Flash Fiction 2019 Competition
As part of its annual festival Writing on the Wall held a Flash Fiction competition with the Theme of ‘Where are we now?’ (500 words maximum). Have a read below of the winning entry.
As part of this year's festival, the winner of our Flash Fiction competition was Christine Ochefu, with her piece The Same Old Song and Dance.
I’ve been working as a hairdresser from when I first came to England. My mum had taught me how to braid back in Barbados, so when I moved over it was the first skill I used to get myself on my feet. It ended up sticking, and now in my little salon I’m doing pretty well for myself and have got a tight group of regulars.
Strangely though, these days I notice we get more and more 'diverse' customers (politically correct word, I suppose). Today I’ve got a new customer: she’s a little young, blonde, looking quite nervous (clearly hasn’t been through Peckham before) and is wanting box braids of all things to get! Before I would have been surprised, but I guess it’s just where things are at now.
Later that afternoon I get a call from my daughter’s school. Apparently she’s been fighting again. When I get to the headteacher’s office, I’m met with the same old sight. My little girl is hunched in a corner, crying. I see fat tears rolling down her deep brown face before dropping off at her chin. Almost instantly my eyes divert to her hair; her full kinky curls are slicked into two gorgeous bunches sitting on top of her head. We’ve been here before, and I know what this is about.
“They’re picking on me again.” She whispers through the tears. “It’s my hair.”
My chest tightens; she had loved it this morning. Reddened eyes staring up at me, she continues: “I don’t want it anymore.”
I hold her as we sit in silence. My daughter is the only black girl in her school and the other girls don’t pause for a minute in reminding her of that. My daughter’s hair is gorgeous, but they won’t let her see that.
The next day another new customer comes in. She’s a young woman in her early 20’s, white and brunette standing at around 5’3. I recognise her as the older sister of a rather popular girl at my daughter’s school, herself seeming equally as popular. Her silky chestnut hair reaches her lower back, but strangely, she’s clutching a pack of kanekalon marley hair, a kinky-curled type of extension that almost perfectly matches my daughter’s own hair texture.
She speaks quickly and eagerly, and she’s excited about her appointment. “It’s all the rage on Instagram,” she gleefully explains in referring to what I would call afro puffs. “Space buns!” She squeals, thrusting the hair towards my hands.
I silently think of my little girl. All the rage indeed.
I’d been wearing my hair like my daughter’s for years as a child, doing the same song and dance with my own mum, despising my hair and my appearance. With each new customer I get you’d think that by now people would be accepting us for the way we look, and our hair.
Well, it seems they do love our hair. Just not when it’s on us.
But I guess that’s where we’re at now.