The clickety-clack sounds of her high heel clogs were the only sounds heard on the dusty, concrete sidewalk on Main Street. Vangie Ann was on her way to her weekly hair appointment and she was more than a bit perturbed. She was running late, again, because of her good-for-nothing husband W.R. Pickel. He was always making her late and had one excuse after another as to why he was late. He was like a broken record. He had a high-pitched hypernasal voice that grated on her ever-loving nerves. Oh, if only she could go back in a time machine and visit her 18-year-old self. She would give herself a good whop to the head for ever conceiving the idea of marrying that man. He was a whiner and a womanizer, but Vangie Ann was far too old to be making any changes in her life now. So she made his life a living hell ever chance she got. She put the capital “N” in the word Nag. It gave her a secret thrill to drive the poor man to drink. After all, he deserved it for all his flirting ways with the small circle of women in the town.
The bell clinked as she crossed the threshold of Curl Up & Dye Beauty Shop. A hushed silence spread around the room as Vangie Ann entered because everyone knew that she was the town gossip. She loved a good tale and ate it up like candy. The problem was once she chewed on it for a while, she spit out the most outrageous tales imaginable. Just last week, she started a rumor about Otis Murrell Stackcake, her brother-in-law. Now everyone in town suspected him of cheating on his wife Peggy Sue, Vangie Ann’s sister, because of her vile tales. Vangie Ann and Peggy Sue had never really gotten along with one another. Vangie was three years older than her sister and she had always been jealous of Peggy Sue who was much prettier and had a sweet disposition unlike Vangie. Peggy Sue had a slew of boys hanging around the house wanting to court her when they were young, but she only had eyes for Otis Murrell. He had been the high school football star of the town.
“Hey there Ms. Vangie Ann,” said Cherry, the shampoo girl. “Hello yourself….” said Vangie Ann, eyeing the younger woman with suspicion. Not that Cherry would have given a second glance at poor old Mr. Pickel, but she knew that Mrs. Pickel was very jealous. Everyone knew of her spiteful ways and tried to steer clear of her at all times. She was one woman that no one wanted to cross. She was viper with that tongue of hers. She had started more than one mess of rumors around town. Vangie Ann made her way to her usual chair. She had been coming to the Curl Up & Dye since Miss Dolly had opened it up fifteen years before. Every week Miss Dolly washed Vangie Ann’s hair, applied a “special” creme rinse that everyone knew was really black hair dye, (#12 Black Rage), rolled each section of her hair on rollers and set her under the hairdryer for 45 minutes while Vangie Ann pretended to read the latest gossip magazines.She was actually listening to the other customers’ conversations, well, the little bit that she could hear under the whir of the hairdryer.
This morning started out no different than any other morning and the conversations began heading in the direction of her husband’s errant nephew, Darrell “June Bug” Pickel. What a disaster that young man was. He was always getting into trouble as a young boy and teenager. He listened to that loud rock-n-roll “devil” music and drank beer, even on Sundays. He had long hair tied back into a ponytail that hung straight down to his tail-end. What a disgrace he was! And, he had been shacking up with that horrible little floozy Daisy Mae Hogg, of all people, for the last couple of years. They lived in a dumpy little single-wide trailer out on the south side of town. What happened next was something that she definitely hadn’t expected. She was busily eavesdropping the best that she could under the noise of the hairdryer. Cherry was talking about her “secret” boyfriend again. No one knew his name and that drove Vangie crazy. She had been slyly asking her pointed questions for months, but still hadn’t been able to get Cherry to give up the name of her beaux. Out of the blue, she heard the biggest racket of music blaring outside. Not ten seconds later, she heard the town’s only firetruck siren go off. She stood up from her chair so fast she knocked the hairdryer into the wall behind the base of the chair. Everyone stopped talking as they first saw a buttercup yellow Jeep fly past the window with loud music blaring from inside. Sure enough, that little floozy Daisy Mae was behind the wheel, singing her heart out and laughing in between verses all the way through town, with her long bleached blonde hair flying out the windows.
“For heaven’s sake!” exclaimed Vangie. Just then the firetruck rolled by in an hurry, sirens blaring drowning out the noise from Daisy Mae.
“What in the world! My, oh my. Has the world gone mad?” screeched Vangie. Everyone looked out the window, watching the fiasco going down Main Street. There hadn’t been this much excitement since the annual Fourth of July parade. They watched the firetruck until it was out of sight and then the myriad of conversations became chaotic as everyone began talking at once. Miss Dolly turned on the police scanner to see if she could find out what was going on. Cherry got on her cell phone and began talking to her secret beaux. Agnes who was all of 90 years old, slept like a baby under the hairdryer. Carol Anne and her twin daughters, Betsey and Brittany, began arguing over who they each thought they saw driving the Jeep and Vangie Ann just listened and took it all in. Her mind was already reeling with the sequence of events that she was concocting in her mind. Oh, what tales she had for the women of her quilt circle.
Just then, Mr. Pickel came barrelling into the beauty shop towards Vangie. “Vangie, my sweetness, we need to go. There’s been an accident.” he whined over all the commotion. All at once, everyone stopped talking. Vangie and Mr. Pickel were the main spectacles and Vangie Ann became astutely aware that everyone was watching the pair of them, rapt in attention.
“Mr. Pickel! Stop your prattling at once. We will discuss whatever has gotten you riled up at another time.” explained Vangie, in hushed tones.
“But dearest moon pie, I have to tell you something awful.” he pleaded. “I think my dear young nephew Darrell has died in a fire! And, I think Daisy Mae did it!” he exclaimed. “She has run off and Darrell is missing!”
“Dear Mr. Pickel need I remind you to never call me that vile name again!” she yelled.
“But moon pie, my nephew……”he wailed. He began to break down and cry, right there in front of everyone.
“Come along Mr. Pickel, we will talk about this in private…..”she said in angry, hushed tones. “We don’t air out our dirty laundry for everyone to see!” With that, she grabbed Mr. Pickel’s arm and out the door they went. She, marching along to the car down the street with pink foam curlers still in her hair, with poor Mr. Pickel being dragged by his wife down Main Street in front of the townspeople. He would rue the day that he embarrassed his wife. She would make sure of it. “And all over that stupid, silly boy…..”she muttered. “Serves him right to get himself killed. He messed up my hair appointment. I will never forgive him for this!” she yelled.
“But dear, he’s dead! How can you be mad at him?” he wailed. “How can my poor nephew, June Bug be dead? Oh, my sister is rolling over in her grave. I can feel it, moon pie. I can feel it” said Mr. Pickel as he placed his hand above his heart.
“Snap out of it, you idiot!” WHOP! Vangie’s hand went up the side of his head.
“Ow! Dearest, why did you hit me?” he yowled, rubbing his eye.
“Because I told you, you old fool, don’t ever call me that vile name, moon pie again!” WHOP! “And don’t you ever sass talk me either!”
The ladies in the beauty shop couldn’t hear everything through the thick glass window, but they saw enough to giggle at Vangie Ann. “Moon Pie” indeed. But poor Mr. Pickel, how they all felt sorry for him. Why did he ever put up with that wife of his?
Within a few minutes, life went back to normal in the little beauty shop on Main Street. The dust settled back onto the hot streets on that fateful day in August. It would become the hottest day on record for the whole state of Texas. A funeral would be held for Darrell “June Bug” Pickel a few days later, and an inconsolable Mr. W.R. Pickel would be hiding his black eye behind some dark sunglasses at the interment service. An arrest warrant would be issued for Miss Daisy Mae Hogg of Hogg Holler, last known whereabouts – driving down Main Street like a bat out of hell, Texas. Life would never be the same again, but Mrs. Evangeline Ann Pickel had enough to talk about for months to come. And, Mr. Pickel never sass talked her again.