Home > Be Dazzled

Be Dazzled
Author: Ryan La Sala




   The Boston Convention Center has good security, but it doesn’t have missile launchers, which means it would have a pretty tough time defending itself against Evie Odom.

   My mother.

   If she knew I was outside this place, she’d probably descend from the low clouds on this foggy Boston morning like some sort of alien doomsday spacecraft and vaporize me.

   And if she knew I was standing out here in a costume that can only be described as “fungus chic” for all of Boston Seaport to see? Well, what’s worse than being vaporized? Whatever it is, that is what she’d do to me.

   Some might think I’m being dramatic. Which, okay, fine. Maybe they’d be a little right. But mostly, they’d be wrong. This is Evie fucking Odom here. The self-made millionaire artist turned gallery director. The woman of onyx eyes and champagne lips (according to her Times profile, which was for sure penned by a gay man).

   But in my opinion, Evie is just sort of evil. Like a fashionable Antichrist sent by the art world to look down upon all things pop culture, cartoon, and craft. So her son, Raphael Odom, the boy currently stumbling out of an Uber dressed as a cartoon made out of crafts, on his way into a pop culture convention? Evie would hate it. Actually, she does hate it, but we’re a two-person family—we can’t discuss the things we hate about one another without polarizing the entire house. So, to survive her wrath, I hide my crafting and my cosplaying. And I pretend I don’t spend hours fashioning incredible costumes out of hot glue and household hardware. And I lie. And I sneak. Basically, I do whatever I can to avoid Evie’s particularly flamboyant form of hate.

   What Evie hates, she destroys. It’s her thing. For a while in the early nineties, she was famous for hating and destroying replicas of her work. Usually she did this in front of an audience, often for a lot of money.

   So as you can imagine, I’m not trying to get caught sneaking into conventions. I’m rushing, dragging my friend May behind me as we exit the car and dive into the crowd of con-goers loitering outside. May is slow in her clunky costume (100 percent my fault, I built it—sorry, May), but we don’t let two tons of foam and hot glue stop us from hitting warp speed. People scream and scatter in our wake. Maybe someone loses an eye. I don’t know, I don’t care about injuries. There’s only one—only one—force I trust to keep me safe from my mother, and that’s the group of ladies that runs check-in at Controverse. I don’t know if they volunteer or if they’re paid handsomely; I only know that if you’re not on their list, you’re not getting into the con. Not if you’re the president, not if you’re Jesus H. Christ, not even if you’re Satan.

   And yet…

   Evie is Evie, so just in case they can’t stop her, I’ve taken every precaution to make sure she doesn’t know I’m here in the first place. She thinks May and I are camping. Camping! Out in the Blue Hills of Massachusetts, like some plucky settlers of CATAN! It is the most outrageous lie I have ever told her, and I was downright offended when she accepted it without protest, only saying, “Do not bring any ticks into my house, Raphael.”

   “Out of my way,” I snap at a group of girls trying to take photos of us. They lower their phones and drift apart, letting us pass to the front of the crowd.

   “Raffy, will you just calm down for two freaking seconds?” May protests.

   I certainly will not.

   “Come on, they just want photos with us.”

   “You’re not even on your stilts, and we still need to do final touches.”

   “Oh, you mean when you make me sit on the floor so you can glue mold to my face?”

   “It’s not mold, it’s moss, and it’s not just glue, it’s spirit gum. It needs to look real, like little organic puffs.”

   “The little organic puff,” May says in her grand voice, which is just her normal voice but with an affected Maggie-Smith-in-Downton-Abbey accent. “That’s the title of your memoir. The Little Organic Puff, by Raphael Odom.”

   I continue listing all the things we—or really, I—need to do before we hit the con floor.

   “And then I have test the power packs for the LEDs and check to make sure the vape cartridge is full, and you need to practice walking in those stilts, and I need to touch up some of my toadstools. There’s a lot to do. I don’t want anything hitting social until we’re perfect.”

   Typically, you show up at a con ready, but with all this sneaking, we have to get ready on the go. Not ideal, but necessary. Lucky for us, the bigger cons now have changing rooms so people can suit up on location. This is why I have a rolling suitcase.

   “But the moss—are you sure I need to wear it? It’s itchy, and besides, my mask nearly covers my whole face.”

   “Yes, I’m sure. It’s all about being fully in character. The judges will appreciate the detail if they ask you to remove the mask, which they will. You’ll see.”

   May scrunches up her eyebrows.

   “Fine, fine, you can mold me,” she says. “Sometimes I think you get off on these things, Raff.”

   “May, gross. I’m gay. And so are you.”

   “So what? Gay people do all sorts of things. They wear, like, harnesses and leather straps. Just out and about.”

   “So do horses, but no one kink-shames them. Now drop it.”

   She murmurs, “Oh, you can bet I’ll drop something. And I’m sure you’d love to watch me pick it up real slow.”

   May basks in my discomfort. She is doing me a huge favor this weekend by competing with me; putting up with her weird jokes is the least I can do. If I weren’t so anxious, I’d be laughing and joking around, too. But I am anxious. I’m always anxious about something, but on competition days, I’m anxious about everything. And usually, I have ways of calming myself down, but this is the biggest show I’ve ever competed in. This is Controverse. It doesn’t get any bigger than this, so nothing is going to calm me down. Not listening to music. Not meditation. Maybe tranquilizers, but probably not. Only winning.

   Once I win, I’ll relax. Once I take home the top prize, it won’t matter that Evie will probably, eventually find out that I’m not camping (and have never camped a day in my seventeen years of life). Once I become the youngest person ever to take best in show at Controverse, I’ll be a legit award-winning crafter, and Evie will finally have to admit that this whole “arts and crafts obsession” of mine is not a phase.


   Or she’ll promptly fake her own death out of embarrassment and then start over in Toronto or something, but that’s okay. Because if I play my cards right—which I will, which I am by showing up in this sickening look—winning Controverse is going to come with something even better than my mother’s approval.

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