Text and Audio Copyright © By Ben Whisman. All Rights Reserved.
Word Count: 2128;
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- Trent / Mascot
- Mrs. Miles / Boss-Lady
- Cranky Old Man
- Wrestler/Bodybuilder Guy
- Amorous Young Woman
- Praising Happy Black Lady
- Mother and Several Hyper Kids
- Generous Little Old Lady
Trent stood in the heat, wondering if he’d broil, steam, or scorch first. He waited for a pause in the traffic, then slipped off the glove and stuck his hand inside the heavy top to scratch madly at his back. Sweat was dripping down his face, his back, pretty much everywhere, it felt like a river. He wanted a drink of water, but he was going to wait. He withdrew his hand, the itch satisfied for now, and put the big glove back on. He checked his wrist. It was 1:29pm. He had at least 3½ hours to go. He hated this job. He’d been at it all summer now, and he had been determined, but his resistance was beginning to crack. Yeah, like a steamed lobster, he thought. He told himself to shut up, quit thinking like that, it only made it worse. He waved to passing cars, jumped around and waved the big sign that always threatened to blow away, and tried to act happy, silly, cute, weird, anything. But it wasn’t anything like the enthusiasm he’d had when he’d first begun the job. There were exhaust fumes. People would throw crap out of their cars, including drinks and cigarettes. He had to be careful about teenagers, even his own age. Sometimes they’d honk and yell and grin, pull down a window and talk with him, kidding around or talking smack. But other times, they’d get nasty, cussing, throwing things, fake him out, all sorts of things.
But then there’d been some cranky old guy who’d seemed fine, then got out and tried to beat him up, break the sign in half, and stomp on the huge cartoon head. He’d tried to fight the guy off, but was losing. He couldn’t get any purchase in the gloves and shoes. He’d gone around with a black eye and sore jaw for days afterward. Right when he’d thought he was toast, some huge bodybuilder wrestler dude had pulled the old crank off him and started pounding the guy. The boss, Mrs. Miles, had run out, jiggling in places he didn’t want to think about, and began yelling at everyone. She’d had to replace the sign and the mascot head. The wrestler guy had insisted on sticking up for Trent when the cops came. He’d paid the boss-lady something, Trent never knew how much. Mrs. Miles had yelled at him when it was all over, and Trent would’ve quit then and there, except he didn’t have enough for the rest of the month without it. So he’d held his tongue, gritted his teeth, and settled for seething, while she went him home without the rest of the day’s pay. For the next week, he’d worked minus the costume, with a really bad poster.
The light turned red and cars stopped and he jumped around some more. Some cute girl flirted with him, wiggling fore and aft, and blew him a kiss, grinning and winking. He really hoped the other cars had their windows up. She suggested a few things too. Very friendly girl. He struck a “muscle” pose, blew her a kiss back, and did a comic dance move that was only close to pelvic thrusts if you really stretched your imagination. The girl laughed her head off and burned rubber peeling out from the light. He really hoped the other cars didn’t think it was too bad.
Another light, and he hammed it up for a mom with several kids who went even more bouncy and loud, laughing at his antics. He could hear them through the car windows. Wow. That poor mom. But she cracked up laughing too and left grinning. The next light, a heavy black woman got out and he thought he was in for it, but she rushed up, squealing and laughing, congratulating him, telling him God was gonna bless him, and she hugged him tight and called him sugar. That was the kind of stuff that made this lousy job worth it.
About ten minutes later, it started clouding up. Another ten minutes, and it started to drizzle. He shook his head and muttered, but he stayed and waved the sign half-heartedly. He told himself maybe the costume would get a really good wash so it wouldn’t smell all the time, or maybe it would fall apart from sheer lack of anything to hold it together. It got pretty wet, sopping wet in fact, with water pouring out. He was getting worried about the sign. But Mrs. Miles hadn’t told him to come on in, and he was going to see if he could outlast her...or how long it took her to notice, even if she yelled again. About then, a nice little old lady pulled up, told him what a nice young man he was, and handed him a box full of donuts. He thanked her over and over. Those would be dessert and breakfast for a week. But he didn’t tell the sweet old woman that. He waited until the light changed and she was gone, then trouped in and shed the costume. Mrs. Miles complained but sent him home early. Without the full day’s pay again. Damn.
He caught the bus, wet and chilled and sweaty, clutching the box of donuts in the canvas tote he carried. He tromped from his bus stop to his little apartment through the pouring rain, got up the stairs and in the door, and locked it. He slid down the door and sat on the floor dripping wet. He held his head in his hands. The donuts would help. The people today had been mostly nice. But the rain and Mrs. Miles constant bitching, nothing was ever good enough for her from anybody, as far as he could tell, and then the short pay again...maybe he should quit. But he needed a job and he didn’t have anything else. He didn’t have any time to look. He was working six days a week, eight and nine hours a day. Doing what? Clowning around in a furry cartoon mascot suit, a sidewalk huckster for an insurance woman. Whee.
He got up, took the donuts into the kitchen, set them on the counter, and went to change. He stripped, left it all in a pile on the floor, and got in the shower, soaping up, lathering all over, letting the hot water rinse it all away. He shampooed his hair too. He got out, dried off, and padded to his room, then flopped in bed, pulling the covers over him. He slept till nearly midnight, then woke again, ate, and sat thinking it all over. If he could just stick it out until the end of the month, then another month, he could quit when the semester started.
The next day, he got up, ate one donut and a piece of bacon and some juice, then dressed, easy, tee shirt and shorts and sneakers as usual for this job, since he’d be in the costume all day, grabbed the canvas tote, and off he went.
The costume was still damp, smelled of wet fake fur and something, he had no idea what, and it was dank and musty besides, when he put it on. He walked outside, ignoring Mrs. Miles’ harangue, and started to work. He discovered it helped cool him off at first, but soon it was steamy hot again. He shook his head in disgust, put his gloves to his cartoon head, shook his head again, and hung his head in despair. People thought it was an act.
Inspired by some manic notion, he mimed explosive anger. That was easy. He was angry. He’d begun to hate this job. He simply copied every tirade from Mrs. Miles’ many tirades. He added in all his own anger. He made it comic, swaying his hips, hopping up and down, boxing his fists in the air, at whom or what he didn’t know, the universe, God, fate, all of which blithely ignored him as usual. People ate it up. He spent the day clowning, doing any damn-fool thing that came into his head. He had a blast. He nearly had a heat stroke, but that was usual. He hardly noticed when it was time to go in. Mrs. Miles yelled louder and longer. He grinned at her like a loon. When she got angrier, he stopped grinning and turned serious, like she said she wanted. Then he asked her for his check, since it was payday. He got his check, marched out and cashed it.
Saturday morning, he came into the office and looked at the absurd, ghastly smiling costume. It was all a sham. He thought of bashing the costume head to papier-mache bits and tearing the fabric to shreds. But no. It wasn’t worth it. Someone else could wear the stinking costume. But not him. He marched up to Mrs. Miles’ office at the back. He marched in without waiting. She opened her mouth and started growling as soon as she looked up. But he grinned like a loon again and told her she could wear the costume. He’d had enough of being yelled at and stepped on for no reason, and he quit. She lowered her voice and berated him for a lazy slacker and told him he’d never see another dime. He smiled sweetly, swayed his hips back and forth, waved cartoon-style, comically, and told her thanks, he didn’t want any more of her money or her fleas, and told her what she could do with herself, with the accompanying pelvic motions he’d wooed the cute girl with, and that had set Mrs. Miles’ off full blast into apoplexy. He doubted she even knew what she was saying. He told her not to blow a gasket, smirked, and scampered out, whistling and giving a comic bye-bye wave.
He went down the block and waited for the bus, went back home, and had an extra donut, then slept a few hours. It felt wondrous. He got up and changed into full-on preppie collegiate best, button-down shirt, chinos, his older dress shoes, and off he went to the stores around the outskirts of campus, the stores that preyed on and were preyed upon by the captive audience of students. By six o’clock, he’d determined two things: His older dress shoes now were worn out; and there were no jobs to be had there. He tossed out the split and ruined shoes, only three years old, exasperated, and knew his patience was worn out too. He walked carefully from the apartment complex dumpster back to his apartment, had another donut, the heck with it, it was only one extra, and then made himself stop and eat supper. After, he peeled off his clothes, left them there in a pile, and flopped into bed. It was again almost midnight when he woke up.
He picked up the pile of clothes from the last two days, chided himself on being so sloppy, and threw them in the washer. He sorted through for whatever else needed to go in, and started the wash. If anyone didn’t like it, well, it was no different than their loud partying, thumping music at odd hours, and frequent sounds of humping and bedsprings. Yes, he could often hear the squeaks. Unless the rats were exceptionally large and horny, which he’d sometimes expected. After all, he’d just had summer-long experience being a giant rodent, perpetually unfulfilled in the wanton lovemaking area, and these apartments were not the classiest, so the idea of giant, overly amorous rodents did not seem too impossible. With that, he howled with laughter a while before calming down. He wiped laughing tears from his eyes, wondering not for the first time if he was losing it...or had already lost it. But then, nobody would notice if he’d found it, either. He sighed. He chuckled at the whole thing, rodents and neighbors and lousy, or flea-bitten, bosses and all. He still needed a job, he needed to get through the rest of the month, but right now, he didn’t care about all that. He could get a real job, wear real clothes, and he’d never have to dress as a cartoon, fake fur rodent again. The donuts, though, were a nice parting gift.