Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Part 61 (of 81)


Illustration by Idiots’Books

Suzanne rode the bullet-train from Miami airport in air-conditioned amusement, watching the Mickey-shaped hang-straps rock back and forth. She’d bought herself a Mickey waffle and a bucket-sized Diet Coke in the dining car and fended off the offers of plush animatronic toys that were clearly descended from Boogie-Woogie Elmo.

Now she watched the kids tear ass up and down the train, or sit mesmerized by the videos and interactives set up at the ends of the cars. The train was really slick, and judging from the brochure she found in the seat-pocket, there was another one from the Orlando airport. These things were like chutes leading from the luggage carousel straight into the parks. Disney had figured out how to make sure that every penny spent by its tourists went straight into its coffers.

The voice-over announcements as they pulled into the station were in English, Chinese, Spanish, Persian and Russian—in that order—and displayed on the porters’ red coats with brass buttons were name-badges with the flags of many nations, denoting the languages they spoke. They wore mouse-ears, and Suzanne—a veteran of innumerable hotels—could not dissuade one from taking her suitcase.

He brought her to a coach-station and saw her aboard a bus marked for the Polynesian, decorated with tiki-lamps, bamboo, and palm-fronds (she touched one and discovered that it was vinyl). He refused her tip as they saw her aboard, and then stood and waved her off with his white gloves and giant white smile. She had to chuckle as she pulled away, amazed at how effective these little touches were. She felt her muscles loosening, little involuntary chuckles rising in her throat. The coach was full of parents and children from all over the world, grinning and laughing and hugging and talking excitedly about the day ahead of them.

The coach let them off to a group of Hawai’ian-shirt-clad staff who shouted “Aloha!” at them as they debarked, and picked up their luggage with swift, cheerful, relentless efficiency. Her check-in was so painless she wasn’t sure it was over until a nice young lady who looked Chechen picked up her bag for her and urged her out to the grounds, which were green and lush, like nothing she’d seen since landing in Florida. She was surrounded by the hotel structures, long-houses decorated with Polynesian masks and stalked by leggy ibises and chirping tropical birds. Before her was a white-sand beach fronting onto an artificial lake ringed with other luxury hotels: a gigantic 1970s Soviet A-frame building and a gingerbread-choked Victorian hotel. The lake was ringed with a monorail track and plied by handsome paddle-wheeler ferry-boats.

She stared gape-jawed at this until the bellhop gently tugged at her elbow, giving her a dazzling smile.

Her room was the kind of thing you’d see Lucy and Ricky checking into on honeymoon in an old I Love Lucy episode—wicker ceiling fans, bamboo furniture, a huge hot-tub shaped like a seashell. Outside, a little terrace looking over the lake, with a pair of cockatoos looking quizzically at her. The bellhop waved at them and they cawed at her and flew off. Suzanne must have made a disappointed noise, because the bellhop patted her on the arm and said, “Don’t worry, we feed them here, they come back all the time. Greedy birdies!”

She tipped the bellhop five bucks once she’d been given the grand tour of the room—a tame Internet connection that was “kid-friendly” and a likewise censored video-on-demand service, delivery pizza or sushi, information on park hours, including the dazzling array of extras she could purchase. It turned out that resort guests were eligible to purchase priority passes for boarding rides ahead of the plebes, and for entering parks early and staying late. This made Suzanne feel right at home—it was very Russian in its approach: the more you spent, the better your time was.

She bought it all: all the fast-passes and priority cards, all of it loaded into a grinning Mickey on a lanyard, a wireless pendant that would take care of her everywhere she went in the park, letting her spend money like water.

Thus girded, she consulted with her bellhop some more and laid out an itinerary. Once she’d showered she found she didn’t want to wear any of her European tailored shorts and blouses. She wanted to disappear into the Great American Mass. The hotel gift shop provided her with a barkcloth Hawai’ian shirt decorated with tessellated Disney trademarks and a big pair of loose shorts, and once she donned them, she saw that she could be anyone now, any tourist in the park. A pair of cheap sunglasses completed the look and she paid for it all by waving her Mickey necklace at the register, spending money like water.

She passed the rest of the day at the Magic Kingdom, taking a ferry from the hotel’s pier to the Victorian wrought-iron docks on the other side of the little artificial lake. As she cleared the turnstiles into Main Street, USA, her heart quickened. Kids rushed past her, chased by their parents’ laughing calls to slow down. Balloon sellers and old-fashioned popcorn machines jostled for space in the crowd, and a brass band was marching down the street in straw boaters and red striped jackets, playing a Sousa march.

She ambled up the road, peering in the adorable little shop windows, like the shops in a fancy casino, all themed artificial facades that were, in back, all one shop, linked through the length of the street.

She reached the castle before she realized it, and saw that it was shorter than it had appeared. Turning around and looking back down Main Street, she saw that the trees lining the sides of the street had been trimmed so they got progressively larger from the gates to the castle, creating a kind of false perspective line. She laughed now, amused by the accomplishment of the little trompe l’oeil.

She squeezed past the hordes of Asian tourists taking precisely the same picture of the castle, one after another, a phenomenon she’d observed at other famous landmarks. For some Japanese shutterbugs, the holiday photo experience was as formal as the Stations of the Cross, with each picture of each landmark rigidly prescribed by custom and unwritten law.

Now she was under the castle and headed for what her map assured her was Fantasyland. Just as she cleared the archway, she remembered her conversations with that Death Waits kid about Fantasyland: this was the part that had been made over as a goth area, and then remade as the Happiest Construction Site on Earth.

And so it was. The contrast was stark. From fairy castle to green-painted construction sidings. From smiling, well-turned out “castmembers” to construction workers with butt-crack-itis and grouchy expressions. Fantasyland was like an ugly scar on the blemish-free face of a Barbie doll.

She liked it.

Something about all that artifice, all that cunning work to cover up all the bodies a company like Disney would have buried under its manicured Main Street—it had given her a low-level, tooth-grinding headache, a kind of anger at the falseness of it all. Here, she could see the bodies as they buried them.

Out came her camera and she went on the prowl, photographing and photographing, seeking high ground from which to catch snaps over the siding. She’d look at the satellite pics of this spot later.

Now she knew what her next project would be: she would document this scar. She’d dig up the bodies.

Just for completeness’ sake, she went on some of the rides. Her super-fancy pass let her sail past the long lines of bored kids, angry dads, exhausted moms. She captured their expressions with her camera.

The rides were all right. She was sick of rides, truth be told. As an art-form, they were wildly overrated. Some of them made her sick and some of them were like mildly interesting trips through someone’s collection of action-figures in a dark room. The Disney rides didn’t even let you drive, like Lester’s ride did, and you didn’t get to vote on them.

By the time the sun had gone down, she was ready to go back to the room and start writing. She wanted to get all this down, the beauty and the terror, the commerce lurking underneath the friendly facade. As the day lengthened into night, there were more and more screaming children, more angry parents. She caught parents smacking kids, once, twice, got her camera out, caught three more.

They sent a big pupu platter up to her room with a dish of poi and a hollow pineapple filled with rum. She took her computer out onto her lanai and looked out over the lake. An ibis came by and demanded some of her dinner scraps. She obliged it and it gave her a cold look, as if determining whether she’d be good for dessert, then flew off.

She began to write.

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As part of the ongoing project of crafting’s electronic edition of Makers, the author would like for readers to chime in with their favorite booksellers and stories about them in the comments sections for each piece of Makers, for consideration as a possible addition to a future edition of the novel.

Doctorow’s Makers is now available in print from Tor Books. You can read all previous installments of Makers on on our index page.


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