Wherever he went, a thundercloud paraded behind him. Just a little one, about the size of a coffee grinder. Black-ish, oblong, floating along in the wake of his head. He could never, ever see it. But, if he looked back—as he always tried not to do—he could mark its tiny path of damp devastation.
You should get that looked at, said his best friend, who had come along for the ride.
You should get that looked at, said his hairdresser, who had to nudge the thundercloud out of the way so she could study the back of his neck. Stand back, peering, to make sure everything was even and as it should be.
Her sign said Hairdresser for Men, not Barber. Over a long life, she told him, she’d learned that the only thing that mattered more than how things appeared, was what they were called.
You should get that looked at, he said—he was accustomed to telling people all day what to do—when she retreated so far from the back of his head in order to see it that she bumped into a portable coffee cart and sent the grinder flying.
You should get that looked at, said his friend—he was accustomed to going along with everything, plus he knew a good appliance repairman.
The hairdresser gazed out the window and pointed at what she saw with her extreme far-sightedness (which is just a term for everything close being confusingly blurred): a dark cloud rolling in.
Afterwards, he was never sure what to call what had happened. Just that, once again, something had.
You shouldn’t look, said his hairdresser, about the back of his head after she slipped with the clippers. A small breeze—a warning unheeded—tingled his newly bald patch of scalp. We’re outta here, he screamed, furious, his friend’s insouciance once again parched ground to rain. He jerked his head towards the door with a lopsided flounce.
You shouldn’t look, said the drenched paramedic in the storm, about his best friend being cut from the car he’d just smashed.
You shouldn’t look, said a new thundercloud, purring into his ear like a full coffee grinder, as if there were all the time in the world to even things out.
Kimm Brockett Stammen’s writings have appeared or are forthcoming in Litro, december magazine, CARVE, The Greensboro Review, Pembroke, Prime Number, and many others. Her work has been nominated for Pushcart and Best Short Fiction anthologies. She holds an MFA from Spalding University. kimmbrockettstammen.wordpress.com