I know what you’re thinking, okay? How can I give two stars to the Happiest Place on Earth? Look, I understand that Disneyland is a paradise for children, and God knows I have great memories there. But guess what—I’m not a child anymore, and this paradise for children is really a tyranny of evil little beasts trampling the tired souls of hard-working adults with their Velcro Mickey Mouse-shod feet.
I’ve been having a rough few months, and my good friend Melissa K. suggested we play hooky for a day and go to Disneyland. It was a kind, perfect idea, and I looked forward to it all week. We went on a Tuesday, thinking we’d have the park to ourselves. What an idea.
We forgot about spring break. I used to love spring break, but now that I’m a bitter adult with a shitty job, I think all humans between three and twenty-two should be locked in school, and when not in school, should be locked somewhere else. Not a prison, per se, but certainly not Disneyland, WHERE THEY ALL WENT THIS PAST TUESDAY.
There were so many short little monsters running around in Goofy hats and Minnie ears that they started blurring in my vision like swirled paint. It was a hot day, too, and everything about it was making me dizzy. Even so, I wanted to have a good time, and thought I would enjoy myself on some of my old favorite rides.
The first time I saw the Devil, he cut in front of me at Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port. I almost didn’t notice, but I bumped into him while I was moving my tray along. He was maybe four feet tall, in red shorts and a Buzz Lightyear T-shirt, with dark hair and green serpentine eyes. He had on one of those monkey backpacks with a tail that doubles as a child leash, but there was no adult on the other end. He couldn’t have been older than five or six, but there he was, getting food alone and cutting in line to do it. I let it slide without comment, and felt a chill when he turned around and gave me a cunning, adult smile.
And then I saw him again. This time, Mel and I were waiting in line for Splash Mountain when I almost rammed my knee into that impish monkey tail. I knew he hadn’t been there before, because the person in front of us—now in front of him—was wearing the ugliest neon orange visor I’d ever seen. Again, this child was unattended, and again, he turned and gave me that horrible smile.
He appeared again at Space Mountain, then at Matterhorn, where I turned and whispered to Mel. Mel, incredibly, hadn’t noticed the little Devil, and commented he was a “cute kid.”
When he cut in front of us at It’s a Small World, I couldn’t bear it anymore. I asked him where his parents were, and whether he was following me.
He smiled (such an icy, fang-toothed smile!) and nodded slowly. Mel told me to leave him alone, that he clearly didn’t understand English, but I was so freaked out I had to have answers. I stooped down and interrogated him, and he kept smiling and nodding until, without transition, his smile disappeared and he started to sob.
He cried so loud and so long that a Disneyland staffer came over and asked what was wrong. He said nothing, but pointed at me, and I was asked to leave him alone. I was more than happy to leave. The idea of animatronic puppet children had never appealed to me less, even when I had the first inkling that they were vaguely racist.
I felt his eyes on me as we left the line, and sure enough, that was not the last I saw of that demonic monkey’s tail. No. I’ve seen it whip across my field of vision at least three times since our trip to Disneyland, and I expect I’ll see it again.
I am coming to the realization that I may never have children, and after this hellish visit to the Happiest Place on Earth I am more than happy to wash my hands of that grotesque animal enterprise. If I never see another child again, I will be more than happy, and to that end, I have now exiled myself from the Magic Kingdom.
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Steph Cha is the author of Follow Her Home, a feminist hardboiled detective novel. She lives in Los Angeles and mothers a basset hound.