By Julia Andresakis
Discussed: violence and mental illness
Every new hire must don the skin of a beast and perform a violent ritual daily at this family-friendly theme park.
Pigs causes pandemonium. Kids scream out of delight and curious terror, sometimes even wet themselves. Others try to climb over the rails and into the arena, which is when I run over with the spiel about safety and hope they listen. That’s about the limit of my power as Guard, though, which makes the title more thematic than anything. Tricky business, too, since my primary role is to keep the show moving.
“You so much as graze the shoulder of a guest or interrupt Pigs,” said Chuck during training, “I will have you out on your behind so fast you won’t be able to clean your locker.”
But at least I’m not The Wolf.
Day after day, she scrambles out into the arena on all fours, focused on some invisible hunt. She does this suspenseful turn, stands on her hind legs like she’s just learned how. Then I roll in the cart, this junky six-foot-tall thing with three dollhouses balanced on top. The Wolf knocks down the first one—made to look like straw—and exposes a water balloon piglet. Dan plays the squeals over the speakers as she sinks her fangs into it, and the crowd goes nuts as she repeats this with the houses supposedly made of sticks and bricks. She enjoys the feast on the pigs underneath, prop blood splattering all over the rail-riders.
It’s terrible and tacky, but it’s the only novelty the park’s got, so Chuck will never retire it. It’s a condition for every new hire, non-negotiable. Me, I had to wear the suit through a record-hot August, just about passed out a handful of times in the break room while trying to get the damned thing off. Finally, Tara came on and did it for about two weeks before Dan was hired, and so has this passing of the wolfskin gone between desperate bodies. Chuck says it’s to break us into the park family. I figure it’s just meant to break us.
Missy’s first day, her stomach was so screwy from the anticipation, she blew chunks in the bathroom the afternoon leading up to her debut. When I radioed Chuck, he bolted from across the park to pound on her stall.
“Just-a-minute-” she choked out.
“You’re out there in five or you’re out for good,” he said.
She’s been The Wolf for two years, longer than any of us. Chuck spouts the same-old about new recruits not being in the quarter’s budget; I’d worry for Missy if she wasn’t getting more into it lately. Just yesterday I caught her in the break room, cradling the wolf head in her arms like a newborn. I asked if she was all right, and she just laughed, laughed like a drunk at an open mic.
Today, all the kids are off on holiday break, so the park is packed. When I see that it’s five until the show, I ready the cart and head to my post. Dan plays some nursery rhyme over the speaker and everyone sings along, half-slurring where they’re unsure of the lyrics.
Then he announces The Carnage of the Pigs.
I stop a couple of grade-schoolers from climbing into the ring.
The Wolf comes out, ferocious with energy like I’ve never seen. She revels in the audience’s excitement, claws over the rail—which she’s not supposed to do, but the guests seem to love it—and releases the most guttural howl her stomach can find. She turns twice instead of once, goes bipedal on the second. I look to Dan, all the way up in the crow’s nest, and we exchange confused glances. Still, I roll in the cart, and she demolishes all three houses at once. The crowd hollers with glee as she mashes the piglets into her mouth, the liquid splashing onto the costume’s eyes and ears, the houses, and, of course, the onlookers.
I’ve got my hand on my radio when I spot Chuck far in the crowd, standing still and smiling. Doing nothing to stop the derailment.
I look back and see another kid climbing into the arena, his mom encouraging him to “pet the doggie.” Before I can reprimand him, The Wolf scratches him hard enough to draw blood. The kid recoils as he grips his arm; when his mother springs forward to retaliate, The Wolf tears a gash into her cheek. Dan cuts the speakers and I lose sight of Chuck as the audience swells, eager for more bloodshed.
The Wolf climbs over the rail, licking her lips like the crowd is game, and I shoot through the air, pushing guests out of the way to plonk her in the dome. She grips my arm on the way down, and the two of us tumble to the ground as she tries to sink her plastic canines into my scalp.
“Get it together, Missy,” I start to say, but when I catch her eyes from inside the wolf, I can only see the beast. And I know that she’s been broken.
Soon Chuck reappears overhead, and he’s yelling at one or both of us, You’re out, you’re out, you’re out.
I can trace the inception of this odd little piece back to a workshop with BIC employees about interviewing. The opening lines prompt highlighted some unusual, jokey jobs like “professional sleeper” and “iceberg mover,” which got me thinking about a ridiculous job taken to the extreme. In the case of “Method Acting,” theme park manager Chuck forces each new employee to wear a wolf costume and perform a daily, vicious display of devouring pigs. Nobody likes doing it, but it’s a condition for employment, and they need the income. I figured that such an absurd and grotesque job requirement would allow me to illuminate the ways in which workers are sometimes exploited, underpaid, and othered from their humanity in public-facing roles. I also wanted to have my main character at a crossroads, where they decide that they’ll risk their employment for the well-being of those around them, and for it to be ambiguous who Chuck is upset with at the end. Surely, he could be upset with Missy for deviating from the routine and for the bloodshed, but the crowd seemed hungry for it. It could very well be the protagonist that gets the ax for interrupting the show, if Chuck decides he cares more about the spectacle than the safety of a couple of guests and his employees. Or he’s firing the both of them, of course. Whatever the case, I felt it necessary to depict the sheer emotional distress the role causes, Missy’s breaking point, and Chuck’s disregard for the wellness of his staff.
Julia Andresakis is a writer born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, currently completing her BA in film and screenwriting at Brooklyn College. She writes short stories and is developing a feature-length screenplay and a novel manuscript. Julia was published in Teen Ink and served as the Arts & Entertainment editor of her high school newspaper. She is a regular contributor to her college’s literary magazine and was awarded first place in fiction in the 2019-2020 CUNYwide Labor Arts “Making Work Visible” contest. Julia is on the path to becoming an established novelist and showrunner of a critically acclaimed mockumentary.
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