ALEX KNEW from the expression on his mother’s face that she was about to complain.
“This is not the Most Magical Place on Earth,” Carol said. “And it’s certainly not the happiest.”
As if to emphasize her point, a four-year-old slightly ahead of them in line threw himself to the ground and began to wail. The kid’s mother ignored him, but the father—beer belly, baseball cap, and tattoos—growled. “Cut the crap, Bryson, or we’re leaving right now.”
Bryson didn’t cut the crap, and as the line crawled forward, everyone carefully stepped around him. But when his mom finally produced a package of candy from her purse, Bryson hopped to his feet and pranced forward to retrieve it.
Carol sighed loudly. “If we were at Disney World, the line would be themed. We wouldn’t just be hemmed in by ropes.”
Compared to his siblings, Alex wasn’t good at tuning their mother out when she got into this mood. His older sister suddenly needed to have a conversation with her husband about whether to replace their downstairs carpeting, and his younger sister became fixated on her phone.
“But the lines are shorter here than at Disney,” Alex pointed out.
“Because sensible people are there instead of here.”
“C’mon, Mom. Disney’s great, but I like Poseidon’s Planet too. The theming’s pretty good.” He gestured toward a nearby roller coaster with wave-shaped tracks and next to that, a kiddie playground that looked like a coral reef. Then he pointed at the sign for the ride they waited for: Escape the Kraken.
“It’s not the same.”
“No, but Poseidon’s way cheaper. Christmas Compromise, remember?”
Over the forty years his mom and dad had been married, they’d negotiated an annual compromise vacation to be taken at Christmas. Complaining about the outcome had become part of the tradition too, which meant that at least once a day, his mom would bitch about the second-rate tourist attractions. Alex’s dad would chime in later, usually over dinner, and moan about the cost of the vacation. Alex and his sisters had discussed the matter and decided their parents actually enjoyed the complaining part, the way some people loved mincemeat pie even when everyone else thought it was gross.
Just as his mom seemed prepared to make more unflattering theme park comparisons, a costumed character strolled by, distracting her. Distracting Alex too, and both of his sisters, and everyone else in line who was attracted to men. The guy was probably supposed to be Poseidon himself. Tall and very muscular, he had flowing blond hair and a long beard. He wore nothing but sandals, a pair of shiny leggings with a fish-scale pattern, and a crown. He carried a trident, which he had to lean against a massive shoulder whenever he stopped to sign autographs.
“Oh my God,” said Carol.
Alex nodded. “Yes. Greek god. Disney doesn’t have anyone dressed like that.”