Week #26 – bad haircut

Welcome! Here is this week’s Flash, posted in the order received.

The theme is bad haircut.

Natural Woman by Susan Gibb
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Angel . by Susan Tepper

This girl Loretta comes to the house to clean up Grandma. She washes Grandma and shampoos her hair. Loretta tells me it took three or four shampoos to get all the white crud off Grandma’s scalp. They get that white crud when they get old she says. It makes me cringe and never want to be old. So I start to research death. So many ways to get it if you want it. I like the swallowing types of death where you swallow a pill or maybe a lot of pills, depending. Then you lie down looking normal and go to sleep. What could be more normal than that? I mention this to Loretta who agrees. She says all the real beauties died rather young. Then she rattles off names: Marilyn Monroe and Princess Di are two I remember her mentioning. You should do it Loretta tells me while she’s cutting Grandma’s hair in the kitchen. Sunlight pouring through the window. All the white hair on the floor is snow. When she gets done Grandma like a deranged angel.

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Bad Connection . by Len Kuntz

It started with other things—snow globes smashed through windows, dead birds tucked behind the chocolate milk—but it was her hair the rest of the world noticed.

In a sixteen month span—the entire time our uncle lived with us—my sister’s mane went from cobalt to burgundy to inkblot-black, then bald.

Kids were ruthless, worse than before, but really, she was sort of asking for it.

By the end of school, her hair had grown out and still there were tufts missing in random places. Boys passing in the hall made electrical buzzing sounds, mimicking barber shearers. Girls shouted out, “Nice patches!” then giggled, thinking themselves clever.

On graduation day, we sat next to each other because the event was arranged alphabetically, by last name. While the principal spoke about our looming futures and the importance of finding something you loved, my sister yanked fistfuls of hair from her head.

***

Years later, I flew to out to see her because the disease was in a hurry.

The woman who answered the door forced a smile and let me in.

My sister wore a hanky around her head. She pointed, and said, “Nothing to pluck now.”

Her friend kept petting my sister’s arm, touching her sallow cheek, watching with such keen attention that my heart buckled.

Before getting on the plane, I called home. When my wife asked, “Well, is she still a freak?” I feigned a bad connection, clicked off, and grabbed a fistful.

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The New Girl . by Fred Osuna

She’s new, with the enthusiasm of a new person. And everyone wants the new girl, at least they do at first.

It takes thirteen even sweeps to clear all the hair from beneath her chair. She’s averaged it. It’s sometimes as few as six. She has a lot of time to figure that out now, but most days there’s very little hair. That hippie dude she gave a buzz cut to? His hair was everywhere. That was a good 27 sweeps.

The hippie dude came back in this week. He asked for Madeleine. The new girl stood alone at her station watching them, and she knew they were talking about her. I mean, at one point they both turned in her direction and the former hippie dude said her name. “The new girl,” he said. She smiled at them and they turned away and kept talking.

She’s gonna get a new job. She’ll be the best at it. She’ll be the only one at the drive-thru that says “please,” “thank you” and “ma’am.” She’ll get promoted to assistant manager, you just wait and see.

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Mantra . by Catherine Russell

Never argue with a woman holding a sharp instrument.

Klara’s internal monologue ran through her head as she watched her reflection in the vanity mirror. Vanity was an ironic name for it, considering the atrocity it revealed to her increasingly horrified gaze. She sat frozen and helpless in the face of the other woman’s superior strength, questionable sanity, and unnervingly sharp shears.

No wonder that barbers and beauticians had reputations as confidants. Sitting in the chair, letting someone near your head with such a weapon for an extended period of time, by necessity was an act of trust. However, Klara had never been a good judge of character.

“I know you wanted the sides long originally, but it’d be a shame to cover that pretty face of yours,” her captor crooned. “Now, tell me honestly. Do you like the mullet, dear?”

She was clearly insane. Klara silently recalled her mantra, nodded her head, and paid the twenty bucks.

Never argue with a woman holding a sharp instrument.

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Was that really me? . by Stacey Allen

Once upon a time there was a bad haircut.
She wouldn’t listen, wouldn’t lie flat, wouldn’t curl.
Her head said, “Why must you behave so poorly?”
Her head punished her with hot wind, a hot iron, and with chemicals,
but still the bad haircut wouldn’t mind.

In time, the head learned to be patient.
The bad haircut matured, and the head stopped the meaningless punishment routine.
As she grew older, the bad haircut learned to lie flat.
For this the head was happy.

She never did learn to curl, but it didn’t seem to matter anymore.
The head and the haircut lived happily together (for the most part).
Every now and then, they pull out the old photos and laugh
……….and laugh
…………………..and laugh.

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der Morgenmuffel . by Matt Potter

She looked at me, morning-hazy, brows skewed but hopeful.

“Frau Kanzlerin,” I said. “Be honest with them. Deutschland will love you for it and it could carry you beyond the 2013 election.”

“Ach so,” she said. She patted her hair – typically, a mid-morning mess – and sipped her seventh coffee for the day. “Dietmar, ich glaube, du hast recht. Dietmar, you are right, I think.”

I sat on the corner of her desk, and crossing my ankles and swinging my feet, looked past her hangdog wrinkles – caused by sleepless nights worrying about the Greece bail-out, immigration problems and Berlin’s shitbag local economy – and smiled. Angela Merkel can be a sweetie when she wants to be.

I patted her on the hand. “Now, we can leak it through usual channels,” I said. “Or do it officially. Or you can make a personal appearance on the new shopping channel premiering tomorrow.”

“You choose, Dietmar,” she said. “Ich bin zu müde. I am too tired.”

Leider, the new shopping channel was scrambled – another victim of the Global Financial Crisis, just another wrinkle for the hardest working woman in German politics – so she said it off-the-cuff quasi-officially in a Bunte interview: “Ich bin wohl eher ein Morgenmuffel.”

She hates mornings, she said. Next day, it made headlines in all the important newspapers, including die Berliner Zeitung. Look at her face and hair, they all said. Let her get up later and everything will get better.

Good call, though. Honesty is changing the course of history.

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Bad haircut . by Barbara-Lucy Hosken

We went away for a couple of months and left her on the farm. They fed her well, but didn’t do much else. She enjoyed being there and no one gave a shit what she looked like. The only water she saw was the duck pond in which she swam regularly. She loved that, then simply lay in the sun to get dry. The result was a sunburnt nose and shaggy hair that looked as if someone had worked hard to give her dreadlocks. I tried brushing it all out when she returned home but there was no way I could get through that mess and no way she was going to let me either! We had quite a tussle over it. There was only one thing for it. I just had to chop all the knotty bits off no matter what fuss she made. I couldn’t let her go out looking like that. Trouble was they were all over the place. I had to chop at different levels, different angles and left a few bald patches too! She didn’t look much better when I’d finished but at least it could be brushed through now. She didn’t care though. Dogs never do!

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No Returns . by Michael Webb

Walking down the hallway, heels echoing on the polished floor, she felt a flutter of nervous tension. She looked pretty good, she thought- she had worn 20 years and 4 kids well. A man and a woman were behind the registration table, handing out name tags. She recognized the woman- Catherine, an social butterfly and overachiever. A friend, in the loose sense that all women are friends, comrades in the ongoing battle against men.

The man was rummaging in a box, taking out more copies of the alumni newsletter, then turned to face her. It was all she could do to not pass out. He was gorgeous-model thin, but strong, with a stylish haircut, gorgeous eyes, an expensive sweater, and five hundred dollar jeans. Her knees felt a little weak, and she tried to keep her voice even as she stepped up to them, her mind filled with images of this dreamboat coming back to her hotel room tonight.

She saw the name on the man’s nametag. “Stephen HOLDEN?,” she said incredulously. She remembered him- he never took his eyes off of her, history class, junior year. He had a bowl haircut, acne, and glasses then- but look at him now. She thought about giving him tonight what he so badly wanted 20 years ago. It made her sweat. She felt her heart thump, and she held her stomach in. “Bennett,” she said weakly, “Lisa.”

“Lisa Bennett?”, he read slowly. “I don’t remember you at all.”

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Touchpool . by Alex Lockwood

When you ask people if they’ve been to San Diego, they say No, but I’ve been to San Francisco. If you happen to be looking at Google Maps, they start pulling at the screen with their lemon-cake fingers, pawing at the crenellated land while searching for familiar reference. Generally, they’re scrolling the wrong way down the coastline.

We’ve been before. The touchpool is a new addition at the aquarium. Hip height but shallow, a false bottom to force the fish up to the surface so you can put your hand in, feel their strange skins.

You reach out and stroke the cold, fresh water. You pull back, and turn, looking around.

—Aren’t those fish dangerous? I ask.

The attendant comes forward, slowly, one leg in front of the other as if she’s walking a fine line.

—Don’t worry, she says, as she stops by us. They’ve had their stingers removed.

She walks off.

You look in, see the rays dozily flapping, dragging behind them their pinkish stumps. You turn to me.

—Imagine it, you say, the other way round.

This is a recurrent theme. You dream it a lot. Retribution. Like panda bears wiping out eighty percent of the world with hunting knives.

—If people had their stingers removed.

—What, I ask, like that that guy over there?

—The one with the bad haircut?

—I think he heard you.

—Don’t worry, you say, plunging your arm into the water. He’s not from round here.

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LIGHTER . by Linda Simoni-Wastila

The sign across the street winked neon: Walk-ins Welcome. Bells jingled when I pushed the glass door. A sleepy-looking woman looked up from a magazine.

“Is it too late for a haircut?”

“I can take you now,” she said.

I followed her to the back. Chairs reclined against industrial sinks. She lowered the heft of my hair into the tub. Warm water pulsed over my scalp and her gentle hands worked soap into lather. Head wrapped in terry, I trailed her to the front window and perched in a chair before the large mirror. She unwound the towel and my hair, au-lait brown from the shampooing, cascaded down my back.

“Just a trim?”

“Cut it off.”

“All of it?”

“To my shoulders.”

“But you have beautiful hair,” she said.

I shrugged; time for something new. She combed with care, starting from the bottom. Shears rasped through the strands. I closed my eyes. With each snip, I remembered: Ben slowly unbraiding my hair, kissing my bared neck, sending shivers down my spine.

But he was gone. The blow-dryer seared my cheeks, scattering small bristles down my neckline. On the radio Elton John wailed about yellow brick roads. She swiveled me around to face my reflection.

Long clumps of gold covered the scuffed linoleum floor, my lap, the tips of my shoes peeking beneath the nylon smock. Piles and piles of my hair. My chest filled with unexpected pressure.

For some reason, I thought I would feel lighter.

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Regardless . by Susan Gibb

She fingered the spikes as if they were alien. Last week her hand slid over the ice rink of her skull. She wondered if she should just shave the new growth again. Her eyes looked huge in the mirror.

He told her he’d love her no matter what she had done. Had she wrecked the car?

No.

Overdrawn the account?

No.

Quit her job? Gotten pregnant? Gambled away all their savings?

No, no, and no.

Then why worry? He’d love her if she got fat as a rum ball. He’d love her if she were bald.

What he hadn’t asked was if she had had an affair. If it was, in fact, with his closest friend, Jake. For a month she festered in silence. Then she cut off her long dark brown hair. Used his electric shaver to smooth her head all over, glowing and fresh and clean.

He stood there not blinking, not breathing, so neither did she. Then his hands dropped down to his sides and his mouth guppied for words. She waited. He coughed and then he asked her why she had done it. She told him about the three weeks he had been away and how Jake had come over and they’d both had too much to drink. He said nothing but in the morning he left.

She couldn’t believe it. He said he would forgive anything. He would love her forever regardless of all. Even if she was bald.

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Appointment . by Shelagh Power-Chopra

He went for his usual appointment with Lin, but she wasn’t there. Gone off her rocker, said her colleague, Suyin, a catty woman who chewed ginger and specialized in perms. Lin had been cutting his hair for months now, found her shop by chance one day when his barber was shut. It was a simple shop–hard pink chairs, no magazines and one potted plant. His hair was limp and a mousy brown but she never made him feel bad. She cut his bangs with such precision it was if she held an imaginary ruler against his forehead. She didn’t talk much, always smiling–once she told him he had good features, you have devil eyes, she said mischievously as she rubbed mousse in his hair. He loved to watch her move–so willowy and ethereal like a living ghost. He often thought of asking her out–they’d go to some little Italian hole in the wall, read Mallarme together and later she’d lie naked on his plaid sofa as she trimmed his moustache. Lin real upset, she run out of here like fire, Suyin said as she clipped away, nicking his neck. He closed his eyes, listened as she sucked the ginger–a waterfall in his ears. Got a phone call, neighbor found her husband hung up in the closet, love of her life, I hear. He stared at the mirror, his hair looked chewed up–severed by a miniature lawnmower. Okay, we done here, Suyin said, holding out her hand for a tip.

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Getting Better . by Grey Johnson

Debra and Ron took a half day off from work to drive Lisa to the state sponsored treatment center. It had a fairly nice campus with a wide lawn. Debra thought about naked asses being chased downhill, orderlies tumbling to prevent patients from darting onto the freeway. Ron was just annoyed at the loss of an afternoon and evening. Weeks later, when the completely predictable phone call came, Donna and Ron made the return visit to the state facility. When Lisa came out to meet them, she looked so different – her skin was clearer, she wasn’t as thin, and her hands didn’t shake. All these things were worthy of notice. But before either Debra or Ron could make a positive comment, Debra sputtered, “What the hell happened to your hair?”

Lisa made no attempt at being bashful or apologetic. She made no effort at enthusiasm or contempt, either. In an astoundingly flat and direct way, Lisa stated “I cut it off.”

Ron shook his head and replied, “Yes, we can see that, Lisa.”

“Well, didn’t they give you a mirror, Honey?” said Debra.

Ron said, “I just want to know how you managed to get the fucking scissors this time.”

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Kazimerz . by Joanne Jagoda

When my husband’s wiry hair stands up in the morning I remind him he looks like Kazimerz. We have fond memories of Kazimerz from our Jewish heritage trip to Poland. He was our driver, ferrying us about as we learned of the vibrant Jewish life and culture which once flourished in Eastern Europe from a knowledgeable Polish guide. We walked the streets of the former Warsaw ghetto, toured ancient cemeteries in Krakow, and gritted our teeth while visiting the death camp of Auschwitz.

Every morning as our small group trudged on the bus, Kazimerz would help us up the steep stairs with his bad haircut getting worse as the week went on as did his body odor. Taciturn, he barely gave a smile or grunt. His blondish hair was trimmed close on the sides but the top part would be standing up at precarious angles and had a life of its own .No real barber could have done this. His wife must have cut his hair in the kitchen. As the week went on his lack of bathing and hairstyle became a hot topic of conversation.

At the end of the tour it is customary to “tip” the tour guide and driver, and our guide was not shy in reminding us. We dutifully handed them our tips and Kazimerz lit up like a Christmas tree, all smiles, babbling away in Polish. The international language of money must have done the trick. Maybe now he could do something about his hair.

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Broke up with My Hairdresser . by Bob Eckstein

It wasn’t that he dropped the comb on the floor and just continued using it or that I was bleeding behind my neck from a nick. No, the last straw came when I saw him in the mirror wipe his running nose with a bare hand which he then dipped into hair gel before running his hands through my head. I didn’t say anything, too stunned and mortified. Just went home and took two showers. What do you tip something like that?

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The Bad Haircut . by Darryl Price

The Bad Haircut

would not make friends
with any hat.
That goes without
saying. It forced

itself upon
mirrors like splattered
toothpaste you
don’t really notice

until it’s
too late. The damage
to your sense
of decorum

has already
been done.That being
said, it somehow
managed to

grow on you.And
now actually
seems perfect
for your small head.

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Nothing Compares to You . by Al McDermid

Bad Haircut was having another bad hair day. So bad in fact that Bad vowed to not leave the house. Happy that, thanks to summer, she wouldn’t have to go to school, she sat in the kitchen, moping over her coffee, listening to her mother insist she get out and enjoy the weather. Her older sister, Fabulous, the pretty one, did not help matters by bouncing through the kitchen at that moment, her always fabulous hair bouncing along with her.

“Why can’t you be more like your sister,” her mother intoned as Fabulous bounced out the door, on her way to rescue puppies, or whatever it was she was doing to beef up her college application.

“Because,” Bad said, drawing out the pause, “I’m not. Duh.” With that she left to watch TV.

The previous school year had been tolerable thanks to the goth/emo look she’d cultivated to give reason for her perpetually unruly hair, and while the look still worked for her, the culture that came with it did not. Sure, Bad was occasionally depressed (thanks to the hair), but she saw no reason to make a lifestyle out of it; she wasn’t about to cut herself. Plus, she didn’t like boys who wore black fingernail polish. Something had to give. Next year, she’d be a senior and clearly needed a new plan.

Surfing through the channels, she landed on VH1 in time to see Sinead O’Connor. “Mom,” she called out, smiling, “I need money for a haircut.”

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A hair-raising story . by Stella Pierides

He always followed her advice. When she said you should buy this
jacket, it suits you, he bought it; this tie goes with your hair, he
wore it. She chose his shirts and his suits for him. As if he were a
boy and she his mother rather than his wife.

So, when he came home with a totally new haircut, she knew he was
having an affair. She knew!

“This is a bad haircut,” she told him. “It makes you look older. It
makes your face look fatter. This is not you.”

He didn’t respond. He just stood there, looking at her quietly,
steadily, fiddling with his belt. Shifting his weight on the other
leg, he reached for his coat, put it on and walked out the door.

She bit her lip, thinking. Suddenly a smile rippled on her face. She
now had an opponent. Her life would be more interesting from now on.

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Your Turn . by Kelly Grotke

What sort of character am I? A man with a bad haircut and perhaps a bit of dandruff, worn down by life and forever rubbing his bodily particulars against the ill-fitting suit that clings to him like some lifeless shedding skin. Not terribly original, I’m sure. A person so apparently unreceptive to his own existence that the possibilities of doing good have grown as remote from him as those of doing evil. Someone who might even be pitied but for the fact that the sour scent of his presence sets the nerves slightly shivering with repulsion. A living memento mori. How clever of me, how deliciously inward….

But one always has difficulties seeing what is there, I must admit. This is how I imagine myself, for you, since you asked. And I have tried to be honest. The extent to which a self-portrait may yet be a work full of artifice and cunning, you may be in a better position to judge, though I find your curiosity unusual. Not unsettling, mind you, it could never be that. I am what I am, and I am quite suited to my time.

And you? Who are you? Your turn, and I am waiting. Because if we take this little exploration to heart, as you seem so to desire, then a certain reciprocal interest need hardly be excused, however much it may simply be a conventional courtesy of what passes these days for satisfactory social intercourse. So I am waiting, still….

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A Bad Haircut . by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

When Jenna started wearing long sleeves in the summer, her friends advised her to get a new haircut.

—It’ll give you your confidence back.

A co-worker gave her a card for Wicked Salon on 15th.

As soon as Jenna stepped outside with her shorter do, however, she knew something was wrong. Most haircuts are satisfied with being looked at in any shop window, but this one insisted that she go down to Broadway and look in the window of Castle, the sex toy megastore her Japanese students had told her was listed as a landmark in their Seattle guidebooks.

When her new inverted bob drove her on past the lingerie and dildos to buy a pair of handcuffs, she didn’t know what it had in mind. She didn’t really understand, in fact, until her husband’s body, still wearing the cuffs, was dissolving in lye in the bathtub.

Realizing what she had done, Jenna faced herself in the mirror on the antique dresser in their bedroom. She held up her arms. It would be another few weeks before the bruises faded and she could wear short sleeves again. Or go sleeveless: why not? He would never tell her she looked slutty again. In the meantime, her haircut was sure to get attention. She just hoped it would be the same after she styled it herself.

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quelle horror! quelle dommage! . by Quenby Larsen

He would surely be fired, observed Chef, of Errand Guy #24, George, whose name Mme Stache pronounced in the French way. “Jacques” whose actual name was Jimmy and “Andre,” aka “Andy” had gone out in much the same way. Having failed to realize the way in which the woman anthropomorphized her dog according to its haircut, they did not do the one thing that would satisfy her: To make Fifi look like a happy, innocent young pooch.

If the dog’s hair became dirty and matted, she looked like a grimacing old man or a crook. If Errand Guy, who was in charge of taking the dog to the groomer, did not convey the message that Fifi was to have “Teddy Bear Eyes,” Mme became distraught when Fifi inevitably came back with a low shelf of hair over her eyes. The cut made Fifi look angry, said Mme, like “an angry little bitch.” As the hair softened and dirtied, the little dog looked friendlier again but she also looked like little waif, like a little trampy thief.

Chef felt respect for George when he realized he was torturing Mme Stache on purpose. Soon George and Chef became lovers. Soon they went away. Chef left his ladle in a pot on a cold burner on the stove, along with his apron and hat. George left a tape with the message: “My name is George. That’s G-E-O-R-G-E.” He pronounced the letters in the American way.

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Back Room Banter . by Robert Vaughan

We were eating our lunch in the back room at the salon.

“Last week,” I said to Kamy, “this lady brought in those sticks that a doctor uses to check your tonsils.”

“Uh-huh,” Kamy said, reading her text messages.

“She wanted to know if I could give her a perm on them.”

Kamy whooped, set her phone on the cluttered counter. “That’s crazy!”

“You bet! I told her, I’m sorry, Mrs. Hammond, but I’m a beautician, not a magician.”

Kamy laughed so hard she almost puked up the lunch we’d just devoured from La Cantina. “One time,” she said after she’d gotten her breath back, “I was doing a color consultation on Mrs. Lee. And I was halfway into it, you know, color charts, swatches, level this, retouches, blah, blah, blah. And I notice something moving on her lap. Like, under her cape.”

“She was a he?”

“Her dog.” We laughed.

“Hey, I need your advice,” she said. “Vincent messed me up last time.” She lifted her extensions in back so I could see.

I thought it’ll take a miracle to fix that. “We can stay after our last clients. I’ll see what I can do.”

“ Thanks! Oh, I’ve got a guy at 2:00 for a wax service.”

“Really?” I’d don’t do waxing, haven’t since cosmetology school. “What’s he getting done? Eyebrows?”

“No, Debbie booked it as a Back, Crack and Sack appointment,” Kamy said.

As the shock registered, my mouth gaped open.

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Roadshow . by Kim Hutchinson

A week ago he’d learned over lunch that he was losing his favorite project.

It was the place he had a chance to shine. He loved touring the country with two crates of laptops in tow, teaching the intellectually less fortunate how to perform the calculations to properly install the manufacturer’s equipment, saving the company warranty costs. He loved the tight airplane seats, bad hotels, dim meeting rooms and greasy food, even some of the less fortunate students, in his own way.

He paraded at the front of the rooms, demi-godlike, flipping calculations off the top of his head, dazzling them with his speed and accuracy.

But his roadshow had become too expensive. Travel costs, said the boss.

Now he sat across from this trim woman in a well-cut skirt, brandishing her big-city resume and promising to make his show, his baby, transportable and accessible.

Suddenly, he felt the weight of the extra hundred pounds on his average frame, the itch of the red rash on his hand, the psychological sting of his cheap plaid shirt and bad haircut.

The woman smiled at him sincerely. I know how you feel, she seemed to say. We can work together.

He almost let himself feel kindly, even cooperative, but just for a second. Then he caught a reflection of himself in her eyes. He didn’t like what he saw, an ordinary man.

He brushed a stray hair from his forehead and leveled his gaze.

It was on.

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Holes . by Stephen Hastings-King

Every morning he is awakened by jack hammers. He feels around his head to make sure all the parts are there. Then he says his name to see if it still fits. Over coffee he watches a video loop metallic sky against which reproduction birds bob in the wind. He rehearses the day’s emotions. At roughly the same moment each morning he leans forward to scrutinize a coming irregularity in the loop, a joke inserted by whoever shot the sequence. When it comes he deplores the lack of normal people in the arts. He makes lists of potential experiences. What I Will Encounter. What I Will Explore. What I Will Avoid. He examines critically his haircut. In the shower he sings Verdi. His laughs operatically as he rummages for socks. Over another cup of coffee he watches the video loop metallic sky across which reproduction birds fall like ash. He girds his feet and prepares to encounter the day. He arrives before the door. His hand moves toward the knob. It is possible that the burner is still on. If he goes upstairs he will have to start over. If he doesn’t the house could burn down. He sits on the stairs. Every morning he forgets to make a list of everything that he did that morning. But there is no space for a list of everything because that list would engulf the others. Every morning he sits on the stairs, pinned by the holes in everything.

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HAND SURFING . by Steven M. Stucko

She had a bad haircut and her ears were clearly in need of a Q-tip. Her name was Brenda. We were in line for ReoSpeedwagon tickets chatting about our mutual love for the Wagon, how many shows we’ve seen, and which T-shirts we saved over the years.

Then she starts telling me about this ‘hobby’ she’s way into. She calls it Hand Surfing and how one participates in this activity is to stick one’s hand out the window of a moving car. “I’m trying to take it to the next level” she explained. “I’m working on a catalog of maneuvers and degree of difficulty ratings on my web site: fun.at.hand.net. I’m introducing stronger finger kites and some cool new parachutes that look like psychedelic doctor masks, all biodegradable so the broken ones on the side of the road are gone within two weeks tops. I try to go green whenever possible. Oh, and I’m trying to get a sponsorship deal with Johnson & Johnson for hand lotion. Hand Surfing is hell on cuticles.”

We bought our concert tickets and stranger-hugged goodbye. “Maybe I’ll see you at the show! Rock on!” she yelled over her shoulder.

On the way home I rolled down my window, cracked my knuckles and shook out my hand. I launched into the oncoming 65mph wind and smiled. I wished I had a little parachute. That would be so cool.

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Ferdinand’s Mom . by Tom Allman

Ferdinand was an excellent dancer; at least that’s what his Mother had told him. Around and around they would spin in the front parlor to some old Les Brown records. He begged her to allow him to meet a real girl.

Sheltered but smart, Ferdinand believed that his mother had only the best of intentions. Ferdinand’s Mother knew that if her boy ever held or smelled a sweet young girl he’d be gone lickety split. This Saturday’s Sadie Hawkins Dance at the Grange Hall would be a perfect opportunity for her to make sure that never happened.

With his shoes polished and his dead father’s suit hanging nearby he readied himself for the final touch. Smiling (on the inside) his mother lowered a bowl onto his head. Clickity Clack went the scissors and his dreams; it was the Birth Control Haircut.

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Portrait of the artist as an old man . by Guy Yasko

I

Harry’s cut is a two-step bowl: flat across the bottom straight up the
cheek, straight across the eyes, then straight down the other cheek.
Harry says it’s from Mussolini’s guards. In truth, it was unconciously
inspired by a cut on a buxom brunette in the stack of Playboys
underneath the cash register. It lives on in school photos, similarly
sequestered in attics and box bottoms, and in laughter and shame.

II

– He made the trains run on time.

– Bullshit, Harry. You left. What do you know about it?

– Get out.

– You’re not done.

– Get out of my shop.

– Finish your job, then i go.

Harry spreads his left hand across the customer’s face and holds him
against the chair. In his right hand he holds his razor against the
man’s throat.

– Get out of my fucking shop.

III

Harry swats at flies. He checks the sky above 12th St. and thinks
about low- ering the blinds. A curve swings through the city’s
parallels and orthogonals. His son-in-law’s brother’s bride. He went
to the wedding. What an ass.

– I’m going for a coffee.

– OK, Harry, i got you covered.

The light at the corner turns red. She stops, eyes fixed on the light.
Harry pulls up beside her and pinches her nipple. She laughs.

The light turns green and she crosses. Harry stays on the corner.

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Cut Deep . by Randal Houle

Cutting hair is a singular pleasure for me. When the warden asked if I had any special talents that could be turned into a vocation during my ‘stay,’ of course I suggested I could cut the other inmates’ hair. He said no immediately. “Not you, pick another profession.”

What am I in for, you ask? I’m serving a life sentence for giving a bad haircut. One lousy haircut. I have hundreds of satisfied clients, but apparently, you can get the electric chair for a simple mistake.

So, when the warden said I couldn’t cut hair on the inside, it really cut me deep. It wasn’t what you think, I didn’t murder one of my clients.

He was a walk-in. He wanted a scissor cut. I advised against that. Nearly everyone, well EVERYONE in my shop gets the electric clippers. Scissors are for suckers and I liked watching the ball game while I worked.

I combed out a section of hair from the top of his head. I pinched it between my fingers.

“Hey, that guy was safe,” I said to the television. He was out.

I squeezed the handle. It felt a little tougher than I remember from school, so I really gave it a good squeeze. There were no screams because I had sliced into his windpipe, but the gurgling was my first clue something was wrong.

I’m still waiting to see if the warden will let me cut hair for the other inmates.

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Poof . by Doug Bond

Lately, before appointments he’d been asking himself the same questions he’d ask in sessions. “If you were separated, what about your partner would you miss most?” or “What are you feeling inside right now?”

Now? Hungry. Ten minutes until his two o’clock, just enough time for a quick lunch. He checked the calendar; it was a first session, a referral from the cute MFCC he’d been mentoring.

His tuna fish sandwich got stuck in the baggie and then practically exploded in his lap. Why does she always wrap them so tight? Then he thought of the little spot on his wife’s head that for whatever reason, he couldn’t explain, he loved kissing. A cowlick on top where there was just a hint of her white scalp, a small opening in the whorls of her thick black hair. She’d been trying out new hairdressers recently. This last one poofed everything. The spot was all but gone.

He tossed the sandwich remnants into the garbage on his way to the sitting room. A young woman, alone, probably early thirties, bent forward with hands in her lap working the buttons on an iPhone. She was wearing a sheer sports top the kind that wicks moisture away from the skin. A long blond ponytail was pulled straight through the back of a burnt orange cap, with the strands laying smooth down the middle of her neck. He felt himself rolling up onto the tips of his toes as he opened his mouth to speak.

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Color Coded Pills . by Matthew A. Hamilton

He coughs. He has headaches. He vomits blood. He faints. Doctor Smith tells him he has inoperable cancer. He gets a second opinion. Dr. Wilson says there is a chance. He begins chemo. Color coded pills fill the medicine cabinet. Blue and green in the morning. Pink and white in the evening. He sits in a comfortable leather chair. He watches his blood mix with a gold liquid. He is tired, but feels better. He takes a shower. The hot water massages his skin. He rubs his scalp. His hair begins to fall out. Razor in hand, he looks in the mirror. He cries. He doesn’t want to continue with the chemo, the pills. “I’m going to die anyway,” he says to himself. “And when I do, what then? All this money. My wife and children, their future. I just can’t do this anymore.”

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A Reasonable Match . by Martin Brick

She knew I liked long hair. Which convinces me it wasn’t a true breakup cut. She planned to come back, and to make me feel bad, the growing hair a reminder of my gradual forgiveness.

Everyone knew those long chestnut locks. So everyone would ask, “what’s the deal?” if they saw her lying in her casket with that spiky cut. Especially her mother who said it made her look like a lesbian. Her mother who knew we were on the rocks, who had a very bad impression of me, looked at her daughter and said, “You’ve driven her away from men altogether, haven’t you?”

I think she blamed me for the death. The police simply said she had alcohol in her system, never explicitly said it was a “factor.” There was light snow. Maybe, even sober, she would have slipped. Or maybe the drinks slowed her reflexes. Or maybe they made her melancholy enough that a concrete pillar looked inviting. One thing I know for certain is that I was the reason she was drinking.

Another thing I know with certainty is that if you search very hard, with a photograph, you can find a wig that matches reasonably well.

And a last thing I know, is that if you ask the funeral director he will let you keep the wig, and provided you don’t tell her the back story, a woman you hookup with months later will wear it and when you say “forgive me” she’ll grant it.

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Mr. Invisible . by Dawn Armstrong

I thought to myself “Really! This guy is fuckin crazy!” Of course I
couldn’t say it to him. He was sitting in my chair waiting for me to
start cutting his hair. He was, after all, a paying client. Between
the small talk we exchanged I was wondering if he was on some kind of
drug. Would it be appropriate, I thought, for me to refuse to cut his
hair the way he wanted me to cut it. After all, when people asked him
“Who the hell cut your hair like that?” he would tell them. Do I want
that type of reputation? Does it even matter? After all, I have my
regular clients that know my work. But still, it’s like sculpting
someone’s head and I don’t want to be thought of as a lousy sculptor.

Half an hour later he looks at himself quizzically in the mirror. His
head tilts from side to side and back to front. I spin him around and
hand him a mirror to look at the back of his abstract head. He spins
around again so he is facing the mirror. He looks up at me and I’m
waiting…. He speaks. “Hmmm, I think I may have to get used to
this.” And with a look of puzzlement, surprise and amusement he says
“You did exactly what I asked for. You really listened to me! No one
usually does.”

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Mirror Mirror On The Wall . by Derin Attwood

She moaned all day and half the night. She’s such a drama queen! Two goddamn inches. That’s all they took off, and that is what she asked for. “Straighten it,” she said. That’s what she wanted and that’s what she got.

I mean, she can pretty well tuck it into her panties – if she wore them. Spoilt as. It’s always a major tantrum where she’s concerned.

Her hair is long and thick, blond – of course – the perfect shade. So adaptable, she wears it up, down, curled, straight, plaited, crimped … well, any way she wants really. And she looks spectacular. She doesn’t need to throw a tantrum to make everyone look at her.

Everything about her seems perfect – on the outside. Perfect look, perfect house, perfect bedroom, large room … big as mirror. She sits in front of it pouting and preening, then flounces out to answer the door.

So I sit in her perfect bedroom, beside the perfect luxurious bed and look into that huge, perfect mirror.

There’s no mirror in my room. None in my house either. It’s a long time since I saw me. I look pale, gaunt actually. The blue scarf is too dark for me. I take it off –

It’s not shocking. I thought it would be.

I’d love the chance to get a bad haircut. Chemo-therapy is such a bitch.

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Scanio’s Dad . by Walter Bjorkman

“There are-a no bad haircuts, justa bad heads” was his favorite saying.

Scanio’s dad rose up from his dad’s humble Brooklyn barber shop beginnings to become an officer at the Lincoln Savings bank by day, but still gave haircuts at night to the neighborhood kids and some parents, as much for the love of it as for the extra income.

The Scanio’s lived in one of the rare detached wood houses found in this neighborhood, down by the Staten Island Ferry. Their backyard bordered the alley behind my house on the adjacent dead-end block. Greg was a best buddy for a few years; we played streetball and dished up real Italian ices in the summer to folks on their way to the country, from a tool shed Scanio’s dad converted into an over-the-counter into-the-street shop.

One day, Scanio’s dad offered me a free haircut. At age ten, I didn’t care, though mom was concerned – she had seen the results on her paying brother. No need to worry. After the final little snips, the haircut in the mirror was the finest ever seen on this bad haircut magnet.

Then the shadows of drenched hands loomed above, scarier than any Vincent Price movie. In a splash and a comb it was gone, slicked back into a glossy magazine cover, soon to be hardened into a concrete slab in the summer sun.

Odell Hair Trainer, reserved for the under-nine set: it never met a good haircut it did or didn’t like.

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Appeasement . by John Wentworth Chapin

This is what they say about my hair: Brillo. Jew-fro. Nigger wool. Seriously, people: nigger wool.

Nice, right? Buncha fuckin low-lifes, right? No, I’m not at the junior high bus stop. I’m at the dining room table with my parents. My unwieldy hair embarrasses them. That my dad is technically a Jew, even though he’s Methodist, isn’t even an unhappy irony. To them, it’s irrelevant. I disafuckinggree.

My cousin Theresa, who I haven’t been able to look in the eye since the incident in fifth grade with my unwilling shriveled cock and her fingernail polish, is getting married Saturday, and I’m supposed to look nice, get my hair cut. Look nice? I don’t wanna even fucking go, much less look nice.

I flinch, and my mother rolls her eyes. I say, “You can’t call yourself a hippie and use the N word, Mom, for fuck’s sake.”

“You call yourself a hippie, Denise?” my dad asks. I’m pretty sure he’s stoned.

“Niggerniggerniggerniggerniggerniggernigger,” she says. I’m sure she’s drunk. I snap.

“OKAY!” I shout over her mantra. “I will get my hair cut before the wedding.” This appeases them.

I will get it cut, and it will look nice for a brief moment in time… And then, dressed in my suit, I will hack it all off with nail clippers in the church bathroom and then walk into the sanctuary and take my spot amongst the groomsmen and watch my mother and Theresa squirm.

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I was never good with people but I had a friend, once
by Michelle Elvy

This is a story about a skinny girl named Penny. We climbed the monkey bars after school because my dad was usually late to pick me up and her parents arrived even later than my dad. So even if we didn’t exactly intend to be friends, we were — after school, at least, since during school she was the kind who didn’t dodge the red ball, and I was the kind who threw it hard because I could. I reckon I wasn’t the nicest kid, but Penny saw past such flaws and became my friend anyway. I didn’t realize we were friends until one week she didn’t turn up at school and I didn’t talk to or play with anyone or even try hard in gym class. So when she showed up again on the following Monday, I asked her name and we became friends – probably even BFF’s except I didn’t know such cuteness and I had a keen sense that forever was bullshit. When we had an outbreak of lice at school Penny took me to her house and we shaved our heads with an electric razor. My teacher called my dad for a conference but he wasn’t a conference kind of guy so he never showed. We kept our hair short all through that spring. But by the following September, Penny had moved away and my hair had grown out. Everything was the same again — except I stopped throwing dodgeballs at skinny girls.

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52|250 thanks Susan Gibb for the use of her art, Natural Woman for this week’s flash. We asked Susan about this extraordinary image; here’s what she offered:


 

This image is a combination of images and effects. From a portrait photo I took of a friend, I selected the face and used a neon effect to highlight the frown and lines of the character. The background is a photo I took of a large maple tree covered with a light layer of snow applying the same effect, and merging the two to create the nature and strength of a woman as defined by her crowning glory.


Comment on “This Week’s Art”

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