By: Jim Krueger
So where was I? Oh yes, bullets. How many are necessary for a really good death? You know, the kind of epic death that you walk away from a completely changed man. The kind of death the old you doesn’t walk away from. And by old you, I’m talking about the you that’s a collection of habits and belief systems and ways of valuing the world that just doesn’t work – a montage of ruts of trying to relate to people and existence. That special sort of death in which the old you with the old notions seems like a half-remembered life that’s interesting to look at, but no longer even seems to carry any real weight.
I suppose when you think about the end, you need to consider the beginning.
This death of mine was foretold.
That’s what’s important to know. If I had had more vision, if my parents had seen it, they might have warned me it was coming.
This message of a future doom came not from a Madame Zoltar machine or a swami or tea leaves. No. It happened when I was six years old. Let me begin.
My father was proud of his many accomplishments. And he was proud that he worked so hard. He worked all the time. Until, and perhaps this was due to pressure from my Mom, the day came for a family vacation.
The plan was set. We — being myself at age six, my brother who was four, and my Mom and Dad — would go to Disneyworld.
We would leave our native habitat of Wisconsin and go by train, complete with sleeper, all the way to Orlando.
And so we set off. The train was exciting. And really, this was the first real family trip, so all seemed perfect, until a hurricane hit Orlando. We were a couple hours south of Chicago at this point, and wouldn’t reach Orlando until the next morning.
My father and mother did their best to try to suggest that even if there were a hurricane while we were there, that Disneyworld had plenty of things to do indoors. My father, who looked upon his time in the military with a certain amount of disdain, explained that he had been stationed in Florida, and the weather can change easily. That there was no reason to panic.
So there we were, the next morning, dressed in our yellow ponchos. The clouds were gray and black as we pushed through the gates. The rain pelted without any signs of stopping, despite my Dad’s continual promises that the hurricane was supposed to break that day.
There’s a train that goes around the borders of Disneyworld, and to get to main street and see the castle, you have to go under the trestle. It’s like a tunnel that then leads into the park.
At Disneyworld, all the lockers are underneath as well, making it a tunnel that’s maybe like a half of a block long.
All I remember is that in the time we entered that tunnel and came out on the other side, the hurricane really did break. The rain really did stop. The sun really did break through the clouds, sending spears and shafts down. Even the disappearing puddles on the ground reflected the sunlight and the glistening of the park and castle around me.
My father looked down at me and said, “Now you know why they call it the magic kingdom.”
I think those words fucked me up for life. If I wasn’t optimistic and hopeful before, how could I not be now?
And so I grew up not growing up. I grew up believing in the kingdom but not the storm required to get there. And as a result, even though it was right there for me to see, like a promise of dark clouds to come, I naively rushed forward into oblivion.
When I tell the above story, it’s usually to introduce not only my story, but also why I became a writer, even how I became a writer.
But here, in this space, I tell it because of its promise that I would face a tunnel of my own. Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is indeed wonderland. And sometimes, it’s the promise, like on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, that there is a train coming towards you. Coming towards you like a speeding bullet.