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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


Defrosting Disney

by Gary Barwin


     It is I, Dr. Mountain, famed heart surgeon to the cartoon world, who have been given the task of fixing the strange red pumper beating inside the slim black chest of Mickey Mouse.

     Once before I was called upon to perform this auspicious duty. It was a complex and highly technical procedure, but I can explain it simply and in terms you the public can understand.

     We defrosted Walt.

     Yes Walt Disney, like an aging Snow White in her glass bier, awaiting a princely and eternal life in his cryogenic frost chamber, awaiting new age-extending medical procedures, procedures that would allow him to be re-released to the viewing public. A restored version of the original classic. A masterpiece for the whole family. A Walt you cannot afford to miss.

     We took his heart for Mickey, then we froze him again.

     It will be a shock for Walt when he is finally defrosted for good sometime in the future, when he wakes without a heart.

     Walt's eyes open. He looks around. He feels, for the first time in two hundred years, his sallow body, his stiff fingers. His lungs expand to take in the modern air, his two lungs like Disneyworld and Disneyland on either side of the America of his chest, ready to oxydize his technicolour blood ready to be pumped out across the awakening world of his body by his I-think-I-can-I-think-I-can heart. His autonomic nervous system winds up like a pitcher eyeing the plate. Signals like memos are sent down to his chest. "Pump," they say. "Contract and send blood."

     In the empty ballroom of his ribcage, there is no red Beauty dancing. There are no four chambers of the Beast. Thumper is gone.

     Quite a surprise for Walt after all these years. His body, a Pinocchio collapsing after his strings are cut, not a real boy after all.

     But let us return to Mickey, his ears limp, his voice a husky whisper. Minnie, Goofy, and Donald are gathered around his hospital bed.

     "Oh, Mickey, my Mickey," Minnie says weeping, apparently having forgotten Mickey's unwillingness to give up a kidney, and she on dialysis her remaining kidney refusing to advance with the frames. At the last minute, a compassionate background artist draws her a mishapen kidney with an impish smile.

     Mickey's eyelids flutter. A gloved hand rises. "If I live," Mickey whispers, "I'll make it up to you."

     "Gawrsh," Goofy says. "You were always a friend when you needed us most."

     "Oh Mickey, " Minnie says earnestly. "Have you drawn up a will?"

     It is then that I, Dr. Ignatious Mountain, heart surgeon to the cartoon stars, stride into the room.

     "Mr. Mouse," I say. "I am ready to repair your ailing ticker." I wheel Mickey and his bed out of the room.

     Anaesthetic. There are so many choices with cartoon characters. I opt for the 7000 ton Acme anvil. Other than a slight flattening of the patient, it is an good choice.

     I make the incision.

     The scalpel moves like a shadow through the made-of-light skin. Already I can hear the ticking, the rumble of his blood. I feel anticipation and fear, as if I were an uncertain Aladdin madly rubbing the lamp.

     Once I opened a chest, and the heart like a gag lapel-flower squirted a stream of laughing blood that engulfed me and washed me over to Paramount.

     I worried about Walt's heart inside Mickey. It was always too big, too nervous, too human for an aging mouse. But it knew Mickey well, and Mickey understood its troubles, its need to expand, its need to close like a fist.

     Sometimes, from his hole in the baseboard, Mickey would look back at his tidy living room, the overstuffed sofa, the big-screen TV, and the shelves lined with the books and videos of a long career. This wasn't what his Walt-heart desired: the sound of an oboe, a bulging tear rolling down his snout in slow motion, his slender black limbs aching inside the outline of themselves. And no matter how many times he tried, it seemed to make no difference who he was when he wished upon the heavens.

     His copyright would soon expire. He could not live forever. Little pieces of him would appear on t-shirts and coffee mugs around the world. He'd feel like the fading image of himself on an over-bleached beachtowel, washed a thousand times.

     I open Mickey's chest cavity. I am a spelunker, returning to a cave. There is Walt Disney's heart, poor frail thing, beating because it doesn't know what else to do.

     I hold the heart in my hands. It squirms like a fish drawn from the water. I feel the urge to say something. I bow my head and all that comes to mind is "It's a Small World." But I'm not sure that's true, for here I am, Ignatious Mountain, once a poor boy, now in the centre of the universe, my hands holding the beating heart of Walt Disney, my head bowed over the anaesthetized body of Mickey Mouse, and I feel that the world is vast beyond belief. We cannot begin to understand what is in the shadow of a single whisker, or within the wingspan of a flea. I can fix Mickey Mouse's heart, the stolen heart of Disney, but, like Mickey's pink skin, so densely packed with hairs that it appears smooth and dark, I know that this life is made sleek with possibility, and is huge.

     I see now that Mickey's heart needs only to be held in my gloved hands, needs only my few words. Of course I will tell Minnie that something magical was required, something highly technical and inexplicably deft -- Mickey's wealth being what it is, and his need to spend it on something appropriately beeping, and with flashing lights.

     I close the incision, enter the waiting room, peeling off my gloves. Minnie is pacing, Goofy is reading old magazines, Donald is smoking furiously.

     "Everything is OK," I say. "Mickey's heart is a success."

     "Thank God, the bastard," Minnie says. They all look relieved.

     I feel a brightness then, a lightness, as if I were the one who had given up his melted heart and had been refrozen, as if I too could return to waiting.