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Gobble Gobble

I won a writing contest last week. It was a 100-word short story for the local paper. The editor, who called to tell me I’d won, inter-viewed me over the phone. Just as we were fi nishing the call, he added, “And we’ll need a picture.”“Of me?” I asked.“Yes.”“How about somone related to me?” “Nope.”“Or a middle-aged actress who resembles me?”The editor was probably wishing he had selected a sane person.“Fine,” I said.Frantically, I began searching through my phone and computer for one decent picture. I e-mailed my daughter, asking her to send a good photo of me.And she did.But who was this less attractive, older version of myself? Oh, the horror!Finally, I found a picture that was fl attering. It was far away and blurry, and the person next to me pertly obscured my face.Jackpot!The editor was not impressed. “We need a clear, solo, unfi ltered photo.”A clear picture? Since when is clear better? For a glass of water, per-haps. But for pictures, let’s not discount hazy.And a solo picture? Who has a solo picture of themselves, besides real estate agents and convicts?An unfi ltered picture of myself? Filters were invented for a reason. After not fi nding a single clear, solo, unfi ltered picture of myself, I realized I would have to take a selfi e. I examined my middle-aged face. Not bad. But really my face wasn’t the problem.It was my neck.I didn’t even know necks could be a problem until one of my friends (who will remain nameless, but we’ll call her Carrie) recently told me about her neck woes. “I hate my neck,” she said. “It’s gotten so saggy, like a turkey.”That didn’t sound like fun. I felt sorry for “Carrie” until i looked at my own neck in the mirror. Maybe it wasn’t full-blown turkey, but it was turkey-esque.Now I had to take a clear, solo, unfi ltered photo that didn’t involve my neck.And then I remembered. Carrie once told me how she used tape to life her eyebrows and soften the lines in between.But tape on a neck? Wasn’t that going too far?I cut a piece of red duct tape, and while holding the tape in one hand, I pushed the left side of my neck back with the other hand. Care-fully, I tucked the loose skin under the tape on the back of my neck. This stuff was amazing. My skin was fi rm, taught, years younger. Perfect.Uh oh.I could see red on one side, which could make one ponder, Is this a vampire story?I started over, and it was going well until i ran out of tape. One side was smoother. The other, saggy. I was a before-and-after advertise-ment for duct -taped turkey necks. I found more tape and fi nally got it on my third attempt. The skin was pulled back evenly on both sides without a hint of vampire or sag. Just right.After make-up and hair, I went in search of the best possible lighting in the house and snapped six selfi es. Within minutes, I had made my selection, and one picture of a middle-aged neurotic writer, with a good neck, was en route to the editor.His response? “Thanks.”The following week, my story, a short article on me, and the picture came out. My family, friends and colleagues had many kind words.“What a great story.”“I love the ending.”“The imagery was powerful.”I thanked them politely, feeling a sense of pride. Still, it would have been nice if just one person had commented, “You know what was even smoother than your transition? Your neck.”

-January Ornellas

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