Persey welcomed the familiar ding of her shop’s door warmly with her toothy, bright smile. She enjoyed her small hair salon tucked into the back corner of the downtown area and always showed gratitude for new customers, even if they never came back.
“Needing a haircut today?” Persey greeted the stranger.
“Why? Does it look like I need a haircut?” Came a terse reply from the irritated-looking lady who had graying but thick hair that waved around her head in a style she kept from her youth.
“Please, come sit. I’m ready whenever you are.” She took place behind a chair and patted at the head. Persey ignored rudeness as a rule, both in her shop and out. Safer that way, she thought.
The woman half-shuffled over, making her look older than she had appeared initially. She sank into the chair without finesse and looked indignantly at Persey, “Aren’t you going to take my bag?”
“My apologies.” Persey sat the bag in the stall next to her. She had two chairs in the salon but only ever needed one.
Persey began to work. She always began without much talk and let those who knew what they wanted interject. Those who didn’t never seemed to mind her brazen approach. It was clear with this customer especially that she’d like her hair to replace her youth and although Persey could not make that happen, she knew how to draw the anachronism into form.
Ten minutes into the session the woman lashed out, “you’re too slow.”
Persey did not quicken her pace though she was a bit shaken – more out of pity than anger. She calmly returned her attention to her work and smiled sympathetically, hoping the woman would relax.
As Persey finished the neckline, she noticed whisps falling out to relieve lettering in the older woman’s nape spelling out the word “bald.”
Persey hesitated a moment. She took no joy in what came next and had to prepare for the task. She took a deep breath, placed the comb in her left hand down, and gently ran her free hand into the woman’s topmost tuft. She replaced her trimmer with scissors and gripped firmly on the woman’s hair with her left hand which evoked a screech.
“What are you doing back there?” The older woman launched obscenities at Persey with a look of disgust.
It was too late. Persey fought the lady’s head back into the chair without much effort as she began to shave the woman’s head.
“Stop! Please, I’m sorry-” she cried.
“It hardly matters.” Persey smiled with the same pity she had as soon as she anticipated the woman’s fate and let the woman cry out one last time before she finally protested no more.
Persey placed the bald head in a bag, storing it in the back freezer next to other former customers. The head was not for her, though she was careful not to bloody up any hair left behind. She disliked wastefulness and thought the thick gray would make a nice wig for someone more appreciative of it. All cleaned up, she switched the sign on the door and locked up. She smiled warmly at a couple who came to get their hair done, “come back after lunch.” She directed them cheerfully.