Madame Avon

She was an ugly woman. Homely. A tremendous lantern jaw with a prominent cleft in a hemispherical swell at the tip of her chin. Any attempts to restrain the growth of the spindly but wiry black stalks and the requisite follicles of her upper lip and below her ears, was futile.

Discolored craters in her cheeks partially filled by a face paste not nearly up to the job. She was more than uncomely.

Her legs, given the task of supporting her all but shapeless largesse, appeared impossible. Unlikely to support her bulk for an entire day’s activities. Like the stems on a giant piano that would no doubt fail to afford any ambulatory activity. Her ankles gave me specific pause. They appeared to be seconds from snapping despite being stationary.

She wore copious perfume, acrid and never adequate in masking the natural funk of her secretions. No matter the garish garment she wore, her back and under arms seeped stains and were an obvious source of her elaborate pungence.

She spoke loud, with shrieking enthusiasm. She shouted “gotdamn” because she was God fearing. Normal to her in her head. A menthol fueled guttural cough and a viscous chuckle.

Her teeth were grey, gapped and stained by cheap lipstick, coffee and cigarrettes.

She sold Avon. She was from Oklahoma. Her husband’s name was Melvin. He looked like a Melvin. He possessed a grotesque tongue. It was always on display when licking his thumbs to count money or shuffle and deal cards. An organ that escaped his maw to reveal scarring and sickly violet color. He eventually elevated himself to City Supervisor. An elected post. They lived in a trailer about a mile away off a dirt road.

She was an awful cook. Her yams were stringy and her turkey was always dry. Lumpy mashed potatos and gravy without flavor.

She was the sweetest woman you could possibly imagine. Her name was Arlene. They were hicks. Oakies. But very good people. She loved me because she loved my parents. Always very good to me. She had love in her heart.

Two daughters and a son. Mike, Barbara and Mary Jo.

I remember Mike losing part of his heel to a motorcycle. He later spent a stretch in jail. Mary Jo took it upon herself to become popular. She was a cheerleader. Possible in my hick town despite one’s lineage.

Barbara often babysat me along with her mother. Barb was smart and saw something in me I think. She read to me in Spanish and from the bible for the beauty of the language.

I always recieved Christmas presents from them but for a few years there were presents from the family and an exclusive present from Barb. Arlene was generous with Avon products intended for young men. Barb bought me board games and things she imagined would stimulate or encourage me.

I learned on my last trip home for Christmas that Barb had passed. She had abundant red hair and wisdom and humor beyond anyone in her clan. Welcome to haunt me. To be a ghost in my slumber should she choose. I always felt like we never finished.

Sometimes life is a well maintained pinball machine. Other times it’s a ball peen hammer on the glass. There’s always blood.

Drinks for my friends.

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