Friday, January 8, 2010

Every Day is Ladies' Day

You had to have someone like Lailey in a beauty parlor. Curled, plucked, painted and rouged, the blue velvet dress she wore every Tuesday just set off her Forever Amber eyes. I saw a cat with eyes that color once, but never a stand-up-on-two-feet woman.

Her apartment was so splendid. She invited me up one Tuesday after her manicure - she lived two buildings over, just over the Set-A-Spell Diner - and I just stopped right then trying to be sophisticated and elegant. Her curtains were red velvet like the rope outside the ticket window at the Bijou. Like the curtains in a bordello, Frannie would say, but she has a mouth on her and no client of hers has ever invited her to tea. Frannie likes to say Hair today, gone tomorrow! to the old ladies under the dryers when they can't hear. She has another irritating mannerism, but it's not a good one to talk about in polite society.

"... wasting time on gin rummy" was all I caught from what she was saying and I figured I ought to say something about that, but Mama spends a lot of time on gin rummy herself, especially on Saturday night when Miss Shellynn and Miss Rachel come over, Miss Rachel always bringing a half-filled paper bag holding yesterday's crullers. Mama sees those crullers coming and says under her breath I guess our troubles are over, but she's been saying it so long she doesn't make herself laugh anymore. Sometimes it tickles me, though, so I guess I'm keeping it going.

That apartment was like sugar on pie. It had kind of a funny smell, like maybe the litter pan was just one day past due, but I didn't care one whit. She turned on a lamp next to her fancy sofa, and it gave off a beautiful pink glow. She had draped a scarf over it, and I was afraid it might catch fire, but that's none of my business and she's twice my age so she's been turning on lights longer than I have and knows a thing or two about not catching things on fire.

"Have a seat, dear. This is normally my afternoon for whist, but today I just can't face the familiar phobias of my three dearest friends." I nodded like I could just imagine how trying that might be for her. "Bernice has a fit until I turn off this lamp. She is sure I'm going to burn us all up as we're bidding." I nodded again and made a little face to show I couldn't imagine worrying about such a thing.

"Tell me something interesting about yourself, dear," and I blurted out the first thing I thought which was that next Tuesday is my birthday. "Will you be taking the day off?" she asked me, but that was something I hadn't thought of before. I started thinking how Clarice and Pug might not care much if I took off, especially if the parlor isn't so booked up, or else maybe I could call in sick Tuesday morning. I could call first thing while my throat is still froggy and I sound all croupy, but then I remembered that they're both invited to my party that night and would see how I'm not so sick after all. I should invite Lailey! It would be Tuesday, so she'd be wearing this same dress but she'd be sitting in our kitchen with the chipped white sink and the light over the table with the string instead of her beautiful pink-light lamp ... and then I remembered that she had asked me a question and I just said "No Ma'am." And I decided Lailey should never, ever be sitting at Mama's old Formica kitchen table, cake or no cake, gin rummy or whist.

"You know what I like about Beulah's salon, Dipsy?" I shook my head. "Every day is ladies' day!" and she laughed a tiny laugh like she hadn't thought it was all that funny, but she didn't want to hurt her own feelings. I tried laughing that same polite way, but I accidentally snorted the way I do when Frannie says something naughty in fake French while she's sweeping up hair. Lailey didn't seem to notice, but I wanted to fall into the floor and die, or maybe just die and let someone else worry about what to do with my dead body.

I jumped up like I had springs on my behind and said "I got a manicure in five minutes, Miss Lailey. Thank you so much for inviting me to your beautiful lamp ... " and then I flew out her door and back to Beulah's. Nope. I was not going to invite Lailey to my house, not next Tuesday or in this natural lifetime.

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