Medusa Gets a Haircut

On the one hand, they had been her friends

for so long, whispering

in her ears, telling her stories,

reciting poems, not just the sorts of things

you would expect, Sappho and Hesiod,

but Auden, Eliot, Yeats—they liked the modernists—

and Sylvia Plath, Adrianne Rich—

they were eclectic in their tastes.

Sometimes they had sung to her,

only a little out of tune.

 

But Perseus never liked them. He said

they were distracting, that she was always listening

to them instead of him. Did she like them

more than she liked him? They were implying

things about him, weren’t they?

Anyway, although he loved her

as she was—of course he did, otherwise

why would he be with her, instead of Andromeda—

in a relationship, everyone should be willing

to compromise.

 

So, she compromised.

Anyway, the pixie cut was in fashion.

Everyone wanted to look like Audrey Hepburn.

She went to a veterinarian—

after all she didn’t want to hurt them.

Yes, other women go to a hairdresser,

but what would you do when you have snakes

for hair? He removed them gently,

under topical anesthesia.

She said goodbye to them reluctantly—

they were going to some sort of sanctuary

for abandoned reptiles.

 

The silence was disconcerting.

No more stories, no more poetry.

No more whispered conversations

as she walked to the grocery store

or down to the seashore. Of course,

no one looked at her strangely anymore

either, although the librarian

at her local branch said, “I kind of miss them”

while checking out her books—

Hesiod, Auden, Plath. She had never

actually read them. She was surprised

to find how much had been lost of Sappho.

The snakes had, of course, known

the lost bits.

 

But Perseus seemed happy,

for a while. And after all relationships

require compromise, don’t they? Until the day

he told her about Andromeda. There was a sea serpent.

He would have to go rescue her,

because of course he would,

as though there weren’t other heroes just itching

for a sea serpent fight.

 

“Let’s stay friends,” he said.

She sat in front of her mirror, staring at

where the snakes used to be, thinking

that she didn’t look much like Audrey Hepburn

after all, just some girl

who once had snakes for hair

and no longer did. Then she noticed something:

small, wriggling.

The thing about hair is,

as your hairdresser will tell you after

you try to cut your own bangs with nail scissors,

it grows back.

 

(Editors’ Note: “Medusa Gets a Haircut is read by Erika Ensign on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast, Episode 38A.)

Theodora Goss

Theodora Goss was born in Hungary and spent her childhood in various European countries before her family moved to the United States, where she completed a PhD in English literature. She is the World Fantasy and Locus Award-winning author of the short story and poetry collections In the Forest of Forgetting (2006), Songs for Ophelia (2014), and Snow White Learns Witchcraft (2019), as well as novella The Thorn and the Blossom (2012), debut novel The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017), and sequels European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman (2018) and The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl (2019). She has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, Seiun, and Mythopoeic Awards, as well as on the Tiptree Award Honor List. Her work has been translated into thirteen languages. She teaches literature and writing at Boston University and in the Stonecoast MFA Program. Visit her at theodoragoss.com.

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