Most guys my age view Halloween as an opportunity to drive fast, soap windows, toss eggs, and uproot mailboxes. Raise Hell in general! This year I found myself escorting a four-foot-tall orange-and-black striped tiger to a costume party. The starting sophmore linebacker of the Central High Panthers held the hand of a six-year-old Tigger as we crossed the parking lot toward the grammar school auditorium. And I loved it!
Erin entered my life two years ago. A damn drunk driver crossed the centerline and wiped out her family. I saw her for the first time on the evening news, a burnt and broken little girl, hugging a bloody torn stuffed tiger. Her dad's will left care and custody in my parent's hands, and I had a baby sister. We met in the intensive care ward. By sheer dumb luck the stuffed tiger I brought her was an exact match for the one the nurses had taken from her.
It is hardwired into our brains to care for the young. The appeal of puppies and kittens is irresistable. Somehow, my parents were immune, but the smile on her face as she reached for the toy melted my heart. The way she tried to smile through her tears, her tiny hands crushing two of my fingers as the nurse inserted a needle and drew blood, captured me. I told her that it might take longer, but the doctors would do every bit as good a job fixing her as they had for Tigger.
Two years later they weren't quite done. Her shattered left leg had been screwed and pinned back together. She still wore a brace on that knee. The leg would have to be broken again and reset, as it had healed shorter than the other. Her face was near normal, but further grafts were scheduled. The scars from the surgery and grafting were slowly fading. She could move freely now, well enough to be the lead Tigger in the honeypot dance,
Most of the backstage moms were familiar to me. We'd seen each other at T-ball, dance class, and Brownies often enough to nod at each other. They still didn't quite have the six-foot four-inch 250 pound linebacker in their midst figured out! I knew some of them by name, most by their daughters'.
Ellen's mom seized my arm in near panic. "Bobby? Can you do me a major favor? One of the horsemen couldn't make it. I'm in an awful fix! Would you wear one of the pantomime horses for me?"
For those who haven't taped all of Benny Hill's reruns, a pantomime horse is a hollow fiberglass shell, about the size of a extra large rocking horse, that you wear around your waist. There are leggings to make your legs resemble the horse's, while molded boots and legs represent the rider's. Suspenders extend into the body cavity, supporting the heavy thing. An elastic hoop on the costume vest conceals the opening. Hat, gingham shirt, and gloves complete the outfit.
The designer had apparently never considered someone my size wearing the suit. The vest barely reached from my shoulders to the saddle, the elastic fighting a losing battle to stay attached, The suspenders were beyond fully extended, and I had already lost a buckle twice. The waistband of the leggings came only halfway up my ass. I tried to roll up the legs of my boxers, but they quickly fell back into sight. They bunched up awkwardly when stuffed into the tights. Reluctantly, I left them on the shelf in the dressing room.
Sally Jones had a similar probiem. Her costume shirt wouldn't stay buttoned across her impressive chest. The vest looked more like a tightly packed boustier. "Hi Bobby," she said, "I'm Mustang Sally tonight."
"Ride Sally, Ride," was my dumbassed reply.
"How shall I introduce you?" Mrs Smith asked. She was the ringmaster of this circus. She was costumed as an 1880's school marm, with piled up hair, lace shirt buttoned to her lovely neck, and a bustle under her long skirt.
"Hows 'bout Cowboy Bob, Ma'am?"
"No, my husband has already claimed that one."
"How bout Dead-Eye Dick?" I asked, twirling my six gun.
She snatched the pistol from my hand. "No guns! This evening is not about violence," she scolded, "Give me the holster."