Second Floor: Housewares, Ladies' Fashions, and Lingerie
by Michael Pelc
His brain, which was still inside his head when he walked through the doors of Hudson's Department Store, guided Stanley Bartowski to the sporting goods section. A new shipment of baseball gloves had just arrived, and Stanley looked like any other innocent, freckle-faced, twelve-year-old boy as he tried them out and dreamed of summer soon to come. He picked out a Mickey Mantle model, and taking advantage of the wide aisles near the escalator, he pretended to play shortstop. He darted to his right, made a quick, backhanded stab of a hot grounder, then whirled and fired off an imaginary throw to first.
At this point a strange and inexplicable phenomenon occurred. Over all the conversations between sales clerks and customers, over all the ringing of cash registers, over all the scoldings that mothers were giving their misbehaving children, a single pre-recorded word drifted down from the second floor and found its way to Stanley's ear.
"Lingerie," it said, and it was as though a trap door opened up inside Stanley's head. His brain, which for years had resided in the region between his ears and behind his eyes and just above his nose, fell out of his head, plummeted through his body, and came to rest directly behind his zipper.
"Lingerie," it whispered, and Stanley dropped the Mickey Mantle model baseball glove.
"Lingerie," it whispered again, and he got on the escalator.
"Lingerie," it insisted, and he grinned in anticipation.
"Lingerie," it screamed, and Stanley Bartowski ascended into hell.