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Beauty, Not to Be Desired
Beauty, Not to Be Desired

Anna Rose Dishner was both the most beautiful and the most unlucky woman in the world. Neither of these attributes were her fault, particularly, and both made her life quite difficult. Holding a job was almost impossible.

“Seriously, Mr. Henderson,” she said to the personnel manager on her fourth day of work in the Sears women’s clothing department. “There was a three-car pile-up right in front of me, just as I was about to turn in to the parking lot! It’s not my fault!”

Henderson sighed and tapped his fingertips together. “Miss Dishner, you must admit that this is stretching credulity. You’ve been extremely late to work every morning since you’ve been here. Yesterday it was a flood on Elm Street. Tuesday a skunk made a nest in your car. Monday your blow dryer exploded and you spent an hour picking shrapnel out of your hair.”

“But it’s all true, Mr. Henderson, I promise!”

Tap, tap, his fingers drummed together in quick succession. “According to your résumé, you’ve been laid off from every job you ever took because of excessive tardy arrivals.”

“No, sir, that’s not true. I left Toys ‘R’ Us because I slipped on a spilled bucket of marbles and broke my ankle.”

“Ah, yes. The single bright spot on your record. Miss Dishner, I’m sorry, but this is the end.”

Anna Rose walked out of Sears to a chorus of cheers from her fellow saleswomen. It was not only because of her stunning good looks, she knew, but also because of the mismatched labels, lost price tags, illegibly printed receipts, expensive clothes ruined by leaking pens, and because she happened to be standing next to a fifty-pound rack when it collapsed for no reason anyone could ever ascertain and buried a petite clerk. Eventually the fire department had had to come with the Jaws of Life.

Life had always been like this for Anna Rose, ever since she turned sixteen or so. In every cafeteria of every workplace or institute of education she’d been in, the women whispered behind their hands and stabbed the air with their forks, attempting aerial voodoo. The men stared in disbelieving delight, until she tripped and spattered food all over someone, or fell through the floor, or was chased out by a swarm of hornets disturbed by a napkin thrown into the rafters. All three had happened multiple times, besides countless other unlucky cafeteria incidents.

Anna Rose had been engaged five times. Each time, the groom had died the month, week, or night before the wedding. Respectively, the causes were car, boating, and skiing accidents, a circus freak-show mugging/lynching, and “The Incident” Anna Rose didn’t like to think about, which involved a slushy, a butter knife, and Barney the Dinosaur.

That was Anna Rose: the body from seventh heaven and the life from the seventh circle of hell. This was how she explained it to others, but she little knew how close she was to the truth.

It is a lesser known fact that the spiritual world is bound by rules as strict and unyielding as those that bind the physical world. (You could call them “spirits,” as opposed to “physics,” but that would just be confusing, you think?) The two laws that pertain to the sad history of Anna Rose Dishner are: “things not in physical motion tend to remain not in physical motion,” and “every cause must have an effect. ”

In practical terms, this first law meant that the imp who listened to the mirror-complaints in Anna Rose’s fifty-block area could never see her. He was stuck in the spiritual pit and could not leave without a good reason. This caused the poor little thing many lonely sighs as he listened to Anna Rose talk to her mirror-image.

For it is also a lesser known fact that the banished citizens of Hades appreciate physical beauty as much as any mortal, and they knew that Miss Dishner was the most beautiful woman in the world. Any opportunity to visit her was fought over most strenuously, if such a term can be used for a fight which involves no physical movement at all. The puny mirror imp never had a chance.

The day she left Sears, Anna Rose stopped to get a latte on the way home, leaving her car parked by the road for five or six minutes, and returned to find it stripped of anything resembling a car. She took the bus, arriving on her block just in time to be belted in the stomach by a neighbor kid’s baseball. Once at her house, Anna Rose made a peanut butter sandwich, but somehow the jelly became liquified and dripped all over her blouse. So she did the laundry, and, as usual, lost exactly half of the socks.

This was all normal. Not the specifics, but the gist.

And this brings us back to the second law, which I see was misquoted earlier. “Every curse must have an effect.” It is a lesser known fact that spoken words are too powerful to be left floating around. Every condemnation dropped from a mouth without a name attached to guide it must be seized before it hits innocent passersby.

The angels grab and defuse most of these mislaid curses, but occasionally one slips through. Snatching these was the task of imps not very low down on the fiery place’s heirarchy. (The lower lords were too busy with more important matters, like politcal law, Hollywood producers, and such weighty questions as, “How do you get the toothpaste back inside the tube?”)

You’ve probably already figured out where this is going, you little genius you. On Monday morning, a young woman in Australia damned her blow dryer to hell, but forgot to aim. An imp grabbed the loose curse and rushed to Anna Rose’s house. The same basic series of events led to the flooding, skunk nest, and three-car pile-up, as well as almost every misfortune Anna Rose had ever suffered.

To see Anna Rose, an imp had to be quick, and he had to be lucky, both to catch a curse and to escape a fight with the other imps. The aforementioned mirror imp was neither quick nor lucky. He languished in his room of mirror-backs, ignored by his worsers and peers alike. It was a ridiculous job anyway, listening to mirrors when everything was already monitored through the lightbulbs. But it did have a single perk.

After doing the laundry, Anna Rose came to stand in front of her floor-length mirror. All of her friends had either died or, after three or four hospitalizations, found that whenever she called they needed to wash their hair, mop the ceiling, or organize their toe jam collection. She coped by talking to herself, or so she thought.

While Anna Rose moaned to her mirror about her bad luck, the little imp nodded and sighed. Of course the imp could only see through the glass darkly, and he glimpsed only suggestions of features—but that suggestion! It made him shiver. Only ten minutes, and she moved on to the next disaster, watching in horror as her television somehow managed to eat a video tape, then die of food poisoning.

The little imp sat in his room with his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands, slowly fanning himself with his scrawny wings as he listened absently to the mirror-talk. Men admired their bulging (so they said) muscles. Children admired their contorted faces. A crazy person kept screaming about seven years of bad luck. And one lonely woman quietly ripped herself to pieces.

“I hate you. You’re so ugly. You have no discipline. You don’t care anymore. I’m going to throw this mirror away. I hate all the beautiful women, too. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t look so bad in comparison. I wish . . . Damn. I wish a lot.”

The imp stared in disbelief as the unguided curse curled into spiritual existence before his eyes like a piece of dried seaweed and started drifting toward the floor. It was an anti-miracle! But he had to be quick, before the others noticed . . . .

Without thinking, he grabbed the curse and flew.

#

The next morning when Anna Rose woke up, both of the attributes which had caused her endless trouble were gone. Caught between laughing and crying, she hiccuped for half an hour. Then she left, and she never looked back.

(The End)

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