He looked at the clock. Six more minutes. He pulled out a cigarette he didn’t want, and lit it anyway. He avoided eyeing the clock while he smoked. After he snubbed it out, he looked back. Two more minutes.
He counted to 120 with his eyes closed. He tried to count slowly. At 111 seconds by his count, the buzzer sounded. In a moment, three more men were inside his cell. One was an armed guard; the other two held the costume.
“Let’s get to it,” said one of the men holding the costume.
“What if I won’t?”
“You try that. You see what happens.”
There was a moment of silence and of tension. His heart sped up. He took a big breath, and his heart slowed its pace slightly. He closed his eyes.
“All right. Here we go,” he said.
He put on the costume, tusks, tail, and all. He even made the sound. “Ar, ar!” he said, his face growing red from stifling heat and embarrassment. “Ar, ar, ar!”
The three men ushered him out of the cell. One of them muttered about the cigarette smoke.
“It won’t happen again,” he said—a half-hearted apology and lie.
Once at the door to the outside, they shoved him into the blistering sun. He broke into a full sweat, like always. The costume choked his pores.
The crowd cheered, and a broken, perveted pride spread through him. He waddled onstage.
“Ladies and Gentleman,” said the young woman with the headset microphone. “Welcome to Sea World, San Diego!”