ESTALEEN – Terri Kirby Erickson

Estaleen

The first time fifteen-year-old Jay saw eighteen-year-old

Estaleen Renee Porter, who haunted his dreams for the

rest of his life, she was standing in the driveway outside

his grandmother’s beauty shop, flicking ashes from a Pall

Mall smoked down to a nub, into an empty bottle of Fresca.

Hey there, she said, and he said Hey just like a parrot, he

thought to himself, looking for a cracker. So, when the

door to the beauty shop swung open and his grandmother

shouted, Jaybird, you get on in here and help Nana with

Grandmaw Porter’s permanent, Jay was both relieved

and humiliated. His grandmother was the worst hair-

dresser in town since she had no training and opened

the shop because she was bored after retiring from the

phone company, and Papaw left her what she referred to

as his nest egg when he drowned in the dog’s water bowl.

How he passed out face-down in that precise spot remains

an unsolved mystery, yet it definitely wasn’t suicide so

the life insurance people had to pay up, too. But as bad as

Nana was at cutting hair, her inability to properly mix the

ingredients for dye jobs and perms had already rendered

at least a dozen customers as bald as the day they were

born. She had her regulars all the same because she was

cheaper than anybody else and a good listener. And when

her grandson stayed with her for a week or two in the

summer, he did all the mixing and she usually got much

better results. Still swooning, however, from his first

glimpse of the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen outside

a movie theater, Jay mixed a little too much of this and

not enough of that, and half of Miz Porter’s curls fell out

on the way home, the shock causing Estaleen to crash her

1955 Dodge Dart into a water hydrant, which launched

her singing career in Nashville when a record producer

in town to visit his older brother heard her melodic cries

for help as she dragged her unharmed, partially bald,

hysterical grandparent from the twisted wreckage and he

signed Estaleen Renee to her first record deal on the spot.

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