Stanley stepped out of the shower and stood in front of the mirror, studying his upper lip. Thin wispy hair shadowed the space under his nose. He turned to one side then the other, and decided his moustache looked fuller from the left.
Today was going to be the day he finally tried. He slapped and lathered his cheeks with too much of his father’s aftershave and grimaced when the alcohol bit at his skin. He buttoned the white dress shirt his mother purchased from his confirmation the year before and smoothed out the collar.
He gave his outfit a final once-over and decided he looked a fair bit older.
The small bills and change jangled in his pocket as he stepped off the bus. He’d chosen this corner store because it was far from his house, the clerk wouldn’t recognize him and the other guys at school said it had the best selection. His stomach twisted and his hand began to sweat as he pushed the door open. He nodded at the clerk, as casually as he could manage and walked towards the magazine stand.
Stanley stared at the colourful, bold titles of the glossy magazines hidden away at the top of the rack. His throat felt stuffed with cotton and his ears itched. He stood on his tiptoes and pulled the closest magazine down. He was sure everyone could hear his heart pounding as he flipped through the pages. He grabbed a second magazine and tucked them under his arm, and strolled casually to the counter.
The clerk picked up the magazines, found the price and hit the keys on the cash register. Stanley turned his head to the right, pretending to be studying something against the far wall. The clerk said it was fourteen dollars and then stared at him hard under bushy eyebrows as he fished the money from his pocket.
Stanley watched three nickels and two quarters fall from his hand, land and skitter away across the tiled floor in slow motion. Sharp claws of panic dug into his sides. The clerk leaned across the counter and stared at him. The quarters spun, then wobbled and finally fell.
But Stanley was already halfway out the door.
This is inspired by the feeling I had when I looked at myself and saw my scraggly five day moustache I’m attempting to grow out for Movember. I hate to be a shill, but if you want to support men’s health, you can donate money here: