An Excerpt from my still unpublished novel, The Vitruvian Man

composite, Disney's Space Mountain, faint overlay of Donald Duck

[Flash forward, this comes from the second chapter to the end.] 

In the hot early afternoon, we’re waiting our turn for Space Mountain. Amanda tugs my hand. She looks very serious and says, sounding very guilty, that she needs to tell me a shameful secret.

“All right.”

“I’ve never ridden a roller coaster—not even one for little kids.” She turns and giggles. “Oh my God, it’s so embarrassing.”

I laugh so hard I crouch. Amanda shoves my shoulders. To balance, because now I’m laughing even more, I drop to one knee. She circles behind me and slaps my back. I pivot around, and see her giggling, hand raised and ready to slap my face. I burst out laughing all over again. Amanda attempts indignation, which causes her too to break into full-throttle laughter. I scoop her bare legs together, drape her over my shoulder, and stand up, dancing side-to-side while she pounds my backside with her fists. We’re both laughing uncontrollably and I can’t keep her still. She’s squirming and clinging and choking back laughter to speak.

“Shut up! Shut up!” she yells, sliding down and around me, her arms around my neck, so she’s riding me piggyback. “Everyone’s staring at us!” she hisses.

Indeed they are. She pulls my hair. “How dare you laugh at me! Shame on you!”

I try to keep her behind me and she tries to twist around as if to free herself, despite her thighs squeezing even tighter around my waist. Finally, I set her on the ground and double over, trying to catch my breath, while still caught in hilarity.

Back on one knee, I touch her head. She shifts so we’re eye to eye. The impulse is simultaneous. We clap a hand over each other’s mouth. This lasts one second before we burst into fresh peals of mirth.

The line to Space Mountain has become a semi-circle around us. Amanda tries to bite my right hand. I raise it above her reach and wave my left index finger in her face.

“Shame on who? Shame on you, little girl! You promised to behave in public! You promised.”

She leaps at me. I fold her over my shoulder again and rise. I spin in a circle, balancing her. She’s giggling so hard I feel her shaking. Donald Duck appears and quack-scolds us until I put her down, his huge webbed feet flapping as he stalks off.

We don’t entirely recover until the steel car we’re strapped in enters the dark, scary mountain. The careening ride twists and turns. We cling to each other and scream.

Eventually, when the car slows and begins coasting to the end, our hearts pound together. We stay in the car until we’re helped out.

Languorous with relief, we wander hand in hand in the bright sunshine, our sunglasses on, our legs loose and rubbery. After a while, we’re strolling toward the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The line here is especially long but Amanda’s glad we didn’t schedule a time using the Fast Magic option. She’s happy to wait and I’m perfectly content listening to her history of Captain Jack Sparrow. She prepares me for one steep drop and possibly a ghostly sighting of Blue Beard.

Donald Duck quacks past us again and I ask her for a translation.

“Donald Duck wants us to know—” Amanda puffs out a cheek and offers a good but understandable impression. “That’s more like it!”

We climb into a boat and watch robotic pirates drinking from flagons and kicking loose planks around. Amanda snuggles beside me and kisses my cheek.

“Oh no!” She’s noticed a little animatronic dog barking on a shipwreck. I tell her Sterling’s taking care of Samson. “She always had a dog growing up. Getting Samson was her idea.”

Amanda nods and in the dim light. Now that she knows someone’s taking care of Samson—no talking.

She absorbs every amusing detail, every entertaining sight and stunt the same way she experiences every moment in real life. I’m not as successful. The future is bearing down, wielding a deadly bludgeon.

Except—Amanda throws her arms around me while two pirates drag a captured enemy into a transparent cauldron of boiling oil. My anxiety vanishes. Amanda and I are great together. And her touch, whether or not her innocent desires require me to vanquish my sick and dangerous ones, fills me with admiration, love, and hope. What on earth is more magical than that?

by Kathleen Maher

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