02 October 2019

The Magic Kingdom

Three decades later, his voice echoes in my heart:
Weary after a week of 14-hour days teaching algebra
But kind -- always so kind -- talking on the phone
With someone at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

"Good evening!" he says. Somehow the smile
On his sleep-deprived face spills over into his voice.
"Yes, I hope you can help me. I have a son with a dream,"
He continues, and squeezes my hand across the kitchen table.

He clicks his four-color pen to green and says,
"I need to know your rock-bottom admission price."
He writes numbers. His eyes grow wearier.
"I see. And do you offer any kind of family discount?"

The conversation goes on a few more minutes.
His smile remains, though diminished somehow,
And my heart begins to wonder if perhaps
My Mr. Fix-It may not come through this time.

"Well, thank you very much for your time,"
My father says. "You've certainly given me
A lot to think about." He stands with a muffled groan
(Sore from a day on his feet) and gently hangs up.

I am nine and have not known much disappointment,
But I'm also not stupid. My stomach tightens
Against my deepest fear: We can't go.
I ask anyway: "What did they say, Dad?"

My father sits beside me and shows me the neat column of figures.
Travel costs in blue, admission costs in green,
Food and lodging in black, and the grand total in red, underlined twice.
"Wow," I say. "That's a lot of money."

He puts an arm around my shoulder.
"Yes, it is. It would be as much money
As two cars like the one we're driving right now,
Or about two thousand gallons of milk."

He looks down, toward the paper, but stares past it,
As if his careful calculations weren't even there.
"I'm sorry, son. I think it just won't work out this time."
He looks more tired than I can ever remember seeing him.

In that moment, I glimpse the immensity
Of what this man has given me, how deeply he feels
The weight of my wishes and needs.
"It's OK, Dad," I say. "We can have a pretty good time right here."

Photo Credit