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by Carrie Etter

The first time Meg sees the word taupe, it’s on an orange packet of pantyhose her friend Susan is urging her to shoplift. They’re 13 and loitering in Osco Drug for the icy air conditioning and the lack of anything better to do this July afternoon. Meg wants the Pink Pearl Wet ‘n’ Wild nail polish, but Susan convinces her the pantyhose will be easier to conceal. Susan’s right: Meg flattens herself against a cosmetics display, slides the pouch into the front of her shorts, and pulls down her Rick Springfield t-shirt. They buy a root beer to share — again, Susan’s idea: “It’ll look better if we buy something.” When they get back to Susan’s house, it turns out the pantyhose is Queen Size and so of no use to either of them.

The second time Meg considers the word taupe, she’s with her mother-in-law-to-be at JC Penney. Meg asked Jim to go with her, but he suggested his mother. “You two can bond,” he said. Now Jim’s mother and Meg are choosing items for the gift registry, and Jim’s mother suggests taupe for the bedding set. “Taupe hides stains well,” she advises, and Meg gives up on the admittedly impractical pale coral satin.

The third time Meg thinks about taupe, she is on a lesbian Caribbean cruise with her girlfriend Cheryl. On the first day they go to the salon for manipedis. “I’m sure I’ll have a tan by the end of the week,” Meg says to the beautician and smiles. “Let’s go with the taupe to match.”

American expatriate Carrie Etter has published four collections of poetry, most recently The Weather in Normal (UK: Seren; US: Station Hill, 2018), and a chapbook of flash fictions, Hometown (V. Press, 2016). Her stories have previously appeared in Flash, New Welsh Review, Nottingham Review, and elsewhere. You can find her at carrieetter.com and @Carrie_Etter.