A large group of Puritans stands silent and stock-still, all eyes fixed on me. Men, women, and children, all garbed in somber black with white lacy collars. They just stare. I don’t know why. Their holy book is a catalogue of hand-crocheted sweater patterns. On the front is a photo of a blonde fashion model wearing a lacy, openwork yellow sweater.*
“Hello,” I offer.
They don’t reply. Almost like they’re awe-struck. Ah, well. Perhaps it’s best not to strike up a conversation with an obviously disturbed group of people. They might try to convert me. And I wouldn’t want to disappoint the pious. Besides, they smell like bleach. They probably bathe in the stuff. So I turn and start walking. It’s foggy. And chilly. And now I don’t remember why I stepped outside on such a gloomy day. I should be in bed, resting. Maybe I just needed some fresh air and exercise- get the circulation going. I’ve been sick for weeks and . .
Sick. I’m sick, I know. So sick Puritans will have nothing to do with me. They won’t even speak to me. Who can blame them- I’m a heathen. So sinful that a bleach blonde model wearing a skimpy sweater is more virtuous than I am. I need to crawl back into bed and just sleep off this sickness. But the fog is thick and I’ve lost my way. I look back over my shoulder. The Puritans are gone. Maybe if I double back I’ll find them again, and I can ask directions . .
To Canada? I must be in New England. There are no Puritans in Canada. How did I wander so far away? My family must be worried sick. And how thoughtless of me to spread my sickness. When I get back I’ll make it up to them. I’ll take them to church- the Puritan’s church. The bleach exorcism will burn like hell, but I’ll endure. Hedonistic heathens have a way of surviving when pious Puritans are wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth. I’ll prove my virtuousness. I know I’m at least as respectable as that bleach-blonde model. My family will be so proud . .
Did I double back? Ah, crap. I don’t remember. I’m really lost now. And it’s getting colder. And all I have on is this skimpy crocheted hair sweater. Good thing it’s so foggy I can’t see how short it is. That would really be embarrassing. My family will feel sorry for me when they realize the fix I’m in. I’ve suffered so much. Wearing a nothing but a garish yellow mini cilice so far away from home. Cold. Sick. Stinking bleached hair sweater scratching my fevered skin. But at least yellow’s my color. It matches my blonde hair . .
But I’m a redhead. Er- was a redhead. I remember now. I answered one of those ads in the back of Maclean’s magazine. The ones that read, “WANTED: Fashion Model. Must be open-minded. Hint, hint. Wink, wink.” I thought that described me to a T, so I sent in my photo. They said they’d take me on the condition that I go blonde, to match the Puritan sweater I’d be modeling. So I did. And that’s how I ended up in New York City, fashion capital of the world, with my once-long hair now buzzed. After the photoshoot, the bleach fumes were overwhelming, so I cut all my hair off. But I think I look good in a brunette wig. It highlights my modeling versatility. And now the fog is clearing. And I see my sweater barely covers my assets. So I fit right in the NYC fashion scene. Me- a Maclean’s cover girl! My family will be so proud . .
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*Paragraph written by Diane Henders.