“I'm Al Joyner. I'm in charge of the Hippopotami Club's annual charity event, Masker-Aid Night. You may have heard of it, Mr. Tuff.” I had. “We believe that everyone likes to be someone else for a little while, thus the popularity of our costume party.”
It's funny, but I had never wanted to be anyone else. Well, for a short while Julius Caesar or Marc Antony, maybe, until I learned that the historical Cleopatra was probably short with a dumpy figure, a sallow complexion, and a big nose. Besides, who wants to be assassinated or commit suicide?
“Why do you need me?”
“We don't anticipate trouble, but we like to be prepared.”
“Wouldn't some security agency or the police be better?”
“Security agencies cost too much and the police are ... ineffective.” I remembered: last year, Les Trade and Greg Son had tried to arrest a young woman dressed as the legendary Montreal stripper Lily St. Cyr for being too scantily clad, but people thought it was all an act and, to much applause, they won second prize as a pair of plain-clothes policemen.
“You'll get free admission and your fee,” said Mr. Joyner, “and if you want to enter the costume contest we'll waive the twenty-five-dollar entry charge.”
I thought of invoking my seniors-only rule for clients, but probably some of the Hippopotami were seniors. Besides, much as I hate costume parties, I could use the money and it seemed to be easy to earn, so I took the job.
Saturday night I entered the Blandsville High School gym. It was noisy and crowded with people in all kinds of costumes, like Madame Toussaud's Wax Museum come to life. I had considered wearing a clown suit, so as not to stand out, rejected the idea, and settled for an old Maple Leafs sweater and a hockey stick borrowed from a friend's son.
Mr. Joyner mounted the stage at one end of the gym and turned on the microphone, which emitted some ear-splitting pops, shrieks, and whistles. Why do microphones at events like this never work properly?
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for coming to the Hippopotami Club's annual Masker-Aid Night. All of the proceeds will go to charitable causes, including your entry fees, profits from the food booths, and donations from the jars around the room. Our three judges will be circulating around the room and at the end of the evening, we'll announce the three winners of the best-costume contest. Now enjoy yourselves. Thank you.”