Born in 1870, Grandpa Josiah lived his life defined by the gentle way he brushed hair.
It began with his own dog, Polly. When his mother wasn’t looking (which meant she was passed out in her clawfoot gin bath), Josiah would swipe her silver hair brush and go to town. Other dogs, noticing Polly’s shiny coat, which was no small feat considering they lived in an area carpeted with perpetual moist and soggy sod, found themselves lining up on Josiah’s porch, panting for a good pamper.
Soon, little girls-in-waiting serpentined down the dirt drive, awaiting their turn for their locks to be loved. Josiah was glad to accommodate human follicles too, provided he could have a moment to clean the brush of fleas and dander. He’d even brush the pilous heads of newborn babies with a hand so gentle and methodical it quickly lulled them to sleep.
It was no surprise when Josiah dropped out of school to open his own barber shop. He had a morning tradition of slurping down his hot Ovaltine and running his hand over his array of brushes and combs, which he accumulated through years of attending horse shows.
But eventually, brushing hair wasn’t enough for Josiah. He began to ache to see the pate that lie beneath the mounds of curls, the straight shocks, the combed-over cilium. It started with an accidental jerk of his hand while he trimmed Farmer Johan’s frizzed fringe, enough to drag the razor flush against the scalp and leave an oval of exposed pink flesh. He leaned down close and admired the minute follicles.
The follicles, where it all began.
After that, he yearned to see more, where the hair growth began, where the base of each strand incubated in the bloody, gooey underside of the scalp.
He throbbed for this harder than he had for Betsy Blowhard when she reached a C-cup in the seventh grade.
Josiah was smart about it after he tried to scalp Mrs. Meatcurtain in broad daylight and she screamed to high heaven, he began stealing patients from a nearby hospital who were in the throes of tuberculosis. In the back of his barber shop, he’d sever their scalps clean off their skull, finger the follicles, and then shoot a gratifying load in the basin he used for shampooing.
When he died, he left his entire fortune to the makers of Rogaine.