Queenie leans over the lavatory sink of the ladies room, stares woozy
at the vanity
and applies lipstick. She puckers and smacks
after several rounds, blots and squints
to inspect her teeth,
rubs a squeaky fingertip over the two
in front and removes a maraschino-cherry red stain.
Queenie forces a smile,
that manifests more into a groan
. . .Won’t be the color to save my life. . .
and briefly concentrates on
her reflection only
to sigh long and hard.
With sudden and great disappointment she throws the tube
ricochetting against the sides
and thunking to the bottom
of a garbage can,
its cylinder chrome further distorting her image as she scowls
at the swinging
metal plate slowing
to a neat
The ladies room door swings wide
“S’cuse me dear, you wouldn’t happen to have an assburn, would you?” Rosemary inquires,
next to Queenie,
setting her purse between the double sink basins, where Queenie calls it ‘cleavage’ and believes in an unspoken ladies room boundary
Queenie darts her green eyes over
the perfectly acceptable empty space
on the other side
of Rosemary’s faucet where Queenie knows Rosemary’s turf actually begins,
according to ladies room code.
“I’m battling a splitting headache.” Rosemary clarifies
and she looks at Queenie painfully-pleasant but expectant.
“Ass burn?!” Queenie hollers, “Hell no, Granny. My ass is feeling just fine!”
wonders over social etiquette
like she’d dropped her notecards in her own mind and begins searching
to place them
in order or
at the very least
an affirmation among them, such as
‘keep your chin up‘
or ‘hang in there‘
fleeting recalls of her elementary school health room and posters of kittens
while she smiles dumb.
Stricken and unnerved, Rosemary bothers to pronounce, “Ass-Prin”
as if she’s being more helpful
appearing less expectant
and rather more hopeful.
“What a great idea, Granny!” Queenie hollers
becoming suddenly animated,
“A Hester Prynne handbag!”
Rosemary involuntarily winces.
Queenie chortles, “Bigger than that old pocketbook of yours!” She winks
and nods towards Rosemary’s purse,
sitting in navy blue like a pitched triangle tent, taught and erect with it’s straps standing straight as antennas
nestled on the counter cleavage of the two sink basins.
“That’s what ALL us girls need. A Hester Prynne Handbag. I can’t believe I never thought of it before.” Queenie beams.
like she’d absent-mindly forgotten to attend
THE awards ceremony;
the ONE for volunteering
where she’d be honored as the fastest
of church notes
inside her purse
until she apologizes.
“I’m helpless. I can’t seem to find a thing,” she confesses.
then removes a pocket-pack of kleenex tissues,
then sets aside a plastic rain kerchief,
then shakes her head at a small comb that should be ashamed of itself,
then comments on how a tube of chapstick isn’t it.
“I can’t for the life of me figure where it is.” Rosemary promises, “I use to have a very pretty pillbox. . .
It had roses which were red and
violets which were blue painted on the lid.”
“Sounds lovely.” Queenie interrupts, “But a Hester Prynne handbag should be designed with a little zipper pocket inside. Like mine.”
She reveals the practicality of her enormous shoulder bag to Rosemary
and with a quick zzzzzip…
readily fishes out a tiny generic tin of aspirin,
clicking it open and holding it forward,
“Knock yourself out Granny,” she offers.
“Why thank you, dear.” Rosemary accepts, her voice full
fingers gingerly selective of just one,
she explains on account
of the high
milligram dosage and how she prefers
baby Ass-prin due to an esophagus that knows all
Rosemary cups her hand to receive the cool flow of faucet water into her mouth before the automated censor shuts off,
grimaces against the chalky wash of the pill
and straightens as much as her osteoporosis allows
past Queenie on a quest to alleviate
her current embarrassment
of a wet chin
only to become crestfallen
at a lack of paper towels
no matter how truly
scratchy, or nonabsorbent, or brown,
would still prove
at the very least
to be handy
since technology replaced their novelty with a push
button air dryer.
“I won’t nark on you, Granny. Just use your sleeve.” Queenie encourages her
and without thinking
Rosemary wipes her mouth across the cuff of her thin
navy blue and not very functional
Queenie had stopped paying attention
to Rosemary and was again leaning over her sink basin to peer
into the the vanity
where she inspects
her hairdo, tilting and holding up
a face powder compact in order
one small mirror to another.
“Do you see any dried blood left in it, Granny?” Queenie asks.
Rosemary startles, “Blood?”
“In my hair, Granny. Do you see any I missed? Talk about headaches!”
“No dear.” Rosemary reports quietly and shoots a quick glance at the door.
“Dinner was ruined, needless to say.” Queenie informs Rosemary
and Rosemary appears at a loss
of certain personal boundaries.
the compact shut,
tucks it inside her removable center
cosmetics pouch that remains fastened
to her shoulder bag as if by an umbilical cord,
“Never have to rummage! A Hester Prynne handbag should be so lucky.”
Whether to be or not
teased, Rosemary is certain
she should remain composed
until a sign presents itself regarding proper conduct
and which course of action
she will follow.
“And see?” Queenie bursts with enthusiasm,
“If I just want a little tote,
She peels apart the fastener straps,
as a demonstration
for Rosemary to marvel at.
“Easy peasy.” Queenie winks, “And YOU know what they say. . .”
Rosemary shakes her head.
“If velcro’s good enough for Ass-tro-nauts it’s good enough for your Hester Prynne handbag!”
“Well now, isn’t that a well-equipt shoulder bag.” Rosemary agrees albeit sounding cautious.
“My hubby bought it for me.” Queenie announces,
lowers her voice, “Confidentially,
since he said I could pick out any one I wanted,
I went with the biggest,
most expensive one
in the whole
“Well now, wasn’t that nice of him.” Rosemary agrees albeit sounding as a matter of politeness.
“He was feeling guilty.” Queenie corrects her, “I really need to practice slinging it over my shoulder,
for when and if
I ever need
to whack him in the head.”
“Oh dear…” Rosemary gasps.
“It’d serve him right.” Queenie insists.
Her eyes flashing
and betrayal, all at once;
Rosemary meeting her glare
with a wide expression
and effort; such great effort
positive if not entirely
and Queenie asks again,
“So you’re positive there’s no more blood in my hair?”
Rosemary’s tone effects cheerfulness when she offers her advice,
“Well now dear, just remember how you must
have loved him once and consider
the wedding vows
Queenie scoffs. “Aw hell, he’s hubby number three, Granny.
Don’t mean he qualifies as Mr. Right,
or Mr. Perfect,
not to mention anything close to my Prince Charming.”
Rosemary shines her brightest sequitur light bulb on the situation and argues, “But what about how the third time’s a charm?
Certainly, that helps
as your Prince Charming.”
“More like three strikes and I’m out, Granny.” Queenie admits in defeat.
“So there’s no more blood? For real?”
“I don’t see any.” Rosemary reassures her. “But then, my eyes aren’t so good these days.”
“Hmmm. . .guess you’re not the best witness, huh Granny?”
“No dear. I guess I’m not.” Rosemary contemplates.
Find more music by this artist here: The Smiths
“Bigmouth Strikes Again” written by Morrissey, Johnny Marr
WMG (on behalf of Warner Strategic Marketing UK); PEDL, UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA – UBEM, UMPG Publishing, Warner Chappell, LatinAutor – UMPG, BMI – Broadcast Music Inc., LatinAutor, LatinAutor – Warner Chappell, UMPI, CMRRA, and 11 Music Rights Societies