An electric razor on tiled table

Shelby Rice

zipporah

i.

The electric razor shorts out the moment it touches her scalp.

She suppresses the growl which builds unbidden behind her throat. All she wants is a goddamn haircut.

Hit the reset button on the outlet, she manages to spit. She struggles to suppress the sparks which dance along her fingertips.

He reaches out to click the button, hands trembling. The razor begins to buzz again. This time, he avoids contact with her scalp, and the razor doesn’t fizzle out overloaded. When he finishes, she looks in the mirror and scowls. Her hair ghosts her shoulders. Still there, still frizzled and staticky, unwelcome. She wanted it gone.

The metal scissors sit untouched on the cabinet next to her. This doesn’t escape her notice.

ii.

Someone used to sing her name at night. She can’t remember who; it’s a woman she can barely conjure with slate-dark hair that’s just as smooth, humming a song about the sea. She slips her name in where someone else’s was supposed to sit, but it’s just out of grasp, not the tip of her tongue but lodged somewhere south of her tonsils; what’s my name, what’s my name, what’s my name…she lays on the ground, dizzy. Her mouth seeps, rusty, bloody; not the good kind of metallic, though, not the zingful taste she gets when sparks dance along her spine and she can shock appliances into motion. Her fingers tingle but no electricity jumps forth. The stars are too close, and everything keeps spinning…the song loops in her head, her name just out of reach.

iii.

Mother used to comb her hair. It was frizzy even then, sticking up at all angles, but Mother never complained. Just pursed her lips and told her stories of magic and storms and women who could control the thunder as she carefully picked the knots apart and smoothed strands into a bun. The figures from her mother’s story danced in the smoke of the candle, so close and so real she could taste them, the whip-sharp swaying of free souls in front of her and the electricity of the storm tingling up her fingertips. She focused on keeping it locked there, stagnant, but no matter how often some slipped up her spine to her scalp and into her mother’s slim fingers, she never complained. Never stopped her gentle work at her daughter’s frizzled crown, carefully braiding the coarse hairs out into a tight knot. Once she’d asked whether it wouldn’t be easier just to cut it all off. Mother’s lips turned downwards. Sad. Maybe. Do what you like, darling, but do it after I’m gone. Your hair is beautiful, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. She would frown as her mother stood up, leaving the bathroom and her hair half-done. She wasn’t ashamed of it. She could just feel the static building there, catching, stillborn; power she couldn’t reach and reclaim. If it was gone, she could use the energy to make lightning like the women in the stories Mother told her. Women Mother thought about with starry eyes. Women Mother wished she was. Wished her child could be.