Shelley catches herself humming “Some Day My Prince Will Come” as she’s washing the dishes, and snorts, thinking about jiveass fairy tales. Not just Disney, and those Golden Books from Lucky’s she read when she was a kid. Hollywood movies too. “An Officer and a Gentleman” when Richard Gere sweeps Debra Winger off her feet and carries her out of the factory, delivering her from the assembly line. Richard Gere climbing that fire escape in “Pretty Woman,” flowers in hand, ready to save Julia Roberts from a life of prostitution. Not that Miss Toothy Smile looked like any prostitute Shelley’d ever seen in East Oakland, not even before her pricey Rodeo Drive makeover. But then realism wasn’t the point, was it. If Julia’d been strung out and skaggy, pasty-faced, tattooed, it would’ve been a lot harder to rescue her. Why would he want to?
Running hot water and squirting more soap in the sink, she pictures all those gullible bitches at the movies—laughing and licking butter off their fingers, gulping syrupy cokes, taking the afternoon off from their dead-end, mind-numbing jobs. All of them waiting for rescue in the form of Prince Charming. Waiting to be wakened from the sleep of reality by the kiss that will change everything. This has all been just a bad dream. Your prince has come, momma. Forget washing those dishes. Forget that job. You’re on easy street now.
After some thirty years of nowhere jobs and no account men, all Shelley has to show for it are bunions, a bad back, and $254.33 in the bank. She married Anthony ’cause he said she deserved better. Turned out she deserved better than Anthony. And Tyrone, so good looking, danced her off her feet. She could have danced all night and then some, but the two-timing bastard went and danced off to Memphis without her. Where’d Leon get to, with his fine shirts and fancy cologne?
She rinses the soap off the frying pan, watches a cockroach climb the wall next to the sink. Wishes for the millionth time she had a dishwasher. Well she has a dishwasher, but it’s been broken for ages. No money to buy one, no money to get it installed, no money, no money. She’s met some princes who were charming, all right. Some sweet-talking sons of bitches ready to climb a fire escape, if not to sweep her off her feet at work. Knocking on her window, no flowers in hand, no dishwasher either, “Hey honey, can you spare some cash? I left my wallet at work.” What work, she’s thinking to herself. And yeah right, now it’s honey. So maybe she gives him a twenty, he’s so charming, and maybe she sees him again, maybe she doesn’t. Maybe he’s really got a job, but she knows he’s not going to rescue her from nothing.
Shelley’s prince is gonna come all right. She hangs up the dishtowel, pulls the cellophane off a new roach motel and puts it on the counter before she turns off the light. A day late and a dollar short, he’ll bow and kiss her hand. “You’re the one, baby,” he’ll say, all sincere and shit. “I been looking everywhere. You’re the one.”