The clippers clicked on, they didn’t hum in Jill’s ear, they roared like a Panzer division rolling through the French countryside. She jumped in the stylist’s chair… “Wait. Just a second, I need to think about this,” she screeched, in momentary terror and second-guessing.
“Think as long as you like, it’s your hair, Jill,” Becky said. The two were old friends. Jill loved her hair, and was saddened by how poorly the perm had turned out. Not that Becky did a bad job, it just turned out to look exactly like it should and Jill couldn’t get used to it. She hated it in fact. She hated it so much that she was doing, for Jill, the unthinkable… cutting off her hair.
“What if it looks bad?” Jill asked, looking up over her shoulder to Becky.
“Look, you’ve got a very pretty face,” Becky said. “Hell, it’s almost too pretty. In fact, some people hate you for it. Sandy was thrilled you hated the perm and knew you wouldn’t be able to part with your hair, so you’d be stuck with this look for a while.”
“I’m just really tired of being called ‘Art Garfunkel’.”
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“Well, you did ask for curls.”
“Yeah, but this makes Shirley Temple’s hair look straight by comparison.”
“It’s exactly what you asked for.”
“Maybe, sometimes, I don’t know what I want.”
“Yeah, like now.”
“Anything you want Jill, it’s your head.”
“Sandy thinks I’m gutless?”
Becky nodded. Jill got this look on her face that said more than it needed to. It said, Sandy needed a good slapping. But Jill was a peaceful type. A peaceful type with just past the shoulder hair that glistened. It was a nutty brown, with perfect highlights. It did, however, not look right with the current perm.
“Ah, hell,” Jill said, which shocked Becky, since Jill never swore, not even ‘hell.’ “Pixie me. Just make it look good.”
“You got it.”
Again the loud pop and hum erupted in Jill’s ear. Becky looked at Jill, Jill nodded, and the teeth of the attachment dug into the back of Jill’s neck. It hurt, it poked and grabbed for a second, then the clippers chewed away at Jill’s full locks. They gave up without a struggle. The hum had dulled to a point where Jill found it soothing, not the alarming noise of a thousand Harleys motoring into town and signaling the apocalypse, just the gentle hum of change. Jill had never had hair above her shoulders. She had never wanted short hair, not until she grew so unhappy with “the perm of doom” as she called it.
The Seattle rain had made the curls even more curly, and Jill would look in the mirror each morning and almost sob. She’d fight back the tears and calculate how long it would take to grow out. The idea of having the bottom half of her hair too curly and the top its usual ironed-straight look was appalling. Jill cared about her appearance, almost to the point of vanity. Well, past the point of vanity actually.
She played with a picture of herself on the computer, putting different hairstyles on her head. None looked as simple and stylish as what she had two weeks ago, in the pre-perm of doom days. She plopped a pixie cut on her head late one night and looked at the screen, it was a refreshing and simple look. Something she could deal with and be rid of the perm of doom. Would it be too short? How would it look in 3D, in real life?
She went to the bathroom and pulled back all of her hair to get a good look at her ears and neck. Well, if she was going to do this, at least she had very pretty features, and an almost Audrey Hepburn-like graceful neck. Jill’s skin was creamy and smooth, her shoulders would look incredible without hair hanging on them. The chin-length bob didn’t appeal to her as much, it looked a bit too “mod” for her tastes. She printed out a copy of the picture, she had a decent idea of how it would look, but she wanted to sleep on it for a day or two.
When she woke up, she looked at the picture and felt uneasy about cutting off that much hair and decided against the idea and figured she would just tough it out and wait. Then she went to the bathroom to brush her teeth.
The combination of bed-head and perm of doom had pretty much made up Jill’s mind. She called Becky right then, and woke her up.
“We’ve got to fix this perm,” Jill said.
A bleary-voiced Becky said, “I’ll meet you at the shop in an hour. Bring coffee, strong coffee.”
And that was what brought Jill to the chair. It was Saturday, not quite 9 a.m., and she was feeling clippers hum and buzz in her ear as Becky let the chunks of curly hair fall into Jill’s lap. Wave upon wave, strand after strand, fell into Jill’s lap. She was looking down, chin on her chest, watching the perm of doom go bye-bye. She had yet to see her haircut take place. When Becky lifted Jill’s head, she closed her eyes tight, not having the courage to look, but not wanting to go home with the perm of doom.
“How long do you want the bangs?” Becky asked.
Jill opened her mouth, wanting to say “leave them at me eyebrows,” but instead said, “Fuck it! Chop ’em off!”
Even more stunned, Becky said, “Um, sure,” and clippered away the breast-length hair from Jill’s eyes, leaving 1/2 inch, jagged bangs.
“Tilt left please.”
And Jill did, the clippers withered away the hair on the sides quickly. Jill felt the early morning Seattle breeze and felt queasy. She hadn’t opened her eyes yet, and didn’t want to. Her breathing got quicker, and more uneven.
“You okay down there?” Becky asked.
“Fine, just get it done, okay?”
“Sure thing.” And Becky ran the clippers over the top of Jill’s head, lifting sections to cut it in uneven waves. She picked up the scissors to trim up the uneven parts, and to make some of the even parts uneven. Becky loved her work, and wasn’t going to charge Jill for this, partly because of how guilty she felt from inflicting the perm of doom, and partly because she got a charge out of using clippers. Her male clients almost always ended up with buzzcuts, due to Becky’s, slightly subversive, urgings. She loved the buzzed look on guys, and even talked one client into a total head shave.
He ended up liking it, and ended up in Becky’s chair every Friday for a hot lather and shave to be ready for the weekend. “Is Jill going to like this?” Becky wondered, noticing how petite and flawless Jill’s ears looked with the wispy hair just brushing over the front of her ears and the tapered, clippered sides that got shorter in the back. The back was getting rounded with the scissors and Becky’s flying scissors. She wasn’t working today, just doing a favor, and she wanted to make the 11 o’clock movie.
The comb in Becky’s hand lifted the remaining hair off the top of Jill’s head and held it prisoner as Becky cut it shorter still. She knew Jill was going to grow this look out very quickly, so she wanted to make it a bit too short, to preserve the look and admire her work. She sprayed the sides of Jill’s head with a water bottle, and ran the comb across, nothing moved, it was too short to move. It didn’t need to though, it was a near-perfect cut. The straight razor came out to make the sides and back uniform. Jill lost herself in the elating feeling of the warm cream on her neck and around her ears.
With a towel to wipe of the excess shaving cream, and a huge smile on her face, Becky said, “Perm of doom gone. What do you think?”
Jill looked at herself in the mirror, and checked out the back with the hand mirror Becky held up. She tilted her head back and forth, it looked better than the computer-generated image she had mocked-up for the occasion. The bangs were a little shorter than she’d wanted, a lesson learned for swearing when she’d promised herself she wouldn’t. But all told, she loved how velvety the top felt, and how simple it would be to maintain.
“Really nice, Becky. Thank you.” Jill wasn’t sure how long she’d keep her hair this short, but she was satisfied with the way it looked, even happy about it.
“So, I guess you can just call this ‘the pixie of salvation’?” Becky asked, grinning.
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