This story is by Susan Hughes and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
My only hope is to escape the Atomic Bomb; could be, would be a fate worse than death. I am headed for an eclipse, a BFD in the Astrology world.
I’m not the kind of person who believes in that daily Horoscope stuff – “Marjorie, we will win the lottery today.” “But we haven’t bought any tickets.” – I do have some belief however in Astrology – that the positions of the stars and movement of the planets have an influence on the events, lives, and behavior of people. That people born around the same time under the same sign might have some of the same characteristics. So what’s that got to do with an atomic bomb? If you think about it, could be plenty actually. It’s all mixed up in the aligning of the interplanetary stars and forces. They were coming to get me, I just knew it.
I am a Sagittarian, fire sign, best of the Zodiac, even with all our gaffs; my humble opinion.
I got interested in this subject because it was the 80’s and ‘the’ book to read was Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. She didn’t do readings; she was a scholar of Astrology. Her book was hugely popular for many years. There was a reason for it. She was always dead on.
I was flabbergasted when I read about Sagittarians, in particular Sagittarian women. Oh, we have a lot of good things going for us; we’re strong-looking, many dark-haired, honest, great sense of humor, a positive outlook on life: hence our sign, the Archer pointing his arrow to the sky. She also gives you the negative stuff.
‘A Sagittarian woman looks like she knows what she’s doing, dark-haired and strong, carrying her large leather bag, smartly striding down the street to her destination, a large office building. Then it happens. She walks into the glass door. Her glasses go flying. So does her bag, papers, cosmetics, and all kinds of doo-dads and Tchotchkes. She’s in a tither.’ This is me. Clumsy, gawkiness. Now I am not that enthralled with Astrology that I believe all Sagittarian women are like this. But I know that when I read about my sign and other signs in my life, that certain things seem to jive. Scorpios: “Whoa, you’re a Scorpio? Holy crap! They say you’re the horniest sign of the Zodiac!” The mere mention of Scorpio garners fear, respect. We have one in the family. And Aquarians. Yikes. But back to Sags.
This gawky forthrightness lands us in trouble more often than not. Some trouble we can’t get out of in a dignified manner. My friend Barbara, also a Sagittarian ran into a guy she hadn’t seen for a long time. A fond greeting. They had both aged, but he did look good. Then he started talking about all the products and gizmos he used to try to “combat my age.” Barbara moved in closer. Did he mean go to battle with his age?
”I use this appliance on my neck, chin, and face and it works wonders. It looks like a wiener.” He described it in detail. Barbara was having other thoughts.
“It sounds like a vibrator to me.”
A good feigner of shock, Kurt did man-up and admit that it was indeed a vibrator. “I saw it on one of those Dr Oz type shows so I thought it had to be good. It was quite an ordeal getting one.” It turned out Kurt, in all his healthy manliness was a scare-dy cat.
“I bet you asked one of your female friends to buy it for you. Do you know how difficult it is for a woman to buy one for herself, far less a male friend? You are a wuss.”
Then Barbara blurted out, “Kurt, that’s a great-looking black turtle-neck you have on. It does help to hide those inevitable flaps of skin on the neck that come from getting older.” Kurt was not happy. He huffed, puffed and his skin started to get bloated like someone was using a tiny hose filling up his face with water. “One more flap of skin just became visible,” Barbara noticed. Did she want to say it? Yes. And she left Kurt as he exploded.
That could have been me too, easily. Linda says it’s a characteristic of female Sagittarians. They are clumsy’ish, verbally too but it’s not a nasty thing. A female Sag is normally mortified that she made the comment. It’s not malicious, only when they deserve it, and Sags can usually tell.
There was a cocktail party for an artist, somewhere I did not want to be, cocktails –yes, oohing about paintings - no. Although my friend, Ivan, a gifted sculptor and cinematographer who was with me whispered in my ear, “Just say ‘I don’t know art but I know what I like.’” It has become my go-to ever since. The party continued and everyone oohed and awed at the artist’s latest renderings. I ended up standing at one of those little tables in the room; you know the ones, where you go with your drink when you’ve got nothing to do. Up comes a guy, not that good-looking, sweaty even from a distance, and starting to make small talk. I hate small talk. Only, if he’s Daniel Day-Lewis.
So, this guy was nattering away about how awesome the new artist was, “Did you see how he used those aubergine colors and his lines especially the broken ones are just out of this world.” Blah Blah.
I was getting tired of his insignificant banter. What a great opportunity I thought, to try out the ‘art line.’ So, I said it, with gusto. “I don’t know Art but I know what I like!” He looked at me like I was a plebeian.
Now, throughout this whole ordeal, I was forced to look, or not, but then I couldn’t help myself, because it got increasingly harder not to look – like driving by a bad accident – at this very large zit he had on his cheek near his nose. It was about a half-inch wide, a big zit with a white center, looked like it was filled with cream. It was excruciating.
“Do you know you have a zit right there near your nose – it’s hard not to see it because it’s a pretty ugly zit? I am surprised you even came out tonight. I know I wouldn’t have. Without surgical care.” As soon as I said it I thought, “Oh shit.” Not that he didn’t deserve it; normally I would feel remorse, but he had obviously done nothing about the ugly zit and coming out in public was just bad, even a band-aid perhaps? Nevertheless, I shouldn’t have said it. Usually, I apologize for my gaffs, but this guy got really upset, a little too upset that I acknowledged his imperfection. He started in on me.
“No one else has said anything!”
“Well, they know now. Have you thought that people don’t have the balls to say it to you?”
By this time the guy had pulled out a little mirror. He was checking out his zit.
“There is a men’s room, if you are so inclined,” I was on the verge of throat-gagging.
“No, the lighting is good here. I don’t see what you do.”
“You don’t want to see what I see, because it is ugly and moreover, it’s ready for lift-off.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Like the Atomic bomb ready for countdown.”
“Has anyone told you that you are a nasty chick?”
“All the time, not chick so much,” I laughed.
“Obviously you don’t know who I am!” he choked.
“You are the artist formerly known as Prince.”
Out came noises which I certainly could not make out, if they were actual words he was speaking. Flying wafts of water from his mouth accompanied this torrent of torrid exclamations.
“Where are the freaking umbrellas?” I yelled.
“You witch. You don’t know who I am! SECURITY. SECURITY,” he bellowed.
Wouldn’t you know it, security popped up just like that for this little wimp with a zit.
I had an inkling of who he was all along, the artist of the hour, but he was so clammy-looking that I deliberately let on that I hadn’t a clue. But then I wish I had. Because SECURITY was out for me! Why? Because I said, “You’ve got a zit?” I was flummoxed. I panicked and started running and so did SECURITY, in hot pursuit. Right through the gallery, we all ran, myself in the lead for the moment, SECURITY right behind and then coming up the backstretch real fast….
Who caught up to me first? Los Alamos. In full countdown.
My only hope is to escape the Atomic Bomb; could be a fate worse than death.