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Winter 2018/19

A Special Flash Fiction Section

Francis Gapper


My hair’s thinned a lot, so I fear salons. Last time, for instance, the trainee combed it back after washing to show my half-naked scalp and left me sitting in front of the mirror. Each time I tried to rearrange it to look less terrible, she came and re-combed it. I heard sniggers.

What I needed ideally was a one-woman operator, a kind person who’d do me a dry cut. Then I remembered my mother-in-law’s hairdresser on Bell End and her kindness after Mary tripped on a loose paving stone and hit her head, this lady walked her home. Worth trying, so.

I went searching for Deb ’N’ Hair, but she’d moved downhill to a mini-parade below Mary’s old house and changed her name (if it was the same person) to B65. I pushed the door and braved the stares. Deb, a large brunette, said she could fit me in for a trim at 12.30 and hopefully the weather would improve. No sooner was I off again, climbing the hill in the pouring rain, than I forgot had she said quarter-to or half-past, and had to nerve myself to go back and check.
Terrible to guess and get it wrong.

Passing Mary’s house, I remembered putting her clocks forward and how she’d already done two of them so we both got muddled and I had to run out and ask a passer-by what the actual time was. I have ceased from my wanderings and going astray, Mary told me, conducting to the radio from her sofa. And it was true, she did recover from the head injury before she died.

Back in B65, I waited at the end of a row of hard chairs, near a window display of red cut-out hearts. Nearly Valentine’s Day. Watching the traffic, I entered a calm trance. It felt like sitting in a hospital waiting room, prepared for whatever the doctor may have to say, whether it’s good or bad news. Of course they try to emphasize the good. The hairdresser was talking full-tilt about house insurance premium renewals. One of her old woman customers had been submissively paying the Halifax nigh on £500 a year, until Deb checked a comparison site on her behalf and got it down to £84. No reward for loyalty, moaned the one having her hair done.
That’s life as it is, Deb returned. You can either be complacent, or save money. Your decision

Next subject, violence on our local high street. Teenagers scrapping and as Deb crossed over to remonstrate she saw one pull a knife. I could’ve been stabbed! Then up spoke an old woman with her hair in a soapy bag: I’d have gone over and let them stab me. I’m not afraid of anything! I nodded, admiring her spirit. A good rule to live by, though life might be short.

Deb summoned me to the chair: Now then, young lady!

Frances Gapper’s stories have found homes in Wigleaf, Short Fiction journal, the London Magazine online, the Reader’s Digest and The Moth. Married to a Carrot, her mini collection of flashes, was a finalist for the 2017 Calvino Prize.



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