1974: The Ambiguous Character of a Woman Like Mitzi Hubbock – Braden Timss
August 3, 2021
Mitzi Hubbock grabbed her purse from the passenger seat, locked the door to her rental and squinted through the mid-July mirage hanging over the Disneyland parking lot, where families with strollers mob, where heels press dents into the hot asphalt. She had no other luggage with her.
Keys went into her purse and a single serving size of airline peanuts came out. She snacked all the way to the main gate. With one hand she gave the ticket-taker her ticket as she finished off the peanuts with the other, the bag’s salty, fragmented contents dumped directly into her face.
When asked for permission to search her purse, she responded definitively.
Inside she stood staring at the ride posters in the arched tunnel beneath the railway bridge. Then she unfolded the park map she had been given and studied it for a time before it too went in the purse.
She walked on.
It was hot and everyone was uncomfortable. There were children. They were walking or being pushed in strollers. There was music, a Sherman Brothers arrangement with a Polynesian ambience. In the shade there were women, in the sun their husbands. Cinderella strolled in full gown to the eternal bellowing tones of a funereal organ outside the garden walls of the Haunted Mansion.
Mitzi Hubbock entered the garden and got in line beside a middle-aged man and woman. The man wore a half-sleeve shirt that was colorful and decorated like a full pitcher of fruit punch with many patterns and shapes. He had a perpetual squint, or scrutinizing look that his searching for shots with the camera hung around his neck by a strap could not completely explain. The woman beside him held a smile just as perpetual, but with less mystery to it. Her dress was plain and inspired nothing. She liked to look forward deeper into the garden where the line wound. But she turned when Mitzi spoke, and, politely, stared at the ground.
“Just flew in from Florida,” Mitzi said addressed at no other but the man. His eyes lost their squint, made appreciable his well-worn definition granted him in middle-age by crows feet and an outdoor enthusiast’s suntan. In a way he was handsome, which afforded him the privilege of silence when addressed because people thought that signaled intelligence. Mitzi was two heads shorter than him.
“I went to Miami University. Which isn’t in Florida, it’s in Ohio.”
“That so,” lowering his camera to his waist and turning to the woman behind him. “My wife,” he gestured and faced back to Mitzi, having regained his squint, an affect. “She’s from there. From Ohio.” He thought associating the conversation with his wife would allow him to go back to taking pictures while the women talked, but Mitzi was speaking with him.
“I was just there, too, in fact. Long trip. But fast. I had no plans to do it, either. Saw a news story a few days ago that—” The line was ushered forward as the doors to the mansion’s foyer opened and guests went streaming inside in big gulps. “It was on a local channel. A local event. I doubt you saw it—but, well, it was startling, the most immediate thing.”
“No, my wife and I are from Hanford. That’s California. Different channels. But I believe you.” He brought his camera to his eyes and snapped a picture of something fluttering back among the hedges, among the busts, the tombs. “Besides, it’s so morbid,” he continued, winding film and squinting. “The news is never on in our house. I was in Korea when I was younger keeping the dominoes upright, the war away from our shores, at bay. Now it’s just on TV. It’s in the living room.” He turned a searching look toward the woman, his wife, who was simply keeping pace with the movement of the line. “Not good for you. Not good for her either.”
“That’s fine,” she said, shifting the purse to her other shoulder. Watching this movement, the man thought the bag didn’t fit her stature. But she was able to carry it. “Anyway,” she concluded, “who has the time for it.”
It dawned on him that all the while he had been waiting in line, this small woman was not even an arm’s length away clinging to her unwieldy purse in her pantsuit, claiming space for herself with a wide yet natural stance.
A real picture.
Just before they entered the mansion foyer, he asked her “will you let me take your photograph?”
Her response was definitive. “No.”
“Save your film for the phantoms inside,” a cast member joked. “Just no flash photography.” The doors were closed, and people shuffled forward to the stretching rooms, exiting onto the hallway of haunted portraits, and the rampway leading to the ride vehicles beyond.
In a Doom Buggy of her own, Mitzi sat alone with her purse. She was moved through the manor, passively, staring through the delicate mise-en-scène of a funeral, down an interminable corridor with doors that breathed. In the ballroom, illusory ghosts reveled and waltzed before and below as she was taken left along a balcony.
The scene passed slowly. Reaching inside her purse she retrieved a pistol.
“Blood and guts in living color” she quoted then fired at the drunk phantom dangling from the chandelier three times with her pistol. Mitzi Hubbock wanted dead the ambiguous character of a woman like herself. She was aiming to kill. She was aiming for the intangible and fired, spidering an invisible pane of glass that stood between them.
These cracks will trace a theory of who she was but never offer an answer why.
The drunk tipped ever forward in his incomplete fall. The gun went back into the purse. Mitzi Hubbock passed on to the next scene where Madame Leota orated from her crystal ball about dreams, premonitions, a dead bride’s heart that continues to beat.
Leota watched Mitzi rotate around her. She saw her clearly and defined.