At first it wasn’t so bad. She’d show up in her pencil skirts and French manicures and support hose and I just thought it was good customer service. But soon I started noticing little extras inside the plastic bags, weird hearts drawn next to her phone number, and then one morning I caught her peeking in my front windows when I didn’t have to be at work early. When I said “What are you doing?” she blushed and tried to hand me this month’s Birthstone Bracelet. It was green—August. I’m sure I’d never told her my birthday.
The next week she was back, delivering wrinkle creams in white paper bags. She rang my doorbell even though I hadn’t ordered anything. I stood on the other side of the screen suspiciously. “I wanted to give you some samples of our new bath elixir bulbs,” she said. I cracked the door enough to grab one. “You just put them in the bath and they are so fantastic.” But her voice was shaky on the word fantastic and inside the bag was a note: Help me.
I thought about calling Avon Customer Service, but decided to follow her instead. She unlocked a normal-looking two-story home and I saw a tiny basement window turn on. I got close enough to see the floor piled up with undelivered books and empty plastic baggies. I could hear muffled screaming and then a glass tube splattered against the wall, its contents oozing to the floor.
I returned after dark and positioned myself again by the tiny window; I tapped softly on the glass and she came, wearing the latest shade of Sassy Tangerine lipstick. “Take this,” she said, passing me a pair of 14 k Metallic Sweetheart earrings on sale this month only. “Hurry, they’ll be back soon,” she said, pushing the earrings through the bars.
The next day I saw her in the neighborhood delivering Avon books out of a little red wagon in her faux leopard print pumps. She was wearing sunglasses, a dark spot on her chin that had been shabbily concealed with new Daywear Delight All Day Foundation. I found myself hating her, hating all her stupid lipstick samples and her childish gullibility.
The next week there was a new lady, a bright smiled woman wearing a fuchsia two-piece suit and last season’s Whimsical Woods body fragrance. What happened to the other one? I asked. “She didn’t work out,” the new Avon lady answered.
Nancy Stohlman is a writer, performer, musician, educator, and artist. Her books include Searching For Suzi: a flash novel, The Monster Opera, Live From Palestine, and Fast Forward: The Mix Tape, an anthology of flash fiction that was a finalist for a 2011 Colorado Book Award. She is a co-founding member of Fast Forward Press, the creator and curator of The F-Bomb Flash Fiction Reading Series, and she writes a semi-weekly blog, “Ask A Flash Fiction Editor.” She’s a writing professor in Denver and the lead singer of the lounge metal band Kinky Mink. Visit her at www.nancystohlman.com.
Lead image: “daisy 0002” (via Flickr user Stewart Black)