/Beth Wareham and Jay Davis
BEGINNING OF A NOVEL IN PROGRESS. LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS. EVERYTHING WILL CHANGE FROM COVER TO ENDING BUT THIS IS THE START.
Arms pumping and three-figure handbag swinging, Mary Ann felt the first drips of sweat hit the water slide of her butt crack, flowing down to God knows where. It tickled, a strange sensation while in the midst of running for one’s life. She was speed walking down the highway double line in the middle of the nowhere, hoping the men behind her would not shoot.
She couldn’t find one person in her life who could drive out and rescue her. She’d dialed all the friends and family. No one picked up. She had left the scene so quickly and was so frightened, she hadn’t even dialed 911. Hadn’t thought of it, just fled. Later, she’d reflect that all the sugar she’d eaten had clouded her thoughts, made her stupid. Deep inside, she knew differently.
She was a woman alone. Wasn’t it obvious? What shit, she thought. I have a family full of men, a phone full of friends and no one to call at the lowest moment in recent memory. She pumped her arms faster now, moving over to road’s shoulder as a car appeared off in the distance. She figured getting hit by a car instead of a gun blowing a hole in her head was probably more to her liking. A car could drag you though, her mind quickly countered. Maybe a gunshot was better.
Periwinkle kitten heels dug into sand and gravel. Her teeth ground against each other at the sound. She was creating tiny landslides down the roadside with each step and finally a pump remained behind as she kept moving forward. Damn, damn, damn she thought as she wheeled around and grabbed the shoe. She was on one leg now, a flamingo with no water or wings. She knew she looked stupid hopping on one foot in the road in the middle of nowhere. She slipped it back on and strode back to the center of the asphalt, where her shoes worked.
God is punishing me, she thought. For the donuts. I have to die because I ate all those donuts and there is no one to save me. She began muttering words Heavenword: “I’ll stop the sugar thing,” she vowed as her ankle bent outward and she screamed in pain. “I will be more loving.” “I’ll go to Core Class.” She kept walking fast down the centerline and as the car became larger, her thoughts raced. She bit down on her lip again, winced, and a fresh metallic taste of blood filled her mouth.
I’m a bad wife and mother, her inner asshole continued. I’m out here because I’m a bad wife and mother. I’m out here because I do things I shouldn’t. Her legs were growing tired: She was not at her fittest. I’m out here because I’m selfish. I just had to have what I had to have.
Her thoughts grew even darker and sweat streamed down her body. Mary Ann kept rushing toward the approaching car, her thoughts ripping open her middle-aged soul. She could still hear the men behind her yelling in a language she did not know. She moved even faster, her personal fluids – sweat, tears and snot – attracting molecules of dust from the road. Her face took on the dust’s color, a boring hue her decorator friend would have described as “homosexual putty beige.” Why he called it that, she didn’t know. The approaching car, she could now see, had a huge hood ornament. Light flashed on it as she moved toward the road’s edge again to let it pass.
As the car moved closer, Mary Ann felt a new set of fears well up into the back of her throat. Who would be driving a car like that? She thought. The last time she’d seen one that big and rectangular was in Goodfellas. Or was it American Gangster? That’s it, she thought. The 70s. She realized that the 1970s were coming down a two-lane country highway and were headed directly for her. God, I hated those pantsuits, she thought. And the pointy collars. What is a car like that doing out here in the farmlands of New York? Please God, she bargained again. Let it pass.
The giant yellow Cadillac had another plan. It slowly floated between Mary Ann and the shoulder, door swinging open, and a distressed, abandoned middle-age woman was scooped off burning asphalt and thrown directly into the fire of her life.
Like the hair on her husband’s head, Mary Ann’s marriage was disappearing. Her life had been fine until the Ring of Fire engulfed her. Her husband’s early male patterned baldness had turned these last long months of their marriage into an endless stream of Nizoral, Revita, Nism and Folliguard. With each sad squiggly loss on porcelain, the ring tightened around her life. No hair, no happiness until her husband got what was rightfully his, what God had given him. Mary Ann’s husband wanted his hair back.
Life was okay until one afternoon on the boat when her brother-in-law had said, “Hey Jair! The top of your head looks like a wheat field in winter.” Her husband had whipped around to attack the hurtful comment, taking the wheel of their gleaming white 160 Bowrider Bayliner with him. Three passengers skittered hard right and bounced upward as the boat hit its own wake. Mary Ann could see the rage in her husband’s eyes as she fell back hard on her seat.
“Well, what the hell can I do about it?” her husband Jair shot back. “Take Dad and Grandpa to court?” He was running his hand over his scalp now, back to front, back to front, over and over. This anxious gesture born on this bright day was to become his signature move going forward. Back to front as he read his computer. Back to front as he drove. Back to front as he watched the Jets lose, over and over. His anger and disappointment over the top of his head seemed relentless and consuming. Mary Ann needed to help him. After all, she was a girl. Guys ran their hands from back to front. Girls healed. That was the fairy tale she’d been weaned on.
Since that day on the water, Mary Ann had logged onto the Hair Loss Learning Center with him to find help. She researched all aspects, both cultural and scientific, behind the loss of hair in the human male. The Hair Club said, “finding the right hair restoration is like finding the right man or woman for your life.” She repeated this to Jair and he’d asserted “that’s right!”
They went to work, a heterosexual married couple with a purpose, a project. It wasn’t a renovation, but shopping was involved. Special shampoos were ordered and delivered, and for a while seemed useful. Then Jair’s scalp turned dry and he cried out over the unfairness of it all. He was bald and had dandruff! She worried her husband was losing his belief in the world.
She noted every aspect of his hair care on the Hair Loss Log she had downloaded and printed off the Hair Loss Learning Center’s website. Propecia was next. All seemed good until his penis couldn’t get hard and his breasts became sore. The last symptom she noted in the log as “tender nips.” Jair and Mary Ann were getting along, sort-of.
Then he complained and whined and filled the air with fear and conjecture one time too many. She said, “maybe you’re turning into a girl. I’ve heard that happens to some white men as they age.” She didn’t know why she had said it or what the comment truly meant. She had just said it. Her body felt how ugly a thing it was even as her lips moved, releasing it.
He hadn’t spoken to her in three days, so she pulled out the big guns. “Baby, let’s just go see a doctor. A real one. One that treats hair and nothing but hair.”
He nodded slowly and they went.