Johnny America


Say, What Ever Hap­pened To Vi­dal Sassoon?


He was mak­ing bet­ter mon­ey now, sure­ly they could af­ford it she thought as she stood, over­whelmed by the se­lec­tion and the tubed flu­o­res­cent glare of the bulbs. Pan­tene Pro‑V, Clairol Herbal Essences, Neu­tro­ge­na, Mane ’n Tail-it had been years since she’d bought a bot­tle of sham­poo. She was both em­bar­rassed and ex­cit­ed by the prospect. “A use­less ex­pense,” her hus­band would say, “mon­ey’s bet­ter spent on some­thing im­por­tant,” as he would dump out his trav­el kit‑a tum­bling bat­tal­ion of tiny com­pli­men­ta­ry sham­poo and con­di­tion­er bot­tles. This af­ter every sales trip, go­ing on 6 years now. He’d stand there, hands on hips, ac­tu­al­ly proud of it. Of course he nev­er brought back the one thing she could use, the hand lo­tion, nev­er re­al­ly seemed to think about her at all. She’d asked him why once, but he nev­er gave her an an­swer. The whole damn sit­u­a­tion had grown to in­fu­ri­ate her.

She snapped open lid af­ter lid, squeezed the bot­tle and se­cret­ly sniffed. She did­n’t want any­one to see her of course, it seemed ter­ri­bly in­ap­pro­pri­ate. The smells were in­tox­i­cat­ing. Cit­rus, trop­i­cal, flo­ral, and “clean,” she just did­n’t know which one to buy. She stood star­ing, bit­ing the right side of her bot­tom lip, con­tem­plat­ing. Vi­dal Sas­soon, where was the Vi­dal Sas­soon? It all came back to her in a rush-it used to be her fa­vorite. She looked up and down the aisle. Noth­ing. Yes, Vi­dal Sas­soon, an ex-boyfriend of hers, must’ve been ten years past by now, used to love it-in­sist she use it and on­ly it. She re­mem­bered the smell and sen­sa­tion, her lungs heavy with the swelling must of a hot, hu­mid show­er. It had to be Vi­dal Sassoon.

Her im­pa­tience mount­ed as she searched the shelves. When it be­came ob­vi­ous that no bot­tles were stocked, she looked clos­er at the price tags mount­ed to the shelves. Her eyes raced over the prices, her fin­gers slid­ing the cur­rent plas­tic tabs aside, re­veal­ing old, out-of-date price tags. She searched the chaos for an un­der­ly­ing log­ic but none emerged, with a des­per­ate few prod­ucts cor­rect­ly shelved above their tags. An­noyed she con­tin­ued on, still qui­et, yet more fran­ti­cal­ly. Still noth­ing. She need­ed to know where on the shelf it was at least sup­posed to be. Suddenly‑a bolt of pain. A wince. The hiss of air sucked back in through her teeth as clus­ter of plas­tic tags flut­tered like drunk­en moths to the linoleum. A quick flush of blood from a small gash across the meat of her small knuck­le, right above her mid­dle fin­ger­nail. In­side was a seething wild­fire, but she ut­tered nothing…she sim­ply put the fin­ger­tip in­to her mouth, the metal­lic taste and stink of iron as she con­tin­ued to search.

“Find­ing every­thing all right?” asked an old­er woman in a blue smock, an em­ploy­ee, wear­ing an old­er wed­ding ring.

“Yes, thank you,” she said. She caught her­self won­der­ing if this woman still loved her hus­band and if she had ever strayed from her vows. She did­n’t know if the wom­an’s age made that more like­ly or less likely.

“You okay?” the woman asked, notic­ing the wound.

“Yeah. No….I just cut my fin­ger is all. It’s nothing.”

“Are you sure I can’t help you?”

“No, re­al­ly, I’m fine. Thank you.”

“Okay, well, let me know if there’s any­thing I can help you with,” said the old­er woman be­fore fi­nal­ly leav­ing. She won­dered if it looked so ob­vi­ous. She thought, I should just ask her, maybe they have some in the back but could­n’t bring her­self to do it. Af­ter a few min­utes more she gave up — set­tled for some­thing that, at least in her mind, smelled similar.

She was bit­ing her lip again, still think­ing about the check-out girl as she opened the garage. Taut, meaty curves. She could tell the girl was un­hap­py with her body, as are most at that age. As she rolled the big trash can out in­to the street she thought of the girl’s lips, ter­rif­ic lips, pink, sparkled gloss, pret­ty smile, and her tight curls pulled in­to a play­ful tail. As she waved to her neigh­bor, who was al­so set­ting out her trash can for the pick-up to­mor­row morn­ing, she felt sure that some­day the check-out girl would look back at a pho­to of her­self and think look how cute I used to be.

She checked the an­swer­ing ma­chine, no mes­sages. That meant she was still sup­posed to meet her hus­band on the curb out­side of the bag­gage claim to­mor­row. She of­fered to meet him in­side but he quick­ly fired, “no sense pay­ing for parking…why, just so you can meet me at the fuck­ing bag­gage claim?…money bet­ter spent on some­thing im­por­tant.” She still did­n’t know what was im­por­tant enough to buy. She pulled a pint of ice cream and her sham­poo from the gro­cery bags. She left the ice cream on the counter to get soft, and took the sham­poo for a hot show­er up­stairs. I mean, it’s not like I bought some­thing from a ritzy-shitzy salon…this was a good price, for a de­cent bot­tle of sham­poo, she thought as she sat on the toi­let. She spun the roll, grabbed a few long squares, wadded them up and wiped. One ply, she fumed, the son of a bitch can’t even be good to his own ass­hole. She slipped in­to the show­er and lath­ered her en­tire body with her new sham­poo. She washed her hair 3 times, slow­ly washed her en­tire body twice. She turned off the show­er and plugged the drain, made suds with the sham­poo as the tub filled, re­fus­ing to think about next mon­th’s hot wa­ter bill. She re­mem­bered her Vi­dal Sasoon ex, the way he used to clamp his hands around her neck. She thought of the check-out girl, her lips. She slowed the wa­ter to a steady trick­le, ran her legs up the tiles, let the spout drain down on her, in­to her-the weight of the damp air filled her, breath­ing fast, slosh­ing wa­ter, tiny wheezes as con­den­sa­tion trick­led down the mirror.

Her ice cream, an­oth­er se­cret in­dul­gence, an­oth­er “point­less pur­chase,” was soupy now — clos­er to a milk­shake than ice cream-just like she liked it. Dur­ing her last di­et she’d tried mak­ing pro­tein milk­shakes, but gave up when she re­al­ized her hus­band was cut­ting the milk with wa­ter “so it would stretch fur­ther.” Every meal she cooked in­volv­ing milk was ru­ined, taste­less pap. She of­ten watched him eat his morn­ing bran with the milk-wa­ter, won­der­ing how he could choke it down. He sim­ply worked his cross­word, nev­er notic­ing, nev­er once con­sid­er­ing the taste, just me­chan­i­cal­ly shov­el­ing it in. The more she thought about it, the worse it got. In­stead of en­joy­ing her ice cream, she ate it with swelling en­ti­tle­ment. She fin­ished it with a big sigh, and lay in her robe on the couch. The couch he want­ed. The cheap­er one. Every­thing she saw re­mind­ed her of his com­pro­mis­es. I bet he nev­er paid full price for any­thing in his whole mis­er­able life, she thought. What once seemed sen­si­ble even if a lit­tle fru­gal, now car­ried on­ly re­gret-what was once se­cu­ri­ty now felt like trapped dom­i­na­tion. I should leave the sham­poo and the ice cream right on the kitchen counter, she thought, that would show him. She knew things could­n’t con­tin­ue like this. I mean, what is that cheap bas­tard gonna buy, the moon? She de­cid­ed: she was go­ing to leave both the sham­poo and emp­ty ice cream tub on the counter, make him ask her. She imag­ined him ask­ing, and when he did, boy, she was go­ing to let him have it, tell him every­thing. She was sick of this.

About an hour lat­er she crept out to the street, smug­gled the emp­ty car­ton and what was left of the sham­poo in­to her neigh­bor’s trash can. The truck would be by be­fore his plane land­ed, but it was just bet­ter to be sure. If ei­ther the sham­poo or ice cream some­how end­ed up in the street in front of their house, she might need a plau­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion. It was just bet­ter this way. In the morn­ing she would wash her hair with some­thing from the linen clos­et, one of the scores of tiny bot­tles from the Sleep Inn, Econo Lodge, Howard John­son, Com­fort Suites, or Mo­tel 6. Af­ter all, she could­n’t have him smell it on her.

He flossed with a small, stiff, col­ored piece of pa­per torn from “Lo­cal At­trac­tions,” the com­pli­men­ta­ry guest mag­a­zine pub­lished by Econo­suites — a coupon he planned to use at the break­fast buf­fet in the morn­ing. He rang the front desk —re­quest­ed a USA To­day, a free ra­zor and shave cream kit, and a 6:35 wake-up call. He de­cid­ed there was no need to phone his wife as the plan had­n’t changed. In­stead he turned on a Bay­watch re­run, stretched out naked on the bed, and worked the last of the free Econo­suites hand lo­tion on to his cock. He me­chan­i­cal­ly tugged as a life­guard’s breasts bounced in slow mo­tion, and smirked as he thought ha, see that…only a suck­er would pay for a dirty movie…

Filed under Fiction on August 8th, 2007

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Jum wrote:

God I love hap­py endings.

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