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Dear Diary… Thursday morning. Aunt Dorkis is still mad. I can’t believe it. And she expects me to sit up here in my room and not come down until I put on the stupid clothes she left on the bed for me to wear. Like… she always wants me to act like her version of a dork young lady and then the next minute she treats me as if I’m a little child. But… she never lets me just be me. It’s so not fair. I can’t believe it. She’s like, so insane.


I’ve been living with Aunt Dorkis… well… ok, Aunt Doris… here in Gideon, Missouri ever since the hurricane. Before that… six years ago, Dad, looking for better work, had moved us down to Slidell, Louisiana. Dad worked for Exxon, doing something and Mom worked on a packaging line over at McIhenney’s. It was ok. We weren’t rich or anything, but for instance, like in school, when they decided I was near sighted and had to either sit up in the front row to see the black board or get glasses… they got me contacts… which was the more logical alternative. After high school I got a job with Dunkin’ Donuts. Had it for about two years. It wasn’t much money though. Mon and Dad wouldn’t let me get a good paying job in New Orleans. They said it was a wicked place for a young girl, just out of school… I never thought so. Me and my girlfriends, Angela and Celine… we used to sneak out and go over on weekends in Celine’s car and party-harty. We’d stop into the ladies room at the Crescent Diner on the way over, change into our party clothes, lay on the makeup, look a little trampy and then we’d get served just about everywhere. Ha! It’s like… bend over the bar, flash some skin and those bartenders can’t get those little umbrellas into our drinks, fast enough! Besides, I’ll be twenty-one in another eight months, so it isn’t like I was some super underage Lolita trying to get all stupid, boozed and raped. We were just there for a good time… period. And… what a good time it was! The guys all loved us. We never had to pay for anything. It was a great life and when I turned twenty-one… I was getting a real job in one of those fancy places on Bourbon Street and I was going to be free at last and live my life to it’s richest and fullest. Then… the hurricane. Shit. We lost everything. I mean every single thing.

The three of us… me, Mom and Dad stayed in a trailer at a stadium in Texas for a while. Then Mom and Dad said they were going to relocate to Oklahoma. They said they really didn’t know what they were going to do next or how they would ever get their lives back together. I don’t know what they were thinking or who they’d been talking to, but then they just up and said, they decided it would be for the best, if I would go and live with their Aunt Doris. Just like that. I have to move out and away and go live with Aunt Doris. I didn’t even really know Aunt Doris. I’m still not even sure whose aunt she is. All I remembered was, we got Christmas cards from her, but that was about it… just some lady up north. They said I’d be safer up there with her and I’d have some direction and stability, while they hacked around looking for work and a real place to live. What a crummy deal!

Aunt Doris is really old… like maybe in her fifties… maybe even older. I think she used to work in a meat packing plant or something, but now she’s retired and widowed. Her husband was a farmer or something and got chewed up in a combine or a compactor accident, or something, a long time ago and that’s when she went to work at the meat plant. Anyway, now I live with her in this big old house in Gideon, three miles past nowhere.

The first two weeks weren’t real bad. I mean, I have my own room… and it’s a nice snuggly room and all… but there isn’t much to do. Y’know… I thought I could at least get another job with Dunkin’ Donuts… with my previous work experience and all… but they don’t have a Dunkin’ Donuts in Gideon. That was a real blow. On the bus ride up, I’d pretty much already figured how long I’d have to work and how much I could save with no groceries or rent, to be able to get out on my own by the time my birthday rolled around. Aunt Doris thought she could get me in the meat packing plant, but I’m not hardly doing that. Yeah… see me in plastic overalls covered in blood. Nope. Then she said I could get a job with the Gideon Bible people… handing out bibles on street corners. They like, drive you to cities and leave you out on a corner all day with a box of free bibles… yeah… right! DORK! So… at the moment, I’m between jobs and totally screwed. So… like, anyway… it started out with me just helping Doris with things around the house. Picking things up, helping with the cleaning… little stuff like that… just to keep her happy. But… there’s not really much to it. I was getting pretty bored. Somehow… I’m going to have to find some kind of reasonably easy job, that’ll earn me some decent cash so I can get the hell out of here and on with my life.

The other thing, is my appearance. According to Doris, it’s either "shameful" or "sloppy". Come on… I’m no different then any other twenty-year old girl. And besides, it’s not like I wasted the Red Cross’s money… in the first place, they didn’t give me very much and second, I needed everything! I now have six pairs of jeans, a bunch of different colored, little ribbed tees and a couple of flippy skirts… big deal. And my hair… She has a thing for my hair. She thinks I spend too much time "playing" with it and washing it and stuff. Ha! Yeah… she should be so lucky. I have great hair, y’know… nice chestnut golden brown in color. When I don’t have it in a ponytail or up with a scrunchy, it hangs down to the middle of my back. My hair’s real soft and feels like fine silk… you’d know it right away. Whenever people meet me… right off… they can’t help looking at my hair and making compliments and just wishing they had hair like mine. Ha! They wish! Her hair… Ha… gag me… pulleeezzzzeeeee… that stupid brillo pad on top of her head… what’d she do? Stick her nose in an electric outlet one too many times? Don’t get me started.

So… that’s how it’s going. Me and Aunt Doris Dorkis. I help her with her chores and she provides room and board. I don’t really want to be here and I can’t believe she really wanted me here either. My life doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and I am getting so bored. I mean… bored… really, really bored.

It wasn’t too long before I hooked up with a small group of kids in Gideon. It isn’t like Angela, Celine and me going into New Orleans by a long shot, but it’s passable and the only social life I’d had in a month. I got a little bolder over time and started sneaking out nights and the fun got a lot better. Gideon being Gideon… there is only the hotel that has a bar and since everyone seems to know everyone else in this hick, I’m not getting served and the only place to party is outside of town near the woods. Usually the older guys are more then capable and extremely willing to provide a suitable beverage. Nothing fancy mind you… we’re in Gideon… but a bottle of Sprite goes a long way with the whisky du’jour. I know this is all still going nowhere and I have to find a way out of here, but it did make the days I spent with The Dorkis bearable. And then… there was that scene two nights ago. I flipped back, a page in my diary, to read that entry once again.


Dear Diary… Tuesday. I can’t believe this. Partied hard. Drank hard. Excellent evening… late into the night with the guys in Baker’s Woods again. Billy Battenboard offered to drive me home and I accept. He kept coming on to me the whole way, and when we parked in front of the house, it gets hot and heavy. He has his dick out of his pants and I was wanking it for him and he kept begging me to give him a Lewinsky. I didn’t want to do it, I barely know the guy… but it was so big and red and hard and yeah… I was a little horney myself… so, I finally lean over and wrap my lips around just the head. I was just going to give him a little lick, but as soon as I touched it… Buffo… KaBoom… he squirts… a big one. And at that exact, absolutely, very same instant… can you believe this… Dorkis starts banging on the car window and screaming at the top of her lungs. I have no idea what she is doing out there at this time of night. Well, when I jump up, I have one long, giant luger of Billy’s stuff, all the way from the top of my forehead, down my face and onto the front of my tee shirt. Billy immediately started the car, reached over me, yanked the door handle and told me to get out, ’cause he had to go. Well… Dorkis went total ape shit of course… calling be a slut and a tramp and a whore and whatever else sounds good to her. I told her to fuck-off and I have to go in and wash my hair now. Well, not in those exact words… but she got the idea. Anyway… I left her there… still spitting and sputtering into the night air. Maybe I can’t get out of his dumbass town just yet. But I sure as hell, showed her she’s not bossing me around!


Well… things didn’t quite work out that way. Oh, sure… I wash my hair, dry it and brushed it all out a hundred times and went to bed and she left me alone the rest of the night. And she was pretty cool toward me the next morning, which was good, because I had a throbbing headache and would be quite content to spend the entire day, lounging away in my room. I should have known she was up to no good. At about a quarter past three in the afternoon, Dorkis came pounding up the stairs and barged right into my room. She had one of her equally dorky lady friends with her… a stout, frumpy woman named Ester. Both of them were carrying large cardboard boxes, which they dropped right on top of the bed where I was lying. Gawd… what is it now!

The pair of them are all cranked up and start calling me a whore again and trailer trash and going on about how Aunt Doris is such a wonderful sweet angel to take me in when my family is down on their luck and how I’d betrayed their trust and I was an embarrassment to everyone and ungrateful and had to start to learn to act like a proper young lady and I’m not ever leaving the house again looking like a slut and yadda, yadda, yadda. God… will you gag me?

My gaze drifts to the entry for Wednesday.


Dear Diary… Wednesday. I can’t believe this! Dorkis and this Ester woman, took all of my clothes! Everything! Even my Victoria’s Secrete undies. Everything! This Ester woman brought two big cartons of her own grown daughter’s old, out-grown, hand-me-down clothes, nobody wants… and hung them right in my closet. And old underwear even… OMG! She took my thongs and my push-ups and left some white crap. I don’t even want to look at it. GAWD! The Red Cross at least came across for NEW clothes. Now, they’re gone too! Might as well be another damn, stupid hurricane… all I have left is this one damn tee shirt that I have on. Dorkis says, I have to wear what she left on the bed for me or just stay in my room the rest of my life. I think I’ll stay right here in this room. I’ll show her.


Damn. I’m getting hungry. I’ve been up here since Tuesday night. Damn! This sucks. I can’t stay up here forever and my tee shirt is starting to stink.


Dear Diary… Thursday afternoon. Well, I did it. First thing I noticed was that Aunt Dorkis also took my razor. When I asked her if she thought I was going to slash my wrists, she said, no… a girl my age doesn’t need to be shaving her legs and body. I don’t know… that’s stupid… ‘course it wouldn’t make much of a difference, if I don’t shave this morning… but, I’ll soon be looking a little dorky myself, if she doesn’t relent and I start growing hairy geek legs. Speaking of Geeky. This outfit that she or Ester left on the bed is pure geek. I did however, put half of it on… I mean, I DO have to get out of here. For underwear… there was a pair of big white, nylon granny panties… an equally big, white, old lady bra… what looked like a long panty girdle… old lady stockings and a slip. This was Ester’s daughter’s crap? How old was she? I put on the big white panties and the bra. The panties come way up over my belly button, but don’t feel bad at all. The bra is way too stiff. Definitely not Victoria’s… hell, Mom never even wore anything like this. The straps are even stiff… and pretty wide. After I hooked the four (FOUR!) clasps together behind my back and looked at myself in the full-length mirror on the back of the door. Whoa… Nellie! Way more bra then I need for my little 34B’s. I jumped around a little bit, but nothing jiggled or moved… nothing… just this big white harness strapped around my chest with hard bony cups holding my nips high up in front of me. Duh! I totally skipped the dorky old lady stockings, slip and that ridiculous looking panty girdle. Yeah… like, get real. The blouse is like a nerdy camp shirt, white with a cutesy pink flower print and the skirt is gray, box pleated and down to my knees. There was also a white cardigan sweater lying there and I put that on, so maybe it would hide the blouse. Slipped into some well-worn, brown penny loafers and looked at the mirror for the umpteenth time. GOD… What a DORK! Well… if it gets me out of the house and down the road! OK… What the hell!!!!


"Let me see you, girl!"

Great! Now I have to pass inspection.

"Button your blouse."

"I did."

"All the way to your neck. Someone might see your brassiere."

"Oh yeah… That would be like so shocking."

"Put your chin up."

She didn’t even wait… just cupped her hand under my chin and pushed my entire head up and back. Then she proceeds to wrestle and strangle me with this fussy little loop of material, trying to button the collar. When she finally got it closed, I slowly lowered my head. She was all red in the face and still pressing and smoothing the wings of the collar down like she was dressing a doll. I suppose my face was red too… It was damn tight.

"There, now turn around."

So I turn around and just stand there like I’m some kind of prisoner, like I used to do in gym class in high school. This is so juvenile.

"You didn’t put on your stockings. Where’s your stockings?"

Then she like, grabs the hem of my skirt and lifts it up, almost over my butt.

"And your slip and girdle! Why do you think those clothes were put on your bed?"

"I don’t know… to scare me?"

"Don’t you get a smart mouth with me, young lady. You march right back up there and put them on."

"I don’t know how. I never wore that stupid stuff before… nobody wears that freakin stupid stuff… it’s old lady clothes. I got on Ester’s dorkass daughter’s crap clothes… what more do you want? I’m not wearing any more of that retarded shit!"


Dear Diary… Thursday evening. I can’t believe this. I’m like, so humiliated. Aunt Dorkis slapped me right across the face downstairs, then she grabbed me by my ear and pinched it so hard and just like, so dragged me up the stairs to my room. And without even letting go of my ear for a second, she pulled me over her lap and gave me an OTK spanking. GAWD! I am so humiliated. THEN! Then she stood there and made me put on this ugly panty girdle right in front of her. I can’t BELIEVE THIS! This is SO STUPID!!!!!! This thing is SO RETARDED! It doesn’t even fit right… it’s too tight. It goes from almost up to my bra, all the way down to the middle of my thighs and it’s got these wires in it that pinch and everything and when I finally get it all hooked up and then zipped up… well I can’t even sit right. It’s like if I even slouch a little bit or try to get comfortable, it pinches into me and I have to sit up straight, like some goody two-shoes in church… which is even more painful because my butt still stings from the paddling. And she made me put on the stockings and the slip. She says the stockings will keep the girdle from riding up… well, I hope so… because it’s already pulling and getting tucked right between my lips and making them all puffy. Actually, the stockings aren’t as big of a pain to put on as pantyhose… ’cause you don’t have to try and get them up both legs at the same time. But that’s beside the point… the whole thing is so TOTAL DORK!!!!!! Then she took my contacts… which is a real pain, because now everything ten feet in front of my eyes is total fuzz. So now, I have to sit up here in my room, the rest of the night and then hang everything up, I have on, before I even go to bed, so I can put all this same moron stuff back on again in the morning!!!!! How GROSS is THIS!!!!


I had to sleep in my same stinky tee shirt again. After I took a shower and washed my hair and dried it and brushed it… I decided to put it into a ponytail. But I couldn’t find any of my old scrunchies or even a rubber band. I found a pair of barrettes and a large hair clip in one of my dresser drawers. The barrettes were pink with little plastic jewels, so I went with the clip. Then, I couldn’t find any of my make-up. Non… not even a crummy tube of lip-gloss… nadda… nothing… all gone. This has to be Dorkis.

Then, I heard her yelling up the stairs… something about… hurry up and get dressed… I have to eat a good breakfast and we had to go somewhere… blah… blah… blah. So… I got dressed. Same stupid clothes, except… first… I dug out a fresh pair of panties. Same big, old lady whites, but they were clean. I’ll show her! I struggled into the ugly girdle… hooked up my stockings… buried my chest in the old lady bra… pulled on the slip… put on the cutesy blouse… buttoned up the collar… then, the long skirt… the penny loafers and finally my cardigan. What a sight! Look at Goofus in the mirror! Funny… how I look a little taller. In this girdle and with the stockings and the girdle kinda pulling at each other and this bra thing going on… I almost can’t stand any other way, but straight up. Weird.

Aunt Dorkis had a breakfast of three runny eggs, white toast, fatty bacon, grapefruit juice and milk and butter and jam and jelly, waiting for me. Real all-American stuff, guaranteed to fill you out and fatten you up. I didn’t want any of it, except maybe the toast and a cup of coffee. But she browbeat me until I ate it all and she would not let me have any coffee. Something about staining my teeth. Get Real, Dorkis!

"When you finish eating, I want you to do the dishes and be quick about it. Ester is coming over and you’re going over to Mildred’s at ten thirty and I need to get to the Wal-Mart first."

"They have a Wal-Mart around here? Wow… living large!"

"Don’t you smart mouth me, girl. The Wal-Mart is over in Green City and it’ll take us a good hour, round trip. Now get going and put hustle on your chores."

I’m real curious about why I’m going to Mildred’s… whoever that is and likewise… I wonder what Green City might be like. It must have some size to it, to support a Wal-Mart. Maybe I can find a job there? Dorkis is still on the rag and not very talkative, beyond snapping my head off… so I guess I’ll just have to find out when we get there. Whooee! A car ride with Doris Dorkis and Ester the Fester… THIS… will be a real treat!

I got the dishes and pans done and put away, just as Fester clomped in. Time being of the essence to these two… the three of us "hustled" right back out to Fester’s car… a big, dark blue, eighties sedan and head off. Dorkis and Fester sit in the front and talk to each other… alternating between about the dumbest shit you never want to hear and me. I sit in the back and am not a part of the conversation… even when the subject turns to me. If I have to hear about that episode with Billy Battenboard and what a slut I am, one more time… I’ll SCREAM! I mean, come on… I was there… and… actually, it was kind of funny. I mainly sit and stare out the window at the passing, out of focus, countryside and feel uncomfortable. Not because they keep talking about me and ignoring me… but uncomfortable, because sitting back here in this tight, pinching, girdle after eating that big fat, breakfast makes me feel like a big fat, stuffed, porker sausage.

The fuzzy farms begin to disappear and houses start appearing closer together and I assume we are nearing Green City. Before I expect it, Fester turns into, what turns out to be the Wal-Mart parking lot and drives right up to the front door. Dorkis gets out and I start to pull myself forward, from the deep seat to open the door, but she tells me to stay put. She has business in here and I’m supposed to continue on with Fester and keep my appointment with Mildred. What the F…?

Off we go. Fester ain’t talking, but I keep seeing her squinty eyes on me in the rear view mirror. I don’t like this. Besides feeling like five pounds of crap packed into a two pound sack… I don’t like being alone in this car with her. I don’t think she’ll take me out in the woods and kill me or anything… but she is just a gruff, snorty, hard-ass old lady and I don’t think I’d ever want to cross her. I sit here with my mouth shut, keep an eye on the mirror and bear the ride in silence.

It’s exactly the same distance to get back to Gideon, as it is to go over to the Green City Wal-Mart, but it seems like it’s taken four times as long. It’s like a surreal dream… really… like I’m going back and forth… back and forth… all the time… blurry and out of focus… hazy… cloudy… but… slightly familiar… punctuated with these painfully sharp jabs into my gut every time she hits a bump! And my twit… GEEEZUS! The crotch of this thing just grabs right into it… it’s like torture! Finally, Fester wheels the big Chevy into a small parking lot between a little drugstore and a row of twin houses and shuts off the engine. I’m not sure if I should get out or not, so I stare at the rearview, waiting for some kind of sign. Where in the hell are we?

"Get out."

Ok. I guess we’re here… guess I’ll get out. I push the big door open, scrunch my way toward the opening and clamber out as best I can. Where the hell are we? Fester heads away from the drugstore and toward the houses and I scramble to keep up. At the second set of steps, she pauses and gestures with a pointing finger, for me to proceed her. OK. I climb the steps to the porch, conscious that she is somewhat menacingly right on my ass. My eyes scan for some recognition… why am I here? The curtains in the large front window are halfway drawn and through the hazy glaze, a brightly illuminated front room… it… it… appears to be set up like a… a… beauty parlor. What the F…?

"Go on in."

I opened the door, immediately I am overwhelmed by the heady, strong fumes and chemical smells that can only be found in a woman’s hair salon. My GAWD! I am stunned! Why am I here! Instinctively… defensively… my hand rises to my head… my hair… my ponytail… for assurance that it is still there. MY FREAKING GOD! Fester nudges me forward. We head toward an apparition of a woman in a glowing turquoise smock. Are those teeth? Is she smiling? My gawd… she is… she beckons for me to approach her chair. My GAWD… look at her… she’s a heavy woman with no neck and three chins. Her silver hair is combed straight back from her Cheshire face… above her ears… and seems to have all been cut off, in a blunt, straight line, across the back of her skull. A black hairnet keeps it all plastered tightly in place. What in GOD’S NAME!

"Hop in the chair, girlie."

"What?"

"The chair… get in the chair."

It’s a dream, right? One of those horrible nightmare things, right… I can’t really be climbing into her chair… offering myself… like a zombie… she’s a hairdresser? My… my hair… to… to… what? What? This… this can’t be good. Why in God’s name can’t I speak? She can’t be a hairdresser! Look at her! She’s like… barely human! My mouth… so dry… lips… dry… wait… wait… I’ll wake up. I must! Stop this… Wait… I will…

"This the one, with the Battenboard boy? Huh? Poor, Doris… Well… well… too bad. She don’t look the type. Young though… young and pretty… must be the hair."

"The hair definitely. There’s more to it then that… but, the hair… definitely."

"Same as Doris?"

"Yeah."

… same as Doris? Wha… same WHAT??????


A large billowing cloud floats above me. I watch it intently, mesmerized as it soars silently on the wind. Slowly it drifts toward me… I discern a faint crackling sound… like gossamer footsteps of fairies on pine needles in the wood… pinpoints of light dance merrily on the undulating multi-colored surface… like a sun kissed sea. As it glides ever closer… it beckons me to join in cozy embrace. Slowly it alights to completely envelop my submissive body… it is drawn to caress my throat… snuggling intimately about my neck… settling to conform and enclose me in an increasingly heavy comfort. My hair is drawn back… released from the confines of an unnatural ponytail to flow and fan… without fetter and control… down my back… as a delicately balanced counterpoint… to the increasing restriction that blankets upon my body.

I am capped. Yes. Yet… I cannot react… but to luxuriate, in the gentle hands that now… lovingly comb my hair. I am capped. At the threshold of unimaginable blasphemies… yet to be bestowed upon this, my golden crown of youth. I am capped. An unmistakable punctuation… to the invasive manipulations that shall tear away my unique identity. I am capped. It crinkles… as beneath it, I fold my hands into my lap. I should fear this. Delivered to a front room beauty parlor, inhabited by an obese woman of questionable ability. I saw her… the character of her features hewn in a primitive style devoid of gender. I should fear this. A mechanic… devoted to the homogenization of all femininity.

And yet… I am calm. I am content. My eyes close… I am relaxed… I purr with the repetitive tug and pull on my head as Mildred combs… over and over… the luxury to lie still and be pampered. I am magically coddled beneath a harsh plastic wrap that clings to my throat… a gay and shining guardian dedicated to the preservation of my innocence… my young body against superficial clumsiness and error. I am removed from whatever savagery lies ahead. Through the pervasive perfumes of chemical and lotion… I smell the presence of the bodies and lives it has served in the past. The simple-minded women of Gideon… escaping from the blooded troughs of the slaughter house. Free of the mockery and derision born of standing on cold street corners palming bibles… no one wants. I imagine their heaving breasts as they breathe deeply and succumb to the pleasure of their hair. All… that have gone before me. The same as Doris. The same… Doris… the same…

SNICK…

It is so warm in here. I could almost fall asleep. I did not sleep well last night… the tension… the stress… Doris and Ester… their horrid accusations…

SNICK… SNICK…

It’s been hard… losing everything. My friends… gone… all gone… spread out all over the country. My folks… somewhere in Oklahoma…

SNICK… SNICK… SNICK…

It’s like a lullaby. Relaxing… Snug… Warm… Pampered…

SNICK… SNICK… SNICK… SNICK… SNICK… SNICK… SNICK… SNICK… SNICK…

Damn! She’s cutting off a lot of my hair!

SNICK… SNICK… SNICK… SNICK… SNICK… SNICK… SNICK… SNICK… SNICK…

"HEY!"

"What’s the matter?"

"What are you doing? You’re cutting off all my hair!"

"Well, of course, girl. That’s why you’re here."

"But!"

"Now you just stop it and sit there nice and let Mildred finish."

Fester moved ominously into my line of vision. I didn’t know if I should laugh, cry or shit. I tried to squint past her at the mirror. It looks like all my hair is still resting across my shoulders, but it is hard to be sure without my contacts. Still… what was all those cutting sounds… with the scissors? Ok… maybe it’s a trim. I settled back down into the chair… but, now I think I better pay a lot more attention to what’s going on behind me. Fester backed off and Mildred moved over to my right and dipped her comb beneath the hair hanging off the side of my head.

SNICK

"HEY!"

"GIRL!"

Eighteen inches of my hair are abruptly severed from my head and slide languorously down the front of my cape and pool lifelessly in my lap. Incredulous… I just stare at it.

SNICK…

Another eighteen join it.

SNICK… SNICK…

"Sniff… please… don’t…"

SNICK… SNICK… SNICK…

Mildred works her way all around my head. I don’t need twenty-twenty vision to realize I no longer have my full head of beautiful hair. All of it! It is all gone! Gone… like everything else in my life. Scraggly and hacked up. What can I do… but, stare at three or four inches of brush… all that’s left… on the top of my head… maybe two inches on the sides… through teary eyes.

She moved a wheeled cart next to me and without turning my head I roll my eyes to it. On top is a plastic box filled with tiny pink rollers with attached clips. She sections a bit of the hair at the top of my forehead, away from the rest with her comb, picks one up one of the little roller things, quickly wraps the hair back and around it, rolling it tightly down against my scalp. When it was in place, she snapped the clip over it, holding it tight. She did it again with another section of hair right behind the first curler. She kept doing it until there was a row of them running back across the center of my head. She made more rows… then she put some more in, on the sides, running the other way. Mutely, obediently, passively… I sit… watching the flesh, hanging off her fatty upper arms, quiver as she works. She doesn’t stop until my entire head is covered.

"You’re… you’re going to curl my hair?"

"Yeah."

"I’ve never had my hair curled. Isn’t it too short now, to curl?"

"No. And they’re not curlers… they’re rods. We’re going to do you like Doris."

"Doris! But… Doris… she’s an old lady. Doris looks like a poodle."

As soon as these words leave of my mouth, Fester moves toward me. She has the same short, tight, kinky hairdo. Her face is so red, I’m afraid she’s going to explode and slap my face off. Tears are already welling up in my eyes and she hasn’t even touched me.

"I mean… Doris’s hair looks… sniff… looks… real nice on her… sniff… but I’m younger… sniff… I’m only twenty… I mean…"

"You expect to walk around Gideon, looking like the Battenboard boy’s slut?"

"Well… No… sniff… but…"

"No buts about it. You brought a terrible shame on Doris. Now, stop your sniveling. It’s past time you start looking and acting like a decent, God-fearing young lady."

Mildred had rolled a small towel and placed it around my neck. She pulls the ends up over my forehead to the hairline, pinning it together at the front. I drop the conversation. It isn’t really much of a conversation anyway. They’re just going to turn everything that I say, around… twist it around and try to make me feel guilty for being young and pretty. What can I do… my hair is already hacked. I might as well let her curl it… I can wash it out when I get home and then figure out later, what I can do with it. She started squeezing some really foul smelling, fluid goop… right into the curlers… rollers… rods… whatever. I don’t ever remember Celine ever putting anything extra on, whenever she set her own hair in curlers. Celine used to like to make her hair real big and full, when we were going into N’Orleans. It looked good on her… sexy… ‘course, her hair was almost as long as mine was… certainly a whole lot longer and nicer then my hair is now. This stuff stinks… BAD! This is what I smelled when I came in here. This is the kind of stink that gets into your pores and stays with you. Whatever it is… it’s damn ripe… almost burns my eyes and nose… and she’s soaking it into whatever is left of my BEAUTIFUL HAIR!

"Ok… now we’ll let that set awhile and I’ll clean up the strays."

"What… what is that stuff… you put on my hair?"

"Perm solution.

"Perm? Perm solution?

"Yes. You want to look nice don’t you?

"I did look nice."

"Oh, yeah… I guess the Battenboard boy thought so too. Tilt your head forward."

CRACK

One hand pushed my chin into my chest… the other held a big black electric clippers. She put the snarling blades against the back of my head, right under the last perm rod and pulls it down my neck until she reaches the cape. She does this again and again, working her way froward around the sides. When she reaches my ears… she carefully carves a path up and around each one. Reaching my sideburns, she tilts the blade at an angle to shape them into little points. I am stunned. Squinting at myself in the mirror I see no real hair on my head… only the shape of my skull covered in rows of tiny pink perm rods… and gigantic Dumbo ears.

"Ester? Do want a cup of coffee?"

"Yes… that sounds good."

"Ester… keep an eye on her. Cream and three sugars, right?"

I watched Mildred waddle off for the coffee. Fester is sitting in a chair near the door. I can’t make a run for it… and even if I did… what could I do… it might already be too late to wash this stuff out of my hair… where would I go. I never had a perm. Nobody gets a perm. Well… except the old ladies here in Gideon… where it looks like everyone is an old lady. Funny… now that I think about it… except for Lilith and Gwen… the two girls I hooked up with over at Baker’s Woods… everybody else, over sixteen years old around here, either looks like a nerd or an old lady. My GOD! They’re doing that to me! The nerds get bowl cuts… I’m getting a perm! I’m going to look like Dorkis and Fester!

I am left alone to ponder my fate. Fester and Mildrass are both sitting in chairs near the door with their coffees, chatting away… oblivious to my consternation, but blocking any hope of escape. It’s probably a good thing that I don’t have my contacts… if I could really see myself… I’d probably freak. That said… I do indeed study the nebulous monstrosity reflected in the wall mirror. No… I cannot… a pink… coil ribbed carapace upon a terrified skull… it is too bizarre.

"Well she might be done. Let’s have a look."

Clearly… I have lost track of time. Huh… Mildred… ah… Mildrass returns.

"Ok, girl, let’s get this neutralized."

I am tilted back in the chair, head over the sink and processed like a slab of ham. Mildrass, satisfied with her machinations returns the chair and me to a vertical position and removes the towel collar. She then stretches an elastic band around my rollered head and inserts a pair of large gauze bandages that completely cover each ear.

"Ok… girlie… now, we put you under the dryer."

Dutifully, I pull myself out of the chair and still capped, walk over to another chair… a lone, pink and gray, heavily padded vinyl piece of old furniture with a towering chrome, bullet shaped dome, fixed and suspended over top of the seatback. Gingerly, I turn to lower myself into it, careful not to bang the back of my head as I descend. When I am fully seated, Mildrass adjusts the helmet portion of this machine lower, so that the bottom opening is near level with my chin line. She adjusts several knobs and then switches it on. Immediately my head is filled with an oscillating drone, a fan roars and echoes in this oval chamber. A warm breeze accompanies it. Mildrass fiddles some more with her dials and the temperature inside begins to rise… warm at first… it gradually increases to a level, slightly north of uncomfortably hot. The protective pads on my ears make sense now… I think my Dumbos might ignite, if left to grill, naked in this oven. As it is… the skin covering my scalp is already feeling drawn and very hot… god… my poor hair will look like scorched and burnt grass whenever I’m released from here. Mildrass checks the time on a wall clock, grunts and returns to continue her social with Fester. Clearly… this drying process has just started and I must endure far more of it before pronounced "done"… incinerated and ready for dinner.

When Fester does release me from this canned hell… driblets of perspiration, that have originated on my forehead, cheeks, neck… and cascaded down into my shoes… chill on my skin as it is exposed to the relatively lower(?) temperatures in this hellish parlor. With little allowance to savor even the illusion of a cool breeze, I am directed to return to the accursed chair of previous desecration and atrocity. After seating myself, I am again given over to a fit a rutting and scrunching in a most indelicate and feeble attempt to adjust my lower torso to the increasing distraction of this abominable panty girdle. Finally accepting a position of medium discomfort, I primly arrange my cape to fully cover my extremities.

"Are we all nice and comfy, now?"

"Yes."

"Alright then… sit still."

Mildrass started taking the rods out of my hair. A mass of Little Orphan Annie ringlets begins to appear, covering the top of my head. Except… "covering" is not an accurate description… it’s more like a confusion of wiry little springs… just "perched" over the top of my head… and the overall volume is now denser and maybe only two inches high. Hell’s BELLS!

"Now I just want to tidy this up."

First, she starts, by picking and flicking at the tight coils with her fingers and a tool like a large fork… which kind of gives it more height. Like maybe I’m going to end up with a sixties "Honkie Afro"? That conclusion is swiftly shattered when she reaches once more for the big black clippers.

CRACK

This time, she alternately uses an equally large comb, in combination with the electric clippers, to mow over and trim the top and sides. Gradually, she tightens the entire shape into a perfectly uniform ball of short curls around my head. She pushes my head into my chest for the second time and repeats the process of stripping any final vestige of hair from my neck, below the hard edge of curls. She returns the clippers to my ears and sharply defines a crisp half-inch radius of bare skin around each one. She calls this "peeling the perimeter for definition".

"Shall I shape her eyebrows?"

"No… I don’t think so… Doris didn’t say anything about that. And on a girl her age… well… it might be mistaken as trying to look seductive… no… I think it’s better if you just leave them thick as they are… she looks just nice this way."

"Ok… then I guess she’s done."

Mildrass unsnaps the cape and lifts it off me, careful to take all the detritus of former hair with it.

"Here… have a look. Nice, sensible perm… easy to take care of and looks good all the time. What more could you want."

Proudly, she hands me a mirror. It’s one of those magnifying mirrors and my image is overwhelmingly frightening! Right at the top of my forehead… grossly enlarged… tiny, unnatural curls, arc briskly up and away from my face. My ears stand out like a pair of stops signs glued to the sides of my head.

"Turn the mirror around."

It’s not any better. I hold it away, at arm’s length. I feel sick. I have to get out of this chair. Shakily I climb out and stagger closer to the mirror over the counter. I grip the edge tightly with both hands and stare into my face… at my head… at this… this… MY GOD! LOOK AT ME! I turn my head to the right… to the left… hoping to glimpse a bit of the hair in back… there’s hardly anything. My little ball of curls barely covers the occipital bone at the back of my skull. Below it… nothing! Nothing… NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING! Just the shiny… red… naked… scrawny, flesh of my neck! GOD! I have the neck of an ostrich! GOD… it looks so skinny sticking up out of my tightly buttoned collar… GOD… OH GOD OH GOD… I look like a bubble-head on a stick!

They’ve done it! GOD… NO, NO, NO! Doris… Ester… Me… ME! ME! Me… an OLD LADY POODLE HEAD! Just like Doris… just like Ester… just like ME!

"You’ve made me look like an OLD LADY! THIS IS NOT FUNNY!"

"It’s not supposed to be funny."

"NO! I MEAN… THIS IS REALLY SO NOT FUNNY!"

"Do you suppose being the Battenboard boy’s SLUT is funny?"

"NO!"

"Well then… we’ll hear no more of it. Now… enough of your little tantrum. We need to be getting back over to Green City and Doris. Mildred… we’ll settle this all up when we have more time or at least on our Saturday morning appointment."

God! I do not even want to go out the door. Suppose someone sees me? Fester immediately reads my fear and trepidation as rebellion, grasps my hand in her meaty paw and forces me to accompany her outside, onto the porch, down the steps and along the sidewalk to the lot where she had parked the car. GOD! We are approaching another woman with a small boy. She looks like an old lady too! Perm’d poodle head… just like me. She looks much too old to be the kid’s mother… no… she couldn’t be… yet… her face and her skin look so fresh and youthful? I mean… granted… I don’t see real well without my contacts… but we are plenty close enough when we pass. GEEEZUS! She’s like a young old lady! She smiled as we passed… like nothing happened… like she didn’t know the trauma I’d just gone through… like she couldn’t see that I’m not really supposed to look like this. It bothers me that she doesn’t seem to understand that I don’t want to be another twenty year old Dorkis… even if she is! Fester finally does let go of my hand and sheepishly, I avert my eyes, fall in and walk along beside her. When we arrive back at her car, I reach for the handle to the rear door.

"Do you want to ride up front?"

"No."

"Oh, come on… I won’t bite."

I feel stupid. I shouldn’t have thought, I had to ride in the back like a bad little girl… with her eyes on me in the mirror every thirty seconds. I mean… geesshh… I’m twenty years old. I climb into the front passenger seat and shut the door. Fester backed the Chevy out of her spot, drove to the exit of the parking lot, looked both ways and pulled out, toward Green City. We drove out of town in silence. Two old ladies in an old Chevy sedan. GEEZUS!

"You’re still angry?"

"No."

Damn… I don’t want to talk to her. What? Now you want to get all friendly and screw me over some more? Just shut up and drive.

"You don’t like being told what to do?"

Damnit… I do not want to talk.

"You lost a lot. That’s hard on a girl. How do you feel about that?"

Oh crap. Is she going to do this for the entire drive?

"It makes me feel like CRAP! OK?"


Dear Diary… Thursday evening. I’m tired. Totally wiped out. It’s been a long, long day… but, pretty exciting. This afternoon I got my hair cut and perm’d at Mildred’s… and that was in the middle, like… between two rides, back and forth from Gideon to Green City. The first ride was pretty boring. The second ride… well the ride back over to Green City, the second time, was more interesting. Ester and just I… got to talk about things. I didn’t like Ester at first. I thought she was overbearing and gruff and just a total bitch. But she’s a really good listener… and after awhile… she starts to make sense. So… we talked about things. Things like growing up… and boys… and losing things… things that hurt and things that make us feel good. She told me about Doris. I never appreciated or sympathized with the fact… how Aunt Doris has also lost so many things herself. She lost her husband… and then the farm… and things were hard for her too. Ester told me that Aunt Doris used to make up for the things she lost by helping others… like helping me… and that would make her feel good… seeing others get a break and get ahead. It made some sense. After a while… I got to thinking… maybe I’d like to be like that… the helping part… help other people feel better… maybe that would make me feel better too. I don’t mean… like making Billy Battenboard feel better… He’s so… such a loser jerkoff. I mean… more like people like me. People who’ve lost a lot… real things… everything… like me. I mean… like… I’ve been there… I know what it’s like.

So anyway… like we talked on and on. Ester’s really pretty cool. So anyway… get this. When we arrive at the Green City Wal-Mart and meet up with Aunt Doris… guess what? Aunt Doris bought me new glasses! Can you believe it? She is so thoughtful! I just couldn’t stand walking around half blind as a bat, for one minute more, anyway… so… like, while I was having my hair done… Aunt Doris had taken my old contacts into Wal-Mart, where they have this machine that reads your prescription or something. Anyway… new glasses! Fantastic! They’re not exactly what I would have picked out for myself… really… they’re kind of large… big round, dark tortoise shell plastic frames. But, I’m not complaining… I can see great and everything’s really, really sharp. And I don’t have to wear them all the time, if I don’t want to. Aunt Doris also got me this cool beaded chain thingy, that goes around my neck and hooks onto each of the arms, so for times… like, when I don’t need them, like to read or stuff… they can just dangle off the chain and rest on my chest. Like… they’re right there and I don’t have to ever worry about losing them! Pretty neat, huh?

But here’s the best part. I got a JOB! Yeah… Believe it! There was this man there with Aunt Doris… real older and very distinguished looking and he also started talking about how good it makes you feel when you help other people. No matter how down and out you feel… there’s always someone worse off and if you can help make their lives better… even a little bit… well… you just helped yourself a whole lot… as well! Can you believe it! Same thing, me and Ester were talking about in the car! Amazing… huh? Anyway… then Aunt Doris says to this Mister Chase… I’m up here in Missouri looking for a job. And Mister Chase, well he says… what a coincidence, because he’s looking for some good Christian women that aren’t afraid to work and want to do good deeds. Well… that just perked me right up and I said "Well, gosh Mister Chase, I sure know, I can be exactly that good kind of Christian woman you’re looking for!"

Mister Chase, he puts his hand on his chin, like he’s thinking real hard and kind of steps back to take a long look at all of me. I just stand there… not like a model or tease or anything… and surely not like in gym class… but I stand real straight, shoulders back… just holding my hands together in front of me, like a regular young lady. And the whole time, I’m thinking… wow… it’s a really super good thing I got on this whole cardigan and pleated skirt outfit and just had my hair done nice… because… well… you never know. I guess you really should always look your very best. I can see how impressed Mister Chase is with how mature and sensible I look for my age… "cause he’s smiling and nodding his head. And… AND!!! Well… I got the job! Just like that! I got the JOB!

So now I’m a certified full-time employee of The Gideon Bible Publishing Company. I’m going on my first assignment tomorrow morning and it’s going to be right here at the entrance to the Green City Wal-Mart! All I have to do is offer free Gideon Bibles to passerby’s and talk to them if they want. And I just know… if some of them are feeling a little down on their luck… well, I have what it takes to cheer them right up. Ester says she’ll drive me over in the morning and come back again at five. I’m like… so excited! Saturday, I’ll be over at the Kirksville Sears and then on Sunday I’m going to St. Louis to work the corner, right in front of the Boarders Bookstore! I have off, Mondays and Tuesdays… so I think that’s when I’ll make my appointments with Mildred, so we can keep my perm neat and tidy.

So… anyway… I just want to tell you all… the next time you see a really sensible and normal looking, Christian girl, handing out Bibles on the street corner… please stop and say hello. It just might be me… and I’d sure love to talk to YOU!

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