Just 4 Kydz Fun Zone
by Amy Rose Spiegel
At home, on television, singing lions from a different children’s franchise tell the Kydz that life’s a circle,
Like a quarter closed against a joystick in a small palm, waiting to be meted into a video game inside
This seedy laser-tag arcade, this windowless birthday-party last resort, this dubious pleasure emporium. Or maybe like
The grimy plastic bubbles, bright and contaminant, in its central play-bog. The balls are sometimes
Pelted against their netted membrane in the direction of a bipedal rat —
The embodiment of the deity blazing, teeth askew, from the Zone’s posters and soft drink cups. Alive,
The rat is magnetic. The Kydz stumble around him, the tendrils of their shoelaces like gnarled-up comet tails. Alive,
The magisterial vermin glides across the carpet. He wears a costume with a mesh circle
Over his mouth. Fitted over him, the godhead conceals a bad haircut, his dermal potholes. The rat
Needs every eye. He gesticulates with an outsized hand, operating the joy around him from inside
His matted armor. At home, the rat’s girlfriend complains about the pizza stink on his clothes. Sometimes,
She makes a joke: “I smell a rat!” In the vomit-perfumed Zone, he doesn’t mind the taste of disinfectant. He feels “lifelike.”
He knows what it looks like — it surrounds him — but the rat cannot remember what being a Kyd felt like.
Could seeing a guy dressed as a rat, however well you know that rodent from commercials, really rank among the chief pleasures of being alive?
They scream like it does. The rat stops to gaze at the ordered fleet of spider rings in their glassed terrarium sometimes.
The prize counter is some nightmarish jeweler’s, filled with promises to be earned. He circles
Back to the food court, with its own translucent cases, lamps warming up the soft, tan food inside.
Kydz love chicken nuggets, even more than glow-in-the-dark arachnids, maybe even more than the rat.
He woos them back after lunch. They hug his legs, encasing them. The rat is only 23. He’s not sure whose life he wants, so he’s chosen…a rat’s.
A corporate cartoon rat’s, he thinks ruefully. Well, it’s not too far off from what everyone else is doing. (The rat is not too self-aware.) Like,
At least I’m making all these Kydz happy. There is so much sweat inside
His mask. He can’t touch his face. Its slickness is invisible throughout his shift, like dread. Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was…kind of a motherfucker. The rat’s year at the austere Fun Zone seems like the radius extending from the center of the circle
That is supposed to be his life to its very bottom point sometimes.
Sometimes, though, the rat finds himself humming Elton John inside both of his ludicrous heads. Sometimes
It feels downright pleasant to be a hybrid man-rat,
Crouching by a play structure with his unwieldy limbs encircled
Around a tyke who doesn’t yet know that rats aren’t like
Other creatures, not like them — that, to adults, they’re detestable, or at least a nuisance, when they dare to be alive
In the same place as people. That it’s not cool, let alone remarkable, to see a rat inside.
The Kydz know little about poison, and what they do know is from days spent inside
Watching animated musicals, where it’s fed to heroines as punishment for being too pretty and sweet (less of a lie than the circle, really). Sometimes
The rat wonders if he can’t recall what it was like to be alive
Before middle school because there just wasn’t any real information there yet. Then the rat
Thinks that he’s probably got it the opposite way around. He likes
The idea of being wrong in this way, but it also makes him sad. He concedes that this one feeling is circular,
But it’s also how he knows that the circle
Thing, writ large, is bullshit: No two points in life are equidistant, common, or alike,
Nor can they be experienced in a universal order. Only Kydz know to love a rat.