The White Shoe Irregular:
It was fun while it lasted.

Story Written with the Words of the Day for 1 September through 5 September 2000: Ascetic, Excoriate, Dilettante, Truckle, Nugatory

Melody McGrath

Dan, the seminar supervisor, gave her some ideas for Purification, like not wearing lycra, or not eating store-bought cereal. But the first steps were supposed to be, he confided, a personal expression of ascetic reassertion. "Do something that will be meaningful to you," he added, then squeezed Donna's shoulder and told her to help herself to a free Coke.

Meaningful, Donna decided, was nail polish: not just ceasing and desisting, but actually spending a full Friday evening uncapping the tiny bottles and dumping mottled pinks and reds down the bathroom sink, where they congealed on the porcelain like some horrible medical mess. This was followed by a ceremonial clipping of the nails, which unveiled the bald red heads of her fingertips — a nugatory gesture, but Donna thought pleasantly about the various simulated heart attacks it would induce among the girls at the store.

Go whole hog, that was the key. Don't be a dilettante Purificationist, they said. Which meant, in other words, not just nail polish but curling irons, mascara, medicated zit cream. Donna pulled out a Hefty bag and started dumping in the Babylon of her bedroom. She was just about done with the two-inch heels when her mother appeared in the bedroom door. "What are you doing with your shoes, Donna, baby?" she asked, frowning. "If you don't want the shoes, give them to your sister."

This was to be expected. There would always be sinners to excoriate the Pure. "Sure, Mom," Donna said, and set her Nine West pumps in the bag. Sitting in the green pile carpeting of her bedroom, she imagined herself as an angel — her face wiped clean with the last despicable Oxy pad, now glowing with the pure white evanescence of the self-sacrificing. After removing her N'Sync poster, she stared at the ceiling and concentrated, as Dan had taught them in intricate detail at the seminar, on making herself one with the universe. "Flee Babylon," Dan had said, "and let the Devil watch your behind waggling. And whatever you do, don't truckle in the face of ridicule."

"Truckle?" Donna had echoed hopefully.

"'To yield or bend obsequiously to the will of another.'"

In her notebook, in pink pen, Donna wrote "truckle." Then she drew a smiley face and added the word "Dan."