Lester raised the knife—a long pocket blade with a graphite handle molded to his palm as if a woman’s breast. The edge eased through clumps of hair, back to front, not so much ripping as separating, the way careful hands might pull apart fine linens fresh from the dryer. Brown tumbleweeds rolled down his cheeks, bounced from his shoulders and fell to the bathroom floor or landed in the faux-marble sink. He watched himself in the mirror as he cut. At first, he resembled a pretty-boy rock’n’roller in some second-rate bar band. Now he just looked deranged, maybe a little diseased, the remnants of his flowing curls now a burned forest with smoldering ghosts of trees left barely standing. Later, he’d bulldoze the remains with a razor, maybe take off his perfectly shaped eyebrows, too. He needed this negative metamorphosis, the butterfly becoming a caterpillar.
“Damn it,” he grunted as the honed steel nicked his scalp. This blade was one inch longer than its brother that he’d thrown away, and the added length was enough to catch skin. A quick trickle of blood descended. He reached for toilet tissue, balled it up and pressed it to the wound, holding it there, squeezing, waiting, looking all the more ridiculous. I’m going to be ugly, he thought, although ugly was exactly what he wanted.
As if to remind himself why, he glanced down at the folded newspaper on the toilet seat. There, in neat charcoal turned to printer’s ink, was his likeness. A striking sketch, it caught his angelic good looks, his small, tight face, his princely chin, his somber eyes that, even in the
picture, seemed to hint at blue. It captured him so much better than yesterday’s photo from the surveillance camera that came out grainy and blurred and made him resemble Jesus in a gray windbreaker, but also could’ve been a picture of a scarecrow or a cardboard cutout of a two-toed sloth. The sketch was devastating in its accuracy. That sketch could put him in chains.
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