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by Michael B. Tager

A swipe of the razor and a tuft of hair vanishes. He grew it for weeks because “everyone knows the good ones have beards,” she said. A dip in cloudy water and then a slash, but carefully. Black hair floats and mixes with suds. Drops of blood ping into the frothy sink. He grunts and grits his teeth. His hair is tough and thick and every swipe-slash digs deeper.

In college, he showed up to audition for Hamlet, not knowing the part was gone and the rehearsal over. They smiled when they told him, but his cheeks still burned. He hadn’t had a beard then and no invitation either. He wonders now, as another bit of beard disappears and a steady stream of bloody drips colors the water, if that set a pattern.

Another slash, another. Foolish to grow a beard just because a girl said something not meant for him. Slash. A beard doesn’t make a man good. She’d laughed when he asked her what she thought. Slash. His cheeks, visible again, burns in the mirror. His friends laughed too, “You look ridiculous.”

He grunts and sobs and lifts the razor again. One more and he’ll be … There – slash - he’s done. Skin smooth, raw except rivulets of rust running down his cheeks and his chin, heavy with dark, gray-speckled hair that match his eyes. The razor splashes, sinks and disappears into the foul water. He practices his evil grin, tilts the corner of his mouth. His canine teeth are sharper, could be sharper. He winks; he’ll get by.

“Everyone likes the bad boys,” he says. He’s heard that too.