We’re All Mad Here
The Queen of Hearts stood four stories above on the balcony of the Castle watching the last of the Ordinaries leave through the main gates. He swayed on his feet as a rush of excitement caused a pounding in his ears. Wait… there was also pounding that wasn’t from his accelerated heartrate. Colin, the Queen of Hearts, looked over his shoulder and through the open French style doors to see the door to Cinderella’s pumpkin coach swing open and a sleek white cat jump out. Behind the cat the coach door closed with a snick and was once again just part of the flat mosaic tile artwork imbedded in the floor. Colin hurried inside and closed the balcony doors behind him. The last time Bart had been here he jumped up on the railing and disaster was barely avoided when Colin was able to catch him by the tail. Colin was not risking either a cat splat or painful scratches. Although Colin was sure Bart had been eying the railing again, when he turned toward the room, Bart was sitting calmly cleaning between the extended toes of a pristine front paw.
“Hey,” said Colin, “I thought Chris was coming with you.”
“No. If you remember he doesn’t like to use the coach portal…something about being afraid he’ll be turned into a horse and stuck on the wall forever. He said he’ll make his own way here. Have you seen Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum yet?” replied Bart followed by a huge teeth snapping yawn.
“You better not let them hear you calling them that!” Colin laughed. “They haven’t shown up yet, probably got distracted by something. I’m sure they’ll be here soon. I can’t imagine they would miss a chance to let their Spirits play in the park tonight.”
It was a typical hot, humid night in Orlando. Rain had moved through earlier, leaving everything with the feel of being washed clean and smelling slightly damp. Now that the Ordinaries had left, more and more Spirits were filling the streets of the Magic Kingdom. The statue of Walt Disney was now in his Spirit Dragon form. Colin liked to think that the bronze dragon was smiling at the scene with the knowledge that the Kingdom was more magic than the Ordinaries knew!
Nothing was really as it seemed during the daylight hours. For example, all through Cinderella’s castle were small arched mouse holes in the baseboards along the floors. Each mouse hole had a tiny door displaying the image of Mickey. Actually, Mickey’s image was scattered all around the park. The Ordinaries found it cute; the Spirits knew these were portals allowing Spirits access to the Park. One of these mouse doors in the room squeaked open and Chris squeezed through and into the room. He lifted his tiny pink nose and sniffed the air. Scenting only friends and no danger, he cautiously scampered along the baseboards toward the Queen.
Colin leaned down from his great height and scooped up the tiny rodent and held him gently in the palm of his hand. Raising his hand so that he and Chris would be eye level he said, “I didn’t think we’d see you until later. Have you heard from Daron or Ziggy? And why are you pink and why do you smell like Cotton Candy?”
“No I haven’t heard from either Daron or Ziggy. And… I might have taken a small nap earlier. You’d be surprised how comfy spun sugar can be when you make it into a fluffy pink Cotton Candy nest. Plus it tastes good.” replied Chris.
“A fluffy pink candy nest for a mighty musical mouse. Sounds like some possible song lyrics in there somewhere.” Colin said with a shake of his head.
“Did someone say song lyrics?” Ziggy asked as he bounced out through the same coach door Bart had used earlier. Behind him Daron popped through the still open door and shook out his quills. The Queen smiled broadly and with a dramatic flourish that almost unseated Chris said, “Finally! It’s time to get this Tea Party started!”
“That’s a most excellent idea!” Ziggy said, his cottontail twitching in excitement. Bright black eye sparkled like diamond crusted buttons and the thick black pelt shimmered as Ziggy hopped toward the door. He stopped, bunny ears pinned back as Daron asked “What if Mills is out there?”
A low growl escaped from the Queen’s lips, “If he is, I’ll stomp on him!”
“He can’t hurt us in the Land of Disney after dark” Bart purred. “I’ll cat slap him so far into the lagoon that he’ll never be able to snail trail his way back to land.”
Daron gave a small laugh as he always did when he thought of Mills in his Spirit form. Although an Ass would have been a better fit in his opinion, it was still funny to see Mills in his Snail body. Small, grey, wet and slow. Easily overlooked and just as easily dismissed. Not done with questions yet, Daron asked “What about Carynne?”
With a stretch and yawn rippling his white fur Bart responded, “She’s meeting us on the way, at the Jam. Let’s get going so we’re not late.”
“Isn’t that supposed to be MY line? We’re late, we’re late, for a very important date!” quipped the Black Rabbit.
“Like that never gets old.” Bart answered back.
Chris ran up Colin’s arm and slid down his front until he disappeared into the pocket of Colin’s flowing cotton dress. The blue and white print dress stopped mid-calf, exposing Colin’s ankles and black and white low top Chucks. The blue of the dress almost matched the blue of his hair, pulled back tonight in a messy man bun adorned with a small hair clip that may or may not have looked like a tiny crown. With Chris safely tucked away in Colin’s pocket they all made their way to the elevator to start their adventure.
One on street level Daron and Bart somehow ended up walking together. Ziggy was in the lead as usual, sometimes making long hops, other times in a series of small quick hops. Colin brought up the rear, Chris still tucked safely in the pocket of his dress.
“Hey, Zig”, Bart called. “How ‘bout taking a shortcut through the treehouse?”
Ziggy stopped and hopped to face the others. “You just like climbing the tree and sharpening your claws.”
“Well, there is that, but it also a shorter route. Plus, from there it’s just a quick hop down Main Street to get to the Jam. Quick Hop…. See what I did there?” replied Bart.
“Okay Cat Scratch Fever, we’ll cut through the Tree House if it makes you happy.” With that, Ziggy turned and sped off toward the replica of the famous tree, where a Swiss Family, Robinson, had built a house.
Bart picked up speed, his white tail held high and Daron broke into a full shuffling run. The race to the tree was on. Colin shaking his head reached into his pocket and gently extracted Chris.
“I’ll let you down once we’re off this path and closer to the tree. Don’t want anything to happen to you out here” said Colin.
Chris, who looked like he had been napping again, nodded his thanks with a twitch of his whiskers. Until it was time to walk, Chris decided that the messy blue Queen’s bun looked like a comfortable place to ride and moved upward to do just that.
Daron ran into the shadows of the tree and started up the winding path that would take them across sturdy branches. Out of a dark shadow and even darker shape appeared. Daron wasn’t expecting it and was startled, causing him to tuck his nose into his soft furry belly and curl up into a tight ball. His little hedgehog quills perked up and quivered in defense.
“Shhh… it’s okay, it’s just me. I didn’t mean to… I’m sorry” said Ziggy stepping out of the shadows. His nose twitching from side to side and up and down. In their non-Spirit forms, when Daron disappeared and curled in on himself somewhere it was an indication that he was really upset, angry or hurt. Daron’s Spirit form used similar maneuvers as a form of self-defense. Either way it bothered Ziggy to be the cause of Daron’s distress. He cautiously hopped closer to the little brown ball of Daron. Nose still twitching, he tried to gently roll Daron over to encourage him to relax.
“Hey Shithead, do NOT jump out like that at me” Daron said in a low voice as he slowly uncurled. Stretching out, he shook and his quills fell back into place. Seeing Daron back on his feet Ziggy did a little Rabbit dance, popping his butt up in a strange bunny tail twerk.
“Oh, man… I love it when you shake that bunny tail” Daron sniggered.
“Oh yeah? Come and get a piece of this Bunny’s tail” Ziggy said, somehow managing to make it sound sexy. Side stepping, Ziggy once again moved back into the shadows, his black pelt disappearing in the darkness. With a grin, Daron followed.
Bart had run ahead and made good use of the branches both as path and as means to sharpen his claws. He was stretched out on a higher branch enjoying the moonbeams peeking through the leaves when he heard a rustling below. Sure enough, it was Chris, darting down the path, ears back and tail straight out behind him. He looked greyer and less pink now. Some of the food coloring from the cotton candy must have finally worn off.
Chris hesitated, froze, and then looked up. Seeing Bart on the branch above him he said, “Don’t even think about pouncing on me.”
Before he could respond Bart heard Colin calling to them. Soon Colin was standing with Bart and Chris. “Where have Daron and Ziggy gone? Once they show up we need to get moving” he said.
“I’m sure they are off somewhere fucking like bunnies or a bunny”, Bart chortled.
“I heard that, and yes we were” Ziggy hollered as he and Daron approached from a side path. Daron blushed but grinned as Bart rolled his eyes.
Together they made their way through the remaining branches, listening to the night birds chirping in song. The song happened to be a Beatles classic which was not the strangest thing that was to happen as they made their way to the Tea Party.
Tripping Down Main Street
As they came out of the deeper shadows of the massive tree, Bart moved ahead of the rest toward Main Street. Colin looked around at the facades along the walkway. Some were hiding administrative offices or other support functions behind their doors, others were actual shops. Not all the shops were still open at night, but some were. Colin’s steps slowed as he window shopped and the rest naturally spread out a bit as each went at their own pace.
Bart, who had been quite a bit ahead came racing back toward Colin with his fur standing on end. Sliding to a stop, he bumped his head against Colin’s leg and caught his breath.
“What’s up?” Colin asked.
“There are a bunch of wolves and foxes ahead, coming this way. We need to get out of here fast” he said with a bit of a growl.
Colin nodded and took a couple of jogging steps, bending down and scooping Chris up and dropping him back into his pocket.
Next he caught up with Daron and carefully picked Daron up and told him that they needed to get moving. Daron was gently placed into the Colin’s other pocket. Ziggy had turned and noticed Daron disappearing into Colin’s dress pocket. Before Ziggy could ask, Colin picked up Ziggy and tucked him securely under his left arm. “Wolves and Foxes just ahead” Colin said in explanation.
Lastly, Colin bent over and patted his shoulder. Bart jumped up on Colin’s back and draped himself over Colin’s shoulders, wrapped around his neck like a fur stole and growled in Colin’s ear, “Let’s get the fuck out of here”.
Colin started walking, picking up speed as he went, eyes scanning in front of him looking for danger. In the distance he could see a pack of wolves with a few foxes and what might have been a bear pushing and shoving each other, roughhousing their way down Main Street. Bart’s tail fluffed out even more and his claws descended.
“Ouch” Colin gasped as Bart’s claws dug into him. Bart didn’t respond as he pulled his paws back and untangled his claws from the material of Colin’s dress, never taking his eyes off the potential danger up ahead. Although in Spirit form things were different, Bart knew better than to trust a fox with a rabbit.
As they continued to hurry away Colin’s toe connected with something on the walkway and kicked whatever it was into the air. The small grey disc flew and hit with a loud ping into the brass tail of Walt’s dragon.
“Son”… bounce…”Of”… bounce…”A”… roll… “BITCH” screamed Mills as his slimy snail Spirit form jumped and skipped from the impact. Colin and Bart started laughing; Ziggy turned his nose into the space between Colin’s side and arm and snickered loudly.
The noise caught the attention of one of the wolves. He and Colin made eye contact and Colin took a quick turn off the main path and headed to Tomorrow Land as quickly as possible without looking like he was running away. He took a few long strides and made a jump into the seat of a graceful swan. Leaning forward he said “Wolves coming” in a low voice. The swan nodded and with barely a flutter of his great wings they were gliding out across a pond and away from trouble.
“Wolves and Foxes and Bears, OH MY,” Daron snickered from deep in Colin’s pocket.
“Where to?” asked the Swan.
“As close as possible to the Big Bear Jamboree, please”
The Swan swam to a grassy area near the side of the building where the Jamboree was located. He turned his head and said, “We’re here boys. Have fun!”
Colin gathered the boys, all except Bart, and jumped from his perch on the Swan’s back to dry land. Bart bunched his muscles and propelled himself from the Swan to shore, landing without a sound. The Swan shook his feathers and fluffed them back in place. As the Swan gracefully swam back in the direction of Main Street, the Queen knelt down in the grass. Colin gently placed The Black Rabbit, Hedgehog and Mouse on the ground. The Cat stretched long then high, going up on the tips of his toes before settling into a saunter toward the side door of the Jamboree. The Queen and crew followed along.
In front of the venue the lines were weaving back and forth between ropes strung on poles to keep the crowd moving and contained as they made their way into the building.
Once inside the gang made their way to a booth set off to the side, not quite a VIP area, but close. The Queen let his eyes drift over the crowd and seeing Carynne perched on the bar he made his way in that direction. Carynne in her Spirit form was a Hawk with amber color feathers that were made up of all shades of red and brown with flecks of white. She cocked her head to acknowledge Colin. Hopping off the bar and onto Colin’s shoulder, Carynne rubbed her beak on his cheek as he stroked her feathers from the top of her head and down her back.
“What took you so long to get here? I’ve been here forever waiting. The manager asked if you guys would play tonight. I knew Daron and Ziggy would never pass up the chance to perform, so he’s expecting you guys to go on after this band finishes their set.” Carynne said as Colin walked back toward their table through the crowd.
Once back and settled in the booth, cold drinks in front of everyone, Carynne spoke up, “Good news, you guys are playing tonight. You’re up next, once this band clears their gear. Just remember, we’re still planning to head over to the Cups for the Party, so you might want to keep it short, just four or five songs.”
The Cups always hosted a fantastic after party, but tonight Ziggy was only interested in spending time with Daron. Ziggy pressed tighter to Daron’s side. “You know I would never pass up the opportunity to sing with you. When we’re here in the Kingdom we are free to make music with whomever and however we want. And I’ll always want to make music with you. Anything is possible here!” Ziggy said with a tremble in his voice.
Daron sat his nearly empty drink down on the table, condensation running down the outside of the glass. “Why Ziggy, sometimes I’ve believed as many as Six Impossible Things after a few drinks.” Daron said lightly poking fun at Ziggy. Daron leaned in and gave Ziggy a soft kiss to let him know he was just trying to lighten the mood. “I need to head backstage and grab my guitar.”
“His Majesty is already seeing to it.” Ziggy motioned to the empty spot where Colin had been sitting. Daron hadn’t even noticed him leave. “So we still have a few minutes, I need to warm up, and I don’t mean my vocal chords,” Ziggy murmured as he leaned into Daron again deepening the kiss and tasting the bourbon on Daron’s tongue.