384: Unmasked Anger

on June 2, 2009 in Book 14

In Which Furry Costumes Are Proposed

Ian pulled me up in front of a bunch of the kids hanging out near the stage. He started to introduce me around to the group, but a kind of gangly guy with big thick glasses that Amaranth would have envied and a scraggly chin beard interrupted him.

“Man, we know who she is,” he said, and there was some scattered giggles… a kind of knowing, almost weary chuckling.

I didn’t like being stood up in front of people I didn’t know… proximity to an actual stage made it worse… but the laughter didn’t seem the least bit mean. The guy who’d said it sounded weirdly neutral about it, too… like he didn’t have an opinion one way or the other about me. That was kind of refreshing. Weird, but refreshing. I tensed up, but I was also kind of cautiously intrigued.

“Yeah, but she doesn’t know who you are,” Ian said. “Mackenzie, this is Dust.”

“But then, who isn’t?” the guy said.

“He guided my group on a tour during summer orientation,” Ian said.

“Wait, your name’s Mackenzie?” one of the girls asked.

“What did you think ‘Mack’ was short for?” another one said.

“I don’t know,” the first one said, “but I figured it would be a girl’s name.”

“It’s a unisex name,” I said.

“‘Unisex’, from the Merovian ‘unis‘ meaning ‘stupid’ and ‘ex‘ meaning ‘parents’,” another guy said, to much snickering and a “Good one.”

They still didn’t sound particularly mean, but I bristled all the same… they might have heard about me but they didn’t know me.

“My mom gave me this name,” I said.

“That’s funny, I got mine in a dungeon raid,” the guy said.

“Come on, Louis, knock it off,” Ian said. “Anyway… we’re looking for ideas for Veil costumes.”

“Kind of leaving it to the last minute, aren’t you?” Dust said, scratching his chin growth. “Things are probably pretty well picked over.”

“It doesn’t have to be anything fancy,” Ian said. “We were just hoping to come up with something… well, with something.”

“We’ve got those goat leggings,” a girl said. “If you wanted to do a faun and nymph. I’ve got some horns you could borrow.”

“Um… I really don’t want to dress up as another intelligent race,” I said. “Also, I’m not going naked.”

“I actually meant a bodystocking,” she said. “But okay.”

“Come on,” Dust said, getting to his feet, which seemed to be kind of a production for him… he was very tall, and it seemed like maybe he hadn’t quite outgrown adolescent awkwardness. I was reminded of a scarecrow… uncomfortably, considering my experiences in the labyrinth. “We’ll take a look at what we can find.”

“Thanks, man,” Ian said as we followed Dust to a set of steps at the end of the stage. “I owe you.”

“So, they just let people borrow costumes?” I asked.

Mack,” Ian said warningly.

“Hey, it’s a legitimate question,” I said. “Maybe what slides for theater students isn’t going to slide for me… and I can’t exactly guarantee to keep anything pristine at a party.”

“Well, the actual costume department rents to students, but there’s like a process for that,” Dust said, leading the way up and offstage to the side. “Plus it costs money, and you don’t get your deposit back if they have to repair it even if it’s a simple stupid spell to fix. But we sometimes need props or garb just for like a class project or for something fun, so, a few years back, somebody came up with an unofficial alternative.”

He showed us to a big walk-in closet… so big I wasn’t sure it still counted as a closet, but it wasn’t a room and if it was a hallway, it didn’t go anywhere. There were racks of clothes on each side, badly out of fashion suits and old ball gowns and stuff like that, with hats and accessories and stuff piled up on the shelves above them.

Nothing was of a quality that could be called convincing… there was a faded purple robe with stars and a matching pointy hat that could be used to convey the message “the person wearing this is meant to be an old school wizard”, but it wouldn’t begin to pass for an actual wizard’s robe. The faux-fur wrap or one of the plastic top hats might have said “let’s pretend I’m elegant and sophisticated”, but you couldn’t wear them to a fancy party.

“This stuff was all collected by students?” I asked.

“Yep,” Dust said, picking up a stuffed snake and draping it over his shoulders. “Some’s just clothing that people didn’t want, some are pieces that got bought for a one-time thing, some are from the personal collections of past bardic students… really, it started with stuff students tried to donate to the costume shop that they didn’t have a place for.”

“I see what you meant by ‘picked over’,” Ian said, holding up the sleeve of an ugly pea-green suit with yellow thread pinstripes. “I remember there being more actual costume-costumes here the first time you showed me this place.”

“Yeah, well, you’ll never find this place as full as it is during summer visitations,” Dust said. “A lot of the cooler stuff disappears in the first few weeks. It’s kind of the honor system, or maybe a ‘take something, leave something’ basis. Only sometimes people are so taken with something they leave with it. Then you get Veil… people stake out the stuff they need for their costumes early.”

“Yeah,” Ian said, kind of absently as he scanned the racks. He suddenly turned towards Dust. “So, where are those furry leggings?”

“If you’re going as a faun, I’m not going with you,” I said. “It’s not going to be worth the argument with Shiel.”

“I wasn’t thinking faun,” he said.

“What kind of creature, then?”

“Uh… maybe a guy in furry pants,” Ian said.

“So, you’re going to dress like a guy dressed up like a faun.”

“Actually, I was thinking more like a, you know, barbarian warrior,” he said. “I mean, not a barbarian, but, you know, a rugged shirtless fighter guy.”

“Oh,” I said, a little nonplussed. There were problems with the whole “barbarian chic” thing, but probably fewer people would complain about it… I didn’t know if that was because the problems were less pronounced or simply because a lot of people didn’t care. I really didn’t know what the culturally sensitive response was, especially since he was phrasing it differently. So, I defaulted to another level of concern. “Well, what am I supposed to go as?”

“I thought we could go for like, a matched set,” he said.

“Do you got two pairs of furry pants?” I asked Dust.

“Uh, no, but we could probably find someone who could make a few pairs out of your coat,” he said.

“Um… I was actually thinking of something a little different,” Ian said, and from the way he was blushing I felt a tingle of… apprehension. He grabbed a hanger off the rack. “This is what gave me the idea for the whole thing.”

It was a fur-lined, leather-colored bikini suit.

“Um… how about no?” I said.

“What?” he said. “It’ll be fun and, you know… sexy. And anyway, it’s not like there’s a double standard. I’ll be shirtless.”

“You’ll be shirtless because there’s a double standard,” I said.

“Well, you could always leave the top off and stick by Amaranth,” Ian said.

“Funny,” I said.

“Look, this is a human costume,” Ian said. “It’s easy, it’s fun…”

“Yeah, that’s exactly what people will see when they see me dressed in it,” I said. “Easy and fun. Come on… I already managed to attract a fun new psycho stalker in my winter coat. I’m not going out in public dressed like that.”

“What, Semele? From what I’ve seen, she hits on anyone with your… general build,” Ian said.

“Oh, yeah,” Dust said. “She takes the meteor storm approach: big wide spread so she doesn’t have to be too discerning in her aim. I don’t think she’s very popular with the other elves. Seriously, I think that Winnie girl is like her only friend.”

“I’m sure she’s a big fluffy misunderstood teddy bear,” I said. Now that the initial scare was over, I felt ire building towards her, the way she’d crept up on me and then stared right through me while she said her creepy pick-up lines. “She said her girlfriend was going to skin me. If she doesn’t actually have a girlfriend, that makes it sad, but it doesn’t make it less creepy… and if the only person who’ll be her friend is a LaBelle cousin, they probably deserve each other’s company.”

“Ouch,” Ian said.

“Hey, man, Winnie’s cool,” Dust said. “Just because her friend skeezed you out doesn’t mean you should take it out on her.”

“I’m not just basing it on that!” I protested. “Her whole family are creeps.”

“So, you’re basing it on the fact that she’s related to Puddy,” Ian said. “Are you going to seriously make a big stink over cultural insensitivity or whatever, and then turn around and do that?”

“It’s not culturally insensitive, it’s personal,” I said, each heated word that spilled out of my mouth seeming to make my anger burn hotter. “I think Puddy’s reason enough, especially for me, but it’s not just her, either. Remember her cousin, in my history class who was in your dorm during the storm? She’s always interrupting class to show everybody how stupid she is. If I try to avoid Puddy in the dorms, I still run into her… and now there’s another one.”

“Mackenzie, seriously,” Ian said. “Winnie’s not her cousins.”

“Yeah, but she’s annoying enough in her own right,” I said. “Did you hear her laughing?”

Dude,” Dust said, in a voice that was so different from his thus-far breezy tone that I had to turn to see that it was still him. “You know we don’t have to help you. This stuff belongs to us… we don’t have to share.”

“What?” I said.

“You’re talking shit about my friend right in front of my face,” he said.

“I… I thought you said she didn’t have other friends,” I said.

“I said she was Semele’s only friend,” Dust said. “But that’s only because Semele doesn’t really, you know, chat with anyone else. Winnie’s my friend and my classmate. Even if she wasn’t, you’re going to stand there and talk shit about someone just because you don’t think anyone around you cares?” He turned to Ian. “Your girl’s kind of a bitch.”

“Yeah, tell me about it,” Ian mumbled, looking at the floor.

“I… um…” I stammered, feeling increasingly mortified… not just embarrassed at the faux pas but genuinely ashamed. As much grief as Keri LaBelle had caused in class… even as much pain as Puddy had inflicted on me… Winnie hadn’t done anything more than shared an unfortunate first name and a bloodline with them… okay, and she had an irritating voice and an annoying laugh, but that wasn’t enough to justify me acting like Trina or the Leightons.

“Come on,” Ian said, grabbing the sleeve of my coat. “We’ll go… we’ll work something out.”

“Wait,” I said, resisting the urge to be let myself be led away by him. I planted my feet and turned back to Dust. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I was a bitch, but it really wasn’t about her. I’ve had a lot of bad experiences with creepy girls coming onto me, of which Semele’s just the most recent… and one of the first was Winnie’s cousin.”

“Yeah, weren’t you two dating for a while?” Dust asked.

“No, not really,” I said. “That’s just the story she let everybody believe… that’s maybe part of why I reacted like that. Not that it makes it okay…”

“No, man, it’s cool,” Dust said, regaining a bit of his earlier demeanor. “I mean, it’s not cool, but it’s more understandable.”

“I’m sure Winnie’s nice when you get to know her,” I said.

“Yeah. So, I guess you’re going to get a spanking for this later, huh?” Dust said.

“Ian!” I said, rounding on him.

“What?” he asked. “I didn’t tell him.”

“What was that, a lucky guess?” I asked.

“Um, actually, he didn’t… your lady talks about you,” Dust said.

“She does?” I said.

“She, uh, likes to describe the sound your butt makes when she smacks it different ways,” Dust said. “Though, ‘describe’ might not be the best word. More like ‘act out’. She went through like ten people before she found someone to finish the story with.”

“I… she… what?” I said, my face burning as I fished for words and came up with nothing.

Dust laughed.

“She knows she’s dating a nymph, right?” he asked Ian.

“Yeah,” Ian said. He picked up the hanger with the furry bikini on it. “So, is it cool if we take this and the pants?”

“Yeah, man, sure,” Dust said.

“Hey, wait… I didn’t agree to that,” I said.

“That’s okay,” Ian said. “I’m pretty sure I can persuade you.”


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6 Responses to “384: Unmasked Anger”

  1. pedestrian says:

    That’s all Our Mack needs. A little bite of reassuring persuasion.

    Current score: 1
  2. BlackWizard says:

    Wow…Having your sexual piccadilloes aired in public is NOT a fun thing. I had a close friend of mine do that to me once. Like Amaranth, he didn’t do it to be malicious and he was pretty matter of fact about it. He was just being really, really tactless, which is kinda typical of him actually. Unless you tell him specifically to keep something quiet he has a bad habit of telling your business at the most awkward moments. 🙂 If you had ever wondered if a black man’s blush could be visible THAT was the time to find out. You can bet that after THAT little episode, I made sure to let him know when it was something to keep just between us unless I said other wise! lol He’s one of my best friends but he is SUCH a nerd. Tactless till he dies! 😀

    Current score: 5
    • Moridain says:

      Well, as Dust said, she is dating a Nymph and didn’t state ‘no telling other people’ anywhere on her lists.

      In fact I think she specifically said it was okay for her to talk about early in the volume. 🙂

      In real life though gentlepeople don’t sleep and tell.

      Current score: 4
      • Jechtael says:

        Oh, they tell all the time. Just not in mixed company. I’m glad I’m not “gentlepeople” 😉

        Current score: 1
        • Kalamorda says:

          Not to mention Amy is not Gentle….atleast not in her discription of the events….and I dont think she told them about what happens during sleep, only sexy times.

          Current score: 0
  3. Seis says:

    All of the scenes where people talk about how Mack has a boy’s name are really weird to me. Every person I’ve ever met named Mackenzie has been a girl, and before reading this I hadn’t realized that anyone considered it even unisex.

    Current score: 5