I have this weird memory floating around my head; it’s from kindergarten, maybe grade one. I want to say kindergarten because of the fact it was a presentation in a little classroom with what felt like hog-hair carpet. I’m sitting, cross-legged on the scratchy floor, watching two people in Donald Duck and Minnie Mouse costumes (respectively), in a surely unlicensed performance of “telephone etiquette basics.”
They have massive over-sized telephones in one hand, and Donald (the scamp) is drinking a two-liter bottle of Orange Pop. As they “talk”, the other people in the presentation preform the voices like some sort of community theatre Barney and Friends, and Donald slurps into the mouthpiece, causing Minnie to recoil in disgust and hang-up.
We were then lectured, after-school special style (while at school), about the horrors of bad telephone etiquette: no one will take you seriously, you’ll never find a job, your friends will leave you, and you’ll have to suck dick to pay the rent for your entire life.
What stuck with me that day was that Donald Duck was allowed to have two liters of pop at a time, often and steadily enough that he needed to be told to put it down when he’s on the phone, but I could only have one can with pizza on Friday nights. What the fuck, mom?
This memory is pared with another, completely bizarre memory of the same ilk. It’s of a video, though I’m slightly older, the experience is much the same: the coarse and unkind hog-esque bristle carpeting and a presentation. The video that played showed a kid, the same age as me, washing his hands after using the bathroom. The voice-over talked about the importance of completely drying your hands, for risk of electrocution is everywhere.
The kid opened the bathroom door and turned off the light, an act which was shown in freeze frame with a sick-ass zoom right in on that light switch. The voice-over reminded us that not all electricians are as good as they should be, and to protect ourselves, we always need to dry our hands thoroughly. As if we were a new type of human, Homohandsoppius, who needed to be reminded that it's 1995 and electricity rules our world. The light switch can kill you, outlets can kill you if you plug in your Game Boy adapter with wet-hands, Joel. Don’t even think of using your school’s new Macintosh Classic with wet-hands, kids—electrocution will occur. You will die.
I wish I could actually remember the reason behind these memories, but as an adult, they still ghost back into my head every now and then, especially when I turn off the lights with wet hands. Turns out, I do it a lot more than I realize. I’ve never ever been able to have any sort of beverage with me while I talk on the phone, and it's all because of that damn duck. But, I believe that I had a run in with this duck before the seminar that afternoon. He may be a figure in my life not unlike Uatu the Watcher—he's just a dick about it.
Rod had taken me downtown to buy tickets for the Duck Race. Now, for the uninitiated, the Duck Race was the most wonderful time of year, someone (maybe the city?) would dump a shit-load of numbered, yellow rubber ducks into Bear Creek and “race” them for… well, I actually don’t know. I never once paid attention to what it was for in all the years it was around. Regardless, my step-father and I were on the street, downtown G.P. One of his friends had pulled up behind us in a classic car, and he brought me over to see the thing. Now, granted, I’m like, six-years-old and have never enjoyed cars. I never played with them, so I’m just kind of standing beside him as the adults talked, when it happened.
I feel a tap on my little arm, and I turn away from my father. As I turn, my peripherals register the height difference between the attention seeker and my little-self. I tilt my head up and standing far too close to me is that god damn duck. In the haze of twenty-three-year hindsight, I err towards the thought that the costume shop in town only had one Donald Duck, and this costume spent most of it’s time either captivating or terrorizing me. As soon as I made eye contact with those glossy, black, dead spots, I burst into tears. I did that terrified stutter-step that little kids do while gripping their dad’s Levi’s, but it wasn’t good enough. He was laughing, just like his friend. They had betrayed me. I remember being terrified and alone and jumping into Rod’s friend’s car over the folded down rag-top for sanctuary.
When the coast was clear, I was hoisted from my second womb. My father’s strong, blonde arms carried me back to his truck and set me down in the passenger seat. He told me that Donald was gone, and I guess he meant it. From that day forth, until Christmas ’98 when I visited his house first-hand, Donald Duck was a ghost in my life. Just a mere haunting in my memory bank, not unlike he is today.
In April of 2017, my wife and I went to Disneyland, and I made sure to check out his house again; I guess I’m trying to settle the memory for good.
Just you wait, one of these days I’m gonna catch him off guard and make him cry, that—or give him a soda-pop complex that will threaten his life with juvenile diabetes. Either way, I’m gonna fuck that duck’s shit up the next time I see him.