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The representatives from Dawkins Manufacturing lived up to my expectations, and proved to be basically spineless and malleable reactionaries. A couple of over paid suits, used to pushing women around and getting their own way. It’s entirely possible, that in my former incarnation, back in the New York City office, I might have caved in under that old status quo, women as window dressing business mindset, and not been as effective in achieving Thelma’s goal’s during the negotiations. But… I’m not in New York anymore and the Dawkin’s reps probably haven’t come up against a hard nosed school marm, since they last got caught trying to lie and cheat their way through grade school. So… they were the one’s that caved.

"Bye, Bye, Boys!"

Damn, that felt good! I followed them both out toward the reception, secretarial area as the shorter one rushed to the doors and held them open for me. With exaggerated pomposity, I marched through and winked at Sue Ellen.

"Sue Ellen, Please contact Mister Marshall and arrange transportation for these two gentlemen, back to Buchwold International."

I didn’t want to gloat, but I had just kicked serious financial ass and it feels really good! Suppressing a smile, I smoothed my sweater and turned on my heel to return to my office, leaving them to flounder in their own incompetence. When I reached my desk, I found a note from Thelma with one word. "Status". I took the time to check my appearance with my purse mirror, brushing a hand over my collar to be sure everything is in place and then re-entered the hall to report to Thelma. She invited me in, on the first knock and I approached her desk and stood at attention.

"Did we get everything?"

"Yes. Mrs. Buchwold, Everything."

"Good work, Laura. Thank you. When you get back to your office, I would like you to review Smith, Berkowitz and Rogers. That will be all for now. Thank you."

Yes! Thelma Louise Buchwold does not waste words or emotion and she does not blow smoke up your ass. This is good! I am pumped! I noticed the red light on my phone, blinking again and pick up the handset.

"Miss Smith? Hello, this is Sue Ellen. I just want to alert you, before you leave for the weekend. We have a staff meeting scheduled for Monday at six o’clock in the morning. You know it’s at Nancy’s Nook. You know where that is, correct?"

"Yes, I certainly do, Sue Ellen! Thank you very much."

Ah! The weekend! Yes, it’s Friday, isn’t it. It’s been a crazy week, getting transferred and flying out here, that entire fiasco this morning and then my complete makeover, and then the best part, the grand finale, burying the Dawkins reps! Wow! What a rush! Why, Uh oh! I haven’t even seen where I’m going to be living yet. Thelma mentioned Bender’s Boarding House, but I don’t know where that is or how I will get there. Actually, I don’t even know the name of the town, I’m in! Maybe, I better just ring Sue Ellen back and find out a few more things about this place, before I am left stranded in the office over the entire weekend! Wouldn’t that be a real hoot!

Well it turns out that I’m in Buchville, Kansas. Turns out, Buchville was founded by the Buchwold family, back in 1871. Turns out, that Mr. David C. Marshall, among other things, drives many of the ladies in the front office, back and forth to work every day. So, of course, since I have no transportation and even less of an idea in which direction Buchville is even located, I am real punctual about being ready to go, and standing in the front office at five o’clock. David Marshall already has a full load of regular riders, but ever so accommodating as he is, he unfolded a third row of seating from out of the floor, in the back of his old station wagon and I climbed in. That third row faced toward the rear, but since I was the only one back there, I could half hitch a leg up onto the seat and slightly turn and talk to the rest of the riders. This could work out to be a good thing, because I would now be able to meet and get to know the rest of the girls, in a relaxed setting, ask questions and find out a little more about life in Buchville.

I am surprised to find that only one of the girls is originally from Buchville. That would be Selma Fitzgerald. Selma actually is almost as old as she looks, at fifty-seven, she has worked for Thelma and Buchwold Mid-West for over thirty-five years. She rides shotgun, up front, by virtue of seniority. Directly in front of me in the back seat, well the middle seat, now that I’m in the far back, sits Meredith Elaine Shoemaker, twenty-six, from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Meredith transferred here, from Buchwold’s New York office four years ago. She is wearing a light blue and white print, flared cotton shirtwaist dress, that peaks out at collar and cuffs, from under a navy blue cable knit sweater, buttoned to the throat. In the middle is Brenda Lee Bishop, thirty-three, from Atlanta, Georgia. Brenda came to Buchwold, from Price-Waterhouse, also out of New York, nine years ago. Brenda sports a light blue, pilgrim collared blouse pinned tightly closed at her neck with a silver monogram pin. Her blouse is tucked into a light gray pleated skirt, matched to a darker gray sweater vest.

At the far window is Kelly Anne Summers, twenty-two, our blond ex-surfer chic, out of Irvine, California. This is Kelly’s first job and apparently she is some kind of computer whiz. She’s decked out in a perky, pink bow blouse under a green, buttoned up V-neck sweater, over a long straight, dark gray skirt. They all have short, tightly permed, unnaturally curly hair, sitting high on the tops of their heads. They all have white-walled ears and shaved necks. They all look like they are now in their early, to mid sixties and would be right at home playing pinochle at a senior citizens center, much less working the nerve center of a multi-billion dollar business enterprise. The fact that they all dress in the same dumpy clothing styles as Thelma, is a textbook case of following page for page, out of the dress-for-success manual. And if Thelma holds staff meetings at Nancy’s Nook, only an idiot would reject her idea of the corporate hairdo. Well, hell, they wouldn’t even be here, they’d be gone in sixty seconds. So, I guess my real curiosity lies, not so much in why they look like they do, that’s pretty obvious. Nancy Munsenegger pretty much has laid the whole Thelma Buchwold philosophy out for me, this morning, but I really wonder as to how or why these gals are buying into it. Clearly, Meredith, Brenda and Kelly are exceptionally smart and talented and can work wherever they choose to. How do I get into this, with out insulting them?

"Well, I guess I made quite a first impression, this morning!"

No one seemed to be taking that bait. In fact, it put a major damper over the previous "How I came to Buchville" stories. I guess I have made a particularly poor first impression on this bunch, if they don’t even want to talk about it. We were now riding along in a stony silence. Selma Fitzgerald, finally speaks up.

"Laura. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. The point is; you got your act together pretty quickly and did your job. That’s what we expect around here. Everyone does their job and everyone does their job to perfection."

"Yes, of course, I understand."

Well, no, I’m not sure I do understand, but obviously, I’ve said something that offends them. There was another minute or so of uncomfortable silence. Kelly and Brenda finally started talking together, about some advanced firewall they were extending into Chile and Argentina, which I do not follow at all, and then the tension seems broken. Well, maybe it is just an extension of Thelma’s second chance policy. You get your second chance, you make it or break it, end of story. I’m mulling this all over in my mind, when David Marshall brings the car to a stop. Kelly pops her door open and gets out. Then she bends over, peering back into the car at me.

"This is Bender’s. Aren’t you getting out?"

David Marshall had already jumped out of the driver’s seat and come to the back, pulling the big rear door open for me. I grasped at his offer of a hand, trying to extract myself through the confines of the opening. No mean feat in this girdle.

"Thank you David. This is Bender’s? Gee, Kelly, Do you live here as well?"

"Yes, I do. My flat is on the second floor, 2B. Come on. Let’s go in"

I thanked David again and waved good bye to the rest of the girls, as they drove off.

"Will they pick us up here Monday?"

"Yes, of course. Come on, let’s see how your rooms look. You’re probably in 3A. That apartment has been empty since Mary Samuel retired and it has a nice view over Chestnut Street."

I followed Kelly into the front lobby and up to the counter. Kelly started tapping on a little desk bell.

"Charlotte! Charlotte, are you here?"

As we waited patiently at the front desk, a slight, silver gray haired, older woman shuffled through a door at the end of the counter, breaking into a smile when she spied us.

"Kelly! Hello, my Dear! How are you this evening? Did you have a nice day at work? And how was Mrs. Buchwold today? My, my, who is this, with you? Are you Miss Laura Parker Smith? Well, How do you do. It’s so very nice to make your acquaintance. We’ve been expecting you. My. My, yes indeed. I am Charlotte Bender. Yes indeed, we’ve been expecting you. Your room is to be 3A and it is all ready and all of your things have been taken up and put away. Yes, We’re all ready for you, My Dear! You will find a card on your dresser with the house rules. And, if you wish, you may join us this evening for dinner. You may be seated for dinner between seven and seven thirty."

"Thank you. Yes, How do you do, Mrs. Bender. Yes, I am Laura Smith. Please, just call me Laura, please. Thank you. That is most kind of you. May I have my key, please?"

"Your key? Why, my dear! This is Buchville! You don’t need to be worrying about putting everything under lock and key, here! We lock up the front doors at night, of course, nine o’clock, but you certainly don’t have to worry about a lock and key for your room. Tee, hee, hee! The new one’s always seem to be so confused, don’t they?"

Mrs. Bender gave Kelly a big wink, with that comment. Hmm, no locks on the doors. Hmmm… Buchville, Kansas! "I guess we’re not in New York anymore, Toto!" Actually, Kelly and Charlotte Bender, both got a pretty big chuckle out of that one.

"Oh, come on Laura, let’s go up and see your room. I’ll explain some of the things on the way."

Laura is pulling on my hand, leading the way to a central stairs.

"No elevator?"

"Ha, Laura. No, There are no elevators. Well there is a freight elevator in the back, but well, that’s for freight, isn’t it? In some ways, life is a lot simpler here, then you might find in any city and most towns. There’s certainly no problem with crime. There’s pranks and mischief around Halloween I guess, but nothing like you might be used to. Even the Townies watch their "P’s" and "Q’s". It’s an interesting arrangement, the Townies are completely tolerated and allowed to live their misguided lives, and pretty much as they wish. There are some lines they do not cross. There are unwritten rules. When they are broken, corrective measures are taken and applied. It’s worked like this for more then a hundred years. You’re a smart girl. Laura, you’ll figure it out."

"Yes, I guess I see that. Kelly, I am curious though, how is it that you end up here, like this. I don’t mean any thing bad, Kelly, I just wonder how you like it here. What do you do with your free time?"

"Oh, I read a lot. I study and keep up with my technology. I’m going for my master’s degree over the internet. On weekends, there are socials and dances, things like that, and the church of course. It’s not a completely aesthetic life, you know!"

"Uh, huh."

"But that’s not what you really want to know, is it? What you really want to know, is why I gave up beach boys, Jaguars, fancy clothes and restaurants, to work here. How much do you make, Laura?"

"Ah, what? You mean my salary? Why, ah…"

"Ninety five thousand dollars, plus change. Isn’t that right, Laura? I suppose you think that’s a lot of money. I suppose you also think you have a private office. Well, Laura, all of the girls you see in the front office earn that salary, and believe me, they earn it. And, your private office? Uh, huh, You are on probation here. You are in there, so Thelma Buchwold can keep an eye on you. When you prove yourself truly worthy, you will be promoted to the front with the rest of us. Except for Thelma’s office, the closed offices are only used for sensitive customer relations. Each of the girls in the front is an expert in their field, every one excels in their respective discipline, we are all equal, and no one works here by accident. We all have a personal stake in this business, when one of us is successful, we are all successful. If one of us stumbles, we reach out and lift that person up. We are focused and we are disciplined."

"Don’t you miss it?"

"What? Boys? Clothes? Get real, Laura. I can have all of that tonight, with the snap of a finger. It’s superficial, I don’t need it. When we enter into this girdle, bind our bodies and sit at the hands of Nancy Munsenegger, and listen to the words and wisdom of Thelma Louise Buchwold, we are transformed. We are lifted to a higher plane, a plane focused to sharpened mental prowess. The bondage of our bodies, frees our minds. When we embrace the appearance and outward manners of a subjugated woman, we are in fact released. It is the vestment of a higher religious order. Did you not feel it, in your dealings with the Dawkins representatives?"

Ah… why, ah… Yes, I did!"

And how did it feel?"

"Excillerating!"

I pushed the door to 3A open and peaked in. It was a nice little place, about as country, homey as I’d expect you’d find out here. There are frilly print curtains on the windows, and it’s sparsely furnished with overstuffed furniture protected by flower print covers. First impression, it somewhat reminds me of a retirement home for old widows. It’s fashioned in that kind of an old style, that looks to be from about the late forties. I half expect the McAndrew Sisters to come on some old tube radio, singing a little ditty urging me to buy war bonds and beat the Kaiser. I walked into the reasonably sized sitting room and looked around. To left is a small room with a bath, straight ahead is a small, narrow kitchen area filled with a table, probably big enough to accommodate two people sitting down, a tiny gas stove and equally small refrigerator. To the right of that is a door, which I would assume leads into the bedroom. There is one window in the sitting area, facing the street and it seems likely that I’ll find a matching one in my new bedroom.

"Well, this is nice, Kelly. Not real big, though it ought to be very easy to keep clean."

Yes, They’re all laid out about the same. There are two units on each floor; four in all. Charlotte lives on the first floor in the back. I’m one down, on the other side. Lynda Billingsby lives across the hall from you and Delia Amelia Polanski lives below you, across the hall from me. It’s a cozy group. You’ll love it!"

"Some of these things look really old."

"Well, they are. Just because something is old, doesn’t mean it isn’t any good. If you take care of things, they’ll last a long time. You can’t really beat the quality. Look at these wood floors. Some of these boards are over eighteen inches wide. Don’t worry Laura, you’ll get the hang of living in Buchville."

I pushed on into the bedroom. There was a fairly huge armoire along one wall. A type of dressing mirror with a pair of low cabinets attached along each side, stood next to it. On the side wall is another ornately carved vanity with a smaller mirror, a chest level dresser, a wide armless seat, a matching lower, longer bench type of seat and a wonderful Victorian looking four poster bed. It was all very scrumptious and in fact, dressed as we both were, we seemed to blend right in with this old timey ambiance! This is very interesting.

"Well, Laura, I’d say that it looks like you’re fitted in here, pretty well! I’m sure you’ll find that your things are already put away. I’ll leave you to yourself now, to get used to it all. I have some things to attend to before dinner. We will be seeing you for dinner, correct?"

"Well, sure, I guess so. Do you eat here, downstairs with Mrs. Bender?"

"Yes, it’s nice and cozy, and very informal. You can come dressed as you are! Try to be punctual. We seat between seven and seven thirty, it’s most respectful of Mrs. Bender, you know."

"Ok, Bye, Kelly."

Well, I still have a lot of unanswered questions, and now some very intriguing new ones. Hmm, Dressed as I am, for the office, is considered informal. I wonder if they all dress up in full crinoline, prom gowns, when it gets fancy! Ha! Dang, that Kelly, even her straight answers, seem seriously elusive. Did she just say that every one of the girls in the car pool is making ninety-five a year? That is amazing! And I’m on probation? Well, a probationary period isn’t unexpected, but then I’ll move out to a desk and head set with the rest of them, in that front office? That is kind of strange. I mean, I know there’s no "me" in "team", and all those other snappy corporate sayings, but, Geez, when you’re knocking down almost a hundred a year, you’d think, that might come with an office and a little privacy. And this boarding house is filled with women, single women by the sound of it, why it almost sounds like a sorority house, or, yea gads! A nun’s convent! It occurs to me, that living and working in Buchville is going to be a whole lot more laid back from the noise, glitter and rush, rush, rush of New York City. Why, if I factor in the cost of living here, I’m not just making a lot of money, it is going to pile up, in a hurry! And, it really is a great job with meaningful responsibilities. What the hell! I can do this for a couple years, dress up like Grandma Moses, stash it away and retire to Belize, at thirty. Piece of cake!

Interesting card full of house rules. I sat down at my vanity and begin to read over the instructions. Beyond the usual stuff, what to do if I smell smoke, what to do if I stuff the plumbing, there is this bit again about the front door being locked promptly at nine o’clock, with no hint as to what happens if I’m still outside at nine-o-five. A couple lines go on about no male quests on the upper floors; it’s ok in the front lobby though. And more about dinner at seven, etc., plus something about "dress of the day", which isn’t really spelled out and I don’t follow at all. The more I read, the more I picture life in a nunnery! Ok, Not a problem.

I left the card on the vanity and walked over for a peak into the armoire. The skirts and blouses I’d picked up at Davenports, were hanging on padded hangers, sweaters are on a shelf above and a couple pairs of new shoes are parked in some kind of pigeon box contraption on the floor. I did not see my seven hundred-dollar Estelle LaVierre pantsuit or the other pantsuits I had packed in my overnight bag. I didn’t see my overnight bag either. Moving to the dresser, I opened drawers at random, finding an assortment of brassieres, girdles and other, as yet unidentified heavy-duty foundations. Hose in the top drawer, an assortment of big panties beneath, a drawer of folded slips, more stuff from Davenports, but nothing that I had brought with me. I moved into the bathroom and opened the old-fashioned mirrored medicine chest. None of my old things are in there; not even my deodorant. Hmmm, Looks like a brand new toothbrush, though! I wonder where my blow dryer got to? Then I closed the mirrored door, and took a critical look at my reflection. Don’t you worry about the hair dryer, darling, you’re parlor bait now, Babe!

Finally, it dawns on me that I don’t have my watch either, another casualty of the trip to Davenports, and I have no idea what time it is. I do not want to blow my first dinner hour at Bender’s Boarding House. Maybe I can knock next door and find out what time it is, from… what’s her name, Lynda Billings, yeah, Lynda. I dart in front of the full-length, dresser mirror for a perfunctory inspection, whatever "dress of the day" is supposed to mean, this is how I’m dressed today. And given how hyper, Kelly and the rest of the girls went earlier, when I first dumb, stumbled into the office, the least I can do is look neat and presentable, now.

"It’s open. Come in."

I still stood outside the door, even after knocking and Linda calling out to me, it felt strange to just walk into her room, we don’t even know each other.

"Be right with you."

Linda is scurrying around the room. I assume she works at Buchwold, and although she’s dressed well beyond the standard office sweater and skirt uniform, she still appears well defined within that other worldly mode of fashion so prevalent in Buchville. Actually, the more I stare at her, I swear I’ve wandered onto the set of an old Loretta Young movie. She is actually wearing a mint green, shirtwaist dress, tailored tightly about her proud and prominent bodice and flaring dramatically out, over tiers of several petticoats. She has a double row of pearls about her throat, matching earrings and pearl toned, pointed toe pumps. She looks stunning and I am absolutely flabbergasted.

"With you, in just a sec."

"Yeah, sure, take your time. I’m Laura Smith. I guess we’re neighbors."

"Hi! Linda, Linda Billingsby, Pleased ta meet cha! Be with ya in a sec!"

This is wild! Like I’ve passed through a time warp. She looks like the feminine ideal, in a 1959 magazine advertisement for some age defying facial cream. Her complexion is unbelievably clear and smooth, her makeup is applied to perfection, every line and color precise. Her hair glistens under a hard shell of lacquer, the small curl of her bangs, lightly brushes against her forehead, and the rest just rises above her head in a spun, bouffant bubble, framed at the sides in a short tight flip. And she’s blond! A dazzling, All-American Platinum Blond!

"Yeah, Take your time."

"Ya, going down to eat?"

"Yeah."

I figure, I’ll just follow along with the Lovely Linda, here. She seems like she’s got this all covered. I’ll tag along, and fit right in, under the radar. Right about now, I don’t feel strangely dressed in the least! I was thinking she was about fully topped off, when she reached into her own armoire and pulled something else out and shook it about for a few seconds. It took me only a moment to realize she was slipping into a huge, frilly white pinafore apron. She grinned at me as she tied it off behind her waist.

"Where’s yours?"

"Uh, What?"

"Your apron."

"Apron, Ah, I don’t have an apron."

"OK, Ill loan ya one. Ya have to have an apron for dinner."

I was actually embarrassed when she returned and handed me something like a frilly cobbler’s apron. It was maddening prints of pink and green apples, leaves, berries and whatever else, with two large pockets sewn into the front.

"Don’cha worry about it. I work over at Davenports. You come on over and see me there tomorrow and I’ll fix you up."

"Yeapper! I’ll be there!"

Anyway, I followed Linda down both flights of stairs into the lobby, turning and continuing through the foyer into a quaint and dainty dining room, located in the back. Kelly was already seated. She has remained dressed in her pink bow blouse, green sweater and the dark gray skirt, but it is barely visible beneath her own huge apron. It’s more like a sleeveless over-dress, sky blue, with a bodice that buttons up the back so high, that only a tiny fraction of her pink blouse, peaks out at the top and her green covered arms, poke out shyly from her sides. The skirt part, drapes over her lap and nearly reaches to the floor. There is an intricate embroidery trim around the hem, and over the bodice and her shoulders. I nod a pleasant hello, in her direction and Kelly smiles back at me, with acknowledgement.

Charlotte Bender is seated at the head of the table. Kelly is at her right and Linda is sitting down on her left, so I just pull the next available seat out a bit and slip into it, as demurely as I can manage. As I am getting myself arranged, skirts tucked and apron straight, another woman entered the room, from what I must suppose is a kitchen area. She is carrying five dishes of what looks to be a tuna on lettuce, with hard-boiled egg salad.

The portions are very modest, and though I am actually quite hungry after my first day of working here at Buchwold Mid-West, it is just as well that they are small plates, as I doubt I can stuff much within the tight constrains of my girdled stomach. This fair skinned new entrant, is exceedingly gracious and fluid in the girliest looking confection of a ruffled pinafore apron I have ever seen. It is of the sheerest organza and beneath that, an equally sheer blouse clings to her bullet shaped, satin covered breasts, before exploding into billowing sleeves that end in long tight cuffs. A brilliant fuchsia skirt hugs her tiny waist before ballooning out and over a dense underskirt of stiff white taffeta. I am drawn to her hair. It is an autumn orange, russet red color, so heavily lacquered, that a single hair will not move. And that is no mean feat, given the clearly extravagant level of sculpture it represents. A languid, arching wave, rises majestically from her hairline and then dips to caress the left, of her perfectly formed brows. The sides and top are urged to the rear in a way that belies their fullness, before the great symmetrical, tiara of hair turns upon itself, forming an advanced flip-back style that both cups and frames her exposed ears. For all it’s intricacy and volume, it appears light and diaphanous! This can only be the work of Nancy Munsenegger. There cannot be more then a handful of people, since the beginning of time, with the skills and vision required to attain this mastery of the art!

I do not know if she works at Buchwold, certainly she is trimmed and adorned well beyond Thelma’s no-nonsense dictum of business prim and proper. Her exquisite manners and appearance seem beyond reproach. Her poise and posture, while regal and highly restrained, seem so effortless and un-effected, I am enraptured with her beauty. I am embarrassed to find myself staring at her. Her presence is so ethereal, and I have never seen such unabashed feminine confidence, displayed with such passive, yet overwhelming power. If this is her plain-jane work-a-day dress, I absolutely shudder to contemplate her influence, if moved to dominance. I expect she would overpower even the gravitational pull of the moon.

I am moved to rise and help seat her, fearful of her delicacy and yet she is the one waiting on us. There are things in heaven and on this earth that we mere mortals, can never comprehend.

Delia Amelia Polanski, completed her service and seated herself. We all sat silently, hands in our laps, until she was fully settled. Finally Charlotte Bender spoke up.

"Ladies, May I have your attention, please. Tonight, we are blessed and joined by Miss Laura Parker Smith. Miss Smith comes to us from New York and is the newest member of Buchwold Mid-West Industries. I will expect you all to be very patient and most helpful to Miss Smith, as she acclimates herself to our schedules and requirements and becomes familiar with her responsibilities. Now, Please say hello to Miss Smith."

As if on cue, the three girls in unison, wished me a warm and hearty "Hello!". I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to get up and curtsy to each one of them, and I didn’t, but I did respond to each one individually, with the most pleasant and sincere "Thank you." I could muster. Following my little introduction, the girls picked up their teaspoons and started to eat their little cups of fruit salad. Mrs. Bender began with Kelly, asking her how her day has been. Kelly put her teaspoon down and responded with a three-minute monologue on things on different sides of a DNS server or something, which I still do not follow in the least.

"That’s nice Dear! And, Miss Polanski! Do tell us of your day."

Kelly now picked up her spoon, and slipped a bit of the fruit salad into her mouth. Delia Polanski, placed her own spoon on the table, dabbed her mouth lightly with a napkin and began to speak. I gather from her comments that she is some kind of marketing research analyst whiz bang with Buchwold, but doesn’t work in the same building as Kelly and I. In fact, her office takes up the entire second floor of the library, right here in the town. Fascinating. I have finished my fruit salad and am somewhat lost in thought, mesmerized by the seeming incongruity of her appearance and demeanor with her quick and analytical mind, when I suddenly realize that it is my turn to recite my days activities. Caught off guard, I begin with a stumbling explanation of my plane ride and then continue into the fiasco upon my first arrival at Thelma’s office, when Charlotte Bender cut me off!

"Dear, we truly have no need to be dragged through your earlier embarrassments. We would hope you have learned and put that behind you. Perhaps, the next time we meet you will share a discovery, a new and uplifting experience of benefit to us all!"

Wow! These people do not abide whiners! If you screw up in Buchwold, I guess you suck it up and go on! End of story! I look at all their faces, and thankfully do not sense the agitation I encountered in David Marshall’s car, earlier. They smile at me as if I am a child that simply does not know how to act in adult company. It’s pretty unnerving. Linda, immediately begins her synopsis, including a brief description of silk worm life cycles, which takes all of their attention off of me and that’s a good thing. After each of us has completed their progress report for Mrs. Bender, we dig into the tuna salads and the conversation degenerates into pure girl talk. Linda has apparently discovered and scored on a bulk lot of vintage, brand new Anne Fogarty dresses and everyone is ecstatic to see them at Davenports. I am soon in high spirits and giggling right along. But, I have this recurrent thought, or concern. I really wonder how pervasive this whole Buchwold, Buchville Company Town immersion really is. How deep does this run? Is this like becoming the Borg?

After dinner, I found myself back in Linda’s room. I thought that since she wasn’t a direct employee of Buchwold, she might be more inclined to open up to some of my questions.

"Thanks for lending me an apron, Linda."

"Yeah, No problem. We always cover up when dinning, breakfast or dinner, it doesn’t matter. You can wear an overdress or your dressing gown, but we all just seem to like the change and varieties of different aprons. It’s more fun!"

"Linda? I’m a little curious and I don’t mean to be rude or disrespectful. It seems as though there is a particular, ah… similarity in the appearance and dress of the girls who work out at Buchwold. How is it that Delia seems, ah… so… ah… more feminine… in her style of dress? She does work for Buchwold, doesn’t she?"

"Yeah, I dunno, maybe it’s the library? She’s on the front lines there, ya know, with the children and Townies and all."

"The children?"

"Yeah. The little children? She’s like, she reads to them and stuff, after school. A lot of them go to the library straight from school and she’s like their fairy Godmother, ya know? And the library, ya know, is like, right across the street from Townies Snip-n-Style. Know what I mean?"

"Uh, huh!"

Fact is, I’m not sure I do know for sure. I am getting the impression that there is some kind of shadow conflict going on between the Townies and the Thelmaettes and maybe Delia Amelia Polanski is some kind of front line shock trooper in the battle for Buchwold hearts and minds! It’s an interesting concept, anyway! Maybe that’s why, Linda seems so more fem as well? Out at Buchwold Mid-West, we’re taking on the hard ass, money sucking, business world and the style is total business regimentation. In town, I guess it’s more of a passive crusade. Linda and Delia provide and maintain a presence consistent with the greater Buchwold propriety and lifestyle. I don’t think anyone is actually forced to embrace Buchwold values. Of course, Kelly did allude to unwritten rules and corrective measures earlier. I wonder what that’s all about? I wonder, if you REALLY screw up, do they tie you down, perm your hair and crush you into a corset and a sissy dress?

……………………………………..

I was wakened by a banging on my door.

"Laura! Laura! Come on! Ya going down for breakfast?"

God! What time is it? I must be sure to get an alarm clock today. Linda? Someone is banging on my door. Breakfast? Groggily, I pull myself from the bed, make my way to the door and open it. Linda stands there. She’s dressed in a figure hugging white cashmere sweater, buttoned up the front to it’s own jewel decorated little collar. A light pink circle skirt falls from her waist over a stiff petticoat. Her face is already impeccably made up and her apron is draped over her arm. She has an odd looking cap on her head. It’s like a wide satin band that covers her ears and goes around the back of her head, but above the band is a stiff, type of net that supports her bouffant hairdo. It’s fastened at the front with a single snap and the very top is open.

"Laura! You’re not ready! Oh my! What’d ya do to your hair?"

"Huh? My hair? What time is it, Linda? It’s Saturday, isn’t it?"

"Almost seven."

"Yeah, so?"

"Well, it’s five till seven, actually. Aren’t ya having any breakfast? I thought ya’d go over to Davenports with me, today. Dear me, ya crushed your hair!"

"Seven. Breakfast is at seven? My hair? I was sleeping!"

"Well, I guess we need to get ya a sleeping cap, too. I’m sorry, I shoulda said something. I thought you knew?"

"Knew what?"

"Your hair! If ya can’t fix your hair yourself, ya better take good care of your set. You aren’t scheduled to be back at Nancy’s Nook until Monday morning are you? It’s just all crushed. What’d ya do, sleep with your head under the mattress? Geez, you can’t go down looking like that? Tell ya what. Maybe ya should skip breakfast this morning and just get the rest of your self together. I’ll come back up after we eat and see if I can help ya out some. We can’t let ya go out looking like this. It’d reflect badly on all of us. Mrs. Bender won’t like that at all, and it might even get back to Thelma Buchwold, and I sure don’t want that."

"Gosh Linda, you don’t have to go to all that trouble."

"Oh, it’s no trouble, believe me. Remember, we all have to help each other, all the time. If one of us has an indiscretion, well it falls on us all and we all have to make equal restitution. Why, sometimes, following a particularly grievous infraction, another of the girls will be selected to bear the consequences for the error. This serves as a reminder that we are a sisterhood and we are all responsible for each other."

"Do you mean, if I do something wrong, you will all suffer for it? And if, it’s a particularly loathsome offense, a completely innocent girl could be singled out to accept the reprimand and consequences instead of me!"

Yeah! That’s exactly right. It strengthens our bond! OK! Got’ta go… Don’t wanna be late!"

"Oh! I’m so sorry! Yes, yes! I will get myself ready and wait right here in my room until you return! Oh, Thank you, Linda!"

Linda left for breakfast and I headed back into my flat and on to the bathroom. Geez! No wonder the girls get so aggravated, when I keep resurrecting tales of my clown act, my first buffoon’s entrance into the Buchwold office. It’s entirely possible that they’ve already had to pay some kind of penalty for that display and they don’t need to be reminded of it, over and over, by me. Geez! They must think I’m a real dork! I stared at my reflection in the mirror. Yeah, I’d really wreaked Nancy’s work. My hair is flattened and smashed against my head at several odd angles. I don’t know how Linda can help this, I look like Gumby! Ok! Let’s be positive! I jumped into the shower and cleaned myself up, determined to at least make every other part of my appearance, properly presentable. After bathing, I looked in the armoire for something to wear. The few things in there, all seemed to be for work and not what I consider, Saturday casual. On the other hand, Linda is dressed up about as neatly as she was yesterday. Although this is probably a workday for her, maybe, all things considered, I should err on the side of formality. Yeah! Last thing I want, is to see one of the girls get tarred and feathered for my screw-ups.

I worked my way back into my long line, rocket tipped brassiere, heavy duty girdle and all of the other overly modest, under dressings. I have one dress hanging among my new skirt and blouse outfits. Maybe this will appear a little different from the rest of my office attire. Johanna picked it out for me at Davenports, so it must be appropriate in some context. It is a pink polyester jacket dress. The bodice is an indescribable, shiny multi-colored, flowered print that tends toward yellow, although there is a lot of pink, orange and some white flower shapes all over it. Below the waist, it is just a solid pink double knit. I slipped it over my head and let it fall into place. I see it drops to about three inches below my knees, as I reach behind myself and zip up the back. I fool around with a pair of loose ends at the front of the neckline that are intended to tie into a bow, until I get it suitably floppy, fluffy and right. I slipped on the jacket. The bottom drops to about the level of my crotch, there are five buttons along the front, though none at the neck where it just flares away into a wide lapel and wing collar. I suspect that it’s not meant to be closed. There are pointed, pocket flaps over each hip, with no actual pocket beneath them. The jacket is also trimmed in a variation in the weave of the material, using a courser, vertically ribbed panel along each side, from armpit to hem. All and all, as I look at my final reflection in the mirror, despite the loud combination of solid pink color and garish print, it’s a pretty conservative outfit. I sort of look like a low level, right wing, ward leaders wife at a church fundraiser. I ought to pass without comment through Buchville.

My hair’s a real problem though. It was pretty grim in early morning bed-head mode, and now that I’ve washed it, it hangs over top of my head like a curly haystack. It still has plenty of body from the perm, but it is a total mess. I have no idea what to do with it and can only hope that Linda is a magician!

I am still fretting over the horrible condition of my hair, when there is a sharp rap at my door. I hope that’s Linda! I rush across my room to open it.

"Well, my, my, my! Don’t we look all prim and proper! Very nice, Laura! Very, very nice!"

I blushed at her compliment. Inwardly though, I am pleased. I do not want to do anything wrong today. Nothing. I am determined that today, I will keep my eyes and ears open and absorb and assimilate as much of the Buchville doctrine as possible.

"Look what I have! I spoke with Mrs. Bender at breakfast, about our little problem and she came up with this wonderful solution! Look! Mrs. Bender has graciously offered the loan of one of her wigs! Isn’t this great!"

Ah… I’m a little taken back. I’m not going to let this show though and I sure as hell, am not going to offend anyone with some stupid comment about Mrs. Bender’s hair, or lack of it, or whatever. I’m going with the program, today, whatever, you know what I mean?

"Yeah! Gee, This is great! What do I do now!"

"Ok, Now… Let’s see. Ya don’t have a wig liner, I guess?"

"Ah… Ah wig liner? No."

"OK… Back ta my place. Maybe I can rig something."

I made a quick visual search of my room and padded out the door behind Linda. She headed right through her sitting room, into her bedroom and started to root around in her wastebasket.

"Ah, HA! Thought so!"

She held up a discarded stocking! Charging back into her kitchen, she then rummaged through a drawer, produced a large scissors and a with great flourish, clipped off the foot piece, followed by another clean slice through the leg, at about six-inches farther up. Grinning to herself, she handed me the short nylon tube, indicating that I should pull it over my head. Well, I can’t say I’m exactly thrilled with the idea of pulling used hosiery over my head, but like I sez… suck it up and go for it! Ok, it’s on, now what? Linda walked up to me and began to stuff any stray hair poking out, back underneath my new stocking cap.

"Yeah, This’ll work real good. Ok, Laura, sit down and let me get this wig fitted on ya."

I sat down at her kitchen table, turning the chair side ways, so she’d have more room to move around and work on me. Linda has the wig in her hands, giving it a couple shakes and moving it around to find the front. Then she just laid it over my head using one had to hold the front firmly at my hairline and the other to pull it down to the nape of my neck. She then spent a brief period, pushing it around to get it settled and centered.

"How does that feel?"

"OK, I guess? How’s it look?"

"Good, actually. Much better then that road kill you had earlier! I need to get some bobby pins and a pic. Don’t want this flying off anytime soon! Just sit here a minute and I’ll be right back."

Returning with her items, she deftly attached the wig to my head with about a dozen of the pins. Satisfied that it is completely secure, Linda attacked it with the pic, poking and lifting in quick little jabs, all over my head.

"Good! Done! What ya think?"

I can’t see it of course, so I just shrug in agreement. How bad can it be? If Linda’s satisfied and it’s one of Mrs. Bender’s own wigs, it’s got to be dead on, right? It feels a little funny, but that’s probably just from the tightness of the stocking cap. I pushed myself up from the chair and gave Linda a big grin.

"Linda! You have saved the day! Show me to a mirror, I have got to see what magic you have wrought!"

Wow! This is totally funky! Staring back at myself, is Charlotte Bender’s identical twin! I mean, I know I’m younger and my face doesn’t show her age, but the resemblance is startlingly uncanny! I could get away with using her photo ID. The wig is styled in one of those short curly round poodle do’s, completely synonymous with that image of thousands of dithering old ladies, seen hanging out at bingo games. This little silver haired, permy looking hairstyle seems to exagerate the frumpy style of my pink jacket dress, to the point where I am going to be fighting off dozens of boy scouts, trying to get me across the street. I want to laugh, but the look on Linda’s face is one of concern and sternly serious. I can tell there is a lot more riding on this wig, then merely covering up my botched hairdo.

"It’s fantastic! Linda! How can I ever thank you?"

"Don’cha worry about it. Just getting you through this weekend in one piece will be thanks enough, believe you, me! Where are your shoes? Come on, Laura, don’cha be teasing me like this, it ain’t funny and I have ta be getting to work!"

"I’ll get my shoes. They’re back in my room and I won’t be a minute. Shall I meet you in the foyer?"

"Ok, but please get a move on."

I shuffled back to my room and the armoire, wondering what I might have in there that could go with all this. I’m thinking, I don’t want anything heavy or clunky, when I see a light colored pair in the pigeon box thing. I pull them out and slip them on. They’re a pair of bone colored sandals; well they’re not exactly sandals. They’ve got several thick straps that buckle across the top and one goes behind my heel and the soles are pretty thick, I guess they’re like orthopedic sandals. On the upper shelf, I spy a large matching handbag and haul it down. The look works pretty well for an old lady, but hey, Ya know… when in Rome…

When I joined Linda in the foyer, she was talking to Mrs. Bender. Charlotte looked over toward me and pointed to her head. I’m thinking she’s giving me some kind of tacit approval over my appearance in her wig.

"Yes, Mrs. Bender. It’s very nice and I can’t tell you how grateful I am. Thank you."

"No, Laura. I mean your scarf. Don’t you have a scarf for your head?"

"Ah…"

Who, Boy! On whim and a prayer, I open my purse. I know that I hadn’t put one in there, and maybe it’s just those New York survival skills coming back, you know, pretend one thing while you buy time to regroup and come up with something else. Imagine my surprise to find a floral scarf folded within, as well as a smattering of make up, handkerchiefs and a couple sanitary pads. The good fairies are watching out for me today. Absolutely beaming with my dumb luck, I pulled open the scarf and wrapped it over my wig-disguised head, hopefully tying a proper knot beneath my chin.

The walk over to Davenports is a pleasant stroll up Chestnut Street of perhaps three and a half blocks. Linda moves at a leisurely pace, which gives me opportunity to study and become slightly familiar with the type and variety of the shops and business along the route. Buchville at first glance appears to be like every small town in America at around eight-thirty on a Saturday morning. Traffic on the street is light and there are only a few pedestrians about. A few people walking their dogs, a group of young kids’ whiz by on their bikes and a sheriff’s deputy slowly cruises by, giving us a friendly nod and wave. We pass a caf? next to a news agency, where a group of senior gents sit about with their morning paper and coffees, already engaged in animated conversations. As we cross the intersection of Main Street, Linda points to the Buchville Memorial Library on the corner. It is a prominent building, appearing to be in the old federalist style of architecture with the main entrance facing directly into the intersection. I notice that directly across, on the opposite corner, sits Townies Snip-n-Style. Townies is in what was probably once a hansom building, but it appears that the first floor, where the actual hair-stylist operation is located, has been rudely modified with the addition a larger glass window front with a stainless steel overhead canopy and tasteless blinking fluorescent sign. It looks deserted.

"Linda, That’s Townies isn’t it? It doesn’t appear to be open. That’s surprising. I would think a salon would be jumping on a Saturday morning?"

Oh, yeah, Townies. Well, I’ll tell ya. The Townies don’t get up real early, know what I mean? They’re the night people, ya know? Ya won’t see much going on in there, any day of the week, until noon."

Hmmm. Interesting, the plot thickens. Wow, is this like a classic conflict between the forces of light and dark, good and evil, or what! We continued on like any other pair of typically overdressed Buchville ladies out for an early morning stroll. The luscious young ingenue, that would be Linda and her elderly grandmother, that would be me. I glance at our reflections in the window as we pass several storefronts. I’m inclined to break out in laughter, after all, Halloween is a long way off, but the fact is, I’m not getting the slightest rise out of anyone we pass. Fact is, I probably look so solidly rooted at the epicenter of the Buchville establishment, they think I’m an old timer! I suspect Thelma would be proud. And, another fact is, I’m actually getting off on this. You know, walking down the street dressed in this overt matronly outfit, with all the oversized accessories and Charlotte Bender’s wig, gaily perched on my head, plus the mismatched flowered scarf; it’s all kind of a turn on. I find it a little erotically kinky, wondering what she was doing, what was going through her mind the last time she wore this wig. I can just picture myself in her place, standing in the aisle at the local drugstore, big handbag hooked over my arm, comparing prices on incontinent panties or something. Hmmm, Gee, should I go for all night protection or ease and comfort. It’s wild!

We arrive at Davenports at a little past eight-thirty. Linda excuses herself, saying she has some things to do before the store opens at nine. I should just look around and she’ll catch up to me when she can. If I see anything I need, I’m to pick up one of the big convenience bags at the door and load up. I saw Johanna, busy with some things, near the back and gave her a little wave, She waved back, but I am sure she doesn’t recognize me. She has that look on her face that says I look familiar and she’s sure she knows me, but can’t quite place the face. Ha! I should go over and tell her I’m Charlotte Benders sister and see how she reacts. What a hoot that would be! But, I don’t do that, either. First thing I need to do is find the alarm clocks. Second thing, better be an apron or two.

I don’t think I’ve ever spent this much time shopping. Well, hell! I know I haven’t, and this is pure fun! There are so many wonderfully kitshie and vintage things here, I feel like a girl in a candy store! I’ve also found out that I have an automatic account through my employment at Buchwold Mid-West… AND, Davenports will deliver! And, it gets even better! I don’t have to maintain that strict prim, office clerk look over the weekends, unless I’m involved in a business function. Which means, I can now wear makeup and fancy dresses like Linda! Lord! It just goes on and on. Linda’s Anne Fogarty collection is devastating! I had to buy two dresses and a suit, right away. The workmanship is so amazing, why these days in New York, you would have to spend seven thousand dollars for a suit made this well! I glanced once again at my new wristwatch, a thin Bulovia, with a dainty jeweled face; it’s nearly a quarter to twelve! I really must tear myself away from here! I finally bid my adieus to both Linda and Johanna, leaving instruction for my deliveries and checked my appearance again in one of the store’s convenience wall mirrors. I had picked up a few hats as well. Johanna has assured me that a proper ladies hat is generally acceptable in lieu of a scarf or other head covering. This one is a simple shallow bowel shape, in bone to match my purse and shoes, perhaps an inch deep with the cutest bit of net along half the circumference. A pair of pink tipped hatpins holds it firmly in place. I also found a matching pair of bone gloves, covering just an inch above my wrists. Satisfied that I look completely respectable, coordinated and elegant, I turned jauntily on my heel and marched for the door.

I had intended to stop into the Buchwold Memorial Library, out of curiosity on the way back to Bender’s Boarding House, perhaps Delia Polanski would be on duty or at work. It was a long shot, but on my way and I didn’t have any more hard plans for the day. I strode up the marble stairs, through a vestibule and into the main room. It is a cavernous facility, a high ceiling gives it somewhat of an airy feeling, so that the rows and rows of filled bookshelves don’t seem cramped for space. The main desk is at front center, staffed by a classically attired Librarian, dressed in the mandatory black sweater, white blouse and gray skirt, all buttoned up tighter then a bank vault. I approach her to inquire as to Delia’s whereabouts. The librarian removed her horn-rimmed glasses, allowing them to rest at her chest, suspended by a beaded chain.

"Miss Polanski is in the hall, reading to the children. May I be of assistance?"

Replying that I didn’t think so at the moment, I looked past her to see Delia seated on a low stool in the center of an open area beyond the desk. Around her sat a dozen or so rapt young children, hanging on her every word. It sounds like she is reading to them from Louisa May Alcott’s "Little Women". Funny thing is, all the children are dressed, almost as if in character. The girls, of varying ages are dressed in what I would normally associate to be first communion dresses and the boys are in little suits, some with short pants. Delia of course shines at the center in another of her wonderfully, fantastic diaphanous fairy gowns. This time, she is in an orange sherbet, sheer bouffant knee length dress with another gloriously frothy, white organza pinafore covering. Her beautiful russet hair is as immaculately styled as I had seen it at dinner last night. I do not know how she can keep it like that, does she sleep sitting up? She noticed me standing at the desk and gave me a wink, without breaking her recitation. I do not want to interrupt her.

"Miss! How long will Miss Polanski be involved with the children?"

"Oh, for quite some time, I’m afraid. Previously, both Mary Samuel and Gail Pekasie would be here to help with the activities, as well, but Gail has come down with a bit of cold and she does not wish to be spreading germs among the children. And, Dear Mary Samuel doesn’t get around like she used to, she’s retired from Buchwold now and only able to help out here at the Library, on a very limited basis."

"I see. Yes, No, I don’t wish to bother Miss Polanski at this time. It’s nothing important. I am just in the vicinity and thought to drop in and say hello."

Well, Miss. I didn’t catch your name. Miss, you are most welcome to stay and look around. You must be new around here. Please, take your time. My name is Donna Seville Lamberto and I am most pleased to welcome you to our little library. Would you like to apply for a Library Card? And of course, If you are at all interested in volunteering your time, I am happy to take your application."

"Ah, Laura, Laura Parker Smith. Yes, I’ve just transferred to Buchwold Mid-West from the New York Office. Well, perhaps I could fill out an application. What types of assistance are involved?"

"Oh, most anything really. If you can work well with children, there are many events throughout the week, wherein we can use your help. Please, do fill out an application, if you are at all willing."

"Ok, May I take it with me and drop it off later?"

"Of Course! Certainly Miss Smith! I do hope you decide to join us!"

I can see Delia is pretty busy and don’t want to interrupt her at all. She has a real magic moment going on there, and far be it for me to break the spell! Miss or Mrs. Lamberto, I didn’t find out which, seems nice enough, if perhaps a little overly desperate to gain another volunteer. I guess it’s all for a good cause though. And I guess, it being the Buchwold Memorial Library and all, and my predecessor having been in the program, it will probably play real well over at Buchwold Mid-West. So, I guess, I’m going to end up as the newest Librarian’s Assistant, sooner or later. Politics, What can I say?

Well, I did fill out the app for a library card. To my chagrin, I didn’t know my street address, but Ms. Lamberto knew Bender’s, so that was easy enough to remedy. Nothing like looking like a dumb tourist, but heck, Donna Seville Lamberto had me pegged the second I walked in. Back out on the street, I immediately noticed that there now seemed to be quite a bit of activity over at Townies Snip-n-Style. All manner of hip-hop, bee-bop, new-wave, Punky-Brewster type folk, are entering, exiting and generally milling about. Me, being the curious type, I decide to cross over and check it out real close up and personal.

It’s a happening place, no doubt about it. Loud staccato music fills the air, punctuated with a heavy incessant, throbbing bass beat, pounding over and over and over. The mostly young crowd is dressed in all the latest offerings of the MTV style setters, with hair either down to their ass, buzzed to nothing or in any conceivable variation between. Their looks range from classic California Surfer Poster Dude and/or Dudette, to Goth and Leather Fetish Freak; it is an astounding assemblage of visual stereotypes. As I approach, they scowl and stare at me, step aside and part, like I am carrying the bubonic plague. For all their posturing and threatening looks, none of them are half as frightening as some of the heathen creatures I’ve crossed paths with in the bowels of the New York Subway System.

Hey, Grandma! Ya come ta getcha mustache shaved off?"

The group cracked themselves up wildly over that one. How would you like a mouth full of Mace, Sonny? Of course, I no longer have my can of Mace, nor my police whistle, they’re long gone, disappeared with the rest of my travel kit. I suppose my hatpins can be put to lethal use in certain situations, but then it just strikes me, as to how stupid his comment is. I mean, for all the geriatric dressing that I’m bundled in, I certainly don’t have a mustache. Is this his best shot? How freaking lame is this guy? I give him my sweetest and best "screw your self" smile and push past, to enter into Townies’ Den of Iniquities.

Yeap! Definitely a happening place! The stylists are a mixture of young men and women; all dressed alike in snappy little black jackets with white pants and shoes, sporting the latest magazine hairstyles. The equipment and decor is modern, trendy and upbeat, a lot of chrome and black in a sea of white. The music is techno and deafening. Yup, a far cry from Nancy’s Nook. I stand just inside the doorway, slightly off to the side, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells. The stylists do seem pretty competent and in all honesty, a fair number of their customers are being treated to fairly normal cuts, including pageboys, layered pixies and longer, softer styles. It really doesn’t’ seem all that bad, though I doubt any of this is appreciated in Thelma’s front office. Oh, well. Let’s just remember whose hand signs your paycheck, Laura. Reality is reality!

"Can I help you Madam?"

Yee Gads! A rather chipper looking young woman with spiked cropped pink hair, a nose ring and maybe a dozen more silver circles edging each of her ears, stands inquisitively before me. Her eye flicks back and forth, between my face and the wig, hat combo on my head.

"How about it Honey? Fancy your self about ready to move into the Twenty-first Century? Had enough of these Buchwold Nazi’s? Are you ready and willing to be your own girl? You’re not fooling me Honey, you’re fooling yourself. What are you, twenty-five, twenty-six; you know you don’t like walking around in that granny wig and old lady clothes, do you. How about it? Come on in and have a seat."

Holy Crap! She read me in a flash! What am I doing here? Suddenly my head twists with yet another fiendish reality twitch. Why did I come in here?

"You’re one of the Buchwold lemmings aren’t you? I don’t know what you got going on under that rug, but I guarantee you, that I can make you look and feel better. Come on, let it out! Live your own life. Hey, If you think you have to look like a frump on the job, fine wear the rag on your head, but you know you don’t have to live like a gray hair on your own time, do you!"

Damn! She’at his s tough! Right out there in my face! She has a good point, though. Back at Buchwold New York, no one gave a rat’s ass what you did or how you looked, on your own time or the weekends. Why is it so different here? Why am I stuck in the middle of this power struggle between Thelma’s entrenched personal version of manners and mores and the rest of the world, denying all the progress and liberation of the past century? Geezus! Think, Laura! Get a grip! Why am I even contemplating this? Focus! Am I so weak willed, as to consider jeopardizing my career for self-indulgent femininity, at this first, slight provocation?

"Think about it. Who would know? You’re new here, I can tell. You wouldn’t even be in here if you weren’t one of us, would you. You’re screaming to get out, aren’t you. You hate that Buchwold fascist bullshit, don’t you. Come on, have a seat. I’ll fix you up and you can come out tonight and join the rave!"

Lord, Gawd Almighty! My head is spinning! Could I do this? It would be like living a double life! My God! It’s a tantalizing idea! I didn’t really take some crazy oath of worldly denial and chastity, to work for Thelma, I just have to look the part on Monday morning, right? I mean, I really can keep wearing this granny wig to work, probably still help out at the library, do my part for a little civic participation and live my own life as I please, on weekends. It’s not like I’d actually BE a Townie, right? I didn’t even realize, she’d taken my hand and is leading me back to her station, until I look down at the seat!

"Come on now, settle in and let me see what we can do here."

Like a zombie, I moved to the front and sat back into her styling chair. Before I really knew what was going on, she had the shiny black nylon cape snuggled and fastened around my neck and was examining the hat perched on my head.

"Please be careful with that, and especially the wig. I have to return it in exactly the same condition."

She found the hatpins, removed them and the hat and placed it on the counter. Then she began to feel around and remove the dozen or so bobby pins, finally lifting Charlotte Bender’s wig from my head laying it more carefully on the counter.

"What the hell?"

"I didn’t have a wig liner."

"Wow, you are a kinky bitch, huh! Let’s loose this puppy!"

"Alright, Just be really careful with the wig, OK?"

"Yeah, it’ll be alright. I’ll stick it in a bag. What about this stocking thing? You want to keep this too?"

"I don’t know."

She pulled the stocking cap off my head and tossed it over to the counter.

"Hmm, Damn! What do we have here? You’ve been permed. Damn! This looks like Nazi Nancy’s work, huh? Well, Honey, you just close your eyes and relax. This is your lucky day."

I can’t relax. That’s for damn sure. My heart rate is already tripled and my brain is involved in a screaming, shouting match, something along the lines of one side bellowing, "DO IT" and the other "WHAT, ARE YOU NUT’S!" The inside of my head is so rattled, I can’t even hear her talking to me! God, I don’t even know her name! I do however, have my eyes shut, and I mean clamped shut, so tightly pinched closed, that I am squeezing tears out of the sides and down my cheeks.

"You’re really getting off on this aren’t you, Honey? Ha, Ha, Yeah, you’re loving every minute, aren’t you? What’s your name, Honey? I’m Diane. Diane Sizzle."

"La, La, Lau, Pa, Ker, Lau, Lau, Park, Lau, Lau, Lau, Parker …"

"Yeah, Lola Parker, Sure. Well Lola, you go on and let it go. Let it out! You want to get yourself off? Go ahead! Here at Snip-n-Style, we like to see our customers get real happy. Let it out, Lola. Do it. Go on, do yourself. Put your hands together down there and do yourself a big one. Yeah, that’s it. Lola. Relax, Yeah! Do it, frigg it. Yeah. frigg it, Lola. Yeah, frigg it good. Make it feel good. Feels so good, doesn’t it?"

"Ugh" God, what is getting into me? "Ugh" God! "Ah!" Damn it! Oh… damn it! Oh! Damn it! I’ve pulled the hem of my dress and slip up, above my crotch and have both of my hands over my quim, rubbing against the smooth nylon of my panties trying to get past the taught lycra girdle. The black nylon cape discreetly covers my actions as I begin to rub myself harder and harder. Judas Priest! My emotions betray me! Pent up frustrations are overpowering all sense of propriety. My inner feelings pour forth in blatant public masturbatory sexual release. "AH, AH, AH!" God help me!

There is a roaring in my head! I hear jet engines! She spins my chair so that I am facing a large mirror!

"Watch this Baby! I’m going to do your head! Yeah, watch it, Baby! Watch it and do it! Do it with me, Baby! Watch me do your head!"

Oh God! I feel like a slut! My legs spread as wide as I can get them in this chair, the rapid, quivering humping motions of my hands, suggest my lurid masturbation beneath the black cape. Her face is close, next to my head, staring into my eyes in the mirror. The roar in my head, in my ears is deafening. I feel the hard edge of steel at the base of my neck. Oh, God! Her left hand comes around my left shoulder, her palm softly, firmly cups my chin, her thumb resting lightly at the side of my mouth. I feel the ungodly vibration, slowly climb my neck toward the top of my head! I stare into her eyes. Her lips formed into the oval shape of a kiss, her tongue brushes her lips. Harsh, raucous, screaming sound fills my ears, I see her hand rise over my head, I see the chrome machine advance, she guides it forward over the top now, my hair separates from my head, floats in the air and begins to fall to my chest before me. I press my hands harder between my legs, seeking entry. Her fingers, resting gently along my right cheek, now move to my lips, they caress my lips, parting them, I open my mouth. A finger, her finger touches my tongue… then another joins it. Oh, God! I close my lips around and suck against them, drawing them deeper. The machine severs the last of my hair, leaving my forehead, moving off into space. I am wracked with my orgasm!

"Oh, yeah, Baby! Do it! Do it for me! Make it cum! Yeah, Baby! Be my Bitch! Cum, Baby!"

God! I can’t help myself! She’s placed the edge of the brutal clippers, against the back of my neck, for yet another pass. I’m on the verge of uncontrollable thrashing in my seat. I suck madly on her fingers, all the while pressing my hands deeper within myself. The vibrating teeth again begin their torturous crawl up my head. I shake violently under the onslaught.

"Yeah, Baby! Be my good little Bitch. Do it! Harder! Cum for me Bitch! Cum, you little Slut! You’re Momma’s little Bitch Slut, aren’t you? That’s what you want, isn’t it? You want to be Momma’s Bitch Slut and cum for your Momma!

"MMMMMMmmmmmm… Ah… Ah… Ah… OHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!"

I am out of control in my lust! Humping madly against my hands, moaning around her fingers, licking at them, sucking them, groaning in my passion. She is savagely humiliating me and I am responding like some mindless, primitive animal! Diane drives the clipper hard over my head on a third pass and I reflexively bolt again. Again and again she assaults my head and each time I respond with massive convulsions of orgasm. She continues to degrade me, calling me her slut and whore, demanding I cum for her, over and over, harder and harder. I do not refuse, I do not seem capable of anything, or even to have any desire to resist her obscene direction. My God! What have I done!

"AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!"

I am a sloppy mess. I am panting hard like a rabid dog. A dumb fucked bitch. Diane is standing behind me now, rubbing her hands over the burr that is my head. My hair is buzzed to no more then a uniform overall length of an eighth of an inch. Judas Priest! What have I done!

"There now, my little Lola Baby Bitch. Doesn’t that feel so much better. No more uptight, little repressed Thelma granny are we. Hmmm. Now you’re Mommy’s little slut, aren’t you."

Oh, Geezus!

"Ah, I, Ah… I can’t go out there like this!"

"Don’t worry your little head about it, Baby. You can still wear your granny wig for Thelma."

"Oh God! This is Charlotte Bender’s wig! I’ll have to give it back to her! What will I do!"

"Get another wig, you dumb bitch!"

"Where? I can’t go back like this! I can’t go to Nancy’s Nook for another wig, she’ll know something’s funny!"

"BRYANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!"

A younger man came running up, at Diane’s call.

Bryan. I need for you to run over to Nazi Nancy’s and pick up an old lady wig for Lola, here. Do you think you can do that?

"Yo! No way! Do I have to?"

"Don’t be an ass. Just go over there and get one. And, Lola, you just get your pussy ass back here by eight o’clock tonight. Got it!"

Bryan is groping for a way to avoid going to Nancy’s and I am in shock staring at my reflection in the mirror, and wondering how I’m going to come back here tonight at eight.

"All right, alright, What kind? What should I tell her? That hole gives me the creeps!"

"Don’t be a moron, Bryan. Don’t tell her nothing, she’ll take your damn money! Ask her for an old ladies wig. They’re all the gawdamn same!"…………………………………….

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