What That Poor Woman Must Be Going Through ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Marcelle was all about beauty. She owned Marcelle’s Salon of Beauty on Second Street, between Fife’s Package Liquors and Bold’s Auto Garage. She was so good at the art and science of dispensing beauty that all her customers had standing appointments. Friday was her busiest day. All the ladies in their golden years wanted to look good for the weekend, but especially for church services on Sunday.
Carmen Gance was the last to arrive. Her appointment wasn’t until eleven, but she always came early. She helped herself to a cup of tea and sat down to wait her turn.
“How’s the arthritis?” Otha Talley asked her.
Carmen knew that Otha only asked about one’s ailments so she could talk about her own.
“All cleared up,” Carmen said.
“How did you manage it?” Leona Woolrich asked.
“Easy,” Carmen said. “As soon as I stopped complaining about it, it went away.”
“We should all try that,” Marcelle said.
“I don’t have arthritis,” Doris Fingers said.
“Well, if it works for arthritis, it should work for anything,” Marcelle said.
“I have pain in every inch of my body,” Otha said. “Can you imagine that? Absolutely everything hurts.”
“Even your female parts?” Leona asked.
“Especially my female parts!”
“Drink a bottle of whiskey every night before you go to sleep and that should help,” Arlene Braithwaite said.
“Thanks, dear,” Otha said. “I’ll give it a try.”
“Did I tell you the latest about my nephew, Charlie, and that crazy wife of his?” Leona asked.
“Now, who did Charlie marry?” Doris asked.
“You know, dear!” Leona said. “He went over to China and put down ten thousand cold, hard ones to get himself a Chinese wife.”
“Why did he do that? Couldn’t he get himself an American wife?”
“Well, you know some men like the Orientals. American men believe that an Oriental wife will be submissive in all ways.”
“It doesn’t quite work out that way, though, does it?” Carmen said.
“No, honey, it doesn’t,” Leona said. “At least not in this case. They were only married two years and she decided to call it quits. You know how they talk. She said, ‘You tebble husband! You asshole! Me go back China! You kiss China girl yellow ass!’”
“My goodness!” Doris said. “That’s a remarkable interpretation! You should go on the stage!”
“Well, anyway,” Leona said. “She left him and now he has to scrape the money together for the divorce.”
“The world’s all screwed up,” Arlene said. “We already know that.”
“Speaking of ‘screwed up’,” Carmen said. “I heard that Midge Mulvehill’s son Todd came out as gay.”
“I’m so happy for him!” Doris said.
“Isn’t he only about thirteen?” Otha Talley asked.
“He’s twenty-seven,” Carmen said. “He was thirteen fourteen years ago.”
“Yes. Oh. And that’s not all. He’s dating a doctor.”
“A male doctor?”
“Well, if he’s gay, he wouldn’t be dating a female doctor, now, would he, dear?”
“I’m sure I know nothing about it.”
“That poor woman!” Leona said.
“Who?” Doris asked.
“Midge Mulvehill. What that poor woman must be going through!”
“Having a gay son.”
“Would it be better if he was a serial killer?”
“Yes, I think it would. At least a serial killer is normal.”
They all laughed and Leona looked embarrassed. “I guess I didn’t mean it quite the way it sounded,” she said.
“Maybe you’d better just keep still on that particular subject, dear,” Doris offered.
“Well, anyway, to each his own!” Arlene said. “Live and let live!” She raised her can of Coke all around as though delivering a toast.
“You always were so good at clichés, dear,” Carmen said.
“Time for your wash, Leona,” Marcelle said.
“Please don’t talk about me when I’m gone,” Leona said, standing up and going into the next room with Vivian, the little shampoo girl.
“She’s aged so much in the last year or so,” Doris said.
“I think her mind is really slipping,” Otha said.
“She’s putting on weight like crazy,” Carmen said.
“Speaking of putting on weight,” Arlene said, “have any of you seen Richard Helm lately? He was always so good-looking and now he’s an absolute blimp since his mother died.”
“Poor thing,” Doris said. “I heard he’s absolutely eating himself into oblivion with grief.”
“Of course, one wonders why he never got married,” Carmen said. “He was always so manly. When I was young, I was absolutely crazy about him. All the girls were.”
“There are rumors about him, I’m afraid,” Otha said.
“What kind of rumors?” Arlene asked.
“He goes on these mysterious trips three or four times a year and nobody knows where he goes.”
“Maybe he’s a secret agent,” Doris said.
“I don’t quite see him as the secret agent type,” Otha said.
“I think he’s leading a double life.”
“Now that his mother is dead,” Carmen said. “He can do whatever he wants. He got plenty of money from her estate.”
“Somebody needs to make it their business,” Arlene said, “to find out where in the hell he’s going and what in the hell he’s doing.”
“You do that little thing, Arlene, dear,” Doris said. “You make it your business.”
“Why should I give a shit what he does?” Arlene said.
“That’s the first sensible thing I’ve heard you say in a long time,” Otha said.
Leona came back into the room with her hair dripping, a towel around her shoulders. “I heard every word you bitches said about me,” she said. “Just because I’m in the next room doesn’t mean my hearing is defective.”
“Uh-oh!” Carmen said. “We’re caught! And are we ever embarrassed!”
“You all are a bunch of swine!”
“Truer words were never spoken,” Doris said.
“You’re just a hypocrite, Leona,” Otha said, “among all the other things you are. Do you expect us to believe that you don’t talk about us the minute our backs are turned?”
“Of course not!” Leona said. “Some of us have honor if others of us do not!”
They all laughed loud and long. Leona looked at them, stone-faced, and then she too laughed. “Give me a damned cigarette,” she said finally to Marcelle.
“I didn’t know you smoked, dear!” Carmen said.
“I didn’t until this moment, dear,” Leona said. “Now, tell me, which of you assholes have seriously been considering gender reassignment surgery?”
“What kind of a question is that?” Arlene asked.
“My mind is slipping. Remember? There’s no telling what I’ll say next.”
Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp