By Cynthia Morgan
Copyright 2006 on this one. All rights reserved.
Mama traded me for a handful of greens.
Daddy fixed her a salad, and Auntie Rue took me away. Auntie Rue said she took me because of the greens. A lady who would trade her baby for greens, she sniffed, didn’t deserve one.
Auntie should talk; she only took me for my red hair. It grows faster than kudzu; by the time I’d left my mother’s womb it was already down to the floor.
Red hair was in vogue just then. King Casimir’s delightful new Queen, the beautiful Arimae, had long, silky, fire-colored hair. Every nobleman in the kingdom was in love with her, and every noble lady wanted to look just like her.
It was just too bad that redheads were scarcer than rubies in our kingdom, and the color couldn’t be duplicated with dye. In fact, in the whole kingdom, only one other person had Arimae’s ruddy gold tresses: Me.
Auntie can smell gold on the other side of the moon. She smelled my hair before I’d finished my first cry. By the time I’d finished my second, Auntie was making plans.
She emptied her garden of greens made the exchange. Then she swept me into her house, crammed a bottle in my mouth, and started cutting.
Morning and night, Auntie’s scissors swept across my head. Morning and night, my hair grew back. She wove our coppery harvest into wigs that the fine ladies bought and bought and bought.
Auntie hired a gardener, and took on a second housemaid. I had a silver cradle and a rattle of gold.
On my 16th birthday it all came crashing down; Arimae caught a cold and died, taking our living with her. The king married a brunette, and suddenly you couldn’t give away red-haired wigs.
Auntie fired the servants, hocked my cradle, and took in washing. We could have been quite comfortable living off our savings…if it hadn’t been for my hair.
It grew and grew and grew. It filled the house, the porch, and the yard. It invaded the neighbors’ yards, choked their fruit trees, strangled livestock.
The more we cut, the more it grew, until we were drowning in beautiful, shining hair. Constable Dill needed a machete to get through the hairy garden and serve the eviction notice.
“I’m only one step ahead of the torches and pitchforks,” he warned, climbing the piles of hair, “Keep that hair under control or a mob will do it for you…permanently.”
We had no choice; that night Auntie gave me a buzz cut that lasted long enough to fight through jungles of hair across town, to the old water tower. She boosted me up the creaky old ladder and I climbed all the way to the top.
I crept inside; it was dank and cold. Auntie tossed up candles and blankets and loaves while I stared down with despairing eyes.
I ran my fingers through my hair–it was already down to my waist–and cursed those shimmering strands. What was wrong with me? Hormones?
“It’s only for a little while,” Auntie said, sending up the scissors, “Just stay there until I can find a fairy godmother.”
I burned hair to keep warm, and waited.
Auntie advertised for the traditional fairy godmother bait–handsome princes–to rescue me from my lonely tower. Usual pay and perks (fabulous wealth, beautiful daughter, worldwide fame), usual penalties (death).
I’m still in my tower. So far nine princes have answered the ad. They all had great references, big clanking swords, noble steeds.
They climbed the hair, make love to me in my tower, and ate enough to feed three armies.
Fair godmothers? Forget it. Those bozos couldn’t attract so much as a will-o-the-wisp if their very lives depended on it. (Which it does, thank the gods. Survivor salvage rights are the only thing keeping us out of bankruptcy.)
If I hear “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your red hair,” one more time, I swear, I’m going to scream.
Now Auntie’s gone up north–she thinks there’s a market for fiery red referee sweaters if we can find someplace that never heard of hair shirts. She took her spinning wheel and a 3-day supply of hair.
Me, I say a little prayer every night:
Forget the princes. Send a barber.
Love and tresses,