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When We Were Yogurts
By Thomas Bryan Michurski

The white tights from the yogurt costume were riding up again. I backed up against the wall to conceal my action, but was unable to reach my rear end. I was hoping to do it without anyone seeing me, but someone was bound to notice when I pulled my white gloved hands into the enormous foam barrel with the swirl on top, to pull the tights out of my butt.

The men in my family never dressed like giant yogurts, they didn't even like dressing up as Santa. They were blue-collar working stiffs with calloused hands and bushy moustaches. My great-granddad worked on the railroad, my grandfather in the brickyard, and my father was a beat cop for the city of Minneapolis for 20 years. Together, a stoic collection of hearty Minnesota Pollocks who managed to go to work every day of their lives without wearing tights.

However, the newest generation of our proud immigrant family, me, could be found publicly dressed in a low-fat frozen desert costume at the Sun Ray Shopping Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, a well-designed strip mall off the freeway at the edge of the city. The people who shopped there had seen a bear handing out coupons for cellular service, a clown making balloon animals, and a gopher handing out baseballs. Even a dog with a pervert's overcoat came around once in a while to take a bite out of crime. But in the late summer of 1987 it was the rare sighting of a frozen treat with skinny legs, wearing white tights and red Chuck Taylors that had them staring. Many of them, having just left the dollar store with their bag of scented votive candles, preferred to stand in my blind spot and give me the finger. One patron, who was either a tragic thirteen or a freakish thirty, bravely crossed the three-foot "weirdo" radius that you normally give a guy in a costume, to pound on me, peek up through the bottom and call me "shit head".

Big character costumes bring out the primal emotions in us. Like giant puppets they please us, yet we want to hurt them. It's as if they trigger the memories of our early childhood, when we believed that animated characters were real, which made us happy, until we saw them at the theme park, lumbering around blindly between the dippin' dot vendor and the guy selling plastic swords. We would wait in line with our parents, the two people whom we trusted more than any other, while they presented us to the enormous Goofy. His size, multiplied 20 times beyond what we were used to on TV, made him unrecognizable to our undeveloped brain. Stunned and cowering in the shadow of the grotesque cartoon doppelganger, we'd begin shrieking, until our parents led us away, laughing. It was a baptism of fear, and though most of us have moved on from it and learned to control our anger toward the monstrous Bam Bam and the misshapen foam Snagglepuss that once frightened us, there are some of us who won't let it go.

"Its not shit, young man, its Colombo frozen yogurt, try some," the sweating Public Relations guy said distantly to the man-boy, who ignored him and continued to hammer his fists on the outside of my barrel, the sound reverberating inside my head. I thanked the air for unintentional kindness of the costumer, who, had she been more ambitious with a paintbrush, might have painted the swirl on top chocolate brown, making it look like the biggest cup of whipped poo in the world.

Every great hero has a sidekick, the outward manifestation of his or her inner purity. The Lone Ranger had his Tonto, Sherlock Holmes his Watson; El Kabong had his Baba Looey. I had Spoon, a young woman who stood near me, wearing a large piece of undecorated white foam, crudely carved into the shape of a 5-foot plastic sorbet spoon. It was her duty to help guide me through the shopping mall, and prevent me from stepping on tiny consumers. I'd like to believe that I had earned the important role of the yogurt; I was, I felt, well qualified after performing in a few high school theatre productions. The local newspaper had praised my performance of the Lion in The Wizard of Oz, calling it, "Okay," and adding that I had, "Just the right amount of bravado." After consulting Merriam-Webster for the definition of the word bravado, I was satisfied that my acting chops, having been acknowledged by a printed publication, made me the natural choice for the lead in Colombo Yogurt's life play of the street. Truthfully, the reason I was inside the yogurt barrel was my head was too wide to fit comfortably through the hole cut for the face in the spoon costume.

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