It began with a haircut. A good one, too: bold, if not a little heavy on the edges. It had personality and a sense of time and place, but it wasn’t the right haircut for this particular head. And both the head and the haircut knew it. So when Marcus Fine left the house, he instinctively grabbed a hat, locking the haircut away in darkness, like a mad woman in an attic.
As Marcus walked down the street, he felt every passing pair of eyes. He knew they couldn’t see the haircut trapped beneath the brim, but he felt them all the same. And he was sure the haircut felt them too, pushing out the follicles with resentment and determination, slowly extruding itself into shapelessness, to fill the space available to it, even if it took a year.
Marcus quickened his steps, avoiding sharp lines in the footpath, skipping over cracks and oddly numbered paving stones, subconsciously fingering the freshly painted fenceposts. If he had a destination, it had been forgotten. With one hand, he clamped the hat to his skull to better contain its terrible cargo, and moved a little faster, elevating his pace to a light jog.
As he trotted by the milk bar on the corner, Marcus slowed down to catch a glimpse of himself in the window. He brushed his fringe away from his eyes, floppier than it had been that morning, and tucked it back behind the puggaree. His face was haggard, unshaven. With his free hand, he tugged downward at his cheeks, exposing the red tissue beneath his eyeballs, then gingerly pushed the flesh in all directions. There were small hairs everywhere: three or four snaking out below the lid of each nostril, small tufts in either ear, a grey carpet of stubble around his mouth and chin. Unnerved, Marcus took a few steps back, but a loud blast from a passing taxi sent him reeling, and when he turned to respond, a sudden gust of wind made off with his hat.
The haircut was free.
Howling in fear and embarrassment, Marcus dove between the loose fence palings of a construction site, hands scrabbling to keep his ‘do in order. And unable to keep his balance, or the fringe from his eyes, Marcus skidded on the loose gravel, tumbling backwards, his hair tangling in an iron railing, snapping his neck.
As they described his body to the police, the construction workers who discovered Marcus couldn’t help complimenting his hair.
Even if it seemed the wrong sort of cut for that particular head.