The day after Thanksgiving

Jared Wickerham

Not everyone loves the holiday season.

At first it was quiet--like a tap on the shoulder, or a ringing so far away it blends into the background of the dream as a song, or a distant conversation. But then it was loud. And louder still. And as he awoke to the red 12:35 PM, blinking and screaming in his still sleep-filled eyes he realized that it was, in fact, no dream. Perhaps one day he would wake up in a room with a bed in a real frame, a phone pregnant with missed calls and well-wishes, pictures in frames on his dresser not aged with twelve years of dust and fading ink. Not today. He would have to wait for that.

The trip to the bathroom was interrupted by an empty cointreau bottle hitting his foot, again, but a quick stumble and well placed door frame helped him stay upright, even though his antlers missed the wall by a matter of mere inches. Mornings like this might be more common than not, but there was something different about this Friday, November 29th that made the pain on his brown, fur covered toe just that much worse. He thought about last night--he thought about an empty table and he thought about cold slices of turkey and warm champagne, and then he wondered why they couldn't go bad in the other order. That maybe it could be precisely his sorrow and lack of care preparing a holiday meal that would turn it into something from the movies, with steam rising off the freshly cut bird and bubbles on the inside of his champagne glass meeting the bubbles of condensation on the outside.

But it never was that easy, was it? Not with this, not with anything, not ever. All he knew were these two things: it had been a long time since the holidays meant what they used to mean, and it's hard to convince yourself everything is going to be fine when you use all that energy convincing others of the same from April to September. Especially when it has required more and more work to turn skeptical faces into smiles with each and every passing season. But it was his job. He made his way down the stairs, passing framed photos of himself with Ken Griffey Jr. during that silly Griffey '96! ad campaign that he hated so much at the time. Back then, he couldn't have cared about selling shoes: all he wanted was to get back to the dome, to orchestrate those smiles on the faces of fans like some possessed symphony conductor playing happiness like a song. But that was a long time ago. Shoe commercials didn't seem so bad these days.

The fridge opened and he reached past the Ziploc bags filled with perfectly sliced turkey and mashed potatoes to grab his usual breakfast of pondweed and birch leaves. He realized it was silly that an animal would even partake in a Thanksgiving meal filled with meat and processed vegetables, but it wasn't the food that made the day, now was it? November was always a lonely month, but this one seemed even lonelier. It was always easier to come back to work in the Spring when he knew the seats would be filled with beaming faces and screaming fans, eager for Seattle baseball and an opportunity to watch the game in October. But the recent years of green seats staring back at him had been taking their toll, and as he saw those leftovers folded ever-so-neatly in the bottom drawer of his fridge, he realized there was something to be said for waiting for the right opportunity to open the bag again. It wasn't much--but it was something.

---

A short while later he found his usual spot on the couch, perfectly shaped to his cervidae shape, and he wasn't surprised to see ESPN shouting at him like usual when he hit that power button on his television remote. There was something about Monday night and the NFC Playoffs, Russell Wilson and Percy Harvin, and he remembered that football team next door and felt that familiar glimmer of warmth he used to feel in the early months of fall. But then the camera cut to that stupid blue bird in the stands alongside all those rabid screaming fans. It was that good friend that always managed to win some stupid contest he didn't even sign up for, earn an unlikely promotion he didn't need, or who would find a fifty dollar bill on the corner of the street on the way to spend the money he already had. That bird was a good friend, but damn if he didn't think about going to the fridge and opening that bag of leftover turkey for a split second.

A few hours later he woke up with an unbroken string of drool dripping down on his custom XXXXXXXXXL "00" jersey he put on that morning in an attempt to lift his spirits. It didn't work. No, Christmas was still a month away, and April was still five. He was tired of the holidays, tired of the cold, rain filled afternoons. Thanksgiving could go to hel---heck (can't swear and upset the kiddies, he thought) for all he cared, and maybe, just maybe, he could go back to sleep and wake up in the spring like he used to.

But through his sleep-induced haze draped over him like a blanket, he heard someone on the television saying some names he thought he was dreaming about only a few moments earlier--Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, something like that. He tried his best to keep abreast of the latest offseason news on the team that sent him a paycheck every month, but it was very difficult, especially considering he was a moose, and didn't know how to read or write. But still it gave him a moment of pause, a moment where he knocked over his half-finished Rainier and grabbed the picture framed next to the lamp of himself waving that compass rose flag, drowning in a sea of fans emblazoned in blue and white.

Would it be different this year? Would he have to put that familiar mask of joy back on his face? Or would it be real this time, radiating out of him like a beacon to the unsuspecting ticketholders eager to see the Mariners win a baseball game, but even more eager to be convinced they can win every one they play. He didn't know the answer to that question, but he did know something else. It's damn hard to be a mascot when you only get to do what you love six months out of the year. It's hard to be loved when things are going well only to be mocked when you're just trying to do your job and Yoervis Medina gives up back to back home runs in a tied game. And most of all, its hard being a moose over Thanksgiving weekend. Especially when nobody every comes to visit you.

But April wasn't that far away.




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