He looked in the mirror trying to smooth down one side of his hair to match the flattened other side. Why was one side flat and the other still in his blond ringlets? He must have slept wrong again.
“Looks like someone is having a bad hair day, Steven,” laughed Jason as he came out of the bathroom stall. He was followed by his friends Brady and Ivan, who also chuckled.
“No, I’m not!” he protested then paused, thinking. “What’s that?”
“You don’t know what a bad hair day is?” Jason jeered. “Good luck getting your picture taken,” he added then walked away smugly with his cronies.
Steven looked back at the mirror, doubly frustrated at his hair and his ignorance. How can hair be bad? Was his hair bad? He thought and realized that he can’t see his own hair unless he’s looking in the mirror. Maybe it misbehaves when he’s not looking. What kinds of things does it get up to when he’s not watching? Maybe when he’s asleep at night, his hairs whisper mean things to each other. Maybe one of them calls another a barf-face. Maybe there is a group of them that are bullies! Just like Jason and his stupid buddies...
He’d have to ask his mom later. She would know.
~ ~ ~
Each second grade class was lined up in the gymnasium in front of either of the two photographers. He was at the back of his class’ line. Good. Maybe that would give him time to figure out what to do about his hair.
Then he saw it. Oh, my gosh! Maybe this was his salvation: the box of combs. He forgot that the photographers always brought those cheap, black combs to every Picture Day.
His classmates passed the skinny box back one by one. When it got to him, he hungrily took one of the single-use, fine toothed combs. His hand shot up on the air. “Mrs. Jenkins? Can I please go to the restroom?” he asked his teacher.
After pursing her lips for a moment, she said “Okay, but hurry back.”
He scurried to the bathroom to comb his hair in front of the mirror. He took the comb and furiously brushed the side of his hair. It wasn’t getting flat, just getting poofy!
To compensate, he tried combing the rest of his hair. Maybe he could flatten the rest of the curls to match his right side. After several frustrated brushes, he grunted at the mirror. Now his whole head was poofy! His head looked like one of those fluffy, white flower things that grew in the backyard at home. If only he had some of that goopy stuff from his mom’s salon.
He had one last idea. He wet his hands under the water from the sink. He shoved his hair down on both sides, not caring about the water droplets falling on his shirt. After pushing his hair down with such force he thought his head would cave in, the only thing that came of it was a bunch of dumb, droopy, dripping ringlets. He blinked hard in the mirror, trying to make his hair look different... cool, awesome, anything other than how it looked now! Then he heard it.
“Hey. Steven.” He looked at the mirror in amazement. There was one single hair waving at him.
“I saw someone with hair like this once. He was a barf-face.” Lots of tiny, high-pitched laughter erupted and he saw that almost every single hair on his head was laughing at him.
“I knew it! And, hey...that’s not a very nice thing to call someone,” he frowned.
“Don’t worry,” a different hair said this time. “No one will even notice how ugly your hair is.” Steven sighed with relief.
But the relief was short-lived. The strand continued, “They’ll be too distracted by your barf-face!” More laughter from the rest of his head.
“Stop it!” he yelled, but the laughing continued. “Bad hair! You’re very bad hair! Every last one of you!”
He fought away the tears forming. But it was no use. He looked down and saw one, then two drops fall into the sink as he sniffled. At least Jason wasn’t here to see him cry.
Oh, well. It was no use. Might as well face his fate and get this awful picture done and over with.
He shuffled downtrodden back into the gymnasium and Mrs. Jenkins hurried over as soon as she saw him. “Good. What took you, Steven?” She paused briefly when she saw his hair, then quickly shook her head. “Never mind. It’s your turn, go!” she urged.
She escorted him to the lady photographer, who gestured for him to sit down on the black box seat in front of the slightly less black backdrop. His heart was pounding.
“Okie dokie, now sit up straight,” the photographer smiled. He straightened his back. “And now put your feet on the X.” He looked down and pivoted so his feet covered the tape “X” on the floor.
“Uh oh!” the photographer chirped. “Looks like someone is having a bad hair day,” she said with a wink.
Steven opened his mouth in a pout. How do all these people know that his hair is bad?! The photographer didn’t even wait for him. She squinted one eye into the camera and said, “Cheese!” The shutter clicked and that was that.
~ ~ ~
He couldn’t wait until school was over. He felt the tears burn in his eyes as he ran to the school bus. He wasn’t going to his after-school art club. He needed to head straight to his mom’s salon. She would console him and tell him that his hair wasn’t bad, or at least she could punish his hair for being bad, it would learn its lesson, and everything would be fine. And she could fix the way his hair looked.
The bell on the salon door jingled as he heaved it open. He was glad there were no customers there, just the other two stylists sweeping. So he was only mildly ashamed when his lip began to quiver and the tears began to flow.
“Hey, Steves. What are you doing here?” his mom asked concerned. “Why aren’t you at art club?” She probably would have been mad ordinarily, but she could probably tell something was wrong.
He ran to her crying and wrapped his arms around her legs. “Jason said my hair was bad and then it called me a barf-face and wouldn’t do what I said and the picture lady said my hair was bad, too, and now my picture is gonna be ugly!”
“Aw, hey,” she said, stroking his hair. “I did notice the funky ‘do you got going on there.” She bent down and took his face in her hands. “But, what do you mean they said your hair was bad? Why don’t you start from the beginning? And you’re just in time. My last client for the day just left. So, hop on.” She patted the seat of the salon chair and used the foot pedal to ease it down to his level.
He threw his backpack on the floor, wiped his nose and hoisted himself onto the seat. His mom stood behind him, looking at him in the mirror, running her fingers through his unruly locks. Maybe she was trying to get the bad hair to calm down.
“I wanted to fix my hair because half of it was flat, but when I went in the bathroom, Jason saw me and said my hair was being bad. And he was like, ‘Good luck having your picture taken,’” Steven said in a mocking tone. “And then, when we got to the gym, they had combs, so I tried to comb my hair in the mirror but it made fun of me.” The tears began to form again.
“Aw, don’t cry,” his mom said soothingly. “It made fun of you? What do you mean ‘it’? The mirror?”
“No, Mom. Mirrors don’t talk,” he chided, getting frustrated. What wasn’t she getting? “My HAIR made fun of me. It called me a barf-face! And then all the rest my hair laughed at me, too!”
She cocked her head to the side, looking a little confused. “Well, that’s not a very nice thing for hair to say,” his mom said in a sympathetic tone, intrigued. “What happened next?”
“I told my hair it was being bad, and then I got to the picture lady ‘cuz it was my turn and she must have known that my hair was mean to me because she said, ‘Uh oh, looks like someone is having a bad hair day.’ And then she just took the picture!” He huffed and crossed his arms to indicate he was finished.
His mom crossed her arms as well and looked like she was thinking for a moment. “Ooooh, I see. Is that what Jason said, too? That you were having a bad hair day?”
“Yes!” he yelped in outrage.
His mom chuckled briefly. Which he didn’t appreciate because he really didn’t see what was funny. Besides, she should be disciplining his hair!
She turned the chair around so that he could face her. She bent down and put her hands on her knees so she was eye level with him.
“Let me explain,” she said, running her fingers though his hair again. “When someone says you’re having a ‘bad hair day,’ it doesn’t mean that your hair is misbehaving or that it’s in trouble. It just means your hair doesn’t look how you want it to. Like, there is a piece sticking straight up or there is another piece stuck to your forehead.” She smiled at him and waited for the explanation to sink in.
“Oh...” he said, a little embarrassed.
“But,” she spun him around to face the mirror again, “I have just the trick to fix your bad hair day.” She picked up a tube that he recognized as the goopy stuff she often put in his hair. After rubbing a dollop between her palms, she began working her magic on his head.
Moments later, she was done. “There.” She wiped her hands on her shiny apron and asked, “Better?” with a smile.
“Yeah!” he said excitedly and matched her smile. No wonder why she did this for a job. She was good!
“But,” he said meekly, “can you tell my hair not to make fun of me again?”
“Ah, of course. Which one of these little guys is the one that called you names?”
“Actually, there were two and the rest just laughed. But, um,” he said as he leaned toward the mirror so he could spot the troublemakers. “I think it was this one and... this one. Yeah, it was these two.”
“Lemme see,” she said, reaching over to replace his fingers with hers so she was holding the strands of hair. She said to them sternly, “Listen, you. It’s not nice to call someone names. And I will not have you insulting my sweet, adorable little Steves. You hear me?” She leaned in close to listen for the hairs’ response.
“Uh oh,” she said as she frowned and stood up straight. “I don’t know if I trust them...” The hair must not have agreed.
He started to pout again, but she said “No matter. I know how to take care of them. Hold still.” He obediently braced himself and closed his eyes.
“Take that!” She yanked one of the hairs out of his head.
“Ow, Mom!” he winced at the tiny pop from his scalp, but started giggling when he opened his eyes and saw she was posed like she had just karate chopped the hair.
“Hiyah!” she shouted and plucked out the other hair, posing again. “That’ll teach you to mess with my boy!” she declared victoriously. He didn’t even feel that second pluck because he was too busy cracking up at his mom. She continued doing random karate stances for a few seconds before standing up and turning him around to face her again.
“There,” she said. “Now you know that a ‘bad hair day’ just means someone’s hair isn’t acting the way they want it to and they don’t like the way it looks. Not that their hair is being bad or mean or rude or anything like that.”
She grabbed his hand and led him up off of the chair. She continued, “But, even if you forget that that’s what it means, it doesn’t matter. Because I already took care of those pesky hairs that were giving you trouble before. So either way,” she took his face in her hands again, “you’ll never have a bad hair day again.” Her smile made him feel even better than he was already feeling. He knew his mom could fix his hair. In both ways.
She stood up, taking his hand in hers again, leading him to the door. “You’ll never have a bad hair day again....except for now!” As she said that last part, she ruffled his hair with her free hand. His protests were quickly drowned out by both of their chuckles and soon he began shrieking with cackles as she attacked him with tickles.
The bell jingled again as the salon door swung open, this time mixed with the sound of laughter.
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