Thursday, June 3, 2010

An Effigy of Taste

“So, show me what you got for your birthday,” Joyce demanded as she swept into my kitchen in a flurry of pink cashmere and silver spandex. Her newly dyed and viciously back-combed do was as stiff as her freshly botoxed smile. She wore more make-up than I bought in a year and her stiletto heels were leaving little dimples in my linoleum. “Well, come on. I’m dying to see this precious antique Sam’s been going on about.”

I beckoned her to follow me through to the front hallway. As we entered the foyer, I stepped aside and gestured with a flourish at a raised plinth next to the door. Joyce gasped.

“What the hell is that?” she wheezed through lips so augmented they could be used as floatation devices.

“That,” I said, “is the precious antique.”

Joyce, frowned as much as her botulinum brows would allow. “It looks like the head from an ancient Greek version of a blow-up doll. What are you thinking displaying it here where everyone can see it?”

Her perma-pout looked like it was about to burst. I had to get her away from the granite bust that my beloved husband, Sam, had bought at an auction for three thousand dollars. I wasn’t sure I could stand nursing her through another recovery if her face cracked. And if her jaw dropped any further, it certainly would.
I grabbed her arm and dragged her back to the kitchen. “I tried to convince him it would look good out back on the far side of the pond, but he insisted that it had to go where – as you say – everyone can see it.” I poured us each a cup of coffee and served Joyce’s with a straw.

“Danielle, honey,” Joyce said in deep sympathy, “what are you going to do?”

Joyce was my best friend and had been since grade school. She had married money. Lots of money. Three times. And her taste was both expensive and flamboyant. Sam was, sadly, jealous of her and did things – like buy hideous antique busts at auctions – in a vain attempt to keep up with the Jones’s. Or the Joyce’s as the case may be.

“This is all your fault,” I said.

“My fault? How is this my fault?” Joyce was incredulous.
The one thing that Sam failed to realize was that Joyce’s grandiosity had nothing to do with hubris. She simply had tons of money and loved to spend it. Her only concession to pride was the myriad plastic surgeries she had undergone in order to achieve her goal of becoming Sophia Loren’s doppelganger.

“He’s jealous of your money. And he thinks I am too, so he buys this stuff to impress you. To make you think that he’s as rich as you are.”

Joyce laughed. I could tell because a distinct ha-ha-ha sound emanated from between her the thickened appendages (they could only be called appendages) of her lips. “That’s ridiculous.”

“But it’s true.” I sipped my coffee the normal adult way.

“But that thing out there is... is... God, Danielle! What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to give it to you.” I smiled, because I still could.

Joyce nearly choked on her coffee. “Jeeze, Danielle. Couldn’t you just accidentally knock it off the pedestal and be done with it. What am I supposed to do with it?”

“You are going to donate it to charity.”

“I am?”


“Why would I do that? When I donate to charities I tend to give nice things. Like cash.” Joyce sipped a bit of the hair of the dog to clear her throat of the lingering tickle from her recent brush with death.

“I know. But Sam thinks that bust is beautiful. And valuable. If I tell him that you all but did back flip when you saw it, he’ll think that he was right about it and giving it to charity would put him in the same league as you as a philanthropist. He’ll be thrilled. And everyone won’t have to see it in my foyer.”

Joyce’s eyebrows moved the entire fraction of an inch that they were able. I sensed more than saw the look of surprise she endeavoured to project. “But, Danielle, wouldn’t it be kinder to just tell him the truth? Wouldn’t this plan of yours just cater to his fantasy?”

“Mmm. I suppose, but I just can’t break his heart like that. He really does mean well.” I tried to look contrite, but my lips just couldn’t pout with the same enthusiasm as my friend’s.

“You’ve given this a lot of thought,” Joyce said. I could see the wheels spinning behind her wrinkle-free features.

“I have,” I agreed. “And it’s the best solution. It really is.”


I waited.

“Okay. But I’m doing this under protest. I don’t like manipulating Sam that way. It’s not right.”

Sam bought the story, hook, line and sinker. He was so excited about the idea of donating something valuable to charity that Joyce approved of that he could hardly contain himself. He insisted that he be the one to make the donation and even delivered the bust to the hall where the auction was to take place.

“They were ecstatic when I gave it to them.” Sam was vibrating as he spoke. “They even said that Joyce herself had only donated a thousand dollars. After the auction, they’ll send me a tax receipt for the amount it sells for. Isn’t it great to be able to give such a valuable item to charity?”

“It truly is,” I concurred.

Two weeks after the charity auction, a letter arrived addressed to Sam. He tore it open and looked at the enclosed receipt. He mouth dropped open and he staggered, having to support himself with a hand on the counter.

“What is it?” I asked.

Sam passed me the receipt and I took it with some trepidation. Then my own mouth dropped open and I had to brace myself against the counter to keep my own knees from buckling.

The receipt was made out for one hundred thousand dollars.


  1. Loved the story. Your characters, even Sam who we barely met, were so well developed. And the moral of the story is - Don't count your chicken until you know WHAT they are going to hatch.

  2. Thank you, Annie. Joyce was so much fun to work with. The bust was, too!

  3. Great story, sis - nice twist at the end.

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

    I like the twist of your story


  5. Great Story - with a great ending.....enjoyed it very much.....bkm

  6. This was a lot of fun - $100,000 LOL.

  7. such a great story, i love how you work the magpie!

  8. This is chock full of great one liners. I especially like: Her perma pout look like it was about to burst.

    You kept me guessing, but I didn't get it until the end. Great twist.

    Well written. I bet this was fun to write. I love it!

  9. Thank you all again for the positive feedback. This bust had endless possibilities, didn't it? I think Willow should slip it in again sometime down the road.

  10. Wow, Joyce was great! I love your descriptions and imagery. I had that thought too, about the blow-up doll...

  11. LOL. Glad to know I'm not the only one with a dirty mind. Almost didn't use it, but - I'm sorry - it had to be said!

  12. Wow, super ending!!

    Great idea. I must pop the bust in again down the road. The possibilities are endless!

  13. Loved your Magpie ~ especially the humor in it.

  14. Love this! A wonderful collage of characters!

  15. Oh, Willow, I hope you do spring it on us again.

  16. Just loved your characters and Shirley's comment... No good deed should go unpunished! But the story was so good I read every word and loved it. Joyce is the perfect Botox Girl! ha ha!

  17. Splendid! Very enjoyable and funny! Good work!

  18. you created some very realistic characters and i could feel the angst and will admit to some sweet relief there in the nicely done magpie!

  19. I really enjoyed this and LOVED the ending! Your characters were easy to get along with!;)

  20. wise implications...
    beautiful tale!

  21. That was a wonderful tale! Jaw dropping indeed!

    And 'I smiled, because I still could.' is a cracking line...!!

  22. you never know do you? you wove a great story--wonderful magpie

  23. Great dialog -- and I'm a lover of great dialog. :-)