"If you ask me, Estelle Delmonico has better things to do than break her back in that dustheap again," said Fiona Athey, chief stylist and owner of the salon that bore her name.
Fifty pounds and another lifetime ago, Fiona had been on her way to great glories, reenacting the entire opus of Irish fairy tales before delighted audiences in the theatrical capital of Ireland, Galway City. But an illicit romance with Gerhard, a German puppeteer, had rendered her bed bound with a pregnancy that would produce the bane of her existence, her seventeen-year-old daughter, Emer. After having her child, Fiona suffered a double blow of indignity when she discovered Gerhard under the theater rafters, in a compromising position with her very own understudy. The upstart bottled blonde a primary reason why Fiona stuck to cutting hair and left coloring to her sister Joan had taken advantage of Fiona's incapacitation to move in on her man and her starring role. Heartbroken, and vowing never to tread the boards again, Fiona had returned to her hometown with baby Emer in tow, taking over her sickly father's barbershop and eventually turning it into a nifty little business. Athey's Shear Delight was popular with the town's children and women folk, but most men steered clear of its peroxide-filled rooms mainly to spare themselves the embarrassment of donning one of Fiona's flowery smocks. Pass Athey's Shear Delight on any given afternoon, and you will find it a hotbed of estrogen, where gossip mingles with the acetate fumes of nail polish and hair spray.
Fiona, who had endured tittering giggles and reproachful shakes of heads when she first arrived back in town, usually refrained from voicing her opinions. She detested the constant gnawing condemnations that went inside her small, pink salon but understood the necessity of such gossip for the health of her business. Because of her neutrality, when the odd moment arose that Fiona Athey actually did make her thoughts known, anyone within earshot would pause and pay her particular deference.
"I'd say Estelle's done the smart thing and rented the place out," Fiona reasoned. "That might be our new neighbor, so. Let's hope it's not another salon, that's all."
"Sure, I was walkin' past the other day and saw the lights on through the small bit of window there. Something was cooking. I can't put my finger on it, but it wasn't anything like the Eye-talian food in that spaghetti place in Westport. It was something different all together," Evie keenly offered.
"Humph! Well, I don't care who they are or what they do, so long as that there hussy doesn't go distracting my boys from their Leaving Cert. They'll be going to seminary school whether they like it or not," Joan retorted, pursing her lips and releasing the vertical blinds with a snap.
Fiona and Evie both nodded, well-acquainted as they were with the drama of Joan Donnelly's identical twin boys, Peter and Michael. Convinced that her precious boys were intended for a higher power, Joan had been pushing nightly catechisms into their mushy brains since an early age. Her ecclesiastical ambitions, however, had done little to curb the twins' appetite for weekend carjackings, brothels, and drunken cow-tipping parties. The boys were a constant source of worry for poor, neurotic Joan, and the real reason behind her falling scalp tissue. Lucky for Joan, she was not watching when her devilish sons nearly knocked Layla off her feet in front of Fadden's Mini-Mart.
"How's it going?" Peter winked at Layla as his brother let out a low whistle.
Layla, having just sidestepped Benny Corcoran's admiration, was not prepared for the wily twins' attentions. With an enchanting combination of teenage timidity and self-assurance, she nodded briefly in their direction before ducking into the mini-mart.
Excerpted from Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran. Copyright © 2005 by Marsha Mehran. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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