By Lissy Jones

“Sorry!” says the woman behind me. She had just stepped full force on my foot. I look back at her and smile:

“No problem.” Then I bite with all my strength into her chubby hand that is wrapped around the lamp post right in front of my face. She howls and lets go of the pole.

I look back at her again.

“Sorry!” I say, a grim smile on my face.

This is my lamp post! I have my elbow and my right leg wrapped around it and I’m not gonna let go of it. That bitch behind me just wanted to take my space. That’s why she stepped on my foot. We are all waiting for the biggest sample sale of the year to start and I know all the tricks. Whoever clings to a lamp post cannot be pushed back to the end of the line. Just step on my foot, bitch! I’m wearing steel toe boots. My hair is tucked away under a beanie cap. Last year I lost a terrific t-shirt because an enemy got hold of my braid and almost pulled it off including the scalp. But you live and learn. I know, it is crazy to put myself through this, but I had a very traumatic experience a couple of years ago. I didn’t go to the sale, stupid me, just because of a broken leg. And guess what: my friend Mary came back with a neon green sweater with sparkling little dogs on it. This sweater screamed to belong to me! But Mary wouldn’t give it to me, not even for money! That was the end of our friendship. The thought of the sweater still haunts me and it taught me what it means to miss a sale.

From my safe place at the lamp post, I watch the minor battles that are going on around me. The security has already collected scissors, kitchen knifes, pepper spray and tweezers and now we’re all left to fight with our bare hands. They didn’t take the sharpened pencil that I have in my pocket. They don’t know, but a pointy pencil is an excellent weapon. Some women have long fingernails, shaped into triangular claws like the teeth of a chain saw, but of fingernails, I’m not afraid. That’s just scratches and my eyes are protected with diving goggles.

“We will open in five minutes”, announces one of the security guys in front of the building who are protecting the bullet – proof glass doors. At the front of the line a minor war breaks out.

Other women are discussing last minute strategies with their allies. I don’t believe in allies. They will without any doubt turn against you at the sight of an incredibly marked down blouse and will start a tug of war over that blouse accompanied by swear words and the most embarrassing details of your private life like:

“What do you want with a size two? You are an eight!”

The only people who could be your allies are those who are at least four sizes away from your own size. I had briefly considered taking either my obese friend or my anorexic friend but then I decided against it. Neither one would have been of any help in the fights. They can be too easily pushed over because of their unbalanced relationship to gravity: one has too much, the other one too little.

Male company is out of the question. Males panic at the sight of female war fare. A sale fight is not the sexy cat fight they would love to see. No, this is a fight with blood and injuries, a fight that disregards all rules of the Geneva Convention. I’ve seen it happen: men being carried out on a stretcher, at the brink of insanity, screaming or mumbling: “ I really don’t want that blouse! Please, let go off me! I don’t want that blouse….”

Countdown. Opening the doors. I fling myself over the shoulder of a relatively short woman in front of me, throw myself on the ground and manage to gain a few precious yards by wriggling through a forest of legs. I reach the sales area with just some minor bruises around my neck where someone tried to strangle me.

The next three or four hours I cannot quite recall. That comes from the adrenalin rush in your body when fighting. All I remember are several bleeding or unconscious women in my immediate surrounding and I remember that my pencil got stuck in the back of a hand with a turquoise ring. I had to pull really hard to get it out. It was in the battle of the pink angora sweater, I believe. In the fight over a green blouse, a woman tried to hit my hand with a stiletto heel, but I could pull it back in the very last moment together with the blouse. My hands are my vulnerable part. Everything else is safely encased in motorcycle gear, but hands you can’t protect. You need them to hold on to stuff. But whenever I get scared about my safety, the image of Mary that bitch in my green sweater pops up and my fighting spirit is revived.

When my big black trash bag is full of clothes, what kind of clothes exactly I don’t know, my shopping fever dies down a little and I’m thinking about making my way to the cash register. Not an easy task; especially when you think you made it, an enemy might jump out of the ambush from behind a clothing rack, hit you over the head with a pair of hiking boots on sale and disappears with your bag. But I’m an experienced sales shopper.

I approach a security guy from behind and in the spur of a moment I have chained my wrist to one of the hand cuffs that are dangling from his hips.

“Hey! What are you doing?” he yells. I start pushing him towards the register, the bag of clothes safely tucked between his large behind and my chest. He tries to detach the hand cuffs from his belt, but a few stabs with my sharp pencil into his private parts convince him that this is not a good idea.

“W-w-what do you want?” he whines.

“Not much. You are coming with me to the register, I pay and then you’ll escort me to the exit. That’s all.”

“I’m not supposed to leave the sales area.”

Another stab with my sharp pencil makes him change his mind and I can easily maneuver him to the register.

Outside, there is still a full blown battle going on in the line and a lot of security guys in front of the building are meanwhile severely bruised or wearing bandages.

“They should have manners on sale, too” I remark to my captive, “Some of these people here could really use them.” I let him unlock the hand cuffs. “Thank you very much,” I say politely and I give him a dollar as a tip.

The rest is easy. I cover my face with dirt from the street and I’m dragging the trash bag behind me, pretending to be one of the homeless women in downtown LA

. Nobody pays attention to me, the dirty seemingly homeless woman. I also adapt a little limp to complete the look.

At home I empty the bag on the living room floor for a first inspection of my booty. I got wonderful stuff this year. A lot of it is either too big or too small but who cares at those prices! I also don’t care about my black eye or the front tooth that I’m missing. I scored this year. Just look at this blouse: yes, I know, the color is really awful this hideous purple with orange polka dots. But that I can fix. I can bleach the whole thing, dye it another color, and the areas with the polka dots, I can embroider with flowers. The ruffles in the front I will cut off and insert a piece of Italian silk. It will also give the rest of the material a lift, which is unfortunately 100 % polyester. And then I only need to change the buttons and this will be the most terrific piece in my wardrobe. And the best of it: marked down from $10.25 to $7.99. What a deal!

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Lissy Jones grew up in West-Berlin during the Cold War. She now lives in LA and she just finished her book “Burn, Heart, Burn! – The last decade of West Berlin,” a novel in short stories.
Her work has appeared in Wired Ruby, Circa, Clarity of Night, Humorpress (honorable mention & 4th place winner of contest), Storyatella, Microliterature, Echo Park TV and the radio show ‘Hear in the City’ on KPFK.
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