A Death Threat from the Hair Club for Men
Remember the church basement, aluminum chairs, coven lighting. How some members bring baggies of what they shed in the shower basin, but most prefer the sacrifice; kneeling, we pluck eyelashes, brows, beard hairs to stitch into one lucky scalp, selected by short straw. The Sunday chimp gang huddled in our grooming circle so someone like you, bald as a disco ball, can lease a week of full, thick hair, once the rest of us admire our needlepoint skills, tugging curls just to watch them bounce in place.
Of course, the after photos show us smiling in terror. We all know someone who tried to take the hair and run. Someone weak. Someone with a family they left behind when they turned up parsed in garbage bags in the trunk of their car, or someone who didn’t turn up at all. We might strike their names, but when it’s your turn, when you see the image of yourself―trimmer and tanner and bathed, somehow, in light that seems excited to touch you, the kind of light that glistens on rotisserie chickens and bodybuilders’ testicular biceps―you think of running too.
We all know someone who tried to take the hair and run.
You are seeing this letter, and you’ve piled all the furniture against the door of tonight’s motel room. The phone is bubbling in the toilet. What started as a volcanic eruption of surfer hair is now a crew-cut fade; the stolen curls you stuffed inside a pillow case to bury in the desert for safekeeping. Your scalp itches as if all the roots want to wriggle out at once. It might be because it’s Sunday, because as you’ve always suspected, your body is here to embarrass you; that it was foolish to hope you could grow any way but older, or that you could hold two photos of yourself and see two different people with no loss to link them.
The point is, brother, when we break in through the windows, our bald heads blackened with shoe polish, our knives sharpened for the scalping, you are already kneeling.
Michael Alessi received his MFA from Old Dominion University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in such literary journals as Mid-American Review, Passages North, The Pinch, the Minnesota Review, and New Delta Review, among others. Raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, he lives in Chicago.
Illustration by Keit Osadchuk.