Part 7


Shell Out

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Sammy awoke in front of the balloon stall with his helmet to his side and the continuous cat-voiced echo of “you scoundrel” playing in his head. Everything had normal physics again, as far as he could tell. A crowd of people hovered over him, sporting very unpleasant frowns, many who directed nasty words at him. He focused his eyes left and right as people silently booed him to his face. Some of the children were present, which displeased him; they didn’t need to hear the obscenities coming out of the adults’ mouths. But he wasn’t responsible for them. He continued to scan the blur of faces. No one was happy. At the head of the crowd stood a character performer dressed as Nippy the Cat. The performer kept one hand on his hip. Sammy noticed him sneaking a plastic ketchup bottle behind his back with the other. Such rage filled his face.

“If you can’t be happy with us,” said the performer, “then we don’t want you in our park. You are no longer welcome here.”

Sammy rubbed his temples as he stood to face the crowd. Remarkably, his head was no longer spinning and his vision was restored. He could see each miserable stare perfectly as one image, and it was a glorious sight. He unzipped the suit, letting it fall from his body in a big red heap around his feet. His beautiful, cold black loafers emerged from the wreckage.

“You insulted us by calling us phonies,” continued the performer. “We hope you’ll be unhappy for the rest of your life. From now on you forfeit any right to partake in the happy pill.”

Sammy gazed at each of the adults, studying their rigid stances, soaking in their stewed anger. He completed the circle of eye contact, saving the Nippy performer for last. After a brief moment of staring him down, Sammy took a few steps backward and let each red face seep into his mind. The echoes of “you scoundrel” continued to peck at his ears. It had barely occurred to him that he was still considered for the part of Bubby the Bear. The residual question of what had happened to the original Bubby performer was even more of a fading shadow. If Sammy were any less coherent, he might not have thought about it at all.

The Nippy the Cat performer drew closer to him and took his cat-head helmet off. The children nearby screamed, then ran off. A grisly, knife-wounded face stared back at Sammy with a twitchy eye. His dark hair was matted, and his forehead was doused in sweat. His teeth were bared.

“And how dare you make me unhappy, you scoundrel?” he whispered.

Then something happened that Sammy did not expect. He felt some intense pressure around his mouth. He stopped his backward motion for just a second to figure out what was happening. But it was uncontainable. To fight it was folly. The pressure consumed him, and though it was unprofessional, he let it happen. His mouth turned upward into quite the toothy smile. All the people stared back at him.

Sammy broke into a maniacal laughter as he pointed his finger at the Nippy performer, pounding his knee with his other hand. He couldn’t help it. The infection had taken over his stomach, even though it failed to spread to the surrounding people. As he pictured the contortions of all the visitors’ mouths turning from delight to annoyance, he let the laughter deluge his spirit. The uniqueness of the situation was overwhelming to him. Mr. Chip would probably get pissed over it sometime after his happy fun pill wore off—there was no way they were getting this account now—but what was one financial loss in the grand scheme of victory? Company payback was never sweeter. This time the laughter was worth it.

“I dare because I care,” Sammy said. “But not for you or your business.”

He almost fell down from his fit of amusement when he turned around and headed for the concentric-circled exit.

“That’s all, folks,” he barely managed to say to the crowd as he hobbled away. He flipped them off for good measure.

“You’ll pay for what you’ve done today!” the Nippy performer said to Sammy’s back.

Sammy flipped him off again.

“Happy Fun Land always finds a way!”

The laughter continued into the parking garage and well into his drive to wherever. It had been a long time since the last time he was this happy, at least since the last time Zach, his six-year-old son, was still alive and watching silly cartoons with him, back before some scoundrel’s lack of professionalism at the Wacky Fuzzies Corporation had stolen his life away.

The performer was right, though. Happy Fun Land always finds a way. But they had already found their way.

Sammy was just getting started collecting on his services due. His next visit would be on his own time, and because Dinners and Waters wouldn’t be a part of it, he would not need to bring any of his professionalism with him. Nope, next time, he could go full Sammy on them.

But first, he would visit the hospital. He was still seeing stars.