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Part One: Mayor McCheese and the Existential Lethargy of the Great Beyond

If he closed his eyes and willed all his drooping sesame seeds away, it was almost as if nothing had happened. It could be 1980 again, the streamers flying wildly through the air as the children gorged themselves and she in the pink overalls with eyes for no one but him.

“If our winner could approach the stage,” his best friend said if he shut his eyes tighter still, his scalp folding at its bready shell. “Our very own Mayor McCheese!”

It was so long ago. Barely worth thinking about. He peeked out at what lay before him—tossing himself into a Thick Shake Volcano would have been too dramatic, he thought, but here was the perfect spot. Right where everything had begun.

His purple jacket slipped off with surprising ease and fell to the ground of the hamburger patch. He’d never liked it here—something about seeing the same beef in his own face being plucked from the ground made him uneasy. She hadn’t cared, he knew perfectly well, but she was the last thing he wanted to think about. He removed the pickles from between his buns. He wouldn’t be needing them anymore.

He let the note flutter from his hand—whether someone found it or not hardly mattered. It stood in the center of the garden beckoning to his—the shake blender fountain that frothed delicious pink something, falling into eager children’s mouths on their way to the drive-through. At this early hour, there were no children but the fountain blended on, and McCheese’s toes felt a chill as he began to climb. The roar of the sharp blades amplified, louder, louder, and the pink froth tickled as it touched his toes.

“I pledge to make this land a better place with enough food for everyone,” he’d said, his jacket vibrant with purples and golds and the crowd cheering, cheering. The kids still weighed under two hundred pounds, his friends sat in the front row screaming with the droves of McNuggets. Well, most of them.

He forced himself back to the gray dawn and heard the chatter of the Fry Guys waking up. The blades called to him louder than ever, and he watched as his tiny hat fell from his tip of his head and disappeared into the pink abyss. One, two—

“McCheese?” the voice barked from across the Hamburger Patch. Damn it. He whipped his head up and flung his hands to his now-bald head, praying the wind wouldn’t take his top bun clear off. The political blogs had gone crazy about that gaffe.

“Oh, hello officer!” he answered, panicked. He whipped his legs over the blender fountain and hopped to the soft hamburgers beneath. “I was just—“

Officer Big Mac was as gruff as ever, and extended McCheese’s shoes to him with an uncomfortable shove. “Don’t fake a story for my sake, partner,” he said, tucking away his club. “Thought those damn McNuggets were giving each other handies before school.”

McCheese frowned. “Never quite figured how they manage it.”

The officer was not in the mood the beat around the bush, and threw his old friend’s jacket over his shoulder. “Look, Tony, you didn’t have to do that.”

McCheese’s mouth stayed closed. “She hates me, Mac,” he said simply. “There’s more to it than you think.”

“So you were gonna blend yourself in the goddamn Hamburger Patch?” Office Big mac let a hard slap fall on McCheese’s drooping head, putting a serious dent in the bread. His friend didn’t fight back. “I feel like this is partly my fault, Tone,” he said after a moment. Placing a white-gloved hand on the damage. “I haven’t called you in too long.”

McCheese shrugged. “You’ve been busy. God knows the Gobblins have been giving you enough trouble.” He couldn’t force his eyes to meet the gigantic sandwich who had once been his right hand man—though aging himself, Mac was still in the prime of his food policing career.

“Gobblins or no gobblins,” the officer said with conviction, holding out the purple jacket. McCheese smiled faintly and looped his arms back in. He was so much thinner than he used to be, so much smaller. “Come down to the station for breakfast, we need a beef-on-beef conversation.”

The mayor wanted to protest, but couldn’t find the strength or the words as Officer Big Mac led him to the patrol car, a far shinier plastic than they were when he was in office—Ronald probably used the same materials to construct cars as he did burgers.

 His story felt stuck, perhaps somewhere between the cheese and beef but the mayor thought it far more likely it was his deep in his chest where the secrets had settled. Even if his future were brief, for this moment McCheese felt much happier to be sitting in his old friend’s fry box than the bottom of a strawberry shake. That had to mean something.

Next installment: McCheese speaks to Officer Big Mac about his stormy political career, his impeachment, and the torrid love affair with Birdie. Will she awkwardly flap back into his life? Will Mayor McCheese find the light at the end of the nugget-lined tunnel? Who has taken hold of McDonaldland? All that and more in next time’s Where in the World is Mayor McCheese?.

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