Bartholomew Makes Wigs

Debra Daniel

Writer’s Note: One day at my hair salon, my stylist was altering a wig to fit one of his clients. A simple task, he said, anyone could do it, even a child. I started thinking about making wigs, then about a small boy sewing one. I pictured him intent and dedicated to each detail, to each stitch. It became a how-to story: how to explain and simplify the process, and then how that boy processes his life.

              With mohair from his grandfather’s tired blue scarf. With snippets of his own hair. And when his mother is snoring off too much Saturday night, he sneaks behind the sofa where she’s drunk-rumpled in sleep and easy-fingers a little, never filching so much that she notices, only enough to make his wigs fluffy.

              Bartholomew learned to sew from his grandfather who took care of him. Now there’s not much of that.

              Here’s what Bartholomew needs for wig making:

              stretchy material like his mother’s panty hose,

              comb, brush, tape, needle, thread,

              clean, shiny hair,

              sharp, unblinking eyes that stare forever.

              Bartholomew practices staring contests with Alice, his grandfather’s scrabbly old dog. Alice always wins. Still Bartholomew doesn’t give up. He knows one day Alice’s eyes will wear out or else she’ll die like his grandfather did in the kitchen, tea kettle whistling into the great empty.

              Here’s what Bartholomew’s grandfather taught him:

              how to quick-lick thread so when he poked through space he’d easily find the needle’s eye,

              how to baste, blind stitch, knot double,

              how to gnaw on carrots to grow superpower eyes.

              Bartholomew’s grandfather had strong eyes until he got old. Luckily, he had Bartholomew to carry on in one long unending stitch of time across time.

              Here’s how Bartholomew makes wigs:

              cut the cloth into a perfect oval with curves for ears,

              bind edges so nothing unravels,

              lay hair onto tape so it won’t disappear into the air,

              sew the hairy tape to the cloth in curved lines for fluffy, fringy layers,

              brush it shiny,

              fit to the chosen head.

              Bartholomew’s grandfather always wore a handmade wig that covered his bare scalp and kept him smiley warm whenever he and Bartholomew took Alice for a walk.

              Look snappy, his grandfather would say, wrapping that blue scarf around his neck and grabbing his favorite cane, the handle shaped like a turtle. Head up, Alice, he’d say. Nose into the wind.

              Now Alice lives with Bartholomew and his mother who barely knows she’s there at all. Bartholomew cares for her. Alice doesn’t have much jump left, and her hair isn’t fluffy anymore so Bartholomew ties his handmade wigs like a bonnet onto her head. 

              Bartholomew thinks she looks especially happy wearing the one with fringe of blue mohair. Out they go into the wind, as snappy as an old dog and a boy, already ancient, can manage.         

Debra Daniel has published two flash novellas, A Family of Great Falls & The Roster, (AdHocFiction), a novel, Woman Commits Suicide in Dishwasher, (Muddy Ford Press), poetry chapbooks, The Downward Turn of August, (Finishing Line), & As Is, (Main Street Rag). A Pushcart & Best Short Fictions nominee, she’s won awards from Los Angeles Review, and Bacopa, and has been long listed in numerous competitions. Publications include: Los Angeles Review, Smokelong, Kakalak, Emrys, Inkwell, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River, Gargoyle.