CREATIVE CONTEST: “Split Ends” by Elizabeth Beckett

While we wait for issue 167 to come out and reveal the winner of Quench’s Creative Contest, here is a short story which deals with love, adultery, and a surprising finale. Enjoy!

Split Ends by Elizabeth Beckett

Her fingers were hard and broken from washing and cutting and perming and dying and curling and shaving hair all day long. And it was a long day. She had learned to shut out the constant babble of whoever sat in her chair. Everyone who placed themselves in front of her mirror felt the need to share their deepest darkest secrets as if she was some superhuman being who not only cared to know but also wouldn’t say anything afterward.

The final customer of the day finally arrived just as the sun was setting. She was just praying to get through it without another one airing their dirty laundry all over her shop. A woman, middle-aged, not too much older than she walked in and sat down in the chair. She had chestnut brown hair, which reached the middle of her back; she wanted it cut down to her shoulders.

“This new guy I’ve been seeing, he’s a fan of short hair, says that it makes a woman look more sophisticated,” she said. “I like the length of yours,” commented as an afterthought.

The hairdresser looked at her reflection in the mirror, her always perfectly tailored hair resting lightly on her shoulders.

“Although, my husband likes my hair long so I’m sure he’ll get a shock later on tonight,” the woman giggled, flashing her too big wedding band and shaking her shoulders in a gestured that made her appear to be young enough to have an exciting affair.

Here we go again, the hairdresser thought as she rolled her and sprayed water all over the woman’s locks. Adultery was often a common topic at her station. It always gave her good material to tell her daughters who loved a bit of gossip. She, however, had no patience for it.

“But my new fellow, James, he works in advertising; says he’s going to put me in one of his commercials. I’ve always fancied myself a bit of an actress.” The client continued to prattle on.

“That’s nice,” said the hairdresser, passively, as she reached for her comb and scissors, getting ready to start.

“I just wished he would leave his wife. He’s so bored by her but can’t seem to leave because of the children. But they are old enough that it wouldn’t be a problem. You see, I’ve got no children of my own, so I don’t have that problem. But I’ve never seen his wife, so I am a bit curious.” She paused. “She’s also a hairdresser you know, I wonder if you know her?”

“What’s her name?” The hairdresser replied as she looked up from where she was cutting off her split ends.

“Lucy Watson.”

Lucy’s hands froze mid-cut. She had been so happy when James had gotten a new job in advertising.

“No, I don’t know her,” Lucy replied as she carefully put down the scissors.

“That’s a shame. I was hoping you would be able to tell me what she looks like? If I have anything to worry about?” She laughed.

Lucy nodded, picking up the straight razor. Pulling the woman’s head back, she placed the razor at the root of her head and dug in, sawing along into her scalp. The woman screamed struggling in her seat as blood began to drip down her face, pooling in her mouth.

Unhurried and entranced, the scalp was completely removed. Lucy calmly puts down the blood-soaked razor and walked out the door, scalp still in hand.

She had been walking for an hour before the police caught up with her. She had blood splattered on her face, hands soaked in gore. Somewhere along the way, she had lost the scalp. Without struggle, she was placed in the back of the car and driven away. Unfortunately, they still can’t find the scalp.