He combed his fingers through his thick, brown hair and marveled at its luxuriousness. He had made it to sixty and still had a full head of it, no bald patches, no thinning wisps that would stick to an otherwise bald scalp on a warm day. Beautiful women complimented him often, even his barber couldn’t believe how long it took to cut his locks.
He hadn’t expected the doctor to say the word “cancer.” That somehow, a black malignancy was growing inside him and that dark tumor was going to rob him of his precious gift. The same hair he had lovingly washed each morning with an expensive brand of organic shampoo and groomed with a natural boar’s bristle brush. The thought of it falling out in clumps and patches was unbearable. He wouldn’t stand for some unseen force taking over his body.
He looked down at the electric clipper in his hand. It was a heavy, chrome plated gift of sheer will power. He turned it on and it buzzed, a maniacal bumblebee. He grabbed a bunch of hair in the front and mercilessly set the machine to work. A brown furry splotch fell into the porcelain sink and lay there, dead. He continued with his barbarous task until he had shorn himself clean.
He sat down on the edge of the tub and put his head in his hands. The stubble that remained prickled his palms. He grabbed his shaving cream and lathered his scalp. He walked back to the sink and scraped the remaining soldiers from the battlefield and wiped his head smooth with a towel. He cleaned up any remains and buried them deep in the wastebasket.
He set about making his dinner, ignoring the puff of hot air that flowed over his bare skin when he opened the oven door. His stomach grumbled as he sat down at the table.
The phone rang.
He picked up the receiver and could hardly make sense of what the doctor was saying. There had been a mistake. The lab mixed up the results.
He hung up in a daze.
He pushed the dinner plate across the table. The thought of what lay in the wastebasket made him dizzy.
He rested his elbows on the table, leaned his forehead against his palms, and began to weep.
The phone rang again.
He looked at it, wondered if there would be another doctor with a different message to share. He inhaled deeply and picked it up.
“Dad, it’s me. Are we still on for dinner tomorrow?”
“I was going to… yes, okay Susan, let’s do that.”
“Are you okay? You sound weird.”
The tears came again, involuntarily. He held his hand over the phone in a protective gesture.
“I shaved my head today; I didn’t realize how much it would upset me.”
“Oh my god,” she said.
The momentary silence seemed to last for hours.
“But Dad, why would you do that?”
Carol Deminski’s work has appeared in the Aroostook Review and the Jersey Devil Press. She lives in Jersey City, NJ but she can’t see the Statue of Liberty from her window.