I stared down at my toes. “Oh, but Mum, Lorina – I mean Mrs Collins – said …”
“Mrs Collins isn’t your mother, Joel. I’ve discussed it with your father and we both agree you’ve been putting it off for way too long.”
What were they thinking? Surely they know I’d look a prize dork turning up at a barefoot school wearing shoes. “But…”
“No buts; the time for arguing is over. You have to get a haircut.”
“That’s right. You can’t go starting at a new school looking like a mop.”
I wanted to cry with both relief and despair. “But …”
She put her hands on her hips while shaking her head. “I’ll say no more, Joel.”
* * *
I paused, running my fingers through my hair one last time before pushing open the barber shop door. The barber, an old guy named Darryl, had hair twice as long as mine and a big bushy beard to match. Something about plumbers having leaky taps, I thought. He looked at me with glee as he snipped the last-remaining strands from his current victim.
I picked up the surfing magazine from the seat next to me and began thumbing through the pictures. I bet none of those famous board-riders were ever forced to have a haircut when they didn’t need one. In my mind’s eye, I could see myself skimming along a huge wave, my long hair whipping my face as I danced effortlessly back and forth across the breaking edge, flying through the air before pounding head-first into the sand bar, unable to move, unable to breathe…
My eyes snapped open as the newly shorn man in the chair stood up, brushing a few snippets from his shirt before pulling out his wallet and handing over his life savings.
“Come on Joel, your turn,” Darryl said, sounding depressingly eager to plough into my locks.
I padded my way over, trying not to step on any hair. Mum kept going on at me about hair splinters, but I’d always gone barefoot without incident on my infrequent visits to the barber and was beginning to suspect the splinters were a myth created by enthusiastic shoe-sellers.
“Just a light trim,” I said, “enough to convince my parents I’ve had it cut, although I doubt anything less than a number two comb would convince Dad.”
“A number two it is, then,” he said, reaching for the clippers.
“No! Just a trim!”
He sighed, returning the dreaded clippers to their hook and picking up the scissors instead. “Shame, I think you’d look good with a crew-cut. It’d be a lot cooler for you too at this time of year.”
“Just a trim, Darryl.”
I closed my eyes as he brushed my hair down over them and began snipping along my forehead. I could feel my ears becoming exposed as the snipping progressed around the sides, while a puff of breeze on the back of my neck made me fear the worst there too. I chanced a peep in the mirror, gulping as I saw the piles of amputated hair littering my shoulders.
“I can take off a bit more if you like.”
“No, that’s, that’s plenty.”
“Well if you insist. Don’t let the police see you, though, or they’ll be charging me with taking money under false pretences.”
“I won’t,” I said, handing him his dues. “Thanks.”
“See you again soon.”
In your dreams, I thought.
As I stepped out onto the street, I almost bumped into Loraine Collins.
“Oh hi; you’re the boy Mum was talking to about coming to our school, aren’t you? It’s, it’s…”
“Joel, Joel Morison.”
“That’s right. I’m Loraine.”
“Yes, I know.”
“So, will you?”
“Will I what?”
“Be coming to our school, silly.”
“Ah, that. Yeah.”
“Great! I’ll see you in a couple of weeks then. Oh, what happened to your hair?”
“Parents – barber –”
She shook her head, glaring at me as if it was all my fault. “Maybe at our school you can learn how to speak in complete sentences.”
“I, but –” I said, my mouth hanging open as my oratory skills deserted me, and before I could get anything more to come out, she’d dashed off down the road. I stood glued to the pavement, still gaping as she splashed her bare feet through a puddle and disappeared around the corner.
“Catching flies, are we?” Darryl said as he stepped out of the shop.