Tangerine Hunter

by Kim Winter Mako, Guest Editor

The lady floats in—
soft silk, apricot layered, hair styled an
orange creamsicle wave.
She’s like a small crafted dessert—
pumpkin meringue.

Ten minutes till close.
One percent of her
speaks to me, “Just browsing.”
Straight and slim, small,
tight, yet undeniably round.
Edgeless, a seamless silhouette
averse to collision, moving
with an economy.

Slender white fingers sift through
racks, stalk over sleeves, studded belts,
felt hats, expensive stockings.
Her hands look childish,
moving like a raccoon’s.

Six minutes till close.

She points like a pure bred hound
to the case, and waits, “Oh.”
“Would you like to see something?” I ask,
fingering the key, shifting on my feet,
“Yes I would, I would,” from a voice
who comfortably commands.

Up close, her age, powdered.
Desire padded in blended palette of ginger,
salmon, seashell, tangelo.
A soft life.
Her fingers already gleaming with
stones; juicy Tourmaline,
Citrines in glutinous-caramel,
chilled lemonade Zircon,
bourbony Amber.
Glint, wink, flash.

Three minutes till close.

She has fallen for a Fire Opal.
“Oh, dear, I love this,” as if
I’m her handmaid, she’s
sharing a confidence.
She is a grapefruit at the beach.

I am a decaying onion.
Black uniform, grey hair, dark circles
seem to grow darker,
oppressive, broken, grave
next to her unencumbered radiance.
I don’t want to feel ashamed.
They make us feel this way.
The everyone, the everything.
Things we don’t have defining us.
We are deficient, lazy,
they tell us.
I’m just tired.

One minute till close.

“Thank you,” she says, “I’ll be back.”

“Wonderful,” I bow, “I look forward to it.”

At the door, she stops next to a bowl of
hand-stitched handkerchiefs.
“My mother taught us all to sew.”
Impossible to tell if she means
napkins for high tea
in a sprawling Fifth Avenue apartment, or
darning threadbare socks
in a tenement in nowhere Queens,
siblings huddled for warmth.

Alabaster fingers hung with jewels stir the bowl.
Her eyes meet mine.
She might be asking me to like her—
to see her as
a real person
with her little story of needle and thread.

I wonder if it’s because of
her own shame
she wants me to believe,
needs me to believe,
we are the same.

Kim Winter Mako’s work has appeared in The Nervous Breakdown, Ducts.org, and Grateful Steps Publishing’s 2012 fiction contest anthology as the winner and title story. She lived in New York City for many years as an actor where she was a founding member of atheatreco, a small nonprofit theatre creating original works. Kim now lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where she frequently contributes to the live storytelling series, Listen to This: Stories in Performance.

About Tangerine Hunter—I’m interested in the places in society where different economic classes have to deal with each other. I’m fascinated by the topic of money, how what people have or don’t have is taboo to talk about, and how it affects our psyche.