Who would have thought, you guys? I had no idea as I put on that crazy bird costume for the first time that later that day, I was going to come face to face—well, more like beak to face—with a star.
“Seth Parr?” A woman who hardly looked old enough to be a high school graduate asked me in a bubbly tone.
“Yep, that’s me.” I grinned and pushed my glasses up onto the bridge of my nose.
“I’m Kelsey, an intern with the Mavericks public relations department. It’s great to meet you…wow, you’re really tall.” She looked me up and down, taking in my lean frame and frowning as she read my t-shirt, which said ‘Don’t want none unless you got bunsen’.
“Sorry,” I said, cringing. “I was running late at the lab and the lady who interviewed me for this job said it doesn’t matter what I’m wearing since I’ll have the costume on.”
“It’s fine.” Kelsey pasted on a big smile and waved her hand. “I’ll set you up with some Mavs gear for next time.” She started walking toward the glass door of the Mavericks PR department, which we were standing in the lobby of. “Follow me! We’re going to make you into Ricky the Raven.”
Fans dressed in red were already filling The Warren Center, the arena the NHL team the St. Louis Mavericks played in, as she led me around the circular corridor and then down a flight of stairs. Even though we weren’t far apart in age—I was twenty-three and Kelsey was likely a college student if she was interning here—she didn’t make any small talk on the way.
Which was fine. I wasn’t exactly a guy women struck up conversations with. I was a nerd and I knew it. I embraced it, actually. Science was my passion. That was how I ended up in St. Louis—I was working on my Ph.D. in astrophysics. And in my free time, I ate cheap ramen noodles, watched anime and read sci-fi novels.
Kelsey used a key to unlock the door to a room in a quiet hallway.
“Are you a hockey fan?” she asked as she walked in and flipped on a light switch.
“Yeah. I mean, I don’t go to games or anything, but I watch them on TV sometimes.”
“You’ll have a great view now!”
The room was small and mostly empty. There was a bench on one side of the room with a large mirror behind it. The back wall was lined with doors. Kelsey walked over to one and opened it, squealing and clapping to herself as she took something huge and black out of a massive closet.
“I worked on the PR team tasked with coming up with a new mascot for the Mavericks. I can’t wait to see how this suit looks! I had SO MUCH back and forth with the company that designed this suit, making sure they did exactly what I envisioned. I wanted something fun that kids wouldn’t be scared of. Our old mascot made children cry.”
The costume just looked like a massive ball of feathers to me. And by massive, I meant difficult for little Kelsey to even move on her own.
“You need some help with that?” I asked.
“No, I’ve…” She groaned and made a growling noise. “…got it.”
“So you said it’s a raven?”
“Yeah! Ricky the Raven! And that’s just the body part. Let me get the head.”
After opening another door, she took out a giant headpiece covered in black feathers. There was a hard, orange beak jutting out from the front and an attached red and white top hat that was at least three feet tall.
I wasn’t a biology major, but I’d studied some zoology in my undergrad, and this costume looked nothing like a raven. It was more like a child’s drawing of Daffy Duck.
“So!” Kelsey clapped her hands together. “I’ve got some black leggings for you. I’ll let you change into those and just leave your shirt on. Let me know when you’re done and I’ll help you into the rest.” She furrowed her brows. “You can ice skate, right?”
“Yes, as long as I don’t have to do anything fancy. The lady who interviewed me, Carol, had me skate a couple laps in the interview.”
“Perfect. And are we providing you skates?”
“Yes, Carol said there’s a certain style and she was going to order them.”
“I’ll check on that while you get changed.” Kelsey grinned and clapped some more. “This is going to be so great!”
Twenty minutes later, Kelsey was standing on the bench, trying to jam the massive costume headpiece down onto my head. So far, this hadn’t been great—at all.
“Do you have an extra large head or something?” Kelsey grumbled.
“Ah, crap, my glasses got knocked off again.” I caught them in my hands as they tumbled out from the headpiece. “No, I think my head is pretty average.”
“You’re going to have to ditch the glasses,” she said.
“I can’t see without them.”
“It’ll be fine, I’ll be with you the whole time. You just need to act goofy, and high-five kids. You won’t need your glasses for that.”
“I won’t be able to see where I’m going, though.”
“I’ll hold your arm and tell you where to go.” She shoved down on the raven head again, and it smashed into one of my ears painfully. “Come on, Seth, we don’t have much time left. We need to get you in this thing!”
I pulled and she pushed, and somehow, we got the costume head onto my head. I couldn’t see anything, because the eye holes were so far in front of my face, and also—no glasses.
This had sounded like a fun part-time job when one of my professors told me about it. Right about now I wished I had just taken on another teaching assistant position for extra cash.
“It looks amazing!” Kelsey said. “You’re the first official Ricky the Raven. Are you ready for some fun?”
“Uhh….I can’t see a thing.”
“Don’t worry about it, I’m your navigator.” She took one of my feather-covered arms and turned me. “You’re facing the door now. Let’s do this. And remember the rules—once you leave this room, no talking, no taking any part of the costume off and you have to act silly and make kids laugh.”
“That should be easy since I can’t see,” I deadpanned. “Kids think it’s funny when people fall down the stairs.”
“I won’t let you fall, Ricky! Now come on, we’ve got work to do. And no more talking—we’re walking out of the changing room now.”