One Halloween back in the eighties (you know, the eighties–that time period when otherwise normal people wore a sparkly glove on only one hand and the world was separated into two groups: those who could actually solve the Rubik’s Cube and those who just cheated and moved the stickers around) a friend of mine came to school dressed as a nuclear fallout victim. This was the year that “The Day After”, a disturbing cinematic glimpse into the horror of a post-apocalyptic small American town, first appeared on television and ramped up the dread level on the cold war a few notches.
His costume was excellent; I could tell he’d really put some thought into it. The open sores, the jaundiced skin and the purpling bruises under the eyes could all have come right out of the movie. The best part, though, was his hair. Or, more accurately, his not-hair. It stuck out from his scalp in a few ragged patches and scraggly tufts, like weeds poking sadly up through the cracks in an abandoned parking lot. It was so forlornly awful and pitiful, it brought tears to your eyes. For some reason, that stark image of beauty lost was the one that seemed to haunt viewers of “The Day After” the most.
This post, however, is not about nuclear war, or Halloween, or even the eighties.
It’s about Caleb. More specifically, it’s about his head–because after we finished cutting his hair yesterday afternoon, he looked almost exactly like my memory of that kid in the fallout costume.
I say “we” because it takes two people to cut Caleb’s hair–although three would be preferable, so that when one of them takes a swift kick in the chin with a size nine Adidas, another would be right there to take his place. Imagine sitting in a chair with a panicked young wolverine in your lap, trying to keep your eyes and fingers out of the reach of those sharp teeth and flailing claws while using your arms and legs to contain the roiling frenzy.
Now…imagine trying to give the wolverine a shave.
We used the clippers, because scissors are deadly when coupled with the contortions of our thoroughly harassed Houdini. When we were finally done (“done” is a subjective word–here I use it to describe the moment when Caleb finally slipped loose of my grip and neither Paul nor I had the strength left to chase him), all three of us were sweating and crying, and Caleb’s hair lay in little blonde drifts on the carpet. Here and there some longer stragglers still cling for dear life to his otherwise bald head–over his ears, in a couple of patches on the top–but it doesn’t matter.
I’m leaving it that way.
We’ll just tell the Little Old Ladies* that he has mange.
*a flock of sweet, well-meaning elderly women of our acquaintance who came after us with loaded canes when we first committed the heinous crime of snipping off Caleb’s precious little baby ringlets. (A.K.A. The Vintage Vigilantes)