Quine's Beauty Emporium
Mr. Quine keeps his spare key to Quine’s Beauty Emporium under the cash drawer in the cash register. It’s not hidden exactly, because sometimes when Lindsay or Viv or I count down the till after close we have to take out the cash drawer to find a missing Visa slip or five dollar bill, but Mr. Quine doesn’t tell anyone about it, either. It looks like he’s never needed to use it, because of all the dust in its little ridges, but it must still be in good condition because the copy Lindsay made of it over at Mike’s Hardware works fine.
We wouldn’t need the copy if Mr. Quine’s favorite ram, Buster, hadn’t been picked as a contestant for Last Sheep Standing, a new reality show. While they’re in Hollywood,   he’s given Mrs. Quine the spare key so she can drive to the Beauty Emporium to let us in every morning at eight-thirty and then drive back at six-fifteen to lock up. Which makes it difficult for us to get in at nine on Tuesdays to watch Last Sheep Standing on the big-screen tv in the waiting area, since the only one we have between the three of us is Viv’s old twelve-inch black and white. And it’s broken.
Before the first episode, we move three teal plastic chairs into a row facing the tv and close the blinds on most of the windows. The big front window, though, with 'Quine’s Beauty Emporium' painted on it in big hot pink letters, doesn’t have blinds at all.
“We could tack towels over it,” Viv says.
Lindsay looks first at Viv, then at the tv, then at her watch. “Screw it,” she says, “it’s starting now.”
Lindsay worked in Hollywood once, as second assistant to the boom director for a movie that Brad Pitt was in. She says it was boring, except for one time when Brad Pitt’s hand double asked her for a cup of coffee.
“He had the exact same hands as Brad,” she says when she tells it. “They were beautiful.”
I pick at a hangnail and wonder what kind of lotion a Hollywood hand double uses to get beautiful hands.
Buster’s not going to win; we can see that right away. Some of the other sheep, one ewe named Bella especially, have way more personality on camera. Buster might skate through for a while, though, if he works the “country bumpkin sheep” angle. People are suckers for an underdog.
When the 900-number flashes up on the screen, we take turns calling from Mr. Quine’s office phone to vote for Buster.
Lindsay lives in Danport, so she drives to work, but Viv and I live here in Little Falls, so we walk. Most mornings she and I meet up at the Java Hut to get coffee and a dose of Evan before work. Evan is the closest thing Little Falls has to a Brad Pitt hand double, except he doesn’t have beautiful hands because he does construction and window painting on the side, so he’s really more like a Brad Pitt smile, arms, and ass double. Which is close enough.
Buster gets through the first two shows, but he’s in the bottom three both times, so we figure his days are numbered. We meet up early for the Week Three show so Viv can do our nails. She gives me square-tipped ones and paints them Pistol Packin’ Pink with silver striping and rhinestones. Afterwards, if I hold my hands out and squint the tiniest bit, my hands look a lot like movie star hands.
In Week Three, Bella lambs twins just before the second commercial break.
“I didn’t know she was pregnant,” Viv looks from me to Lindsay. “Did you know she was pregnant?”
“Hussy,” Lindsay says.
“Ssh,” I say, “it’s back.”
Bella’s fans don’t appreciate her hidden pregnancy, so Buster squeaks through to Week Four.
Evan repaints 'Quine’s Beauty Emporium' on the front window every other month, and he shows up just before six on the day of the Week Four episode. Lindsay, Viv, and I stand outside the front window while he paints the sign on the inside, telling him how big to make the letters and what colors to use. He smiles his Brad Pitt smile double smile and ignores us. Mrs. Quine shows up at six-ten and sits in her car until Evan’s done painting and we’ve paid him out of the till.
That night, I sit in the chair closest to the window and use one square-tipped fingernail to scratch a smiley face into the painted dot above the 'i' in 'Quine’s'. Buster’s developed a wonky eye over the last week. We’re pretty sure his time on Last Sheep Standing is up.
During the third commercial break, something bangs on the front window and we all jump.
“Evan!” Viv smiles.
“Hi,” I say, picking hot pink paint flakes out from under a Pistol Packin’ Pink fingernail.
“Hey,” Evan says, “I saw lights on and what happened to Mr. Quine’s tittle?”
“Excuse me?” says Lindsay.
“This,” Evan taps my smiley face.
I twist all ten of my square-tipped fingernails together behind my back. “I did that,” I tell him.
“Huh,” he says.
“Ssh,” Lindsay says, “it’s back.”
Evan leans against the painted window and looks up at the tv. He’s close enough that I can smell coffee and paint thinner.
“Think Mr. Quine’s sheep will win?” he asks.
“Nah,” I say, “not with his eye gone funny like that.” I brush the last of the hot pink paint flakes off my fingertips onto the thighs of my jeans.
“Those are some fingernails,” Evan says.
“Pistol Packin’ Pink,” I say.
“They look nice,” he says, “you’ve got pretty hands.”
I look at him sideways to see what his face looks like when he says it, but he’s already looking at the tv again. He is smiling, though, just a little of his Brad Pitt smile double smile.
“I like your smile,” I say real quiet because I don’t know if I want him to hear or not.
Evan doesn’t say anything, but he smiles a little bigger. When I look back at the tv, I can see his reflection in it, and it looks like he’s smiling his Brad Pitt smile double smile right at me.