Chester followed Denise around like an indentured lackey. Unlike the speed and dexterity with which she selected jeans for Chester to try, Denise took forever to pick out a suitable top. Some she commented on snidely, others she reached for and touched suspiciously, still others she regarded with an air of disdain that Chester would never understand. Chester knew he never wanted to be looked at that way by anyone and thought about advising the management that they burn the offending clothing item. He almost raised the suggestion to Denise, but was worried that she might secretly like that blouse and be upset with him for requesting its destruction.
Chester was so confused!
Onward Denise and Chester marched, darting around like bees in the spring, from rack to rack and mannequin to mannequin. Denise found parts of the store Chester never dreamed existed and could never have found without her help.
It was a full twenty minutes of "shopping" before Denise selected something she liked. To Chester, it looked exactly like all the other blouses that Denise had disdained with her visage or besmirched with her lips, but he smiled and nodded, relieved that the expedition had finally found some traction. Armed with her one item, Denise went back to her hunting. And Chester returned to his role as the trailing lackey.
Denise's second clothing choice was being worn by a mannequin. Although the item was available on the racks, it was only in Denise's size on the store display-person. She promptly started undressing the poor creature.
That's when Chester got really scared. It's not like he'd never seen an unclothed mannequin before (I mean, what's there to see?), but the idea of stripping one down in public ran contrary to his conservative upbringing. Granted, every mannequin should have the right to be unclothed, but it should do so in the privacy of its home, not in the middle of Aéropostale, the mall-based specialty retailer of casual apparel for young people and proud owner of the most hideous name in all of clothing. Besides the mannequin's feelings, Chester worried about the store's ability to advertise. As we discussed in part one, the whole purpose of having a clothing store is to win the battle against nudity. If a mannequin isn't wearing clothes, what does that say about the war?
Chester's entreaties did nothing to slow Denise's fingers, as she slid the blouse off the poor plastic person. Chester dramatically averted his eyes as she buttoned on a new covering. Chester sighed with relief that no young children had passed and made a mental note to write a complaint about Denise's behavior to the staff at Aéropostale, the mall-based specialty retailer of casual apparel for young people and proud owner of the most hideous name in all of clothing.
Armed with her clothing items, Denise entered the fitting rooms. Outside, Chester wondered how he should react when he saw Denise exit the dressing area wearing the mannequin's clothes. If Chester praised the garb and Denise didn't like it, he risked losing judgment credibility. Similarly, if he expressed dislike of the clothing item, that reaction might be interpreted as dislike of Denise. And Chester was pretty fond of Denise...
Chester had removed a scrap of paper from his pocket and was starting to construct a game theoretic payoff matrix on which to base his reaction when Denise emerged. She was wearing the first top she had selected. Chester sat silently, staring at Denise, or, an observer might easily have concluded, past her. He said nothing. The silence grew eerie as Denise spun around twice -- what grace, Chester thought -- and asked the words he'd been dreading.
Chester coughed and chortled on his words for a few seconds to delay responding. But something about his contrived hacking triggered a bronchial reaction and he entered a genuine fit of coughing. After a minute of red faced gasping for air, during which Chester rolled on the tile ground trying desperately to regain control of his respiration, Denise burst into tears and reentered the dressing room. When Chester recovered he heard sobbing from behind the dressing room door.
"Denise? Gee, Dee...girl, I'm sorry. I have this frog in my throat..." Chester was trying to make things right. "You look nice. I mean, the blouse is sorta ploppy, if that's a word. You know, kinda frumpy. Like something Gloppy would wear. But I like Gloppy. Gloppy can work. Always been a fan of Candy Land..."
The dressing room door flew open and Denise strode out, not sparing a glance at Chester.
"Drive me home," she said. And Chester did. Every five minutes he began an apology, but really didn't know what he was apologizing for, except making Denise feel bad -- but he wasn't sure whether he or his bronchial reaction were responsible for her tepid state of mind. And his clarifying question was met with even colder silence.
Chester concluded that this shopping trip had gone even worse than the first. Not only had they purchased nothing, but Denise hadn't even tried on her second clothing choice!