Friday, September 30, 2011


NOTE: Found this in my Big Box o' Written Crap. It is many moons old.

The scum of humanity. Or at least of the block.

That's what George Henderson thought of himself every time he noticed his reflection in a storefront window or in the bug-eyes sunglasses of the fiery redhead he sat across from on the bus each Tuesday afternoon on the way to the podiatrist. Why his corns flared each time he saw that particular woman was one of the mysteries Dr. Kling was trying to unravel, but George was not concerned with corns, or redheads or a doctor whose name made him sound as if he should be working as a fruit canner rather than as a physician. He was trying to think of a way to impress Charolette, a brunette who had just moved into his apartment building three floors down.

His physique would not be enough. At best it would incite a shoulder-shaking fit of donkey laughter; at worst a case of the dry heaves. A head roughly the shape of a sea buoy and scantily covered with a round the bathtub ring of stubbly black hair. The eyes and mouth smiled often and in tandem, but would Charolette be able to look past that wonky nose? He had the chin with a cleft, but his underdeveloped neck tended to de-emphasize the perfect chin and make it look rather like a tree that had been haphazardly hacked at by an epileptic lumberjack. The shoulders were scrawny, like a chicken's, and matched the chest. Ever since an intermittent companion made a snide remark inclining that his hands dangled a bit low and heavy at his sides, George had fretted over the possibility that they were too long and thus carried them bent wherever he went. The fact that he had no discernible funny bone in the left elbow might amuse Charolette, but how could he introduce his elbows into any normal conversation?

His left pinky finger was a show-stopper, but the scar that nearly divided it in two worked better to impress the gentlemen than the ladies. His legs and posterior resembled two grains of rice speared on the ends of toothpicks with the fat ends bent out a mere three millimeters for feet.

He dressed well enough as his budget would allow. He wore no cologne, due to irritable skin rashes, but kept himself very clean. George was not dumb, either. He taught English at the community college, went to all the plays and concerts, and shunned any event that involved any contraption with the suffix -saurus tacked on the end of it. Unless he was surrounded by sympathy laughers, he could consider himself rather witty, though far from being the life of the party. The building where he lived was not a slum. On the contrary, it enjoyed a view of a small, well-kept city park. And the halls, elevators and stairways were cleaned weekly by a rather corpulent and surly woman who rooted through the trash before throwing it out.

It's just that Charolette was into fads in a big way: this color and that hat and those shoes and that play and which cheese and how many earrings and how exotic the tattoos and how big the T-shirt with the recycled cartoon characters on it and how sporty the shoes and, unfortunately, how uni the brow.

Bert, the Muppet character famed for his removable nose and the shirt lacking in vertical control had inspired the latest and ugliest fad ever to strike the Planet, or at least the States, which is often regarded as the Planet by most who live there. Thick, afroed, braided, caterpillared, millipeded, frizzy and sculpted unibrows marched across the foreheads of the hippest of the hip, some of whom had two unibrows, one above the other. There were special ointments and dyes, clips and combs, teasers and treatments and implants for the many who were not graced with a natural unibrow in the first place. Some even dared to display rhinestones, whizzing whistles that burred in the breeze and even fully-functioning microcomputer chips that could play "Louie-louie" in sixteen different languages. Those were the novelty items that were molded to the wearer's psych profile. An unfortunate side-effect to the earlier attempts at implants resulted in the dying off of the natural brow, leaving the wearer with a Hitleresque bloc of fur hovering ever so out of place a few inches directly above the spot from whence it would look less out of place. Of course that sparked its own trend, but it had a smaller social impact than did the unibrow.

Suddenly, as if a comet wafting toxic chemicals bent on eroding the taste of a nation had crashed into the Earth, heavily hairily endowed men were the prizes sought in the beanery bars and the classier espresso stands in the garden shops in the outskirts of America. How long the fad would last no one could tell, since no one exactly knew when the next fad would come along, but the hairier members of society were set to reap the benefits of genetic popularity as long as the fashion vapors whispered kindly in their direction.

George studied his reflection in the glasses of the gum-chewing redhead. The bumps of the road under the bus and the vibrations of her head caused by her rather vigorous chewing made his purveyance rather difficult, but he was deft enough to grasp quick glances at the red lights and bus stops. His rather casual glances were enough to convince his cud-chewing mirror (at least for the time being) that his interest was mainly concentrated on the scenery flashing behind her personal burning bush.

"What have I got going for myself?" George asked out loud to no one in particular. Forgetting that people on public buses are always ready to answer any blurted rhetorical question that hits their ears.
"That breath of yours would wilt the wallpaper, honey," the cud-chewer snapped as she violently popped her gum. "And stop staring at me, ya pervert!"

"Young man," said the blue-hair with the death grip on her handbag, "you could be a little less frugal with the deodorant."

A jackbooted thug with a red white and blue button with the word GOP on it kicked George's foot and bellowed, "You look like a pansy, dude. A real wuss. Lose the sneakers and get a spider tattoo on your tongue."

"Go uni! Go uni!" shouted a small child wearing pants with tell-tale stains of bladder abuse on them.

"You guys suck just as much as I do," George said, forgetting to blurt it out this time. The bus rolled on without roll-on for a few more blocks, then George decided to get off and walk the rest of the way to the barbershop.

He perched rather nervously in the chair as his stylist outlined the options available to those wishing to go uni. He'd always hated barber shops; hated the assumption that just because he was in there to get a trim that he had to play Twenty Questions or listen to boring anecdotes about Aunt Nonie or Uncle Balford. Then they expect a tip, as if Monty Hall had awarded them the contents of the Mystery Box for being such a perky barber. So George refused to spin the wheel and kept his hundred dollar pocked tightly buttoned.

"Here's a nice clip-on model. We sell a lot of these to successful businessmen." his stylist Gloria said, pointing out a postage stamp sized swatch of black curly hair mounted on the little cardboard card she held in her hands.

"What is that? Velcro?"

"No, George sweetie, it's better. The army developed this supervelcro to reduce the noise. Seems those pesky hooks are the noisemakers. All you do is glue the supervelcro patch in place and put the unibrow patch on whenever you want. The velcro's see-through, and the package even includes this lint brush."

"Um, I don't think I want that. Show me something a little less, uh, moronic."

"We've got the punk collection. Those zinc studs are awfully popular. Then there's the Barnum and Bailey, The Garfunkel, The Carol Channing falsies and the Kissinger. . No? Perhaps something a bit more conservative for starters. Most people do. Let me show you the Bob Dole."

"Bob Dole?"

"Well, yes, it's the most popular model next to the Bert. Just can't seem to keep those in stock. It's not as uniform, but quite a bit bushier. Take a look." George looked at the card and remarked to himself that he'd pulled a wad similar to that out of the lint trap in his dryer just that morning. Worse than toupees.

"These things really turn on the chicks?"

Gloria giggled. "Yes, Georgie. That's why most of the fellahs buy them. Look what one did for Billy Joel."

"What else?"

"There are the novelty items, but--"

"I'll take one of those. Surprise me." George had seen the Dole on nearly everyone, including some women he knew. Dime-a-dozen. "I'll be unique and follow this trend even if it kills me."

"--but they really are surprises. They morph into personality-revealing styles, George. Are you sure you're--"

"Install it already!"

"Fine. With this installation, you get free patch repairs and a monthly rotation for the first year of ownership. Rejuvex treatment extra, three dollars. Gets your own personal hairs growing bushier. Now, lean back, relax your facial muscles and let me go to work. Above all, don't sneeze."

"Sneeze? Why not?"

"Jack Nicholson wasn't born with that smile, you know." So George leaned back and thought pleasant thoughts (chicken pot pie) as Gloria poked, prodded and pounded the barren slope between his two heroic eyebrows. It didn't hurt as much as he thought it would, and since the operation was a tedious one, Gloria was uncharacteristically silent. "You've got a poor crop here. I'd recommend the rejuvex."
"Do it."

"Go easy with the rejuvex, Gloria." her boss yelled, momentarily taking her attention off the bald dome she was doctoring in a neighboring chair. "Remember what happened to Dick Gephart."

"Not my fault he had that recessive gene," Gloria snapped back.

George woke up a few minutes (or a few hours) later still in the barber chair. Before he could rub his eyes, Gloria shot over to him, grabbed his hand and chirped, "Goodness, George! You slept like a little baby. For about fifteen minutes. That's how long you slept."

"My eyebrow? Can I see it?" He felt at the bandage on his forehead with the hand Gloria was not clenching between her own.

"No George, it's still a bit tender, you know. It should stay under wraps for a few hours, preferably overnight." there was an odd catch in her voice, and the normally blanched patron of the shop was hovering in the corner, face red as a beet.

"How mu--

"Thirty-eight-fifty, not including tip."

Thirty-eight dollars and fifty cents later, George walked out of the shop into the autumn sunshine. Out of sight of the shop, he tore the bandage off his forehead and searched in vain for any reflective surface. The sun was low, glaring off the window fronts. Redhead would not be on the bus at this hour. The leaves were only beginning to fall from the roadside trees, so he decided to take a walk down the cafed and canaped promenade to the subway station, surveying the good looking wool and advertising his new social hipness to the chicks at the same time. A blonde sipping a mineral water at a sidewalk table gave him a long curious look. Charolette will be sore amazed, he thought to himself. George mimicked the television commercials for unis that he had heretofore mocked: My Charolette, would you like to go out to coffee with me and my uni? The blonde suddenly frowned in his direction. Two high-school girls gave him a double take, their dainty jaws dropping ever so unladylike to the floor. Maybe a bit too young, he thought to himself.

"Ooo-ee, mister! Gonna get some broads with that one, aintcha?" muttered the street derelict from underneath the cardboard boxes on the bench. "My old woman threw me out 'cuz her uni was better than mine."

George quickened his step and left the bum to mutter to himself, which he did so merrily. He hummed a tune and cockily waved at a pair of lawyer-type women gazing hungrily at a display of leather shoes. "Ooo-ee, mister! Gonna get some broads with this thing," he thought to himself. They chuckled and waved back. "Hi sexy!" one shouted, and the chuckling erupted into full-stage giggling. George strutted down the street past the work crew finishing up their day's work. Even they stared and pointed and seemed to react in jealous manners, or so he assumed by their mimicking of his strutting.

The sun was setting and cast a red glow across the avenue as George walked jauntily towards the subway. Down the steps and around the corner, into the red glow of the underground. "Funny, I thought they used white light down here," George thought. A few fellow subway stairway travellers gawked at George as he descended past them, whistling a tune and thrusting his head as high into the air at he could get it. He rounded a blind corner and stumbled into a rather burly gentleman making his way slowly towards the surface. "Outta the way, dork!" George muttered under his breath. The man stared at him fully and silently for a few seconds, not making eye contact but staring at his head, then grunted, "Watch where you're going yourself, dork! He left and George saw red. Literally. That red sunlight had followed him downstairs. He felt his forehead. The amorphous blob, his novelty uni implant, had changed. It was squarish, warm to the touch. The red glow he'd seen diminished as he felt around his new social accouterment. He ducked quickly into the bathroom and looked at his reflection in the dirty mirror. "What the hell is this? I've got a button sticking out of my head! He mimicked the women's voices in his mind: "Hi sexy. . .dense-o!" He started as he noticed for the fist time the words, spelled out nicely in white letters with a red background, reflected and magnified so as to be legible on the screen, which was his forehead. The letters scrolled slowly and backwards, so as to be read in the mirror:


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