October 21, 2012

Alice Checks Out the 'Hood

In her twelfth year in Wonderland, Alice couldn't help noticing that things looked a little ragged around the edges.  In the place of forest paths edged by wildflowers, there were potholed streets lined with old cars, and the residents of Wonderland spent their time standing around trash fires burning in rusted barrels, warming their hands against the cold of early autumn.  Those who weren't so engaged stood in long lines waiting to get into Government Groceries.

"Goodness, what a sight," murmured Alice lifting one patent leather shoe to step delicately over a passed-out drunk on the sidewalk.  Up ahead, Alice thought she saw the Mad Hatter, standing with the Dormouse around another trash fire.  He was heating his teapot on a wire screen resting on the barrel.

"Mr. Hatter, how do you do?" said Alice as she approached.

"What up," grunted the Mad Hatter.  "Slumming or something?"

"I'm lost, as ever," said Alice with a little more heartiness than she really felt.  "Silly me."

"Yeah, silly you," said the Hatter.  "Want some tea?  How bout a biscotti?"

Alice looked at the teapot, smudged black with flame, and the metal canteen cups, which weren't in much better condition.

"Oh no, thanks," said Alice.  "I've eaten."  Which was literally true, although she couldn't remember which year that had been.

"Suit yourself."

Alice noticed that the Dormouse, who was wearing a pair of oversized Ray-Bans that kept slipping down his snout, was inhaling deeply from a short stubby cigar.  He coughed between tokes.

"Is the Dormouse alright?" asked Alice.

"He's good," said the Hatter.

"That's nice," said Alice, for lack of any other remark to make.

"Smoke 'em if you got 'em," said the Dormouse to no one in particular.

"So what's new with you and Wonderland?" said the Hatter, in his usual caustic tone.

"I was just thinking that things don't seem very much the same since I followed the rabbit down the hole back in...oh, so many years ago."

"Times are tough, kiddo," said the Mad Hatter.

"Boo-yah!" the Dormouse suddenly shrieked.

Alice tried to ignore this last interjection.  "I can see that," she said thoughtfully. "What seems to be the problem?"

"What seems to be the problem," sneered the Hatter, "is that we ran outta dough, you know?  Cash, dinero, the old scratch.  Bust-o, kid, tits up and no pulse.  Along those lines."

Alice couldn't help thinking that one thing that definitely hadn't changed was the Mad Hatter's penchant for unpleasant self-expression, which was as vibrant as ever.

"But why is that?" asked Alice, genuinely curious. "Did the Red Queen cease her benevolence."

"She's flown the coop," said the Hatter,  "down in the Caymans, luxuriating on a pile of her money."

"How very selfish," said Alice.

"Careful, Lamebrain," said the Mad Hatter.  "Or they'll off with your head."

"I thought you just said the Red Queen had fled Wonderland," replied Alice, perplexed.

"True that is," said the Hatter, "but the two guys running for Red King can label you anti-Wonderland and it's sayonara, Toots." 

"I'm afraid I don't understand," said Alice.

"If you're afraid, you're getting warmer," said the Hatter.

"I still haven't the first notion what you're talking about," said Alice.

"Knock me over with a feather," said the Mad Hatter.  "Look, Babycakes, if you're anti-Wonderland, you can wind up on the losing end of a Drone missile on the Red King's say-so."

"Which Red King?"

"Take your pick," snickered the Hatter.  "It's the law.  Of course, your odds are worse if your name's Arab."

"That's what the law says?" asked Alice timidly.  This surely didn't sound much like the Wonderland she used to know.

"Not in so many words.  That would be unconstitutional.  Equal protection, you know."

"That sounds ever so much better," said Alice, relieved.

"We're now entitled to equal lack of protection under the law, see," said the Mad Hatter, cackling... madly.  "Hey, want to buy a hat?  How bout five hundred of 'em?  Things have been a little slow."

"I don't really think so, thanks," murmured Alice.

"Suit yourself, Bimbo.  Have a nice day."

Alice hurried away down the sidewalk, down a side street, and eventually came upon the forest, where she at last relaxed a little.  Strolling along in the deepening woods, she looked for sign posts.  She wondered if she could find a trail to the Cayman Islands.

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