I’m fairly sure that Disney is trying to kill me. I don’t mean they plan to wipe me out with an obvious weapon, and they don’t want me to flop over dead in the middle of the Country Bear Jamboree. That would cause talk, and the paperwork would be a bitch. Instead, I think they intend for my heart to explode like a super nova while I’m mowing the yard in about five years.

You see, we’re on the Disney Meal Plan. It’s not just the Disney Meal Plan, mind you. It’s the Disney Deluxe Meal Plan. My wife’s father, who is hosting this trip, graciously and generously furnished this plan, and I’m grateful to him for his kindness. I knew it was something special when we checked into the hotel. The desk clerk looked at our paperwork, raised her eyebrows, and said, “Oh, you’re on the DELUXE Meal Plan,” just as she might say, “Oh, you reserved a UNICORN to carry you around Fantasyland.”

But I still didn’t appreciate what that meant until our first afternoon in the Magic Kingdom when we decided to eat. We inquired at a small restaurant and were told the wait was rather long. In fact, my wife and her traces of blood sugar would have been convulsing on the pavement at Goofy’s feet if we’d waited that long. So we trotted across the street to buy hot dogs.

I ordered two hot dogs and a small Diet Coke, and I gave the nice lady my meal plan card. The nice lady looked annoyed with me. After a couple of minutes of gesturing and shouting over the 50 other orders in progress, she made me understand that if you have a meal plan there is no such thing as a hot dog and a drink. If we wanted to use the meal plan for two hot dogs, we would get two deluxe hot dogs. Mine had chili and cheese. My wife’s came with pulled pork and slaw. Also, small drinks don’t exist for meal plan owners. We’d get large drinks, and two of them. Didn’t we want the French fries? She hoped so, because we were going to get them anyway. Oh, and we’d better not walk out of there without our mandatory two desserts. Stunned, my wife and I shuffled out of the place carrying what looked like a picnic table full of food, with a cellophane-wrapped fudge brownie clutched in my right hand.

We regrouped and changed tactics, like guerillas who’ve just been beaten by superior firepower. From then on we ordered one meal and split it whenever possible. We still ate like bears in spawning season. The breakfast egg sandwich was as big as half a dozen Egg McMuffins. I am not kidding. That worked out okay when we could order standing up. But if the restaurant was more sophisticated than a taco stand in Juarez, it didn’t let us get away with any of this ordering-one-meal-to-split-between-us bullshit. Two people get two meals, plus appetizers, beverages, and desserts. If we suggested otherwise, we got wry looks, as if they thought we might be socialists.

I left some good food on several tables. Things culminated last night at a wonderful restaurant. I nibbled on my appetizer, knowing I had to pace myself for the entree and the dessert. I’d ordered pastitsio, sort of a Greek lasagna, even though the waitress warned me that it was “heavy.” It arrived in a bowl as big as my face and three inches deep. I now know that in Greek “heavy” means nine macaroni noodles, a shred of ground beef, and four pounds of béchamel sauce.

I began digging through the pastitsio, looking for something other than that mass of butter and milk with the same specific gravity as uranium. I started to think of this meal as arsenic injected directly into my heart muscle.

As an aside, throughout my struggle with this entree, the wait staff was several times forced into frivolous birthday singing and shouting for embarrassed diners. My god, why don’t restaurants allow their servers to retain some dignity? They should just comp the birthday boys and girls a martini and a lottery ticket. Maybe a hooker if you ordered the lobster.

My wife, her step-mother, and I all surrendered to our monolithic tubs of pastitsio after several minutes of unsuccessful excavation. The wreckage looked like this:

I almost rebelled and refused dessert, just to challenge the restaurant into reprisals. My courage failed, and I ordered chocolate cake. How could they screw up chocolate cake? The waitress soon brought me an unfrosted disc of cake, the size, shape, and color of a hockey puck, with a little raspberry sorbet on the side. After one bite I realized this wasn’t the Nestle’s chocolate you might use for Christmas cookies. This chocolate was made from cacao beans picked under a full moon by virgins with hands bathed in lotus nectar. If my wife had reached for a bite I might have slapped her hand. If she’d known what I had on my plate, she’d have jammed her dessert fork into my jugular and let my body puddle to the floor while she annexed my cake.

That cake made up for everything. Here’s how it looked:

We’ve fought hard to keep the Disney Deluxe Meal Plan from killing us at some future time, but I fear we’ve failed. I may die from a butter-fueled coronary in a few years, courtesy of a mouse in a giant, sweaty costume, but that’s okay. It’s all part of the magic.

By the way, this is what they say the magic looks like:

This is what the magic really looks like: