The fangs flashed in front of my face for a third time, coming dangerously close to my nose. I slowly moved my shining, sliver blades in front of the creature’s eyes, hoping to…I don’t know what I was hoping to accomplish. Hoping to hypnotize it. Hoping to stop it. Hoping to make it vanish. Hoping to make it leave me alone.
Nothing changed. It was still there and still itself. It growled at me, a low, deep growl, so deep that shook the monster’s frame. It sprung at me, the fangs again stopping just short of my face. Its brown, dirty, reeking teeth ground raggedly against each other, lacking the lubrication my blood would provide. I was the one who seemed hypnotized. I shook off my daze a little and took a step backward.
A bell chirped in the distance behind me. My hopes didn’t soar, but the possibility of hope briefly entered into my life. Didn’t the sound of bells herald the coming of angels? Or maybe bells ring when angels get their wings. My brain rapidly thumbed through memories of black and white movies, trying to match angels to bells.
There was the sound of a door thumping shut and then the bell gave an abbreviated “jang.” I stuck out a hand to keep the beast at bay and cautiously turned my head just as Melissa came around the corner. Her cheeks were pink and her hair was neatly tousled, if that is possible. She was a young girl, and she was healthy and fresh-faced country-cute. She had mud on her sneakers from her morning ritual of caring for her horses. She gave me a once-over look, but she didn’t greet me. She silently went to her work station and put on her smock. Like a magic trick, the shapeless garment immediately added ten years to her and turned her into a frump.
“What’s the problem? Why are you just standing there?,” Melissa The Frump demanded, digging in her purse until she found what she wanted. She snapped open her cell phone to see who’d called her while she was unavailable.
“Good morning, Melissa,” I said.
She rolled her eyes impatiently. “Yes, good morning. Happy, now?” She snapped the phone shut. “So, what’s the problem?”
“That,” I answered. I pointed my shears at the monster on my table. It immediately lunged at me, and was again jerked backwards by the noose around its neck. Intentions of mayhem thwarted, it sprang to its back legs and wrapped its front limbs around the noose. It spun wildly in mid-air, a parody of a circus aerialist, but with none of the grace. It thrashed violently as it spun from the noose. I cringed away for a second, then I pulled myself together and grabbed the noose to stop the spin. The thing hung limply, seemingly spent. Then, it lunged at my arm. “Shit,” I spat, jerking away.
“How long has it been here?,” Melissa asked.
“Two hours.” I tried moving toward it without looking at it. Snapping teeth countered my casual approach. From the corner of my eye, I saw specks of foam on its cruel lips.
“And what have you gotten done?,” Melissa wanted a better answer than the one she knew I was going to offer.
“Um, not a lot,” I answered. Melissa sighed an “I knew it” sigh. “I managed to trim two of its hideous claws,” I said, defensively.
“It has to go home, sometime,” Ashley called as she jangled through the doorway, pulling her kit on wheels behind her. Ashley wasn’t fresh faced or young. She looked like ten miles of bad road. She’d been in the business for forty years, and putting on an ugly smock didn’t transform her into anything she wasn’t already. Her face showed the scars of her time on earth, her arms and hands showed the scars of her profession. “What’s its name?,” she asked me, as she rolled her kit into a corner.
“Precious,” I said, morosely.
“They are always bad when they are named Precious,” Ashley shook her head at the folly of careless naming. We knew what had happened. We could picture it in our heads. The owner, full of the satisfaction of acquisition, had looked at this thing when it was tiny and said, “Aren’t you just the most PRECIOUS little thing? Why, that’s what I’ll name you! PRECIOUS!” Then, Precious had peed on something important or eaten something expensive, or both, and the owner had put Precious into a box and gone out club hopping and pretty much never taken Precious out of the box, whether there was a club that needed hopping or not. Precious lived in its own waste and learned absolutely nothing about being part of the household that went on right outside of its filthy prison.
Naming a living being an adjective is never a good idea. It gets everybody off on the wrong foot. Or maybe a person who would name a living being something like “Precious” just doesn’t have a right foot to start off on. The bottom line is that we didn’t have one good client named Precious in our salon. All of them were disgustingly filthy when they came in, and all of them were so mean that we couldn’t even feel pity for their desperate situations.
“I’ll help you,” Melissa said. “Don’t thank me, though,” she warned. “I’m NOT doing you a favor. I just want the damned thing out of here. We are going to get busy, and we can’t spend our whole day on this.”
I gratefully and meekly made room for Melissa at my station as Ashley started setting up her own station, glancing at us now and then in case the two of us weren’t going to be enough.
Melissa stepped up to my table with her thinning shears in her hand. They weren’t as sharp as her regular shears. Precious needed a hair cut, not a cut on her skin. With the bad ones, the chances of injury rose not only for us, but for the client, as well.
Precious wasn’t sure which one of us to look at, now that there were two. She shifted her eyes back and forth between us. In her moment of indecision, I sprang on her, grabbing her head so she couldn’t bite Melissa. Precious flailed frantically, and then surrendered when Melissa grabbed the hair under her chin and started rapidly snipping what we referred to in the business as a “teddy bear head” out of the matted mess. Precious opened her jaws, but this time all she had for us was a pant of surrender and defeat. Melissa sped up, and the air in the salon relaxed a little bit. Melissa nodded satisfaction to herself at her job on the head, then she reached into her smock pocket for her nail trimmers. Precious grinned wide at her and said, “I’m going to tell my Mommy what you bitches said about my name.”