Saturday, April 5, 2014

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Little Shopping of Horrors- guest author Heather Hadley


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“We should celebrate your trip with a new outfit,” Joy, my 80 year old mother-in-law said. Then she spoke the words that I dreaded: “Let’s have a girls’ shopping day. It will be fun.”
  Shopping trip with a free outfit. . . what’s not to like?
  You see, I’m a fat girl. I avoid the funhouse distortions of department store mirrors. My clothes should come in plain brown packages, preferably delivered by cute UPS guys.
  And Joy is a retired school teacher. Do not be fooled by her slight frame and bespectacled face. Joy views the world as her first grade classroom. With Joy, there’s no her way or the highway. It’s just her way.
  I winced, remembering the Great Bra Crusade. Joy was convinced that I needed “upper support.” Unfortunately, Joy thought “support” meant pointy. She bought me bras with traffic cone cups fit for a 50’s bondage girl. I spent the next year folding my arms against my chest to keep my nipples from popping up with a cartoon sproing.
  “No, really, I’m fine,” I said.
  “I insist,” said Joy. “Let’s go on that shopping trip.”
  For the next two weeks, Joy called several times a day. Each call began with Joy chirping, “So, when are we going shopping?”
   After avoiding several of her calls, I resigned myself to the trip.  
   “This will be so fun!” exclaimed Joy, as we drove to the mall. “Isn’t that right, Darrell?”
   Darrell grunted. Darrell is my father in law. You might call Darrell reserved; Darrell lives by a speaking limit of 100 words a day. I’ve never heard him crack this limit. Now he was pressed into being the official chauffeur/credit card bearer. Given the way that he set his tight lips in a permanent “Hmrph,” it was apparent that he was not happy.
  We walked into a tony department store. A tony department store not known for plus sizes. “I’m pretty sure that they don’t have my size,” I said. “There’s another store in the mall, Zaftig, that would work. Let’s go there.”
 We walked into the elevator. “Nonsense!” Joy said. She clutched the elevator hand-hold and sized me up and down. “You know,” she said. “You really need to spruce up your wardrobe.” I stared at Joy as she stood, not a wrinkle showing in her Girl Scout green pants and matching polyester blouse. She strode out of the elevator.
  Joy wove through the circular clothing racks, stopped, and pulled aside a pair of slacks. “How about this one?” she asked.
  I looked at the tag. “Nope. Not my size.”
  She held them in front of my nose. “Are you sure?”
  I made a half-hearted effort to search through the clothes. “They just don’t have my size,” I said, shrugging. “Can’t we just go to the next store?”
  “No, no, no.” She looked around and spied a sales clerk across the store in menswear. Holding the slacks high above her head and waving them like a revolutionary, she called out in a voice that rang out throughout the store, “Ma’am, do you have these in a bigger size?”
  She marched towards the clerk, repeating, “Ma’am! Ma’am! Do you have a bigger size? We need a bigger size.”
  Heads turned. Joy’s voice, strengthened by years of projecting to the back of a classroom, echoed throughout the store. Shoppers stopped browsing and stared as Joy marched down the store’s aisle. I followed close behind, hissing, “Joy, wait!” Frantically, I looked behind me, and tried to catch Darrell’s eye. Couldn’t he intervene and stop his wife? But Darrell had his head down, completely absorbed in studying a floral dress on a hanger.
  The sales clerk, a petite blonde, visibly shrank from the onslaught. Her jaw dropped, and she stepped back as Joy reached her and shook the slacks in front of her. “Uh. . no,” the clerk said. Given that she was perhaps a size 0, I doubt that she was even aware that clothes sizes came in double digits.
  “Are you sure?” asked Joy.
  “Please,” I said, tugging on Joy’s elbow. I dragged her away, as she still clutched the slacks in her hands.
   As we walked out of the department store, I babbled, desperate to distract Joy from making a sharp U-Turn and attempting to extract a larger pair of pants from the stunned sales clerk. “You know, I’m sure that there will be lots of options. I’ll bet that we’ll find something perfect. I’d like something dressy, but comfortable enough to travel in.”
   Joy looked disappointed, but allowed me to lead her into Zaftig.  Approaching a rack, she pointed to a dress with loud fuchsia and black blossoms. “This would be perfect!” she said.
   “I don’t think so,” I said. “It’s a little. . .bold.”
   “You need something big and bold,” she said.
   “I was thinking something a little more business-like,” I said. I grabbed a pair of slacks with matching blouse and made my escape into the privacy of the changing room.
  In the changing room, I started to remove the outfit from the hanger. Suddenly, there was a rap on the door. “Let’s see your outfit!” Joy shouted. “Come model for us.”   
  Even though I was still fully dressed, I felt completely naked. “No, really, that’s okay. I’ll just try on the outfit and see how it works.”
  “But we want to see,” said Joy. “We want to see what we’re paying for.”
  Sheepishly I changed into the outfit and stepped out of the changing room.
  “Turn around,” commanded Joy. “Let’s see.”
  I slowly twirled. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my reflection in the mirror. Hey, I thought. This doesn’t look too bad. I couldn’t help but give myself a slight nod of approval.
  I held out my hands in a silent Ta-da! “Well,” I asked. “What do you think?”
  Darrell cleared his throat. “Those pants make your butt look big,” he

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Heather Halcrow is a technical writer for a software company and a consultant for a tech company. She has been published in Segullah, Irreantum, and Touchstones. Heather was the recipient of the Edna Meudt Memorial Award for her chapbook, floodplain.