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“#bestbargainever” by Holly Helscher


Holly Helscher



Grand Opening. Flea market prices. Upscale setting. Get your designer on. Or low-name brands. 528 Hitte, Cinti. Prizes. Food. #DDSrUs

Nancy’s insomnia woke her every three hours, and her primary sleep-inducer was to read Tweet drivel sent to her by her followers. Then she would create hashtags for them. She didn’t care if Cinda’s baby, whom she didn’t know, puked all day. #vomit. She didn’t care about another first date of someone named Zoey. #giveitup. Most tweets were like that. And they all adhered to some mythical metric of percentages about self-promotion versus self-disclosure. The formula claimed to improve sales of whatever blog or product the Tweeter publicized. #unicornsarerealtoo.

Nancy also followed Discount Department Store across the street from her apartment building. Six months ago they closed due to a change in ownership. #theyhavetobebetter. Nancy hadn’t been surprised at the sale since the original store was rat-dirty and roaches rode purchases home like people rode cars.

Her smart phone chirped an alarm. She snatched it off the bedside. At six o’clock in the morning it was going to be a long day. The July sun through the window lit up the dust particles jumping off the mini blind as she raised it. She thought about wiping it down, but housekeeping wasn’t her thing. A day off work was a day off work and cleaning was work. She did plenty of it at the restaurant where she and her best friend, Teresa, worked. Satisfied she had enough lazy scheduled into the day, she showered and dressed. #cleanfor24.

To: Teresa

From: Nancy

Re: Breakfast

Hey! Come over for breakfast. #notinbed. XXOO

To: Nancy

From Teresa

Re: Breakfast

No can do. Working a double. Saw your grand opening re-tweet. Keep me posted. Take pics. BFF

Fun would be lower key without Teresa, but virtual sharing was better than nothing at all. She’d virtually share the DDS event with all her followers, too. Time to see what pre-festivities DDS invented. She shoved the phone into her then she dashed out to her balcony and scooched into her neon pink camp chair. She set her phone on the petite table beside her. Propping her feet up onto the white balcony rail, she watched opening activities across the way.


Starts nine a.m. Games. Prizes. Sing Karaoke in the Street & win Discount Department Store Sweep. Opening until one. 528 Hitte, Cinti. #DDSrUs

She re-tweeted it. A few Instagram snapshots later people scuttled out the glittering double doors of DDS. Some carried shiny, Crayola-crayon-colored helium balloons. Others heaved tables through them and set them up on the sidewalk. A few mom-like employees, and maybe they were moms, flurried tartan plaid tablecloths in the air before flinging them on the tables in one swoosh. #impressive. In ten or fifteen minutes instead of three hours, the street had altered itself into a carnival of booth invitations. Each would draw its own niche of people to the Grand Opening of DDS. #comeonecomeall.

Just as Nancy thought every employee in the place must be outside, one final person strutted out. His five-foot sign said, “Me? Not for Sale. But Everything Else Is. DDS.com.” So DDS had hired a human arrow. Except this contemporary carnival barker seemed familiar. Nancy dropped her feet off the balcony rail and popped out of her chair. She leaned over the rail and squinted her eyes, as if doing so would improve her sight. #howsillyisthat.

The sign waver wore the DDS logo colors of lime green and turquoise. He sported a purple beret and even though the colors shouldn’t have blended, they did. #artistsnightmare. A mop of curly black hair peeked out beneath the beret and the man paraded down to the corner, twirling his sign the whole way. He could even throw it into the air and catch it as if its width were nothing more than a slim baton. As much as a magician as this guy was, his swag drew more of her attention. Where had she seen it? Then she fell back into her chair.

It was her ex. He was The Ex. The Ex of a Lifetime. They had broken up two years earlier after he stepped on a pair of fallen car keys. Was it her fault she’d spent an eternity in hell’s traffic on wretched I-75 due to orange barrel season? Was it her fault that when she burst through the door she had to get to the bathroom? Was it her fault the keys had skidded across the library table and buried themselves into the shag carpet? Okay, so she’d forgotten about them and never scooped them up. But if Wade hadn’t been so obsessed about removing his shoes at the door he wouldn’t have pierced his foot on them. She’d apologized, but her housekeeping skills, or lack of them, became a drone’s focus in a volcanic fight. He slammed out the door and never came back. But her feelings for him stayed behind. #nomovingon. She couldn’t get her thumbs jumping across the phone keys fast enough.

To: Teresa

From: Nancy

Re: It’s Him

You won’t believe it. Wade’s back. He’s the sign guy for DDS. What should I do? XO 😦

To: Nancy

From: Teresa

Re: It’s Him

Wade? A sign guy? #eyecheckneeded XXOO

To: Teresa

From: Nancy

Re: It’s Him

#myeyesare2020 You know how he walks. Hunky swagger. I’m going down. If it’s him, I’m telling him off. XXXOOO

To: Nancy

From: Teresa

Re: It’s Him

You’re crazy. Let me know.

Nancy flew off the balcony. Dashing into the bathroom, she applied I’m Not Your Ruby Slippers lipstick and inched a comb through her own copper curls. She gritted her teeth and rubbed a spot of the lipstick off them then stood back for a final assessment. #goodisgoodenough.

PF Flyers wouldn’t have helped her race down the three flights of stairs any faster than she did. She got to the bottom and flung open the main door to the building. She stopped short at the bray of a paunchy gentleman singing Karaoke on the portable bandstand. The reverb of the speakers added static to his barnyard voice. She labeled #hesadonkey to an Instagram and sent it to her network. They might as well see the whole show. Maybe she’d include her investigation on Wade or his clone.

She didn’t flow through the crowd as much as she staggered. A full-on drunk couldn’t force a misstep more than the pushing and shoving of step-sale wives. Many had strollers doubling as weaponry. She crept to the block cattycornered to the one where the Wade-look-alike held court. Had there been enough room, a stadium-sized crowd would have surrounded him. All he needed was a top hat and people would have thrown money. #givetheguyadollar

Even with the human obstacles blocking a clear view, Nancy knew it was Wade. Her memories of him devoured and consumed her. The living being pitching the sign through the air matched those memories with precision. She couldn’t tell if her heart pounded in her ears or in her feet or everywhere in between. She inhaled the oxygen around her for courage.

Nancy Lagget@NancyLagget

DDS Sign Guy might be my ex. Will approach. #causeascene

She hit the Tweet icon and crossed the street. About two yards from Wade’s sideshow a mommy with a double stroller missile ran over her foot. Nancy collapsed, yelping. In the process, she knocked heads with one of the princess toddlers. The princess screamed with the force of a nuclear warhead while mommy morphed into Momzilla, launching her own rage onto Nancy. Flashbulbs weren’t erupting in her direction, but Nancy knew phones everywhere clicked or videoed the incident. It would go viral. #imsoscrewed.

Nancy squeezed her eyes preventing escapee tears. The crowd split but she was oblivious. Momzilla trekked onward. Nancy still crouched, massaging her foot. Would it turn black and blue? Probably. Instagram worthy? #uglygross.

She stood, head down, avoiding further videos and pictures. Her face had to be one of splotchy red humiliation. Her knees cracked as she straightened.

“Hurt your foot, did you?”

She glanced at her phone, then realized that was wrong. It was real voice. And it belonged to Wade Faringer. She snapped to attention.

“Hi.” Her two-year long vision of creating a tsunami-scene was at least that far out of reach. She’d practiced it a billion times. She was ready. He was here. There were witnesses. #putonbiggirlpants.

“Has your injury gone to your voice?” He was still speaking.

She swallowed and shook her head. Why wasn’t she yelling at him? He deserved it! But somehow he’d twirled away her anger like he did his sign.

“Can I help you to a bench?” He jutted his chin to one bolted into the sidewalk. He took her arm and draped it around his shoulder. His arm arm curved around her waist while the other held the giant DDS sign. After lowering her to the bench, he sat beside her and the sign leaned up against the bench like a flimsy surfboard.

“It seems fair,” he said.

“What seems fair?” she mumbled.

He touched his thumb to her chin and lifted her face toward him. “I leave over a foot injury and I’m back because of one. Did you come for the grand opening?”

Nancy heard his voice break mid-question. Uncertainty? She pointed up to her apartment. “Sort of. I live across from DDS. Third floor. I saw you from my balcony and ran down to see if it was really you.”

“It’s really me.” He whipped his beret off his head and held it to his heart. “I’m sorry.”

“For what? You didn’t run over my foot.” She knew he wasn’t talking about her foot. But damn, she wanted him to admit he’d been a jerk. She wasn’t going to fall into his arms just because he happened to be here doing magic with signs. The crowd had forgotten about him, and her, and closed in on some sprout-thin lady singing an old Helen Reddy song, I Am Woman. Sprout had a good set of pipes. #hugemissedtalent. #singKaraokewell.

“For not coming back. But the longer I was gone, harder it was to call you. I’d like to explain, if you’ll let me. But not here.”

She didn’t respond. She didn’t know how to.

“I follow you.” He changed the topic like it was no more than changing a shirt.

“You follow me? Like on Twitter?”

“No, like on foot. Of course on Twitter. I love your hashtag spoofs.”

Had she ever spoofed something he’d tweeted? Crap. She would have. No one was exempt.

“I don’t think so. I would have recognized your name.”

“Doubtful. It’s silent barker@silentbarker. And yes, you zinged me once or twice. Most memorable was #evencourtjestershavetoeat. Speaking of which, I have to get back to my flying sign act. How about dinner?”

She gulped an ocean of saliva. #waterhose. “Sure. Mac and cheese? It’s all I’ve got.”

His grin seemed to pull him straighter. Could they be a real live throwback instead of an Instagram one? She returned the grin and mentally crossed her fingers.

To: Teresa

From: Nancy

Re: It’s Him

It was Wade. No scene. #yellowspine. XXOO

To: Nancy

From: Teresa

Re: It’s Him

I never thought you could do it. BBF anyway. Move on, now. K? XOXOXO

To: Teresa

From: Nancy

Re: It’s Him

I will. Sort of. Cooking mac and cheese for him. Tonight. #meltedspine. BFF, too. XXXOOO 🙂

Once Nancy limped home, she resumed her third-floor balcony seat and let the DDS carnival entertain her the rest of the day. Once in a while Wade would take center-street and perform just for her. Or so she thought. Sprout won the Sing Karaoke in the Street contest and got a $5000 shopping spree at DDS. #prizesworthwinning.

Nancy Lagget@NancyLagget

Sign guy was my ex. No crime scene. He’s coming over for dinner tonight. #bestbargaintoday.

© 2015 Holly Helscher


One Response

  1. LOVE this story! Particularly love your Twitter references…what was once a “WTH?” turns into a fabulous story with a very modern cultural reference. Nice job!

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