Thursday, May 5, 2011

How I got a Free Gift Card to my Book Fair using Humiliation

My mother was chairman (Chairwoman? Chairperson? There was a chair involved, I think.) of the Book Fair at my elementary school. This was slightly inconvenient, since it meant I spent a lot of time after school for a week out of every year sitting around reading.
Come to think of it, it wasn’t that inconvenient. It was actually pretty awesome. But, as mentioned before, I was a weird kid.
It was either fourth or fifth grade that a box appeared with the usual book fair things. Inside the box was a costume.
I shall do my best to describe this costume from memory as closely as I can.
It had an alligator head roughly the size of a VW Bus. What alligators have to do with reading books, I have no idea, but some marketing director had managed to come up with some sort of connection. I like to think he was on heavy hallucinogens at the time.
The alligator was wearing glasses and had lipstick on.
Seriously. An alligator with lipstick.
It was terrifying.
The rest of the outfit looked like what you would get if you put a fabric store in a really big food processor, tossed the remains in the Cave of Nuclear Mutated Moths and then gathered even what they refused to devour and sewed it into a mascot costume.
It had a wire hoop in the shirt to simulate obesity, although the only reason I can come up with for an alligator wearing (horrible) human clothing, glasses, and lipstick to be fat would be due to the incredibly large amounts of screaming human children and souls it had devoured. You know what? I don’t LIKE to think the marketing executive was on heavy hallucinogens… I WANT to think he was on heavy hallucinogens, because if a human being came up with this horror in a normal frame of mind, I no longer want to be human.
Naturally, the first thing through my head when the box gets opened is along the lines of “I want to wear that.”
Weird kid.
My mother turns to me and says “How would you like to drum up some business for the book fair?”
“Sounds good to me!” I reply, knowing exactly where this is going.
I only get into the top half of the costume, because this isn’t a costume made for a child. Come to think of it, it’s not a costume made for a human, but it’s meant even less for a child. I remember wondering if merely the fact that I was inside it meant that it had won, and that I was now a freak human-crocodile hybrid thing, doomed to walk the earth with no hope of love or-
And then they tossed me outside with no chaperone to dance outside in the school’s parking lot trying to either attract visitors to the book fair or devour the bones of the earth and cause an untimely apocalypse.
This was maybe five minutes before school got out.
I danced around a bit, feeling both silly and terrified.
The bell rang.
It is essential at this point in the story for me to reiterate the fact that children are evil. Especially in large groups. The sight presented to them at this point in time was a skinny, clearly not adult thing in half a ridiculous costume, alone, dancing around in a parking lot. The first thought that entered their mind was “attack.”
Due to the layout of the school, the first wave that reached me were kindergarteners and, and posed little threat to my well being other than the fact that they were difficult to wade through and therefore an effective trap. They surrounded me almost immediately and began poking and prodding, asking questions which I refused to answer, because mascots don’t talk.
The second wave was first and second graders. I got a few pushes and tugs and heard a few shouts, but I managed to maintain composure, trying desperately to swim back to the safety of the front office.
The third wave was third and fourth graders, and I knew I was dead. The crowd around me was massive, and here came people who were actually my size, many of whom knew me by name but weren’t sure that the thing in the parking lot was me. At this point, I wasn’t either. They didn’t close in for the kill just yet, preferring to circle and enjoy themselves while the littler ones picked at me some more, but eventually one of the more aggressive ones stepped in and grabbed for the mask.
I still hadn’t made a peep, and I continued to suffer in silence, but I reached up and grabbed the fabric horror and held it on my head as though it were a novelty beer can hat dispensing a vital antidote. Or, I dunno, a space helmet. Basically, I didn’t let anybody take my mask off.
The fifth and sixth graders began arriving, just as somebody threw the first punch that hurt. I think I went down on a knee.
And suddenly, they were gone. Everybody. As though they were never there. I was completely alone, except for a single flustered secretary bustling out the door. She picked me up, brushed me off, and ushered me back inside.
I think I called her Don Quixote or something, because he was the first knight in shining armor that popped into my head, demonstrating clearly that kids in fourth grade can’t understand collegiate level satire. Or at least I couldn’t. I didn’t even pronounce it right.
The costume went back in the box, and I never saw it again.
A week later, a representative from the company who did the book fair asked me a few questions and gave me a fifteen dollar gift card.
I bought a finger scooter you could build and customize yourself.
I think I still have it somewhere.

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