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THE CUTTING EDGE

My name is Skye Summers. I’m a hairstylist and I can’t stop fantasizing about killing my clients.Not all of them, of course. I only want to kill the ones who irritate me, which, if I’m being honest, is most of them. My occasional fantasies have turned into chronic daydreams. They’re bloody and vivid, like watching a slice-and-dice movie on IMAX.

I also want to kill my husband’s ex-girlfriend. She’s not a client but she tops my list. Eighteen years ago, she gave birth to his daughter and has tormented him ever since. I should be troubled by this growing desire to use my surgically sharpened shears for more than a haircut. Instead, I wonder how I can get away with it.

 

Excerpt from The Cutting Edge

Chapter 1

My name is Lilly Skye Destiny Summers. My parents thought it was a great idea to give me three names with the initials LSD to go with my last name. For years they called me LSD Summers. They lived in a commune and did way too much acid.

Most people call me Skye. Except my father’s parents, who always call me Lilly, and even that name is said with some disdain. They’re partial to my father’s sister’s kids. My cousins’ names are Victoria Marie and Benjamin James. Benjamin is a gay surgeon living his life in the closet and Victoria is a P.T.A. mom with a Princeton degree in bullshit and an addiction to painkillers. My grandparents are in their late eighties and live in a fancy housing complex for old people. My grandfather wears Depends and drool constantly dribbles from the corners of his mouth. He still puts on a tie before going down to dinner every night. The whole thing is rather comical.

I’m 37, married to an electrician who could have made huge money as a porn star. I’ve kept my maiden name for reasons other than my love of LSD Summers. My husband’s name is Scott Skyler. Had I changed my name, I would have been called Skye Skyler. Skye Summers is bad but Skye Skyler is ridiculous.

I work as a hairstylist in a salon called The Cutting Edge. When I started my career 17 years ago, I had visions of my unfettered creativity transforming ordinary women into sexy tramps or glowing goddesses. I was terribly naïve. Now I spend my days trying to explain to the round-faced Oreo-addict that, no matter what I do to her hair, she will not leave looking like Angelina Jolie. Try and pull that off tactfully.

At the moment I am contemplating murder. Today is Friday and I have been on my feet since 8 a.m. The clock above the desk tells me it is now 2:10. I have not eaten lunch. Have not even peed all day. The woman in my chair is speaking nonstop and I am thinking about killing her.

I smile and nod while Marla prattles on incessantly about her existence. She watches my reflection in the mirror – or, more likely, her own. She is talking about Amy, her 5-year-old “princess”. According to Marla, Amy is gifted beyond measure. I’m told that everyone she comes in contact with comments on the child’s extraordinary charm and intelligence.

Amy recently stuck a wad of chewing gum in a classmate’s hair. This is not something Marla would ever tell me. I know this because I had to cut the wad out of the other child’s beautiful blonde curls. That child’s mother is also a regular client and not a fan of Marla or Amy.

I gave Amy her first haircut when she was 3. She bit me twice. Last week, Amy kicked me while I tried to cut her bangs. Amy is indeed a princess.

Marla turns the topic to her son, Justin, age 8. Apparently he should be declared a child prodigy because he has read an entire Dr. Seuss book to his sister.

I continue to smile, snip the requested one-quarter inch from Marla’s bangs. Yes, precisely one-quarter of an inch. And one-eighth of an inch off the back. Am I supposed to hold a measuring tape to her hair? Does she?

My jaw aches from the tension of my phony smile. I catch a glimpse of my reflection and marvel at how relaxed I appear. No one would know that I am currently harboring fantasies of cutting off Marla’s perfect little ears that hold the perfect pearl studs that her perfect husband presented to her on their Alaskan cruise last month.

Marla is saying, “When I watch Amy and Justin interact with other children, I realize the tremendous advantage my children have with me being home, rather than selfishly pursuing a career.”

I smile, fantasize about cutting Marla’s tongue off with my surgically sharpened $500 shears.

I don’t have children, which Marla has made clear she feels is a tragedy of epic proportions. The real tragedy is that people like Marla are allowed to procreate.

I have three dogs. Neal is a terrier mix, Cassady is a Chihuahua, and Jack is a chocolate lab mixed with something of questionable descent. They are named after Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac, two famous writers of the Beat Generation.

My parents were thrilled that I named my dogs after figures that were so central to life in the sixties. Of course, having been raised by flower children and given the name Lilly Skye Destiny Summers, you’d have to expect some of the sixties subculture to rub off on me. My three dogs are rescues and tend to be spoiled brats with bad manners. At the moment, they are probably lounging on my couch, watching Jerry Springer and raiding the snack cabinet. Okay, in reality they are probably sprawled out in their respective beds, sleeping blissfully. Either way, I wish I could join them.

My mind has wandered and I missed the last minute or so of Marla’s monologue. She doesn’t seem to notice. I continue to smile and nod.

I glance at Renee, my coworker and good friend for the past decade. Being surrounded by mirrors makes it impossible to roll our eyes or gesture obscenely. Renee’s client is talking with her entire body, her hands moving rapidly and her head bouncing like one of those stupid Bobblehead toys. Do people not realize how hard it is to work on a moving target?

Renee and I often toss around the idea of quitting The Cutting Edge and going to work at a funeral parlor. Our clients would then have to sit still. And they wouldn’t speak, so we wouldn’t have to pretend to care what they say. I don’t tell Renee that I constantly fantasize about turning my live clients into cadavers.

I move on to the blow-dry stage of Marla’s hairstyle. Unfortunately, the noise does not deter her from speaking. “Amy has her first jazz recital next month,” she says. “We’ll need you to do her hair early that morning. I’m thinking that she should wear it up, maybe with tendrils around her face…”

Tendrils. Why do mothers want their young daughters to look like the fashion models in Vogue? What is wrong with looking like the children they are? I keep my smile in place and tell Marla that of course we can do that.

My next client walks in the door. She is booked for a highlight and has her newborn son with her. He is already fussing. I can now understand how people suddenly snap and commit mass murder.

 

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