Twang: a novel by John Schlimm

By SMW Staff

She peered disapprovingly at the fading lines bordering the far edges beyond her cheeks.  They were from the nip and tuck she underwent just before the publicity tour for her autobiography (the New York Times #1 Best Seller Field of Dreams) several years ago.  There shouldn’t have been scars, she repeated to herself every time she looked in the mirror.  What was she supposed to do, perform the surgery herself to make sure it was done as flawlessly as she expected?  News of her visit to Dr. Rudy in Beverly Hills would surely have devastated her fans and blown her all natural image.  How would her admirers ever believe again her little spin about being a “pioneer in reverse,” someone who never watched television (except when she was on, of course), who never used a computer (the real reason being she had no clue how), or who personally planted, raised, and prepared all of her own food (yeah right, that’s what the field hand and cook were for)?

Although Fernando heard this command each time he fixed her hair, he simply humored her without saying a word, and obeyed.  Everybody did.  Well, almost everybody.

“Rickee,” Salome instructed her longtime makeup artist, “Let’s go heavy on the rouge and eyeliner.  My fans haven’t seen me onstage in a while.  I want to really give them a bang for their buck.  Let them know their Queen Mum has returned.”  She laughed heartily, fluttering her eyelashes.

Fernando and Rickee chimed in with a few giggles.  She clearly wasn’t joking.

Salome saw Rickee roll his eyes at the hairdresser as he said, “And here I thought Fernando and I were the only queens in this room!”

Her momentary glare into the mirror followed by another round of her signature laughter kindly let them know they were cute, but dispensable.  Everyone was.  She had learned early on in this town that in keeping with Southern hospitality, people here still stabbed one another in the back; they just did it with a smile as if they were doing a neighborly favor.  She had sharpened her own daggers and had perfected that courteous smile long ago, and they had served her well.

There were so many important decisions to make at the moment.  She still had to decide which outfit to wear.  In the mirror, she could see her several preliminary choices hanging along the wall, but she was leaning towards the puffy purple satin number trimmed in red sequins.  It was a takeback to an earlier time, she thought.  She had worn it during her very first concert with her sister, Willa Field, as The Field Sisters; however, a few recent alterations had to be made to accommodate her widening silhouette.  But no one would be the wiser.

“Can you believe I still weigh the same as I did when I was in my twenties?” she spouted to every interviewer who would listen.

Salome knew she provided good theatrics.  It always made for a highly rated show.  Yes, the purple dress it would be, she decided.  The fans would love the nostalgia of it and, oh, wouldn’t it show up great on TV.  Besides, that outfit combined with one of her signature tiaras and a wand would truly let everyone watching know that Salome Field was back, BIG TIME.

Fernando, armed with a handful of Bobbie pins, secured a tall sparkling rhinestone tiara on Salome’s head.

“And you are officially crowned, Your Majesty!” Fernando joked in a mock-British accent.

But the moment was short-lived.

Fernando and Rickee swung around with a gasp as the dressing room door directly behind the threesome suddenly exploded open.  Likewise, the flames of the scented candles surrounding them jumped and flickered wildly from the rush of air.

Ever in control and not wanting to mess-up her face and hair, Salome merely lifted her eyes to the mirror as if to watch what was happening on a big flat screen television.  As if the intrusion weren’t necessarily real.  Reality, after all, eventually became a myth to superstars.

Willa stood in the doorway for a moment, her eyes and Salome’s connecting via the mirror.  She walked forward just enough to slam the door, which bounced and didn’t completely close since the knob mechanism had been crushed from her grand entrance.

Salome was annoyed by the reflection in the mirror.  Willa was rough looking in ragged old jeans and a black leather jacket.  She hadn’t even started having her naturally red hair, currently being strangled under a blue handkerchief, and her makeup done for tonight’s show, and here Salome was in her third hour of being primped and pampered.

It’s less than an hour to show time for God’s sake, Salome thought, and Willa looks like something the cat dragged out of a raunchy trailer park.  If The Field Sisters were anything, they were always punctual, at least if Salome had anything to say about it.  Their fans expected perfection!

Fernando and Rickee stood frozen, holding their tools of the trade in midair, appearing to know that they should probably make a running exit but they surely didn’t want to miss what was going to be yet another dramatic scene. This was about to become a story all their friends would soon drool over.

Salome knew The Field Sisters’ performances backstage at concerts were legendary within the business and sometimes even better than the shows out front.  However, only a small audience was privy to these private spectacles that often left tour buses ransacked, nearby glass shattered, and even a few fiery red clumps of hair on the floor (The faces were never touched; Salome knew how their bread was buttered and besides, it was more fun to hit below the belt).  And, just as in every good story, these scenes invariably ended happily ever after with long, impassioned and tearfully resolved apologies and promises to never fight again, so what would be the harm this time?

“My God,” Salome barked into the mirror, “You look like a crazed biker chick from hell.  I thought you knew better.  No one will ever take you seriously looking like a mess.  How many times do I have to tell you that?”

Willa stood silently, staring into Salome’s back as if looking right through to her soul.

“Get back to your dressing room and get ready,” Salome ordered.  “You’re not going to mess up tonight of all nights for me, for us!”

Salome saw Willa’s mouth open in the mirror.  As if in slow motion, she saw the movement of Willa’s lips before she heard the words.  Tape delay by mirror.

“You liar,” Willa screamed.

Fernando and Rickee maintained their poses.

The look in Willa’s eyes was different, Salome suddenly realized.  Different from all the other times.  A chill shot through her, though she managed to sit still.  She immediately and instinctively knew what Willa meant, what lie she was referring to.

Damn it, was the first thought that ran through Salome’s mind.  How did Willa find out after all this time?

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