I had smelled my way through every airplane-bottle-sized vial of scented oil in the St. Louis Galleria’s Bare Escentuals store. My head pounded from the onslaught of floral, dusty, musty and rainwater-fresh fragrances. And still, nothing.
The strategy of the store was to lure you in with the essence of redolent oils and then for a perky sales clerk to sell you a scent blended into every kind of body wash, shampoo, conditioner and hand soap she had stocked on the shelves.
They all stunk to me. And there was only one left to smell.
It was called simply, “JM.” Those are my initials. “This could be perfume kismet,” I thought as I closed my eyes and lifted the bottle to my nose. It smelled soapy and clean. It smelled like fresh starts and new beginnings. It smelled the way I wanted to smell, the kind of smell that I thought, if it were exuding from my pores, would make me hopeful and happy. I wanted to smear it all over my body, and Ingrid, eager for her commission, was more than willing to work her alchemic magic to ensure that I had enough product to drench myself in morning, noon and night.
“And,” Ingrid said, “the owner’s daughter’s initials are ‘JM’, so you can be sure it’ll never be discontinued.”
“Thank God,” I said. “I haven’t been able to count on anything lately.”
Ingrid had promised.
My neighbor Frank was well on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout, pending his Woodcutting badge. He believed the badge would be easy to earn, since earning badges had always come easily to him and he lived in a neighborhood full of trees. Alas, the “Ecology” badge on his sash prohibited him from chopping down live trees, so he was faced with the task of finding a woodpile. Since he lived in Charleston, South Carolina, with its year-round heat and humidity, this was challenging. Ours was the only house in a four block radius that had a fireplace and ergo a woodstack. So Frank, with his hatchet in hand and dressed in full Boy Scout regalia, rang our doorbell and asked my Mother if he could have a go of it in our side yard. She said ‘yes’, of course, how could anyone deny a young man in the pursuit of his dream?
He consulted his Boy Scout Handbook and educated himself on form, leverage, and torque. Feeling satisfied that he was ready to begin, Frank anchored his left ankle parallel to his body on a low tree stump, raised his hatchet to precisely the height of his shoulder and swung the hatchet downward at 40 degree angle with a quick, even, determined stoke, promptly shearing off his left foot.
Adhering to the tenant of Boy Scout stoicism, Frank did not scream. It was the suspicious lack of chopping noise that drew my Mother outside, where she saw Frank rocking from side to side and clutching his leg in one hand while he held his orphaned foot in the other. Even with no experience in handling severed limbs, my Mother intuitively knew she had to act quickly. Rather than going back into the house to search for bandages, she raced to Frank’s side and whipped his yellow and blue kerchief from his neck. Tearing the fabric into strips and wrapping them around Frank’s lower leg she created a tourniquet, pulling it taught and staunching the blood long enough to drive Frank to the hospital.
Later that month, at a ceremony attended by all his den-mates, his Den Master and the Director of the Regional Council Forty-Seven, Frank was not graced with a Woodcutting badge. Instead, my Mother was received an honorary First Aid badge, which made all in attendance very proud.
As you know, we’ve recently had to consolidate our office space. Please know that I am thrilled to have you as an office-mate. I think you will find the room pleasant – it is close enough to the coffee that some of our co-workers stop in to say hello, but not so close that all of them do. I think the windows, with their view of the courtyard, sell themselves.
Full disclosure, as I do believe honesty is the best policy in every relationship, last evening I enjoyed a dinner of macaroni and cheese (gluten, dairy) with steamed broccoli (cruciferous). To that end, today might be a bit uncomfortable – I believe it will prove to be a crying shame that the aforementioned windows don’t open.
Grocery stores confuse me.
Cappuccino flavored potato chips. Blue yogurt in a squeeze and eat tube. Dog food made of vegetables and grains. I had a dog, Beastie, and sometimes he’d eat a carrot or a green bean that fell from the dinner table to the floor, but only if it had been previously soaking in a bowlful of beef stew. I never did see him eat grains.
Speaking of grains, grocery stores now carry beef from cows that were grain fed (it’s what’s for dinner), but I’ve never seen a cow in a field, chowing down on stalks of wheat or ears of corn. Cows eat grass. The stores have recently started carrying beef “from grass fed cows,” but it’s really expensive, and from what I hear, it tastes like grass. I, for one, don’t like the taste of grass. I tasted it once, after Brian Posner knocked me down while we were playing football. It was supposed to be flag football, but Brian said he was so used to playing tackle football that he instinctively took me down when I had the ball. I would have believed him, but his excuse didn’t explain the next few minutes of his rubbing my face in the grass.
Back to my point, it is reassuring that some beef comes from cows that ate grass, but in fact I don’t want to know that what I eat came from anything. I don’t want to know that the beef I eat used to be a cow. I don’t want to know that bacon had been a pig or that sushi was previously a fish. Food comes on anonymous Styrofoam trays wrapped in benign plastic for a reason. Sometimes the packages exclaim that what’s enclosed came from “Happy Cows/Pigs/Fish,” and I don’t believe that for a second. If my friends and I were hanging out and then one day Jason went missing and the next day a truck drove by with a sign painted on its side reading “Fresh from the farm to you,” I wouldn’t be happy at all.
Grocery stores confuse me. I’d stay away from them, but I get so damn hungry.
Once outside the building, Jessie took a walk around the parking lot. She pulled out her phone and dialed her Mom’s number, but then hung up. She took a step up onto the curb and pointed her phone at a clump of sod the landscapers had turned up and tossed aside. She snapped a photo and smiled to herself. This was the kind of art she liked now: destruction art. Her friend, Laura, had dragged her to a show by that name over the weekend. Jessie had been sure she’d be bored by room after room of framed images depicting destroyed buildings and wrecked cars, but afterwards she decided that this was who she would be: a destruction artist — edgy and mysterious. She texted her photo of the chunk of soil and grass to Laura and then called her.
Laura sounded annoyed when she answered. “I only have four minutes to talk,” she said. “I’m walking to my car and there’s this new Nazi law that I can’t talk on the phone while I’m driving.”
“No worries; I just wanted to say hi. Did you get my photo? Why don’t you just get Bluetooth?”
“I refuse to kowtow to the man,” Laura replied. “Why should I have to spend extra money just because a few idiots don’t believe that I can use both hands at the same time? I tell you what; if someone can’t drive while they’re talking on the phone it’s unlikely that they can drive when they’re not. It’s just another way for the government to tell us what to do.”
“Yes, I’ve heard your rant before,” Jessie said. “And I still think you should get Bluetooth.”
“And that attitude, my friend,” Laura said, “is why I’m hanging up on you.”
Jessie stuffed her phone into her pocket and kicked the dirt clod into the street. It was too damn early to go home.
A spider has laid eggs in the side of my face.
The turgid mass has grown so large that surely, at any moment, it will burst and spew forth dozens of arachnid progeny. I am certain of this.
The lump is definitely not a massive zit I have manhandled to the point that the resultant yellow and purple mound is an affront to dermatologists everywhere.
No. A spider has laid eggs in the side of my face.
I am certain of this.
Every day, morning and night, I pull up to a scanner in the parking garage and roll down the car window (“Roll down the car window”? No one has rolled down a car window in years. And what about “Hang up the phone”? My phone hasn’t hung anywhere in decades. But I digress.) I roll down the car window and flap a plastic card at a scanner to open the garage door.
Trained, Pavlovian-style, to this procedure of “roll down and wave”, I found myself yesterday evening in the drive thru lane at the post office with my Mother’s birthday card resting calmly on the passenger seat while my hand dug frantically in the slot of a blue mail dropbox. I had instinctively rolled down the car window and inadvertently tossed my parking pass into it.