(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The protagonist owns a small beauty shop in the South. She is a big, awkward woman with short arms that end in ham hands, plump molelike freckles down her cheeks, and a neck that is a squat roll of fat protruding behind her head as a big bump. To many people, she is anything but lovely.

The woman’s trouble starts one day when Jerome, a neat and cute local schoolteacher, walks past the window of her shop. Although she is ten years his senior and knows very well that she should not desire him, she cannot resist the temptation of being called “Mrs. Jerome Franklin Washington, the third.” Being married to a schoolteacher would greatly enhance her social status. Her family is known as “colored folks with money,” but there is not yet a schoolteacher to grace the family name. Marriage does take place between the two, but it is a marriage marked by her total devotion and his complete oblivion. Her efforts to make herself sexy and pretty have no effect on him; instead, they drive him away from her. Married more to his revolutionary beliefs than to her, he is buried in his books and meetings, hardly showing any interest in her.

A rumor spreads that Jerome is interested in other women. Feeling rejected and cheated, his wife sets out searching for his lovers in order to destroy them. Rage and suspicion lead her to taverns and churches, from whorehouses to prayer meetings, through parks and outside the city limits, all the while armed with axes,...

(The entire section is 596 words.)