A long time ago on an autumn evening afterschool, two small friends, Lila and Dolly, dressed themselves up like old ladies so as to go out Halloween trick or treating. They even put on Lila’s recently deceased grandmother’s horrible perfume (so as to smell awful like old ladies), but only one woman who answered the door to give out candy had recognized the scent.
“You two even smell like old hags!” the candy woman laughed.
Dolly and Lila had layered their faces with Lila’s mom’s make up, applying a thick, flesh colored foundation to the skin, then sweeping a heavy sheet of rose powder diagonally across their cheeks. The two girls drowned their lashes in mascara and applied shadow to their eyelids a color called paradise blue. Dolly glided on lipstick, purposefully chipping some of the red wax on her white front teeth, then turned toward Lila and smiled. The two girls let out laughs that traveled through the house melodic as birdsong.
Lila and Dolly had put on pantyhose and stuffed them with garments of clothing like nightgowns that were really just the tee shirts of men Lila’s mother knew. The clothes in the pantyhose made their butts big and imbalanced and their young legs lumpy so that they did not even look like legs anymore, just like the legs of old ladies.
The two girls then slipped on pairs of Lila’s recently deceased grandmother’s clunky church shoes and tried to walk, but the sizes were too big and the shoes were too heavy for their little feet. Dolly said she’d suffer through the inconvenience for the sake of the costume, but Lila argued that heavy, oversized shoes were not conducive to the amount of trick-or-treating they had planned on achieving that evening.
“Style before comfort,” said Dolly.
“Practicality before both,” Lila insisted, “we are taking on three towns, yeah?” and Dolly thought for a moment and agreed on the condition that the two friends trade their right shoes so as to be mismatched like old ladies.
Lila thought for a moment as well, then agreed with the stipulation that she and Dolly instead switch right shoe for left so as to have feet both backward and mismatched.
Dolly nodded and handed over a filthy right-footed sneaker. Lila frowned, pinched her nostrils and pretended to swat away smelly air and at that both girls giggled. Lila gave Dolly a beaded, fringed left-footed moccasin and Dolly cupped her hand over her mouth and patted out an American Indian sound. Lila joined in and the two girls chanted like natives and giggled and snickered and laughed out loud.
“Stop!” Lila pointed, “act your age!” and the two girls continued laughing so hard that Dolly peed a little in her stuffed stockings.
For the first time, Dolly and Lila wore bras. Their boobs were balled up socks, but both girls were silently exhilarated to clip and adjust the weird appendages into place. Lila and Dolly then pulled big, bright floral dresses over their heads and breasts and belted them tightly, both to hold up the nighttime pillows fashioned beneath (so as to resemble the large torsos of old ladies) and also to mold that pillow fat into the semblance of a waistline (like the buried waists of elderly women). The result was even greater than either girl had initially envisioned.
“We’re full moons!” exclaimed Dolly.
“We’re stuffed turkeys!” Lila counter-exclaimed, and the two girls pulled up their dresses, bent over, waddled their big fake fannies and clucked their arms about like chickens. Dolly and Lila then convened to the bathroom to fix one another’s hair so as to look just like the hair on the heads of old ladies.
Dolly raised a bottle of talcum powder above Lila’s head and squeezed. White streams of the stuff squirted onto the top of Lila’s scalp. With her right hand Dolly tousled Lila’s hair until it was grey and velvety all the way through then protected Lila’s eyes from a wicked spell of aerosol.
“Your turn doll face,” Lila said, and Dolly took a seat on the toilet.
Lila stood over Dolly and pulled, teased, pinned and sprayed Dolly’s hair (Lila jerked so hard that Dolly fought to keep her neck straight). Lila told Dolly to stand and look inside the bathroom mirror. On the crown of Dolly’s skull, Lila had whipped up a gloriously knotted mess resembling that of a bird’s nest. Both girls gasped and laughed at the sight (but Dolly was still slightly irritated at the pain her best friend’s fast working hands inflicted), then Lila had an idea.
“Iva great idea!” Lila screamed, and plundered down the hallway, returning one minute later with an artificial bird that was really just a piece of foam covered in white feathers, a black beak and a pair of eyes glued on unevenly. It was a dove, the kind of dove obtained at arts and crafts stores, intended for miscellaneous purposes such as the festive adornment of holiday wreathes or a decorative statement for the top tier of a wedding cake. It was a white dove stuck to a piece of wire and was simple for Lila to attach to the right rim of the nest of hair on Dolly’s head.
Lila pushed Dolly’s face toward the bathroom mirror.
“Remarkable,” said Dolly.
“Noteworthy,” Lila said.
“Perfectly particular,” said Dolly.
“Particularly perfect,” Lila said.
“I’m so proud of you,” said Dolly.
“I’m so proud of you too,” Lila said, and the two girls pretended to cry then smacked one another across the cheek and chuckled proudly in their portly bodies.
Autumn evening crept in as the sun sank to a vantage point below the skyline. Lila went to filch a few cigarettes from the pack left on the kitchen table so that she and Dolly could be the kind of old ladies who were bold enough to smoke. Meanwhile, Dolly selected two sets of glass rosary beads from Lila’s deceased grandmother’s jewelry box, one strand for herself, the other for Lila. Then on an impulse, Dolly grabbed a bottle of Lila’s dead grandmother’s horrible smelling perfume so that she and Lila could smell awful, just like the awful smelling scent of old ladies. The two girls reconvened in Lila’s little blue bedroom to exchange their recent forages of fragrance, tobacco and holy jewelry.
Dolly dangled the religious beads in front of Lila who grabbed and held them between her two small hands then knelt on her knees, sternly gesturing Dolly to do the same. The two kneeling girls began reciting an absurd, impromptu prayer that was excessively meaningless and too unsettling to be included here, so as not to ruin the reputations of the innocent (by most American standards) girls.
“Amen!” shrieked Dolly.
“Amen!” Lila sneered and the two girls draped the rosaries around their necks so that the crosses lay suspended satirically between what Lila referred to as socktits and at that both girls laughed.
“God is in the details,” Dolly murmured, winking at Lila.
Lila winked back at Dolly, then noticed the upcoming darkness of the sinking sun.
“Stop dollying around, “Lila shrieked, “and lets go!”
“Wait!” Dolly cried and removed the lid from Lila’s dead grandmother’s bottle of age-old perfume, then held down the atomizer so that the concoction doused out over her friend and herself, and the two girls let out crazy little fuck you laughs and flew away.
Ana Hartman received her MA in English from Rutgers University, Camden, and is currently finishing her MFA at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Ana writes fiction and poetry and is working on a book length collection of short stories. Her work has recently been published in Watershed Review. She teaches writing at Rowan and Temple University and lives in Philadelphia.
Artwork: Catrin Welz-Stein, “Die Gedanken sind frei …”