“Donald,” by Matthew Grzecki

Dec 20th, 2014 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

About a year ago, a friend suggested I audition to be Donald Duck in Disneyland. He said it calmly at first, but when I expressed reluctance he adopted a more insistent tone. “You’re a five-foot-tall duck. Your name is Donald. What the hell else are you going to do?” I felt an instinctive urge to correct him—”Technically, an American Pekin duck with hyperplasia of the pituitary gland”—but I worried that might come off as bitter or, worse, pretentious. And anyway, he was right: no longer welcomed by my normal-sized, pond-dwelling family, I needed to become invisible to all the scientists who wanted to experiment on me. That night I scrounged up a blue hat, a blue shirt, and a red bowtie from a nearby dumpster, and headed to Disneyland.

When it was my turn to audition, the coordinator saw me, then turned to someone and said, “Don’t you just love it when they come in costume?” I told her a little about my background—all lies, of course—and then underwent a series of physical fitness tests. By the end of the day, I’d been hired.

The job entailed walking around the Cinderella Castle, greeting visitors, and posing for photos. Every day I ate three meals alone in the staff cafeteria. At night, after everyone had left, I climbed into one of the giant tea cups and slept.

One day, while posing for a photo with a young fan, an intern tapped me on the shoulder and said the coordinator wanted to see me. The urgency of the message made me certain that my true nature had finally been discovered. When I arrived in the coordinator’s office, however, there were no scientists waiting, and she made no accusations of deception. Instead, she politely informed me that I was fired, effective immediately. Over the weekend they had found a better Donald, she explained: a stand-up comedian, trained in ballet, who was now making the transition to acting. Compared to me, he had a higher energy level and a superior range of motion.

“But I’m an actual duck!” I pleaded. “These feathers are real!”

She wasn’t listening, though. And, to be honest, I couldn’t really blame her: everything I said sounded so petulant. More than anything, she looked embarrassed on my behalf.

That night I slept under a bridge in downtown Irvine, which is where I’ve been living for the past six weeks. It’s actually not that bad: there are other vagrants here and we all cook stew together and sing jaunty songs late into the night. Also, one of my new friends, Minerva, has a hormone surplus similar to mine—she’s a giant mouse—and it turns out she too was fired from Disney a few years back. Lately, we’ve been spending a lot of time together, sharing stories.

I used to think my size was a kind of curse, but I’m not so sure anymore.


Defenestration-Generic Male 02Matthew Grzecki is an MFA student at Syracuse University. He graduated from Harvard where he was president of the Harvard Lampoon.

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