The light opened into his hazel eyes, only to be immersed in darkness moments later. And that was the moment he was born that boy you’ve all heard about, beard boy or queer beard – it was the boy who was born in a beard. His life was an abyss of pain, or rather an abyss of beard, shadowing his every step, cradling him as a duvet in sleep and transporting him in a rolling motion to school - both ideas of his penny saving parents.
It was preconceived that he wasn’t going to get along with beardless children, for what would they have to talk about? “I’ve got a silent night duvet”, “I’ve got this” – points to beard. “I fell over and cut my knee today”, “My beard tried to strangle me in my sleep last night”. He rationalised that it would be better to keep to himself. That was his intention anyway.
So much had accumulated by the age of six that the spirals that curled around him exceeded the area he was allocated in the classroom, swallowing surrounding children from their desks the moment he sat down. Teachers failed to locate these children for many a moon and upon reappearing, their skin was discoloured and it looked as though they had been soaking in a bath full of tea bags for the duration. Maybe there was in fact a giant bath full of teabags wrapped up in there. That was how Andy Randal’s version went, anyway.
At a safe 108m distance teachers deliberated. “I know he’s different, but to tell you the truth Susan, his beard is becoming a fire hazard. It took me hours to locate little Tommy Spencer yesterday, tangled up with the cactus plant he had brought in for show and tell. He looked like he’d been rolled across a field laid with hedgehogs”. Billy sank into his beard. “I mean why can’t his parents just chop it off? Don’t they want him to get along with other girls and boys? Don’t they want him to be
what these teachers failed to notice, 108m away, was the special effect the
beard had - an effect clouded through the unbalanced ratio between beard and the
area it filled. It was an equation that boggled the minds of the maths teachers
so deeply, that most fled the town. NORMAL
What they didn’t notice, was that any inanimate object that came into contact with the beard came to life. We’re talking everything from pencils, to tractors, from televisions to protractors –even sombreros. The town had become a stream of enchantment awaiting its discoverer. Yet they remained adrift. "I vote home-schooling." Billy sank further, to the extent that he was completely within its grasp, camouflaging his escape of the classroom along the tunnel it created. Once in the clear, he collected it in his hands, slumped on some steps and sobbed.
A little girl approached him, slowly. “Why are you crying Billy?”
“Leave me alone”. She was disheartened at his misery.
“You know, just because you’re different doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you. It’s just you know, the other boys couldn’t grow a beard that size if they lived 5 lifetimes.”
The boy sniggered, his relaxation unleashing the beard allowing it to crawl towards a stool standing next to a window in the corridor. Without a word, the legs of the stool loosened, bending in different directions. Atop the seat, a mouth and the gentlest brightest eyes the little girl had ever seen appeared out of nothing.
“Well aren’t you a wise young lady”, the words escaped from the newly formed mouth.
If she was standing atop Everest, her jaw would have hit the bottom. “S-sorry? H-how did you...?”
“Oh its just beard envy, I’d be jealous if my 6 year old student had a more impressive goatee than mine, particularly one that had the gift of life”.
Forgetting to swallow, the girl’s unclosed mouth poured drool straight down her uniform. Billy turned to her, holding out his hand. “D-do you want me to show you?”
Mouth still unclosed, joining her hand with his, they disappeared into the darkness that promised light.