2nd Place

Gold Glitter Claws and Bleach Blonde Fur
By Allison Bates

I didn’t know what store I was in. The facades on the Veteran’s Parkway strip malls had been removed for remodeling since I’d moved here, so, rather than bother to remember the labels on my receipts, I’d begun to remember stores by names like, “that place where I almost got debris dropped on my head,” or, “the place by Toys R’ Us that smells like apples.” When I met my first monster, I was at the site of my almost-head-injury, thinking too hard about which colors of nail polish to purchase. It was as if the shade that I chose and subsequently never used deserved the same amount of thought I would put into my thesis.

“I always hate trying to choose a color! If you pick one that’s too bright, it’s hard to match any outfits, and if you go too dark, it has too much of a Hot Topic look, don’t you think? I could go with a normal shade, like pink, but that’s just not me,” I heard a voice behind me say cheerfully.

I turned to give some clever response, but instead froze. Standing behind me was a Hollywood style wolf-woman, covered in streaked gray fur with deadly jagged claws and fangs that could rip out my jugular vein. She towered a foot above me and looked much stronger, too. If she started a fight, I’d be screwed. As I examined her more closely, however, I felt less frightened. She was a wolf monster, but when I noticed her mascara drenched eyelashes and the bleached fur by her ears, I began to think that she wasn’t into stereotypical monster aggression. Her designer hoodie also hinted that I wasn’t in danger. No one, regardless of species, was going to pay that much for a sweatshirt if they were going to get gore on it.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you! Are you new here? Most places don’t have monsters, and I always forget that Springfield is, like, Monster City. Don’t worry, I won’t kill you. If they make pills for restless legs syndrome, they make pills to stop monster rage. Besides, if I were going to go nuts, I’d find a cooler place to do it than Five Below,” she explained, laughing, once I went thirty seconds in silence.

I don’t know what it meant that I stopped to make a mental note of the store’s name, but I did and then proceeded to process the situation.

“Do you ever paint your nails,” I paused, thinking that ‘claws’ may have been more appropriate, “blue? It’s unconventional, and if you found a darker shade, it would look pretty with your fur,” I suggested. After all, I was being faced by a wolf who had promised me safety with a pearly animal smile that could have only been achieved with teeth whiteners. It was all bizarre, so why not discuss makeup?

“Actually, no! I used to, but my mother hated it. She’d always go, ‘Samantha, it looks like you slaughtered a field full of eggplants! You march straight to your room and get that crap off your claws before I do it for you!’ It was cute, but not worth it,” she told me, lifting a bottle of navy polish. “I have my own apartment now, so I can do what I want. Thanks! I would have never thought of that.”

“No problem,” I replied hesitantly. Her claws, which I now saw were been painted with a golden crackle, cupped the bottle securely.

“Hey, one piece of advice deserves another, right? Why don’t you just go basic, get red! The casual thing works for you, but if you have a bold accent like that, it could spice up your look,” she told me with another grin before she grabbed two more blues and marched to the checkout, trailed by her neatly groomed tail.

I lifted a bottle of tomato red nail polish, confusion setting in. My education had not prepared me for style advice from a monster. I’d heard what to do if attacked, and what emergency numbers to dial if I saw a monster nearby, but it had never occurred to me that when I met a monster, she’d be friendly and annoyed with her mom.

After glancing at the front of the store to see the wolf-woman whip out an iPhone on her way outside, I decided to try it. My friends told me that red nails made me look slutty, but they also told me to carry a knife so that I could stab and run if I saw a monster in the mall. They’d been wrong on one count, so it was time to test them on the other.

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