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
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:
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.)
© 2021 Theodora Goss