She steps into the suit, humiliated before ever leaving the stock room. It's hot in the suit and she always breathes in recycled warm air that makes her overly conscious of her breath. She never eats onions now because of this shit job. The only thing worse than doing this job in the store, is when her boss sends her to the streets to "rustle us up some customers."
She hates cars and has seen more than one accident while working. She's managed to avoid taking the head off and giving a statement to the police but she knows it's just a matter of time. And when it finally happens, enough of the town will see her and word will be out that Ellen, remember Ellen? She's the mouse at that kid's pizza place! Can you imagine?
Warrenton is not exactly hopping with jobs so she had to take what she could get. She tries to think back to elementary school when all the kids wanted to be tall enough to fit in the blue McKelvey mascot suit so they could walk around the end-of-year carnival. It was fun to see the costume and guess at who was in there. You could usually figure it out pretty quickly. You just had to look around to see who was missing and make enough jokes that the person laughed. Then, you could tell whose voice it was. Kids stood in line and on tip toes to get to walk around the school grounds in that dragon outfit.
This outfit does not get her the same excitement. She steps into the nearly empty eating hall and begins the rounds. She checks out the ball pit and the arcade. She likes the toddlers who are not afraid best. They're cute and want hugs and more hugs. Around ten the kids turn into assholes who will kick and spit on you if their parents aren't looking in a fete of preadolescence.
She was good at being the mascot. It took the kids the longest to guess it was her. She could keep silent and just let them guess. She engaged with the younger kids and pretended not to notice the kids from her own class. They figured it out eventually and she was always a little sad when they did. A little insulted it had taken them this long to figure out that she was both missing and the person in the suit. She just didn't occur to her peers.
It is the same now. She blends. She is not identifiable to anyone. They don't cock their heads to the side and say, "Ellen?" The kids enjoy her but assume she is a teenage boy. The adults, some of whom she knows, never realize it is her. Only now, she is thankful she can keep so quiet in the suit. It keeps her anonymous and holds the shame in the sweat of the mildewy fur. She realizes there aren't enough customers and it will only be a matter of time before her boss tells her to go outside. Surely there could be nothing more humiliating than being 29 and standing on the corner in a giant mouse suit, waving a sign with the nightly specials. Some would say stripping is worse, but she is not one of them. At least someone wants to know who a stripper is and wants to touch her. No one wants to touch the sweaty 29 year old crawling out of an oversized fur suit. At least people can't tell it's her.
"Get on out there and rustle us up some customers wouldya?" Her boss instructs. He makes an attempt at jovial and she's glad he can't see her face's sardonic response. She nods and heads out the doors.
It is early. Rushhour hasn't wound down yet so there's plenty of people with no dinner plans and hungry children in cars who can be tempted into a last minute unhealthy pizza choice. She just has to entice the kids into pestering parents at just the right moment and boom! customers. The company has the right idea, sending her out like this. It's just the traffic. She hates all the noise and the exhaust and the avoided looks and worse! The occasional lip licking looks from forty something women who think they're turning on some nondescript man. Yuck.
She has a route she always walks. She walks in front of the store first. It is at a major intersection. So she stands at the stop light until she can't take it anymore, then uses the cross walk to go to a different corner. She heads down the block, then back to the intersection and then back to the store again. If she's feeling really confident, she adds another crossing and another block. She rarely does this.
To get across, she has to cross a turn lane first. It has white lines painted for those making a right, but no one pays any attention. She's very careful about this and crosses only if she is certain no one is coming. She bides her time and gets to the concrete island with it's safety measures such as a curb and beeping button. She breathes a sigh of relief, pushes the button, waits.
Cars zip behind her and she is thankful the suit does not have a bulky tail the way the dragon suit in elementary did. She pictures how it would blow her around as the cars zipped through. She'd fall over and people would whip out cell phones to take videos. Thousands of hits on youtube and no one would have a clue it was her.
She hears the beeping change but checks to be sure it's safe before heading across. She waves the nightly special sign, as she was trained to do, to the cars she crosses in front of. When she comes to one car and stops. She should continue walking. She's standing in the middle of the street. But she's certain she must be seeing a ghost. How else could this be possible?
The light is about to change and cars are honking. The man driving the car has no idea who she is and looks confused. She doesn't say a word. How could he not know it was her?
Honking starts. It startles her into action. Flustered, she continues toward the other side and makes it to the concrete island. Then, without looking, she heads across the turn lane.
She hears the screeching without registering it has anything to do with her. She doesn't even see what hits her. Fur flies, the suit pads the pavement, and her head flies right off. Her sweaty hair, and real face revealed, she lies unconscious in the street.
If she could think, she'd wonder if he realized who she is now. She'd wonder why he didn't notice her missing and figure out it was her. She'd wonder who would have to give statements to the police. She's worry about the photo in the newspaper and how her parents would hear the news. She'd wish someone would put the head back on so he wouldn't see her now, since he never saw her when she stood right in front of him.