A SWINGER'S WISH
By J.E. Smith
LEGAL STUFF: The Country Bear Jamboree is owned by the Walt Disney Company. All songs featured in this story are copyright to their respective owners.
Please note that at several times throughout the story there will be switches between first and third person. Whenever this occurs, the first person segments will always be told from the villain's POV.
PROLOGUE: THE REPETITION
LATE NOVEMBER 1984
"Y'all come up and see me some time, ya heah?"
"Yeah! Soon as I find a ladder I'll be right up! Mmm, hmm!"
It was the same old routine. Teddi Barra gave a brief sigh as her swing ascended back up into the hole in the ceiling to her dressing room on the second floor of the Grizzly Hall Theater in Walt Disney World, near Orlando, Florida. The audience, which consisted of only a few people, didn't even applaud. It was always like that on the final show of the day...
Teddi, now all the way back up in her dressing room, began to hear the familiar sounds of an untuned guitar coming from below.
"There was bloooood on the saddle…" Sung a deep, bellowing voice.
Ah, Big Albert. He's on cue, as always, thought Teddi. Looking up, she saw a six-foot tall black bear standing above her. He was sticking his paw out, offering to help her up.
"Oh, Rufus! Y'all are too kind for offering to help me up, but no thank you. I'm just gonna stay here and wait. There's no use in me gettin' up, since I'm gonna have to go back down there anyway, y' know."
"What do ya mean, Miss Barra?" Rufus asked.
Rufus was a high-tech sort of bear who usually spent his time snoring the day away in his cave over at Disneyland in California, which was due in part to the fact that he worked all night as a maintenance worker around the area of the park near where his cave was. Teddi had briefly met him twelve years ago when the bears went down there to perform for the Californians. However, the bears didn't seem quite as popular over on the West Coast, so they returned to Walt Disney World. However, Rufus had gotten lonely and recently asked Henry Taylor Bear, the Master of Ceremonies of Grizzly Hall, if he could come over and help them out. Henry agreed and hired him as a stagehand. One of the jobs that Rufus was now responsible for was anchoring up and lowering Teddi's swing in each performance. In fact, this was his first full day on the job; thus he didn't know what went on from day to day.
Teddi rolled her eyes. She knew that Henry would come out to sing next, and Big Al would interrupt him and try to steal the show by repeating his "Blood On The Saddle" song over and over, which would prompt Henry to call Teddi and the rest of the bears out on stage to try to drown him out. She thought that Rufus would have had caught on to the pattern by now.
"Two words, honey: Big Al," she replied.
"...and a great big puddle of bloooood on the ground," Big Al "sang" from below.
"Aw, he ain't gonna interrupt Henry this time!" Rufus said.
"Ruffie hon, once you've been here for a few days y'all will realize that nothin' new happens here. It's the same ol' way, day in and day out."
Though I wish something new would happen for a change..
"Born on a mountain top in Tennessee..." Henry sang below.
"Listen, Henry's startin' to sing. You better get ready to lower me, Ruffie. "
"It ain't gonna happen!"
"Hey gang, hit it!" Henry shouted a few moments later.
"Told ya!" Teddi said with a smile. "Now quick! Lower me!"
Rufus grumbled to himself and did as he was told.
"He's big around the middle and he's broad across the rump, runnin' ninety miles an hour, takin' thirty feet a jump!" sang the entire cast below.
C'mon Rufus! Get me down there!
"Ain't never been caught an' ain't never been treed..."
Teddi sighed as she began to make her descent.
I'm not gonna make it…
"…some folks say he looks a lot like me!"
Teddi had then descended completely, at the same old point in the song as she always did. She never made it down during the first verse. She hoped that Rufus would have gotten her down earlier than usual. She looked down below at her fellow Country Bear Players, who like her had been doing the same exact routines every day for the past thirteen years. First off to the far right of the stage were Henry and his singing coonskin cap, Sammy. To the far left of the stage was Big Al, who continued to perform his song, ignoring the other bears while they sang "Ol' Slew Foot" to try to drown him out. All the bears began to whoop and holler, but Big Al just kept on singing...
"...and bloooood all around..."
Next to Al was Terrence the "Shank Shaker", whose melancholy growl could please any crowd. Below her on the center stage was the wildest country and western group in the wilderness, the Five Bear Rugs, made up of Zeke, Zeb, Ted, his brother Fred, and a bear named Tennessee.
"High on a mountain, tell me what do y'see?
Bear tracks, bear tracks, lookin' back at me…"
Directly below Teddi on center stage left was "The Wizard of the Piano", Gomer. Next to him were those three perky young cubs; the Sun Bonnets Bunny, Bubbles, and Beulah. These triplet sisters had outstanding singing talent for their age. Teddi always thought that Henry had made a smart choice when he had brought them on board. Next to the Bonnets was Henry's best friend Wendell, the overbearing baritone who could fracture any folk song within the key of C.
"Better get your rifle boy, before it's too late..."
Behind her and out of her view next to Henry was that grand Miami Serenader, Liver Lips McGrowl. Last but not least, attached to the far right wall of the theater, were Buff The Buffalo, Max The Stag, and Melvin The Moose, three stuffed animal heads that would never stop talking, even after they had lost their bodies. Teddi could still remember the shock she had when they first came alive on her.
"Bear's got a little big, and he's headed through the gate! He's big around the middle and he's broad across the rump, runnin' ninety miles an hour, takin' thrity feet a jump!"
Not on stage were Ernest "the Dude", a general slacker type whom Teddi didn't care for much, and Trixie, the Tampa Temptation, a rather large woman who was an old veteran when it came to show business.
"Ain't never been caught an' ain't never been treed…"
It would be just nice if one of them would join us for once, she thought. But Ernest is too lazy and there's no room for big ol' Trixie down there. It would be a welcome change, though.
"Some folks say he looks a lot like me!" The bears concluded.
Everything then went dark as all the spotlights went out, and Teddi was lifted back upwards.
"OOOF!" Big Al groaned as he tripped on his way backstage. This was followed by the sounds of glass shattering as he took his usual tumble...
"There! Thanks, Ruffie, "she said in the voice she used to taunt Henry after Rufus helped her off her swing. "Now, would y'all be so kind and leave so I can get ready to go?" She said as she kissed Rufus on the cheek. Rufus felt light-footed and love struck, like anybody would after one of Teddi's coy acts.
"Anything you say, Miss Barra!" he said as he began to go down the stairs that led backstage.
Teddi grinned as he left. She could hear Buff, Max, and Melvin sing "Come Again" below as the people exited the theater. It was time to call it a day. She slipped off her fedora and feather boa and put them in her closet, where she always kept them for the night. After slipping on her coat, Teddi make her way downstairs. After she reached the bottom, she went toward the backstage exit. She was exhausted from performing, and she was famished. She wanted to get home, eat, and get some rest. But first she had to wait and get word that all the people were out of that area of the park. She looked around and see if she could speak to anyone, but all the other bears were off somewhere else, packing up their instruments and getting ready to leave.
As usual, she thought. It gets lonely waiting around for a while.
At least there wasn't total silence; she could still hear the "Come Again" music playing.
"Ah! There you are, Teddi!" Said a familiar voice that came up from behind her.
"Oh, Henry!" She said as she turned around. "I didn't know you were there!"
"You did a fine job today, as usual," he said.
"Oh?" As if I didn't know already. "Well, thank you! Say, Henry?"
"There's still a few people out there, would y'all like to stay and speak with me till I can go?"
"Why, sure I..."
"Henry!" Bunny shouted from another room. "We're ready now!"
"Oh, th' Sun Bonnets! Sorry Teddi, but I have t'get 'em to their folks! See you in th' mornin'! Bye!" And with that, he walked off.
Just then a Cast Member (A Disney park employee for those of you out there who have never been to a Disney park in your life) came into the room and approached her. "Excuse me Miss Barra, most of the people around the area have left now. Your transportation is ready," he said to her.
"Oh, thank you," she said. This always happens. I hardly get time to speak with anyone! At least Rufus will be up there with me for a while, it was gettin' pretty lonely up there all by myself! Well, better get goin'.
Teddi then exited the building and proceeded to stroll down the deserted streets of Frontierland. The first stretch of the street was well illuminated by the lights coming from the buildings. After she walked passed all of them, the only lights from that point on came from the lampposts and the full moon. She glanced over at the moon's shimmering reflection in the Rivers of America before she proceeded to the backstage exit behind the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster, where a limo awaited her. "There you are, Miss Barra!" said the chauffeur as she walked up. "Are you ready to leave?"
"Yes. Take me home please," She replied as she got in. The car then drove down several service roads before it reached Floridian Way, passing by the construction of the Grand Floridian resort and the Magnolia and Palm Golf Courses before turning down World Drive. After driving a mile or so, the car turned down Buena Vista Drive and down a private road behind the EPCOT Center Park before it came to a stop.
"Well, here we are! Have a good evening, Miss Barra!"
"Thank you again. I'll see you in the mornin', Jennings."
Teddi then walked up to her house, which was located in the Canada area of EPCOT's World Showcase, hidden on the top floor of the Hotel du Canada, a building that resembled a French Gothic mansion. She went through her own private entrance behind the building, out of the public's sight. When Teddi had been invited by Henry to perform in the Jamboree, she had requested that she had her own private accommodations. Even though Henry had already arranged for her to have her own room on the second floor of Grizzly Hall, she refused. Teddi wanted to have a more luxurious place to stay so she insisted that she have her own private house instead. Henry really wanted her to be in his show, so he met her request by having one built in a beautiful, scenic area away from the Magic Kingdom park, the inside of it being fancy and elegant which was fitting for someone of Teddi's demeanor. A decade later, the Walt Disney Company began to build EPCOT. Teddi's home was within its construction area, and it was required for it to be demolished. However, to make up for it, they reconstructed the interior of it on the top floor of the Hotel du Canada building. At first, she didn't seem to mind. In fact, she liked living in EPCOT, because she had many new dinner options at the World Showcase, and she loved the beautiful view of the lagoon the building overlooked. Unfortunately, a few weeks after EPCOT had opened they started having shows every other night over the lagoon. Though she enjoyed listening to these shows at first, she soon grew weary of them, for they kept her awake on those nights when she wanted to sleep early. And this was going to be on of those nights, unfortunately.
Teddi sighed. She wanted to have her dinner later so she wouldn't be bored later that evening waiting for the Laserphonic Fantasy show to end, but she was so hungry she couldn't wait that long. Plus she had already ordered her meal earlier before she performed the last show at the theater. She had no choice anyway; the World Showcase restaurants would be packed with guests at this point, and it would have raken forever for her meal to be cooked. A knock then came from the door. She went over and opened it, knowing it would be her food.
"Your salmon soufflé, Mam'selle Barra."
"Thanks. Set it by the table, as usual."
She then ate her soufflé, one of the things she didn't seem to get tired of during the course of the two years since EPCOT was built. Since she alternated through each of the different World Showcase pavilions and the different restaurants every day, the food was one thing she never seemed to get tired of. After she had finished and had the table cleared away, she went in to the bathroom and started drawing water in the tub. A bath would pass the time away until the lagoon show was over. After slipping her coat off and getting into the tub, she laid back and relaxed, thoughts racing through her mind. She thought of Henry, how he seemed to back away every time she spoke to him. "I'm busy, Teddi", or "I can't speak now, Teddi", would usually be his response whenever she tried to talk to him about anything else besides her performances. At first, she wanted to talk to him about quitting the show. Teddi wanted to try her paw at becoming a drama actress, something she wanted to do all her life. But whenever she auditioned for a part in a play, she was always rejected. Later, she was discovered by a talent agent for the Big Time Swingers, a famous group of female bear performers that had been founded way back in 1900 by Helene Bear, the wife of Henry's great-grandfather Ursus H. Bear. Ursus was a famous bear, for he was the first one who practiced human characteristics and later founded Grizzly Hall.
Teddi was somewhat glad that the Swingers had selected her, for she had become one of the most famous members in the troupe. Teddi found many new friends during her stay, her best friend being Georgette LaBruin, who was also one of the other well known Swingers. Unlike most male bears that only liked Teddi because of her looks, and other females who were jealous of her talent, Georgette was one of the few who liked Teddi because of her personality and dreams. Those were the good old days, where Teddi and Georgette performed without a care in the world. There were even occasions where they would perform together in special theaters that put in two swings so they could have both of them perform at once . Teddi enjoyed her life at that point, thinking that nothing could end her career with Georgette. That soon changed when Teddi started to hear news of several Swingers in other parts of the country beginning to have tragic accidents.
The girls started to fall off their swings, or the swings would suddenly detach themselves from the ceiling and the girl would either suffer serious injury, or if the swing was high enough, death. Some of the superstitious girls in the group thought that these accidents were caused by the ghost of Ursa, another female bear that wanted to marry Ursus, but was angered that he chose Helene as his mate instead of her. Thus, Ursa wanted to get revenge on Helene by trying to eliminate and the performing group that she had founded. Both Teddi and Georgette saw this story as a result of the superstitious members' paranoia and thought that the accidents were just a coincidence. Time passed, and more and more Swingers began to have "accidents". Many other Swingers became scared of the news, and simply retired from the group. Teddi and Georgette didn't let this affect them, though and kept on performing, even when it had gotten to the point that they were the only two Swingers in the group that were left. Then, the horrible day happened. The two were performing together one night. The act seemed to go on perfectly, until suddenly, without warning, Georgette's swing suddenly detached and she fell. Unfortunately, the distance to the floor was too great and…
Teddi couldn't finish her thought. She didn't want to remember the image of Georgette as she laid still on the floor…
The loss of Georgette convinced Teddi that the myth may have been true after all, and fearing that it could happen to her, she planned to quit the Swingers. It was that very day that Teddi got the notice that Grizzly Hall was reopening after a long period of time of being closed down and Henry needed a Swinger to be in his new show. Seeing that Teddi was now the "Last of the Big Time Swingers" (As Henry called her in the show when he introduced her), she decided to be kind and do a few shows at the old theater. However, the show had become really popular, and she decided to stay with them to this very day. Plus, there was something about Henry that kept her going on. Sometimes she wondered if Henry had a genuine crush on her...
No, it can't be. It's been thirteen years now, he would've said something by now!
Since the thirteen years had passed without anything out of the ordinary happening, Teddi thought that she was safe of having the same fate as the other Swingers. Just then, an explosion came from outside, breaking her out of her thoughts.
Ah, the fireworks from that Laserphonic show. Nothin' to worry about.
Teddi knew the show was nearing the end, so she rinsed the soap lather out of her fur and pulled the stopper. After all of the water had been drained, she stood up in the tub and shook as much of the water off her as she could, and then got out and used a towel and hair dryer to finish drying. She then walked back into her den, towards the east wall which had many pictures of her and Georgette hanging from it, with some placed on her vanity table in the corner. Most of them were individual pictures of them performing, snips from newspapers and several posters from some of the places that they had performed at. The final two portraits, however, were a group portrait of all the Country Bear Performers in front of Grizzly Hall that was taken the day before the first performance, and one of her and Henry on the porch that was taken later on the same day. She put on her nightgown, and then went over to the table, opened her jewelry case and pulled out a velvet box.
Inside was a special locket that she treasured a lot, for it was given to her by Georgette as a gift shortly before her final performance. It was beautiful, made of sold gold with a red ruby in the middle. She took it out of its case and put it on. Even though she wore it in her early days at Grizzly Hall, she later decided that it was too precious to wear at the shows, and from then on rarely took it out of her house out of fear of it getting broken or lost. The only time she wore it was while she was asleep and on special occasions. Teddi picked up a romance novel and sat on her bed. The show outside was over, but there was still the sound of the people speaking to each other and music playing while they were exiting, so she read while she waited for them to clear out and everything to be silent. Teddi always dreamed of having a romantic affair with one of the other bears, but almost all of them were married. The ones who weren't married weren't exactly what she was looking for in a male. The only one who she had an eye on of course was Henry, who was too busy running the shows to speak with her, and whenever he did it was always about business. It was a shame he didn't seem interested, it would have made her life so much more worthwhile.
After it had finally gotten quiet outside, she slumped down into a comfortable position. She closed her eyes and started to sleep, but a few minutes later she found she couldn't. She got up and looked over out onto her balcony window. The full moon was still out, and was shining brighter than it had earlier that evening and its light kept her awake. She got up and peeked out her window at the now deserted area. It was such a beautiful night, so she decided to open the window for a moment and stared at the lagoon that her house overlooked.
Usually it was crowded with boats taking park guests back and forth across it all day, and on the nights that Laserphonic Fantasy played the edge of it would be packed with guests around the area watching it. But now, with the park closed and the area around her deserted, the lagoon area was peaceful and calm. The lagoon itself looked beautiful with the moon's reflection shimmering off it. Teddi loved nights like this. Sometimes it was a relief being away from the packed houses of foot-stomping crowds at Grizzly Hall and in this peaceful silence. She looked up and noticed several shooting stars in the sky, and thought of the old story that if one made a wish upon one that it would might come true. And she had several to make. But she knew that it was just a children's story and it wouldn't happen anyway.
Still, anything's possible. Heck, I'll do it for fun. Feeling somewhat childish, she clutched her locket with her paws, closed her eyes, and softly said, "I wish that someday I will have a major change in my life. Just somethin' that will make it more worthwhile..." Teddi opened her eyes and smiled, feeling a little bit better. She shut the window and slipped back into bed, and then drifted off into a dreamless sleep.
"Bingo, there she is," I say to myself.
I put down my binoculars in success. I've finally found her, after so long. I begin walking from my vantage point at the entrance to the World Showcase, quickening my pace to the Canada section. The job itself, though I don't really want to be a part of it, should be simple. All I have to do is find my way into that large mansion and do the deed before that bear realizes what's going on. I should be able to sneak in, get my job over with, and get out before anyone notices. Just before I reach it, I suddenly feel something clasp down on my right shoulder. I turn and see one of those park workers grabbing on to me.
"Excuse me miss, but the park is closed. You'll have to leave now," the idiot tells me. I'd take him out, but that would draw too much attention to the other guards. I can't afford to give up my disguise.
"Oh, sorry," I tell him in a stupid sounding tone, "I guess I lost track of time."
"And your sense of direction as well. The exit's on the other side of the park."
I have no choice but to turn around and leave. Curse my luck! I walk all the way back to the monorail station, the worker following me the whole way to make sure that I actually go there. I board an empty monorail car that's headed to the Contemporary Resort where I'm staying. During the ride, I ignore the recorded spiel playing over the speakers and lose myself in my thoughts as I look out into the night sky. Upon returning to the hotel I head to our room, where the old man is waiting for me.
"Back so soon?" He asks. "Did you already take care of her?"
"Unfortunately, no. While I was able to locate her, there weren't any suitable spots in the EPCOT park for me to hide. One of the guards spotted me and forced me to leave."
"As I had expected. Well, we'll just have to go with the indirect option then. I've been studying the maps for the Magic Kingdom park where Grizzly Hall is located, and I've discovered a possible place for you to hide out."
He lays out a map of the park on the table, and directs his finger over to a river in the upper left corner. In the middle of the river is an island.
"According to the park guide, this island attraction closes at dusk. Your best bet is to go into the park tomorrow and survey it for a possible place for you to hide, and stay there until the rest of the park closes. Then, you can swim back across and then infiltrate Grizzly Hall. You know what to do from there..."
"Remember, we only have the five days we're staying here to carry this out! But if all goes well, that Swinger lady will take the fall when you're through with her! Finally, our family will have its revenge..."