Writers Reading: Steven LaFond


A Helpful Letter to My Replacement

To: Bruce Pomery <BillPom@Powerjammers.net>

Subject: New Mascot


Matilda let me know that you’re the person taking over for me as the mascot for the Guerilla Grrlz. You’re a decent candidate, as you’re familiar with derby and the type of fans we have. Over the past three seasons with the team, I’ve had fun being Sergeant Orangutan. Even though it’s the league’s B team, the crowd was always louder during our games than the Zomb Squad’s, and I like to think I had a little part in that. But don’t worry — I think the costume is more what fans will respond to now not the man inside it. I’m sure that you’ll do great and I wanted to write you this email about what you should and shouldn’t do when you’re working with the skaters.

First, you should be prepared to get to the venue three full hours before they open the doors. Of course, this shouldn’t be a problem for you, considering you’re now dating Matilda and she’s never been late a day in her life. Well, never to anything she’s wanted to be at, anyway. The head ref’s going to be looking for people to help put down the track. Don’t do it. It’s a shit job and you’re going to need all your energy for the bout; running up and down stairs is a ton of work. Start with something simple like setting up the folding chairs near the track. Then, volunteer to go on coffee or food runs and help set up the vendor tables. You may think I’m setting you up to look lazy, but as I told you a week ago, I don’t hold grudges. You’re helping me out.

Now, there’s a blue curtain that separates the girls’ locker rooms from the rest of the auditorium. They call it “backstage.” That’s where you can get dressed, which I recommend doing forty-five minutes before game time, while the audience is filling up the venue. The mask won’t start itching until the second period. Use liquid latex to stick it to your face — it should stay on, but don’t mess with it. There should be some in the junk drawer in the kitchen, but you’ll have to ask Matilda about that if you haven’t already checked. DO NOT use spirit gum! Exclamation points like crazy on that one. Spirit gum will break down the integrity of the mask. I only bought the most recent mask online two months ago, so it shouldn’t really smell, and won’t need changing out until April. Here is the link ________________. It’s only forty bucks, and they last a while if you take care of them.

The suit makes up most of the costume, with the exception of the fur on your arms and chest is in a bag in the closet. You may not want to wear much else under that, because you will sweat. A lot. While the fur doesn’t have to be washed every time you wear it, I’d really recommend washing the flight suit after every game. If the costume’s staying with Matilda at her apartment, I’d say have her do it. No reason you lugging it back to your place when it’s been able to stay in the hallway closet where I left it for years. That way, if you decide not to do it anymore, or they want someone else, you don’t have to go through the aggravation of meeting up with someone on the league to hand it over. Who knows, you might even be able to train your replacement in person.

I can’t stress this enough: drink a lot of water. A passed out ape in the corner looks like a sight gag and not a medical emergency. I never had an issue with that, though, as the ladies on the team made it a point to let me have a bit of the water from their cooler. Given time, I’m sure they’ll let you do it, too. Hell, Matilda’s told me you’re already a regular fixture at Sunday’s scrimmages. A few of the other ladies have told me you’ve got really big shoes to fill. I told them you just need time. Everyone’s been assured that they don’t have to take a side, and that you’re the new guy out there. Hang in there and I bet almost everyone will forget about me and why I had to go. Make it your own, because the Guerilla Grrlz need their pet monkey soldier. And you’ve been drafted.

A note about roller derby fans: they will not harass you. Trust me. I’ve seen mascots at other sporting events get beaten, doused with beer, kicked in the groin and other shit, but derby brings out a different type of fan. Most of them are very supportive because it’s their girlfriends, daughters, or wives down on the track, so they’re not about to pick on a guy dressed as an ape in fatigues. This may change, but no one gave me any shit while I was wearing that costume. Only after. Even with the coolness of most of the people, don’t be like the creepy mascot from New Hampshire. Wearing a mask doesn’t give you license to read a lady’s chest like Braille. Sure, no one wanted to press charges, but he crossed a line. No matter what’s happened recently, I did my best to respect the league and behave and I think that’s something you will continue to do.

Try not to pose for too many pictures during game play, but it’s a real kick to pose with the fans. No matter what, make sure it’s about the girls skating, not about you. You’re a supporting role, not the star of the flat track. Of course, you want to be animated the whole time, sort of like a coked-up Robin Williams in his heyday. Fight with the other mascots at half time, dance, and keep moving through that crowd. Did I mention to drink water? Cheer louder than everyone else. There are a few chants, but the mainstay of “Let’s Go – Rillas” followed by five stomps works well. “Fuck those bitches,” would not. Yeah, I heard you in the stands. It was really classy, but I’d also remind you that profanity should be avoided because there are kids around and while we can’t control fans cussing, you’re representing the league now.

I guess I should assure you that your vision would be fine. Hell, you could wear your glasses over the ape mask if you wanted. Do you need them beyond reading? Matilda didn’t specify, but she and I have only started talking again yesterday and I am trying to give you all the information I can before the next bout. In a lot of ways, I’m happy to be done with this chapter of my life, but I hear the vote for me to be replaced was a tight one, and I would be lying if I didn’t say I would have stayed on if they wanted. But what’s done is done and I have no problem buying a ticket like the rest of the fans. After two years, I’ve made a ton of friends on the league beyond Matilda. So don’t fuck up too bad, or they might ask me to come back. Seriously, though, you are a loud and boisterous guy, and I can see why Matilda wanted you to step in.

You have the advantage of being the B team’s mascot, which means that at doubleheaders, you will get to see the Zomb Squad play for free, unless you decide to work security or another job during their game. Don’t do it. For two years I did that, missing out on watching Matilda play until I decided that being the mascot for the team she founded but no longer played on was enough. You forget the fun and remember things like assisting the cops take a creep out of the venue because he’s stuck a camera lens through the blue curtain, or having to pull up that damn sport court before going to the after party. Too much work brings you down. You’ll want to have enough energy to look Matilda in the eye and be able to talk about the awesome job she did, don’t you? I hope so. The alternative is complaining so much that she starts looking for other people to share her team’s victory with while you hit the showers. No matter how hard someone works in a support job, you got to remember it’s ultimately thankless job. Avoid that potential bullshit and watch the second game. Cheer her on. It’s not like anyone will recognize you out of the costume. Heck, you can even cuss like you normally do.

Finally, remember that you are not one of the skaters. You’re not like the boyfriends in the stands, either. But no matter how much the skaters tell you they love you, you are not on the team. When the night is done, and you’re talking to them — you can shoot the shit, buy drinks for them and even dance with whomever you want, but never get too comfortable. Pay attention and remember how fleeting this all is. One day you’re out there cheering your girlfriend, the next you’re telling the guy who’s sleeping on your old side of the bed how to bounce around in the stands. It’s like summer camp, because when it’s done, you go back home and you’re out of sight.

Bruce, you have a sweet setup here. Given time, you’ll fill out nicely. I’ll be back in the stands (to support my friends that are still on the league) and I promise that I’ll never blame you for what happened. This is a weird situation and I’m trying to be the bigger person. Enjoy the fruits of my labors, dude. Have fun. 


– Justin

P.S. If you see my silver Converses around her house, would you please let me know? I fucking love those shoes.


LaFondSteven LaFond is a writer that lives in Arlington, Massachusetts with his wife, Jessie and their pets Ari and Goblin. He received his MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. His fiction and essays have appeared in apt, FiveonFive, the Good Men Project, and the Derby Shorts Fiction Anthology. He occasionally tours the country as a roller derby announcer.

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Twitter: @stevenlafond