THE HAIRCUT • by Sharon E. Trotter

First Place Winner
Flash Fiction Chronicles String-of-10 Contest — August ’09

The cancer made it hard to hate Della Lowery, which was a shame. I enjoyed hating her.

Twelve years ago, on my first day, she had looked at the peace sign tattoo on my foot and asked, “Do you regret that yet?”


“Don’t worry. You will.” She had put her hand to her chest, a heart of some kind pounding beneath those enormous cantaloupe breasts of hers. “I’m so glad my Angela never fell for that fad.”

Later, partly to spite her, I got a second tattoo, a bird on my shoulder. It wasn’t just her insults or her money, it was the way she assumed that all of us looked up to her. We didn’t.

The cancer was ovarian. When Della came in, she said, “I want it off. All of it.”

I had streaked her matronly bob with highlights during President Clinton’s first term; until now, that had been her most daring request.

“You sure?”

She picked up a tabloid magazine. The storm outside rattled the front window. “I have lovely scarves.”

I picked up the clippers.

Della didn’t look until I finished.

“Well,” she said.

Her scalp was pale and smooth. A ridge of skin folded at the base of her neck like a marine’s.

We both pretended she wasn’t a thing to be pitied.

I almost told her she was right, that I had come to regret my tattoos. Other things, too. But I kept my mouth shut. Some things, you keep to yourself.

Sharon E. Trotter is a freelance writer. Her column, “Gen X Mama,” is featured monthly in Western Illinois Family magazine. She has won numerous awards from the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association and the Illinois Press Association.

This story was sponsored by
Camilla d’Errico: A character designer and artist who dances on the tightrope between pop surrealist art and manga inspired graphics. Explore her paintings, characters and comics: Tanpopo, BURN and Helmetgirls.

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Every Day Fiction

  • Unfortunately, this one falls in the “I don’t get it” category. I suspect it may make more sense, or appeal more to, the distaff side of the site’s readership (i.e., it’s a “chick” story and you can’t expect much from a poor male reader).

  • Jen

    That was so terribly sad but really well written. I liked the characters and I could easily see how people would feel like this about someone in real life.

  • Margie

    I had an aquaintance like that in my life. . .a know-it-all type that was a ledgend in her own mind. . .when she developed a brain tumor and died only a month after diagnosis, it was almost a relief to see her go, because her personality did not improve one iota. . .if anything, it worsened. Now I am left with the guilt of feeling that way about her. 🙁

    Good (sad/bad) story, by the way. 🙂

  • J.C. Towler

    I’m not a fan of E.D.F. posting accolades a story may have received elsewhere, most particularly at the beginning.
    At the end, well, maybe. You’ve read the story, you’ve got your untainted first impression. When a story appears here, readers know it has gone through some kind of vetting process so it’s going to be better than your average random story, if not quite something that suits your particular taste.

    As to this one, I think it delivers the message, but I’d have enjoyed it a bit more had it been more fleshed out. The relationship seems to be between a hairdresser and her client. Among other things, I was left wondering how Della could be such a factor in this woman’s life that she’d get another tattoo to spite her.


    • Joe Leonard

      I think that’s part of her regret.

  • Robins Fury

    I, too, had the misfortune of encountering such a personality; she, also, bestowed her self-indulgent superiority over me. I enjoyed the story – short and to the point. When I first read the title, I almost pre-judged the piece. My mistake. I seem to like thoughtful and mysterious titles than the simple plain-jane type.

  • Allie

    This story was great. I loved the first half better than the last half, but I think the point was that when our enemy is no longer, then all that effort we spent fighting them seems wasted. So she regretted all of that which had no real purpose. Makes us question why we do things. I liked this a lot.

  • gay

    This story was for me an excellent read. The writing is first rate, the characterizations true.

  • Angela

    I agree with Gay. This was a TIGHT story surrounding a complex situation…great detail and well done!

  • Rick O’Donnell

    I had to read it twice before it made any sense. Had the title been THE HAIRDRESSER, maybe I would have figured out who the narrator was immediately. As it is, when Della came in and said, “I want it off. All of it,” I thought she meant either the cancer or the tattoo. It never occurred to me she meant her hair. One star.

  • Amy Corbin

    Very good flash. So much included in the 250 word limit. The “have to” words were blended in so well, I forgot about them. Good job.

  • Debra

    I like it. I’m not sure why, really, but I do. Good flash fiction. We all know these types of people. Nice job.

  • Jim

    Very moving story. I got it on the first read. It’s not a literal read, which I prefer, but understand that my have confused some people…

  • Nicely done. I got it right away. I didn’t know the relationship immediately, but that didn’t matter. Her rebellious nature (second tattoo for spite) appealed to me. The unfolding of the relationship between them is the story. Very tight writing!!

  • Nicely written, Sharon. As Amy said, there’s a lot of good stuff in 250 words. Congratulations on the win. 😉

  • Absolutely cracking flash. Perfect use of the length for characterisation. Terrific opening and closing lines. Five stars from me.

  • I thought this was excellent – a worthy winner of the contest.

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Excellent characterisation within this very restricted word count. All the feelings came over for me, no problem. The hairdresser revelation did clunk slightly for me, but then, I’m a man – and a bald one, at that. Like an earlier poster, I would have preferred to have been told about the contest win after reading the piece. It would, however, have been worthwhile knowing that it was written to a 250 word limit at the outset, rather than learning that from the comments.

    😉 scar

  • Margie

    A worthy winner of ‘what’ contest????

  • Kelly

    Excellent. I did have a moment of having to figure out that the narrator was the hairdresser, but surely that was the writer’s intention? I enjoy writing that involves me and my brain. Looking forward to reading more by Sharon.

  • Sandra

    Impressive!!!! A lifetime of experiences and emotions in a concise and well crafted nutshell.

  • Sharon

    Margie, The contest was EDF’s Flash Fiction Chronicles String-of-10 contest. We were given a prompt to write a story in 250 words or less, and we had to include at least four particular words in it (we could choose from a list of about 10 words). Thanks for the comments, everyone! I appreciate all of them.

  • J.C. Towler

    Well color me stupid. I didn’t realize this was an E.D.F.-sponsored contest winner, nor that there was a word count. Public displays of ignorance should be followed with public displays of contrition. The word-count ceiling makes one read it in a different light entirely and in that light I have clearly underrated the story. Apologies.


  • Somehow, I don’t remember ever seeing anything about this contest. If EDF ever does any more contests, better publicity might be in order. As a writer I’m not a great fan of things as short as 250 words, but you never know …

  • Enjoyed this very much. The writing was tight and spare but the story was still complex and full of feeling.

  • Margie

    I am so glad to know that I am not the only one who knew nothing about this contest. 🙂 Congrats to those who did and especially the winner!

  • gay

    This contest confusion is an eye-opener to me, but I see that all of you have a terrific point!! Me, in my little insulated world of Every Day Fiction’s Flash Fiction Chronicles thinking that everyone knows about us!!!

    I welcome this opportunity to–as Ricky Ricardo–“‘splain!”

    A while back, EDF launched it’s own blog called Flash Fiction Chronicles. This was done with the idea that the writers at EDF needed a place to discuss the art of Flash Fiction with a larger audience. I volunteered to be the editor.

    I have used EDF’s forum at this site to publicize all our activities as well as Twitter, but I can see that we’ve still managed to miss many EDF readers. I will work to rectify that!!

    Please come to our site over there: and check us out. Three or four days a week we publish a post about the craft of writing–especially writing flash– and in August we came up with a contests using the DAILY PROMPT feature that is published both here on the Gay Degani author thread and over there on a special DAILY PROMPT page.

    Also I alert readers of the EDF Forum here under the Flash Fiction Chronicles Thread to who the current blogger is.

    Now last but not least, I want to invite all of you–writers and readers alike– to consider submitting a post for publication at Flash Fiction Chronicles. I am looking for pieces on craft particularly but discussion of readers’ expectations etc. are also welcome. Please contact me at if you would like to submit a post!

  • Spike

    What makes this story rise above so much literary fare out there is that it does one powerful thing and does it well: it tells the truth. As a writer, this is the mark, this is the bullseye, and a good story does not back away once that target is found.
    I found this very realistic. It deftly raises a human condition that most of us don’t like to face.
    Recently an old estranged friend of mine died, and I found myself questioning the meaning of the history between us. The word ‘regret’ doesn’t quite explain what I thought upon hearing the news. What does?
    This story. Great job.

  • Very efficient assembly job in your wording,you are a proficient writer,I haven’t read more from you,although I would like to see something with more heart input,I know you can do better.Let me know where I could read more of your writing on the comment section of

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  • Laura

    Really powerful portrayal in so few words.
    Describing Della’s character through the eyes of someone who hated her prior to her cancer is a very interesting viewpoint. It made the piece fresh and original.
    The piece is easy to relate to. (Don’t we all have our Della!)
    I particularly like the line “Della didn’t look until I finished.”.
    So much is communicated so succinctly in that single line.
    Thank you for such an enjoyable read!

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  • Darrel

    The story was really excellent, glad it won the first place nicely done!

  • Darrel

    The story was really excellent, glad it won the first place nicely done!

  • Joe Leonard

    I think that’s part of her regret.