Home » Language » English » Margaret’s Cause (Part 1)

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`Come in.’

`Margaret, what I can I do for you?’

`Morning Stephen. A great deal I hope.’

`Oh yes.’

She held a piece of paper in her hand and waved it about. `I noticed you aren’t joining in this afternoon?’

He pushed his chair back from the desk slightly, gathering his thoughts.

`Oh I’m not really one who likes the clippered look, Margaret.’

`Is that so?’ she answered. `It’s hardly the looks that matter Stephen – sometimes we need to do things we may not think we like. For a greater cause.’

He didn’t want to get into a debate with his boss, especially one like Margaret. He hadn’t met such an `old-style’ autocratic boss since his first job straight out of school twenty years ago. While so much had changed in workplaces since then, Margaret seemed to be her very own workplace time-warp. There was definitely no `participatory’ workforce culture in her company. He figured a placatory tone would be best.

`You’re to be congratulated for organising this Margaret, it’s a fabulous cause. I’ve made sure I donated to everyone who’s participating. If there’s any help you need with any of the organising.’

`I have enough help already, thank you very much’ she answered matter-of-factly. She pulled herself straight and continued. `Now come on Stephen, sacrificing your pony-tail for such a good cause would be a very welcome contribution.’

He’d been cultivating his pony-tail for more than fifteen years – it was part of his personality, like a signature. Not something to casually throw away, no matter what the reason.

`It’s just that I really like my pony-tail Margaret, I.

She waved his comments away. `I find it doesn’t really present the image I’m after in my company Stephen.’

`Shit’, thought Stephen. There’d already been scores of redundancies handed out since Margaret moved in nine months ago and set about restructuring every part of the factory.

`I’d look very favourably on it, I assure you.’

Her last words hovered over his thoughts. `Not a lot of ready-made jobs in this place, especially for a forty-something male with limited skills,’ he mulled to himself.

`Your straightforward, head-down approach to work does appeal to the company ethos I’m trying to build here Stephen. But alongside that does come presentation, personal and otherwise. As I said, a pony-tail doesn’t fit the image I want in my company.’

`What business of yours is it how I wear my hair as long as I’m contributing!’ he thought, but he didn’t dare voice it. He stumbled around for words, finally managing to squeeze out a feeble, `But I haven’t got any sponsors’

Margaret sensed him wallowing. `Never mind about that, I’ve a way you can raise funds.’

`Oh, right.’ He sighed. `Ah.’ he struggled to get the words out,`.umm.well okay, I suppose’, he said through a pasted-on smile.

`Very good! And I’ll do the honours’, she said, beaming. `I’ll see you in the canteen at 1 pm.’

She turned and walked out the door.


`All right everyone, can I have your attention, please.’ The room fell silent.

`Thank you. As you know, we’re gathered here to raise money for children with cancer. Twelve of you agreed some weeks ago to donate your locks for the cause and just this morning a thirteenth came forward, Stephen Forbes, who’s offered us his ponytail. So lets here it for Stephen.’

The room burst into applause.

`And of course, let’s not forget the other participants.’

More applause.

`Of course Stephen’s late rallying to the cause means he hasn’t had the chance to raise any donations. But I’ve come up with a simple solution to help Stephen’s quest.’ Margaret smiled.

`In my last company, I organized charity shaves every year for over a decade. Part of each year’s event involved one male staff member agreeing to be lock-free for a year provided five other staff donated a pound a week over the next year.’

Stephen didn’t like where this was going – he shifted his stance nervously.

`I’m certainly very happy to donate a pound a week for this. If I can have four of you also donating a pound a week, we’ll ensure Stephen is kept ponytail-free for the next 52 weeks. Any takers?’

Seven hands shot up.

`I do not believe this!’ thought Stephen in stunned amazement. `What the hell?’

`Fantastic! Seems I’m not the only one who finds ponytails rather passé,’ Margaret chirped, bringing laughs across the room.

Margaret picked up the black plastic cape draped over the back of the chair. `All right Stephen, step up to the chair.’

The room burst into cheers and more applause and a mix of loud comments – some hearty and encouraging, others humourous – filled the room. But Stephen was rooted to the spot in numb blankness, his thoughts overwhelmed by the speed of events. And then some one behind yelled something at him, slapped his back and pushed him forward. Those in front parted but before he could pull up, more backslapping and prods propelled him onwards. Now out the front, he hesitated and looked at Margaret, grinning back at him with the cape in her hands.

`All for a good cause, Stephen’ she said, patting the back of the chair with one hand, a hint of mischief in her voice.

Stephen felt utterly trapped and the thought flashed through his mind to turn and bolt out the door but he knew instantly this wasn’t an option. He could no longer bear to look at Margaret, dropped his gaze and made his way slowly forward into the chair.

Elle, one of the organizers of the event, pulled out a digital camera and started taking photos of the two of them. Margaret swished the cape theatrically around Stephen’s prone form and then buttoned it up tightly at the neck. He brought a hand up and started to tug at the neckline but she pushed his hand away, subtly but firmly.

Margaret turned to the woman next to her who held a set of clippers and scissors in her hand. Smiling, she said, `Adele, since everyone else will be enjoying Stephen’s haircut, it’s only fair that he does too. Could you please bring the mirror forward and put it on a chair right in front of the two of us?’

Adele had followed Margaret across from her old business in the south and knew how much her boss liked these events, particularly the mind games and playful humiliations she liked to bestow on certain men who took her fancy.or annoyed her. `Of course Margaret’ said Adele, returning the smile as she passed the scissors and clippers across to her.

Margaret placed her hands firmly on Stephen’s shoulders, and while Adele set up the mirror, said to the room, `As this is the first of what I hope to be many charity shaves here, what do you all say to having Stephen’s ponytail mounted to become the company trophy for the staff member who raises the most money each year?’ As a chorus of yells and cheers erupted, Margaret caught Stephen’s gaze in the mirror. Bending down, she said to him, `You can hold the clippers until I’m ready to shear you completely, Stephen.’ With her gaze and demeanor boring into him, Stephen lost any remaining resistance; he reached back for the clippers and placed them on his lap.

Margaret playfully tugged at his ponytail a few times with her left hand, then pulled it taut and slowly and deliberately cut it off above the band. She now held it up to the audience trophy-like – everyone started cheering. Handing the tail to Adele, Margaret now ran her fingers through Stephen’s unrestrained long locks, then leaned forward and said softly to Stephen, `I’m ready to use my clippers now.’ He handed them to her, closing his eyes when she turned them on.

Margaret was enjoying the moment immensely; feeling keen to add to Stephen’s discomfort, she lent down again and told him to keep his eyes open as he `wasn’t showing the right spirit’. Resigned to his fate, he did what he was told. Their eyes met
once more in the mirror, hers twinkling, his staring glumly in obvious dismay.

With the crowd yelling encouragement Margaret brought the clippers to the front of his head and began running them deftly back over Stephen’s scalp. Within a couple of minutes his hair was reduced to half a centimetre all over. She now exchanged the guard for another, placed her left hand on the top of his head, pushed it forward and started running the clippers up his neckline in long steady runs to her hand. The back of his head was soon clean and then the runs started again from the front – in minutes he had little more than stubble left. Margaret turned the clippers off and handed them back to Stephen. `Ole la!’ she said dramatically. The room burst into applause once more.

Meanwhile Adele had filled a bowl with hot water and placed it on a small table next to the chair, alongside a brush, razor and shaving cream. Margaret now covered Stephen’s shorn head in cream, picked up the razor, pushed his head firmly downwards and started in on the stubble from the back.

Stephen stared dumbfoundedly at the mass of hair in his lap, feeling utterly deflated. `How did I let this happen?!’ His sense of humiliation deepened as each scrap of the razor echoing inside his head.

In five minutes Stephen was completely bald. Margaret caught Stephen’s crest-fallen look in the mirror and returned it with a wide smile. She began patting Stephen’s bald palette, lifted her gaze to the audience and with a glint in her eye, said, `Next!’

To be continued.

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