Shorts Story

by Lisa Stathoplos

“Size fourteen!”
My best friend seems to be trying to communicate something to me in a language I don’t understand. All I can see is the pink paisley hanging on a rack at the checkout; I am already head over heels for this item. I don’t even register that they are shorts.
“Fourteen, Lise. They’re size fourteens.”
My best friend at my side is crooning something. Mesmerized by the swirling paisley, all I can hear in my head is Grace Slick’s straight line voice: “One pill makes you larger, one pill makes you small…” But, I can’t for the life of me figure out what Suze is saying. Weird, ‘cuz she’s usually pretty articulate.
“They’re too big, buddy!”
Oh, is that what she means? Well, let’s just have a look at this inside tag here….. Aha! MEDIUM! They could be on the larger end of “medium” but, no matter, I like my pants roomy and I can wear a belt. These are GREAT!
“Lise, Lise, FOURTEEN! They are fourteens!”
Again with the badgering.
Buddy, look here. See?
I pluck and unveil the inside tag, flip it to face her.
I knew it! MEDIUM. And, look, only $7.99!!! Wow.
“They’ll never fit you, buddy.”
Nah, don’t worry — I’ll just cinch ‘em up.

Case closed. I stuff them onto the cashier’s counter along with my pay slip for the knockoff IKEA loveseat we’re purchasing. It’s gonna be perfect for my son’s tiny house; Suze is staying there for a bit.
The humorless cashier — “Jordana”, her name tag proudly boasts — barely acknowledges our presence and, I gotta say, on this particular day, that’s seriously hard. Two aging women, one a flaming strawberry blonde with an effervescent personality, the other noticeably gray but punchy in a cranky yet kind sort of way, and both casually fashionable in our summer togs. We’re doing our best Lucy and Ethel but this young gal is having none of it; she’s savin’ up her smiles for another day.
After my “medium” line, Suze grows quiet. At least now she understands. I want these shorts, they’re gonna look great on me — she’ll see.

We settle up, hailing back to Jordana to “have a great day!” on our way out the automated double doors where we enter the blinding afternoon light of a hot late summer day in Maine. We’ve got to pull up to a back loading dock to pick up the couch.

It’s been a pretty good day aside from the Covid diagnosis. My best friend and I together again through forty years of being together in person and far apart and romping around the midcoast avoiding Michael and certain contagion. We’ve left him sick and hacking at home. Poor Michael. Poor me. I know I’m next.

Walking to my truck together, I hold out the prized paisley shorts to admire. They do look a little bigger than they seemed while sitting, apparently abandoned, on that rack by the door in Marden’s. Suze is chuckling.
I glare at her disingenuously. I love her too much to be annoyed and, plus, I sense the makings of an epically repeatable story.
They’re gonna fit; I’m gonna make them fit.”
I am starting to wonder. Suddenly, I see the tags pasted all along the outside of the shorts — both front and back. I never saw them in the store. Big black block number “14” all over them — like about twenty 14s running up and down each leg. I guess I only had eyes for the pink paisley; love is blind.
Wait a minute, they said “medium” on the inner tag!
“That’s what I was trying to tell you, Buddy, and you couldn’t hear me!”
Yeah, but, look here. I flip the inside tag again. SEE? Medi….. oh, man.
What I thought was an “M” for medium was actually the number “fourteen.” It might be a handy time for me to reveal that I am a few sizes below fourteen.
Friggin A. Well, I’m still gonna make ‘em work.
We are laughing all the way to the truck, all the way to the loading dock and all the way home to dinner — on the porch away from Michael — at our house. But not as hard as we laughed when, post dinner, I gave a little fashion show of my new purchase. Two “mes” could easily fit — maybe another half again. Slipping them on under my summer dress — maybe “floating them on” serves better — I hold them up tightly squeezing a fistful of material together until I let the clump go and they fall directly to the floor. As do we. I repeat this action several times while the three of us laugh so hard we can barely breathe. And two of us don’t even have Covid! Yet.
Well, I’ve made short work of it. The magical pink paisley will have a short stay at our house. Very shortly, someone out there is sure to enjoy them as much as I would have.