"Give me a minute!" The head took his feet off the table and shoved his 'Dream Desks' catalogue beneath a pile of files. "Come in! I haven’t got all day."


Mrs. Stubbs pushed the door and stuck her head round. "Have you got a minute Mr Barker? I'm afraid he's done it again."


The head snorted. "Again Mrs Stubbs! Bring him in this minute." The teacher grabbed Zac Silver's elbow and pulled him into the office.


Mr Barker's monobrow cast a shadow over his scowling, sultana eyes. Hairs swept down his nostrils and twisted out of his ears. Zac imagined they were tentacles, escaping into the light, growing from an alien bush-beast inside the principal's head. "Take a seat Mrs Stubbs." Mr Barker removed the scissors from his pen pot and hid them in a drawer. "YOU STAND OVER THERE!"


Zac looked up at the dark, corner shelf where Mr Barker proudly displayed his collection of animal skulls. "You've got a new one Sir."




Zac Silver's Hairy Tale - Chapter 1

"Never mind 'you’ve got a new one Sir.' You were on your last warning. You've got a lot of explaining to do."


"I can't help it Sir - it just takes over. It's the only thing I'm really good at."


"Oh be quiet boy! Tell me what happened Mrs Stubbs." Mr Barker pointed at her head. "And please remove that."


She yanked off the rubber swimming cap and laid it on her lap. "Well, it was the middle of Maths. Everyone had their swimming caps on, including myself and the teaching assistants."


"Yes, yes! And the scissors?"


"They were all locked away as you'd instructed. He must have brought them from home. Stacy Tatlock had to remove her swimming cap for a second." Mrs Stubbs leaned towards the head and whispered, "The girl with nits. She needed to scratch."


"Get to the point Mrs Stubbs."


"The moment Stacy removed her cap, Zac pulled out his scissors. You know how fast he is. He'd already given her a short bob with a diagonal fringe by the time I noticed." Mrs Stubbs hid her mouth and leant forward again, "It did quite suit her."


Mr. Barker banged his fist down.  Another deep crack quaked across his desk. "I don't care if it made her look like the Queen of England - Zac Silver is forbidden from cutting anymore hair in this school." He glared at Zac. "Are you listening boy?"


Zac nodded.


"I waste school funds buying all those swimming caps and still this insolent boy manages to mess with hair. It's not good enough. That money should have gone towards my new desk."


Zac daydreamed of attacking Mrs Stubbs's frizzy head with straighteners.  He knew he could make her look a million dollars. Well, at least a hundred! Mrs Stubbs saw the glint in Zac's eye and pulled the rubber cap back on. "I don’t know what else we can do Mr Barker."


Mr. Barker punched his desk again. Years of frustration dealing with Zac Silver's hairdressing obsession had caused it to crack and bow in the middle. He stood up and ranted his venom over Zac and Mrs Stubbs. "Surely a top of the range, maple desk isn't too much to ask for, after 35 years of exemplary service. And one that doesn't do this every time I put something on it."




Mr. Barker slammed down his gold pen. It rolled like a sausage towards the centre of the desk. "It would only cost £5000. What's £5000 considering the blood, sweat and tears I've invested in this place." He took a coffee mug from the window sill and banged it on the other end of the table. The mug slid like a sledge until it stalled beside the pen.


Zac dared to interrupt the display. "I’m not being rude Sir - you know what would make you feel better than a new desk?" The head teacher stared at Zac - eyes bulging, veins throbbing and nostrils flared. Zac hadn't noticed. "A makeover! I could make you look like George Clooney."


Mr. Barker thudded the concave table a third time. The files, mugs, pens and stapler bounced into the air and landed in a messy pile. "Enough! Get him out of here Mrs Stubbs. Get him out before I..." The head crushed a biro in his hand. "Bring him back tomorrow. I'll have his punishment decided by then."


The teacher tugged Zac's jumper and ran towards the door. Zac turned back to Mr Barker and pointed at his collection of skulls. "They'd look really cool with wigs you know Sir."






Mrs. Stubbs and Zac fled the office. They heard a thud.


Seconds later, a splintering, tree-tumbling sound vibrated through the door.




Zac Silver's Hairy Tale - Chapter 2


Friday lunchtime, Zac sat outside the office. He stooped forward, resting an elbow on each trembling leg. He didn't mean to cut hair in school yesterday, or wind up Mr Barker. But when Stacy Tatlock revealed her lifeless mop, that uncontrollable surge invaded his body and possessed his fingertips.
Zac flattened his gravity-defying spikes with both hands, but he'd over-gelled and the spikes bounced up like bed springs. He took a deep breath and knocked.
“Silver is that you?”. Zac poked his head around the door. “Come in. Hurry up.”
Mr. Barker was sat behind his desk. A plank of wood had been nailed down the middle to hold it together. Zac shuffled forwards. The principal scanned him, head to toe and back again. He raised half his monobrow and sighed. Zac's tall slim body towered above the silent scene - his punky wet-look adding three more inches at least. Zac stared down at his scuffed, non-uniform boots as they vied to hide behind his strategically placed bag.
Standing next to the head teacher was a red-faced, squat lady. Zac wondered if she’d overdosed on beetroots. She was wearing what looked like a nurse’s uniform. Zac eyed the food stains splattered all over it. “This is Miss Cleaver. She’s the boss at ‘Heavenly Heights’ - the old people’s home down the road. I’ve known Miss Cleaver since...” Mr. Barker trailed off. “...well for quite some years now. She’s kindly offered to help.”
Miss Cleaver snarled a smile at Zac.
Mr. Barker sat forward, being careful not to lean on his desk. “Pythagoras Primary is a Maths and Science school Silver. Yes, we teach English and History but only because we have to. There’s certainly no place for hairdressing.” The head teacher raised his fist. Miss Cleaver caught it and placed it gently in his lap. “There’s something wrong with your emotional development boy. You’re not quite right. So I’ve decided - every Friday afternoon, instead of doing lessons in school – you’ll help out at ‘Heavenly Heights’.”
“But Sir, Friday afternoon is Art & design.”
Mr. Barker smirked. “Not anymore. You’ll be helping Miss Cleaver with general chores - washing dishes, serving soup and emptying bed pans. See it not as a punishment, but as a form of education - something to help straighten you out.” Miss Cleaver prodded Zac out of the room.
She marched him down the corridor, across the playground and out onto the avenue that led to the retirement home. When they arrived, Miss Cleaver prodded Zac again - up the concrete steps to the entrance. He pushed open the incredibly heavy door and wondered if it had been made this way to stop the old people escaping. He wouldn’t blame them. The smell in there was terrible – a mix of singed tights and cabbage gas.

Miss Cleaver pushed Zac through the first door on the right. A group of pensioners were sat in a semi-circle. Foam spewed from rips in their seats. One chair had only three legs and was balanced on a stack of tatty Hello magazines. A few of the old people lifted their heads to look at Zac. Most remained bent forward, staring into their laps. “This is Zac Silver. He’ll be helping around here on Friday afternoons. Just ignore him.”


Zac followed Miss Cleaver out of the room. “Why are they all so sad?” he asked. “Are the always like that?”


They’re old! What did you expect – a gang of somersaulting clowns!” She lifted a tower of sheets from a shelf. “Right, get to work. You can start by changing the beds.”


Zac went from room to room. Brilliant black and white photos stood on every bedside table. Glamourous people beamed from each one. "What amazing hairstyles," Zac thought. "Are these the same people I met in the lounge? Where’s the happiness gone? What happened to that style?”


A voice from behind made him jump. “Wasn’t I fabulous?”


Zac swung around and pretended to be polishing the photo with the bottom of his school shirt. “Sorry, I was just...”


“No need to be sorry lovey. My name’s Tilly.” Zac shook the old ladies hand softly. “Don’t worry, it won’t drop off!” Crows feet landed gently around her eyes. She picked up another photo of herself with thick, wavy hair. “I always wanted to look like Greta Garbo.”


“Greta who?” Zac asked.


“An old movie star. Her elegant, finger-wave hairstyle was to die for. I never got it quite right.” She started laughing. “Look at my lopsided beehive on that one. I used to hide things in it - must have been the 60’s.”


Zac marveled at the huge dome of lacquered hair on top of the lady’s head. “Cool! You look like Amy Winehouse." He picked up another photo. This time Tilly was sat on some grass - loosely tangled locks cascaded over her shoulders. Daisies peeped between the sunlit strands. "Who’s that little boy next to you?”


Tilly took the photo and pushed it back onto the bedside table. “That’s Alfie, my son.”


“Where is he now?”


“Oh he works nearby but rarely comes to visit. I had a lovely little cottage but Alfie sold it. He said I’d be better off in here.” The lady gently patted a patch of floral duvet beside her and beckoned Zac over. “Can you keep a secret?” Zac nodded. “My son’s a bit of an idiot. A loser! That’s what they say these days isn’t it.”


Zac couldn’t help laughing. It was fun to hear an old lady speak like that. Laughter lines and wrinkles sketched joy across Tilly's face.


“So you like my beehive eh? I used an entire can of lacquer to make it look like that." She started to cackle. "You know that hole in the ozone layer? Probably all my fault.”


Zac's smile faded as he studied the withered curls perishing on Tilly's head. He spied a pair of scissors on the dressing table. Like a cowboy in a shootout, he spun them onto his fingers and lunged at the old lady.


“Aaargh. Get off me! What do you think you're doing boy?"



Zac Silver's Hairy Tale - Chapter 3

Zac chopped into Tilly’s hair and pulled some diamond-strength styling gel from his bag. He emptied her make-up onto the bed and stabbed at her face with lipstick, mascara and eyeshadow. In no time at all, he’d finished. He handed Tilly a mirror.


“Have you gone mad?” Tilly snatched the mirror from his hand. She gasped at her reflection. “Oh my days! I look twenty years younger.” She wobbled her beehive from side to side. “It’s not quite as big as it used to be but I love it. You’re a magician young man.”


“That’s not what Mr. Barker thinks. He’s my head teacher. He says there’s something wrong with me.”


“Oh really!” Tilly scowled. “Mr. Barker’s an idiot – trust me. A champion loser.” They both laughed. Tilly opened a drawer and started flinging underwear and clothes into the air. “An angel sent you here today. I just know it.”


“An angel?” Zac scratched his head. “Miss Cleaver!? Mr Barker!!?”


“No, I mean everything happens for a reason. This is too much of a coincidence. The angels are at work.” She carried on hunting through her drawers (quite literally). Zac wondered whether Tilly’s medication was wearing off.


“Got it!” She handed Zac a yellow flyer. “This was pushed through the letterbox at Heavenly Heights last week. I wanted to volunteer but that mean bag Cleaver wouldn’t let me. I always wanted to be a model.”


Zac read the leaflet. ‘Models required for Over 14’s Regional Hairdressing Championships. Volunteers will receive a free haircut and goody bag. If interested, the contest will be held on Friday 19th June at ‘Salon Extraordin-Hair’. Arrive no later than 3pm. See you there, David (pronounced Daveed!)’


“I can’t believe Miss Cleaver wouldn’t let you go,” said Zac.


“I’m not bothered about that!” Tilly shook her head. “Friday 19th June. That’s today! It’s a hairdressing competition Zac.”


Zac picked the flyer up again. “But it’s for over 14’s. I’m only 11.”


Tilly snatched the piece of paper. “You’re not going to let small details like that stand in your way are you? If you can make me look 20 years younger, I’m sure I can make you look 3 years older.” She brushed out Zac's spikes and parted his hair. She pulled off her silk scarf and turned it into a cravat around his neck. Lastly, she yanked cat-eye glasses from her beehive and pushed them onto his face. “Perfect.”









Zac turned to the mirror. “I look ridiculous!”


“Yes dear - a lot of hairdressers do. It’s the look.” She grabbed her handbag. “Right come on, let’s go.”


“Say Miss Cleaver catches us?”


“Don’t worry about her. She spends all afternoon watching Murder She Wrote in the staffroom.”


They crept along the corridor. “Give me a few minutes. I want to see the others before we leave,” Zac said and went into the lounge. The semi-circle of pensioners hadn’t moved since he was last in there. “Hello everyone. Don’t be alarmed.”

He drew scissors from his bag with his left hand and a can of hairspray with his right. He stepped towards the first lady.

He cut and sprayed like a supersonic octopus.


The old man next to her leant over, “Just ignore him Deirdre. That’s what Miss Cleaver said. Ignore him or she might not give us dinner again.” Zac worked like a whirlwind along the line. He tugged the pile of Hello magazines from beneath the chair. For inspiration, he flicked to a different page for each pensioner. Fifteen minutes - they were all done.


But they just sat there.


Tilly heaved the mirror from above the fireplace. “Look you lot. Look what he’s done.” The pensioners raised their heads and caught sight of themselves.


George smiled. “I look like Elvis!”


Deidre grinned. “I look like me again!"


The room buzzed with chuckles and chatter. “Put some music on Tilly,” said George as he hauled himself from the chair.


Tilly flicked the radio on. A song was already playing: “They tried to make me go to rehab but I said No, No, No.”


“Turn it up,” Deidre said. She got up and started dancing with George. “I like this one.”


Soon they were all dancing around the room singing. “They tried to make me got to rehab but I said No, No, No.”


Tilly plonked herself into a wheelchair. “It’ll be quicker if we use this. Come on let’s go.” Zac pushed Tilly through the crowd. He stopped for a quick dance with Deidre and then darted towards the exit.

Zac Silver's Hairy Tale - Chapter 4

Zac and Tilly giggled as he pushed her at high speed through the streets. 2:45, they arrived across the road from Salon Extraordin-Hair. The local press were outside. Zac stopped on the corner and looked at his reflection in a window. “I look ridiculous!”


“I told you – the more ridiculous the better. They’ll be so wowed by your originality, they won’t notice your age.”


The pair crossed the road. A tall man in skinny jeans stood in the doorway holding a clipboard. He looked Zac and Tilly up and down. “The charity shop’s a few doors down.” The photographer clicked. “Now if you’d like to move along, we have a very important competition starting.”


“No, I’m here for the competition,” Zac said and almost rolled Tilly into the man’s legs.


“Oh... and who’s the old... sorry... the mature lady in the chair?”


“That’s Tilly, my model.”


The man looked at his clipboard flustered. “Can I take your name?”


“Zac. Zac Silver.”


He scanned the list. He stared at the unlikely pair and scanned again. “I’m afraid your name’s not here.”


Tilly squinted and read the man’s name badge. She turned to Zac. “It’s David! David, how are you darling? I live at Heavenly Heights old people’s home on Winter Avenue. You sent me an invite to be a model for the competition.”


“It’s pronounced Daveed actually. Daveeeeed!” He rolled his eyes and huffed. “Heavenly Heights – is that the big white house on Winter Avenue? Oh no, this is terribly embarrassing. I didn’t realise it was a retirement home. I thought students from the uni lived there. All our models today are quite young.” He saw the man from the press focus his camera lens. “And anyway, I’m afraid Zac’s name isn’t on the list.”


Tilly started to scream. Zac bit his lip and turned her to face the camera. “Ageist! He said old fogies can't be models. Police!”


David stood in front of the photographer. “Keep your voice down madam. I must have made a mistake.” He glanced at his clipboard again. “Oh yes, here it is. Zac Silver. Go on in.”


A row of students sat inside. Zac raised both eyebrows and shuddered at their horrendous hair. He found an empty styling station and pushed Tilly towards the veiled mirror. The other contestants stared and gossiped in whispers.


















The last few hairdressers came into the salon followed by David. He stood on a set of step ladders. “Welcome everybody. You have one hour to create a magnificent style. The winner will go through to the nationals and receive this fabulous trophy. There's a cash prize too. Ready, steady, cut!”

Zac Silver's Hairy Tale - Chapter 5

Back at school, Mr. Barker slid his ‘Dream Desks’ catalogue into his brief case. He left the deputy in charge so he could go and enjoy Zac Silver’s misery at Heavenly Heights.


He pulled into the driveway and strode towards the entrance, past the large bay window. “What the heck!” He peered through the glass. A room full of pensioners were bouncing on chairs and spinning to the music.


The head teacher sprinted inside, up to the staff room. “Miss Cleaver, what on Earth is going on downstairs?” Miss Cleaver waddled as fast she could behind Mr. Barker to the lounge. The mean boss burst into the room. Music was blaring. Tumbleweeds of grey hair wafted over her feet. She rushed to the radio and pulled the plug.



















The pensioners jeered. "Boo! We were enjoying that.”


“I don’t care!” Miss Cleaver let out a sudden squeal. “What have you done to your hair? And where is Tilly?”


Two thuds sounded behind her. A couple of faded paintings crashed onto the threadbare carpet. Mr. Barker stood in the doorway rubbing his fist. “I know exactly what’s gone on here.” He ran down the corridor, straight to Tilly’s room. He saw the crumpled yellow flyer on the bed.


“Come on Miss Cleaver.” Mr. Barker ran out onto the graveled forecourt. “We’re going to Salon Extraordin-Hair.


“But I had my hair done last week.”


“Not to get your hair done, you silly woman.” He opened the passenger seat door and shoved her in. “To find Zac Silver and Tilly.”


The pensioners gathered at the window. George and Deirdre made rude signs they'd seen in gangster films, (only they kept using the wrong fingers). The rest blew raspberries as the duo wheel-spinned onto the avenue.

Zac Silver's Hairy Tale - Chapter 6

Zac stared at Tilly’s beehive. He scanned the line of frantic competitors - combing, chopping and colouring. His head was full of ideas. He could do something punky – a florescent Mohican maybe. Or something risqué – skinhead on one side, hair-pyramids on the other. He leant over Tilly’s shoulder, “How old are you Tilly?”


“Cheeky! You should never ask a lady her age.” Fake shock slid into a smile. “78. 78 eight years young.”


He looked into her bright eyes twinkling in the mirror. He remembered the black and white photos and watched her wrinkles fade away. “You’re one of the youngest people I’ve ever met.” Zac brushed out the beehive and added hazelnut dye to strands of Tilly’s grey hair. He used his fingers to create gentle waves and curls half way down her head.


“Only five minutes left people,” David said, clutching his clipboard to his chest.


Zac watched the others thrusting final frenzied touches into their styles – feathers, twigs, even twisted knives and forks. He didn’t care anymore. He made the last few adjustments – a snip here, a curl there. “This isn’t about winning,” he thought. “It’s about Tilly.”


“Time’s up, scissors down! Stylists step away from your models. You will be judged on colouring skills, technical ability and your model’s reaction to the style.” David and two other flamboyant characters sashayed to the end of the line. Zac counted eleven facial piercings and eighteen tattoos between them.


The judges scribbled down provisional notes and then invited the photographer to join them for the first reveal moment. David’s wide-eyed excitement twitched across his face as he clasped the velvet sheet covering the mirror. “Three, two, one - Reveal!”


The photographer clicked. The student screamed. “What is that!? It looks like a blind crow's nest.”


David pursed his lips and looked at the other judges. “I take it you don’t like it.”  All three scribbled furiously onto their clipboards.


One by one, each model had their reveal moment and the judges scored them. It was Zac and Tilly last of all. David spun Tilly’s chair around to see what Zac had created. There was a lot of head-tilting and nodding. He turned Tilly back to face the mirror. “Three, two, one - Reveal!”


Zac chewed his nails. Tilly took a sharp intake of breath. She glimpsed back at Zac and leant towards the mirror. She stroked her new finger-wave curls and a tear rolled down her cheek. David pulled a tissue from a box and handed it to Tilly. “Don’t you like it?”


The room fell silent.
























“Like it?” Tilly said. “I love it! I look like Greta Garbo.”


She saw Zac in the reflection and winked. The judges scrawled and walked into a corner to confer. They totted up their score sheets and handed the papers to David.


David climbed the stepladders. He looked like he was trying to take off as he patted the air above the crowd. “Quiet everybody! Shhhhhh!! Well done to all of you - the standard was exceedingly high. However, it was the simple, vintage elegance of one style that shone above the Japanese punk or complex architectural cuts elsewhere. Therefore, I am pleased to announce Salon Extraordin-Hair’s regional winner is...”


Someone in the back pressed play on a CD player. A tinny drum roll reverberated around the shop.


“Zac Silver and his model Tilly!”


Tilly leapt from her wheelchair. Zac couldn’t move. Tilly grasped his hand and dragged him through the applauding stylists to collect his prize – a place in the national finals, a huge trophy and a £5000 cheque for the school of the winning entrant. David handed the silver trophy to Zac and held his hand in the air. “Our winner everybody.”


The salon door smashed open. “Hold it!” Mr. Barker and a puffing Miss Cleaver pushed through the crowd. “Hold it right there.”



Zac Silver's Hairy Tale - Chapter 7

The head teacher waved the yellow flyer above his head. "That boy there is playing truant from Pythagoras Primary - School of Excellence. And he's not 14 years old - he’s 11." The crowd gasped. David's jaw dropped.


“Alfie!” Tilly snapped. “You have to ruin everything?”


“Mother! What do you look like?” Mr. Barker said. “I don’t know who’s worse – you or him.”


“Alfie?” Zac gulped. “Mr. Barker’s your son?”


“I’m afraid he is. I couldn’t say anything Zac - you’d never have come today if you’d known that embarrassment over there belonged to me.”


The judges whispered and gesticulated in a corner. Finally, David smirked. He clapped like a toddler being handed a giant lollipop. He climbed onto the step ladders and screeched for everyone to shut up. “It would seem, that the young man standing over there has lied his way into this competition.” The students shook their heads. “So after much consideration we have decided...”


Someone clicked on the sound effect drum roll again.


“Turn that off! We have decided - sometimes in life, when you are pushed into a corner, the only rule left is... to break the rules. It’s talent that matters at the end of the day. Zac Silver... you are still our winner.” Everyone in the salon hollered. “Quiet, I haven’t finished yet. There is one rule I’m afraid we can’t change - the £5000 must be awarded to the winning entrant’s place of learning.”


Mr. Barker snatched the cheque from David’s hand. “That’ll be mine then.” He pulled the copy of ‘Dream Desks’ from his briefcase. He opened the centre spread and flashed the glossy maple desk at the photographer. “Take as many pictures as you want sonny. Put me on the front page and let every head teacher see – I’ll have the best desk in the country.” Miss Cleaver flung her arms around him.


Chaos settled to a murmur as Zac climbed to the top of the step ladders. “David?” Zac said. “Sorry, Daveed – you said the cheque must be awarded to a place of learning?”


David nodded.


“Well I learned more today from that lady over there ...” Everyone turned to look at Tilly. “...than I’ve ever learned at Pythagoras Primary. And Mr. Barker’s right - I wasn’t at school this afternoon. I was at ‘Heavenly Heights’ retirement home. In fact, it was Mr. Barker who sent me there. He said I’m not right because I like cutting hair.”


David threw a hand over his gaping mouth. Zac’s fellow contestants scowled daggers at the head.


“Mr Barker said visiting ‘Heavenly Heights’ was part of my education, to help straighten me out. So if it’s all right with you Daveed, I’d like to donate the cheque to the old people’s home.”


David glanced at the judges. Supersonic nods vibrated on their necks. “That doesn’t seem to be a problem Zac. Who shall we make the cheque out to?”


Zac smiled across to his new friend. “To Greta Garbo of course.” Zac whipped the cheque from Mr Barker's fingertips. “Also known as Tilly Barker.”


The principal rolled up his magazine and started hitting himself over the head. “But Mr. Barker,” David said. “Don’t despair. As an obvious champion of hair design and technology, I am proud to award you this.”


The stunned head teacher looked down and read the rosette that had been pinned to his suit. “Hair Excellence Award.”


The photographer focused his lens on Alfie Barker and snapped his final shot.

Zac Silver's Hairy Tale - Chapter 8

Monday morning, Mr. Barker drove in through the school gates. He groaned as he took one last look at the front page of The Daily Stunner. His confused face stared out from the photo, above the bright rosette pinned to his lapel. He could just make out Zac Silver in the background – grinning in his cat-eye glasses. He read the headline for the hundredth time, “Extraordin-Hairy! Pythagorus Primary Wins Creativity Prize.”


The head teacher tore the paper in two and shoved it in the glove compartment. He walked into the building and up to his office. There was a winding line of at least fifty children and parents queuing outside his door. They were all holding a copy of The Stunner and an application form to join the school. Every single one was wearing a silk cravat and cat-eye glasses.


Mr. Barker shuffled into his office. He sat behind the broken old table and rubbed his fist wearily. He put his feet up and sighed. He clicked open his briefcase and took out the crumpled magazine.


Just then, he noticed a bulging envelope leaning against his mug. His name was scrawled across the front. He sprang forward and tore it open. A silky, blonde wig fell into his lap. The head teacher raised his clenched fist. He glanced at his poor desk, barely held together by a plank of wood and lowered his hand.


The principal swiveled the chair and saw his favourite skull glaring at him. He felt a sudden surge invade his body. He lifted the skull from the shelf, sat it on his desk and gently fitted the blonde wig onto its bony head. An uncontrollable urge possessed his fingertips - they crawled to the scissors and started trimming the fringe. Finally, he took a comb from his pocket and ran it through the silky strands. "I think I'll call you Pamela," he said, his monobrow arching like a rainbow above his trance-filled stare. Mr Barker cradled Pamela in his arms and rubbed his cheek against hers.


Suddenly there was a knock. Mr Barker dropped Pamela like a scorched spud into a drawer. A cat-eyed boy and his dad poked their heads around the door.


“Give me a minute.” The head took his feet off the table and shoved his ‘Dream Desks’ catalogue beneath a pile of files. “Come in. I haven’t got all day.”