How I Nearly Ended Up Bald

by Diane Payne

The hairdresser was listening to Christian music, singing along quietly. She smelled like a pack a day smoker, which gave her voice that gravelly gruffness. The hope that Arkansas could become a wet state if a bill passed on Election Day almost made me giddy, probably the same way Heaven made the hairdresser giddy. To make small talk, I told her how great it’d be if we could buy beer at the grocery store, not the liquor store miles away out of town.

The hairdresser looked at me through the mirror, wanting to make sure I was paying attention to her face while she spoke. “Well, I guess if people are going to drink, they’re going to buy it somewhere.” She took a large chunk of my hair, looked directly into the mirror to make sure I noticed, and chopped it off.

Pray for redemption la da da. The music only fueled me. I refused to switch topics.

She seemed to know the exact miles to the nearest liquor store outside of our county. Why couldn’t she own up to buying a six pack? The redemption music continued playing, and I continued talking about how my life would improve if I could buy my beer while getting my groceries. She held up another huge chunk of hair, gave me that same testy look, and lopped it off. This was not a little trim. She was going for a crew cut.

“We could probably have a great city pool with all the tax money from alcohol,” I said, trying to make the conversation more upbeat. I wondered if she was Pentecostal, one of those folks who don’t believe in bathing suits either because the next chunks of hair were lopped off rather quickly.

Avoid sinners, la da da. . .

When my daughter was an infant and I was weary of men hitting on me, I urged a hairstylist to keep cutting my hair, though he kept begging to me to reconsider. “More, “ I demanded over and over, and he shook his head and sighed sadly.

I didn’t want to end up with that crew cut again, so I asked her something about her mother who gave birth to nine kids and whose husband never let her Mom learn to drive. I figured her dad was a drunk bastard and my hair was going to pay the price for his drunken brawls. I let out a sigh of relief when she told me he was dead, and just cut a small chunk of my hair.

“Ah, good,” I said, hoping she’d think I liked my haircut now, and that I was glad her dad was six feet under.

“He was a damn drunk. Excuse my language,” she said. “Let me even it out just a bit more,” she said.

My hair took one more loss for the drunks.

She gloated a bit as she turned my chair around, lifted the mirror, and then asked, “What do you think?”

I shook my head like a wet dog, and said, “It’s time for a beer.”

I left my fifteen bucks on the counter, listened to her sing one more round of some song where she kept repeating, “all you need is Jesus, la da la.”

All I needed was a beer and a bit more hair.

DIANE PAYNE’s most recent publications include: Notre Dame ReviewObra/ArtifaceReservoirSouthern FugitivesSpry Literary ReviewWatershed ReviewSuperstition ReviewWindmill ReviewTishman ReviewWhiskey IslandQuarterlyFourth RiverSplit Lip ReviewThe OffingElke: A little JournalPunctuateOutpost 19McNeese ReviewThe MeadowBurnt PinestorySouthFive to One, and Heavy Feather Review. She does have a For Sale sign in front of her house.