One afternoon, Jason and Maria struck up a conversation while standing in line at a café. The two strangers soon discovered a shared interest in Dave Matthews and seedless grapes. An hour later, their souls had embraced.
As he sipped the last of his coffee, Jason stared approvingly at Maria's glowing skin, pouting lips and seductive curves. And from across the table, Maria admired Jason's perfectly coiffed blond hair, preternaturally chiseled arms and chest, and a beaming smile that never seemed to falter. At that moment, nothing mattered to them but each other. They held hands and discussed the heated intercourse they would enjoy later that day.
Suddenly, Jason hesitated. Things were going too quickly, and he had been hurt before. "Whoa, this is crazy," he said, his voice muffled by a gargantuan plastic head. "Maria, I don't even know your last name!"
Her last name. For a moment, Maria said nothing. If there was one thing her family held dear, it was that name. Her beloved grandfather had carried that name with him to Ellis Island almost a century ago. Later, he had refused to change it to sound more "American," and had endured with quiet dignity a lifetime of jeers and threats and other small-minded cruelties, even from his closest colleagues at the yam-canning factory. His pride in that name had been unshakable.
"Clementine," said Maria Pukestain-Hitlerpimple, fiddling nervously with her tea infuser.
"Maria Clementine, what a beautiful name," Jason replied, itching and sweating beneath his ponderous costume and its scratchy inner lining. Hearing this, Maria smiled wider than she'd ever smiled before. "And you're a beautiful person!" she cried with excitement and relief, squeezing his mitt-like hand. "Oh, Tom Tasty, we were meant to be together. I just know it!"
It was only then Jason Feldstein remembered he was still dressed as Tom Tasty, cartoon mascot for a national chain of buffet restaurants. Dear God, he thought, looking out the window at a nearby street corner. I forgot to hand out the rest of those fliers!
Beautiful, starstruck Maria talked dreamily about the romantic evening ahead, and Jason tried to nod politely as he searched for the strength to confess his secret. But the top-heavy Tom Tasty head exaggerated the nod, pulling Jason's own head up and then down with terrific force, like he could not have agreed with her more.
Friday, August 11, 2006