The third installment of “Where in the World is Mayor McCheese?” faces the disgraced Mayor of McDonaldland with his two greatest fears—his lost, feathered love, and his red-nosed nemesis…
The Arches would kick your glasses prescription up a notch if you stared for too long. It seemed like the sun shone every day that year, from that moment at the podium to this one, standing in front of his place of work. The cool air hit his face, a product of acrid air conditioning, and the ball pit that made up the main lobby seemed to extend for acres.
There she was, the brass buttons that held up her overalls hitting the light from across the pit. “Tony, jump in!” she shouted. Her voice was music to his ears, and he swandove into the acrid smell of hollow plastic, feeling nothing.
Feeling nothing? There’s always holes in dream fabric, McCheese reminded himself. It’s just a matter of finding them.
“Hurry up, Tony!” Birdie called from the other side, her voice sounding more like a long distance telephone call than mere feet. His arms were paddling, but he wasn’t any closer. As McCheese took breaths above the surface, she got further and further away. He was drowning, drowning—
“Tony, I don’t think you’re up to this,” Mac said, peering at his friend. McCheese winced at the sweet tea smell of his breath, and sat up. The couch in the police officer’s office could barely support his weight, and the exhausted sandwich-man took a moment to gather his bearings.
“What time is it?” McCheese muttered, rubbing his eyes. The outside was no indication—these days, the sky maintained a sickly pink until night fell. Mac looked at his wrist, eyes glazed.
“Six thirty,” he slurred. “Look, we can just go over to the Burger Patch and be cannibals, right? It’s been a long day.”
“Shit!” His friend’s words had shocked McCheese awake, and he was out the door before Mac could suggest another drunken notion.
His knees felt more wear than they used to on this walk. Jogs to the police station for lunch used to be a staple of his day, but this felt like a death march. Why did Birdie invite him, anyhow? Something had to give.
The Arches had nearly rusted through, and creaked as McCheese walked through the legendary doorway. The ball pit had been removed years ago to be replaced by foam yoga mats lining the magnificent main lobby of the Arched Palace. The Mayor snorted, remembering the children’s health initiative Ronald had tentatively put into effect in the mid-2000’s, mostly to shut people up. A bored-looking teenager sat at the reception desk, and looked at him the way a kid would look at a Cheers cast member—vague recognition, but not enough to warrant a question.
“I’m here to see Birdie,” McCheese stuttered. The pimply kid had a black baseball hat on and a striped t-shirt, a black smudge on each cheek. A Burglar, if he were to guess.
The kid shrugged and pressed a buzzer. “Mrs. McDonald?” McCheese winced at the sound of it. Mrs. McDonald, indeed. “Your seven o’clock is here.”
Birdie’s crackling, unmistakable voice rang from the other end. “Have him come to the President’s kitchen, Berg, will you?”
The kid snorted in response and looked up at McCheese. “You know the way?” The Mayor nodded; even if he didn’t know the way to that grand hall he’d barely been allow to set foot in when he had worked. He turned on his heel past the bellboy and began the trip to—well, he wasn’t sure what.
No one new had been added to the gilded Hall of Greats since he’d left, but there were at least a hundred new shots gracing the walls—Ronald with his arm around MC Hammer in 1991, Ronald on the set of Space Jam!, Ronald guest starring on Deal or No Deal. Three years, McCheese thought lucidly. If he’d worked in the Junk Food Bureau for three more years, his large, sandwichy head would be trapped within four wooden angles forever.
“Pretty sweet setup, huh?” McCheese smelled the pungent Eu de Grille before he saw the clown himself, and wished he’d never turned around. To say that Ron had aged poorly would be a disservice to three-year-old corpses—his face sagged, his belly paunched, and his mouth curled in the exact same sneer it had when he’d fired McCheese over fifteen years before. “Heard you’re our dinner guest for the evening.”
“Ron,” the mayor tried, extending his hand and holding a stony glare. He could be civil, after all, and Ronald accepted it. McCheese could feel his pores filling with grease at the aging clown’s touch. “Birdie invited me.”
McDonald’s eyes focused on him with a determination to kill for a split second, then softened as he threw his arm around McCheese’s purple jacket, leaving a small stain. “Birdie loves to have guests over, I tell you,” he laughed, turning his former boss into the President’s Grand Hall. This room, unlike the others, had preserved what remained of its integrity—the interconnecting slides, the monkey bars, and the swings had all remained intact. McCheese could nearly (nearly!) see up Birdie’s skirt as she whooshed down an electric blue slide, giggling as she ran toward her husband.
“Looks like you two are getting along,” she smiled, gazing at Ron with adoring eyes. Eyes, McCheese thought, that looked somewhat glazed, but it could have been his imagination. “Is dinner almost ready?”
Ron looked between the two of us before kissing his wife on the head with a tobacco chewer’s saliva capacity. “I’ll go check, Grim was nearly finished when our guest rang at the door.” He let his gaze linger on McCheese for a moment, then headed for the kitchen on the other side of the Play Palace. Birdie looked after him for a moment, then grabbed McCheese’s hand with an excitement he remembered from her overall days, and she guided him to the edge of a foam pit.
“Tony, I can’t tell you how happy I am that you came,” she smiled, leaning in so that her soft voice would carry. “It’s beautiful here, but I—well, you know yourself, too much time spent here with the same old people just isn’t good for a mammal.”
“Same old people?” McCheese asked. “You mean, your husband?”
“You know what I mean,” she said, frowning for a moment. She met his eyes and the mayor squeezed her hand a little—a complete accident, but it made her smile. “It’s nice to have a friend around again. Would you like to see around? Well, and I know that you know the place as well as I do, but I’ve done a few things with the place.” McCheese beamed. Nothing would make him happier.
She glazed over most things (especially the Space Jam! photo, something she’d wanted taken down for years), but noted the new wallpaper in the Breakfast office (she’d designed it herself), the renovated and admittedly beautiful recipe library’s new ceiling-to-floor shelving, and even spent a brief moment in her bedroom. McCheese couldn’t stay more than a moment—something about the garish red-and-yellow bedspread and the gaudy red clown shoes attached to the front of the bedframe made him sick. Looking at Birdie, he hoped it made her a little sick, too.
“I’ve saved the best for last, though,” she promised, guiding him across the bedroom. There was their wedding photo, framed in silver and featuring a slightly chubbier Birdie in a wedding dress with shoulder pads. She shook her head as she regarded it, and promptly slammed down the frame. The ceiling of the bedroom, covered in tiny arched wallpaper, suddenly swung down, and McCheese lept out of the way of the wooden staircase that appeared.
“Not used to going up here with other people,” Birdie smiled, pulling him out of the way. “Come up, will you?”
A beautiful, slightly musty attic space with all stained glass and a series of notepads at a large oak desk, which sat by a small twin bed and a hot platet. That was it, but all at once McCheese could barely resist his urge to kiss her. Of course she had created a—
“Breakfast invention lab,” she smiled, opening a small refrigerator to reveal eggs, loaves of bread, and a number of spices. “Ron would be so mad, but I thought you’d like it.”
She looked up at him hopefully, the glaze that she had seen her husband with gone. McCheese found himself leaning in closer and closer, and just as his lower bun grazed her feathery face—
“Dinner’s served,” a deep, gravelly voice laughed from the bottom of the stairs.
Birdie looked up in panic. “Shit, Tony,” she whispered, tears springing to her eyes. “I’m so sorry.”
Next installment: Who’s got the former lovers caught in the act? What will Ronald do to his former boss to disgrace him? Will Mayor McCheese’s sandwich head ever expire? Incorrigible! All that and more in next time’s Where in the World is Mayor McCheese?
Need to catch up? Here’s the saga so far: