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.
Zac Silver's Hairy Tale - Chapter 2
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?"