JEANINE’S FIRST CHRISTMAS FAIR

Jeanine’s display is in the back room of the warehouse. She sits atop a stool too high for her plump little legs, but her clog heels dangle on the stool’s step and balance her upright. Her purple bangs fall between her face and glasses. It makes for a routine of hopping off stool, taking off glasses, tucking hair behind ears, placing glasses back on face (not before cleaning smudge marks with t-shirt) and pushing herself back on the stool there while she adjusts her cotton T back over her tummy rolls. She waits.

Crafties natter and mull about outside her tiny room as they tend to their own booths down the hall in the open air-studios. They prepare for the rush of mom’s with children about to spill through the front doors. It’s Saturday and the first day of the Christmas Craft Fair. Scores of artisan art, knitting and knick-knacks cover the tables and walls until they stop at the corner, where a door to a tiny blue room is propped open. One could a utility closet. But today it’s an invitation, if not a curiosity, to see what’s inside.

Jeanine is inside. Perched on her stool she faces the door. She adjusts her mouth in a practice smile. It dawns on her she may have to speak at one point. She’s yet to form a sentence today, having made her tea at home and only really cooed and scritched at Boo and Lulu.

Carrie and Karen plow through the fair. Beeswax candles. Spice Cranberry Dip from that artisan with the good hair mussed up in a bun and abs that somehow show through his t-shirt, all of course with an air of not trying (but they know, he knows they know, he tried.) Raggedy Ann dolls with personalized named stitched into hearts, gluten free Gingerbread cookies and plenty of wooden toys to prove they are not about the throwaway culture of consumerism. Of course, the kids hate them and delight when childfree aunties and uncles buy battery operated plastic shit that whirs, honks, spins, and shoots atop more plastic crap that breaks, bends and is forgotten in a week.

Their hands are full of bags, bodies full of caffeine, bladders full of coffee, but their eyes dart about the tables with master precision. They’ve been to this rodeo before, and it will end in 15 minutes with trunks full of gifts and a near future brunch full of mimosas.

“Here.”

Karen nods her head to the door at the end of the hall. She’s found a secret. Carrie knows it. In they sidle, bags a-bumping.

“Hello.”

Jeanine’s vocal cords work. The ladies nod in return. Speechless? Their eyes wide, almost wider than the width of the room. They do a 360. They’re trapped. There’s really no way to leave without passing the purple-haired girl, whose look of relief is palpable. There’s no way to leave empty-handed without telling her you hate her life, her passion, her reason for living. Janet and Carrie know. They must buy something in order to leave with their sanctimony intact….

“How much is this?”

Jeanine hops off her stool, shimmies past the ladies and grabs the magnet.

“Fourteen.”

“Dollars?”

“Is that too much? It’s two for 20. You pick which two if you like.”

“Ok.”

Karen hands Jeanine a 20. Carrie pulls the magnets off the metal board and places them in her pocket. They smile too wide at Jeanine as they shimmy backwards out the door.

Jeanine plops back up on her stool. Readjusts her hair and looks around the closet of floor to ceiling photos, t-shirts, magnets, potholders, towels, keychains, license plate holders, pens, postcards and pottery. All of which adorn the exact photographic likeness of her two fur baby ferrets Boo and Lulu.

“20 dollars.”

She smiles and waits for the next customer to come ‘round the door.

Screenwriter. Playwright. Prose. Poetry. Musings. Chronic curiosity. Story Engine. Research fiend. Cynical Gen X slacker. www.helenetaylor.ca

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