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(BO)TOXIC, by Lauran G. Strait

"Look at all this mail?" I drop the stack in front of my husband.

"Victoria's Secret catalog, Talbots, Tupperware party invitation, bill, Longaberger Basket party invitation, bill, Pampered Chef party invitation." John sorts things into piles.

He glares at me a second before returning to his task. "Discovery Toys. Kelly's Kids. You're a popular gal, hon. Thank God for credit, huh?"

I sigh. So many RSVPs to deal with. "What's this one?" he asks, eyeing an engraved ivory envelope.

Uh oh. Why does this keep happening to me?

'Fashion Makes You Ugly' by Noelle Hunt

John turns the envelope over. "It looks important."

I sigh. "Just an invitation to another of those Botox parties."

John smirks, showing off, because he can.

"It's not funny. Even though I've been to a party or two, I keep getting invited to more. I must be a freak. It must not be working. People must be talking about how tired and angry I still look. Children must cower when they see me. Small dogs probably hide their heads hoping my evil eye won’t crumble their bones!"

"You don't look that bad," John says as he pats my frozen face.

I try to frown. Can't. It's probably good that I don't own a gun. Time in prison as Jan-Jan the lesbian prisoner's frozen-faced roomie probably wouldn't be much fun.

He smirks again. "It's just that last time, when you had those wrinkles injected around your mouth, the drool and the mumbling were kind of disconcerting. I thought that particular procedure wasn't recommended."

"Well, I couldn't help it. I already had my furrow done at Dawn's party and my crow's feet were on special for Easter, and I used that gift certificate from my mom to Botox away the lines in my former chicken-neck when your boss invited us to her last shindig. So what else could I do?"

"Do you have to buy things at these parties? Can't you just go and see your friends and then sort of . . . slip out?"

"Oh, they say you can. The hostess always tells you that don't have to buy anything—just come and drink and eat. But then Dan-Dan the Dermatologist Man has a way of staring at your wrinkles in such a pointed way. He somehow prods the hostess into asking if you've had a hard month. It's horrible. It's always like I have no choice."

"You sound bitter. So don't go."

"Are you kidding? I have to go."

He furrows his brow, showing off again.

I try to match the move. Crap.

"Why?" he finally asks.

"You know why." To add emphasis to my words, I vainly attempt a scowl. "Becky is saving up her points to get that tummy tuck. And she spent an awful lot at my party last month. Do you want me to look bad in front of my friends?"

"I think all this Botoxing is getting out of control. I liked you the old way. When you were mad, you looked mad. Now you look dead." He laughs. "If you were in a coffin this very second, your face would look just like it does now."

"Gee, thanks, Snookems, I love you too," I say, trying to flutter my eyelids theatrically—eyelids that feel like Cling Wrap. "Maybe instead we should get a little something for you. Men do partake, you know."

Oh no." John leans into the mirror and straightens his furrow with his index fingers. "I'm like Robert Redford. He says he's not a face-lift person. He says that cosmetic enhancements leave you looking body-snatched. Besides, all those crags and furrows look good on a man—like we've been out riding the herd."

"That does it! I'm just going to call Becky and tell her I can't attend! I won't even offer an excuse! I'll just not come. I'll start a new trend. A woman is not just the sum of her looks. A woman earns her wrinkles. Deserves them! Looks good in them! Think of Barbara Bush! Rosalyn Carter! Mother Teresa! You wouldn't catch them dead at a Botox party!"

I look at John, waiting for his cheers and whistles.

"Did you see this?" He turns the Botox catalog my way and points. "Now your injection comes with its own patriotic fabric pillowcase!"

"What?" I snatch the catalog. "Lemme see. . ."

"Only $50.00 more. A collector's item—and it's numbered, too. What a bargain! And with two injections and a small handling charge, we can get a second pillowcase for free. It says here that all profits from the pillowcase sale are to be used to feed poor people."

"Well that’s a new twist," I say, trying to smile. "I guess I could get my underarms injected. Who needs to sweat? And it is for a good cause."

John hands the phone to me and points out the RSVP number. "Mother Teresa would be so proud of you, hon."

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BIO: Lauran Strait, a freelance writer and professional editor, teaches writing and editing, and facilitates several year-round writers' workshops. In addition to her editing duties at Moondance, Lauran also edits for NFG, a Canadian print magazine. Some of her work has been featured in Dog-eared, Gator Springs Gazette, AtomicPetals, Retrozine, Copperfield Review, A Woman of a Certain Age, Moondance, Monkey Bicycle, Insolent Rudder, LongStoryShort, Edifice Wrecked, The Virginian Pilot, Whistling Shade Literary Review, Somewhat, Green Tricycle, and Reading Divas. One of her essays was read on NPR's literary show, Word By Word. She is the winner of the NFG's 4th Great 69er contest. She has print work forthcoming September 2005 in Random House's Knitlit the Third--We Spin More Yarns anthology and in the summer of 2005 in Better Nonsequitor's anthology entitled See You Next Tuesday.


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