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“Jazzy Loverboy Peterson, ain’t that a name?” said June Carson.
“Well, better than some of those celebrity names.” retorted Joy Anne Baker.
This was the women’s regular conversation when looking at records. Both worked at an elementary school. June, a vice principal, and Joy Anne, a data manager. Both were good at what they did, both were reasonably smart women, but both hated their jobs. June more so than Joy Anne. June didn’t have much work to do ever. To her, a “vice” in anything basically just has the same usefulness as your appendix has; none, just there.
“That kid’s getting retained.” said Joy Anne.
“No shock there. Gets called to my office almost everyday.” replied June.
“…Oh, here’s that IEP! Let’s just see if it can print fast.”
“Are you going to that party Matt’s throwing?”
“Do you know anyone that’s going?”
“Maybe Delton in second grade.”
“Well you know she only wants to flirt with Barnes.”
“I wonder if Barnes knows it.”
Joy Anne let out a dry chuckle with a half-smile. She waited for the slow printer to process. She wondered why they couldn’t get any fast technology. The school did have a decent budget, and not too many kids. It was one of many irritations of June. It seemed like nothing could really make her happy, especially if it concerned other people. Co-workers and other members of the staff didn’t exactly consider her conceded, she never bragged. She was certainly selfish. Work was only her personal gain. Most would also consider June very immature for a woman rearing forty. She was intelligent enough to deal with children but could resemble a pouting child if she didn’t get what she wanted. Most time it was a man, sometimes it was something at work. It was easy for June to register what everyone was thinking, she would be able to read emotions extremely clearly. This could be a gift or curse, depending on who she was reading. June wasn’t sure how to control her own snooty, snobby nosiness; but was certain it wouldn’t get her in trouble.
In the break room, a conversation not concerning June was brewing,
“So you know how Barnes is always trying to get one of the fellows in second grade to go with him to Hooters?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“I heard that he was in a fling with the waitress.”
That was all June needed to hear and then she was off to Mrs. Delton.
When Delton heard the news that hear crush abandoned her for another, it was like a failed rocket launch. Unadulterated devastation. She cried in the teacher’s bathroom then came puffy eyed into her classroom. The two teachers who were having the conversation tried to explain to Miss Delton that it was a rumor spreading they’d heard, which it was. Delton still had none of it. June heard some of this. She felt sorry for not listening to all of the conversation, but she also found it hilarious.
June then left the school early to go with her friends to a special outing. Certain members of the school faculty had to stay late. June would pretend to strangers that she would to provoke pity on them, but she’d always leave at 4:00. June didn’t know what the outing was. She knew that the principal, Klydie Bryan, was a whimsical one. She often tried the district for several “new ideas”. Freedom for school children to express their religion, misuse of technology, and teaching “pre-philosophy” to kindergartners. Most teachers, including Miss Carson, made fun of her behind her back. Miss Bryan probably knew it, but didn’t mind it, like a true spiritual woman, something people didn’t understand but hated anyhow.
The “outing” was to a carnival. Not a carnival that has cotton candy, or a Ferris wheel, nothing normal people would consider fun. It was something that would be in the early 1900’s. A gypsy circus. Possibly scamming, definitely mysterious. It was not a place that an elementary school faculty would show up to. Miss Bryan said she saw it in a filer outside of an “Everything $1.00!” store. “Oh, because you know you should really trust those!” mockingly whispered June. Everybody quietly chuckled in spite of her.
The young teachers/housewives were immeasurably bored out of their post-natal bodies. There was nothing particularly fascinating at all for the young modern American woman. In fact, the few male teachers present yawned with disinterest. This didn’t stop Miss Bryan from being in her own personal heaven. There were plenty of trinkets, old clocks, painting and tie-dye booths, fortune tellers, even some circus freaks. Strange musicians from medieval times, old crones selling glass antiques, fire breathers with acrobats, and various other obscurities as far as the eye could see. A traveling wagon show.
“God, I can’t believe these cheesy things still exist. I thought they were all burned at the stakes or something.” June grumbled a little too loudly.
“Come on now sister, lighten up!” said Bryan in an involuntary response.
“Why? You think I’m interested in this bullshit like how I’m interested in bongs and Buddhism? Think again.” retorted June.
Klydie still smiled at the insult and saw a poor looking booth. It was cloaked with a spacey looking tarp, somewhat ugly brown patches covering the holes made by who knows what. It had a wooden sign outside of it; “Want to know future? Come right in.”
It seemed creepy though it didn’t look it.
“Anyone up for it?” said Klydie gesturing to the tent. Two women unanimously shook their heads and walked off. June wasn’t paying any attention. She felt her arm being tugged at, then the next thing she knew, she was in a dark tent, and its only illumination was candlelight.
An older lady was behind a counter, dressed modernly and conservatively compared to everyone else at the carnival. It was mirroring an elderly church lady. It didn’t look so much like a fortune telling booth, than a thrift shop stand selling old lotions. DEFINATLEY not to be trusted. June was about to force Klydie Bryan to release her arm, but the old woman said briskly “Sit down, both of you!” Her forceful tone made them do as she ordered. June was now angry, but terrified at the same time. The old woman began speaking:
“Now, I have a sweet deal on these potions. One can make your husband or lover go bald, or some other curse. The pink one on the left shelf can have your cheeks turn the just right shade of pink. ‘Bout 90% of the things on the left are filled with positive souls, make good stuff happen. Those are the ones you’re probably your best bet. The rest are curses, some personal. So, what can I do for you? Wahdda want?” The woman smiled wide; she bared a gold crown on her, only, front tooth. Miss Klydie Bryan found it extraordinary serious, at looked at the selves with much deciding interest; but Miss June Carson sat dumbfounded, then saw it as a huge joke. She let out an uproarious, deafening, and insulting laugh.
Miss Bryan flinched a bit at the loudness. The old woman behind the counter’s smile flipped upside down like a pancake. She spoke through her not joking frown to her still laughing costumer like a schoolmaster: “What’s so funny?”
June took a long breath, “You cannot be serious. ‘Potions’? ‘Curses’? This is the stupidest s*** I’ve heard in a long time.”
“Young lady, if this was a joke, I wouldn’t have spent my entire life doing it.”
“Oh, that’s rich!” snorted June. The woman behind the counter stood up, showing fully her long Navy blue dress.
“My mother’s mother sold potions! Her mother’s mother, and her mother’s mother, her mother’s mother, her mother’s mother, all the way up to my gypsy ancestor, who was tried and tortured to death by the church to protect doing what she loved and what was her destiny!”
“Oh yeah, sure…” mocked June. “ You were born on the wagon of a traveling show and your mama would dance for the money they’d throw. You look kind of like Cher, just older and less attractive which is REALLY saying something.”
“How dare you mock me!”
“You act like this is the first time it’s happened.”
“I can’t believe what I’m hearing. May the Devil keep you in his heart always!”
“Nice comeback. Maybe you can practice more of them tonight while applying a ‘potion’ to your ole, wrinkly-”
“Okay!” said Miss Klydie Bryan. “It’s kinda late. Tomorrow’s a school night, we better go.”
“Ugh, my merciful Lord.” the old woman said, putting two fingers to her forehead, as if she had a severe migraine.
“Something the matter?” asked Miss Bryan gently.
“I-I feel deathly ill. This young woman with you has made me dreadfully mad.”
She did seem deathly ill. There was no lie about that; even June helped Klydie guide the suffering woman to a pile of old-timely looking cushions on the side of the tent. Once she lied down she let out the worst cough either one of them ever heard.
“Look,” June tried to start an apology “If I ever say anything to-”
The old woman vomited directly on June Carson. June was disgusted, and ran out, Klydie equal. The old woman then died.
The next day, June took an extra shower to try to get the stench of barf out of her skin. To everyone else she was still very pretty and smelled nicer than most people, but she still felt the smells of the inside of the crazy old woman penetrate the core of her beauty. She did hear that the old woman died in the paper, for it was customary for her town to include everyone who died in it in the obituary. June shrugged her shoulders at the news. After she’d thrown up on her best outfit, Carson thought it better she be dead than sent to an insane asylum. June put on a girly suit, nearly inhaled her coffee, and left for work.
It was a Wednesday, one of the workplace’s most wretched days. The beautiful, but cruel looking June came into the school like a Spartan warrior; tough, infuriated, someone you ought not to mess with. This look was the reason many students would rather go to the head principal than the Vice. June still came into her office casually, lavishing all of the power she possessed. Then her good friend Joy-Anne walked by as June was sitting down.
“Morning, Joy-Anne” said June in her normal monotone morning voice.
“Black shoes.” said Joy-Anne.
June was immediately confused. Black shoes? Her shoes were under the desk. She didn’t see Joy-Anne’s shoes. Even if she was referring to her own shoes, June thought, why would she say it like that? June knew Joy-Anne, and this was very weird of her. June let it pass her unnoticing the next hours or so.
There were few occurrences through the first part of the day. No kids in trouble, and no annoyances from teachers. June grew tired of looking at Elle magazine online. She decide doing what was normal for her in this troubling time: dish the gossip with fellow office workers before lunch.
There were a few friends of hers in the lobby talking while holding cups of coffee and aimlessly chatting away. She approached them. They all plastered smiles on their faces. She questioned them: “So, nobody notice the fact that were all still alive despite last night?” All of them laughed.
“Dry bones, unknown till two days ago. Dry bones.” said the secretary.
“Heh,” said June with a nervous fake smile. “What?”
“Dusty boots.” said the gym coach.
June was now desperately confused, “What is this? Joy-Anne what is this?”
“Mow, mow, mow, mow, mow, mow, mow, mow, mow, mow, mow yeah.”
June didn’t know what was happening. Had she said something terribly funny? What was the joke? Was it about her recent breakup? Oh, it’s about last night isn’t? June was thinking this with controlled rage. They all turn against me. I bet there with Delton. Oh, yeah-I bet they’re all in cahoots with Laurie Delton. Sweet, sweet, Laurie Delton in second grade. Now she’s gone all bad girl. Well that’s my job. Little princess won’t be too great now that I’ve figured her out. Oh they’ll be in for it.
“Okay, I’ll talk to you guys later.” she said slyly.
“Boone McBoone” said one teacher.
June just smiled and swaggered backed in to her office.
Unfortunately, lunch was no better for June. People were saying multiple strange things, “My my. Pikachu. My my.” “Pretty Saro.” “Old woman in pram.” “Dead potato chips.” “Painted board game faces.” “In Airplane trouble.”
She wasn’t sure if it was a joke or what. If it was a joke, it had gone from playful to sickening. June didn’t particularly hate pranks; she actually quite enjoyed playing them on people. It wasn’t what they thought that mattered. This was much too far though.
June had decided to confide to one of her closest friends, even closer than Joy-Anne. McKinnon Tech in Speech therapy.
June of course wasn’t doing anything. She had rushed over to the office in her sharp high heels. June was practically in tears. She wasn’t sure for what reason though. If it was herself or the circumstance. If her best friend didn’t understand her, than what use would her life be? Her mother wouldn’t listen. None of her family June really liked or appreciated. She was sure to have some answers, McKinnon. June joked with McKinnon often, but trusted her to tell if there was a joke. As a matter of fact, if there was some prank, going on, McKinnon would be the first one to speak to her.
When June ran into the room, another student was saying to McKinnon “Feeble case water no more my love love love.”
Wait. Now students are in it? This is too far.
“Mc, what the hell is going on?”
“…Virginia?” McKinnon answered confusingly.
No, no, no. She had to know something.
“McKinnon, please speak normal. Someone please speak normal! It’s not funny!”
At that note, June ran crying into the bathroom. She could barely see herself through her tears. She felt ashamed, but see had no clue what was going on. It wasn’t a game or joke. There was no distinction of what was happening. People were unintelligible for no particular reason.
June looked in the mirror with tears partially blinding her. Who was this woman staring at her? Before there was a beautiful, blonde lady in a nice work dress. When she looked into the mirror, she was bald.
Where had her hair gone? June’s head was bleak. Her mascara was two black running rivers. She looked like a beast. It was an initial shock of her hair disappearing that made her scream. Had it fallen out? Had she pulled it out? June was in a nightmare. A pure nightmare where nothing made since. June screamed loud. Loud enough that tentacles came out of her mouth.
The tentacles were huge, forcing her way to open her mouth more. Her jaw to a watching eye would seem to break, and it did, forcing a few more rivers down her cheeks. The screaming didn’t cease, but the tentacles now covered her whole face. That day, in the teacher’s bathroom, near student services, June Yvonne Carson died of suffocation. Nobody knew, so nobody cared.