Suffer For Fashion

I know nothing about fashion and even less about style so when I say that most of you dress like bums, roll your eyes and throw your salt shakers over your shoulders.

The only thing that’s worse than my eyesight is my memory. I never, ever make Alzheimer’s jokes because I can’t remember what this sentence was supposed to be about. I think when I was a kid, my mom and would make my sister and I “dress nice” to leave the house. I grew up in on a road with a few other houses but for the most part it was that gray area between suburb and banjo playing backwoods-like living. Going to the mall or out to eat was a big deal. When I wasn’t walking to school uphill both ways in the snow, I was usually confined to my house or those of my friends. It was at least a fifteen minute bike ride to anywhere with other people. Teh closest general store where I got bubblegum and baseball cards was about a mile and a half away. When my parents decided we’d grab some mediocre seafood at Red Lobster (twenty-minute drive) or buy school clothes at Perimeter Mall (thirty minute drive), I was required to put on pants and a shirt that didn’t have a baseball team name or a Superfriend hero logo. Church was a major dress up thing and I always rocked a clip-on tie and some well-pressed slacks.

Saturday night I had to think a lot about clothes, shoes, make-up, and dresses. My teenage daughter attended her third homecoming. These sports of things are very important in my life because the women I live with, for the most part, are very low maintenance. Bobina, Tay, Bug and Goose are a t-shirt, jeans or shorts, and flip-flop rocking bunch. My day doesn’t officially start until at least two them announce themselves and ask “How’s my hair?”. While they care about their coifs, they don’t really spend a lot of time on their do’s. About ten minutes before Tay had to leave for her homecoming picture photo shoot and dance, we woke her up. Through grumbles, she did her own hair, put on very little make up, slipped on her dress and shoes, and make her way into the night.

When we arrived at her school, the other girls had on more makeup and accessories. Tay showed confidence and a lot of swagger walking through the sea of them.

While I’m proud of my wife and daughters for being the way that they are, I harken back to my childhood when it seemed like the only time you saw flip-flops, shorts, and ratty t-shirts was at the beach or the lake. Casual attire is the everyday thing, even at work, out to eat or on planes. As much as I like t-shirts and jeans, when I fly, I dress business casual. When I go out with my wife, like I did after dropping my daughter off at homecoming, I usually dress good enough to be taken anywhere except maybe a biker bar. I’m a touch too preppy for that and I’d be traded for cigarettes. I don’t know if it’s “okay”  to dress for comfort all the time. As I started this post, I know nothing about clothes or style. But the lack of care that many people seem to have out in public is startling when you compare this to just 25 or 30 years ago. I think affluence has a lot to do with it. My generation and this current one have a lot more than out parents and grandparents. Going out isn’t as “special” as it used to be.

To say I suffer for fashion isn’t hyperbole.My wife and kids dress me because I’m borderline colorblind and sickeningly out of step with current trends and looks. But I think we all suffer for fashion when we never take it into account, especially on occasions that coudl use a little reverence. This is one area where I think we’ve devolved. Maybe we could take an extra five to ten minutes and pay more attention to ourselves in the mirror during the times that we go out. Don’t worry, that saturday morning trip to Walmart to get toilet paper or Diet Dr. Pepper? Expect to see me in workout pants, sneakers, the oldest t-shirt i have and a backwards baseball cap. I know where I come from.

Today’s song is an underrated gem. I’ve always liked Of Montreal. Saw them once when I was in college. Here’s Suffer For Fashion. Listen to it in your Sunday best…or worst.

Divine Thing

Before your read this, go read this by Tara-

The pound on the door startled Millicent enough to make her jump. Pauley showed no emotion as she walked to the door. She held her gun in her right hand, unlocked the safety, and raised it to match her line of sight, just in case. She stepped away from the peephole and bellowed.

“What kind of sauce does Mama Geno use on her tortellini?”

Pauley tightened her grip on the weapon and smirked at the sound of a deep, throaty chuckle from the other side of the door.

“Mama Geno can’t cook for shit. She uses Ragu straight from the bottle.”

Pauley grinned and opened the door with her left hand. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Millicent sneak behind the bathroom door.

“Smart girl”, Pauley muttered to herself.

Butch walked in and stared at Pauley’s gun, just inches away from his face. He pushed the door shut.

“Pauley! That Mama Geno thing your dad taught you cracks me up every time!”

Pauley lowered her weapon, clicked on the safety and accepted Butch’s bear hug. She pushed him away and narrowed her eyes.

“Butch, you sonuvabitch! What the hell happened?”

Millicent appeared from the bathroom. Her posture was perfect. She smoothed out her long dark hair with her hands and smiled. Butch looked at Artie’s daughter. He hadn’t met her in person before. Pauley rolled her eyes at Butch’s gawking of Millicent tall, curvy figure of lips and hips. Millicent noticed his eyes, too. She knew what to do and what to say. Butch sucked in his middle-aged gut and moved toward Millicent’s extended right hand.

“Well, I have to to say, when Artie told me his daughter was an impressive girl, I didn’t imagine you to actually be one hell of a woman. Thanks for saving my Pauley and dressing her up a bit.”

Millicent accepted Butch’s shake with her right hand and touched his forearm with her left. Men craved female attention, her mother taught her that and the rest she’d learned from watching the men in her life. Millicent’s long eyelashes fluttered as she greeted Butch. She noticed Pauley grip her pistol tighter.

“Butch, Pauley’s been an interesting project. She’s not the best patient, but she’s a fun plaything.”

Butch smiled, released his hand and walked over to the bed where he opened his black leather briefcase. He removed a manila envelope and handed it to Millicent. Pauley fumed. She was supposed to be the hitter not this psychotic beauty pageant contestant.

“Girls, the job’s at The Oracle Casino in Atlantic City.”

Pauley stepped forward and took the pictures and papers away from Millicent.

“Butch, that place is owned by some politican. He hates guns. The security is ridiculous. Why don’t you just let Millie go have a glass of wine and let me get this guy at his hotel or in the parking lot?”

Millicent glared at Pauley. Butch frowned at the tension and tried to wrestle control of his employee.

“Because, the job’s inside the casino. You do the job. You’re the decoy on this one. Millicent’s skills are perfect. I have someone on the inside who will help her, a bartender.”

Millicent showed every capped tooth in her wide smile and stared into Pauley’s disappointed eyes.

“So I’m whore bait?” Pauley sneered. “Dad would be so proud of me now.”

Butch continued to eye Millicent’s figure while talking out of the side of his mouth to Pauley. 

“Your dad understood you do what you gotta do for the job.”

Millicent enjoyed the drama. She turned to Pauley, brought her left hand to her face and tapped her cheek. 

“Well, that means I must teach you how to distract a drunken gambler? Excellent.”

Pauley just wanted to unlock the safety and blow them both away.

****blogger’s note****

This is a new story episode of Dead Money, a summer series I’m collaborating on with my writing partner and friend Tara aka @Tara_R on the twitter and author of Thin Spiral Notebook  . We’re combining my serial killer poison expert, Millicent, with her hit-woman with a conscience, Pauley, for a now weekly blog event. Please check out her chapter before mine You can find the rest of the story, so far, here:  See you next Monday…or else.

Today’s song works on a couple of levels. The lyrics are perfect and you see the weird family dynamics behind the characters, also. I dropped Soup Dragons last week. Their first two albums are in my iPod. Here’s Divine Thing.

She’s In Fashion

Before you read this go read THIS: - Part 3, called Dressed To Kill

Pauley’s heavy eyelids fluttered in a struggle to become conscious. She heard someone rustling and murmuring in a nearby closet. Millicent’s off-key singing to an unfamiliar pop song annoyed Pauley as she scanned the room for her gun. Removing the IV from her left arm, Pauley grimaced through the sting and sat up in bed. The room stopped spinning and her vision cleared. Remembering her weapon on top of Millicent’s purse, earlier, Pauley swung her legs to the floor and stepped to the nightstand.

“Really, Pauley? Do you sleep with that damn thing like it’s a teddy bear?”

Pauley turned her groggy head to the left and saw the tall, curvy woman holding a Walther handgun with both hands, aimed to fire at Pauley’s head.

“You can have your gun back if you behave. I hate them. Poison’s much more sophisticated and a lot less messy. Now, come in here and let me show you these fabulous clothes my friend brought you.”

Millicent never lowered the gun as she backed from the room to the closet. Pauley looked around for something she could use to hurt her. Millicent had hidden everything.  Frustrated in finding leverage, Pauley took two large steps and called out.

“What did you say your name was? And how do you know Butch?”

Millicent came back holding a blue dress by its metal hanger in her left hand and Pauley’s gun in her right.

“I’m Millicent Stingley. Butch is an old friend. Let’s leave it at that.”

Millicent tossed her long, full brown hair from side to side and eyed Pauley’s smallish figure in comparison to the dress. She was impressed with her choice.

“Oh, Pauley. I hate Jersey dresses because they make my hips and ass look humongous but on you, this Diane von Furstenberg will be stunning. The blue will make your green eyes pop, and the black belt accessory is perfect. Are your ears pierced? I forgot to look. I assume every woman has had her ears done.”

Pauley chewed on her bottom lip until the taste of blood mixed with the medicine in her palette. She wanted to kill Millicent, find her boss, Butch, and kill him too. For the moment, she settled for answers.

Millicent read Pauley’s body language and sighed. Her instructions were to save Pauley from the cyanide poisoning, hold her in New York until Butch could talk to her, and she’d be out of her debt. Now she had a young, headstrong killer standing in front of her and no way to fight off an attack. Lying would be her only counter measure.

“You kill me, Pauley, then getting your drink dosed by an idiot will be the least of your concerns. Butch wants me alive more than you so, try on this dress and let’s talk about make-up.”

Pauley felt the silk fabric as Millicent passed the garment over. She took Millicent’s bluff and walked into the bathroom to change clothes. 

****blogger’s note****

This is my collaboration with my dear friend Tara of Thin Spiral Notebook  She created a twenty-something assassin named Pauley and I’m teaming my sociopathic serial killer, Millicent Every two weeks Tara and I will give you two episodes, one on her blog, one on mine of the story until it completion. Hope you enjoy the serialization of serial killers.

Today’s song is the first thing that jumped in my head when I started writing. Suede is one of the most underrated Brit-pop bands ever. Here’s their 1999 hit, She’s In Fashion.

The Pretender

Last time with Helene Troy:

Sadie Olivares and Mara Vincent paced in an alley behind The Greek nightclub. A side door to the building flew open and Helene Troy walked out. Sadie spoke first.

“So, what did the manager tell you?”

Before Helene could respond, Mara threw down her cigarette and crushed it with her Doc Martin booted right foot.

“They want her, not us, Sade. That’s why we weren’t in on the meeting.”

Helene looked at the busted lip and bruised right cheek on Mara’s face. Sick of Mara’s insolence, Helene stared into Mara’s eyes and decided to only tell half of the story.

“Fuck you Mara. Matador Records is looking for someone to take The Golden Apples spot on their roster. They’re scouting us for the next few shows. You two weren’t invited because you didn’t return my calls after I punched you in the face, Mara. I’ve got to go get ready.”

Helene flung the door open and stomped inside. She exchanged head nods with a male bartender as he handed her a Stella Artois beer. She felt huge arms hug her from behind.

“Jackson, I’m going to kick your ass!”

She turned around to her friend, the large guitar player for the band she would open for,The Golden Apples. Jackson answered.

“Beautiful, you wouldn’t do that to me. If you ever do, I’ll take it with a smile on my face!”

They hugged and Helene saw a black-haired girl with pale skin staring at her, a few feet away.

“She yours, Jackson?”

He turned around and waved at the raven haired girl in a leather top and skin-tight jeans.

“That’s Dawn. She’s kinda cool. She knows bands, not too clingy, plays guitar. You’ll hate her, but you hate everybody.”

Helene laughed then frowned at her phone. The person she wanted to talk to, Ramona, hadn’t returned calls or texts.

Jackson stroked his scruffy face and asked.

“What is it, beautiful? Tell me what to do to make this your night, too.”

Helene didn’t want to wear Ramona’s dress. It wasn’t her and Ramona didn’t have the right to change Helene’s image, she thought. She looked at Dawn. Her slender figure was similar to Helene’s. She wore a brown leather halter tied around the back of her tattooed neck. Helene swigged her beer.

“Dude, I need her top.”

Jackson waved his large right hand to get Dawn’s attention. Her wide grin, surrounded by thick pink lip gloss, made Helene chuckle. Dawn met Jackson and Helene with girlish enthusiasm and a distinct New Jersey accent.

“Oh God! I was so hoping I’d meet Helene Troy! You’re like the best! Jackson and the other guys talk about you like you’re already famous, you know, like them?”

Jackson cringed at Helene’s green-eyed glare. She bit her bottom lip and engaged the girl.

“Thanks! Donna, is it? I’m sorry, its loud!”

Dawn smiled again and grabbed Helene’s right wrist.

“Oh God, it’s so loud in here! It’s Dawn, like a sunrise!”

Jackson threw his right arm around Dawn and pulled her close. He whispered in her ear and kissed her cheek. Dawn turned back to Helene and shrugged her shoulders.

“Helene Troy wants my clothes! This better get me in the liner notes!”

Helene rolled her eyes at Jackson. Dawn grabbed her wrist again and began leading her toward the bathroom.

“Oh God, Helene, I’m joking! So is that t-shirt all you have because that’s okay with me! Maybe I could help you with your wardrobe from now on like I do with Jackson!”

The women entered the bathroom. Helene shut the door and assumed an aggressive stance with her hands in front of her face.

“Dawn, all I have is a really nice dress that’s not mine and I don’t want to wear, a cute Gap tank top, two t-shirts and an extra bra. Tell me what you’re willing to trade and I’ll get my manager to buy you drinks.”

Dawn walked over to Helene’s bag and pulled out a black tank top and matching bra.

“This’ll work, Helene. Do you need makeup or shoes? ‘Cause me or my friends could hook you up.”

Helene let out a relaxed sigh and pulled her t-shirt over her head.

“Nope, I’m good, Dawn. You’re helping me in so many ways.”

After changing clothes, Dawn left. Helene texted Ramona.

“Stage call. Doing your Düsseldorf Blues at the end of the set. Hope you see it.”

She fought back tears and started applying eyeliner.

The sound of Foo Fighters’ The Pretender rolled through the bathroom as Sadie and Mara came through the door. Helene sang to her reflection.

“I’m the voice inside your head you refuse to hear I’m the face that you have to face mirrored in your stare I’m what’s left, I’m what’s right
I’m the enemy”

She heard Mara and Sadie talking in the background. Mara shouted.

“Helene, I’m sorry! You’ll have my all tonight! Sade and I will make you so proud you’ll say, thus was made the best work of their lifetime!”

Helene smiled so they could see her reflection. She picked up a tube of lipstick and slowly painted vermillion streaks over her lips, then snarled into the mirror.

“Fuck you Helene.  Believe in your band. Slay this crowd. Put them in the palm of your hand and don’t let go.”

Sadie’s voice competed with the end of the rock song. Helene picked up the last part of her growl.

“…time to go Leney!”

Helene stood with perfect posture and examined her ensemble. Brown leather pants sat low on her curvy hips. The borrowed jeweled boots from Ramona’s closet hinted at glamour. She adjusted her leather halter  and smiled at her dark eyes and full red lips. Helene tossed her teased, wavy brown mane and enjoyed the messy style.

She strode to the back of the stage flanked by Sadie and Mara. An over-modulated voice blared over an open microphone.

Ladies, gentlemen, music freaks! Get ready to have your faces melted by one of the hottest club bands in New York City! Slipper….Socks….Medium!

They ran to their instruments. Mara began tinning the top cymbal and foot pounding a low drum. Sadie played her thunderous bass beat and looked at Helene who bit her bottom lip then screamed “yeeeeowwww!” Their guitars barked like wild dogs running throughout the club.

****blogger’s note****

This is my reponse For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Nimue challenged me with “Thus was made the best work of her lifetime …” and I challenged Cedar with “Tuck Lisenbee scratches off a lottery ticket inside the Save & Sak convenience store in Billy Goat Hill, Alabama.”

It is also a new story episode for The Ballad of Helene Troy. You can find the rest of the story, so far, here:

Here’s the song pumping up the crowd and Helene. This is Foo Fighters and The Pretender….