Monday, March 30, 2015

Rachelle Hayes and the Ruined Trip to Hogwarts: A Short Story

So I've decided to post my creative nonfiction short story from class here, on this blog. If you are at all interested in reading this, I'd really appreciate any feedback you'd be willing to give. (And I promise, it's funny--especially for any Harry Potter fans out there.)

Rachelle Hayes and the Ruined Trip to Hogwarts

Chapter One: Hairless Legs and Dragon’s Fire

I could have fried an egg on my back. I would forget to protect the area of my skin that couldn’t benefit from getting a tan since the rest of me was still pasty white and I didn’t wear clothes that could not be described either by the words “T-shirt” or “athletic shorts.” But, there I was, less than an hour into my Hogwarts journey, and I was crispy. My sisters and brother-in-law were perfectly fine. They had managed to not only put on sunscreen correctly yesterday, but to also cover every part of their body that could suck up the sun’s extreme radiation during our escapades at Florida’s wonderful Cocoa Beach. The next day, I’d learned my lesson. I was wearing a large amount of sunscreen on my face, legs, arms, and even my covered-up back.

“John’s legs are weird. He doesn’t have hair on his calves.” We had only been standing in line for thirty minutes, waiting to get on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride and according to the signpost, we still had approximately four hours to go, but already my older sister, Erica, was bored enough to nit-pick her husband’s odd legs.

“It’s true.” John proceeded to stick out his pale leg and model how there was a three-inch ring of skin around his right calf that was completely bald.

“Can I touch it?” Tiffany, my little sister by less than two years, and at the age of sixteen asked. She started to reach her hand out when Erica slapped it away.

“No. That’ll look weird.” And it probably would. John was twelve years older than her, with the physique of a man who was comfortable at a desk job to prove it.

So we stood in line some more. And Tiffany didn’t touch John’s leg.

The entire line wound around Hogwarts castle. We had started out inside the castle where we had to deposit our meager belongings. I had left my camera in a locker inside the Hogwarts entrance hall because I wasn’t allowed to take my stuff with me on the actual ride, so I couldn’t take pictures of the places we passed through. However, I do remember that we were standing in the Herbology classroom, the greenhouse, when the first bubble burst on my magical fantasy experience.

After we had stood outside on the castle grounds for two hours, dying to get into the air conditioned portion of our wait, a group of people started chanting. Loudly. Okay, so it wasn’t actually chanting, it was singing, just in a language I wasn’t familiar with. Over three dozen high school Brazilian kids were waiting in line behind us. And I say they were Brazilian because that is what I, and my family, remember them to be, however, we could have been wrong. The only explanation I can come up with for our decision on their home-country was the flag I remember seeing on their matching blue T-shirts not being the Mexican flag, and their skin color, dark hair, and language patterns being reminiscent to people of South American heritage.

The may-be-Brazilians had been silent up until we made it inside the greenhouse, but I guess the suspense was getting to them, because they all exploded into a random spout of song. Little kids who had been innocently waiting in line just like we had were covering their ears to lower the volume on the singing. This singing wasn’t simply like opening your door to find some Christmas carolers outside, but more like the ruckus you hear when you are close enough to see the musicians at a rock concert, but still far enough away that you do not come out of the concert having a conversation with your friend through a shared dialogue of screams because you can’t hear what the other person is saying. Parents of those poor little kids were yelling at the singing Brazilians, and even John, who wasn’t typically a person to confront others, was shouting at them to stop, as well as asking the park’s workers to help out—of course the magical wizards and witches running Hogsmeade couldn’t help out the poor muggles who had paid hundreds and hundreds of dollars to have a fantastical experience. What was perhaps the most disturbing was that the adults in the group of shouting kids were encouraging this ruckus with their own enthusiastic clapping and chanting.

When we finally left the grounds and actually started walking inside the castle, they magically shut up. And suddenly, we were seeing Harry, Ron, and Hermione and they were encouraging us to help them sneak everyone down to the Room of Requirement and off to a Quidditch match! To effectively accomplish this, we had to do more standing and waiting. But now we were able to see the Gryffindor common room and Dumbledore’s office. Along with moving painted people and the always-cheerful Moaning Myrtle. And once the excitement of being inside and seeing all the awesome objects and effects had worn off, we did what we had been doing—we waited. And waited. And waited. And when the ride was actually in sight, it was unbelievable! Truly, it was a miracle for both our spirits and our feet! We would never have been able to fight off a dementor after that miserably long bout of standing.

I was the first person to step out to get on the bench in the Room of Requirement that would take me through the Floo Network and on my forbidden journey. That was a mistake. The floor moved, and it wasn’t a magical happening. I don’t really know why the floor needed to move. More specifically, I don’t know why the floor needed to move towards my feet so that I was going against its flow in order to reach my destination, which was a seat on the ride. Moving sidewalks going one way and the cart to get on the ride going the opposite direction is very difficult for a person of my ungainliness to figure out. My ankles were not happy with the strangeness based on their sore and tingly feeling from the awkward ways my feet had been angled and neither were the operators happy with my clumsiness—or at least, the looks they shot me said they weren’t. (Maybe that was the park’s version of the moving staircases?) But, I managed to get a seat and my relatives followed soon after. We were ready to follow Harry on his broomstick through a holographic journey of Hogwarts.

We had only been seated on the ride for thirty seconds and in that time we had been reminded of the safety precautions by the Sorting Hat, when a huge dragon head popped out in front of us! Ninety percent of the ride is made up of a huge movie screen that the seats simply tilt in front of in order to give the feeling of actual movement, so we were surprised by the appearance of a very three-dimensional and very large dragon head. Thankfully, it didn’t burn our faces off. It just sprayed some water vapor gas stuff at us. My sisters and John were all perfectly fine. I however, was not. Remember that sunscreen I mentioned earlier? Well, apparently sunscreen and whatever made up that dragon’s wet breath are not compatible. Somehow, the sunscreen had melted into my eyes and I couldn’t see.

I couldn’t see the ride that I had stood in line waiting for for four hours! I managed to catch glimpses of Harry soaring through the Forbidden Forest, and flying away from that stupid dragon, but everything else was a pain-induced blur.

“That was awesome!” “I wish we could do it again!” “Did you see it when-?” “Yeah that was so cool!” I said nothing. I think I was in a sort of weird stupor. I had just come to Hogwarts and not experienced the best part. There was no coming back from that.

Chapter Two: Wands, Sweets, and Vampire Hunters
We met my parents outside of the ride, past the gift shop amusement park architects include after the ride so as to gain more galleons. My parents had a mug of Butterbeer with them. Cue the drool.  

“It’s gross.” Dad’s nose was all scrunched up and his eyes were squinty. It was his typical this-is-not-something-I-like face.

“What?!” Erica asked.

“It’s nasty.” I guess he thought she couldn’t understand what the word “nasty” meant, not that she just believed he was off his rocker.

Dad was a Vernon Dursley, except for the fact that he wasn’t an obese business man, but a six-foot-tall warehouse loader. He didn’t know a Dobby from a Golum, though. We found this out during Christmas vacation one year when we all were watching the ABC reruns of the Harry Potter movies and my dad pointed to the screen and made a “Precioussssssss” joke. Of course, we all proceeded to laugh at him. I guess I should give him bonus points for even knowing the names of the two completely different creatures.

I remember a show on television once had a camera and interview crew travel around the Hogsmeade theme park and bombard the parents with Harry Potter trivia. None of the parents managed to answer simple questions like “Who is Harry’s best friend?” or “Who is Harry’s archenemy?” The kids hid their faces behind their arms in embarrassment. I’m glad they didn’t show up the day we were there, my parents would have been the stars of the show.

None of us believed my dad about the Butterbeer. How could we? We’d traveled hundreds of miles to have some liquid-y gold, so we tried it despite his insistence. And, fortunately, my dad was a liar. Butterbeer was heaven in a plastic mug, especially when it was consumed in front of a huge castle and a quaint little wizarding alley full of magical odds and ends. It was a mixture of the taste of Butterscotch, the sweetness of cream soda, and the frothiness of a root beer float. And according to John, the Firewhiskey was good, too. I wouldn’t know. I was only 18 during the summer of 2012 and the Wizarding World has strict limitations on how old you have to be in order to consume alcoholic fizzy magic drinks.

Throats quenched of their sugary-sweet thirst, I conned my mother into following me back into the overcrowded gift shop. What to buy? What to buy? A scarf? No. Too sweltering hot outside. A sorting hat? Too expensive. Books? Do you even need to ask? And I bought some books. Not the Harry Potter books, I already owned all of those. Instead, I bought the companion books, Fantastical Beast and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages. And there went $15 I had earned through two hours of my hard work taking photos and editing documents for the Salem News. But the new Fantastic Beast movie is going to come out next year (November 2016 for those who want to know), so the purchase was definitely worth it.

Food. Food was the next priority. A march to the Three Broomsticks ensued. Or more like waddle. Hogsmeade was very full that day. There must have been a lot of first years getting their school supplies.

I’m going to be entirely honest here and say that British food sounds horrible. Shepherd’s pie? Ick. I don’t want to eat a shepherd, nor should you. That’s cannibalism. So, I ordered a chicken salad with more Butterbeer—not in the salad because that would have been gross. My sister got the Shepherd’s pie. She liked it. I didn’t try it. John got smoked turkey legs. He always gets turkey legs. He buys them, and eats them in a rapid manner that leaves his fingers and chin in a quite unclean way, at Silver Dollar City. My parents and little sister were even less adventurous than me with their food choices. They went to a restaurant in a different theme park that sold hamburgers and hot dogs. Ugh, the audacity of muggles.

So we ate in a restaurant that appeared as if it would have been condemned should it have been sitting on the corner of a city street. Of course, the actual foundation and structure was sound, but the creators of the building were very good at their job. It even had owls—that looked suspiciously like average, ordinary blackbirds—bobbing their way into the building to grab a stray chip or two.

After shoveling down our food, which sadly did not keep refilling on our plates, our next stop was Ollivander’s. We needed wands. After all, you can’t perform Wingardium Leviosa and knock out the trolls in the girl’s bathroom without a wand. Unless you’re Dumbledore, because Dumbledore doesn’t need a wand. He’s just that good.

Ollivander’s was packed with a lot of first years, too. Although, the first years seemed to have considerably aged since Harry’s time at Hogwarts. There were thirty year-olds, sixteen-year-olds, and every other age imaginable, buying their first wand. If there was a place to have an anxiety attack due to claustrophobia, Ollivander’s was it. At no point in time was a part of my body not touching someone else’s. Where was the Whomping Willow when you needed it?

“Hurry up already.” Erica was not a patient person. I had only been looking at the wall of wands in their gray, forest green, and black slim boxes for maybe twenty minutes. I just couldn’t decide if I wanted a wand that was my own, or at least, not a book character’s, or if I wanted a character wand. The non-character wands were kind of ugly, but I wanted to feel like I had actually gone to Ollivander’s and gotten my own. I did not want to just feel like an epic fangirl who collected her favorite character’s wands.

“Why are you taking so long? I want to get out of here.”

“I can’t decide!”

“Just hurry up.”

Ugh. Just because she bought the Elder Wand with hardly any inner confliction didn’t mean that I could just rush something like this. Did I want a holly wand or a sycamore? Veela hair or unicorn hair? Phoenix feather or dragon heartstring? This moment could make or break my entire future as a witch.

And with that thought, I realized I had made my decision. The best and brightest witches of their age should always stick together: Hermione’s wand it was.

I wormed and wiggled my way into yet another line, stood for a good ten minutes, paid $35 and headed towards Honeydukes with John and Erica leading the way.

Apparently, muggles don’t like wizard sweets. There were far fewer people in Honeydukes than there were in other parts of the theme park. I could actually browse the store without fearing having my nose shoved into the candy when someone trips and falls on me. That didn’t actually happen in the other stores, but at the time, it felt like it could have.

Again, there were so many selections. Clippy’s Clip Joint Clippings, Honeydukes Salt Water Taffy, Honeydukes Candy Floss, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, Sugar Quill Lollipop, Chocolate Cauldron, Honeydukes Milk Chocolate Bar, Chocolate Frog, Pepper Imps, Fizzing Whizbees, Pumpkin Juice, Honeydukes Hard Candy, Exploding Bon Bons, and Ton-Tongue Toffee. And unfortunately, I was too full from The Three Broomsticks to really appreciate how awe-inducing this store really was.  Especially considering this was the cheapest place in the theme park. Almost everything was less than $13.

What I was thinking, I honestly don’t know, because I only bought one package of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and a Chocolate Frog. If I had been thinking properly, I would have bought at least one of everything.

My mother rejoined as I was purchasing my miniscule supply of teeth-rotting goodness.
She was noticeably missing some things from when she had left, though. “Where’s dad and Tiffany?” I asked.

“They went to watch a movie.” What? There was no way I could possibly have heard her right. Who would leave the enchanted land of Harry Potter to go and watch a 2D film? Crazy people. Or worse, muggles.

“Why would they do that?” I don’t think I wanted to come to terms with the fact that my little sister had been converted by the Vernon Dursley in my family. She had gone to the dark side. Oops…wrong fandom.

John and Erica had finished browsing through the sections, and for some weird reason they had decided not to buy anything.

“Where’s Tiffany and Dad?” Erica asked. We go through this a lot in my family. If someone isn’t around, you’re constantly asked where they went, what they’re doing, who they’re with, etc. It’s very tedious if you’re the one who’s actually present. Erica had this experience recently at a family reunion. She went to the reunion in St. James, Missouri and John stayed in Illinois, where they live. She told me later that she should have just stood up on the picnic table and made an announcement to everyone that John was working and had stayed home.

“She went to see a movie.” I answered for my mother. I wanted an answer to my question, not an answer to an already asked question.


Mom didn’t seem phased by our little gang-up on her. She just browsed some of the candy and said, “Tiffany wanted to see that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter movie.”

No. Just no. My sister did not abandon her family to force my father to watch a movie about extreme historical inaccuracies in an amusement park theater when he could be instead, forced to follow our happy, sweaty, Harry-Potter-overloaded family around.

“She didn’t want to come back. And neither did your dad.” I ignored my disappointment by trying to weasel my mother into buying my sweets for me. I wasn’t very good at it.

Now, I realize that our split off for lunch was what made the trip turn from the feeling of Christmas during Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone—surprising, fantastic, and again, magical, despite the overcrowding and the Forbidden Journey disaster—to Christmas during Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. During this book, everyone’s still sort of happy because it’s Christmas, but Lord Voldemort is running amok and nobody believes Harry and the Order when they say this, and Mr. Weasley almost died from a snakebite. Their situation is just like how we were still happy because we were actually at Hogsmeade and together, or at least less than a mile away from each other, but things still didn’t feel quite right.
Chapter Three: The End of a Not-So-Fantastical Journey

We’d barely walked out the door when Erica suggested we go to another theme park. I could feel the questions marks bouncing around in my skull. Erica had been so excited to come to Hogwarts, Ollivander’s, and The Three Broomsticks. Why would she want to leave so early? We hadn’t even ridden The Flight of the Hippogriff or explored the Owl Post.

But, for some reason that I can’t remember right now, we followed her out of Hogsmeade. I know I thoroughly expected to return before the day was through, maybe that’s why I agreed to leave. After all, I needed to get back on that stupid Forbidden Journey ride and beat that evil bloody dragon to a pulp. So, our feet went from travelling on cobblestone paths to the boring asphalt paths of the rest of the Island of Adventure. In case you didn’t know, the Island of Adventure houses the Wizarding World, Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, The Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing. We went to the Marvel Super Hero Island first and saw some odd-looking people in flashy, pastel costumes (because this wasn’t the Disney version of superheroes with the subtle spandex). We then went to Jurassic Park where John sprayed some unsuspecting people on the water ride with those quarter-priced water guns, and then we decided rode the ride. My mom thought this ride was just a lazy river ride; she didn’t notice the very tall drop when we got on. Nobody sprayed us with water guns after our drop though. I’m sure my mother appreciated that after her near-heart attack.

After that, somehow, we had walked all the way to the front of the amusement park. My mother called my dad to see if the movie was over, but he didn’t answer, so obviously it wasn’t. We browsed a gift shop. And of course, the same Chocolate Frog, Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, and books that I had bought at Hogwarts were, combined, almost $20 cheaper at the front of the amusement park.

Bored of looking at the same items over and over again, we left the store. And, an unexpectedly evil thing began happening to my body. I was becoming tired. My eyes were drooping, my legs were sore, and my feet needed a nice, elevated cushion to lie on. I want to blame it on the sunburn, or the burning eyeballs, but honestly, it was probably from all of the walking because I wasn’t the only one who wanted to take a nap. Erica and my mom got some ice cream from a nearby restaurant and plopped down on a bench. I joined them.

“I’m going to go get another Firewhiskey.”

“Yes! Let’s go! OMG! I need to go back to Hogsmeade ASAP!” That’s how I wish I had reacted to John’s comment. Instead, I stayed behind and watched him walk away into the crowd, hoping to gain my strength back before we attempted to conquer more of the park. The three of us sat and watched those owls masquerading as blackbirds snag scraps from the ground. The birds were even more miserable than we were. They were all a mass of bald patches, bloody gashes, and broken wings.

In the end, somehow, we never did conquer the park. Dad and Tiffany came out of the movie—Tiffany was very excited about it, oddly enough (she had never been a fan of the supernatural before)—and John came back with his drink. And we walked out of Universal Studios. I hadn’t physically been able to see the best ride, or even get on most of the others. I hadn’t taken enough pictures, or explored nearly enough. People were loud and too close the entire time. And the Wizarding World just wasn’t as fantastic as I had hoped it would be. The minute we stepped out of Universal Studios, I decided that the next time would be better.

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