Be The Supple Beauty Supply
a short exercise in satire
Well-educated wunderkinds from Sylvia "Esther" Detester's happy-go-lucky heritage and the spawn of Weird Meat play together in the street, lighting firecrackers both illicit and marked down in price, not spicy salsa smeared on water wafers from that legal immigrant's deli but ten ounces of pure dynamite and the lug-shattering decibels to prove it, this a flagrant violation not only of sound ordinance but the two-year-old bill-into-law fast-track success-story known colloquially as Schmidt's Limit, passed after an unfortunate and complex incident quickly summarized as the moment when Schmidt, also two-years-old yet already a wealthy child thanks to parents hellbent on purchasing large swathes of residential real estate in the area, received from his clinically-sociopathic (and homeopathic) older brother a pre-lit, short-fuse pyrotechnic of inappropriately high tonnage that in short order pulverized his left hand to powdered pulp, the bloody stump photographed and disseminated to a degree unprecedented in a community of this low tax bracket, historically, leading to a clean-up-the-streets campaign that attacked the most visible, least likely cause of local misery by lowering the legal limit of explosive entertainment devices to two or under, purporting to prevent not just the violent removal of extremities belonging to additional trust-fund toddlers but your stray broken window as well.
Those responsible for petitioning the courts to take swift and decisive action, the Clean Queens, a power nickname self-anointed by mothers, daughters, and other infirm and infertile women living as the toast of their respective neighborhood watch programs affiliated with 'Hood Helpers Headquarters, one of several recently incorporated non-profit organizations for communal development and a subsidiary of the Department of Interiors, established by former mayor and current Fungirl Funmate of the month Axel Goldenrod, a moniker so suited for the public eye that rivals spent millions of bingo bucks in consecutive, concurrent attempts to sniff out a paper trail leading to
Axelrod (shit) Goldenrod's birth certificate and therefore his true title, official tags 'round here carrying esoteric significance when spilled from forked tongue by warlocks supreme and back-alley wardens of magical impropriety the same—anyway, most of these H.H.H.-affiliated high-strung women hold, at best, lukewarm relationships to Weird Meat despite choosing to populate an urban zone run rampant with extended families of the same substance. In their eyes, in their words, it's a latent gift and/or blatant curse from the early days of disco, beliefs not easily flushed no matter how expensive the chrome toilet.
As both stimulant-induced intellectual cheerleader and charcuterie platter plater for biweekly social hour with her H.H.H. branch's Ethical Committee to Reduce Ethnic Waste, Esther holds extra weight on matters of budget-making, bread-breaking, bread-making, budget-breaking, etc. as pertains to the current Ladies Bountiful prompt scrawled in $40k/year private primary school chicken-scratch across the top of the meeting room blackboard: "What's Their [sic] To Do With Weird Meat?" Despite mild distaste for the rancid subject, drafted motions for good deeds include adding a third day for deliberation on behalf of Weird Meat each week, four more per month plus the occasional fifth, also a professionally-managed tax-free fund for waterproof mascara, less smears from tears, crocodile or otherwise, as well as a lottery system for blind nominations of Weird Meat senators-of-sorts to represent their own people in said sad discussions at a comfortable ratio of one W.M. man for every eleven E.C.R.E.W. women, this less-than-random proportional math loosely tied to number of people pictured in The Last Sourdough, that high-ticket Ritardando de Boulangerie charcoal tableau sold at auction for a rum sum to—perhaps it's already apparent—Eleanor von Intentionally Left-Bank, interim co-chairwoman of the H.H.H.E.C.R.E.W., descendent of Moldovan royal blood, and unsolicited social architect applauded for transforming the Parisian art scene into a more marketable string of slop shops.
The final solution—with appended note for the stenographer to kindly and urgently source a more appropriate appellation to refer to this sociopolitical project—sticks like a British bundle between two proposed possibilities, both distilling this Committee to its core: Waste. In one corner of the ring sits Esther, arguing that gallons saved by swapping porcelain for plastic toilets in Weird Meat bath-halls can be rerouted for any number of environmentally-conscious or teambuilding uses, from increased hydration for the poor to a once-quarterly Sip, Slip, Slide neighborhood waterworks party featuring fire hydrant tag and cupcakes in the shape of industrial robber-barons of olde, utility men involved with electricity and plumbing, naturally, but why stop there, let's replace those archaic white pottery class fecal chambers with Smart Plastic so the Weird Meat kiddos can tickle their brains with times tables and cursive eCourses and The Phantasm of Phonics video lessons while the Weird little Meat of their bums are planted on the throne. On the other side of the fence lies Eleanor, fucking evil bitch, sucking all the artificial air from the meeting room with her superficial ideation about giving the toilets a sleek, modernist look, subbing out porcelain with chrome to improve the self-esteem of the poor. Bad incentives abound: spineless cohorts support the head honcho out of some misguided and pathetic attempt to earn invites to her holiday parties, eschewing "scary tech" (their words) for old fashioned metalwork, earning the ire of Esther, who stews, top strategy to signal thy virtue spoiled, no hearty beef here.
General citizenry, outside the purview of H.H.H. membership drives, quick to lay the majority of modern society's problems at the false altar of technologies both pervasive and pedestrian—these people can't get no satisfaction outside the cycle of complain, commiserate, collaborate. Weird Meat is worse, signaling their inferiority to a blank slate population, thoughtless behind the veil, tokenized beyond the pale, yet eking out a soupçon of special interest based on their deeper-than-skin's status as strange—celebrated for details uncontrolled. Weird Meat: top-down nomenclature established for categorization and classification by The Bureaucracies That Be, it barely tumbles out the throat yet occupies these crosswalks like astroturfed social revolt or litter leering up from the gutters. Esther can't step out into the summer sun without tracing Weird Meat as shadow. Her hand: forced, her cards laid on the table, straight flush the obvious goal but a pair or two barely the reality—now she seeks her externalities from the internal, the safe haven, the isolated and temperature-controlled and laundry-serviced cocoon of comfort—on the north end of the upper south side of the city mind you, "that's what three million will buy you if you work hard junior"—which her beloved husband James "Sylvester" Detester's hard-earned salary supports, J.S.D. essentially a man of materials who made his bones plunging rods in the planet not in search of gold like the westward-bound, destiny-manifested prospectors of his ancestry, instead more productive palettes to paint the world practical—yes, like Smart Plastic, but no, definitely not a conflict of interest, nothing to see here, move along.
All this and more from meatspace salad days to surface as memory at inopportune times, skating around the roller rink of Esther's mind as the parking lot of her body lies stiff in missionary. She digs in with close-cropped cuticle claws, guiding Sylvester's eyeline to a rigid 12 o'clock forward stare with paramilitary precision, his two-toned teal gemstones sinking in the tar of round walnuts looking up from beneath, the color of cold-pressed molasses scanned in at premium prices, her sultry smile threaded on quantum string between over-polished chompers in miniature—rented from mouths of babies attached to hips of mothers who needed a buck or two for powdered milk—and the dark-horned boy prince of the Otherside, siphoning excess body heat from all this literal fucking friction into a sex-to-earn mobile romp, maximizing efficiency and profit, "stay on top of it" grunted in a sequence of telegraphic gasps, demanding fifty years of flirtation in an unbroken gaze at hubby's moment of climax, pumping like process-oriented desalination at a global scale 'til the gasping end of his game, fully drained, the toe-curling spasm of orgasm after four months of accidental abstinence, hard as a twice-pulled piece of Luxembourgian rebar no longer.
Sylvester rolls over to his side of the bed, thumb placed firmly between mercifully unchapped lips, deep breath in, small cloud of smoke filling the air above their zone of marital consummation upon exhale, his eyes fluttering closed as the chemical mix of one-part nicotine per five-parts melatonin reaches the epicenter receptors of his brain, this Oral Fixation Sensation (FDA-approved, patent pending) his newest bestseller thanks to its inclusion of a multitude of both medicinal and recreational e-cig flavors, plus the scent-taste trickery of more specific suckable subjects, blades of crabgrass or too-inky G6 ballpoint pens, the O.F.S. app overall one of a few features improved automatically during the mass upgrade from v2.2 to v2.2.2 of his dummy company's Smart Finger, a brand name debated ad infinitum between her sweet Sylvester, anal-retentive Glad Men shams (new episodes every dayfour night at 8pm MST), special interest groups begging for accuracy in advertising, and members of the general public, arguments incited due to generous ad copy that reads "It's Not A Finger, It's A Smart Finger"—each detractor's chief complaint some outdated notion that a thumb is not Not A Finger because it blows an unhealthy haze of artificial cherry flavor but Not A Finger because of slight variance in bone structure, making it anatomically unique and requiring a clarifying title. They—not a vague pronoun but the official name of the marketing truths advocacy thinktank according to the Secretary of State's blockchain ledger—offers to write a new slogan, some version of "Make Your Digits Digital" or another slice of contrived, technically accurate nonsense, 'til They empties their coffers of credibility when allegedly-unconnected Unidentifiables bomb the Smart Finger billboards with graffiti tags reading much too close to the same as the semi-legitimate establishment's official name-change proposal, causing Sylvester's investors to run their broke ass NGO rival's asses up the flagpole, schoolyard law degree style. Headlines in competing daily papers range from "Smart Finger Smarties finger They for Desecration" (cloyingly clever editor-in-chief, that one) to "Billboard Bombing Betrayed as False Flag Operation?" (smells like libel hope they're ready to have the slack sued out of their shorts).
With her husband nodding off, Esther learns this talk-of-the-town through The Grapevine, a gossip rag masquerading as information aggregate that collects local rumors to build a personalized daily digest for her viewing pleasure if she'd just close those eyes and consume, but the post-coital nerves don't shrug off as easily, her sleepless status polarized from hubby's instant indulgence in catatonia. The last virtual house on the left at this time of night can only be Insomni-Net, cyberspace crawling to salve the stomach-churning anxiety of housewives and shock-shift big-box warehouse workers alike. She boots up the interface, regulates her abdominal acids, and floats away from her own body, a spiritual experience rendered in three-dimensional code. While artificial face leers at thinly-veiled visage, looking back at herself bears much more than the gimmick of introspection—judging in a northward direction through the translucent micro-partition framing her maw, she sees crow's feet, faded brows, rippling lines across forehead from too many years faking confused expressions to avoid casual conversation at look-sees and castings, couch or not, then landing on split-ends clamped to the tail of auburn tussles like wedding bands cutting off circulation to ring fingers, just cause for an eventual amputation if not an outright divorce. Her shimmering digital veil hides the rest, and the need to rest—she has time for a makeover, which means it's time for a makeover.
Guiding her drifting ectoplasmic consciousness to Insomni-Maps—one of the more popular Insomni-Apps—a tool of exploration for global geography, world-renowned thanks to its inclusion of thermal and anatomical imaging in addition to the elite industry standard satellite and street views—as well as boots-on-the-ground interface rendered in Trendicolor, which surprisingly garners less praise—Esther browses salon options for her private campaign's ideal running mate in this election of a true-blue Beauty Queen, then drags her attention off-topic to plumb the rabbit-hole depths of every entertainment-related trivia question that pops like grandfather's Perrier-Jouët '74 into her mind, visualized in the airless upper realm of their bedroom as an anthropomorphized bread-line of mundane thoughts, sheep programmed for countin' sheared and queued 'til it's their turn to fall prey to the penetrating piston of her search engine, cattle-gun bolts driven into skulls through holes of their own making amid a gamified shower of 8bit coin collectibles along the periphery of her HUD with each successive query successfully answered.
Thirst for her mean consumption of meaningless factoids not just quenched but drowned, Esther glides through the ceiling of the bedroom, eschewing the low-brow Ludditry of screen scrolling in favor of a
boots-on-the-ground high-heels-in-heaven approach written in binary, displayed as pure darkness to creep, crawl, and trawl through, fear of oblivion when within this liminal void mostly mastered in prior epochs, long gone away to that great repository in the plum paneled sky, exabytes of storage space saved by a lackadaisical work-ethic for the rarely-seen insides of solid objects like the space between top-level condominium and the dirt-stained derrick—placed on the roof of their building, shaped in general like a donut, long metallic plunge to the ravaged soil below, wraparound glass carpet-to-curtain casements showcasing the other side of their full-floor unit, occasional scenes of half-assed performance art as the excess petroleum squirts skyward and splashes the interior windows—an energy source of old-fashioned oil finally, blissfully built by bug bounty -seeking mercenary blue-collars who come complete with toolkit rentals yet no registered corpornation to call home, after a lengthy, turgid battle with the Department of Interiors over the air rights above their private property, their divine dome-scraper, minimal thanks and mad middle fingers extended to that prick Goldenrod and his data-staplers, sniffing every line of code in Sylvester's accountant's assistant's bookkeeper's foreign freelancer's application before granting permission to produce their own power supply.
Speaking of, goddamnit—Esther's salon search generating two thousand possible results in a one mile radius—she clicks around the parameters pop-up menu, ignoring the vibrant borders that beckon for her to buy this protein block or that unpopular character skin from last year's PC port of Fourth Life in the Fifth Dimension, really needing to narrow down some salons here somehow thank you very much, obvious immediate exclusion of all Weird Meat -owned businesses and the grifters claiming to be Weird Meat allies in order to fleece clueless customers for the same goods and services marked down elsewhere, then closes the run-on list with a flick of her wrist, once again braving distraction as her effervescent presence sinks to street level, aiming to explore her options in a not-the-newest-but-still-new-fashioned way, little-girl-sized flats hovering wraith-like above the fresh cut concrete. A quick glance sideways up the too-many-lanes blacktop reveals a grid of interlocking autos—moving so fast that jaywalking earns an extralegal death penalty—with inflatable dolls behind the wheel, Smart Plastic smiles not reducing the inherent uncanny nature of a self-driving rideshare even ten, twenty years removed from their genesis, almost overnight appearing in major metropolitan areas throughout their Abracadabra Partners Investing Group corpornation and likely beyond, though totally unprovable, her international awareness paywalled by Sylvester, his intention to prove some idiotic point about consumption of junk news and its relation to a perceived numbing effect on the culture of their household, nihilism half-baked and twisted like popular EyeStream stand-up team The Somatic Sons, well-regarded for their prolific output of inhalant-based comedy content streamed in such a way that it replicates, for the viewers at home, the reduced responsibility high-off-the-ass-of-a-hog state of headshop-induced indulgence required to craft their material.
With sound in the space where her corporeal unit lies clocked and logged no matter how far the specter strays, she hears Sylvester snore once before Vital Vision activates, regulating his heartrate and tempering the throes of sleep apnea without disturbing his rest, saving Esther from the intrusive noise pollution of someone else's bad diet. She checks her hourglass readout. Half a punct left of juice 'til the app-based g/astral projection runs dry—best be on the way then, good to not cleave too close to the bone with these numbers, she thinks, the beta version of Insomni-Maps tailed by a safety demonstration deploying scare tactics to keep fair use of the service front of mind, a presentation seen through acute-angled slit in lotioned palms, the terror of determinism etched among woodcuts as rationalizations freely arise, something akin to "if banished from brain, chances of unpleasant encounter shrink to a number negligibly different than zero" or the more punchy abbreviated edition "if you don't think it, they won't come"—yeah, fat chance (computer, make note to stream Fat Chance's new quadruple EP, Fat Chance & The Dogs of War vs. Dr. Candelabra's Elevator Doors).
But: a sign catches her gaze, striking her fancy, representative of what she seeks and also quite pleasing in its own way, visually, sonically, the twelve-strong choral pianissimo hum of quarter-full neon tubes imbued with hues of hellish crimson, a king's crown hung above the hatchway mouth dictating noble decree, possessed by town crier who beckons Esther to come in, the water is fine, try the products please, there's a discount available for card-carrying members of our branded family here at
SUPPLE BEAUTY SUPPLY
thank you kindly. It don't take extrasensory perception to identify this shop as, if not outright -owned, at haunting minimum, Weird Meat -operated. They linger in storefront windows, flesh more ghastly than her own even in this lateral condition of techno-apparition, the origins of both their mass movement into this megalopolis—McDondatello's Original Protein Pickle sponsored, mind you—and their musculature mayhem on a medical level lost in The Great Recalibration after a deleterious "accident" involving number of decimal places miscalculated while dumping reams of official data from physical storage to virtual stash, hyper-localized government typically a frothing clusterfuck of disunity, disorganization, and disturbing misappropriation of administrative disc drives for anything from organic recipes in anarchist cookbooks (literal usage) to lists of minor celebrities with at least a mild case of moral dystrophy, as well as the intermittent reallocation of funds for insect nutrient conversion rituals, all clearly pet projects of madmen—and WOMEN. At this point, time passing differently within the machine, bio-signature automatically registered by the antiquated merchandise catalogue mirrors adorning the
SUPPLE BEAUTY SUPPLY
exterior, her browsing history parsed to provide personalized looping video content while she skims through their inventory, Esther can't escape, submitting to her fate under the hopeful spell that Weird Meat sizes line up properly with those of an adult female. She glissades down the eggshell mountain of her discontent towards the entrance, attention captured by preemptive apprehension over social snafus and the potential for Freudian slurs, ignoring the blinking red icon in the lower left corner of her HUD, poor placement a UI design flaw that will be ironed out in future updates—but not so soon as now. Midway through the glass, nerves jumbled and jangling, the ringing in her ears made manifest as a brutal cadence of beeps, materiality transcending grass-grinders and airhorn arias to penetrate her most mechanical sense, Esther's head peeks through, catching a glimpse beyond the border as the rest, the best, quits its forward momentum, body unable to puncture the flat sheet of future shards protecting the shop from creatures and cretins of the night—trapped.
Energy reserves depleted by a cavernous stint in the ether of task-focused entertainment hour, sour sensation settling as surface tension concentrates in her temporomandibular joints, heart and mind craving release through pre-rolled mycotoxin coffin nails unavailable due to crumbling trade agreements with whatever shithole ships whole cartons to the confines of her corpornation, the secular shroud protecting Esther's malformed mug power cycles itself without requesting permission from its user, slipping into glitch mode, an epileptic cadence presenting piecemeal glances behind the facial curtain at the nightmare fodder beneath, revealing the horror, the out-of-body body horror on display for the gathered crowd of third-rate, second-class first-responders on the clock in the shop.
Her missing veil sheds light on a harrowing collection of features, cruel guts inverted from the internal and enacted with expressionism across pockmarked pores, emotional scarring given the godless breath of reality, disfigurement accorded the decoupage treatment, multicolored splotches of dead teeth, dying flesh, and deep-seared follicles, the epitome of repugnant reptilia rationalized away as merely a Bad Hair Day. With murky figures lurking in the corners of her perception—not the denizens of this dark tower of sub-thrifted maquillage but something more ancient, fiends and demons sculpted from 1s and 0s howling for her programmatic soul—Esther rides the fence between panic, palpable as salty bullets converging in the crevices where her shimmering digital forehead formerly flickered, and utter embarrassment, a feeling not easily described with the written language of mankind, her return to a life plain as a pikestaff whispered as prayer: unfortunate you, too few true-believers proselytized this day, get back against the wall, give us our daily bread, your grains or your life, fucker.
The keepers of the eponymous beauty supplies flock to her side, attending to a simple woman's complex needs without fuss or appeals for mercy, her appearance enough of an invocation as it stands. The progeny of the proprietors—cute little Weird Meatlets with grins stretched to the east-west fringes of their faces like a medieval throwback torture rack employed for avant-garde degeneracy in the modern age—dance in circles to the mid-tier tunes of musical dinosaurs reanimated for their 345th annual reunion tour, the bilingual brats safe here from the difficulties of the sidewalks outside, moving with jubilation by way of assimilation around Esther, her figure frozen between rock-n-roll and the hard place, possible to bum a collect call and order a Task Rat to find a Battery Boy who can help her slip out of the transitional layer and return home please?
Strife aside, guard down, she tenders a silent thank-you to Sylvester, her husband footing the bill for this most expensive Insomniphone play plan that fortunately limits her get-up-and-go interruptions to once per day, still positioning her life leagues beyond the sibilant short-comers congregating 'round the her-shaped hole-in-the-wall, each of them holding salon scissors sharp as the seventh sin so deadly, Esther's secret favorite, a well-deserved sensibility for sloth. Instead of carving their familial names in her barely-there throat, a wafer-thin layer of transparent skinstuff keeping esophagus from sarcophagus, the Weird women and Meat men approach to fix the pixels of her malfunctioning mask, a restoration project accepted not as duty but as desire: to study, to learn, to seize a sample of her tech and her neck as means of production for progress, an unwilling un-weird savior for Weird flesh and bone. They ask her in a scathing drawl about any known allergies. She asks them if there's a subscription service available for purchase.