This piece is a flash fiction that I first entered into an Edmonton Journal contest (a few years ago; there’s no budget for such things now.) I’d like to say it won but it didn’t. I edited almost half of the words so that it made the word count for the Writers Union flash fiction contest. There it won an honourable mention…and now to the story.
Isabel arranged the combs and brushes on the terry cloth towel she had laid over the stainless steel tray. “Well, Iris, what would you like today? No, don’t say anything. I know just what you want.”
Isabel moved one of the combs and set it nearer the edge of the table. “What did I do with the scissors? Don’t tell me, I’ll find them.” She rummaged through her satchel and after a couple of minutes produced them with a triumphant flourish.
“I knew I brought them,” she said.
Isabel looked at Iris’s long, graying hair. She took a brush and pulled it through the thick straight mane. It wasn’t easy to get the knots out. “I’m going to wash this, Iris. It’ll make it easier to cut.”
Isabel had Iris’s hair washed in record time. As she toweled it dry, she said, “I think it would look better short. Short hair makes a person look younger.”
Isabel hummed as she cut great swaths from Iris’s thick hair. The overhead light flashed silver from the sharp blades of the styling scissors.
Soon most of Iris’s heavy hair lay in a pile on the floor. Isabel stepped around it and picked up the hair dryer. “Do you like it, Iris? No… don’t say anything. I’m not done yet. Wait until I blow it dry and it has more body.”
The dryer whined as Isabel styled Iris’s new bob. She drew the brush through the hair and curved it gently at the ends. When it was dry, Isabel stepped back. She took a hand mirror from the tray and held it so the back of Iris’s head was in view.
“I told you, you’d look younger. I never did understand why you were so vain about that long hair. I’ve wanted to do this for ages.” Isobel flicked an errant lock into place and picking up the scissors trimmed some uneven hairs from Iris’s bangs.
“There, that’s your hair done. Let me see your nails.” Isobel took her hands and inspected her nails. She shook her head and clucked at the bright polish.
“I can fix these, too,” she said. “They’ll be easier to keep when they’re short. You won’t need polish, either. I’ll just buff them.” Isobel hummed in a tuneless monotone as she took the nail scissors from the tray. Snip, and then snip. As each scarlet nail was severed, tiny silver sparks leapt from the scissors. Snip, snip. Iris’s nails joined her hair on the floor. When Isobel was satisfied that they were short enough, she buffed them carefully.
She sighed with satisfaction. “Just look at you, Iris. You look great, so much younger and more stylish. You should have let me do this, years ago.”
Again she held the mirror so her old rival could see what she had accomplished. She added, “I know you want to look your best tomorrow. You’ll never have another funeral.”