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Abigail Allen 

The Stylist 

 

She went to this hairdresser that called himself the Stylist. A friend had recommended him. "The Stylist," her friend said, "is cheaper than these people in town, and he's had some hard times lately." 

She had to drive way out in the country to get there, and that put her in a sour mood. But she was not the type to show it. She was the pert type, and that's how she wanted her hair to look. But it didn't right now because it was too long and too straight. It didn't go with the personality she was currently trying to maintain. Later, she would become the cynical type, but this was back when she was just getting into being pert. 

The Stylist's salon was a room in the run-down little brick house he lived in. When she pulled up in his driveway, she saw that there were a bunch of women's underpants hanging on the clothesline out back. There must've been twenty pairs, all white. She guessed they belonged to the Stylist's wife. 

On her way into the house, she took in the cheap, dingylooking bricks, which turned out to be on the front of the house only, and two raised flower beds--one on each side of the front door--that were really just old tires lying on their sides with petunias and marigolds planted in them. 

The Stylist was finishing up with a customer when she went in. She sat down and watched him spray the woman's hair. She didn't like the way the woman's hair looked, stiff and artificial--not bouncy, the way she hoped her own hair would look when he got through. Maybe the woman wanted her hair that way, she told herself, fighting a sense of desolation that was beginning to make her feel like shit. 

He had her in a chair over by the sink and was shampooing her. He was very quiet. She could hear his wife or somebody clanging pots around in the kitchen. Then she heard a radio go on, tuned to some terrible country station. The Stylist was meanwhile busy working his fingers around on her scalp. The only thing held said to her so far was "Let's get started." When he finished shampooing her, he twisted her hair so hard she started to say something, but then he let it go and wrapped a towel around her head. 

The Stylist was a small man. He had his hair slicked straight back with oil, kind of like her father did. He was wearing bell-bottom jeans and a white nylon shirt so that she could see stuff, his chest and the hair on it and all. 

She told him how she wanted her hair to look, and he smiled. She thought his front teeth were either false or capped because they were so much whiter than the others. "Every day is experiment," he said. He gave her a meaningful look that called for a response, so she said, "That's certainly true." She hoped she hadn't sounded bitter, but he had caught her off her guard. 

"I think," he said, "I know what you mean. We all have visions, don't we? We can imagine things being different than they are right this minute. We hope things will change." 

"Yes," she said. A sick feeling was coming over her. She was almost certain he would not give her the bouncy look, and, on top of that, she thought, he's some kind of asshole. While she smiled and nodded at him, she was thinking, "He's exactly the kind of person I hate. I hate the way he looks, I hate the way he talks, and I'm going to hate the way he makes my hair look." 

There was a crash and a little scream from the kitchen. His wife must've dropped something. "Shit," he whispered. Then he said, "Excuse me" and left the room. She heard them talking. Then she heard the Stylist say, "You and your fucking shit!" 

"Fuck you," the woman screamed. 

Then somebody turned on a faucet, and the Stylist came back into the salon. 

"Sorry about that," he said, smiling. "She dropped the kettle and scalded herself." 

He picked up some shears and started lopping off big clumps of her hair. "Not too short," she said "Just below the ears." He didn't say anything. He was concentrating very hard on her reflection the mirror. Her hair was all around her on the floor, along with the previous customer's. He nearly slipped in it. He raked it into a pile with one foot and kicked it out of his way. "I could use some help around here," he said in a loud voice. Then he said, "This is not all I do." 

She was imagining what she would look like when he got through with her. "What?" she said. 

He said, "I said, this is not all I do. It's not even the most important thing." 

She could hear the scissors clicking and clicking. "Really?" she said. "What's the most important thing?" 

"That would be hard to say," he said. "It would be very hard to say." He stopped clicking the scissors. She noticed that the radio was getting louder. He picked up a comb and went over her hair with it. "Do you like movies?" he said. 

"Yes," she said. "A lot of them. Well, some of them, anyway." 

"They don't make enough good ones," he said, throwing the comb into an open drawer. "Agree?" he said. He spun her chair around so she was facing the mirror, and he crouched down behind her so his head was on a level with hers. He was checking for symmetry, it looked like. Her hair looked better than she'd thought it would, although you couldn't really tell while it was still wet. He was peering over her shoulder, his head next to hers, concentrating on what she looked like ip the mirror. 

"You're right," she said. "They don't make many good ones. 

He straightened up and squeezed some gel into the palm of his hand, rubbed his hands together, then worked his hands through her hair, getting the gel all mixed into it. "I’m working on a screenplay," he said. 

"A screenplay?" she said. "You mean writing one?" 

"Yeah," he said. "It's pretty exciting." 

He took a comb and ran it over her head. "I'm religious," he said. "So of course the thing's about Jesus." 

"Oh," she said, "that's nice." 

"It'll make a controversial movie," he said. He was going around her head, shaping the ends with the scissors. 

"That's one thing I like in a movie," she said. 

"Well, let me try this out on you," he said. He blew her hair with a dryer for a minute, then turned the dryer off. "The thing that's controversial is that Jesus is only half-human--we all know that, with his daddy being a supernatural being, right?--but in my screenplay his daddy is a space alien." 

The woman came in and started sweeping up the hair on the floor. She had long blonde hair and a pretty face. She was wearing a floral nightgown, and she had a fresh bandage on her hand. She looked pretty pregnant, too. 

"Really?" she said. She was watching his wife's reflection in the mirror. You could tell the woman had been crying. 

"A lot of women want to be artificially inseminated," he said. "It's a new fad. These women think their babies will be little Jesuses." He laughed bitterly. 

The woman gave him a dirty look before she bent over to sweep the hair into a dust pan. Then she took the broom and the dust pan full of hair out of the room. 

"Some people," the Stylist said loudly, "do not appreciate what God has given them." 

"That's so sad," she said. He had started teasing her hair with a special comb while she wasn't paying attention. Now he was spraying her hair with something that smelled like varnish. 

"Like it?" he said. He put the spray can on the counter and crouched down behind her chair again. She watched him in the mirror. He was staring at her reflection, making these patting motions, patting the air all around her head, just barely touching her hair. She was conscious of his face, so close to her own, and of the gentleness of his hands. For a time—she couldn't have said for how long--she watched him caressing her hair and gazing tenderly at it in the mirror. When he straightened up and removed the plastic cape she'd had on, her eyes were bright with tears. 

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