Friday, July 15, 2016

Flash Fiction by Dominy Clements

The Moon-Faced Girl

Maddy enjoyed her work in the cosmetics department of a large city department store, but her enthusiasm towards closing time that Saturday was already waning when she spotted a pair of women approaching her station.  She guessed a mother and her moon-faced daughter.

"Helnnhho?" -- oh god, a speech impediment.

"Yes, how can I help you?"

"Itsth my daughter (nngh).  Sthie's getting m-m-marjiennd n wantsth to loo'good."

"Well, congratulations. . ."

Maddy looked at the moon-faced girl, and the moon-face stared back vacantly.  Brisk efficiency was the only solution, so she set to work.

"Ok.  Looking at your complexion and face shape, I'd suggest something subtle--just to lift your color and make you look radiant.  I would avoid bright tints and too much sculpting (or you'll end up looking like a circus clown, she thought to herself). . .Some foundation, a light blush, maybe some eyeliner to enhance your eyes. . ."  Maddy reached down a selection of products ready to close a sale but, seeing a pair of blank looks, her heart sank.  This would take more effort.

"Do you want me to show you?"

Nods of acknowledgment, and Maddy guided the moon-faced girl toward the make-up stool.

It was late in the afternoon, and the store seemed quieter than usual.  Maddy glanced at her watch as she donned her latex gloves, hoping these would be her last of the day.  She took out her selection of brushes.

"Do you have a good make-up kit at home?"

A shake of the moon-faced head was the reply.

"So, you'll need pads and brushes--we have all of those things here . . . Can you see in the mirror?  So this is your foundation . . . Just applying gently to even out your skin tone . . ."

Maddy started work with her soft brushes but the moon-face had a large area to cover.  She had to stifle a giggle, imagining herself having to call in DIY for a wide paintbrush or roller, but soon began to wonder if she would actually be able to finish before closing time.

How could she have underestimated the moon-face?

Maddy worked on and on, but her arms were beginning to ache.  The make-up stool was already at its lowest setting but she was struggling.  Maddy fetched the step on wheels that the cosmeticians use for reaching the higher shelves, but that forehead still seemed to be beyond reach.  With as steady a voice as she could muster, she tried to keep everything as normal and routine as possible.

"Can you see how it goes on?  Just gentle strokes . . ."

It was no good.  Maddy would have to fetch the ladder from the stockroom.  It seemed there was no-one around--nobody she could call for help.  Her footsteps echoed on the shiny floor.  She felt stupid and ridiculous, as if it was her first apprentice day on the job.

The ladder wasn't made for the shiny shop floor and it felt wobbly and unsafe, but Maddy persisted.

"You want to make sure you have a complete covering, otherwise you'll end up blotchy or with your make-up looking like a mask, and we don't want that . . ."

She was still having to reach upwards on that moon-face.  It was a large store, but the space seemed to be shrinking in relationship to the scale of the task at hand.

"So, now you're starting to look radiant already . . ."

The moon-face shimmered, and the neon lights in the department dimmed.  Little flakes of foundation were falling away from the moon-face, making it look rougher and more cratered the closer you looked.  Maddy was a perfectionist and so this was intolerable.

"You might find there is some movement on the skin, so you can tidy up any imperfections with . . . a . . . smaller brush . . . See?"

She worked on.  The shop illuminations around her shrank as the moon-face became ever more dominant.  Maddy felt herself lost in a constellation of gently flickering points of light.

There was no longer any sensation of ground beneath her.  The moon-face was her only place of orientation, but in engulfed her in its magnitude.

"Now, you'll want just a little bit of color . . . to lift . . . the look . . ."

But there was no color, just blinding whites and silvery edges.  Motes of bright dust lay suspended in the air, their reflections competing with ever more distant starlights in their velvet infinity of blackness.

Maddy thought she heard a voice calling from the far distance.

"Don' forget tho do the Thea of Tranquilithy . . ."

Dominy Clements studied composition and flute at the Royal Academy of Music in London from 1983 to 1987, moving to the Netherlands in 1987 to study with Louis Andriessen at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague.  His opera, An Enlightened Disciple of Darkness, was performed at the Nargen Festival in Tallinn in 2013, a work celebrating the life of Bernhard Schmidt (1879-1935), inventor and designer of a lens which revolutionized astronomy in the early 20th century.  He is currently employed as manager Career Deveolpment Office of the Royal Conservatoire, works as a freelance writer, translator and musician, and has had numerous stories published as a writer of fiction.