Blackbox Audition

She sat on a barstool, in the absence of Jeffrey in his pallid work shirt. Eight buttons perfectly aligned, but only when she came to drink on Fridays. He often corrected himself at her request, his fake I.D. their shared secret. He was going to college, and could feign infallibility in asserting he never cheated.

Folded chairs applied their rigidity on distressed, black walls. This was an audition. Veronica had a list. Already, there was a line in her hose, perhaps suggesting she had gone too far when she smiled at Allie’s request to step in after six. Like Veronica, Allie was busy. Caught in a flurry of poised activity.

Veronica bought a suit the week before. A jade pendant, charm bracelet, oyster shell barrette to restrain those frizzy bangs. She thought of the day a rabbit died, belonging to no one, but found on her yard. Ears now strands of scorched burlap. Jeffrey mowed lawns, but the cash wouldn’t suffice. He didn’t keep clients for long, because public negligence kills a practice fast. But Veronica didn’t care. He made her smile, until the day he stumbled on a ball of bones and blood. Her face tightened for several minutes, aging her by a decade. This was the face she fought to conceal, a shale slate Allie could crack if she asked the right questions.

But Veronica had the questions, and Veronica wanted to win. Allie wanted to win, but couldn’t afford the costs attached to Miss American Pie. Allie made her decisions, often at odds with the likings of a quiet mother who lacked the energy to hold her back. Allie needed to practice and refine her oratory. She could sell her legs, but if asked who bought her platitudes, she just wasn’t sure.

“Door to Door Saleswoman.” Allie found it on Craigslist, like her older sister who just finished school, hitting up law firm after law firm to learn that no one had open positions, that promises of health insurance were lies wrapped in pastel tissue, and everyone writing in Esquire’s name was a mocking middle finger from a third world country. But Allie didn’t speak with her sister, taking salt’s taste for granted.

Veronica didn’t know Allie, and only saw her picture. Allie had heard enough of Veronica to where she told Jeffrey she was done talking. Veronica didn’t believe this, and could only remember the dew on Jeffrey’s lips as he smiled and spoke of his pretty friend. This was after Jeffrey handed her a drink, noticing dimness in the folds of her naked eyelids. Maintenance stole her Xanax, in a box that held her lashes. The ones overlapped like “X”s, defying a natural death. Veronica had prepared to tell Jeffrey she wouldn’t be so lovely, that sooner or later, she’d walk past the bar with no odd jobs to offer. She had written herself into a bad comedy, made cruder as he asked her what Allie’s words meant.

Sunlight entered. Arms outstretched, Veronica fielded tension.

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