Balder than an Onion
“LINE UP IN FORMATION!”
The sound of the prison guard’s voice raged through Mary’s ears. She still was not used to it, despite being incarcerated for three months now. Mary had been sentenced to two years for aiding in an armed robbery, even though it was her ‘boyfriend’ who actually did the robbing. Mary knew nothing of her boyfriend’s intentions and, being the idiotic criminal he was, bungled the whole darn thing, got shot and caught. Mary had been in the car, thinking her boyfriend was going to get a pack of cigarettes. Despite her lawyer’s assurance that she would not be put into jail, the judge decided to make an example of her and sentenced her to two years in Parker’s State Women’s Prison.
The judge, it was rumored, was an old hen named Crabb, who apparently had a bad childhood. Some of the abuse she endured, it was said, was brought on by her lack of appearance and the cruel remarks made about her from pretty young girls, similar to Mary.
And Mary was pretty. A girl barely 20, with a gorgeous face, dark brown eyes, supple breasts, like a mothers, hips similar to a Hispanic woman’s, a decent sized waistline, strong legs with a good shape and perfectly formed feet. Of course the most striking feature about Mary was her luscious, soft, long beautiful red hair. It was styled in a fashion similar to the old Farrah Fawcett style, which brought out Mary’s facial features even more. Her hair hung down a few inches past her shoulders. She had hundreds of half-curls that swung gloriously whenever she turned her head. Her soft bangs highlighted her brown eyes. Many men would kill for such hair on a woman…
Judge Crabb must have seen only those prissy, stuck-up whores who made her life hell in high school. Of course, Mary wasn’t like those girls at all.
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“LINE UP IN FORMATION!”
Mary jumped out of her bunk and stood in line with about 100 other female prisoners. It was time for the head count, which was done every day and night by Doris Black, the head prison matron.
Doris Black was a hulking, scowling man-like thing who pretty much ran the show at Parker. She was the stark opposite of Mary. Black had never been married.
Mary did not like Doris at all. She sensed that Doris was jealous of her, even though she had tried to be a model prisoner, in hopes of gaining early release within a few more months. Her feelings were right.
Doris had been jealous of Mary ever since she entered the walls of Parker. Mary had gained favor with the warden, other prisoners and guards. Doris was under the belief that there was no such thing as a “good” prisoner. All were maggots, as far as she was concerned, regardless of the circumstances of their incarceration. If one of them got out of line, she always said: “Take ’em, strap ’em down, shave every hair off their head and throw ’em in solitary for a few weeks with nutin’ but bread and water! That’s how you keep things in order!”
Of course Doris’ beliefs did not line up with the reform-minded warden. Many times they clashed over their views of how prisoners should be handled. However, with her political connections, Doris never lost her job.
“SAY YOUR NAME WHEN CALLED!”
All the way down the line, the women said their name, last name first.
“White, Joan… Jenkins, Gloria… Jones, Beverly…” said the women.
Doris walked slowly down the line, looking for anything that might be out of order, a uniform not properly worn, bed disheveled, anything at all…
Finally, Doris came to Mary, standing in her beautiful glory. She stood straight up, breast out, chin up, arms at her side. Her legs stood a few inches apart, pointing her bare feet in opposite directions. She was wearing standard prison uniform, gray and thin black stripes in a skirt that matched.
“Millbury, Mary…” said Mary.
Doris stopped. On Mary’s bed was an envelope.
“What’s in the envelope?” Doris said.
Oh my God! Mary said to herself. Mary’s mother had sent her a gold chain for her birthday. It was nice and Mary wanted to keep it, but it was against the rules. She was about to hide it when Doris called for row…
“WHAT’S IN THE ENVELOPE? ” Doris screamed. Without waiting for Mary to answer, Doris snatched the envelope and the chain clinked onto the floor.
“You know the rules against such gifts!” Doris snarled.
“Bu-but… I was… going to tell you…” Mary stammered.
“Of course you were!” Doris said. “Come with me!”
She snatched Mary, who wasn’t much resistance for the hulking Doris, by the arm and led her to the front.
“We will see what the warden says about this,” Doris said.
Mary’s heart was beginning to race. A bad mark on her record could delay her release! Why didn’t I get rid of that chain? she thought to herself.
Doris took Mary down to Warden Holmes’ office and burst through the door. “Look what I found in this prisoner’s bunk,” she said.
“I have told you Doris, to never burst into my office like this again,” Holmes said. “We still have that matter of you shav…”
“Never mind that crap!” Doris growled though her teeth. “We have a situation here. This prisoner was found with a gold chain. Your rules state that is an automatic week in solitary. You need to make a ruling on this.”
While Holmes was reform-minded, she was also somewhat of a wuss when it came to political pressure. And Doris had political pressure to put on.
“Mary,” Holmes started. “Is that yours?”
Mary nodded her head, like a child.
“You know the rules, Mary. It breaks my heart, but you have to spend a week in solitary. That means a black mark.”
“But I just got it!” Mary pleaded. “I was going to give it when roll call was made. I just didn’t have time.”
“There was time, Mary,” Holmes said. “Prisoners are given time during break. You had a whole hour…”
Mary knew it was no use. She knew of the hour, but she let time slip by. Now because of this, she would spend a week in the dark, with bread and water. My life is going to hell, she thought.
“Come on,” Doris said. “She needs to be… prepared.”
Prepared? Mary thought.
Doris led Mary down the hall to a room off to the side, out of sight of the warden and other prisoners. Where is this place? Mary thought to herself.
“Barbara! Get in here and help. I have to ‘prepare’ someone for solitary,” Doris said.
Barbara was another cohort of Doris’. She didn’t exactly care for Doris view on reform, but she didn’t resist it much either.
Mary was led into a small room with a long chair, covered by a sheet, in the middle of the room. The door shut behind her, gently blowing her glorious red hair as it shut. She turned her head around, swinging her wonderful curls as she did, to see why was the door being shut… away from the others.
“Wh-what’s going on?” Mary asked, touching her hair as she did. It felt so soft and warm. Her former boyfriend used to rub her head until she fell asleep when they first got together. It felt so good, so sexual. People used to tell her she was going places with that hair. And here she was… in a dark, dingy room with two ugly old scags whose silence was beginning to disturb her.
“Put her in the chair,” Doris said to Barbara. At the same instant, Doris pulled off the sheet of the chair to reveal… a barber’s chair!
Mary gasped in horror at the chair. What is she going to do to me? Mary wondered.
She touched her hair again… for the last time.
Swiftly, Barbara pushed Mary into the chair. She grabbed Mary’s arms and pulled them behind the chair in a rough fashion, cuffing her hands behind the chair. Before Mary could think, her feet were strapped down, one at a time on the chair’s foot pedestal, which had been raised. Thinking if she remained calm, Mary could get out of this, she relaxed her body, leaving her bare feet in a v-formation.
They are just going to check you for lice, she thought to herself. There is no reason to panic…
From behind her she heard the sound of something being torn and the sound of something being plugged in. Barbara came around to her right and in her hand, Mary saw a piece of duct tape.
“What in the world…”
Then Doris began to speak.
“I have waited for this moment for months! Sooner or later you were going to screw up and you would be at my mercy! Just like I was at the mercy of whores like you in high school!” she said.
Mercy? Whores like me? Oh God what was she talking about?
“I watched girls like you tease men with your looks, while I was made to be the maggot of the world! I suffered at the hands of girls like you all through school! Laughing and pointing at me! Calling me Dogshit-face! Now I have made up my mind to destroy the beauty of every whore like you who comes into these walls! Here you sit, in your glorious beauty. Your beautiful face, beautiful eyes, perfect breasts, shapely legs and feet. And stunningly glorious hair…”
Mary was gripped by fear by now. With each word Doris spoke, it hit her like a ton of bricks.
“Behold yourself in your beauty,” Doris said as she tore off another sheet that had been hanging opposite from where Mary was. It revealed a mirror. In the image, Mary saw herself. A beautiful young girl, strapped to a barber’s chair, arms behind her back, her feet still splayed. She could see the soles of her feet. There was a slight film of dirt on them. Her soft, luscious, red hair with all those beautiful curls, spilling on her shoulders, hung from her head like a red crown. Even when she moved the slightest bit, her hair swung slightly.
“Expose her ears!” Doris said. Barbara did as commanded, smoothing Mary’s beautiful hair behind her right ear, then her left. Many times Mary pinned her hair up to expose her ears. Her ears were round and somewhat large, not like small cauliflower ears. She looked gorgeous leaving her ears exposed, both surrounded by her radiant, soft, curly red hair. Even now, as she beheld herself in the mirror, strapped to the chair, her ears did look gorgeous.
“I am beautiful,” she thought, in hopes of comforting herself.
To Doris, however, exposing Mary’s ears was a way of making her vulnerable. Plus the touch of strapping her feet in a v-formation was an added vulnerability. It was a posture usually associated with openness and youthfulness, like a little girl.
“Take a good look at yourself, bitch!” Doris said. “Soon I am going to be more beautiful than you!”
Fear instantly returned to Mary. During this “speech” Mary had not thought of yelling out. She was too paralyzed by fear to do so. What she saw, and heard, next ended that spell.
Doris went behind Mary. Mary could see in the mirror she was picking up something black in her hands. It had a cord. Before Mary could even think, she heard a snap! pop! and a constant humming sound, that caused her to jump in the chair. She looked and saw that Doris had a pair of electric hair clippers in her hand.
OH MY GOD! Mary’s mind screamed. She is going to shave every hair off of my head! Not my beautiful hair! NO!
“No! PLEASE! DON’T SHAVE MY HAIR OFF! I HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING. I WILL DO ANYTH…. MMMMMFFFFFPPPP! MMMMFFFPPP!”
Barbara, who had been standing during the whole ‘speech’, instantly taped Mary’s mouth shut, silencing her pleas.
Mary glimpsed in the mirror. She beheld herself strapped like an animal, feet exposed, ears exposed, and Doris bringing the clippers to the middle of Mary’s forehead.
It was her last moment of beauty.
Doris plunged the clippers down the middle of Mary’s head, cutting a path of white, instantly severing thousands of strands of Mary’s beautiful hair. A piece of her soft bangs fell gently own her chest and landed right around her supple breasts. They were like a cow’s, full of mother’s milk.
Doris once again placed the clippers on Mary’s forehead and cut another white path. Again, thousands of strands of soft red hair met their deaths and fell to the ground, defeated by the clippers. Doris passed the clippers over Mary’s head several times, each time destroying her soft curls that swung when she turned her head. Each time the clippers touched Mary’s hair, the tone would change, indicating that Mary’s head was being shaved. Her curls would slither down her head, try to cling on for dear life, and then fall gently to the floor.
My beautiful curls… all gone, Mary sobbed to herself.
Mary’s heart sank deep within her chest. With the loss of her glorious hair, she was losing her power, her beauty, her ability to control, her womanhood and her sexuality. No man with any decency would gaze upon her bald head and enjoy what he was seeing. She was being destroyed. Mary sank in the chair, splaying her feet a couple of more inches, totally unresisting to her fate. Doris brought the clippers up to Mary’s left ear and shaved off the thick, red hair that Barbara had smoothed behind Mary’s ear. Then she did the same with the right ear. No more beautiful red hair surrounded Mary’s round ears. Mary’s hair put up no resistance to the clippers and fell in disgrace to the floor. Mary’s ears now stuck out from her head in a freakish fashion. Mary gazed at herself in the mirror. “Dear God,” she thought, “I look like a total freak!”
The word “freak” being used to describe her appearance struck Mary hard. Doris started to shave the hair off of the back of Mary’s head. From the front it looked like it was all gone, but not yet. This was where the bulk of Mary’s famous curls were. Doris shaved every single one of them off, sending them to garbage heaven.
Mary remembered for an instant where a man, she didn’t remember his name, told her: “Your curls are like a red curtain of dreams.” The comment had made her tingle all over. Now as she was being robbed of her beautiful curls, she began to cry large tears.
Finally, Doris made her last pass. She ran the clippers over Mary’s head one last time for luck and then turned the clippers off. Silence replaced the humming sound.
On the floor was two inches deep with Mary’s formerly beautiful hair. Now it was trash, waiting to be swept up and thrown away. No longer a treasure for men to run their fingers through or to brush or wash. No longer a tool to attract the attention of handsome men. No longer will the wind blow it or sun shine upon it, giving off a sense of power. All the hard work Mary had put into caring for her hair was wasted.
Mary closed her eyes at the thought of the loss of her hair. Tears streamed down her face a she did.
Doris lathered up Mary’s head and scraped it with a straight razor, leaving her bald and smooth.
Doris and Barbara unstrapped Mary and led her down to solitary confinement. Mary had forgotten about this part.
On the way down the stairs, Mary could see their shadows. A hulking figure (Doris), an equally butch-like person (Barbara) and the shadow of a person with a bald head with large ears that stuck out. Her head.
Must not think about it… Mary said to herself, even though the sight struck her like a ton of bricks.
Finally, Mary was led to her “cell”, a small, dark, dingy cramped space with no light. She looked in horror at it.
Without even a second thought, Mary was slung into that cell, and the door slammed behind her, leaving a ringing sound in her ears.
My ears, she thought, they stick out like taxi cab doors. I’m as bald as an onion.
That night, Mary tried to sleep. She had a dream of her running through a field, with her wonderful red hair, curls and all, still intact.
She woke with a start, touched her head and began to cry…