Death by Makeup

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November, 1635

Hair Club 250, Grantville

 

Gripping the arms of the salon chair tightly, Dana Hudson said to the owner-stylist, “Mrs. Beasley—”

Kim Beasley and the petite, young woman in the chair looked a bit alike. Both the salon owner and the client had natural strawberry blonde hair and high cheekbones. Kim took the plastic roller clip out of her mouth, “Dana, call me Kim. If you call me Mrs. Beasley, I’ll end up treating you like one of my daughters’ friends. And you were never foolish enough to run with that crowd.”

“Kim,” Bethel, Kim’s oldest employee—she’d worked part-time for Kim before The Ring of Fire—said from the next chair where she was working, “You ain’t being fair to your girls. Who were they going to run with but a rough crowd when one of them was a Hart, and the other one was a Beasley? Though goodness knows, they both turned out alright anyway.”

Kim chuckled. “Yeah. Harts an’ Beasleys, the two rowdiest clans in the county and I married into both of them. Don’t say much for my good sense does it?” But while she chuckled a sense of pride still came through.

Dana sat in the first of three chairs where the bar used to be when the salon was just Club 250 instead of Hair Club 250.

“Kim, what you need in here is a makeup station.”

“A what?” Kim asked.

“A makeup station.” Dana rushed to finish. “Add another salon chair.” Dana glanced at the empty spot on the floor in front of the old back bar with its mirror and woodworks. It was obvious the chairs had been stationed to leave room for a fourth one. “Get a palette of makeup so when a woman gets her hair done she can have a free makeup makeover if she wants.

“I worked through the summer at Stoner’s lab,” Dana continued. “And even with the articles on how dangerous down-time makeups are, Stoner’s safe makeup line isn’t selling very well. The local women are buying it at the drugstore, but visiting down-timers aren’t. Now, since any tourist with the money comes through here, if you signed up as a distributor, and hired me to be your in-house cosmetologist, I can tell them all about the risks they’re taking with the old makeup while I’m doing their face and sell them a supply to take home.”

“You want me to put in another chair, buy the supplies and hire you to give free makeup makeovers on the off-chance that I can sell enough cosmetics to pay for it?”

DBM-grlDana blushed as only a redhead can. Her grip on the chair arms tightened. “Yes. That is exactly what I want. It’s going to make a lot of money and help a lot of people. I can get the lab to place the products on consignment. And I’m willing to work on commission. When a woman sees what she looks like after I do her face, she’s going to buy a supply to take home, and we’ll start seeing mail orders in no time. And I can charge for teaching their personal maids how to do their makeup for the best results.

“But the kicker will be when I tell them just how dangerous down-time makeup is. After all, no woman wants her hair falling out.”

The customer, leaning back in the next chair, having her hair washed over the copper-lined sink where the back-bar used to be, sat upright.

Bethel yelped and grabbed a towel. Sopping wet, soapy hair fell onto the oilcloth cape and beyond.

“Lady Clifford, please,” Bethel’s plea was tinged with an overtone of scolding, “lean back, you’ll ruin your dress.” Anne, Lady Clifford, ignored her request. Bethel pushed the hair to the side over the shoulder where the oilcloth cape kept it off the yoke of the client’s dress. It was sewn with seed pearls and worth a small fortune. Bethel draped a towel on the back of client’s neck to stop any more soapy water from reaching her clothes. Then she grabbed a second towel and wrapped the wet hair. After that, she started sopping up.

“Excuse me.” Lady Anne Clifford said. “I really could not help overhearing. Do I understand correctly that makeup can make one’s hair fall out?” She spoke Shakespeare’s English, but she had been in town long enough to handle West Virginian dialect fairly well.

Kim raised an eyebrow and turned her hand toward Dana.

Dana nodded. “Lead and mercury are poisonous and can make your hair fall out.”

“Oh.” Lady Anne was clearly relieved. “That’s all right then; we don’t use lead and mercury.”

“Do you use Venetian ceruse?” Dana asked.

“Sometimes, when I can’t get Spirits of Saturn,” Lady Anne responded.

Dana smiled and clasped her hands under the cape. “Everybody these days does if they want to lighten their complexion. But Venetian Ceruse and Spirits of Saturn are both powdered lead oxide. It takes years, but using it can make your hair fall out if you live long enough.”

“Oh my word!” Lady Anne paled under her pale makeup.  “Kate,” the English noblewoman called.

A comely woman in good, if plain, clothing sitting at one of the tables in the waiting area stood up and bobbed a slight curtsy. “Yes, mistress?”

“Go find my Aunt Frances at the dressmaker’s shop. Tell her I said for her to come here. She will argue with you, of course. She always does. But tell her she isn’t coming to get her hair done. She is coming to get it looked at because they know why her hair is falling out and how to fix it.”

“Yes, my lady.” With another curtsy, Kate headed for the door.

The English lady turned to Dana. “And you up-timers have safe makeup?” She didn’t wait for a response. “Well of course you do. This evening, bring samples out to the Holiday Lodge. If you have something which will meet my needs, I will be interested in trying them.”

****

When Kate returned, Anne had her nose in an Agatha Christie novel and her head under the copper beehive of a hair dryer hood that a tinker had made to Kim’s specifications. Anne pushed the hair dryer up so she could hear.

Frances’s maid pulled out a plain wooden chair at the table closest to the row of hair dryers. Lady Anne’s Aunt Frances collapsed in the proffered chair.

Dana looked at the gaunt, out of breath, tired-looking woman and said, “You are suffering from fatigue, weight loss, nausea, and headaches.”

Frances turned to her maid and huffed indignantly. “Tell this impertinent young woman that she is being entirely too familiar!”

“What she said is completely true,” Anne replied before the maid could say a word to Dana.

“You had no business telling her,” Frances told her niece.

“I didn’t,” Anne returned.

“Then how did she know about my private life? Is she a witch? I told you the place is full of witches!”

“Frances. Are you trying to get the lass burned at the stake? They don’t do that sort of thing here in Grantville. They don’t believe in witches.”

“What utter nonsense,” Frances objected. “That is like not believing in the Bible or not believing in the sunrise.”

“Besides,” Lady Anne said, “it doesn’t take a witch. Anyone with eyes can see what you look like.”

At the accusation of witchcraft, Kim and Bethel exchanged glances. There was no chance of it being taken seriously in town, but if they took it home with them, the claim could still cause trouble.

“These are symptoms of poisoning,” Dana said.

The old woman yelped. “I’ve been poisoned? Anne, I told you that fish Margaret served tasted funny, and you know—”

Dana cut her off. “You’ve been poisoning yourself with the makeup you’ve been using.”

“I’ve done no such thing!”

“Frances,” Lady Anne said, “it turns out that Spirits of Saturn contains lead. And it turns out that lead is poisonous if used over a long period of time, and you’ve used Spirits of Saturn every day of your life for years.”

“Well, yes, I have,” Frances agreed. “A lady needs to look her best in this fallen and depraved world if she wants to hold her husband’s attention.”

“And a lady will have to find another way of looking her best if she wants to live to see her youngest son married,” Anne replied.

“Well, this is only true, if they’re right about Spirits of Saturn having lead in it, and if they’re right about lead being poisonous.” Frances’s tone of voice told all who were listening that she didn’t believe either one.

“Aunt Frances, how many horses were pulling the coach that brought you here from the dressmaker?”

“You know there were no horses,” Frances answered sharply.

“And how many birds were pulling the flying machine we watched leave the ground yesterday?”

Frances huffed and folded her arms over her ample breasts, but she didn’t say a word.

DBM-vnsAnne’s voice was quiet and even when she said, “I think we can take their word for it if they say Spirits of Saturn contains lead, and that lead is poisonous. Don’t you?”

Frances responded with the argument, “Anne, women have been using Spirits of Saturn for years.”

Anne nodded in agreement. “And old women have had their hair falling out for years too.”

“Yes, that is true,” Frances conceded.

“So.” Anne said, “Take off your wig, please, so they can look at your scalp.”

“Anne? What? In public?” Frances objected.

“This isn’t in public, Frances. It’s a hair salon.” There was a chuckle in her voice.

“This is where they take care of ladies’ hair. They really should call it a boudoir, not a salon. But you know how strange their English is. But there is no one here except us and Mistress Kim’s staff.”

“Well, I suppose-”

Kim stepped away from the chair where she was almost finished rolling Dana’s hair. She moved to the middle chair Anne had vacated. “Would you take a seat, please?”

Frances with some hesitation and clear reluctance did as requested.

Bethel immediately covered her with a cape and closed it behind her neck.

“We’re going to take your wig off now,” Kim told her.

Bethel grabbed a wickerwork head for holding a wig from under the sink. The wickerwork head was newly made. It replaced the Styrofoam heads that had come back in time only to be sold as up-time artifacts. Kim took the wig off Frances’s head. Bethel set the wickerwork with the wig on the back bar behind the sinks on the remaining shelf that once held bottles of booze and now held shampoo, conditioners, and other needed items. The rest of the shelves were gone so the full mirror could reflect the perfection of each client’s hair when the stylists were finished.

Kim and Bethel looked at Frances’s bald spot with the flaking and redness.

“Bethel, go to the kitchen and fetch that jar of raspberry mint tea. We’ll mix it with the shampoo, and it will ease the itching.”

Frances spoke up in surprise. “Then you can do something about it?”

“Ma’am,” Kim said quietly, “we are going to wash your hair and make your head feel better. But the only time I’ve seen a scalp that looked that bad was once when I went to the funeral home to do the hair on a corpse for a funeral.”

“Corpse?” The old woman paled. “I had hoped to live another five or ten years to yet see my youngest son, John, married.”

“Well, I won’t say you won’t live to see that. After all, I’m just a hairdresser and not a doctor. Let’s get you feeling better. I know we can do that. But you do need to go see a doctor.”

Once the raspberry mint tea was mixed with the shampoo and Bethel had turned the water down as cool as she could without it being cold, she tilted Frances back so her head was over the sink. By the time she was lathered up the old woman was smiling. They sent Frances off with her head done up in a gypsy-style scarf. Her maid carried the wig on the wickerwork head. The wig form had been added to the bill and at a very profitable markup.

When Dana was out from under the dryer, and Kim was brushing the perm into its final shape, Kim told the girl. “I’m sold. I’ll order another chair. You arrange for the makeup, and the shop will split the profits fifty-fifty.”

Dana nodded. “I might need to do some work washing hair and such as a helper until we get the volume up.”

Kim pursed her lips and then nodded in agreement. “We can do that.”

****

Five days later, Lady Anne was back in the salon chair.

“Mistress Beasley,” she said once the wash was over, and she was sitting up to have her hair set, “my aunt and I have been to the doctor at the hospital. We are both now undergoing treatments for lead poisoning. I wish to thank you and your staff for bringing it to our attention.”

“We’re going to have to stay on in Grantville for a couple of months. The Cure—” the word was clearly capitalized—”Doctor Adams prescribed has something to do with calcium, and the treatments will take that long to flush the lead out our bodies. The Doctor is saying that I need to drink a lot of water—without beer or wine—to avoid dehydration so I don’t die of thirst while the ‘chelation’ does whatever it is that it does. And that means staying here where the water is treated and safe to drink. Here we can be taken to the hospital if something goes wrong. So it looks like we are going to be guests at the Holiday Lodge for a couple more months while we complete the treatment.”

Kim smiled at the humor of the idea. “Well, now, none of us ever thought of Grantville as a spa town where people go for ‘the Cure’ or to take ‘the waters’ like White Sulphur Springs up-time. But I guess now that’s what we are. We do have safe drinking water, and it even tastes good.”

“White Sulphur Springs?” Lady Anne asked. “I never heard of it. Is that a mineral bath? The Lodge has marvelous artificial hot springs in tubs. We have one in our private courtyard. My aunt and I are quite fond of it. Frances’ son John, I think would sleep in it if we let him. I’m looking into having one shipped home for when I return.”

“So thanks to you we both now know that there is lead in our blood, and we will be staying long enough to get the lead out.” Even if Dana had been there, Anne wouldn’t have addressed her personally. After all, she was someone else’s—employee – which meant you did not thank them personally. You thanked their employer.

With a slight frown, Anne said, “I don’t know for sure what we will do with John. He is not of a bookish sort, and his tutor is about to despair over his lack of interest. But then a teenage boy can usually find some mischief to get into. My aunt and I will be spending a lot of time in your wondrous libraries. I’ll be buying books to take home, certainly some of those romance novels and the works of that female mystery writer—Agatha Christie? I bought one of her books after I started reading it while my hair was drying. The English is a bit hard to follow, but I still can’t put it down! But I am afraid that there are just so many references that I am missing.”

“Well,” Kim said, “we’ve got the Wednesday morning book club wrapping up. I’m sure they will be willing to read and discuss a mystery next instead of another romance if I ask them to.”

“Oh, please, that would be so much help if you could. We will be here for the next two months, after all. And I was thinking, with us being here for the next two months, if you will have her, I’m willing to pay the apprenticeship fee for my . . .” She hesitated. “. . . my girl—Kate—if you will take her on as an apprentice whilst I’m here? If my aunt’s maid can’t manage to look after both of us, the Lodge has staff that can fill in.”

Kim looked thoughtful for a flicker of time and then replied, “How’s Kate about reading and writing? Some of what I have to teach, coloring and the like, requires some literacy.”

“She has her letters and can read the Bible very well. She might have some trouble getting used to your strange way of printing, but I’m sure she can manage.”

“Send her to see me and we will see if she can handle it,” Kim replied.

****

The day the chair arrived Ken was in the shop waiting for it. He looked at the new chair with its modified car jack for elevation and horsehair-stuffed leather upholstery, dyed blue to (sort of) match the one up-time chair. He looked at the vinyl chair and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want me to just swap out this one for the old one? It’s looking shabby.”

“No. I need all four of them. I’m losing business with three chairs. Besides, I have people asking to reserve the old one. Just install it on the end by the cash register where we planned.”

DBM-cshThe fourth copper-lined sink was already in place as part of the altered back bar. The antique brass cash register was still where it always had been, at the stub end of the bar where it turned the corner, at a right angle to the wall. The main difference was the shotgun under the cash register was gone along with the rest of the bar and barstools.

Half an hour later Kim, with her hands on her hips, complained when the noise of drilling into the concrete floor let up, “If I’d dreamed it was going to be this involved and noisy I’d have had you do this after hours.”

“Just one more hole to drill,” Ken said. “Then I can lead in the bolts. We’re almost done. But if I were you I’d go ahead and order another chair. The vinyl one really does look shabby.”

“I’ll think about. Like I said, there are some people who ask for the old chair, so I don’t think I’m in a hurry.”

****

The next day Dana got to work selling cosmetics. Things went well from the start and continued to go well as the weeks passed.

“Now turn your head right,” she said before spinning the chair around so the client could see herself in the old bar mirror. The first time she did any down-timer’s face, she did the right side in the pale vampire, the-sun-will-kill-me look that was currently popular with the high-end down-timers, and then she did the other side in what she thought of as the up-time healthy natural style. “What do you think?”

“Lass, that is marvelous. It’s perfect.”

Dana nodded and said, “Now turn your head left.”

“Oh dear, I can’t go out looking like a French harlequin with a checkered face.”

“Which side do you want cleaned off and redone?” Dana asked.

“Well, this is Grantville. Let’s go with the local standard while we’re here. I’ll need to buy a set of makeup for that too I guess. Or can I stop back in?”

“We will be happy to see you of course. But the free makeover goes with a hairdo. So if all you’re getting is a makeup, I’ll have to charge for it.”

Kim, at the other end of the line of four chairs, overheard Dana’s interaction with the customer and smiled. The girl was right. A makeup station was making the salon a lot of money.

****

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About Terry Howard

I have in my life been paid for working as, in or at: lawn care, onion topping, haying, fruit picking, general farm labor, fast food, retail, truck driver, construction, gear stacker, stock puller, truck loader, ice house production, auto body/paint shop, janitorial, tutoring, printer’s assistant, stage actor, plastic extrusion, sculptor, teacher, bus driver, direct sales, title examiner, interior decorating, route delivery, waiter, deck hand, marine engineer, reftan/dairy hand, aluminum extrusion and stamping, kosher chef, ren-fair manager, general contractor, landlord, several other things that I do not care to mention and, now, for writing.

I was born in Michigan City Indiana, where my father worked as a machinist while pastoring a General Baptist Church, which makes me a Hoosier, but in my family a Hoosier is an Ozarky who didn’t make it to Detroit. It has been said, and I attest to the truth, that the Celts are alive and living in the Ozarks under assumed names.

I have lived in nine states and abroad. After dropping out of high school to go to college I have studied formally in two colleges, one university, and one graduate school. I have learned much more from studying informally in other settings. My wife, Lauri, and I currently live in California.

2 thoughts on “Death by Makeup

  1. wiley coyote

    Hair Club 250
    Missouri Hwy 5, on the Douglas Country Line in the 1950’s and 60’s Club 5-between Ava and Mansfield
    Springfield in the 1940’s-60’s “Half-A-Hill Club”
    Amazing what these old Road Houses could spawn!!!
    I’da Never Thought!, Beauty Shop & Health Spa???

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