By Charles Cale
Someone's head popped over the cubicle wall.
"Still here? It's 5:45! Glenda, go home! You look perfectly awful!" it said.
She sat there stunned. The head was gone, but the words hung there still.
She shut down her workstation and grabbed her keys. The day was
draining and the drive home was pure frustration. The cool air behind
her front door was a welcome relief. She kicked off her pumps and
scooped up her kitty. "You hungry Fuzz? Let's get you fed."
As the big
Maine Coon gorged on crunchy cat food, she decided to celebrate the week's end.
"A bottle of Port?" she asked her cat. "But first, I get out of
at the pretty young lady staring back at her from the bathroom mirror,
but she saw something else. "Perfectly awful." she said to the
triggered a memory, herself as a crying little girl sprawled under her
bed. She remembered pressing her hands against her head trying
to force the pain out. The sobbing hurt, her throat stung and she
thought her head would never stop pounding.
despite her bad knees, managed to get down next to her and work a hand
in under the bed frame to stroke her daughter's hair, "Its okay Glennie!
She didn't know! Please come out."
The wail issuing
from under the dust ruffle must have chilled her mother's heart.
do you know how beautiful I think you are? Do you?" she sobbed along
with her little hurt child.
barely hear her mother's voice. She only heard those other words
over and over. The door to door makeup representative had pulled
no punches, "Your daughter's face looks perfectly awful!"
until the dust under the bed made her sneeze. Through the tears she
saw dozens of toys around her. "Clean your room" had meant push
the toys out of sight and over the years she collected quite a haul under
here. She clutched tight to a small hand sewn ragdoll with yellow
yarn hair. Her sobs stopped, but the tears continued to flow silently.
Can you come out now?" her mother whispered.
leather shoes scooted out backwards, followed by legs and finally a
girl. She stood, ashamed, in front of her mother.
girl, I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry about what that mean lady said to you."
She gently held her daughters face up and brushed the hair back in place.
"She was only trying to get more money out of us by selling more makeup.
You know that don't you?" Then she noticed the dusty doll in her
daughter's hand. "Oh, you found Jenny! Do you remember when
I made her for you?"
I …ugly?" The words tore at both their hearts. Her mother tried
to give an answer, but Glenda didn't absorb the words. She already
knew; she was different and different was ugly and ugly was bad.
She was bad, wrong, ‘perfectly awful!'
Then her mother
grabbed her face again. "Did you hear me? I love you!
You're different and special and life will be hard for you sometimes, but
you are in no way ugly!" She looked into her daughter's eyes.
"You're not listening."
perfectly awful." a sob escaped her.
stared thoughtfully, "Let me see Jenny."
handed the doll over.
picked up a red laundry marker and traced a perfect copy of Glenda's mark
on the doll's face.
"Ah ah ah!
Now, look! Did I ruin her? Is she ugly?"
"She's a pretty
little mirror of my pretty little girl."
of her Mother's kind words and actions always brought comfort to Glenda.
She worked cold cream across her face and looked down at Fuzz. The
cat backed away slightly at the sight of Glenda covered in goop. "BOO!"
Fuzz jumped back. "Oh, C'mon! It's just me! You silly cat!"
She began scrubbing away with a washcloth at her
chin. "Yeah, that's us, whole house full of silly cats." she smiled,
"Silly Cat! No one's called me that since college."
back to her college years; sitting in her new dorm, wearing a thick
layer of opaque foundation across her face as her roommate looked through
a shelf of Glennie's personal effects. The two girls had established
a tentative friendship over lunch and were helping each other split up
their limited space.
"I gotta ask,
what's up with this doll?"
sighed heavily, "Well, here we go… My Mom made that. It's supposed
to be me actually." She bit her lip nervously.
And why the red face?"
just like …mine." Glennie explained.
"Oh my God!
That's so cool!" she gently put the doll back. "That's why you
wear such thick makeup?"
she pulled her hair back to show the area.
Lemme see…" she reached out, then pulled back. "oh, I'm sorry!
It's obviously a big deal to you and I'm draggin' it out in the open
like a big ox."
a big deal to me. Really."
"But you cover
it up every day."
it's just… easier this way."
to cover your face with that thick mask of makeup than to just be yourself?"
"…a lot easier."
perfectly awful! I mean, that people make it so hard for you to
"Yeah, I mean
if I were a Calico I wouldn't like it if society made me pretend to be a
you said you are a Persian."
"I meant the
CAT!" she laughed, "Don't change the subject you silly cat! Besides,
don't think you're the only one who likes things easier. Do you
know where my family's really from?"
We say Persia! It's not lying, it's just," she waggled her hand,
"…disinformation!" The girls smiled at each other.
think you'd like a break?" Stevie asked.
makeup you silly cat! We could lock the door if you like and you could
just be you. It's no big deal to me!"
"You know something; I could USE a break! Today has been a bear!"
We lock the door and you wash up and I can read my ‘Persian' newspaper!"
she unzipped her pack and pulled out a crumpled paper with a beautifully
scrolled language. "Silly Cat," Stevie asked, "Do you think you'd
ever get to the point where you'd like to go out on the town without all
that heavy makeup?"
She had removed the heavy makeup and was applying some light powder,
"It's just that sometimes the stares can be" she paused, "…perfectly
in my family being true to yourself is one of the most important things you
can do. It's an old ‘Persian' tradition!" she winked. "Oh, look!
That's the real you! Nice to meet you! Say, have you ever
considered that the stares might be because you're a very pretty little
calico! Hmm, and once we get you used to that idea… we go find
some boys and break their hearts!"
back in the mirror with wide eyed shock, "Stevie, you're awful."
awful!" Stevie laughed.
faded as Glenda wandered through her living room and stopped at the
piano. She glanced at a picture of Stevie and herself (wearing
light makeup only) arm in arm with two alleged rock stars. She
remembered what was written on the back, "Being "Perfectly Awful" with
my best friend!"
Fuzz she held him high, "Is this better? Is it? Do you like
the real me better? Yeah, I do too!" Uncorking a large bottle
of wine she poured herself a small glass and set the bottle out to breathe.
She picked up her glass of Port and relaxed on the couch. The phone
rang. She knew who it was.
really like everybody who has your number!" He laughed.
just crazy for those telemarketers! How far away are you?"
kind of wine are you drinking?"
"Oh, the Port
eh? In that case I'm 10 minutes out with Italian."
"I keep tellin'
"Shall I dress
"-In as little
She purred, "Now THAT'S what I call…"
awful?" he said in a practiced tone.
As she was
preparing for dinner the phone rang again. She decided against a
smart greeting, "…Hello? …Mom! I swear I was just… you too?
Yeah, I know, funny huh? How am I? Oh, as always, Perfectly
Awful!" she smiled.