Wednesday, October 06, 2004


Ellie’s hair was mouse brown and on the stringy, lanky side of things—except for the Year of the Perm. That year, after Kellyn showed up late for Little League with those perfect spirals, Ellie had spent the next month desperately pleading her parents for a trip to the salon. The eventual outcome, performed in the basement of her mom’s friend Anne, was a poofy mound of pure frizz. Any hint of spiral was smothered under a thick, dense mass fuzzing and fraying in every direction. Ellie tried to brush off (and brush out) the catastrophe—tried to immerse herself in the coolness of “The Perm” and nonchalantly shrug off the results. But her mom saw Miss Anne’s creation and cried.

It wasn’t that Ellie had anything against Miss Anne. She had been the one, after all, who consented to trim Ellie’s locks the time—well, times—that they were crawling with lice. Scratching and clawing her scalp, Ellie had imagined entire communities and colonies taking root, a burgeoning civilization working, producing, reproducing—impervious to her digging fingernails. The lice themselves, of course, were too tiny to be very much affected or particularly bothered by Ellie’s efforts to wreck havoc on their world. Their presence nearly invisible except for the telltale eggs, they simply carried on, growing, breeding, dying—making way for newer, bigger, better generations. Ultimately, outside intervention and chemical warfare were the only real options. Each louse had to be picked away with a fine-toothed comb after a drenching in the toxic, burning Lice-B-Gone. And of course, Lice-B-Gone had to be purchased over-the-counter in their small town pharmacy. And, in small town pharmacies, well, people talk.


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