I look around. One of my fellow students, a freelance event mascot called Dazzler Dog, is standing on the concessions line, tapping his foot and twiddling his thumbs. Why didn't I think of that? Kirby the kid has gone down into the stands to urge the fans to clap louder. When he sees someone who's not clapping, he bends down and slaps the guy's hands together for him. Why didn't I think of this?
I make my move to enter the stands and begin jiving down the stairs. Alas, I have failed to enter the size of my feet into the equation. The blue dog stumbles, but he does not go down, does not complete his sad trajectory into the nice lady's nachos. But he is unnerved now. He's lost his mojo, which was small to begin with.
I make my way back up, to Deschesnes, who is standing with Clyde, dispensing feedback. ("You could use your nose more unusually.") I tell them what happened. The horse isn't surprised. "When we moved to a new arena, I spent four or five hours just going up and down the stairs, getting used to things."
Deschesnes suggests I stick to level ground, on the concourse. He leaves to put on his skates for his post-first-period performance, which will feature a dance performed to YMCA, in which he does the letters with his legs while standing on his head. Clyde tells me to watch out for a gang of 10-year-old boys who followed him around, yanking his tail. (Tailed mascots, you will notice, are rare.) He wishes me well and walks over to a garbage can. As discreetly as is possible for a man wearing a horse head, he bends over and lifts his mask away from his mouth to drop a wad of chaw.
Two boys appear in front of me. One grabs my hand to shake it and won't let go. They are grinning, jumping up to pull my ears, standing on tiptoes to try and peer inside the mouth.
"Hey, what's your name?"
"We know you can talk."
"What are you?"
"He's a bear."
"He's a dork."
To indicate Dog, I lift my leg as though the larger boy were a fire hydrant. They pretend not to get it.
"He's a dork on one foot."
Suddenly there are three more. They're like those little sharp-toothed reptiles in Jurassic Park, small and harmless on their own, terrifying in large numbers. The leader is missing a tooth, giving him a menacing street-tough demeanor. It occurs to me later that the tooth is gone not because it was knocked out but because it was a baby tooth.
I break free and head for the locker room. Darrin Regier, who does Dazzler Dog, is holding a portable fan to the neck of his suit, chatting with Paul Bonds. The Clydesdale head lies on the floor, a disquieting amalgam of a child's broomstick-horse and that scene from The Godfather. They're comparing notes, recalling gags that went over especially well. Bonds picks remnants of Silly String from his sleeve. "How'd it go?" he asks me.