The Sound of Laughter

When my mom and I go on a trip together, we never cease to enjoy ourselves. Or, rather, enjoy one another. We are the Shannon and Tracy Tweed of Iowa. That is not to say that we are both blonde Canadians who act and/or pose for Playboy. We are—by no means—blonde, Canadian, famous, or three years apart in age. We certainly do not look alike. To be exacter, we, as Shannon’s son Nick Simmons says, “bring out the dumb in each other.” It is true; my mother is the person I laugh with the most. Of course, if she says something “dumb,” I begin to laugh. She laughs at the fact that I am laughing, and we both erupt in joyful tears that we can’t seem to dry fast enough. We smother ourselves with amusement; literally choke from each other’s hilarity.

Monday was one of those days. We had driven into town for a bit of “shopping”. For us—people to whom the appearance of an extra ten dollar bill is viewed as the work of God—“shopping” consists of going into a variety of stores and doing a variety of things, which can include, but is not limited to: spraying perfume; massaging ten different scents on each arm; trying on clothes (but putting them back so the personnel don’t have to); strutting up and down aisles in teetering, “Weebles-Wobble-But-They-Don’t-Fall-Down” stilettos; modeling ugly purses; snapping thongs at each other; trying on sunglasses whose sparkles resemble that of a cross-breed between Elton John and Willy Wonka; trying on additional clothes; and attempting to illogically price-scan toasters. But never buying anything.

To us, shopping We are shopping; not buying. Shopping literally means “to look for merchandise to buy”. Well, we are looking. In our searching, however, we do not find anything we want to buy. We have no need for a toaster, for example, and mom can’t wear heels. I do not wish to own a tea-length dress that reshapes my B-cup breasts into concave dimples. Therefore, when mom and I “shop,” we look at inanimate objects and attempt to insult them.

For instance, about two years ago, mom and I were walking through what was most likely a JCPenny. We passed by a display of scarves, all in a variety of colors. Not being a fan of scarves myself, I flipped my hand through them as we passed. “Ah, look,” I sighed. “Fashionable asphyxiation.”

Mom thought this was hilarious, of course, as did the woman behind us. She burst into laughter and announced to us, “You know, I’ve never liked scarves, either. Too hot and too tight around the neck.”

We had similar comments while shopping on Monday. In Bath and Body Works, for instance, we tried several new “summer” scents, none of which seemed appealing. I reminded mom that I already had enough scents at home, and that I didn’t need Bittersweet Feet or Vanilla Elephant Trunk or whatever the heck the new titles are. Despite that fact, we both rubbed a bit of one on the backs of our hands. I smelled my hand and shrugged. It didn’t smell bad, but it didn’t smell good, either. A little more vanilla and a little less feet would have been an improvement. Mom, however, wrinkled her nose upon sniffing her wrist. “Pew!” she vigorously waved her hand in the air as if the miniature breeze she was creating would waft the smell off her skin. “I smell like a new couch!”

In the shoe store across the way, we spent nearly forty-five minutes trying on shoes that we chose not to buy. After arguing with an uncomfortable pair of kitten heels, mom eased her foot into a soft, “fur”-lined slipper. “Oooooooh,” she sighed, as if sinking into a hot bubble bath. “Ooooooh.”

“Yes?” I drew the word out curiously.

“This feels so nice. It’s like being on the inside of a cat.”

I did a double-take. “What?” I started laughing.

“Well, not the inside, I guess. The inside would be slimy. I don’t want to stick my foot in that.”

The most fun, however, occurred in Dillards. Disappointed by the lack of interesting objects in the shoe section, the accessory department, and the junior’s section, we strolled through the rest of the store. On our way out, we passed through the women’s plus-size section.

Unfortunately, as we all know, the fabrics that are often used in clothes for plus-size women are bold, inconceivable, and down-right ugly. There are many a fabric that I would consider appropriate for the couch of my now deceased grandmother. My mother—a plus-size woman herself—acknowledges this, and is very vocal about it.

“Look at this!” she exclaimed, pulling at a shapeless amoeba of blue fabric. “A potato sack!”

“A denim potato sack,” I corrected.

“Hey, look! This one even comes with a belt!” she flipped through the rack, pulling out another dress and showing me.

“Ah, yes,” I said. I cleared my throat and imitated what I thought the voice of an advertisement for Christopher & Banks would sound like. “Cinch this loosely woven twine around your waist to add shape to your denim potato sack!”

Mom placed the dress back on the rack, laughing. The saleswoman across the aisle glared at us.

“Oh, good Lord, what is this?” my mom pointed to another summer dress, a halter. The mostly white dress was laden with lime-green flowers and petals. “Ugh,” she proclaimed.

I assumed “the voice” again. “Yes, trick your friends into thinking you are a flower bed!”

As we worked our way down the remainder of the section, mom came across a most hideous shirt. At first glance, it looked as if a small child had projectile-vomited a perfect halo of applesauce and green food coloring onto the shirt. However, upon closer inspection, we realized that the shirt was actually a Christmas tee, and that the ring of baby sick was actually a wreath. It was different. It was abstract. It was ugly.

Mom spoke first. “Well....that’”


We both erupted in laughter again. Mom bent over, the shirt still in her hand. “I’m quick!” I told her. Mom continued to laugh, so I broke out into song. “Hello darkness my old friend...”

At the sound of my voice, we simultaneously picked up our air guitars and gently strummed, looking to the ceiling as if Garfunkel himself, god of imaginary folk guitars, would descend upon us in the department store. Mom couldn’t stop giggling.

“The sound....of laughter,” I sang.

However, our chuckling was nothing compared to what we found at the end of the section, the area where the makeup and perfume counters stand. The counter nearest me was diagonally in front of me, to the right. Even further to the right was an additional counter, one at which a man squatted and—to my understanding—examined the prices of perfume. I had been looking at a bejeweled tank on the table at which I stood, but I stopped mid-sentence when I spotted this middle-aged man.

He appeared to be in his forties or fifties. He might have weighed thirty pounds more than he did in high school. He had a nicely trimmed mustache to match his graying hair. He wasn’t a bad looking guy; normal. He donned jean shorts and a t-shirt. He squatted low, looking into the glass case. His shorts were riding low, and I would have seen his plumber’s butt if it hadn’t have been for the several inches of navy-blue and white striped woman’s thong he was wearing.

I drew mom’s attention to him, and her eyes widened. She snorted, and we quickly began to walk away as he stood up.

“Sssssh,” I said quietly, a finger to my lips. We pretended to be interested in a sales rack of ivory sweaters near the door. After the man wandered back into the mall, I waited a few more seconds before saying, “He’s gone.”

We lost it. We had been giggling and laughing and joking all day, yet our antics were nothing compared to a seemingly ordinary man donning a nautical-themed woman’s thong. Like Shannon and Tracy, we laughed until we cried. We stood in the aisle, next to the swimming suits, laughing so hard that the women in Customer Service peeked their heads out from their post. We hyperventilated, quieted, would burst into a second and third and fourth round of laughter.

“What do you think he was doing?” mom asked.

“Well, he didn’t buy anything,” I said. “He’s just like us. He was shopping.”


  1. The actual counter-top closest me personally had been diagonally before me personally, towards the correct. Even more towards the correct had been one more counter-top, 1 where a guy squatted and to my personal understanding examined the costs associated with fragrance.

  2. My brother is an avid guitar player and he would love these! So I would give them to him

  3. For instance, regarding 2 years earlier, mama and also I were walking through what was most likely a JCPenny. We went by a screen of headscarfs, done in a range of colors. Not being a follower of headscarfs myself, I turned my hand through them as we passed. "Ah, look," I sighed. "Stylish asphyxiation."


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