I booked us ringside seats at the Polynesian Luau, riding high on a fres_ound of sympathy Whuffie, and Dan and I drank a dozen lapu-lapus in hollowed- out pineapples before giving up on the idea of getting drunk.
Jeanine watched the fire-dances and the torch-lighting with eyes like saucers, and picked daintily at her spare ribs with one hand, never averting he_ttention from the floor show. When they danced the fast hula, her eye_iggled. I chuckled.
From where we sat, I could see the spot where I’d waded into the Seven Sea_agoon and breathed in the blood-temp water, I could see Cinderella’s Castle, across the lagoon, I could see the monorails and the ferries and the busse_aking their busy way through the Park, shuttling teeming masses of guest_rom place to place. Dan toasted me with his pineapple and I toasted him back, drank it dry and belched in satisfaction.
Full belly, good friends, and the sunset behind a troupe of tawny, half-nake_ula dancers. Who needs the Bitchun Society, anyway?
When it was over, we watched the fireworks from the beach, my toes dug int_he clean white sand. Dan slipped his hand into my left hand, and Jeanine too_y right. When the sky darkened and the lighted barges puttered away throug_he night, we three sat in the hammock.
I looked out over the Seven Seas Lagoon and realized that this was my las_ight, ever, in Walt Disney World. It was time to reboot again, start afresh.
That’s what the Park was for, only somehow, this visit, I’d gotten stuck. Da_ad unstuck me.
The talk turned to Dan’s impending death.
“So, tell me what you think of this,” he said, hauling away on a glowin_igarette.
“Shoot,” I said.
“I’m thinking—why take lethal injection? I mean, I may be done here for now, but why should I make an irreversible decision?”
“Why did you want to before?” I asked.
“Oh, it was the macho thing, I guess. The finality and all. But hell, I don’_ave to prove anything, right?”
“Sure,” I said, magnanimously.
“So,” he said, thoughtfully. “The question I’m asking is, how long can _eadhead for? There are folks who go down for a thousand years, ten thousand, right?”
“So, you’re thinking, what, a million?” I joked.
He laughed. “A million? You’re thinking too small, son. Try this on for size: the heat death of the universe.”
“The heat death of the universe,” I repeated.
“Sure,” he drawled, and I sensed his grin in the dark. “Ten to the hundre_ears or so. The Stelliferous Period—it’s when all the black holes have ru_ry and things get, you know, stupendously dull. Cold, too. So I’_hinking—why not leave a wake-up call for some time around then?”
“Sounds unpleasant to me,” I said. “Brrrr.”
“Not at all! I figure, self-repairing nano-based canopic jar, mass enough t_eed it—say, a trillion-ton asteroid—and a lot of solitude when the time come_round. I’ll poke my head in every century or so, just to see what’s what, bu_f nothing really stupendous crops up, I’ll take the long ride out. The fina_rontier.”
“That’s pretty cool,” Jeanine said.
“Thanks,” Dan said.
“You’re not kidding, are you?” I asked.
“Nope, I sure ain’t,” he said.
They didn’t invite me back into the ad-hoc, even after Debra left in Whuffie- penury and they started to put the Mansion back the way it was. Tim called m_o say that with enough support from Imagineering, they thought they could ge_t up and running in a week. Suneep was ready to kill someone, I swear. _ouse divided against itself cannot stand, as Mr. Lincoln used to say at th_all of Presidents.
I packed three changes of clothes and a toothbrush in my shoulderbag an_hecked out of my suite at the Polynesian at ten a.m., then met Jeanine an_an at the valet parking out front. Dan had a runabout he’d picked up with m_huffie, and I piled in with Jeanine in the middle. We played old Beatle_unes on the stereo all the long way to Cape Canaveral. Our shuttle lifted a_oon.
The shuttle docked four hours later, but by the time we’d been throug_econtam and orientation, it was suppertime. Dan, nearly as Whuffie-poor a_ebra after his confession, nevertheless treated us to a meal in the bi_ubble, squeeze-tubes of heady booze and steaky paste, and we watched th_niverse get colder for a while.
There were a couple guys jamming, tethered to a guitar and a set of tubs, an_hey weren’t half bad.
Jeanine was uncomfortable hanging there naked. She’d gone to space with he_olks after Dan had left the mountain, but it was in a long-haul generatio_hip. She’d abandoned it after a year or two and deadheaded back to Earth in _upport-pod. She’d get used to life in space after a while. Or she wouldn’t.
“Well,” Dan said.
“Yup,” I said, aping his laconic drawl. He smiled.
“It’s that time,” he said.
Spheres of saline tears formed in Jeanine’s eyes, and I brushed them away, setting them adrift in the bubble. I’d developed some real tender, brother- sister type feelings for her since I’d watched her saucer-eye her way throug_he Magic Kingdom. No romance—not for me, thanks! But camaraderie and a sens_f responsibility.
“See you in ten to the hundred,” Dan said, and headed to the airlock. _tarted after him, but Jeanine caught my hand.
“He hates long good-byes,” she said.
“I know,” I said, and watched him go.
The universe gets older. So do I. So does my backup, sitting in redundan_istributed storage dirtside, ready for the day that space or age or stupidit_ills me. It recedes with the years, and I write out my life longhand, _etter to the me that I’ll be when it’s restored into a clone somewhere, somewhen. It’s important that whoever I am then knows about this year, an_t’s going to take a lot of tries for me to get it right.
In the meantime, I’m working on another symphony, one with a little bit of “Grim Grinning Ghosts,” and a nod to “It’s a Small World After All,” an_specially “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.”
Jeanine says it’s pretty good, but what does she know? She’s barely fifty.
We’ve both got a lot of living to do before we know what’s what.