David Jack Sparks
DINNER IS AT SEVEN-THIRTY
She opens the apartment door and frowns a smile at him, looks him up and down, holding onto the edge of the door as if she hasn’t yet decided whether to let him in.
“You look nice.”
He steps in from the hall and holds his arms out and does a one-eighty and back. Gauzy white dress shirt, untucked, sleeves rolled up a couple of turns. Levis, black Oxfords. Wet-gelled hair, hand-spiked, thawing out in the radiator heat.
“All set?” he says with light irony.
“Are you kidding?” She shuts and deadbolts the door, turns on the balls of her feet, and pads into her bedroom. Her sparkly, silver, off-shoulder mini dress hugs her thighs, no stockings.
“You look ready to me.”
“Ugh. Please don’t be an idiot.”
He leans against the bedroom doorway like entering would breach some arcane etiquette. She’s sitting already, leaning her forehead into the vanity table mirror. The room is dark, and her face is excessively articulate in the severe white lamplight. He looks at his watch and takes a seat on the corner of the bed. “Dinner is at seven-thirty.”
“I doubt you want to show up on New Year’s Eve with a girl looking like she just got out of bed.”
“Oh, whatever. You look great natural.”
“I look like a wet rat.”
“I’m not wearing any makeup. Do I look like a wet rat?”
He throws a leg up onto the bed and nestles into the pillows with the back of his head in his hands. “You know, in France in the old days, men wore makeup, too. Like in the court?”
“Do you think Marie Antoinette used to wait on her husband like this while he put on his face? Loo-ie. Loooo-ie.”
“Don’t make me laugh. My eyes will be crooked.”
“We uhr gung tyoo be late for ze vom-ee-tuhr-ee-yum.”
“Stop it. I’m serious.”
She flips a plastic disk open and dips a fuzzy, flesh-colored pad into a circle of fine powder and wipes it over the whole of her face, swirling from one temple down to her chin and up the other side and then across the bridge of her nose and the width of her brow. She examines the result with a blink and snaps the disk shut and dabs her fingertip into rouge and rubs it into her cheeks, dragging the skin away from each eyeball, a few quick peeks at the Spaghetti-O-orange mass atop her orbital bone, until the rouge disappears entirely, becoming part of her. Then she swabs a stick like a lily stamen across a twinkling pond of silver and purple and brown and paints it onto her eyelids with even, confident strokes and traces the edges with a black pencil and fluffs out the lashes with a mascara wand until the whites of her eyes look to be twice as big as they were, the brown in the middle rich and warm and stiletto-sharp. She runs the head of a wide horsehair brush over it all with the languid grace of lingering fingertips, blending it all together, and she tries on a couple of ersatz smiles, bouncing the soft, downy bulbs of flesh over her cheekbones up and down and up and down. She raises a thick, black cylinder up six inches in front of her face and twists it and with curious intensity watches a waxy column of hyper-blood red grow out, longer and longer, and she bumps the head of it into the thickest part of her lips and slides it side to side to side, spreading the red everywhere, top and then bottom, and she rubs her lips together and draws them into her mouth and kisses them into the mirror. She squeezes a glob of clear gloss out onto the head of a tube and smears that on her lips, too, until they are slick with glitter and shimmering and wet, and she kisses them together again.
“Is Julie going to be there?” she says.
She makes a noise in her throat. “You know which one I mean.”
“I believe so.”
“Why hasn’t Matt dumped her yet? Talk about someone who wears too much makeup.” He doesn’t say anything. “She’s weird-looking, don’t you think?”
“If you say so.”
She whirls and disappears into the bathroom. He can hear the mechanical purrs and whooshes and clicks of her finishing her hair. This has always been the hardest part to sit through. He looks at his watch and then turns and sits upright when she reemerges into the shadows of the bedroom, her long hair transformed into tangled columns of loping, cascading waves. She steps into her three-inch heels looking like a raggedy walker with her back to him, her head hunched forward, her limbs akimbo, and she turns and stands back on her heels, and the hard curves of her body and legs explode into place along the length of her. Back-lit by the bathroom, all of her glowing, she steps over to him, bends forward a bit so that he can hear her from way up there. “Ready to go?”
“Whoa,” he says, his irises all but eaten up by the black of his pupils. “You look like a different person.”
“Thank you,” she says.
David Jack Sparks was born and raised in and around Flint, Michigan, and has spent most of his adult life in Chicago, where he resides with his wife and two children. No pets. Just the children. David Jack Sparks’ stories have appeared in Prime Number Magazine, Typishly, Sundog Lit, and others.
Cover Design by Karen Rile