The Nit-Nurse – Chris Hall
There was a knock on the classroom door. Without waiting for an answer, it opened, and in walked Mrs. Price, the school nurse. She was a large, butch woman with a very stern expression, and not the most tolerant of people. She stood at the front of the room and addressed the class.
“Sorry to interrupt, Miss Joseph,” she said, apologising to the teacher first. “I have to do a routine head inspection this morning, so I’d like you to line up against the walls – boys on this side, girls on the other. Girls, I’d like you to let your hair loose if you wear it up, please. Chop, chop, now!”
There was the scraping of chairs on the tiled floor as the twenty-five students, 15- and 16-year-olds, complied with the instruction. Most of the girls had short or bobbed haircuts, in accordance with the current trends, but there were a few who preferred long hair. One girl in particular, Tracy, had really long hair that she usually wore pinned up in a bun behind her head. As she pulled out the pins, her hair cascaded down her back in waves of gold, finally reaching past her waist. A few of the boys felt their pants tighten as they watched this spectacle – a truly wondrous sight to behold!
With everyone now lined up, Mrs. Price began her inspection. She did the boys first, which was really nothing more than a cursory glance through their very short hair – most teenage boys had crewcuts or flat-tops. As she finished with each one, she nodded her head and sent him back to his desk. Then she called the first of the girls over: Katie, a pretty brunette with straight, shoulder-length hair. As Mrs. Price peered into Katie’s hair, parting it at the crown with her fingers, she started to tut and murmur, “Oh, dear” to herself. Finally, she looked up and told Katie to stand by the other wall. The girl looked worried. “What’s up?” she asked. “Have I got… nits?”
The nurse just looked at her – a look that would have stopped a clock – and said, “Just stand by the wall, please. Who’s next?”
Another girl stepped forward, rather nervously. The nurse ran her hand through the girl’s short blonde pixie-cut and peered at her crown. Once again, she was asked to stand by the wall with the first girl.
One by one the girls trooped forward to have their heads examined, and each was told to join her classmates against the wall. Finally, Tracy stepped up, and Mrs. Price seemed to take an age to look through her hair, lifting each long, golden lock very carefully. Eventually, she too was dispatched to the wall. Mrs. Price turned and addressed the extremely nervous girls, who were looking down at their feet.
“Girls, I regret to inform you that you all have a bad case of headlice.” The collective gasp of shock could be heard out in the corridor. Some of the girls started shaking and rubbing their heads vigorously. The nurse continued. “To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to find anything this morning, so would you please wait as you are while I go and fetch the treatment.”
A few girls heaved a sigh of relief as the nurse left the room. Most of them started chattering about what the treatment consisted of. One girl, whose dad was a chemist, said there were special shampoos and ointment available for headlice. The boys, sat at their desks, were teasing the girls with the ‘creepy-crawly hair’. Miss Joseph tried, and failed, to keep some kind of order, so she was relieved to see the nurse enter the classroom again, abruptly stopping the noise. Mrs. Price was carrying a box, presumably containing the treatment. She set it down on the desk, then watched the girls’ faces freeze with horror as she took out of it, not bottles of shampoo and conditioner, but a large pair of scissors and an electric clipper.
“I’m sorry, girls, but the only way to deal with a case of lice like this is to cut all the hair off.” Twelve pairs of hands reached up in unison as if to cling on to the object of Nurse Price’s intentions. Half of the girls shrieked, “No!” and burst into tears, the others just stood there in stunned disbelief. Tracy fainted.
As she revived the poor girl, Miss Joseph appealed to the nurse, who was now sporting a rather evil smirk, “Is this absolutely necessary? Surely in this day and age there’s a less drastic treatment?”
“I’m afraid not, Miss Joseph. All these girls will have to be shorn to the scalp. Now, who’s first?”
This was a rhetorical question, as the nurse reached out and pulled the girl nearest to her by the arm. It was Katie, and she struggled like mad to free herself from Mrs. Price’s strong grip. She shouted, “No! Don’t cut my hair! You can’t do this!”, but it was all to no avail as she was shoved down on a chair and the nurse grabbed a thick lock of the girl’s shoulder-length hair, laid the scissors against the scalp and squeezed the blades shut. Katie screamed again as the scissors grated, and a long hank of hair came free and was dropped on the floor. Tears came freely then, as the nurse continued chopping away around her head, until only a ragged bristle remained. Mrs. Price laid the scissors back on the desk and picked up the clippers. Removing the guard and switching them on, she pushed Katie’s head forward and buzzed a line from the nape of her neck up to the crown, leaving a streak of white scalp. The rest of the class looked on in amazement as they watched Katie’s beautiful hair being reduced to a fine, dark fuzz all over her head. Finally, the ordeal was over, and Katie was sent back to her desk, sobbing uncontrollably. Nurse Price pointed at the girl with the pixie-cut, and summoned her forward. The girl walked over, as if in a daze, and sat down amongst Katie’s hair clippings. Nurse Price didn’t bother with the scissors this time, just pressed the clippers against the forehead and ran it up and over the girl’s head. The short, almost-white hair floated down the girl’s back to mingle with Katie’s dark tresses on the floor.
One by one, the girls were summoned to meet their fate. Those with longer hair had the bulk removed by the scissors, as the pile on the floor grew ever larger. All of them were subjected to the roar of the clippers, and all left with just a light dusting of fuzz where the hair had once been.
Last to be standing at the wall was Tracy, who by this time was all cried out, and looked strangely detached. When she was beckoned forward, she tried to move, but her legs were like jelly, and she just collapsed on the floor. The nurse walked over and bodily lifted her to her feet and dragged her across to the chair. She lifted a lock of Tracy’s long, golden hair, and felt its silky warmth against her fingers, playing with it for a second or two. Then she picked up the scissors, and… changed her mind, putting them down again and dropping the hair that she held. Instead, she picked up the clippers and switched them on. The whole class was agape as the buzzing sound filled the room. Mrs. Price brought the clippers towards Tracy’s right ear, pushed them against the skin above the ear and slowly mowed backwards round to the back of her head. Three feet of silky golden hair slithered down Tracy’s back onto the floor. Unrelenting, the nurse started again above the new white stripe and another great swath of hair detached itself from Tracy’s head. Wave upon wave of pure gold rippled to the ground as the nurse buzzed through the thick masses of hair, leaving nothing but light yellow fuzz in its place, until Tracy, like her classmates, resembled a billiard ball. The nurse shut off the clippers and stood back to admire her handiwork. Tracy slowly brought a hand up to feel her head, which was so much lighter and cooler now without its heavy coat, and screamed again as she felt the rough stubble. Suddenly, she bolted out of the chair and ran weeping out of the classroom.