CUTTING PALOMINO HAIR
A story told in 4 parts
Heather Momyer teaches writing and literature. "I have work appearing or forthcoming in 'Exquisite Corpse,' 'Infinity's Kitchen,' 'Fiction at Work,' and 'The Southwestern Review."
We were actresses and well on our way to becoming superstars. When we weren't on stage, we drove school buses across the township every morning and every afternoon, with the occasional fieldtrip in between to the city theater. We cut hair and did facials; we practiced law; we nursed the elderly. These things we did on our own, but when summer began, we were there on the stage again.
We lined up in the theater, four of us, dark brunettes, with few others, amateur actors. We prepared for the audition of Drunken Nectar, a play written by a local playwright of up-and-coming talent. As we rehearsed the lines, a younger woman entered.
She picked up a copy of the script as we had, began memorizing the lines as we had. She did everything we did, but she was different. Her hair, the color of sunflowers, marigolds, the centers of daisies, it was strings of banana peels, centers of pineapple, colors we had never seen in human hair, yellow like the coat of an African cat, or a running stallion, a palomino in the southwest. We rehearsed the lines as she rehearsed the lines as we stood on our own section of the stage. As we rehearsed, a man entered.
He passed closely by each of us and wore jeans with a brown tweed jacket, suede elbow patches, and shiny black wingtips on his feet. He announced that he was conducting an audition for a commercial today and needed one woman.
"The audition is for a commercial for a new SUV. The part of the male has already been cast. Some of you may recognize him. His name is Carlos Juan Jerez." The auditorium gasped.
The four of us looked at each other.
"Carlos Juan Jerez," the stage hands and costume designers whispered. "The soap opera star, the Latin playboy."
We weren’t impressed. It wasn’t theater. It wasn’t art. It was capitalism and consumerism. But still, we each speculated as to which one of us would get the part.
We auditioned on stage, separately and together, for the play that would open its world premiere in our small town. On stage, we ran in circles; we pirouetted; we leapt through the air and dropped to the ground in anguish and despair. Our chances were good and afterwards, we auditioned for the commercial.
First was Eenie, then Meenie, then Miney, then Moe. Then was the woman from the southwest. She was last and her hair sparkled under the glow of the ceiling's light bulbs. She got the part.
We no longer cared about the play. And in our bitterness, we waited for the commercial to be filmed.
On the day of Carlos Juan Jerez's arrival, the town held a fair, a welcoming for the star. All but we chose to attend. Instead, we broke into the trailer near the site of filming. Resting in her chair, we found our young starlet, our marigold. We held her down, tied her up in ropes as Meenie took out her beautician shears, chopping at the mane, clipping close to the scalp. And when her hair was gone, we closed our eyes, blinded by the rays of the sun, a full spectrum of light. Ultra violet rays burned into our corneas as a rainbow grew from her scalp, radiating from her head.
The camera zooms in on the girl's bald head while her scalp reflects the light like a halo. She never speaks, and neither does the dark man next to her.
Jump cut to the road, dirt. A vehicle moves past over the rocky terrain, uphill and into trees.
Inside the vehicle, the man steers and the woman looks ahead. The drive is neither adventurous nor liberating. The seats are cushioned and the suspension is good.
Next cut, outside of the vehicle. The trees block the sun. The woods are dark, eerie, ghostly. Inside the vehicle, the man clicks on the headlights.
The voice-over says words like "rugged," "explore," "freedom," and "Magellan" as the camera cuts back to another off-road angle.
Low-camera pointed up. We see the vehicle for one more brief moment before it disappears into the forest, the taillights of the vehicle smothered behind fall's leaves. He had gone, his concubine gone with him, with only the crown of light, the colors of flowers, golden autumn, to fill the camera's eye.
A One Act Play
We centered ourselves on stage, the four of us, as pillars, stable, solid bodies of mass. We wore black to absorb the brightness of the stage lights as their heat pushed down on us.
We slumped closer to the ground, our bodies shriveled, slow, though we pushed and struggled to stand, tall, toward the light, to exert our energy like four six-volt batteries in a row.
Enter: A girl wearing white. Her legs strong, muscular, legs like a race horse. The stage light radiated. It lit our bodies, heating our skin. The girl in white carried, dragged, floated a ribbon of red currant, the nectar of a chrysanthemum. She looped it around us, one, then another, tighter, and tighter, connecting us. She became our resistance; a circuit board, live and electric, was formed.
Enter: A group of young girls. Boxes of planted orange and yellow marigolds sat on stage in front of us. We were bound and could not prevent these girls, these children, from eating them. The girls wore blossoms in their hair and ate the marigolds. The girl in white encouraged them to eat, devour petal after petal. Ravenously, they ate the aphrodisiacs, tossed the flowers from their hair, over their heads and behind them.
We watched as the heat of the lights began to ignite; sparks spat from our heels. The girl in white was set aflame. Our faces glimmered, drunk and glowing. We lit up as a string of pearly iridescent rays, a system of stars, a universe of our own.
A FUNERAL FOR MARIGOLDS
After the play, after the final curtain fell, after the death—the massacre— of several bouquets of marigolds, we decided to hold a funeral. They had been chomped, decapitated by the teeth of young virgin brides. Hues of yellow and orange, the greens of chlorophyll—all digested in the bellies of omnivores on their wedding days.
"What kind of arrangement should we bring?" asked Eenie.
"Should we have any flowers there at all?" Meenie asked in return.
We debated between carnations and chrysanthemums, but concluded on planting four new flats of marigolds under the trellis. Tall ones, Incas. "They would have wanted it that way," Miney murmured. Moe nodded.
We informed the community via newspaper ads as to the time and date of the funeral. There would be no viewings. We sent invitations, but no one came, not even the girl in white with the palomino hair. We thought that maybe they felt guilty, but most likely, we assumed, they were too comfortable lying between white linen sheets. We nodded again, as if we understood, as we secretly wanted to understand.
We held the funeral under the trellis in the cemetery. There we envisioned the souls of our annuals ascending the latticework to their heavens and to their gods.
We bowed our heads and said a prayer for the souls of the deceased. Religiously, we dug holes, placed the new plants into the soil of the earth, blessed them with water, their brightness illuminated by the sun. And before we left, we each plucked a head from the stems, savoring the textures, the skin of our mouths turned yellow.