Saturday, February 21, 2009

Homecoming

By Bub

Suzie got out her tin of blush and set it with conviction next to the sink in front of the mirror. The shade was called Escapade and it was bright pink against her tawny skin, like someone spray-painted an unfinished barn. She applied the blush from her cheekbones to her hairline. She then put on her bronze face powder. The bronze against her brownish yellow skin made her look like she had rusted over, especially around the parts where she had applied it extra thick in order to hide her moles, crow’s-feet and scar. Next she shaded her eyes with a deep purple eye shadow she had borrowed from her teenage niece. Finally she drew on her eye brows as two thin black lines. Her original dirty-blonde eye brows were still visible so she powdered her forehead a little more. She swiped two fingers into a jar of vaseline and rubbed the jelly onto the fronts of her teeth. Then she ran vaselined hands through her hair to give it that slick, classy look. She stumbled into the black dress she wore to her brother’s funeral, the only dress she owned, and looked in the mirror to admire. This was going to be the greatest day of her life, Suzie thought to herself.

She couldn’t remember a time when she had gotten this dolled-up. And she looked as good as any of them Red Hat wearing ladies she’d seen at McDonalds on Sunday mornings – better, in fact. If only John could see her. But he had been sent upstate four years ago for that ugliness with her niece that borrowed her that eye shadow. She had been so lonely since then. She stopped talking to her family, her friend, everyone really. Her niece would visit her but only because she felt guilty. It had been three whole days since she’d even gone outside her apartment. If it wasn’t for her pets she might not go out at all until one day a neighbor would report a horrible stench and they’d find her decomposing body in a room with a mattress on the floor and a broken treadmill that she had collected from someone's garbage. She didn’t feel like that today though. She read in the town’s weekly newspaper that it was Homecoming and she understood that this was her Big Chance. She would show everybody that she was different. Not how they pegged her at all.

The crowds had already gathered along State Street when Suzie hobbled up to the Conoco gas station. Suzie wasn’t used to walking in her K-Mart clogs. The parade would go by right out front and turn by the city park a block down the road. Suzie got there early so she could go inside and grab a Slushee before the event was under way. She had even shelled out the extra seventy cents for the Energy Drink Slushee. It was pink and had taurine and guarana in it. Suzie didn’t know exactly what that meant, but was happy to pay extra for a drink that someone took the time to add fancy ingredients to. She took a sip. It tasted awful. Suzie smiled.

Outside she could see the first float pull around the corner. It was a tractor pulling a trailer with a Kiwanis banner hanging from either side. Elderly Kiwanis members and teenage Key Clubbers tossed out mints to the crowd. Suzie elbowed her way out to the street to grab her share. Next was the high school marching band playing that Gary Glitter song. Suzie was exhilarated by the crowd and the music and the warmth of natural light. She sang along, ‘Dun Dun Duuuh Duh, HEY! dun dun Dun Dun dun Duuuh Duh HEY!’ The grandmothers nearby held their grandchildren closer. But, they could not stop their grandkids’ will to sweets however, just as they could not stop Suzie’s will to feel, this day. They and others like them had succeeded in doing so nearly every other day of her life to this point. But today would be different. Suzie knew it.

Two policemen on horse-back strode by, followed by a local girl-scout troupe that had to negotiate horse dung in every step. There was a dance group with middle-schoolers in sequins. There was a local man who thought himself a juggler and was not actually registered in the parade. Then the local politicians walked by. One almost shook Suzie’s hand before retracting his arm and giving a nod once he had gotten a look at her. The politician knew that cameras were snapping pictures. Suzie thought he was just being formal. That made her feel worthy. And that was what she was going for.

She sat on the curb as a convoy of old-timey cars drove past. The sun had made her a little queasy. The waxy walls of the Slushee cup were sweating almost as much as Suzie. There were creases in the middle where she had been holding it – white veins across the red and blue Slushee logo. Her black dress clung to her small but noticeable belly and her less noticeable breasts. She felt awkward when there wasn’t a band nearby during the parade. All those people gathered around watching for a spectacle, with no one saying anything - just the sound of horse clops or footsteps or the occasional squeal of a child who had just come into candy. It was as if everyone was waiting for something. Perhaps they were all waiting for the same thing Suzie was waiting for. She decided this was the case and felt a special camaraderie she hadn’t felt with Other People in years – Like she was one of them. She knew what she was about to do and felt confident that the Others would appreciate her for it and be grateful for her actions.

It was a white Cadillac convertible. It rounded the corner of Oakwood and State and Suzie saw that smug bitch waving and smiling and wearing that mocking tiara and sash. It was the Homecoming Queen and it was what Suzie had been waiting for. Suzie got up from the gutter and removed the plastic lid from her Slushee. As the Cadillac slowly approached Suzie tried not to move faster than the car so as not to arise suspicion. Suzie had a grin as wide as The Mississippi and she had never felt happier. When Suzie got within striking distance the car was passing, and Suzie flung the Slushee into the Homecoming Queen’s hair. A male passenger in the back seat grabbed the back of the Homecoming Queen’s head as if she was JFK and he was Jackie O. The other male passenger in the back looked at Suzie in befuddlement. The Cadillac fled away at four miles per hour.

Three minutes later police tackled Suzie who was sitting again at the curb. By this time the families had cleared the area and Suzie was getting all the candy to herself. When they dragged her away Suzie screamed and kicked, but inside she was as content as she would ever be. She was Triumphant that day. She was a hero. For a fleeting moment the scales of justice had evened out in her world. In that moment she was happy - even if she would never be again.

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