A Short Story
By Robert J. Waguespack
“Hold still. Stop moving around.”
Jeff tries not to fidget. He always fidgets when he’s nervous, his mom would tell him that.
He and his wife, Margie, hide in the maintenance alley between Big Guy Fashions and the Shoe Barn, two of the thirty-eight stores located in the Bryce County Mall. It’s dark, but there’s enough light for Margie to complete what she’s doing.
She dips a sponge into the plastic cup Jeff is holding then rubs it into the water-soluble makeup. She dabs his face with clown white, cold against his skin.
“When did you learn to do this?”
“Last Summer, at the other event. You have to do it fast. Don’t have a lot of time to get ready”
“You missed my eyes.”
“I’ll fill that in with black.”
She takes a new sponge and repeats the process with black makeup.
“Close your eyes.”
Jeff feels the pressure of the sponge. “What if it gets in my eyes?”
“It’s safe for kids. Should be safe for you too.” She giggles.
“Is that where you met Roger, at the other event?”
“Again with Roger. You’re so jealous.”
“You’re always going on about him.”
“Yea, well, he’s a genius. He started all this.”
“So where did you meet him?”
“I didn’t. It was all word-of-mouth. You know, somebody says something to somebody else, then they say something to somebody. It finally reaches you. Okay, you can open your eyes.”
Margie’s coating a narrow tipped brush with black face paint.
“This is for the details and highlights,” she says as she begins to outline his eye sockets.
“So what’s Roger like?” continues Jeff.
“You know, you met him.”
“Hardly. He was just pointed out to me in a group.”
“Well, he doesn’t like talking to people. It’s safer that way.”
“Heard he got chased out of the East Coast.”
“He left on his own. It got kind of dicey out there. People just don’t understand street performance.”
“Yea, I can imagine.”
Jeff can tell Margie’s getting a little annoyed by the questioning.
“Look, that was before I met you, okay? He’s not my type, anyway.”
“You have a type?”
Margie laughs, “Yea, asshole, I like big puffy-bears like you. There, finished. What do you think?”
She holds up a small, square mirror.
Jeff smiles, “Great.”
“Now hold the mirror while I do me.”
She repeats the procedure on herself. Jeff feels he should stop asking about Roger and leaves her to her work.
When finished, she puts the makeup case and mirror into the pocket of her hoodie. Jeff dumps the water onto the floor, crushes the plastic cup with his hand, and puts it into his own pocket, copying Margie.
Margie looks out into the mall. “Okay, now cover with the hoodie and keep your head down.”
“You don’t think anybody’s gonna notice us?”
“Are you kidding, look at ‘em out there. They’re in a shopping coma.
* * * * *
They take a position near the center of the Y-shaped mall. It’s a huge circular area with benches interspersed with small potted trees. There are fake street lamps and an elevated stage for events. Bright banners hang from the ceiling proclaiming Winter Madness Sale. Signs in the stores repeat the message. Shoppers rush about, going from store to store. They look almost frantic, oblivious to their surroundings.
Margie’s right, Jeff thinks, no one is noticing us.
Jeff sees the others of their group also taking positions.
Margie looks at her watch, “Almost time. Got your stuff?”
“Okay, when you hear the whistle, rush out into the crowd, just like rehearsal.”
Jeff’s still nervous,“We should have rehearsed more.”
“You’ll be fine. They’ll be talking about this for months.”
“You’re not going to let me go out there alone, are you, make a fool of myself?”
“I swear, you’re such a paranoid.”
Suddenly, the shrill blast of a police whistle causes the shoppers to stop and look around.
Margie screams,”Let’s go!”
* * * * *
Another victim of the Saturday morning attack on shoppers at the Bryce County Mall has died from injuries bringing the official number of dead to seventeen. Twenty three people remain hospitalized due to wounds occurred during the attack, five remain under guarded conditions.
The victims, both male and female, range in ages from six to fifty-eight. Witnesses claim over a dozen assailants, all dressed in hoodies and wearing face paint, attacked the shoppers with knives and other sharp instruments, after given a signal, which some described as a “police whistle.” One witness called it a “flash-mob from hell.”
The police want to assure the public that this was not a terrorist event. Details are very similar to the incident at the West Cheshire Shopping Center last Summer in Vincent County. The police will not elaborate on these similarities or the nature of the details. So far there are no suspects or arrests for either incident.
Action 7 News has obtained exclusive surveillance video of the attack in progress. We must warn you the following may be disturbing to some viewers.
* * * * *
Jeff and Margie relax on the couch watching the evening news. He’s sits on one end while she
stretches out next to him, resting her head on his lap.
“Leave it to Roger to know where the cameras are,” comments Jeff.
“Yea, he’s such an attention whore.”
Jeff looks down at Margie and brushes the hair from her eyes, “Thanks, honey, I really had a great time.”
She smiles, “I knew you would, you big puffy-bear.”
“And you’re right, they’ll be talking about this for months.”
“Yea,” says Margie, “well, at least until the Spring sale.”
Robert J. Waguespack was born hideously deformed in the small rural town of Raceland, Louisiana, just south of New Orleans. Rejected by his mother at birth, his father placed him in a sack and threw him into Bayou Lafourche where, fortunately, he was rescued by a band of gypsies camped along the levee. He was adopted by a compassionate conjure woman and raised as her own son. They toured the country with a small carnival — she telling fortunes as he performed as a side-show geek. He later attended Miskatonic University on a medical oddity scholarship earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Literary Prostitution.
Shunned by society, he now spends his time in seclusion writing novels and fictional autobiographies, his only friends being dogs and cats.
He is available for supermarket openings and birthday parties.
Connect with Robert J. Waguespack:
Check out Wags’ website, https://twitter.com/WagsRJ.