Go June

by Margot Hoffman

The day June went missing she went to get her hair cut.

That morning she dropped the boys off at school, kissed the top of their heads, and watched as their cherubic faces smiled up at her. She was grateful that her sons were still young enough to appreciate her love. She marveled at their freckles, each one delicately plucked from her face and repositioned on theirs like a Pollock painting.

This was routine for June–watching the boys run off to the blacktop play yard and find their respective friends. She always waited until the first bell chimed before marching back to her Pontiac. Well, not her Pontiac, but Jim’s. It was the closest thing she had to her own car since Jim had stopped using the beat-up piece of junk.

The car wasn’t so bad. Sure, the engine had blown twice but only once did she have the boys in the car. She hadn’t had the heart to tell Jim about it; she knew they were strapped for cash so she paid for it with some of her savings.

The car smelled of old cigarettes and pinesol, a stench Jim had complained about when June drove him to-and-from the train station the week before.

“Have you been smoking?” Jim interrogated her.

June explained that Rita, June’s eldest sister, must have had a cigarette when she took the car to book club. She chastised Rita’s loose lifestyle, attributing her reckless behavior to her recent divorce. And, Jim, like most men, was dumb enough to believe this. It wasn’t a lie. Rita had driven the car to book club and had lit a cigarette. But, so did June, unabashedly inhaling the thick smoke.

The truth was, June loved to smoke. It gave her something to look forward to. She’d drop the boys off at school, kiss their heads, watch them play, chat with the other mothers and speed off down to the lake. She’d sit there invading the peace and drink from her bottle of scotch while smoking three cigarettes. When Jim asked where she had been, she made sure to pick up a jug of milk and a pack of Pilsner amongst other goodies for the household from Frosty’s Market. And, that would be the end of it.

Just as June slammed her door shut, Marcie Franklin waddled over, her buck teeth and large breasts ever so prominent in her fuchsia v-neck sweater. Perhaps it was June’s upbringing or her own insecurities but women like Marcie, women who showed their assets so publicly and proudly, both saddened and angered her. It wasn’t that Marcie wasn’t a kind person, or that her children weren’t well-behaved, it was that she had no decency. At times, June wondered if Marcie knew that she was exuding sexual energy. She assumed she must since she continued to wear such heinous and provocative outfits.

“How’s it going, Junie?” Marcie said through June’s rolled-down window.

June hoped that Marcie could smell the cigarettes, alerting her that she wasn’t a prude like she conveyed.

“Oh, you know, the usual,” June said smiling with a tight lip and clicking in her seatbelt.

Marcie looked at June with a smirk. June wondered if she had smelled it and she watched her nose for any sign of a twitch. Marcie leaned over the windowsill exposing a black bralette harnessing her breasts. June couldn’t help but stare.

“Me and the girls were gonna have a day, you know without the men,” Marcie said.

June nodded, her eyes still on Marcie’s breasts.

“We wondered if you wanted to come. I think you would enjoy it,” Marcie paused. “We all deserve a little girl’s time if you know what I mean.”

Marcie winked but June had no idea what she meant. When Rita invited her over for “girl time” it was primarily Rita and her oddball friends gawking at the pool boy and drinking foul-tasting martinis. June preferred to be alone without the indignities of others.

“Come by my house later today, maybe around four. You have a nanny right?” Marcie said as June continued to stare.

They hired one last year but June regretted it. She couldn’t remember why she had even done so in the first place. The girl was a college dropout, practically a teenager. She lived in Rita’s backhouse for $300 a month which seemed like a generous deal, especially coming from Rita who once charged June for gas to and from her house which was less than a mile away. June questioned Rita’s intentions behind this, wondering if she was having the girl work as a cleaning lady without pay or walk Rita’s god-awful chihuahua. However, June never felt compelled to ask Rita. She figured out of sight, out of mind. That was until Rita suggested Jim and June hire the girl as a nanny. Rita had invited herself over for dinner, as she often did, and brought nothing besides a bottle of chardonnay which she casually drained even before June took the roast out of the oven.

“You should hire the girl who lives in the pool house,” Rita exclaimed just ever-so-slightly louder than any sober person would. “She’s looking for a job, ‘ya know.” 

Jim seemed pleased with the idea of having a nanny despite his inquiries about June’s “rampant” and “uncontrolled” spending. He referenced June’s collection of nail polish–all of which June secretly tucked into her purse while purchasing Tylenol or toilet paper. Jim seemed excited, even ravenous at the idea of welcoming a nanny into their home.

The day June hired the girl, she was dressed in an ill-fitted gingham dress that accentuated her curves, curves June’s lanky body never created. The dress carved an indent in her hips. The girl was quiet and answered questions in one-word answers.

Jim hired her after an hour of stilted conversation.

She would work every day except for Sunday.

All June knew about the girl, despite her practically living with them for a year, was that she was an artist but June couldn’t remember if it was visual or performing arts. She always imagined the girl as a painter but she wasn’t quite sure what gave her that impression because June was sure she had never asked.

The girl was a ghost, an enigma to June, following her footsteps and cleaning up her messes, playing with her boys. The whole thing unsettled June so much that she almost fired the girl after a week. But, a year later, she was still there, haunting their home. The girl had recently stopped dressing in such tight clothing, opting for a more subdued and conservative wardrobe. June found this jarring and when she asked Jim if he had noticed, he remained adamant that June stop focusing on the girl.

The thing was, June felt that she didn’t need a nanny in the first place. Jim framed it as an opportunity for June to “get out of the house, out of bed.” But, June had suspicions that Jim had invited the girl into the house and into their bed. Yet, she wasn’t bothered by this. Better her than me, she thought.

June found the girl to be nauseating, her vocal fry permeating the walls of the home June built. She’d find the girl talking with Jim about the local election or the price of gas and instantly become drained, proclaiming to no one that she needed a bath or a nap. However, the thing that irked her the most about the girl was her hair.

The girl was not particularly pretty. Rita had once called her “rotund” but her hair, good god. Her hair shined luminously bright, in an almost fluorescent auburn tone that jutted out at a point just above her shoulders. It was, June thought, the most ostentatious yet natural color she had ever seen.

When she got close enough, June felt compelled to caress the strands. She wanted to feel them both to satisfy some primal desire but also to confirm that, indeed, hair like that could exist. One night, not long ago, June stayed up thinking about the girl’s hair. She tossed and turned in her bed as Jim snored loudly beside her. At witching hour, she walked herself out of bed, down the rickety staircase, past the boys’ room, and into the kitchen where she retrieved a brochure about wigs which she had hidden under a pile of bills Jim never bothered to look at. She couldn’t risk the girl–or Jim–finding this treasure. For three hours, until she heard the pitter-patter of four little feet on the wooden staircase, June scoured over the pamphlet searching for any sign that the girl’s voluptuous hair was fake. Alas, none of the wigs matched that dusk orange the girl oh-so-casually touted each day.

June, feeling a sense of defeat, tossed the brochure in the recycling bin and bid the boys a “good morning!” At nine, the three of them got into her Pontiac and drove down Larkspur Drive to the elementary school. She kissed the top of their foreheads, gently pressing her lips into their scalps. She was grateful that her sons were still young enough to appreciate her love yet she recognized this would not last forever. She watched them run off to their respective friends and when the bell rang, June wandered towards her car and preemptively lit a cigarette.

On the way to the lake, June stopped at Frosty’s. The store was mostly empty with the exception of two women who June did not recognize. She waltzed up and down the aisles in a dizzying spell placing Oreos, generic brand cereal, and a jug of milk in her cart.

She liked Frosty’s because it had a beauty section. It was there that June felt most like herself. While the selection was sparse, and most of the makeup was costume, June felt compelled each time she came to Frosty’s to partake in her ritual. She lifted the tester product and dabbed a little eyeshadow on her lids. Usually, she reached for a neutral tan so that she didn’t come off as loose. However, that day, June thought of the girl and her sunset-orange hair, how she always wore matching tangerine eyeshadow.

June thought the tangerine eyeshadow was so tacky the first time she met the girl but recently, she had come to recognize it as a sort of trademark. So, when June reached the beauty section of Frosty’s, she stalled her cart with the cookies, cereal, and milk. She ran the tips of her fingers along the edge of the makeup proudly displayed against the wall until her hands grasped the tester of the dark brown eyeshadow. Gently, June patted some onto her eyelids, pausing and preparing to open her eyes and gaze in the cracked square mirror. She fluttered her eyelids open.

There, in the mirror stood a woman–older than June had imagined– with graphite, inset dark circles invading her face. The cheeks of the woman had drooped, a surefire sign of age and, June thought, depression. She felt a twinge of sorrow, compassion even for this woman. She imagined the years had worn on her quite unkindly, her button nose jutting out from her apple-shaped face. While the mirror was small, June stepped back to gaze at the woman’s body. Shamefully, the body was draped in a long-sleeved black dress, holding all its fat in the stomach, protruding out, unable even to be hidden against the stark black fabric. The rest of the body was rail thin, disproportionally so, June thought. The mere presence of the woman unsettled her.

Transfixed, June placed her hand upon the mirror watching the woman caress her straw, thin blonde hair. It fell below, far below her shoulders accentuating the square upper body. June felt embarrassed for the woman, ashamed that she looked so average. The woman wasn’t particularly ugly. June had seen some god-awfully ugly women. Yet, her features were worn down with age, her body a vessel for childbearing and childrearing.

And, in a passing moment, June thought about her mother, how her body had been utilized for the same purposes. She thought about the hours her mother spent outside, in their backyard beyond the willow and elm trees talking to the wind.

One day, when June was about ten and Rita was twelve, long after her other older sister had died, June found her mother with her knees glued to the ground. She was muddied with the smell of newly fallen rain, holding her hands to the ground as if she had fallen. She often did this–sit soaking up rainwater in her cotton dresses and talking to herself. 

Rita was at a boy’s house, attempting to seduce the teen into purchasing alcohol for her and June had no recollection as to where her father went. By that time he probably had left for good under the guise of a necessary work trip abroad.

June wandered out to the yard, plucking damp dandelions from their stems, cutting their lives short just to make a wish. June’s mother sat in silence, letting the mud soak into her cream-dress skirt. June didn’t say anything, she just watched and listened to the sounds of grackles and starlings humming haunting melodies. The fresh air, crisp with the dampness that comes with newly fallen rain, consumed June’s lungs offering, for just a moment, a centered peace. As crickets chirped, June gently shut her eyes shut and shuffled her body into the prayer-like position her mother had contorted herself into. And for a moment, she felt the peace she so desired, a peace she imagined her mother yearned for each day she came out to the fields. For just a moment, she was there, nowhere else, just there.

After that moment, June’s mother opened her eyes and June instinctively followed. She had sensed an ethereal glow at that moment exuding from her mother’s shell of a body. The shell, which for so long had tried its best to perform the duties of a loving mother, often failed. Her mother exhaled, her breath visible against the cold, her lips cracked and her body frail. She turned to June and said, “go, June.”

That was it. Her mother lifted her body up off the ground, mud and all, and listlessly walked her body into the house as June watched in tears.

June’s mother died that night. June never knew what the cause was but she assumed it was neglect and sorrow. Rita, even now, insists it was suicide.

June stood longingly staring at the woman, her hair tousled and thinned. The brown eye shadow only accentuated the woman’s dark circles making two circular indents like darkened moons on her freckled face.

It took more than a few moments for June to recognize that the woman that she was staring at was, in fact, herself. When she realized this, she hastily wiped the eyeshadow off her eyes, smearing the brown across her cheeks and lids, down her face until the streaks disappeared into her freckles wreaking havoc on her delicate facial features. Frantically, she wiped each eye with the back of her palm until her hands were practically red and brown.

Face smeared with makeup, June felt the gulp of tears bubbling in her throat. Out of habit, she placed her nimble fingers around a tube of red nail polish. This calmed her for a moment, her mind wandered as she dreamed of placing the polish on her vanity, the red vibrance displayed like a hunted deer. June gripped the tube, peering around the corner where a clerk stood restocking glitter eye shadow. June stared at the man beckoning him to turn his head, just an inch, a smidge, to see her. Like a siren song, he moved his head a tad, staring directly into June’s hollowed eyes. June silently begged him to judge her for the mess she had hastily created on her face. She was no artist, that much she knew.

            The man continued to stare at June for a moment, just long enough for June to grip the bottle of ruby red polish and place it directly in her purse. She waited for the man’s fury, screaming that June was a thief. June had challenged the clerk and he had not accepted. The man went back to restocking the glittery eyeshadow, leaving June by herself.

A softball-sized knot grew in the pit of her stomach making its way gingerly toward her throat. For a moment, June thought she was going to be sick. She left her cart stalled in the aisle, wandering to and fro, down the snack aisle, past the dairy section, and through the produce where she accidentally knocked over a stack of ripened tomatoes. They tumbled behind her splatting on the linoleum floor. June didn’t stop; she had to leave the store.

She hopped in her Pontiac and revved the engine. The car glided slowly then accelerated down Larkspur, past the school, and through Town Square. She lit a cigarette, mindlessly forgetting that she was not down by the lake where teens would go to secretly make out and where June would go to smoke.

Go, June. She heard on repeat in her head, the vision of her mother covered in mud haunting her every breath.

June inhaled deeply, the smoke intoxicating and arousing her senses. The tobacco lingered on her lips, a taste she had become all too well acquainted with.

Miles morphed into minutes as June drove out of town, through the next town that mirrored the one she inhabited until she stopped at an inlet to a strip mall. Three stores and a fourth empty one occupied the barren brick walls. First was the printer which had a “CLOSED” sign glaring in its window. The second was a cheap bar where a man, about ten or so years older than June, stood hunched over a pint of beer. The pint was piss-colored and absorbed the drizzle that started while June was driving. June could see the man’s solemn frown plastered upon his ragged and scruffed face. Yet, June felt nothing but anguish for that man, and secretly, she hoped that the rain would drown any comfort he found in that pint. The last shop was in the corner. It had barred windows and looked to be an addition, probably shoddily built in the 50’s or 60’s. The addition housed a beauty parlor, kitschy with a hot pink door and faux plants. It contrasted the dark exterior of its neighbor and the woman standing outside of the shop stood tall, much taller than the man who held the pint. June found her striking, her short chopped hair pointed and bright, almost fluorescent blonde yet somehow it all seemed so natural.

June got out of her car and approached the woman, still holding her cigarette between her two fingers.

“I would like a haircut,” June said matter-of-factly.

All intense emotion had left June’s system, leaving her with a numbness she recognized from the day her mother died.

The woman smiled keenly and ushered June inside the salon. It was darker than June had imagined, with only two chairs. The place smelled of bleach and shampoo which barely masked the scent of marijuana that she smelled on the woman. June sat herself down in the chair as the woman touched her hair with her long fingernails. She took June’s head and massaged it aggressively leaving June questioning her decision to come into the store.

“So, what can I do for ‘ya?” the woman said, a faint country, maybe Scottish accent slurred between her words.

June pondered for a moment. What did she want? She racked her brain thinking of all the times she had gotten her hair cut. She had always had the same, long, square hair dangling from her head. She thought of her mother. The way her hair lay on her chest like a newborn baby, softly yet ever so present. Her mother, June thought, was gorgeous with the strawberry hair she kept neatly tucked behind her ears. In contrast, June thought of the girl. Her hair, short and pointed, still fiery and a showcase of the girl’s defiance. Sure, the girl was a nanny for June’s two sons for now, but June knew the girl’s talent. She wouldn’t end up in this chair, June thought. She would be on a stage, showcasing her art and finding the peace June craved so deeply.

Go, June, her mother whispered.

“I want orange hair,” June said. She pointed to her shoulders. “And I want it cut here.”


When June came home, the girl was playing with the boys in the backyard, the three of them frolicking about and laughing. June stood watching as the boys hugged the girl with all their might and she reciprocated. June smiled, blushing while watching joy illuminate the faces of her children. She wandered to the glass door, where she breathed heavily on the glass. Lifting her arm to her face, June knocked on the glass twice, smiling and waving at her sons. But they continued to frolic in the yard, giggling voices absorbing any sound. The girl had not heard June either, placing her arms around the two boys. As she hugged them close, the girl pressed her lips on the tops of their soft heads.

June gulped, her hand by her side.

After a couple of moments, June wandered past the makeshift office Jim had set up in their den. Papers were thrown about as Jim chugged away typing on the computer, not even bothering to look at June. She smiled at him, hoping he’d turn her way.

“Hi Jim,” she said, lowering her voice to get his attention.

Jim sighed, annoyed by the mere presence of his wife, plopped his glasses upon the bridge of his nose, and sat back, watching the computer screen.

“Do you notice anything different about me?” June asked a bit of brightness shining through her porcelain skin.

Jim continued to type ferociously as if his life depended on getting enough words into a machine. Finally, after a minute of typing, he turned his face towards June. He scanned her up and down with his eyes, searching for the answer to her questions. He landed on her eyes, he glared into them and for a moment she thought he saw her, really truly saw her and he said, “new makeup?”

June smiled, pursing her lips and stroking her shortened hair.

“Yes, Jim,” she said, affirming her husband. “New makeup.”

June calmly picked up her purse and gazed once more at her husband, her sons, and  her house. She took out a cigarette from the pack she kept in her purse, inhaling deeply before opening her front door. And, just like that, she went.

Margot Hoffman is a Los Angeles based fiction writer with a passion for unlikeable female characters, yappy schnauzers, and ripe mangos. You can find her on Substack or in the WME offices enjoying the never ending capitalist grind.