Home' Scoop : Scoop 69 Spring 2014 Contents 282
LAST LAUGH pete kempshall
THANKS FOR ASKING
Dress up as a comic book character and go out in public? Pete
Kempshall discovers that only works if your special power is invisibility.
ou’d think that, as a writer, I’d be able to
pull out the right adjective, like a magician
conjuring doves from thin air.
“So how is it?” comes the voice from
the other side of the curtain.
I stand there, in front of the mirror, and
realise all my word-birds have flown.
But it’s more than good. It’s Uncanny. It’s
Incredible. It’s Spectacular.
I’m wearing Spandex. And I like it.
There are moments in your life when you
find yourself on the brink of a decision that
you just know you’re going to regret. Like the
time Lance Ar mstrong decided another can of
Red Bull just wasn’t going to cut it, or when
any number of random Australians stood in
front of a booth and thought, “I like the cut
of that Abbott guy’s jib”. But even though all
your senses scream that it’s not going to end
well, you just can’t stop yourself. You’re going
to do it. You’re the lemming right at the front
of the pack that shrugs and says, “YOLO”.
My lemming moment came when I clicked
through to Facebook and found I’d received an
invitation to a Fourth of July party. There was
just one stipulation: “Come dressed as your
favourite American stereotype”.
Now, I read a lot of comic books. I know the
difference between my Amazing Spider-man
and my Superior Spider-man, my Justice League
and my Justice Society. So when the dual ideas
of ‘costume’ and ‘USA’ were dropped into my
head, there was only one way I was going to go.
Faster than a speeding bullet, I was at the
costume shop – there were only three weeks
until July 4, what if someone got in before me
and hired the outfit? What if I had to go as
a less-super superhero?
What if I had to go as Robin...?
But fortune favours The Brave and the Bold,
and within minutes I had secured the outfit.
And damned if I didn’t make it look good.
It wasn’t until later that I saw the problems.
Maybe it was the dim light in the changing
rooms. Maybe my excitement had worn off.
Maybe it was that three weeks had passed and
I like beer and chocolate. But somehow, between
hiring the suit and getting it home, I’d gone from
looking like a finely honed, bulletproof athlete
to resembling an overstuffed blue sausage.
I thought of my friend who’d announced she was
going to the party as a hotdog, and wondered if
she’d hate me for stealing her idea...
In that moment – and not for the last time
that weekend – I wondered how the real-life
superheroes coped (What? No really, what?).
To be fair, the material flattened certain
features. Unfortunately, it flattened certain
other features too... and considering the weather
forecast for July 4 was very cold, it wasn’t just my
bravado in danger of vanishing. It’s lucky the
outfit came with a strategically placeable shield.
None of that mattered, though, when, on
the big night, I made my grand entrance.
There’s something to be said for the
attention you get in full crimefighting regalia.
Maybe that’s how superheroes look so good in
skintight PJs – the chest, swelling with pride as
people cheer dementedly could be mistaken for
hours spent working out at the gym...
If only I hadn’t spoiled the moment by
walking crotch-first into the kitchen counter.
When I’d tried on the outfit, I’d not really
moved around in it – certainly not with the
mask on. If I had, I’d have realised that I had no
peripheral vision. At all. Eyes watering through
my inadequate mask holes, I could only boggle
at how the angle of the bench had managed so
unerringly to hit a target that had been rendered
so small by the longjohns and the weather...
To stay in character, I needed resilience,
enhanced strength and presence. I needed beer.
Four or five brews would do for me what the
radioactive spider bite did for Peter Parker.
Except... Lycra bodysuit.
When the time came – as it most assuredly
would – for the ‘breaking of the seal’, how the
hell was I going to do what came naturally?
Miserably, I reconciled myself to curbing my
intake. Forget smashing evil, I was going to be
challenged smashing more than one beer.
Fortunately, Hotdog Girl was on hand to
explain that my problem was one already
mastered by generations of women in one-
pieces. So, standing on a balcony in a cold
drizzle, she mimed a technique for making use
of the bathroom without stripping down to
my boxers. All I needed was the flexibility of
a teenage Russian gymnast.
I took smaller sips of my drink.
By the time the party ended, I’d shucked most
of the gear. As Batman’ll tell you, protractedly
standing under bright lights kind of ruins the
effect. But I had fun, enough to count the
costume as a success, against all the odds.
Until I saw the pictures on Facebook. One
comment stood out, attached to a shot of me
next to a friend who’d dressed herself up (down?)
as white trash: “Surely a sex tape is imminent.”
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