Scanlon may have pumped up her coiffure and cleavage for her court appearance, but she appears frail after three days on the stand. Even in a plunging neckline blazer, she gives the appearance of a damp mouse. Her hair battles to stay bouffant with the aid of one of her soon-to-be discontinued mousses.
The prosecuting barrister prowls before the defendant’s box in a white wig with buckled curls. ‘Madam Scanlon, you failed to properly report your income and assets, including two private islands, a luxury off-road limousine, a personal juice bar, and a bank account under the name of Mr Mace Gall…’
From my perch in the public gallery, I can see the madam’s eyelid twitching.
‘…As CEO of a large-scale firm, Coiffure, you signed off on paperwork reporting only a minor amount of tax. Your failure to spot obvious mistakes has resulted in a degree of deception that no amount of genuine oversight could create. Your blindness was wilful, was it not?’
‘No. Unpaid taxes were not brought to my attention.’
‘Let me put it this way: Did you have an unspoken agreement with your accountant, whose innovative bookkeeping was intentional?’
‘Certainly not. He wants to pull the rug out from under me!’
The judge pounds his gavel. ‘Enough! We’re covering the same ground, and I have other important matters to attend to. In order for us to conclude, does the prosecution have any further questions?’
‘No, your honour.’
‘Very well, then. I have heard everything I need to make a decision. Madam Scanlon, I sentence you to seven years imprisonment for defrauding the state—without bail. Bailiff, remove the defendant’s hair.’
The bailiff clamps Scanlon’s wrists to her chair, wraps her in a black cape, and fires up a set of electric clippers. She is rigid as the clippers whizz through her tangle of hair, only flinching when her scalp is nicked. Excess stubble and blood are wiped from her shaved head, and wet mascara is removed from her cheeks. Without her plumage, she is no peahen. The bailiff turns the clippers off, and the court stenographer ceases her rapid tapping. It crosses my mind that she might have been fastidiously recording the buzz of the clippers the whole time using punctuation marks.
‘I demand a wig,’ Scanlon bawls. ‘I can’t go to prison looking like this. Where’s my shampoo and blow-dry?’
‘This is no hair salon!’ the judge booms. ‘Bailiff, take her down.’
As the guard cuffs her, Scanlon dips her chin and avoids eye contact with Mace, who is seated in the front row. The guard persuades her to the top of the stairs that lead down to a holding cell. He shunts her down the first step, but she clings to the balustrade, unable to resist calling out. ‘Wait for me, my love. Wait for me!’
‘I will!’ Mace cries out.
The bailiff lifts Scanlon like a roll of carpet and carries her down the remaining steps. A door slams shut and muffles her sobs.
Mace’s snivelling erupts into unabashed blubbering. Someone is there with their arm around him. That might have been me at one point, but he jumped ship to the S.S. Scanlon. I tried to warn him that it had a dodgy hull. All I can do now is leave him to sift through the wreckage with his new friend and make puddles in the pews.
On my way out, I ask the guard for my confiscated umbrella and meander out of the courthouse, pondering how lucrative selling wigs to the legal-sector would be. But that doesn’t last. Pity for Mace rears up, and I wonder if, now that storm Scanlon has blown through and he’s not shrouded in a tornado of lust and money, he might come to his senses. From my side of things, his cash-fuelled fever dream of a relationship was never healthy, yet he did agree to wait for her when she was taken below.
Doesn’t he know about conjugal visits?
Eno’s mother asked if he could stay with us while the battle between skinheads and hippies rages on. It’s a bit hairy in the city, and she doesn’t want him to be abducted by his father and taken on another raid. Understandable. Though I bet she didn’t count on us falling in love with her boy and not wanting to let him go.
We’ve been working on changing his core beliefs while Tove’s clinic is shut due to the fighting. During her mandatory sabbatical, Tove has removed all mirrors from the cabin, confiscated his tweezers, and cut his fingernails short so he can't pluck his hair in his sleep. After weeks of exposure therapy, visualisations, and affirmations, his old habits and disdain for hair have given way to curiosity and open-mindedness. It may only be stubble, but his first ever crop of brown hair is sprouting.
Tove and I sit on the porch, watching Eno lay oak branches against a tree to construct a den, just like I showed him.
Tove rests her head on my shoulder. ‘Can’t we just adopt him?’
There’s more than a trace of longing in her question.
‘His mother is coming to visit him later, remember?’
‘I know—’ she puts her hand on my knee ‘—but I’m going to miss him when he goes. How about we start our own project?’
‘Now that we’ve rearranged the human zoo, I would feel more comfortable about bringing a child into the world, wouldn’t you? We’ve done our bit for society, and now it’s time to scale things back and focus on what really matters.’
That could be just the ticket. Taking care of Eno has alleviated much of the bitterness and resentment caused by a lack of recognition of my deeds from society. Raising a child sounds more appealing than meddling in a civilisation oblivious to my efforts. My altruism and benevolence have their limits.
Spending time with Eno has helped me rediscover that being has inherent value as opposed to doing and striving all of the time. By that logic, having a kid and assisting them in their development should be even more gratifying. Just being is something I thought I had lost. It’s nice to have that back.
‘Would I like to bring a human being into this world? Yes, please.’
The look in Tove’s eyes says that she’s been waiting for me to come to this conclusion for a long time. Our lips latch for about three seconds before the patter of feet disrupts our facial fender-bender. Another opportunity for intimacy throttled by circumstance; for months and months, we’ve been too busy to get busy.
‘My den’s finished. Come see it!’
Eno takes Tove by the hand and leads us to his shelter. He scurries underneath and sits proudly below the branches. ‘It’s nice in here. Come in.’
‘Do I have to wipe my feet beforehand?’ I ask, and squat down into Eno’s den, being careful not to knock the whole structure down.
‘Do you know what you’ve built here?’ I ask. ‘It’s an orgone accumulator.’
Eno’s mouth hangs open. ‘A what?’
‘Orgones are universal energy. You sit in here, and the natural material radiates energy through your body and makes your hair grow faster. When you go back to the city, take it with you and rebuild it, so you can feel better whenever you need to. You’ll have your own special place.’
‘Woah! I wanna get organs all the time so my hair grows really fast.’
Tove squeezes my arm and smiles. ‘Orgones are good for your organs.’
Eno’s mother arrives at our cabin, and the boy scurries out from under the den and runs to meet her. Tove and I stay hidden, and I try to canoodle with her, but she wriggles away girlishly.
‘Lux, stop it, Eno’s mum will see.’
A responsible adult female voice cuts through our horseplay. ‘Mr and Mrs Brovak? Is that you over there?’
‘We’ve been rumbled,’ I say, standing up and rearranging my semi to make the walk over to the cabin more comfortable.
Mrs Steel strokes her son’s short hair in awe. ‘I’m so pleased. You’ve worked absolute wonders—look at his hair! Has he been behaving himself?’
‘It’s been a pleasure having him stay,’ says Tove.
‘Can I show you the woods?’ Eno asks his mother.
‘Just for half an hour or so. I have to be back in the city soon.’
‘Aw, come on. Can you make it an hour?’ I ask, with less blood in my brain and more in other places it hasn’t been for months. ‘We have plans too, you know.’
Tove jabs me with her elbow. ‘You take however long you want, Mrs Steel. We’ll be in the cabin. Just make sure to knock before you come in.’
Mother and son trundle off into the woods, and we are left alone. At last.
‘Shall we get started on the, err…’
‘Project?’ Tove asks brightly.
‘Yes, that.’ I comb her hair back behind her ear. ‘My pencil is sharpened and ready to sketch out some plans.’
‘Oh, good.’ Tove giggles. ‘I have a pad you can draw on…’
‘Let’s get doodling.’
Tove puts her hands on my chest and tilts her head back melodramatically. ‘You can draw freehand. No eraser required.’
After our wet lips have sojourned for the longest time in months, the mouth connection oozes into territory too raunchy for public consumption. With as much animal hunger as gentlemanly intention, I lift Tove and carry her to the cabin, where pencil lead will irrevocably meet paper and we’ll draw out the blueprints for our exceptional embryo. Organs and orgones will collide in a luxuriant reverie that becalms our buzzing brains; a purposeful union that will cause the womb to bear fruit that can ripen freely and grow as much peach fuzz as it wants.