Magic Makeup

By Ray Vukcevich

Linda said, let's go as each other, and I said, how the heck do you expect us to pull that off?

"Makeup," she said. "Magic makeup. Look here."

She handed me a card with a small white bottle shrink-sealed onto it in clear plastic. The illustration on the card was a bone-white skeletal face, obviously a guy in makeup, with raccoon eyes and blackened nose and missing teeth. The words on the card were in French. I do not speak French. I recognized the words "visage" and "corpse."

And then a bunch of stuff I was sure I could not pronounce.

"Oh, go ahead and pronounce," Linda said.

She was not yet laughing at me, but I could see she was preparing herself for some deeply satisfying chuckling.

Hey, I could be a good sport.

I said, "'Maquillage liquide.' Maybe liquid mask?"

"You crack me up," she said.

"And 'pour le visage et pour le corps.' That must mean for the face and for the dead body. So, after the crime you can either disguise yourself or the victim. Your choice."

I turned the card over. On the back were instructions in both French and English, but the English made no sense.

I read, "Hi ya, Mikey!" which was odd since my name is Mike. "When you're dead, when you're dead, no one wants to look at your head."

She laughed -- a little nervously, I thought. "Just body," she said, "not dead body."

I held up the card with the little bottle pointing in her direction. "Looks kind of small."

"Maybe it's bigger on the inside," she said. "Shall we find out?" She went to work on the buttons of my shirt.

And I returned the favor, and we wrestled ourselves naked, and she said, "Come on, we'd better get in the tub. This could get messy."

Our bare feet on the cold Halloween floor and the rattling rings of the plastic shower curtain as I pulled it aside. No bugs in the tub.

Get in, get in, okay, okay. Maybe we should have used scissors on the package. Oh, just rip it open, rip it open, use your teeth. Yes, okay. The cap is stuck. No, wait, I've got it.

I poured a ridiculous amount of white liquid from the little bottle into my hand. It was chalky, but not gritty, and smelled like flowers, and there was so much of it that I could not contain it all in my cupped hand and some of it spilled over and where the drops touched our feet our skin changed color, mine a little lighter, hers a little darker. I slapped my hand down on her shoulder and smeared the stuff down over her breast toward her belly and her breast disappeared with a kind of slurping sound and she said, "Oh, give me some!"

I poured liquid mask into her hand and she worked it into my chest and her missing breast appeared there with a squeaky pop like a balloon being inflated by a clown who when her mother wasn't looking put two balloons to his own chest and squeezed them suggestively and leered at little Linda. Squeaky squeaky, little mousy missy.

How did I know that?

I grabbed her and pulled her in close and upended the bottle over our heads, and we snaked around spreading the white sauce between us. I rubbed it into her shoulders and around her neck and up into her hair and over her face, smiling, frowning, smiling, frowning, and down and down, then kneeling on the cold porcelain. Tummy, thighs, turn around. Cheeks, fundamental fingers feathering, feet -- first the one then the other.

I rose, but when I got to the top, I was not so tall as I had been. I moved back a little, and he turned and I saw that the years had not been as kind to Mike as I had fooled myself into believing. He was okay, but he'd look a lot better if he walked more often, maybe took up handball, maybe just said no to a freaking cheeseburger for once in his life.

Mike was nothing like Winston. What kind of fruity name was Winston anyway? Girlfriend, you wouldn't say that once you got a load of him in his BVDs -- Winston with the marvelous taste who made her feel wonderful, and more important would bang the drums loudly and then just go away until the next time the begonias needed trimming.

"So, that's what you call it?" he asked.

"What do you mean?" I took a step back. "And must you loom over me like that?"

"Trimming the begonias," he said.

"Oh, Mikey, Mikey," I said, "I hope that look in your eyes doesn't mean you're about to commit a crime of passion."

Like he ever would.


Copyright © 2004 Ray Vukcevich

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Ray Vukcevich's current book is Meet Me in the Moon Room, from Small Beer Press. His first novel is The Man of Maybe Half-a-Dozen Faces, from St. Martin's. His short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, SCI FICTION, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov's, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Lost Pages, Polyphony, The Infinite Matrix, Rosebud, Talebones, The Metastatic Whatnot, and several anthologies.

Recent fiction includes "Lost at Sea with Captain Alabama and Mr. Cockatoo" in Lost Pages and "The Rescue" in Rosebud #28. For more on his work, see his website. His previous publications in Strange Horizons can be found in our Archive. To contact him, send him email at