539 - Wanted


Several times in your relatively short life you'd hear the adage "Never meet your heroes," but always you'd dismissed it as nothing more than a platitude meant to assuage the seemingly eternal frustration over having Wayne Gretzky tell you that you "skate like shit, eh." Certainly they weren't telling you some secret truth of the adult world continually obfuscated by the well-intentioned lies of all the adults around the child that was you, save but all the drunkest grandparents.

Now, though, standing here on the dusty street of the wonderland-turned-horror that is Fun Fun Silly Dilly World, you begin to understand the desperate truth those seemingly salty grown-ups were trying to convey to your still developing mind.

Mr. Balloon hands stares you down with none of the love his eyes showed you on countless Saturday mornings through a television screen as you watched, huddled under a faded orange and taupe afghan riddled with myriad milk stains from numberless bowls of Honeycomb.

"I told you," the floating head with hands attached by almost invisible wire-thin lines explains, "weren't no law in this town but helium law, marshal." The three fingers on each of his hands make comic tinkling sounds as they fidget over his oversized six-shooters. "Seems words ain't enough to get my point across."

You knew the robots of Fun Fun Silly Dilly World had gone bad - that they'd turned on their creators and the patrons of the park alike, slaughtering any warm blooded being their entertainment sensors detected. No doubt of that remained after you'd been forced to smash an animatronic Yul Brynner. Somehow, though, the thought of Mr. Balloon Hands, the lovable, honest, and just sheriff of Clown Town turning against you, his biggest fan, was simply unfathomable.

As unthinkable as the notion of this childhood entertainer gunning you down on a dusty street lined with plywood facades of a nineteenth century mining town might be, your hand instinctively slides down to your hip. You feel the jagged edges of the sandalwood grips of the park-issued gun on your side. The points dig into the fleshy part of your palm as your fingers close around cold steel.

"Draw!" shout your childhood dreams. "Bang!" says the death of innocence. "Gurgle" is the final word of naïveté.

Never meet your heroes, says your father's voice.

You might have to kill them, your own voice calls back.