Rochelle Ratner

Elderly Driver Plows Into Beauty Shop


Look in the mirror. You have a beautiful round face and hair that offsets it perfectly. I would have killed for hair like yours when I was your age. But all we do is work with what we've got. And not even a trace of grey yet. You have no idea how lucky you are.


She knows she's lucky enough to get her hair cut at barber shops. Where she should have gone today as well. A simple, layered cut, and it will keep for months. But she was feeling down this week. That round face is a nice way of pointing out she's gained ten pounds. She wanted to feel good about herself. It's taken her this long to trust beauty shops aren't the stiff affairs of her teenage years, sitting for hours under a noisy dryer, half choking with the heat and the fumes wafting around her. They aren't going to set it with those huge rollers, and they're surely not going to tease her.


Look in the mirror. The beautician cups her hands around her face, twirls a few strands on her fingers. Every hair's curving forward, little spit curls on the cheeks and forehead. The chair's spun around to show off the curls crowding together on the back. She looks like Betsy Wetsy. Or what was that other doll you gave an actual permanent? It will dry looser she supposes. Wishful thinking. Wishing now she'd just gotten her nails done.


She spots it in the mirror first – the large old Buick driven by a little old woman probably born before women owned cars. She can barely see over the steering wheel. The car signals then turns left into a parking space just outside. She sees the big wheels approaching, then the chrome grill. Stop, she wants to scream. Stop it, Mother.


Straight out of Hollywood, they said later. A car crashing through the salon and into the business next door. Nine people with deep cuts or broken bones. Mirrors and shelves dangling as if after an earthquake. A rough oil smell overpowering a dozen other broken scents. And one of those hair style magazines with the coquettish looking prom queen wannabe on the cover (another reason she hates beauty parlors) lies face up on the floor, large shards of glass all around it.

Decorated needles calm patients

Lilies of the valley climb up and down the first vial that will hold her blood. White and green set against red, like the Italian flag. But she's not Italian. Black-eyed Susans decorate the next vial. This can't be sterile. She thinks of the hand-painted floral glasses she bought at a yard sale — she brought them home, put them in hot water to soak, and most of the paint chipped off. Real flowers take on shades of brown the minute she sets them in the purple glass vase her grandmother left her. She turns her face away. She grits her teeth and prays the technician with her butterfly needle will find her one good vein. It's just like acupuncture, she tries to convince herself. Silently she wraps her fingers around one gray brain and one blue brain, and she squeezes hard.

Woman sacked by text

She knows she's in trouble when a pink-haired diva wants a fourth stud around her right eye, and she keeps seeing six studs instead of three. She sells her a little gold starfish. Luckily, she hasn't learned to pierce yet, she's only been at The Blue Banana two months. She takes out her earrings and puts in the magnetic teardrops, in hopes they might help the pain. She wishes to hell she could turn down that blasting music. She takes the stud out of her left nostril, which at least makes it easier to breathe. A woman tries on three sequined halter tops, but doesn't buy one. Folding them up again, the sequins float before her, change colors, and bring on nausea. Finally she makes it home. She unplugs the phone, gulps an Imitrix, but she's waited too long. It's nearly noon before she makes it out of bed again. She sees her cell flashing like those damn sequins. It's from the Banana. We will not require your services any longer. Her eyes squint again at the tiny letters. You have no idea how much it hurts.

Black Cats, Skeletons, and Other Decorations

Just her luck. Really, it was nothing more than teenage angst. She'd wanted a later curfew. She'd wanted to borrow the car. She'd wanted to get into Princeton. She'd wanted the boys to notice her, and for one boy in particular to ask her out, maybe to kiss her and, you know. She'd simply wanted people to know she existed. So, at ten o'clock on a Thursday morning, when neither of her parents were home, and the husbands along the block had left for work, and the other kids had left for school, but cars would still be passing by and mothers would be taking their toddlers to the park, she threw a rope around the oak tree in front of her house, slipped the other end around her neck, scaled halfway up the trunk of the tree, and pushed herself off. What she hadn't counted on was that it was this close to Halloween.

Hunks Pose In Calendar For A Cause

Now you see him. Now you don't. Now you see the cross tattooed on his upper arm. Now you don't. Now you see him tip that old cowboy hat to you. Now you don't. Now you see his mustache. Now you don't. Now you see the fine hairs on his chest. Now you don't. But look closely, ladies. This is what macular degeneration can do to you. This is what men can do to you.

Rochelle Ratner's books include two novels: Bobby's Girl (Coffee House Press, 1986) and The Lion's Share (Coffee House Press, 1991)and sixteen poetry books, most recently Balancing Acts (Marsh Hawk Press, 2006) and Beggars at the Wall (Ikon, 2006). An anthology she edited, Bearing Life: Women's Writings on Childlessness, was published in January 2000 by The Feminist Press. A former Executive Editor for American Book Review, she reviews regularly for Library Journal and was on the board of the National Book Critics Circle from 1994-2000. More information and links to her writing on the Internet can be found on her homepage: www.rochelleratner.com.

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