Day 2 of My Greatest Hits - my goofy short story "Batgirl"
I must have been desperate.
Even though no one could see my green tights and pointy shoes in the beat-up minivan, I still felt like dying every time I passed a car. My jacket camouflaged my upper body, but I knew how dorky I looked underneath.
My cousin Matt was so excited when he called three weeks ago. “Dude, I won tickets to the San Diego/Dallas game at the new Cowboys Stadium in December. Dad said I could take you if you can get down here.”
I'd been a Cowboys fan since I was five years old, and I'd been waiting to see a game there as long as I can remember. After twelve years, I wasn't going to miss this game.
Then reality landed.
My folks would let me go, but there was no money in the budget for a plane ticket. If I could earn the money, then it was a deal.
Too bad I'd blown all my summer lawn mowing money on a new MP3 player. I guess I could listen to the game...
No big. I'd get a job. Fall meant no more lawn jobs, but I'd do anything for the cash.
If there was anything.
I hit every place in town over the next two and a half weeks. No one was hiring, at least not a teenager. With the bad economy, too many people hunted for a paycheck.
Time ticked away. Halftime to the game, and I had nothing. I considered panhandling, but “Will work for a ticket to Dallas” probably wasn't the best tactic.
Trudging through the mall after another rejection, I stumbled across a new store needing help. Their busy season loomed, and the manager wanted me to start right away.
Except for the uniform.
I pulled into the Grand View Mall, wishing for a handicap permit to dash in with the least amount of people staring and laughing. Instead I wandered up and down the aisles for ten minutes, looking for a close spot. No such luck. I swear this grandma pulled a “Tokyo Drift” move on me to hustle me out of the best spot left.
I parked at the end of a row.
Should I walk cool and confident or sprint in and draw more attention? I ended up with an awkward jog, then slow, speed up, slow down, that only magnified my loser status. I know Granny Speed Racer even pointed me out.
At least I was finally here. Yeah, people snickered walking by me, and I still felt like a freak, but it made sense when I walked into the Boo House, the temporary Halloween store. Where the required uniform was some type of costume.
The source of my embarrassment.
Being penniless, I didn't have money to buy something in the store, even with my 5% discount. The manager, (dressed as the Hulk), needed me the next day, leaving no time to hit a thrift store. I sped home, hoping the deep dark recesses of storage would hide a cool surprise.
Rather than a cruel disguise.
Dad had an ensemble wardrobe of polos and khakis, so he was no help. The younger siblings had mini Star Wars stuff. The Force was not with them. But good ol' Mom and her theatre days...
My boss (now as Frankenstein) showed me the break room. Time to doff my jacket, revealing the rest of my gruesome ensemble. I put on my pointy hat, adjusted my belt and dagger, and prepared to brave the crowds.
The game better be worth it.
Frankenstein showed me the cash register and gave a quick tour. Fake weapons there, masks behind the counter. Blood, gore, and makeup on aisle 13. Except – they were all aisle 13. Lots of goodies to make any Halloween creepy or goofy.
The first half hour passed uneventfully. I seemed to blend in – no one laughed in my face at least. I wondered for the hundredth time how women could stand wearing tights. Or superheroes for that matter. I felt so exposed.
I kept busy cleaning up after kids trying out the props and leaving swords and guns everywhere. Helped me learn the layout quickly. Besides Franky, another employee stood by the cash register filing her nails. Blood red nails. I didn't think they were fake, and I wondered if she only looked like a vampire today or if she dressed that way all the time. She fit in here at least.
I bent over to pick up a dismembered hand when I heard a musical voice behind me. “Let me guess, you're looking for your shadow.”
Not my best side showing. I wheeled up and around.
Holy fireworks Batman!
I mean, Batgirl. I faced an angel in black vinyl. Her blonde hair cascaded onto her cape, while pools of azure peered out from her mask. Her spiky-heeled boots elevated her petite frame to almost eye-level with me. I felt a huge grin spread on my face as I noted her soft cherry-scented lips smiling at me.
I wanted to say something witty and charming. I think I stared dumbly and drooled.
She giggled. I melted.
“I hope you're the new guy. If you dress like that all the time, I'm in trouble.”
“Why would you be in trouble?”
“Because you look better in tights than me!” She laughed again as my face flashed crimson at record speed. Gotta recover.
“So you're, uh, Batgirl?”
She glanced around slyly. “Smart AND a snappy dresser. Frank knows how to pick 'em.”
Breathe. Stay cool. “Are you Stephanie then?”
Now she looked puzzled. “I'm not Stephanie. My name is...”
“Oh, my mistake. Since you're blonde, I thought you were the new Batgirl, Stephanie Brown. Of course, the original Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, was a redhead. But I'm sure you knew that.”
Another confused look. “Actually I didn't know that. I just thought it was cute.”
Way to go, geek! “Oh, you're very cute. You don't even need red hair, and, um...”
Mayday. Going down in flames here.
She grinned. “I'd better go check in. Catch you later in Neverland.”
She headed for the back, her skirt sashaying all the way. I wanted to gaze at her forever, but I caught an irate Frankenstein in my peripheral vision. Time to get to work.
I think the crowds followed her in. I could barely get a glance at her between bratty kids and haggard moms. Vampire girl just stayed at the cash register and glowered. Frank kept stocking new merchandise, so Batgirl and I did the customer service and clean up.
I tried to act nonchalant, but the leggings starting to chafe made it harder each minute. I'd bide my time, find the right moment. Hopefully one without a wedgie.
The right moment would be after my buddy Goose left.
He bobbed a head above the crowds. I couldn't miss him. I didn't need him here.
“Dude, what's with the...”
“Don't! Just, don't go there.”
“Okay man, chill. So how's the working man?”
“You know,” I looked at the last item I'd picked up. “Gotta keep up with the bloody chainsaws.”
“Dude, who's that superchick over there?”
What was her name? I can't believe my nerd breakout cut her off from giving it to me. Brilliant.
“You think I'm going to tell you? You'll just blab about some embarrassing moment.”
Goose thought about it. “Like the time you choked on the communion wafer at church?”
“Exactly. Now go look for a costume. The manager doesn't seem to like me talking.” And if I'm going to be talking, I want it to be with her.
“Okay, I'll let you get back to...” he looked at my get-up one more time, “work.”
I heard him muttering something about a pirate hook hand on his way to the food court. Finally, I could work my way over to Batgirl. I had to at least get her name! Now, where was she?
I turned around and saw her in the Star Wars section as an unhappy looking patron turned from her and stomped toward the monster manager.
I had a bad feeling about this.
Two rambunctious kids dueled with lightsabers by me. I chased away the padawans and took the toy weapons over toward Batgirl as the woman returned with our boss.
“This is the rude girl. I can't believe what she said to me!”
Frank's green lips frowned. “What did you tell her?”
Bat's eyes filled her mask holes. “She asked me where our Star Wars stuff was, and when I brought her here, she wanted to know the sizes we had in the Slave Leia outfits.”
The woman cut her off. “She said I was too fat for it, to not bother with trying it.”
The image of this lady in a metal bikini shivered my spine.
“I didn't say that! I suggested that it might not fit and recommended an alternative.”
“It came across that I was fat. My boyfriend wanted me in the slave outfit, not Leia's stupid white gown. Now our Halloween will be ruined!”
The discontented customer wailed loudly at this, as Batgirl looked dumbfounded at the accusation. Frankenstein stood with an expectant glare. I thought he was going to blow his fake bolts off.
“Do you have something to say?”
“I'm sorry she's upset, but I didn't mean to insult her. I was trying to help.”
“You know this is the second complaint I've had this week.”
“That lady was going to let her little boy be Freddy Krueger! All I said was I didn't think that was a good idea.”
My hands shook the lightsabers as I watched the back and forth. I couldn't believe the scene developing.
“If you're going to insult my customers, maybe you don't need to work here.”
Her bottom lip trembled a little as she responded. “Mr. Stein, I am not trying to insult anyone, but I am not going to lie about things. I have to be true to who I am.”
Was his name really Stein?
Not important. Frank huffed at her strong words for a moment, struggling for an answer. The wanna-be Leia goaded him. “If this type of miscreant is working here, I'll take my business elsewhere.”
“I'm afraid you'll have to be true somewhere else. Get your things, clock out, and go home. You're fired.”
Her jaw dropped. “But Mr. Stein, I don't have a ride until the mall closes today. Can't we all calm down and talk about this?”
“No, I can't lose business in this economy. You'll have to find somewhere in the mall to wait, I guess.”
“Dressed like this?” she asked with a quivering voice.
“Not my problem.”
She burst into full blown tears walking to the back room for her things. I didn't realize I was standing there slack-jawed, but Frankenstein turned his anger toward me. “I don't think this concerns you. Get back to work.”
I turned to put the sabers back when Batgirl came out of the back, still crying. She had her mask off, but even with red, puffy eyes she still radiated a beauty and a strength. I couldn't believe Frankenstein was such a monster.
My chance with this angel was walking out the door. A split-second decision.
“Wait up...Batgirl! I'll give you a ride home.”
Frank glowered at me. “If you leave, don't bother coming back.”
She looked at me, hopeful.
Or the girl?
“Let me get my jacket.”
I ran to the break room and back out as fast as I could manage in my outfit. Frankenstein stomped a boot as I ran past, shouting that I must not have needed the money that badly.
No, I just had a new priority. Goodbye football game.