Time and again.

September 14, 2011

This story is about the conflict between mentalities. People of the same age. Usually in their early 20s. I thought it was something quirky about the baby boomers. But I’ve seen it time and again. (That’s a hopeful phrase). I see it as the open vs the closed mind. The closed mind is always sure that they are right. And they don’t change. The open mind is sure that they are right. Except when they are alone. And reconsidering. I have seen closed minds on the left or liberal wing politically. But there are far more on the right or conservative wing.  They usually have more stuff. And so, in any discussion, they have more to lose.




Deborah Hall glanced at herself. In the mirror. On the counter. Over the speakers she could barely hear the background music. That filled the drug store.

Some find it pleasant dining on pheasant.

Those things roll off my knife.

Just serve me tomatoes. And mashed potatoes.

Give me the simple life.

A lone hair had parted company. From her right eyebrow. And was making inroads into the gap between her eyes. Grabbing a nearby pincer she plucked the hair.

“Bastard!” she muttered. To herself.

Pay day and I’ve got a rogue hair.

Having conquered that problem, Deborah returned to the magazine she had been reading. The Canadian Way, it was titled. And talked about the passivity of Canadians. About their politeness. About their search for a new alternative to conflict.

Deborah slammed the magazine. Closed with anger.

“We are not wimps,” she cried. Loud enough for someone to hear if they were in the local area. Someone was.

“Excuse me.” A young woman named Zaira, who had been standing at the counter for some time, spoke. Normally Zaira had many things to say but on this occasion she had only one.

Deborah glanced at the young woman as she re-examined her forehead in the mirror. She recognized the girl from somewhere. So many people passed through the drug store. Who can remember everyone? And yet she knew. She should. It was a great asset in her job. If you could remember a name. The customer felt complimented. Compliments led to sales. Sales to raises. Raises to a new dress. Or a scarf. With things dangling.

“Yes, dear,” she said. Smiling.

Zaira leaned over the counter.

“Do you think I’m beautiful?” Zaira asked.

Deborah turned from the mirror. Scanned the girl. Dressed rather drably. A simple blouse and torn jeans. Overweight. A membership in a club might help. Her hair could be lightened. And shortened. Her teeth needed some work. And God, who ever told her that a mole was a beauty mark? Or the single eyebrow across her forehead. Her skin was too light. That wasn’t her fault of course and could be remedied by a visit to a tanning salon.

“You could be stunning.” Deborah smiled then added. “With a touch up here and there.”

Zaira leaned to one side. A sudden smirk. Sudden a word that should be used sparingly. Something on her face. Which, in Deborah’s opinion, did nothing to add to her appearance.

“And what makes you an expert on beauty?” Zaira asked.

Deborah smiled uncomfortably. The harsh tone of the young woman had caught her off guard. Not suddenly. But certainly moments after she digested the words. But then she remembered. Reports from other stores. About abusive customers. Especially in the cosmetic departments. The new battle ground for feminism. She had read an article in the same magazine. That rested on her counter. About the twelve sexual spots. That every man wanted…

“I’m not sure I know what you mean, dear.”

“Define beauty.” The girl insisted. Insisted is too harsh a word. It wasn’t like the girl grabbed her by the collar and shook the words out of her. Maybe suddenly was okay.

Deborah looked around the shop, hoping to catch the eye of one of the clerks. Or the detective that Mr. Edwards had hired. She was sure of it. This was the same girl who had accosted Gilda, her friend who worked in Sherway. They’d almost come to blows. Gilda took three days off work to regain her composure. She was not sure that she would work again.

“Did you want to buy some make-up?” Deborah asked.

“Do you know how they test make-up?” Zaira asked then went into a detailed description of the animals tortured in the name of beauty.

Deborah stared at the young girl.

“I’ve heard all this before,” Deborah said. “And I did some research. You’re exaggerating.”

The smile left Zaira’s face.

“It is not an exaggeration. Animals are tortured in the name of fashion. For some distorted image of what it means to be a woman. Aren’t you ashamed to be involved in such immoral behaviour?”

“You’ve asked that question before?” Deborah responded. “So you don’t expect me to answer it.”

The girl looked surprised by Deborah’s response.

“Excuse me?”

Deborah nodded. “At Sherway Mall. You were very disruptive. My friend, Gilda almost lost her job. Is that your idea of justice? Putting decent girls out of work? Gilda’s done nothing but cry for days. And it’s all because you are so…”

Deborah couldn’t think of anything else to say. She was too upset.

Zaira was caught off balance.

“I think you’re overreacting. I just meant…” Zaira stumbled on the words.

Deborah clenched her teeth and spoke under her breath so as not to be heard. Outside the local area.

“You little… twat!”

“What?” Zaira cried. “You called me a twat!”

“I’d call you that other word,” Deborah said. “The one that rimes with runt, but I’m too much of a lady.”

Zaira turned to leave. Deborah stepped from behind the counter and grabbed her arm. Zaira turned around. Embarrassed.

“If I see you,” Deborah said, “in our store again, I’ll call the police and have your sorry ass thrown in jail.”

Zaira stared at Deborah for a moment. “Are you threatening me?”

“It’s not a threat,” Deborah said. “It’s a promise. And you’ll be happy to see the police.”

“And why is that?” the girl asked.

“Because,” Deborah responded, “if I find you in this store again, I’m going to beat the shit out of you!”

A tear ran down Zaira’s cheek.

“No!” Deborah cried. “No crying. I forbid it.”

The tears continued to roll down Zaira’s cheek. Deborah turned redder. For a moment. But then she could not restrain herself. She took Zaira into her arms.

“This isn’t fair,” Deborah said. “I was just beginning to dislike you.”

Zaira sniffled. Deborah turned around and grabbed a handful of tissues from the box on the counter and handed them to Zaira. Zaira wiped the tears from her cheek.

“Why did you turn so angry?” Zaira asked.

“Oh,” Deborah began but halted. She took a deep breath. “I’ve been pissed about a few things around here and you became a target for my rage. Why did you have to talk like that to me?”

“I’m not sure,” Zaira responded. “I guess because I was right,”

Deborah shook her head and took the girl in her arms again.

“Being right is no excuse for rudeness,” she said.



One Response to “Time and again.”

  1. Emma said

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