The Bearded Lady

by Dean West


The coroner would first believe I'd been practicing yoga. My limp form, sitting naked on the toilet, one leg stuck straight out, the other bent and tucked up under my butt.  'That's got to be the Upward Facing Dog Pose,’ he'd say to himself. Then they'd find the still hot shaver clutched in my hand. Before long, the EMTs would discover my half-shaved mons pubis and nervous glances would bound across the small bathroom.  It wouldn't look good, me in all my glory exposed for everyone to see. The neighbors wouldn’t be able to help themselves; they'd lean through the doorway and stare.
This thought flashed through my mind as I read the warning on the electric cord: Do not operate around water or wet surfaces. Now they tell me. Just as my existence hangs inches above the sewer system, I discover this tiny detail.  Holding the large black industrial strength razor at arm's length, I carefully closed the toilet’s lid and exhaled. I’d been holding my breath. The thought of my mother discovering my lifeless body on the toilet was one thing; her explaining the scene to the investigating officer would be another. 
“I apologize for your loss ma’am, but all I need are the facts, just the facts.”
My mother wouldn't know the facts. She really didn't know her daughter that well. She wouldn't have a clue for Sergeant Friday but that wouldn't stop him. He hated the rotten underbelly of the city, all the sickos out there. He’d keep asking until he’d found the truth.
“It appears your daughter electrocuted herself. Do you have any idea why she committed suicide while shaving her...private parts?”
I could see my mother collapsing as Sergeant Friday opened his notepad. Why couldn't they leave her alone?  She'd break down and tell them I'd been adopted from gypsies; better letting the gypsies take responsibility than explaining my half-shaved treasure chest.
Yes I was getting a divorce, but no, he wasn't worth dying for. Do I look like some pathetic broken woman, some hopeless thirty-five year old with no choices in life except to shave herself bare? I looked at myself spread wide in the mirror.
"Oh God! I do!"
The razor buzzed, impatient and loud as razors go.
I'd first picked out a Lady Schick at the Walgreen’s, the pink one with daisies covering the handle. Heading for the checkout counter, I saw the teenage boy behind the cash register and stopped short. Why couldn't they hire a woman for the women's department? This was embarrassing enough without some Star Trekky telling all his club members about the old lady shaving her twat. He'd know. Teenage boys had a sixth sense.
I quickly placed the Lady Schick back on the shelf and picked up the industrial strength model, the one you used for shaving your pet llama. Still nervous, I blurted out an explanation at reaching the cash register.
“I'm going to trim my dog's ears this weekend. He's a big dog and all male, very butch you know.” Nothing else came out of my mouth. Why did I say "butch"? Now he'd think there's some lesbian party at my house.
"Yes ma’am, have a nice weekend."
The smug little bastard. I'd never be able to enter this Walgreen’s again.

***

Safe in my bathroom, I looked in the mirror hanging on the door. There was nothing wrong with me. I had no intentions of auditioning for “Girls Gone Wild.” I just needed changes. It was either this or shaving my head.  Bald-headed, I knew people would shun me at the airport. I'd rather make a statement under my panties any day.
I hurried to finish my shaving before some interruption, before something serious happened- a plane crashed through the roof, terrorists destroyed a skyscraper, or worse, evangelical missionaries knocked at the front door.
"Excuse me, ma’am, we see you're in the middle of shaving your private parts but have you thought about letting Jesus into your life?”
I shuddered and checked the lock on the door as the phone rang. I'll let the machine pick up. No, I better get it. How would I feel if Mother was having a heart attack and I let her die while shaving my bottom? I picked up the phone from the vanity top.
"Hi, Susan, you don't know me but a mutual friend of ours gave me your number. My name is Chuck Weatherby."
Nothing. Only the hum of the electric shaver. Someone's fixing me up. How pathetic.
"Well anyway, our mutual friend, Dick, said we might have a lot in common, sounds like we've got a bad connection, some humming on the line. Should I call you back?"
"No, no, no. It's fine. Dick told you we have something in common?”
"Yeah, we're both recently divorced."
I wanted to ask Chuck if he was also sitting in his bathroom, door locked, shaving his balls. We would definitely have something in common then. We could discuss techniques, the proper stroke. I exploded in laughter.
"Are you laughing at me, Susan?"
He was vulnerable. I hope not too vulnerable. Not a mommy’s boy, whining all the time.
"No, uh, my cat just did something funny."
"How many cats have you got?”
Oh God, he's checking to see if I'm one of those women with twenty cats sleeping around the apartment. I'm separated not desperate. Well...not real desperate, not yet. It's not like I'm shaving my crotch. Wait!
"Just one cat."
"Listen, I should call you back. The line is really bad."
"No,No,No...to be honest, I picked up the phone in the bath. I'm just shaving."
"Shaving? It sounds more like a chainsaw. Dick said we had a lot in common. He didn't tell me you had a beard. Do you have a beard?"
He's funny. I love funny. I looked down between my legs before answering.
"Only half of one now." There was silence on the line. Maybe he'd hung up. Maybe he wasn't as vulnerable or funny as I thought.
"You know, that's kinda hot," he said.
"What...having half a beard?" Oh God, he didn't sound gay.
"Well... the beard's only slightly erotic. I was thinking of the shaving part."
"So the beard would make a difference?”
"Depends. Is it a fine looking beard, or scraggly? The end question would be, does it compete with mine?”
"Do I hear a touch of jealousy?”
He laughed. I was funny too.  No other way to be. Married at twenty, divorced from a cheating bastard at thirty-five, that was too sad to be sad.
"So, are you going to finish the job, Susan?"
"What job?"
"Are you cutting off the other half, the other half of your beard?"
"Well yes, I'm kinda committed to change now."
"Me too, I've been thinking about shaving my beard. Just for something different."
"But I'd never have a chance to see the old Chuck."
"Maybe, on our first date… instead of dinner and a movie, we could do dinner and a shave."
"You think I'm that easy? Just wave some shaving cream, a couple of razors around and you sweep me off my feet?"
"Pretty much. Girls are fools for things like that."
"Okay, pick me up at eight."








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Surrounded by an ungrateful pack of stray dogs DEAN WEST lives high in New Mexico's Sangre De Cristo Mountains. At the age of 63, he writes short fiction, a hodgepodge of stories, ranging from his birthright in rural Texas to sailing the waters of Baja. His style is as unkempt as a Tijuana golf course yet his voice embodies a raw honesty, a candor his readers have come to expect.  He can be reached at deanwestauthor@yahoo.com.

  
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