Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mascot, Chapter Four: The Mannequin

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The Mannequin

Zelda is driving Bascom Avenue in a fierce rain when she sees a man in a long black coat fighting his way along the sidewalk. She spots his British cap in the rear-view mirror and hits the brakes, sending her car into a thirty-foot slide. She pulls to the curb and hits the button for the window.


Edward freezes, then keeps on walking. Zelda slams the car into park and runs to catch him.

“Edward! Where have you been? Jackson needs you, he’s worn out and he’s worried about you, and I’m really sorry if we embarrassed you. Edward!”

She races in front of him and stops. But his eyes are down, he doesn’t see her and knocks her to the ground. Zelda squeals and falls on her butt. Edward looks at her, expressionless, and reaches down to help her up. Then he keeps walking. Zelda tries to think of something that might make him stop.

“I… I liked your poem!”

He takes two more steps, pauses, takes another step, and stops.

“It was very touching. I… didn’t know anyone could see how sad I was. And I liked it because it was funny, too and it wasn’t easy. Because life isn’t easy.”

Edward’s upper lip twitches, as if he’s about to laugh.

“I guess you know that,” says Zelda. “That life isn’t easy.”

He turns his dark eyes on her, maddeningly inscrutable. He tries to walk away, but Zelda is holding his hand.

“I’ve got an idea, Edward. Come with me. Just for an hour. Come on, you owe me.”

They stand there for a long time. Edward looks across Bascom at a hospital building, then down at their hands. He unwraps her fingers from his, and walks to her car.

After navigating San Jose City College’s convoluted parking system, Zelda manages to coax Edward to the cosmetology department. They are greeted by Cecily Flores, who cocks one of her expressive eyebrows in Edward’s direction.

“Um. You do know that this will take a while. At this point, I am very slow.”

Zelda pulls her far enough away to keep Edward from hearing.

“I was actually hoping I could pull a switch. My friend Edward needs a cut much more than I do.”

Cecily purses her lips, producing a duckbill effect. “Ooh! I mean, I’d like to help, but I haven’t even done a man’s haircut, much less… that.”

“Charge me double. And think of it this way. Whatever you do is going to be an improvement.”

She gives him another look.

“Well. Okay. I could use a little spending cash. You are throwing me way out of my comfort zone.”

Cecily puts on her easy smile (another point of envy) and heads toward Edward.

“Hi, Edward. Why don’t you give your cap and coat to Zelda and follow me. Oh! You do have a lot of hair.”

She gives Zelda the side of her eyes and walks them into the work area, where a dozen students in pink and purple scrubs are working on clients and maintaining a low-level chatter. The counters are littered with mannequin heads, which endows the place with a creepy fringe. After giving Edward a thorough shampoo, Cecily stands behind the chair and flips his ragged locks this way and that.

“So. Edward. Any ideas on how you’d like it? Short? Not so short?”

Edward stares into the mirror, at his usual loss for words. After a suitably awkward pause, Zelda jumps in.

“How about something like this?” She hands Cecily her iPhone, which shows the photo from his reunion.

“Well,” says Cecily.”I can’t actually make you look this young, but this is a good style for you.”

She fetches one of her teachers, a big-breasted Mexican lady with black-rimmed spectacles. She studies the photo and smiles. “Okay. Let’s go with a scissors cut. It’ll take a while, but have patience, keep looking for your guide, and call me if you feel stuck.”

“Okay.” Cecily pulls a section of hair through her comb and snips the ends, then gathers up another. She calls for more help around the ear, and on the bangs. At the end of a three-hour session, Edward’s coiff has been adjusted by five different teachers. When she gets to the trimmers, Zelda gives the okay, and she removes his week-old beard.

Edward is passive throughout. Once Cecily’s teacher gives him a final polish, he gets up and heads for the restroom. Zelda and Cecily walk toward the lobby.

“Why do I feel like I’ve still only done cuts on mannequins?”

Zelda hands her two twenties. “You would be shocked if you saw him dance.”

“Ah-hah! Somethin’ goin’ on here? Boyfriend in training?”

“Yeeesh – no! He’s a regular at the coffeehouse. I was tired of lookin’ at his sorry mop.”

“I don’t know, sistah. Under all that muck, he’s got sort of a cute undead thing goin’ on, like Edward Scissorhands. And you know how cosmetology students feel about Edward Scissorhands.”

“I could make a guess.”

Cecily gives her a hug and retreats to the work room. Edward appears at the end of the lobby. Far away, he looks a hundred times better. Closer, the cleanup has served mostly to accentuate his lifeless eyes, the unsettling lack of facial expression.

“You look great!” she says. “Do you need a ride somewhere?”

He shakes his head. She hands him his cap and coat. He puts them on, looks at her for a moment and leaves, crossing the courtyard toward Bascom.

“You’re welcome,” she says.

Photo by Sonia Cuellar

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