Gerald hadn’t meant his hair to grow so long.
He’d had his chance in the summer when the salons reopened, at just the time when his hair, moving beyond the point of mere shagginess, was starting to become distinctly unusual.
Nevertheless, and despite the regular occasions when he looked in the mirror and thought, “I really must do something about my hair,” the time never seemed to come when that something had to be done right now.
So when the second lockdown came into force, and Gerald’s opportunity passed, he was not really so unhappy about it. He had come to the realisation that, in the grand scheme of life, a haircut was one of those things that didn’t really matter.
And even after the second lockdown had ended and the salons were opening up once more, he still did nothing to rectify the hair situation, even though the matter was reaching, some might have suggested, something of a crisis. Winter had arrived, a bitter North wind blew, and the days were short and dark. He simply he did not want to brave the elements.
What first drew itself to his attention was an intermittent rustling from deep in the undergrowth. He initially thought it was his imagination; but it repeated itself until he was sure it was not.
Then there were the animal noises, not entirely like the cries of parrots, macaws, baboons and chimps, but then again, not completely dissimilar either.
It was on a Tuesday morning that he saw the cat. He had only just got up and he was making his way to the bathroom, glancing blearily in the bedroom mirror as he passed, when he fancied he saw something move in the foliage. He came back to the mirror and looked closer, and it was then that he saw the thing properly.
It was a ginger tom of puzzled aspect, which he had a feeling he might have seen before, round about the neighbourhood, back in the times of normality before all this started. It directed at him an indignant stare before disappearing into the thicket.
This gave him pause for thought.
It was one thing to hear macaws and baboons; that was odd enough, but it could be borne. But this was another matter altogether. If it was true that he now had a cat in his hair, it was certain that he should do something about it. But what?
He considered the problem carefully while brushing his teeth, and it occurred to him that the most urgent thing was to buy some cat food. He did not like venturing out of the house in these times. But it had to be done, so he did.
It was a wild January day. Before he had even got as far as the garden gate, his hair was waving and rippling in the harsh wind.
All at once he was convinced that he was making a mistake. But even then it was too late.
He heard the whoops and cries again, and the long locks that flowed from his scalp rustled and flapped, and suddenly the air was full of feathers as the exotic birds fled into the cloud-ripped skies, and then the monkeys and the sloths and the cats and dogs and squirrels and ring-tailed lemurs were flying about him quite startled, and now he was laughing long and loud, for he realised his head was light and he was free.
The cars in the street swerved to avoid the stampede, and the headlines in the next day’s papers were something to be seen, but it was not these things that were the most important. For there had been another change too, perhaps the most remarkable of all.
Gerald was happy.