By Seymour Neudidee.
DISCLAIMER: This article is part of The Torch’s annual “Torchure” issue, the April fools Issue. During the Torchure, our journalistic ethics and commitment to the truth hop on the earliest bus out of town, and we spend the better part of the week trying to coax them back with cannolies and baby oil. The Torch will return to faithful, truthful coverage of UMass Dartmouth-centric news next week, until then, enjoy whatever this is?
I fear that this is my last article, as I have chased a lead into the hands of a walking nightmare on campus: Arnie.
I’m currently writing this on my iPhone, stuck in a broom closet somewhere on the second floor of LARTS. My phone is at 13% and I’m saving the last 4% for my snapstreaks so I hope I finish this in time. If you’re wondering how I got here, let me fill you in. And please, learn from my mistakes.
It all started innocently enough; the pitch was to write an article interviewing our mascot, Arnie the Corsair. Immediately when it was offered, other writers were planning on asking him what kind of fabric he was made out of. I thought it was weird; he’s a regular dude, just like us. He just has some form of gigantism, and honestly I was surprised my coworkers could be so insensitive; so much for 2019 being the year of progress. When it was officially offered, I was the first to say I could take the assignment.
I took the writing pitch for a few reasons; one, I wasn’t sure that my coworkers would be able to keep themselves from asking insensitive questions to a fellow student. After all, all of his proportions are wildly off. I’m not sure what kind of gigantism gives you such big limbs, a face, and a charismatic smile but I was sure he was sensitive about it. To spare the seemingly struggling soul, I picked up the assignment.
Another reason, I’ll admit, is I was curious what he was like behind closed doors. At functions, he was always very shy; besides the fact that he was a seven-foot pirate with a smile bigger than my face, I never heard him say a word. I took that to mean it was crippling social anxiety keeping him from speaking. I was wrong.
I sent an email inquiring if he was available for an interview. He responded promptly, which is impressive on account of his bulky ungainly thumbs. We met at the Corsair Café; he was dressed in his normal blues. His beard and hair were meticulously perfect, as always. I don’t know how he did it, but it looks like I’ll never know I began with some of my lighter questions; how long have you been a pirate for? Do you like root beer floats? What are your thoughts on Rose’s cookies? He had the same response to all of these; he would simply become animated and begin gesticulating with his hands. After a minute of this façade, I couldn’t help but let my concern show on my face. He, however, was cool as ice. It was around here I began to feel unnerved.
It was time that I asked my big question; “Arnie, do you hate when people don’t treat you like you’re a person? Like you’re just some sort of mascot for the school?”
For the first time in this interview, this… person didn’t become animated. Instead, he responded with a curt tilt of the head, and a pause. Then a small, rough voice, seemingly out of nowhere, rung out. “I am just a mascot.”
His voice startled me. It was rough, faded, and he somehow managed to speak without moving his lips. He must have been a ventriloquist. But what startled me was the bored tone. He spoke as if he was in some job he didn’t really like, and was forced to play a role. Here I sat across from a seven foot man who didn’t believe he was anything more than a mascot. I didn’t want to press him, but I couldn’t help myself. “What do you mean, you’re just a mascot?”
He responded with an annoyed, “Yeah, man. I can’t tell if you’re messing with me, but this is absolutely just a mask.” What he did next will haunt me forever. He reached towards his own head, and clumsily ruffled his sausage fingers to get a grasp. He did not just grab his own head, though; he began to shake it around aggressively. The head would turn, jostle, and twist in a way that would have killed a normal man, but this man, as I was learning, is not mortal. Whatever he was, I’m not sure I wanted to find out.
He paused, and laughed. “Sorry, sometimes it gets stuck.” He began to pull again, and ice gripped my heart when I realized what he was doing; I was about to watch a grown man rip off his own head.
The Torch doesn’t pay me enough for that kind of crap, so I did what anybody would do. I yelled, splashed my coffee in his face as a distraction, and fled. I fled to LARTS, bowling over many freshmen. I did not see him follow me, but I knew he couldn’t let me live; not after he let me know his secret.
That was two days ago. I have run out of snacks in my backpack, and my portable charger has run dry. I will soon send this to my editor, but I dare not show my face. Maybe he will call 911 on my behalf, maybe Arnie has already gotten to him too. All I know is, the world out there isn’t safe for me anymore.
But it still can be for you. If you see Arnie, don’t ask too many questions. Don’t look him in the eye. And, whatever you do, don’t splash coffee in his face.