Scott Munroe walked down his front steps with a spring in his step the likes of which the neighbors had not seen in years.
“Good morning, Mr. Tillywilly!” he said, as he waved to his elderly friend. The septuagenarian waved back as he tended to his rosebushes.
Scott got in his Prius and before turning the key, he took in a deep breath. He put the letter he had been carrying down on the passenger seat and felt the sweet air of freedom fill his lungs. A moment of quiet serenity like this would not have been possible a mere twenty minutes ago and Scott savored it.
Scott’s mother had been dying of cancer for the last eight months. He had really thought she was the most important woman in his life. They were very close and her illness had been hard on the whole family, but more so on her youngest son.
Eleanor Munroe was a strong woman. Widowed shortly after the birth of her eighth child, she managed to support the whole family on her own. Scott and his brothers and sisters never wanted for anything, especially the time and attention of their mother, who always made them her first priority.
Her goodness extended beyond her immediate family. In fact, most who met her, if only for a few minutes, realized that her warm, mothering nature made them feel as if she was part of their family.
She had been recognized numerous times for her charity work in the community and had started several scholarships to send inner-city youth to college. It gave her great pride to see them graduate and go out in the world and make something of themselves. They never seem to forget this woman and all that she had done for them.
Amongst her biggest admirers had been Scott. While most children feel a natural feeling of embarrassment towards their parents, this was never the case with Scott. He was very proud of his mother and all she had accomplished.
That is, until the morning of September 10, 2001.
Scott had been sitting in his kitchen, eating an English muffin and reading the paper before work. He was trying to figure out if he had enough time to visit his mother in the hospital during his lunch break. Though she had lost most of her hair during her chemotherapy treatments, Scott wanted to do something nice for her, to make her feel pretty and normal for a little while. Like a regular woman, not a “cancer patient”.
She normally had long, flowing blonde hair, but it was down to just a few wisps. Certainly, not enough to cut. Maybe a wig? But he knew his mother would never be so ostentatious.
This got Scott thinking about his childhood and how when he was really little, his mother would cut his hair. It wasn’t until he was about seven or eight that he first went to a barbershop.
This impetus had been born from his desire to have a “bowl” haircut, like Andy on “Family Ties”. The level of equipment needed to shape someone’s hair like that was beyond the means and ability of his mother and her scissors.
A young Scott had happily climbed into the barber chair, eagerly awaiting his bowl haircut, only to face disappointment, time and time again. No matter which barber they went to, none were able to get it right.
And it wasn’t just that it wasn’t even or the layers didn’t fall right. It wasn’t close. It really wasn’t a bowl haircut at all. It was as if he said “bowl haircut, please” and the barber heard “short and straight and not at all bowl-like”.
Scott paused. It really didn’t make any sense. He knew tons of kids who had bowl haircuts. They had actually gotten them at the same places he had been to. He had conferred with these kids; found out who they had gone to, what they had told the barber, down to exacting, specific details.
Scott threw his hands up. It just didn’t make any sense! It was as if the barber didn’t want to give him the bowl haircut he so desired. But why would the barber care? Wasn’t the customer always right?
There was one person who was always present. One constant. Though the barber may change, every single time Scott sat in that chair, his mother was with him.
His mother? Could it be? He vaguely remembered her expressing displeasure at the idea of her son having a bowl haircut, but she had relented and attempted to cut it that way, anyway.
Or had she?
Scott became physically ill as he remembered that on numerous trips to get his hair cut, he would eagerly give his rehearsed instructions to the barber, just before his mother took the man aside and whispered something in his ear. Scott had never really wondered what was going on, but now he knew, without a doubt, that his mother had betrayed him.
With shaking hands, he composed a letter to his mother, telling her that he no longer loved her and hoped that she faced an afterlife of cold, lonely despair. A place where she would do nothing but think about the lies she had dripped from her fecund lips each time she spoke the words, “I love you”.
It felt good to get it all down on paper. Scott wailed and cried tears of salty bitterness as he let out 28 years of disappointment into those few squiggly lines.
By the time he was stuffing his letter into its envelope, his eyes were dry. He had a smile on his face. He felt like a new man.
As he drove to the hospital, he steeled his resolve. There would be no turning back. He understood that it would take a pretty egregious act to do something like this to a woman on her deathbed, but he felt these circumstances more than qualified.
He walked into her room, stone faced and threw the letter onto her blanket.
“Hello, baby” she said, with a smile, ignoring the letter.
“Shut up, you old bag! Shut up!”, he screamed.
He turned to leave. She called after him, hurt and confused, “Scotty, what’s this all about?”
He grabbed her reading glasses. His eyes swelling up with tears of rage, he shook them in her face. “Read it, dummy!”
She put on her glasses and opened the envelope. As she read the letter, her confusion turned to amusement. She began to laugh.
The thought occurred to Scott that he should probably just strangle his mother. Stamp out this life before it could hurt anyone else. It was only his urge to find out why, that stopped him.
“What’s so funny?” he asked, coldly.
“Scotty, this letter,” she had to catch her breath, “You’ve got it all wrong! I wasn’t stopping you from getting a bowl haircut, nature was.”
“What?” he said, with disbelief.
“You’ve got a rare genetic condition, just like your father, that prevents your hair from being cut and layered evenly, like that. No matter how hard anyone tries, they just can’t get it right. That’s all it was, sweetie.”
“Well then what was with all the whispering to the barber before my haircut? Huh? Betcha didn’t think I’d notice that!” he said, a look of triumph on his face.
“Oh no. I wasn’t telling them not to give you a bowl haircut, I was telling them all the sick, nasty things I wanted them to do to me when they were done with you.”
“Yeah, here’s the thing: I loves me some my barbers. The way they hold their scissors, the way they chop away, until you’ve got an entirely new look. It gets me so hot!”
His mother’s cheeks had become flushed with excitement. Once again, Scott felt nauseous.
“So, Mr. Jenkins?”
She nodded. “All of ’em. That’s why I was more than happy to go on your little quest. I’ve had every barber within a 25 mile radius, thanks to you!”
Scott stood there for a moment, at the foot of his once-saintly mother’s bed.
“Genetic condition, huh?” he asked. It seemed reasonable.
“OK. Well, I’ve gotta get to work.”
Scott gingerly kissed his mother on the cheek, now afraid of contracting some sort of sexually transmitted disease that she most likely had. As he walked back to his Prius, he tried to look on the bright side, but all he could come up with is that things could probably not get much worse than this. Not for a long, long time.