“The Stylee”

Grace sat with a magazine on her lap.

“I wish you guys would get a cat,” she said.

The stylist on duty, working on someone, just laughed. “Uh-huh.”

It was a typically cloudy day, an infinite, unilateral mist inundating the things that Grace and Tanya looked at. Tanya’s customer made a comment to her about the cats she had at home, one of them getting fleas. Grace rolled her eyes. She was looking at the faces of the celebrities in the People magazine. Usually she’d just pity them, these rail-thin anorexics. She thought she’d go get a smoothie. She’d had her morning facial cleanse, and later to come was the manicure. In the meantime, she adored Tanya’s company, and Tanya was friendly. She had a feminine way of wearing shoes, and sometimes she even wore slippers.

Grace went and got her smoothie and then went to the employee fridge when she got back, going for her curried rice with mushrooms. She ate on a chair in a corridor in back of the parlor, and then went to the break room couch for a nap. She dreamed of someone slapping her as if she were a newborn baby and then having an elm tree emerge from her pelvic region.

When she woke up there was some mail for her, addressed to the salon, sitting on the table. It was just a bank statement. She used it to sweep some crumbs off the break room table, and then found some scouring powder under the microwave with which to get down and attack a sugary stain on the linoleum floor. Tanya walked in a while Grace was doing this, done with her shift. Grace, noticing it was Tanya, ran a hand through her hair.

“Gotta go get Jim his freakin’ lottery tickets,” said Tanya, as she grabbed her coat from off of a rack. Grace gave an acquiescent little chuckle.

“Hav a good rest of your day,” she said.

“You too, sweetheart,” said Tanya, bounding out.

It always got kind of lonely there without Tanya, for Grace.  Tiffany, the afternoon lady, was African-American and a little older, courteous but distant.

Tiffany gave Grace her manicure, and Grace could tell that Tiffany was worried about how she’d find enough money to feed her kids and pay her rent.

“Whadyu usually do for lunch?” Grace asked.

“Oh,” said Tiffany. “I usually get some chili. Or else Fred’s been comin’ over with somethin’.”

“‘Cause sometimes I have extra.”

“Oh,” said Tiffany, concentrating all the same, on Grace’s nails. “That’s sweet o’ ya, sister.”

“No problem,”  said Grace, smiling down at her hand and nails with just enough perfunctoriness that Tiffany would notice that it was deliberate. Grace looked down at the shape of her fingertips, and saw a lot there. She remembered when Jim the mail guy walked in and gave her a look with psychedelic, benign eyes. Everybody looked at her in this life, this was something she’d noticed around age seven. She was glad to be away from the boys on the public school playground and in third period chem. class.

Some ladies, she could tell, tended to anger at the fact that Grace just sat in the parlor everyday. She’d chanced into some money from her dad’s investment in Sirius satellite radio. Here and there she’d sell a pot at a local exhibit. The wood floored apartment Grace shared with her sister housed a kiln and a wheel. Grace’s sister had a job in a warehouse and was extremely fond of Grace, but mostly for her curried rice with mushrooms. The sisters in years prior would have had it with Pillsbury rolls, but had no come to prefer multi-grain bread with olive oil and crushed red pepper flakes, having heard bad things about trans fats. Sometimes a show called Portlandia would come on during certain nights when the sisters were sitting in front of the TV, maybe with a friend or aunt. Carrie Brownstein, the star of the show, had once composed part of the revolutionary band Sleater-Kinney, but now gesticulated subservient to buxom extras with an inexorable pallor. Sometimes Grace would just think of Tanya.


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