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Since You're Leaving Anyway, Take Out the Trash
Debbie Sue Overstreet sat at the payout desk of the Styling Station, staring at the balance column in her big black checkbook. From the bottom line of check stub #938, a fat goose egg glared back at her. She groaned. The payment on her pickup truck was past due again.
Okay, so opening a beauty shop -- that is, a salon -- in Salt Lick, Texas, hadn't been the most profitable decision she had ever made. But couldn't anything go right? She was twenty-eight years old and had been a failure at everything she had tried. Marrying, mothering, rodeoing, and now, beauty shopping. Maybe she should have finished college.
Her mental calculator churned into action. If she could do a dozen perms and/or coloring jobs between now and the end of the week, she could get the pickup payment in the mail on Saturday and at least avoid the tacky phone calls from those collection people. Add a few drop-in haircuts, and she might even be able to buy a pizza and a sixpack Saturday night. Or maybe she would get really lucky, and Pearl Ann Carruthers would come in for the works, head-to-toe. If that happened, she might make two pickup payments.
A disc jockey blathered froma radio in the background. "Sun's up, folks. Eight-thirty, temperature's ninety-two degrees, no rain in sight. Here's a blast from the past by Joe Diffie, all about the devil dancing in empty pockets. How many out there in our K-Country audience can relate to that one?"
Debbie Sue stared at the radio. Was that DJ psychic?
Eight-thirty. Ninety-two degrees. Another hour and the salon's air-conditioning system would be taxed to the max by the relentless September heat of West Texas. The little dial adding up kilowatts on the electric meterwould be spinning out of control, kicking the power bill into the stratosphere.
Thank God for the blue-hairs who came in once a week, rain or shine, hell or high water. Their big hair, dyed and teased to the extreme, paid the utility bills.
She slapped the revolting checkbook closed and walked over to the four-foot-square mirror in front of her station. Her chestnut hair with its carefully placed sun-in highlights hung to the middle of her back and felt like a horse blanket. Hot. One of these days she intended to cut the mane on her head within an inch of her scalp.
She grabbed up a giant plastic clip and pinned most of the thick mop into a twisted roll. Instantly a few sheaves escaped, giving her the bed-head look. Oh well. Some of her best customers strove for the popular style.
She had left the house without makeup this morning, so she dug in a drawer for cosmetics. The owner of one of the only two beauty salons in Salt Lick couldn't appear before her customers looking like something the dog dragged in. She applied a few flicks of black mascara and a swipe of Coral Reef lipstick. She gave up on herself then, snatched a bottle of Windex off the shelf under the counter, and turned her attention to the smudges on the mirror.
As she fogged the mirror with cleaner, a car door slammed outside. That would be Edwina, Debbie Sue's only employee and one of her two best friends in the whole wide world. Edwina Perkins manned the Styling Station's second chair and was as much a fixture in the salon as the row of four dryers with teal padded seats or the two maroon shampoo bowls in the back room.
Edwina had been a hairdresser in Salt Lick for over twenty years. Debbie Sue hired her hoping she had a following, and indeed she did, but putting the Styling Station's books in the black would take a heck of a lot more customers than either she or Edwina could pull in. Maybe she could set off a bomb under the competition down the street.
The front door flew open. The Christmas bells tied to the knob whacked the door and clattered as if in pain. Edwina charged in, super-sized plastic cup in hand, cigarette clamped between her teeth. In addition to a following of loyal salon patrons, Edwina had an addiction to Marlboro Lights and Dr. Pepper.
The five-foot-ten brunette's wooden platform heels clomped like horse hooves across the vinylcovered floor. Panting for breath, she placed her cigarette on the edge of her station's counter in front of her mirror, then set down her drink and purse. "She finally done it. She's gone."
"I don't believe it." Debbie Sue rose on her tiptoes and swiped Windex off the top of her mirror.
"Well, believe it, girl. I heard Harley's brother at the Kwik-Stop tell Marsha while she rung up his coffee. She didn't come home last night."
The fact that she and Edwina could read each other's thoughts and carry on gossip without using names came from living a lifetime in the same town, knowing the same people and places and recycling the same rumors year after year. "Humph. Just because she didn't come home doesn't mean she's gone. She could be shacked up somewhere."
Edwina gave her a flat look. "With Harley in town? I don't think so."
Edwina's smoldering cigarette was searing a brand onto the teal Formica counter. Debbie Sue glowered at it and doused it with a squirt of Windex. "Cri-ma-nee, Ed, you're gonna set this place on fire."
"Hey, I might've won the bet." Edwina ignored both the reprimand and her extinguished smoke and rummaged in her tray of permanent wave rods and brightly colored curlers. She came up with a folded paper on which a wagering grid had been drawn. The Styling Station's faithful customers had maintained a pool, betting exactly when Pearl Ann Carruthers would finally leave her husband ... Since You're Leaving Anyway, Take Out the Trash. Copyright © by Dixie Cash. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.