At 72 years old, Fran Applegate was certain that the greatest achievement of her life could be found in the number of people who said she resembled the mannequin in Fritze’s Department Store window. Slender and tall (too tall for most men or race horses to handle), with rigid bone structure, and shallow set eyes that fell just above the gaze of anyone staring, Fran felt it her obligation as the living breathing counterpart to this plastic, manufactured marvel to pass by the window each morning as she walked her St. Bernard, Harry, who to this day was the only male who could appreciate her height. She also enjoyed the charcoal drawings displayed in the gallery across from Fritze’s Department Store.
At 62 years old, Fran Applegate was certain that the greatest achievement of her life was closing her gift shop, (formerly her mother’s, formerly her mother’s mother’s), across the street from Fritze’s Department Store. Forty years wrapping, and bubble wrapping, fighting candle headaches, and the transition from American to Chinese merchandise, making small talk with critical women, and decisions for pitiful men, she was spent. With no daughter, or daughter-in-law to continue the tradition, Fran would close her doors electively, before lack of business or franchise competitors would leave her no choice. She’d also take her first art class. Charcoal. Something she would never sell in a gift shop.
At 52 years old, Fran Applegate was certain that the greatest achievement of her life was mourning the loss of her husband Anthony for exactly nine days. She never intended to mourn in the first place, but his sudden death four years earlier ignited pain and anger, that he was gone and that her marriage had not instead ended by her choice, or disappearance, or suicide note. She felt this rage, burning in every thank you card she wrote to the few family members and coworkers who attended the funeral, but had never been there in life to support or care for her. She felt this way for exactly nine days, until she woke on the tenth and forgot to be angry, and why she was ever angry at all.
At 42 years old, Fran Shetland was certain that the greatest achievement of her life would be leaving Anthony Shetland. Nine years of marriage, four miscarriages, and two mistresses, defined a decade now lost on one mistake. In her mind, she devised dramatic exits from her married life involving European lovers (male and female), or the sudden opportunity to teach water color classes to retirees in Florida, an opportunity she would never refuse, in a place Anthony would never go. In her new life she wouldn’t be overweight, or “too tall to kiss”, or stuck in a marriage, or staying late after work to keep inventory at her gift shop across the street from Fritze’s Department Store.
At 32 years old, Fran Applegate was certain that the greatest achievement of her life would be marrying Anthony Shetland, a UPS delivery driver she had met on a chance encounter when they both arrived late to sign up for the same shuttle tour through the Grand Canyon. Recently divorced, the father of twin daughters Abigail and Persephone, Anthony courted with flowers, and wooed with promises of a better life that would allow Fran to quit her job at her mother’s gift shop across the street from Fritze’s Department Store, focus on her photography, and start a new life with Anthony and the do-over children he would have with her.
At 22 years old, Fran Applegate was certain that the greatest achievement of her life would one day be found on the second floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where her idea for a series on birthing animals would soon be displayed to the awe of art students and dismay of her parents who were never prone to accepting happy endings, from Disney movies, massage parlors, or their children (a joke they often conceded but never appreciated).
At 12 years old, Fran Applegate was certain that the greatest achievement of her life would be, when she one day resembled the mannequin in Fritze’s Department Store window.
Lena Ziegler is a writer residing in Bowling Green, KY. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Fiction at Western Kentucky University.