The next day
Chloe walked into the Bayview Children’s Home piled high with pink rectangular boxes containing donuts. It was her turn to bring in donuts for the week which was one of the reasons she asked her mystery friend to end his dare here. It saved her a trip across town to pick it up and Chloe could get a sneak peak or maybe a name. He probably got the run down on her at the music store so why couldn’t she. “Mornin’ Betty,” Chloe called out chipperly sliding the box across the counter. “I got you Boston creme.”
“And I got your notebook.”
“Yes! Did you meet him,” Chloe stood on her tip toes leaning over the counter to get the book. “Is he cute?”
Betty flipped the red cloth journal back from Kendrick’s eager hands with a twist of her wrist. “Tad eager aren’t we? To talk to someone you have never met or seen? Come one tell me it is all about his sparkling personality and not for the way he looks?”
“So you saw him last night,” Chloe leaned forward on the desk closing the distance between them. Her heart raced waiting for the answer. It was natural to be curious about such stuff. Heck even on blind dates at least one person had an image instead just a slip of paper with a name on it.
Setting the book on the ledge below the counter, Betty arranged a stack of PaD’s as she began to speak. “Charlie and I met much like this.”
“You met him reading a want ad,” Chloe’s brow furrowed in confusion.
Betty’s laugh rang out loud and clear. It was a warm, comforting sound that reminded most people of home, family, and happiness. Maybe that was why she did such a good job with this place. “No but he sent me a letter before he was deployed to Dorvan after seeing me across the room hanging with my sisters.”
“So he is in Starfleet,” Chloe’s mind raced thinking how the logistics of that even worked. Curfew was hard and unbreakable for cadets. Sunday’s everyone had to be back on base at 4 pm sharp. Unless you were on approved leave or an official assignment there was no wiggle room. Her task started at 4. This meant the mystery writer either was on leave or a civvie. With word of people being busted at the gates spread like wildfire, there was no way he could be Starfleet. That or the man was no where near her age and some middle aged officer taking in the new crop of soon to be newly minted officers. This thought appealed to her less than him being an uptight rich civvie going to Stanford or San Fran U.
Betty didn’t respond but continued on with her story. Part of her enjoyed the way Chloe was squirming some. The young were always so impatient. This would be a good lesson for her. “The letter said Dear Miss Mara Elizabeth Lundy, I would,”
“Wait your name is Mara and not Betty,” Chloe opened the box of donus selecting one for herself. Betty’s stories were long, windy, and full of surprises. At times making one feel like they needed to take notes…such as learning the woman’s name was not what Chloe thought it was.
“Yes after my favorite Aunt from Wisconsin. Since it would be weird to be calling two people Mara at family gatherings I went by Betty and it stuck. Any way Charlie sent me a note which read Dear Miss Mara Elizabeth Lundy, I would to get to know you more. Here is my contact information. While I can’t take you out to lunch, I can offer you some laughs. Comm me. Friday night…8 pm”
“Oh my god that is so romantic. You were like pen pals.” Chloe pulled off a bit of her donut eating it as she listened to her friend. She had a horrible habit of picking at her food instead of just taking a bite however this was of eating was classic Chloe.
Betty had a dreamy look on her face before it snapped back to reality hearing Chloe’s response. “No it wasn’t. He stood me up. I gave up a perfectly good Firday night waiting for him and staring at a swirling Federation logo but when he returned....well that is the meeting I remember.” The smile returned to Betty’s face along with a twinkle in her eye. “I made him work for it…and he did but this is about you and,” she picked up the notebook waving it enticingly, “this guy. Life never turns out like your fantasy but that doesn’t mean its still not wonderful. So wanna know what he looked like?”
“Heck yes,” Chloe cut to the chase. She could barely stand still waiting to hear what Betty’s real life impression of mystery writer was. While sweet, Betty didn’t pull any punches.
Handing the notebook over, she began. “He was nice enough and polite. He is about five feet seven inches with longer hair. Not pony tail long but,”
“Oh god he is from Berkley,” Chloe choked on her bite. No matter how great this man was his tree hugging, Berkinstock clad feet would never survive Connecticut. Tell me he had a coat and not one of those hemp things that vague smell like cannabis even though you know it is not made of the stuff.” A look of revulsion flooded her face. “Tell me he was not wearing Patchouli.”
Betty struggled not to laugh as she patted Chloe’s hand. Her young friend needed to have an open mind and leave the stereotypes, Chloe so admitantly declared she hated. Betty was going to help her do it even if it was all a lie. “No patchouli and I don’t actually remember what his coat looked like but he was wearing sensible footwear. His hair was brown along with his eyes. Don’t panic but he had a mustache. Not the handlebar kind but nicely trimmed. He had kind eyes and a nice smile he wore the entire time he was here. Besides what does it matter where he is going to school or even if he is going to school. All you need is a man that is willing to take care of you the best way he can right?” Betty had heard enough and met Chloe’s east coast family on several occasions. The exact man Chloe did not want was the one her family would greet with open arms however people did not come from mold. If running this children’s home taught her anything it was people were dynamic and surprised you all the time.
The young man that showed up on her doorstep last night was a lot like Chloe. It ws easy to see by his manners, the way he carried himself, and how he spoke, mystery writer came for Chloe’s neck of the woods and the same social class if not a few more steps up the social class ladder. One look at his clothes showed he was not some poor college kid making do. His coat was too tailored and his shoes too polished. He was pleasant during the tree trimming event yet Betty did see he slight arrogant confidence that came from having money and the kiss of youth. He was extremely handsome and the man knew it and how to use it. He was a charmer but that didn’t necessarily mean it was all bad. The bones of the man were good which meant fifty years from now when his hair was falling out and his belly expanded past his waistline, he would still have that smile and stare to make his future wife remember what he was like back when they were in their twenties. Chloe could do a lot worse than take this hot-mid twenties model out for a spin. Chloe just needed to make that choice for herself.
“Okay so five-seven is not that short and we can always shave off the ‘stache’ right,” Chloe reasoned. As long as he wasn’t one of those socialist liberals that wanted to break away from the world and live in a commune, she could work with it. Most men needed touching up here and there. If it was just a trip to the clothing store and the barber, Chloe could work with it.
Betty looked at Chloe with a soft smile. “Now go ready your message from him and remember one thing. It’s easy to live with a fantasy. It’s harder to live with a real life person so keep an open mind with him. I have a feeling he might surprise you and be more than you expected if you get past the surface.”
Gathering up her stuff, stuffing the rest of the donut in her mouth to free up her hands, and tucking the journal under one arm, Chloe moved to one of the more quiet areas of the building. Tucking her feet up under her body, Chloe removed the donut from her lips, chewing the bite as she read.
“Thank you, seriously from the bottom of my heart. I am not sure who you might be… and maybe that’s the point of this game. Learn someone without knowing them, but I needed an adventure in kindness. You asked what doubts I had before… and honestly there was too many to really count at times. People… they disappoint more than they don’t. Finding a way to commit larceny and charity is a unique way to find the joy sometimes lost around you.”
“Larceny,” Chloe rapidly thumbed backward in the journal checking to see what she wrote and if any of it seemed to lead towards committing a felony. Either this man has very uptight or treaded the morality line like a tight rope. She hadn’t said to steal the tree, just acquire the tree. Her heart raced feeling excited to read more. Whoever this man was he was exciting and Chloe needed some excitement in her life. She was tired of the men who thought they could sweep in with a night at a top club, exclusive restaurant, or a piece of shiny jewelry to gain her attention. She was a woman so that meant she could get into any club in the right dress. Chloe tended to like to eat so fancy restaurants never tended to have enough on her plate to fill her up. The jewelry was always nice but uniform standards meant she was rarely allowed to wear it. What Chloe needed was companionship and mystery man seemed to have that in spades.
With all that said, I think we need to take this up a notch, you found a way to get the spirit in me, lets return the favor. There is an event in town at Oracle field. The Giants are playing tonight there and I happen to know they are missing Lou the Seal. Go to the Stadium and tell them Mr Kringle said to let you see Lou, and see if you can find the cheer when no one knows who you are. Wearing a mask sometimes is the only way some of us can get by from day to day. So, find a way to have fun, and go Giants. If you can stay for the whole came, and not break character, leave me next to Willie…you’ll know who when you get there.”
Chloe glanced down at her watch judging her time for the day. She had a shift tonight at the hospital but it wasn’t the first time she had covered for someone else. Someone that owed her would change shifts. It was just a matter of finding that person and finding out which doctor was on duty. The doctor on duty was almost harder to sell than a shift depending on who it was.
Several hours later,
Chloe walked up the promenade to Oracle Park. She loved this stadium almost as much as she loved baseball. The palm trees, lights, back wall facing the bay…all created a space that was not just visually appealing but fun and relaxing to spend some time. Years ago they had installed a kids section with a slide in the shape of a retro bottle of soda. One day Chloe would take her kids to a place like this but today she was here for another purpose other than watching a game. Not having a name of a person to contact on her arrival, Chloe made a guess that she was supposed to head over to Will Call. They always held tickets so why not the person she was supposed to meet up with. She felt slightly like a spy having a code name and a contact. This night was getting better and better. Waiting in line at the Will Call section, Chloe couldn’t help but think about the challenge. Who didn’t love Lou the Seal? She did and now she got a chance be him. Even if she never heard back from her mystery writer friend, this night was going to be one she remembered forever. Finally reaching the Will Call attendant, she could barely contain her excitement.
Walking with a spring in her step Chloe’s smile filled her face. “Mr. Kringle sent me. I’m gonna be Lou,” she wiggled a bit showing her enthusiasm but spoke in a low tone. If this was a favor, someone was doing for the mystery writer, she didn’t want him to get in trouble for it.
“Lost a bet huh,” the guy asked mirroring exactly the opposite expression Chloe was wearing as he motioned her around the side of the building. As Chloe approached the back of the small building a middle-aged man with a stomach paunch exited Will Call and met her. Chloe’s protests about being excited about this and not because she lost some bet, resulted in a look from the man as if she were a small child being patted on the head by an older adult. Chloe followed the man chattering the entire time until they finally entered the locker room.
The excitement of being in the bones of the stadium took over as she took in the space. It was not overly fancy but still, it was an internal room of the Giants. Before she could take in the room, however, Chloe immediately was handed the head of a seal costume followed by the body, and gloves of the costume. Struggling to hold it all, Chloe used her chin to stabilize the bundle in her arms. She tried not to wrinkle up her nose at the distinct lockerroom mixed with sweat scent wafting off the soft gray fleece that covered the costume.
“Would you have some Febreeze or,”
“No,” the man said immediately. Chloe turned setting the parts of the costume on the bench to get ready to dress. She had prepared for this wearing only a thin t-shirt and leggings under her coat. That way she could just slip it on once she got here which was exactly what she was going to do. “Okay so the game starts in twenty minutes and I need to go over a few things before you go out there. First and most important is there is no talking while in your costume. Lou the Seal needs to sound the same every time he goes out there so the only language he speaks is silence. If you think you might need it, I have a Hushme.” Holding up the device Chloe’s eyes widened. The device looked like a dog muzzle which did not take much imagination to see how it prevented one from speaking based on the design.
“Okay before you get all in a tail tizzy princess this is only something for you and to help you. You would not be the first mascot to lose it in front of the crowd saying something inappropriate or off-color. We are a family organization so this is just a way for you to verbally vent and not have a mental breakdown out there.”
“Do you hire a pack of to play Lou? A pack lunatics raised by wolves?” Chloe stopped pulling on the costume’s pants as she listened to the man speaking. “Look for the record I am a nurse and I can tell you people don’t just have breakdowns for no reason. Often they are bothered by something else like,”
“Being bullied too long by fans or just plain hated by the fans. You don’t know the dark history of mascots do you,” he said seriously.
“That class is next semester,” she shot back smugly.
There was no way he could her out there uninformed of what she was getting into. This chick must have done a number on Harland for the guy to toss her into the feeding pit. He had to educate her slightly on what to expect. “The Bay Area has had a love-hate relationship with the mascots of our sports teams. Before Lou, we had Crazy Crab in the 70’s. People blamed him for the losing streak and threw beer cans at him when he took the field. Before him, there was the Berserker of ‘96, Thunder in ‘97, and Jose the Scorpion in the 50’s and 60’s. None of them did too bad but since they are not around they weren’t exactly memorialized like Mickey Mouse.” Chloe slowed the rate she was dressing as she listened to the man. She considered herself a huge Giant’s fan yet she knew none of this. “Then there was the ill-fated legacy of Rikter the Cyborgdog however with the Borg problem, people turned on that poor pooch like they had rabies. One group actually pulled out his stuffing one game. Prince Lightfoot was way way way back in the early twentieth century. He gave out tomahawks and encourage the tomahawk chop but by the 1970’s people cited racial prejudice and he was retired. Four hundred years of sporting mascots in the Bay Area and all of them fired, retired, or stuffed. I didn’t include Clementine the donkey or Charlie the horse because they were livestock and no costumes.”
Chloe sat looking at the man with rapt attention. She had a hard time wrapping her mind around this mascot history. Later she would Gaggle it and see if all or any of it was true. For now, though she had to take his word. “Wow. I always saw mascots as the best part of the game.”
“That’s because you are a girl,” he stated flatly, “which brings us to MAP-G or the Mascot Abuse Prevention Guidelines. You will have a mascot “lead” with you. This is the guy that is going to watch your backside so no one sneaks up on you when you aren’t expecting it. If you find yourself alone don’t panic. Find yourself a corner or a wall where you can defend yourself and wait for back up.”
“Wait you are serious or joking?” Chloe looked up from sliding on her shoes expecting to see a smile but not finding one. Instead, she saw the man pacing in front of her sounding more and more like a drill sargent during PT.
“Oh no…they do sometimes attack. Generally, it is only to humiliate you by wrestling you to the ground to rip off your head or holding you down so they can rip off your gloves or shoes.” Snapping his fingers, the man pointed a finger at her. “Which is why when you have to shake hands don’t actually shake hands but curl your hands into a fist to hold the glove on. Some people say that you should avoid shaking hands altogether and just fist bump them. I would say that is your best choice seeing you are not some six foot one hundred and eighty-pound man that can fight back.”
“Hey I am not defenseless,” Chloe put her hands on the hips of the overly roomy suspender-held pants.
“Sure you’re not kid. Sure you’re not. Anyway, there are three things to avoid at all costs. The first,” he ticked up one finger is young boys between the ages of eight and thirteen. We call them the Donner boys mainly because they come out on Frontier Folk field trip days. These kids will hog-tie you and roast you over a spit faster than you can yell for help. They often try to say the rope they are using is for some badge abut knots but it is always to immobilize you to again rip off your mask, shoes, and gloves. If you don’t see an adult with those hoodlums in tan run don’t walk to any stadium employee. It will offer you some protection.”
“From Frontier Folk. The cute kids that sell desserts and do charity work for churches?” Chloe was beginning to think this man had been raised by wolves. The Frontier Folk Organization was a great group. She herself was a Frontier Folk for a few years back in Connecticut as were her sisters. Their troop was in no way the roving band of thugs and misfits he had been describing.
“The next group that should be always on your radar is any teenager between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. As I stated before if they are not accompanied by an adult run. Teen girls are usually safe,” he made a wobbling motion with his hand, “and if there is an issue it is usually because of infighting among the girls themselves. Usually over a bad selfie so just stand still and teen girls tend to move along. The only exception is if you see a group of teen boys and teen girls. The boys are going to try and impress the girls by beating the tar out of you. Here the teen girls let it happen because we all know teen girls are just as bloodthirsty and vicious as boys. We know this because teen girls grow up to be mother-in-laws.” The man guffawed at his own joke before continuing.
Ticking off a second finger he continued with the list of deadly dont’s. “Avoid anyone that is drinking, appears to be drinking, is drunk, or has the possibility of becoming drunk. You are in college. I don’t think I need to explain further on that one. Sign here,” he extended a PaDD. “This releases us from all liability of injury both physical or mental.” The man’s tone was neutral and matter of fact as if he ran through this spiel a hundred times before.
“You said there were three. Three things ,” Chloe signed the form and handing it back, “to watch out for and you only said kids and drunks,” she ticked off two fingers matching his earlier pose.
“Being culled from your mascot lead,” the man said slowly as if Chloe were a few french fries short of a happy meal. The raucous cheer from the crowds following an announcement over the communication system indicated it was go time.
Clearing her throat, Chloe shook out her hair and lowered the hat over her head. “I am going to be fine. They are going to love me,” she announced confidently before stumbling slightly as she walked adjusting to the severely reduced field of vision.
“Sure they will kid. Sure they will. Now get out there and make mascots proud.” Opening a door in front of her, Chloe felt the gust of cool air, heard the crowds and felt the excitement rise in her again. There was no way tonight was going to end as badly as Mr. Pessimist claimed. It was a charity event at Christmas and Chloe was going to make sure the crowds got more than what they ever thought possible with her as Lou the Seal.
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