said...

Brilliant post, Steve. I think we draw inspiration from similar sources (not that I've been to Disney World in eons). An overheard snippet of conversation can be spun into powerful fiction. I'll be curious to see what else comes from your trip to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Steve Weddle said...

Thanks, Hilary. Sometimes that overheard conversation just gets things moving to put you in the right frame of mind, which can make all the difference.

Travener said...

Yeah, that's a good starting point. "You can't handle the truth," "You don't know how to inflict pain on the human body" -- two famous lines, one past, one future.

I really like the Safari ride.

Darren G. Miller said...

Excellent post. You're a twisted man. And I mean that in a good way.