The Periodic Plight of Janet Stiplit

Nov 05

Janet slipped the vermouth-infused olive into her mouth and eased the toothpick out between her teeth as she surveyed the restaurant.  Yellow lamps cast a soft glow over the clusters of beautiful people huddled around tables and overstuffed couches, shimmering against bare shoulders, diamond earrings and silver cuff links.  A pianist’s melody mingled with the rise and fall of chatter.  Janet sat alone at the bar, twirling a lock of hair with her finger as a gentleman’s eyes strayed from his date to stare at her. 

She crossed her legs and didn’t bother to adjust her dress when the slit spread open to expose the curve of muscle that swept from the side of her left knee to the top of her thigh.  Janet pulled a lipstick and compact out of her black clutch and clicked the mirror open to trace crimson gloss over her lips.  From the corner of her reflection, she glimpsed the tall broad frame of a man stride toward her.    

“Mind if I join you?” he asked in a voice rich as dark chocolate.

She flipped the lid closed and eyed him.  Under his black blazer he wore a white dress shirt.  Strands of wiry black hair peaked out from the V that formed halfway down his chest where his shirt buttoned together.  His handsome face was chiselled of straight lines and sharp angles.  His dark blue eyes, set deep below a prominent brow, stared at her with an intensity that sent a rush of heat through her body.  He ran his fingers through his dark wavy hair and flashed a broad smile.  Janet lifted a corner of her mouth as a sense of familiarity tugged at her.  They had met before, she thought, perhaps on one of her European jaunts, or as Egyptian lovers in a previous life.   

Janet curved her back like a cat’s tail so her bosom spilled out of the silk folds of her draped neckline. 

“Please do,” she purred.

Without taking his eyes off her, he eased into the next seat and lifted a finger to the bartender.  “A scotch for me, and another martini for the beautiful lady,” he said with a flip of his hair that was worthy of a shampoo commercial. 

The drinks arrived and the stranger pulled a couple twenties from his wad of bills and tossed them onto the counter. 

“Keep it, pal,” he said then lifted his glass.  “Here’s to loneliness,” he toasted.

Janet raised her martini, “And possibilities.”  Their glasses clinked.

“What did you say your name was?” he asked, stroking her hand gently.  She drew toward him until she felt his hot breath against her lips.

“Janet,” she whispered, “And you are?”

“Barney!” he yowled, “Ba-a-a-arney!”

Janet shifted her eyes to the rear view mirror.  Her three-year old son banged his fists on the arm rests of his car seat, his round face scrunched into a mask of misery.

“Me want Barney!”

His twin sister slept beside him.

“All right, all right,” Janet uttered between clenched teeth, “Just keep your voice down so you don’t wake your sister.”

She pressed the eject button and pulled her music from the slot.  Where was the Barney CD, she wondered. 


“Just second, honey.  It’s coming.  It’s coming.”

There it was.  She stretched across the passenger side and plucked the purple and green disk from the floor and rubbed the silver surface against her pants.  A car honked and then another.  The advance signal flashed while a line of vehicles groaned and sputtered behind her, waiting to be led around the corner.  She stuffed it into the drive and slammed her foot against the accelerator as the green orb turned yellow, her screeching wheels joining the cacophony of beaten steering wheels. 

Janet’s minivan swerved into the mall parking lot where she traversed the aisles for a vacant spot.  She sighted a black turban bouncing above the rooftops of SUV’s and minivans and revved down the laneway, outmanoeuvring another driver desperate for a parking space.  With her signal flicking, she waited while he stuffed his Bay bags into the trunk of the car, peeled off his jacket, threw it into the passenger seat, sat behind the steering wheel, pulled the seatbelt over his shoulder, adjusted the mirrors, and reversed out.    

“No mall,” Michael whined.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be quick,” Janet snapped as she backed her minivan into the space.

She got out and slid open the back door.  After wrestling the stroller out of the car, she pulled the handles apart and let the wheels crash to the ground. 

“Candy!” Michael blurted when he noticed a plastic wrapped confection in her purse.  He tugged at the straps of her bag while she lifted him into the stroller. 

“Here,” Janet handed him a sucker and pulled her sack from his grasp.  Her daughter woke up as Janet transferred her to the stroller seat beside Michael.

“Noooooo!” she shrieked, her body stiff as a stalk of celery.

“It’s okay, Melanie.  It’s okay, it’s okay,” Janet repeated over the screams, pulling each strap over her daughter’s shoulders and pressing her forearm over her breast bone until she was firmly buckled into her seat.  Melanie puffed out her chest in an effort to burst through the restraints while Janet waved a green lollipop before her – back and forth, back and forth.

“Mmmmmmmm, yummy.  Mmmmmmm, yummy,” Janet said over and over until her daughter’s chest caved and her hand reached out for the charm.

“Not fair!  Gween too!  Me gween!” Michael bellowed, flinging his to the ground.

Janet’s hands tightened into fists and she glared at him through slit eyes.  An elderly couple ambled by, their canes tsk… tsk… tsking against the asphalt.  She dipped her hand into her purse and pulled out another.  

“How about red?” she asked, her smile stretching like an elastic band across the top of her chin.

Michael nodded like a bobble head and thrust the globe into his wet mouth.  Janet straightened her back, stepped behind the stroller and marched across the parking lot, her face wilted.

A young woman rushed toward her, high heel boots clicking against the floor.  She had cropped blonde hair and wore a black pencil skirt, fitted white blouse, and red leather boots.

“The downtown office called.  They need to talk to you now, Ms. Stiplit,” she said hurriedly.

“What?” Janet snapped, “I’ve scheduled this time to be with my kids.”

“I’m sorry, but it’s an emergency.”

“Emergency?” Janet inquired.  She planted her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes.

“Yes, Ms. Stiplit.  It can’t be resolved without your help.  Production will have to be moved back a day, at least.”

She turned to her assistant and frowned, “No.  The proofs are due today.  Don’t you have them yet?”

“Uh, yes.  But your editor says they’re not ready.  She asked me to hold off until…”    

“Hold off?”

“There’s a problem.  She’s waiting at her phone for a conference call.  At your convenience, of course.”

Janet sighed, “Fine.  The kids are with the nannies.  They’re well taken care of.”

They marched down a hallway.  Janet stopped at a mirror, swept her hands over her tightly wound hair, and flattened the collar of her blouse.

“The issue will go to press today,” Janet said matter-of-factly.

The young woman opened a door for her.  “Yes, Ms. Stiplit,” she answered.

Janet stepped into her office and sat at her desk while the assistant pressed buttons on the phone. “Ms. Stiplit is ready,” she said tersely.

A female voice spoke through the speaker, “I’m so sorry to bother you Ms. Stiplit.  We know how much you value your uh, family …time.”

“What’s the problem,” Janet said coolly.

“It’s the profile on Angelina Barney.  We have to pull it.”

“What?” Janet spat out.

“Her agent called.  They’ll sue if we print the story.  He doesn’t want the bit about her throwing a martini at the waitress getting out.  He’s demanding to read the piece before it goes to press.”

“Nobody outside our magazine previews an article,” Janet said, punctuating each word.

“He said they’ll sue…”

“You’re wasting my time,” Janet sniffed, “It stays.  Our readers expect the truth from us.  Even if it means smearing America’s darling.”

Papers shuffled. 

There were mutterings of consent.

“Give me the proofs.”

The assistant slapped a bound stack of papers on her desk.  The cover read Janet in black block letters.  Janet thumbed through pages, scrutinizing each one before turning, then stopped about halfway through the book and slammed her hands onto the desk.

“What is this?” She shrilled, “I specifically said to use the brunette’s photos, not this yellow haired twit.  She looks more stoned than a cemetery.”

A deep voice rushed in, “The designer demanded that we use his own model.”

“Whose name is on the cover?”

“Yours,” he answered.

“Janet.  Publisher, editor, self-help guru, author, bra designer,” the words blew from her mouth like a wintry gust. 

A throat cleared.  A chair creaked.

 “Fix it.  No one goes home until I approve the changes.”

Janet rose and walked toward the door, bending down to adjust the strap on one of her heels as the assistant held the door.  She lifted her head, and… smack… the door slammed into her.

“Ooph,” Janet blurted as a stroller handle rammed into her stomach.  A wheel rolled over her foot and she fell over the backs of her children’s heads.  Three teenagers glanced over their shoulders and snickered, pointing at her through the glass doors. 

“Sorry Melanie.  Sorry Michael,” Janet said to the twins as they twisted their necks to stare at her.

She lifted the back wheels to loosen her foot then twirled the stroller around, leaned her rear against the door and pushed it open.

“Need some help?” a woman inquired.

It was Martha, a mom from her children’s school.  She carried a red canvas bag over her shoulder that read This is not cheap.  Yoga pants hugged her hip bones and exposed a strip of toned midriff where the waistband of her hooded sweatshirt hovered. 

“Oh, no, but thanks,” Janet said as she wiped her dripping nose with the back of her hand and sniffed.  “I have a cold,” she said with a shrug.

Martha lifted the corners of her pink frosted lips, “Four kids under seven.  Someone must always be sick in your house.  I don’t know how you do it.”

Janet chortled then cleared her throat loudly after a rogue snort escaped.  Martha looked at her watch.  “I better go, I’m late for my pilates class.  And then I have to pick up Mary-Kathryn from school and it’s off to ballet.”

“You better hurry then,” Janet said as she snuck her hand behind her back to stretch the hem of her sweatshirt over her rear hump.

“See you at school,” Martha waved and bounced out the door.

Janet sneered as she exited the mall, then felt guilty.  Martha was a nice lady, after all.  Skinny, but nice.

“Out!” Michael demanded, “Me want out!”  He kicked against the stroller and yelled, “Me want out.  Out!  Out!  Out!  Out!”

“Mommy be quick,” Janet explained in a panicky voice over his staccato shouts, “Sh-sh-shhhh.  Here’s another yum-yum.”  She pulled the last sucker from her bag and stuffed it in his mouth, rendering him as inert as a vacuum cleaner that’s sucked up a stray tube sock. 

Janet stopped at the mall directory and scanned the store names until she found Bikini World.  With only an hour before she had to pick up her older kids from school, she hurried through the maze of corridors toward the store.  Beads of sweat collected along the neckline of her sweatshirt and across her forehead as she snaked through the promenade of languorous shoppers wandering the tiled pathways.  Janet slowed her pace when she spotted the store’s sign.  Bits of brightly coloured lycra hung from racks along the center of the store and across the walls.  The rubbing sensation between her swishing thighs suddenly felt like two inflamed sores, festering with every step.   

The salesgirl lifted her head to survey her only customer.  A pink bubble formed out of an opening between her lips and grew to the size of a golf ball before it popped… Thwack.  She sucked the splatter of gum into her mouth and after a slow blink of her eyes, she returned her attention to the magazine she’d been reading.  Parking the twins beside the change rooms, Janet perused the beachwear dainties and picked out two bikinis from the clearance rack.  She pulled back her shoulders and flexed her stomach muscles.  It had been three months since they had booked the trip and she’d started the morning workouts. Janet counted in her head how many sit-ups she’d done.  Fifty sit-ups every day, or, most days for… hmmm… twelve weeks.  So, that’s five times twelve… Sixty times fifty.  Three thousand sit-ups!  She wishfully rubbed her belly like it was a genie lamp.

 “Be good,” she cautioned the kids in a menacing tone before shutting herself in the change room.

Janet stripped her clothes and slipped on a bikini with white and blue flowers.

“Beautiful… Fantastic!” the photographer cried.

Janet dropped her knees onto the sand and draped her arms over her head as she gazed into the distance. 

“Oh, that’s good,” he crooned, the camera shuttering.  Shicka-shicka-shicka

She dropped her hands to the sand and crawled toward the camera in a come hither expression of half-closed eyes and parted lips, wisps of golden hair blowing across her face.  A small audience formed a circle around her shoot, but she ignored them – just another day on the job – men huddling around her like boys over a marble set, stretching their necks to catch every curve, dip, and line while girlfriends and wives stood idly by and rolled their eyes between sidelong glances at her sand-glittered body.

“Oh yeah,” the camera man encouraged her, “That’s sexy, baby.  Yeah baby, yeah baby.”

“Your babies, ma’am, your babies are pulling each other’s hair, ma’am.  Ma-am!” The sales lady knocked on the door.

“Damn it,” Janet opened the door and bent over her twins to untangle their sticky hands from one another’s locks.

“Not nice,” she scolded them, “You be good for just two more minutes and Mommy give you both a special treat, okay?”

“Treat no-o-ow,” Michael whined, “No-o-ow, Mommy.”  Melanie joined in, “No-o-ow.  No-o-o-w,” they crowed in unison.

“No,” Janet rasped, “Soon.”

A twenty-something couple with matching blonde highlights and waif-like figures glided into the store.  The man looked at Janet and lifted his nostrils as though he’d walked into an overflowing bathroom stall.  Janet positioned her forearm over her chest to cover her deflated breasts that barely filled their cups.  Her tummy draped like a balloon curtain over the bottoms. 

“One more minute then Mommy be done.  Be good, please?” she pleaded with them, passing her son the car keys which he jangled like a high school janitor. 

“Do you have this in the next size up?” Janet asked the sales associate as she stuffed her hand into her baby bag and pulled out a tin of Penaten rash ointment and a tampon.  Melanie screeched.  Janet quickly dropped the two items into her daughter’s lap and retreated into the fitting room.

“Sure, that would be a size fourteen?”

“No, this is a size ten.”

“Oh,” she puckered her lips and poked her cheek with a finger, “We have some great one-pieces, too.”

Janet groaned, “Fine.  Bring me a few of those.”

Just before she shut the change room door, Janet caught a glimpse of Melanie, the more musically inclined of the twins, tapping the tampon against the tin like it was a drum. 

She tossed the bag into the basket below the stroller and left the store.  The black and pink swimsuit with re-enforced cups and front and rear super-suction (patented) technology did look the best, she thought.

“Mommy have some smarties?” Janet asked her twins who were devouring their latest diversion.

Without waiting for an answer, she swiped the box sitting in her daughter’s lap and dumped some candies into her hand. 

“Mine!” Melanie cried.

“Be nice,” Janet returned the box, “Mommy needs a treat too.”

“Okay, Mommy,” she said in a soothing tone, as though some far reaching part of her female DNA had preconditioned her to sympathize with the embattled swimsuit shopper.

Michael gobbled his smarties, the box tucked snugly in the crease between his chest and forearm.  He soon fell asleep however, and the box dropped to his lap beside his flaccid hand.  Janet relaxed her shoulders and slowed to a leisurely stroll. 

She paused to gaze at the window display for a home décor store.  A black leather chair with a turquoise pillow embroidered with the word LIVE was beside a glass top coffee table.  Upon it was a shallow wooden bowl filled with lacquered green apples.  Under the bowl was a book called Being Green.  She envisioned the chair in her living room where perhaps she would sit, sipping a coffee while reading the book.  Then she remembered her blue and red plaid couch with the ever present dusting of crumbs and the lopsided coffee table with its broken leg and streaks of black marker.  The swimsuit was about thirty dollars under her planned budget, she recalled, so she entered the store. 

The room was impeccably designed, except for a few pieces that seemed out of place.  It just wouldn’t do.

“This lamp is too tall for the chair and the shade is so ten months ago.  You know, a lamp should never be more than twice the height of the chair.  It’s the dogma of interior design,” Janet pursed her lips.

“Oh, excuse me,” a slight man dressed in a blue and red argyle sweater and dark jeans said as he adjusted his rectangular rimmed spectacles. 

Janet stared at him, “Do you know what kind of chair this is?  It’s a real Penaten.  Not a reproduction.  I have one myself.”

“A real Penaten?” he asked with awe.

Janet nodded, “It’s only worth about, oh let’s see, ten thousand dollars.  Please tell me you brought another lamp.”

“Yes, of course,” he replied, and ran from the room to return with another.

“Oh, that’s quite lovely,” Janet oozed as she pulled the tape measure from the base of the lamp to the tip of the shade.

“It was a rash purchase, but I had a feeling we’d need it,” he said giddily.

“And look how perfectly it matches the Penaten!  Bravo.”

Janet stood in the middle of the living room and scrutinized the space, corner by corner.

“Pass me the chartreuse pillows,” she pointed at a box, “In there, yes… those two.  You know, green-chic is the look today.  It’s all about being green, green, green.  Don’t you wish you could have everything?”  

“Here are the vases,” the man said, drawing three vases from a box and setting them on a console.

“Hmmm, these are very mid-century modern renaissance retro,” Janet re-arranged them.

“You have the perfect designer’s touch,” he raved.

“I know,” she agreed. 

Janet picked up a painting and held it against the wall to the right of the vases.

“Hang this oil over here.  It’s a perfect juxtaposition of genders, don’t you think?”

“Genius,” the young designer agreed.

Janet looked frantically about the room.

“Flowers!” she cried, “Where are the flowers?”

She flattened her hand against her chest and closed her eyes.

The man gasped, “I’m so sorry.  I left them in my car.”

“Go to your place of calm.  Go to your place of calm,” she whispered, “Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.”

“Go get them,” she said evenly, “Hurry!”

“Yes, Ms. Stiplit.”

He ran out the front door.  She reached for her cell phone and dialled.

“My client is expecting their tile today…  What?  Your shipment of travesty has not arrived? ….. This is serious…. Yes, a special order.”

 “Special order, ma’am?” the saleswoman asked, “This is the only colour it comes in.”

Janet looked at the porcelain vase in her hands.

“Oh, no, uh, it is lovely in white.  Exactly what I wanted.”

The clerk held out her hands, “Shall I hold it at the cash for you while you finish shopping?” she asked with a smirk, eyeing her fake Gucci purse. 

“Um, sure,” Janet handed the vase to the woman.

As the item was carried off, Janet fetched another from the shelf and turned it over.  $179.99!  She replaced it and snuck out of the store.  She could buy a month’s supply of diapers with that much money!  Which reminded her… All-mart’s house brand diapers were on sale today. 

“Just one more quick stop,” Janet said to her daughter.

She rushed toward the jumbo red and yellow letters of All-mart and shimmied the stroller between two metal poles to enter the store. 

White lights glared into her eyes as she searched the ceiling for a sign that read Baby, her hand raised like a visor over her eyes.

“And here she is!  The effervescent Janet Stiplit!”

The studio audience clapped and whistled as Janet stepped out and shook hands with the hosts.

“We’re so happy to see you,” the blonde female host gushed.

“It’s great to be here,” Janet spurted back with equal enthusiasm as she sat in a chair.

“Well, you’ve got a new movie coming out.  Everyone’s talking about your divine performance,” the male host said, his silver hairs glittering under the lights.

“Thank you,” Janet leaned toward the audience and smiled, “Yes, it was a great opportunity for me to work with the industry’s best actors.”   

“Oh come on now, you’re the best,” the man’s words slithered through his bleached teeth, “And you have a new clothing line coming out, isn’t that right?”

Janet nodded her head as she fingered the string of diamonds around her neck, “That’s right.  I’m just so blessed.  I couldn’t ask for a better life.”

“How do you do it?”  The woman turned a stunned face toward the audience, “A movie star, a business owner, a philanthropist, and a mother of four children!  This woman deserves a standing ovation!”

The crowd jumped to their feet and cheered.

“It’s not easy, but,” Janet looked at the audience and spotted her kids.  Each twin was planted on a nanny’s lap while the older two were flanked by more caregivers, “It’s all about making sacrifices.”

She then straightened her back against her chair, protruded her jaw and gazed steadily into the camera, “Ladies don’t give up your dreams,” she proclaimed with indefatigable force, “Anything is possible if you just dream it!”

“Did you ever dream this?” the woman bubbled, edging closer to her guest.

She traced her finger along the diamond necklace, crossed her legs and wistfully stared into the distance, a gentle curl forming on her lips, “Oh yes.  And I never, not for a second, thought it could ever come true.”

The End.


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One comment

  1. megan gruner /

    love the story, i am always dreaming up lives that i could have lived…
    guess it’s not too late.
    great to read your writing

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