Dark's Corner

Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow – November 13th, 2002

“I’m cold,” complained my six year-old daughter. Help came in the form of a red woolen blanket, which I draped around her shoulders, bundling the excess in front of her tummy.

“How’s that?” I queried. Her thumb came up in an affirmative salute and I laughed. She could be such a trooper sometimes. Without her mother, my wife, the past year had been difficult. Life has a way of laying new, steaming surprises on your front doorstep and then ringing the doorbell. Despite these ever-present and odorous mile-markers, the two of us had done pretty well for ourselves; relocating to Orlando, Florida and taking up residence within view of Walt Disney World. Elle, my daughter, had put in an excited bid for us to live right on-property at the sprawling resort. I regrettably informed her that it just wouldn’t be possible to bunk with Mickey and that we would be much more comfortable in a place of our own. As it turned out, we were very, very lucky in finding a house that matched our specifications. It only took about a month or so of picking through the real estate jungle that “The City Beautiful” has become, to locate it. When we did find the right house, it was in great shape and perfectly affordable. We moved in. Now, we sat on a couch in our living room, bathed in late afternoon sunlight, contemplating the view of the resort and the outlying areas.

“Daddy?” chimed the little voice.

“What is it, honey?”

“Did you have music when you were a kid?”

A giggle bubbled out of my throat and she looked up at me sternly before dissolving into muted gigglery herself. We’d been having these conversations for a year now, her perpetually inquisitive mind would select truths from her existence and then attempt to connect them with the truths from my own. It was her way of bonding to me, attempting to piece together what had become of our lives, how we were the same and how we were different. My wife and I had felt from the very beginning that Elle was an old soul; she had lived many lives before arriving in ours. Serene and content as a baby, she would look us in the eye with such a calm, level gaze that we could swear she was talking to us. “Hi there. You guys are beautiful. Just wait ‘till I can talk, got a little surprise for you.”

“Oh! I’m sorry, I thought this was the old folks home, I’ll be leaving now,” I said in my best geezer voice. She giggled again, a beautiful sound, and rolled her eyes at me.

“Da–AA–dd! I’m serious!” she whined. God, even her whining has perfect pitch, I thought.

“Okay, okay. Yes, in fact Miss Princess, we did have music when I was a kid and it was great.”

“What kind of music was it?” she asked coyly, supplying a voice cue for one of our favorite routines. I looked her in the eye and did my best Burl Ives impersonation.

“Sometimes it was happy,” and I imitated the sound of a burbling clarinet. “Sometimes it was sad,” and I hummed to simulate melancholy strings. Elle beamed at me as she wrapped herself tighter with the red blanket. “And sometimes it just spoke of love like,” and here I got down on one knee before her and did my best Bing Crosby.

“I dream of genie with the light brown hair….” I crooned and she fell over laughing. We hadn’t heard the old Disney attraction soundtrack since Susanna died. I had “America Sings,” “America On Parade,” “The American Adventure” and “Carousel of Progress” all on CD, courtesy of a friend who had worked at Disney Imagineering. One of our favorite tunes to sing together was the theme song for the family from “Carousel of Progress.” The attraction had originally debuted at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 and later became a permanent part of Disneyland out in California. When Walt Disney World was built, the attraction appeared at the Magic Kingdom and was given a grand update in 1994 that took the Audio-Animatronic family from the turn of the 20th century to the not-so-distant future. The theme that bound the different sets together was a perky little piece of irony called “Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.” I was just about to launch into a rousing rendition of it when Elle tugged on my sleeve.

“So, was there music when you were a kid?” she asked again.

It made me sad to go back in time like this, to recall things as they were when I was young, innocent and filled with hope and big ideals. It was a trip down memory lane that I wasn’t particularly eager to make. But she wanted to know. It goes without saying that I would venture down this retro highway many more times into that great big beautiful tomorrow that was hulking outside of our modestly furnished dwelling. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, letting the air ease out slowly. Her hand grasped mine gingerly and I took it.

“We had these things called records. Round black discs of wax about a foot around, like a big licorice pizza pie with thin crust. Actually, there was a chain of record stores called Licorice Pizza too, I almost forgot about that,” I laughed a little and her grip lightened up.

“There were smaller discs too, called 45’s.”

“I always thought 45’s meant guns.”

“Well, there’s 45’s that are guns, and 45 r.p.m. records and there’s Colt 45, which is both a gun and a beverage, two things that should never be mixed.” She giggled a little and then put a hand over her mouth in seriocomic fashion. Sweet little angel.

“So, you’d put the discs on a turntable, like a merry-go-round, and then place an arm shaped like this,” I said, crooking my arm into a not-so-bad replica of record player componentry, “with a needle inside, and you’d put it down upon the disc into a groove and the music would play.”

“That sounds stupid, CD’s were better,” she grudged.

“I know, but trust me – it sounded really good with an awesome system. There were eight-track tapes too, which were kind of weird. You could get a whole record on one, but sometimes the track would switch in the middle of a song, it was super annoying.”

“Sounds like it.”

We sat there in the quickening gloom; sunset was approaching on long legs and the temperature had begun to drop considerably. Who knew that Orlando could get so cold during Autumn? We hadn’t found any batteries in the abandoned house, so our last bit of light was sharing a final look at the scenery with us before plunging the day back into darkness, save for the illumination of our fast friend, the moon. I stood up and walked towards the big picture window overlooking the landscape and prepared to shut the curtains. The CSS-2 missiles that had suddenly rained down upon central Florida on November 25th, 2004 had laid waste to a thick swath of what was previously parts of Orlando, its incorporated areas and Kissimmee. It had been the same everywhere else in North America on that day; simultaneously across the country, hundreds and thousands of bunkers had opened up at 11:38 a.m. PST and commenced launching the Chinese-built rockets into the hearts of major American cities. I remained at our suburban home that morning, caring for a coughing, sneezing Elle. Television lasted about five hours before blacking out that day – but we had seen enough. The coordinated strike, believed to be the work of Saudi factions, was successful from what we could see on the television screen before it went black some ten hours later. The continent had been ripped open in a devestating salvo that lasted over two hours. New York was gone, Los Angeles was gone, Chicago was gone, San Antonio cracked wide open and became an extension of the Gulf of Mexico. Susanna was gone. When power went out altogether, the brutal reality became clear. We realized that it was just the two of us at that point and it was decided that we should head southeast, where reports had come through about “isolated damage.” It was the singing and talking that kept us sane on the road to Orlando. The music for our journey was provided through an acoustic traveler’s guitar that I had brought along for the ride. I leaned down and took the guitar out of my backpack by the window as Elle joined me.

“Look, I told you we wouldn’t be comfortable at Walt Disney World,” I said, pointing to the burned-out shell of Spaceship Earth in the near-distance. Similarly shattered bits of familiar Disney landmarks peeked around sudden mountains and unplanned landscaping. Hopefully there was enough left of it to sight-see. Maybe tomorrow.

“Wanna try and get over there tomorrow? I’ll bet we can walk through ‘Carousel of Progress’” I said.

“Do you think they’ll care?” asked Elle, shivering a little under the red blanket.

“I don’t think they’ll care,” I replied, giving her a kiss upon the head. “Come on and sing with me.”

There was no music anymore, except for what we made. Seeing people was rare enough, let alone seeing groups of them together, making music. But we continued to search, because it’s what makes us truly happy in this lifetime. Elle has a beautiful voice, especially for a six year-old. I hope that one day she can stand onstage and sing to an audience and know the joy of sharing that gift with a crowd of people. When the others show-up, when we find them, perhaps we’ll do just that.

“There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow

shining at the end of every day,

there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow

and tomorrow’s just a dream away”. </i>

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