Lady Macbeth at the Nail Salon

by | Sarah Day 1 - Group A

She tells you not to stare at the blood. You say that her hand is clean, a bit too clean, in fact, all papery and raw. You tell her she doesn’t have to soak her fingers, but she insists. Says she likes the way the bubbles tickle her nostrils, that the lemon scent soothes her down. You ask her why she’s so jittery, her fingers shaking like twigs. She asks if you are married. “If you were,” she says, “you’d understand.” She looks around the nail salon, the ferns spilling out of their baskets, the hum of drying fans. “You like all this?” she asks you. “Doing manicures all day?” She tilts her head toward the salon owner, squatty and cat-eyed, sprawled out in a pedicure chair. She is eating a salad like you don’t have time for. “Wouldn’t you rather do that?” she asks and you realize how happy you have been all this time not being happy. You think about your husband, his late nights working and so little to show. The lemon starts to tickle your nostrils. You take Lady Macbeth’s hand, your fingers entwined. What felt like twigs feels steely and strong. She pulls her hand from yours and hands you a nail file. She looks at you and then at the owner. “Yes,” you think, “yes.” You think how nice it would be to tell your husband he could quit his job at night and keep you company. You wonder why it’s taken till now for you to realize this, and is it possible you’ve been sleeping all this time?

10 Comments

  1. Sarah Freligh

    Francine, I love the situation, how it’s familiar enough for the reader to step right into the story, understand why Lady M’s hand is “papery and raw” and why that’s sufficient motivation for her to end up in a manicurist’s chair. I like, too, how Lady M –true to form — is the instigator here, the shit disturber and the catalyst for the point of view character — the manicurist and the reader, implicated as part of “you” — to start considering her life. I love what feels like the money shot line, “and you realize how happy you’ve been all this time not being happy,” and how that could extend to Lady M as well, hell, the whole damn Scottish play, really! And I love, too, the revelation the narrator has holding Lady M’s hand — “What felt like twigs feels steely and strong” — and how that gesture empowers her to consider another scenario for her life. It’s very much in keeping with how Lady M–er– inspired her husband, but it feels like twist on the old story, a different dimension of her, a better her.

    Great work!

  2. Koss Just Koss

    Love this. The first grabbing line and the bam bam bam. Every bit essential. And so visual, I was there waiting for my turn. Can’t believe how you cranked out this gem.

    • Sarah Freligh

      What I say every time I read Francine’s response to a prompt. She always grand slams it.

  3. Len Kuntz

    Hi Francine.

    Such a wonderful piece, with quirky conversation, and a myriad of details perfectly scattered throughout that keep it light, on the surface, though the husband’s working late adds a layer of poignancy.
    Those last lines say so much, and also this bit, my favorite–she asks and you realize how happy you have been all this time not being happy.

  4. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Francine, love how we get Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth at the Nail Salon! Made me imagine doing a chapbook with all of these various female Shakespeare characters showing up at mundane, everyday venues in each sketch.
    Love the use of the mirror image here, how the client becomes the technician (which also happens to an audience member watching a Shakespeare play!!!) and the brevity is so riveting, wonderfully rendered. Also love the almost mundane dialogue which then brings forth DEEP THOUGHTS!!! Your use of white space is absolutely astounding- perfect pitch! Ready to submit!

  5. David O'Connor

    Francine, you are a master. What a clean (and fun and biting) example of the second person, and how it can shift and evoke. I wondered what would happen if that line wasn’t a question, either way, it rocks. I love how the reveal is spooned in the perfect doses. Inspiring writing!

  6. Andrea Marcusa

    Hi Francine, I don’t know what more I can add after reading all these glowing comments. You made this familiar situation original and you turned the story on itself by having the Lady M interrogate the manicurist. Really smart approach and, as usual wonderfully rendered and developed. Great work! Andrea

  7. Jayne Martin

    Damn! This is just genius stuff, Francine. I don’t know how you do it, but I want to do a Vulcan mind meld with you to find out. Bravo!

  8. Anita Brienza

    Francine, as usual, you have me at the title. And then the visceral, tactile, emotional ride that follows. I often get frustrated by a string of rejections, but then I read something like this and see that I have far to go – and I think “of course. THIS.” I so enjoyed reading this.

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