He rattled the overhead projector down the once-gilded meandering path known as Memory Lane. The stiff breeze caused the transparencies and Vis-à-vis markers to sway mightily. The smooth surface that once was a road had now been filled with cracks and contradictions. Chester Cheetah peered bleakly from behind the arm of the projector wondering how things turned so bleak so quickly after being so perfect only a little over a decade ago. He took a sip from the small yellow cardboard container with the green ghoul on the front, slurping loudly with his cheese-covered tongue as he struggled to obtain the last few drops of precious Hi-C Ectocooler. He frowned slowly, pondering whether he should not have taken the Surge soda he had seen on the roadside a half mile back. Sure it was a crack version of Mountain Dew, but in times like these 12 fluid ounces goes a lot further than 6.75 fluid ounces would. The thought passed as he saw a Mr. Yuk poison-control sticker on a nearby tree; Surge would have been yuk indeed.
Where was Robert Stack, host of Unsolved Mysteries? He must be around in Memory Lane somewhere. He was always there when Chester had been home sick from school, droning on in the background between bouts of Chef Boyardee vomit. He’d know why Memory Lane had become so degraded. Perhaps mankind had always just been putting pieces into the slots to make the right selection. They’d had to be quick, they were racing the clock, but pop went perfection.
As the road wove down into the deserted valley, the landscape began to change. The chipped concrete of the town replaced the swampy marshes of squand he had come from. O how Chester had loved the squand growing up: solid and malleable underwater, yet instantly dust again when taken out. A metaphor for his life; this Memory Lane had formed him into who he was, yet once he was removed from it he fell apart grain by grain. Entering the town, he approached an intersection and emotion flooded back into his mind.
It was here, at the corner of Sesame Street and Memory Lane, that he and his immigrant-babysitter Strega Nona had curled up so many warm afternoons, together, impervious to life’s hardships. A tear dripped down from Chester’s eye onto the muzzle of his face. He remembered Strega Nona’s being caught in the Crossfire. Like the commercials that came later, the action was getting hotter, really heating up, first she had to win it before she could stop. But Strega Nona was gone, torn apart by the Warheads to which she had been exposed. Chester could still taste the sour watermelon on his tongue. He wanted to be sick. Continuing to walk, he saw the Gator Golf mini-golf course where he learned to putt and Nick Arcade where he first entered video games. They both were in shambles and thoroughly dilapidated. On the stoop, after brushing aside the dust and an empty Little Caesar’s pizza box, he found a few dated magazines. There was a March 2000 issue of Nick Magazine with Britney Spears on the cover, a beacon of the brimming hope that had been squandered. Beneath it were three Zoobooks which Chester thumbed through and then discarded. It was beginning to get dark.
Chester passed Mills Lane, named after the infamous referee of so many Celebrity Deathmatches. Johnny Gomez and Nick Diamond had died a few years ago, broken, defeated. At the end of town Chester Cheetah sat on the stoop of Linda Elerbee and wondered how she would break this news if she were still alive. He looked up at the night sky, dotted with moving stars. It looked just like his Windows 95 screensaver and Chester felt a pain in his heart that wasn’t from the Hi-C. How he would kill for his old sticker book at this moment, but there was not a soul around. Even Casper had long since vacated the old abandoned house.
Chester Cheetah was alone on Memory Lane.