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Daniel Shapiro

Captain Crook

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Every couple of months, Officer Big Mac drives by Captain Crook’s house, built decades ago to mimic the hull of a ship, now with paint peeling, vines ganging up on windows. The days of flaunting passed long ago, pirating having lost its luster once he was locked up, learned he couldn’t defend himself without at least a broadsword, let alone a full crew. Occasionally, clad in a dingy white undershirt and jeans, he’ll drive downtown for his favorite sandwich—a Reuben he picks up at the only mom-and-pop deli still standing. He typically gets left alone, as he bears no resemblance to the pimped-out madman who cleared crowds. Now, he pays the bills by cutting grass and shoveling snow, and he does them well, focusing his keen eye on the precise place where sidewalk meets lawn, a perfect shoreline. Clients call him only Captain, which he’s OK with, knowing he’s still in control, even if control means laying low and working to ease the pain he caused others. He’s getting better at controlling his own pain. Mostly, he just lets it happen.

Ronald McDonald, November 1990

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He sits cross-legged as he does every Saturday afternoon, when he meets the kids at the McDonaldland Y for fun-time fitness. Stretching yellow-gloved hands on either side of his face, he launches into “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” watches the kids giggle in their little yoga poses. Mid-song, his jaw drops as he remembers Pennywise, whom he had just seen on TV. He hears the lyrics “you know IT” and feels like he’ll throw up. He spent years just learning how to walk in big shoes, let alone cultivating the most carefree personality in town, and now this—damage control. Somehow, the children were caught up in their jumping jacks or squat-thrusts and missed seeing the true face behind what appears to be makeup, the face that must never show itself. They catch up with him as he’s nearly passed out on the mat; they laugh hysterically. He snaps back into character, pretending he’s too weak to complete a push-up, milks it almost long enough to shed the baggage.


His appearance hasn’t changed with the times, showing up in prison stripes with the long topcoat, flashing paparazzi to show absolutely nothing in his pockets or sleeves. He switched seamlessly from tactile to digital, now playing smash and grab with investors, moving binary stacks around until his is the biggest. In interviews, his mantra remains I’m self-made; the press has shrugged off much of his past, especially a reliance on friends to stash gun and drug money for five to ten. His brashness wrapped in the façade of mock sinister writes its own reality shows. Displayed prominently in his office is a fan-made pillow with a cross-stitched message: The strongest man is the one who never asks for forgiveness.

Mayor McCheese, January 2020

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Clad in a sash, he’s performing an official duty, yet he holds his spectacles to the side as if to tell constituents, I’m never too busy for you. People wonder how a convex-brimmed top hat can stay in place on a convex-bun head, but McDonaldland is a small, family-values town, where reporters strive to keep things convivial.

The openness of his eyes and raised brows indicates a hint of anxiety; he stays awake pondering why the Hamburglar continues his wave of crime, despite the relative strength of the police force and minimal acreage it’s required to cover. He understands that citizens are not in physical danger—it’s the Hamburglar, not Hamrobber—so he hasn’t had to face a full-blown crisis yet.

Even with the occasional stutter, he can handle the press. He knows the only way he would crumble would be to fail the people, and this close-knit group has always embraced his dignified leadership. This is a town of perpetual positivity, a clown and plentiful food made available in an instant. He just can’t picture anything that would change that.

Officer Big Mac

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It’s rumored that he spoke publicly only once and frightened everyone so much that he has remained silent ever since. The space between his middle bun and cheese made a gurgling sound he struggled to overcome, so he loudly growled out his news, revealing a surprisingly serpent-like jaw. The news was about a missing child, so it was an especially painful press conference. Nowadays, he paces the perimeter of McDonaldland gently holding a truncheon that’s more like a riding crop. All he needs to do is flick a Fry Guy on the ear with it, and the whole town will behave. Most kids don’t know about the press conference, though. They see him tuck the truncheon into his belt. Occasionally, they’ll see him sweat sesame seeds and know he must’ve gotten a tip about the Hamburglar. In Mac’s mind, it’s a film noir-style battle between good and evil, but the movie never ends, no Top of the world, ma, just a long trail of upended seat cushions and cracked safes. When he daydreams, Mac uses the truncheon as a conductor’s baton, leading musicians through a symphony, every instrument fitting into place, starting and stopping together according to whatever pace he chooses.

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