by Michael Bloor
(first published in Ink, Sweat & Tears, February 6th, 2022)
Ever since he was 17, Angus had been saving the tiny hairs shaved from his chin by a succession of electric razors. Now, aged 67, he had one of those old-fashioned, large, glass, sweetie-jars almost full of his own tiny hair-shavings – brown at the bottom, with a head of grey at the top, like a two-litre jar of beer.
He had no idea, now, why he had ever started collecting the shavings from the little receptacle beneath the shaver blades. But as he saw his collection creeping up towards the very top of the jar, he had a disturbing intuition that it would be bad luck to stop collecting, and also bad luck to reach the top of the jar.
He told himself it was a minor compulsion, no doubt age-related, and he could easily switch to collecting nail clippings if he ever found the shavings jar too discombobulating. Somewhat reassured, he flushed the toilet, washed his hands, wiped them on his jeans and wandered back to his laptop.
His incomplete essay was on The Writing Game, or ‘craft’ as he liked to think of it. He had centred it on Steven Price’s aphorism that writing should be a way to know, rather than a way to being known. But now that he thought about it, wouldn’t it be nice if writing could be a way to both?
Nice, but a tad greedy perhaps? At least, if this was to be for public consumption (i.e. his lady friend and his Auntie Jeanette), then he should maybe stick to the higher purpose. In his hesitancy, he began to wonder how, anyway, people in general (and Steven Price in particular) know that what they know is The Real McCoy? Who authenticates authenticity? And was that a good title for another essay?
Well, apples kept on falling, both long before, and long after, Newton’s discovery of gravity. There is, after all, a definite weight to reality, whatever we choose to think about it. Angus considered that thought and, in celebration of it, he firmly compressed the carpet with each foot in turn.
Then came the epiphany. He clicked ‘save’ on the laptop and walked back to the bathroom, collecting a large wooden spoon from the kitchen en route. Angus unscrewed the sweetie-jar and, carefully but forcefully, he compressed the hair shavings with the spoon.
He surveyed the sweetie-jar, now only half-full, and felt a great deal better.