Unreasonable Demands

“No,” he said. “I won’t!” He took a deep breath. “And you can’t make me!” His mouth worked like he was chewing something unpleasant before he found more words. “It’s ludicrous to think that after all this time--no, after all we’ve been through, that I can--I can just say goodbye. You--you owe me--you owe me way more than that!” He panted. “No, but--no, it’s true--I know that I, I owe you--yes, I know! But after all--after all this time--”

He was shouting at his beard in the mirror.

It was a strong beard. Thick, not bushy and fading to wisps but instead compact, and still big. He had grown it in over a very long time, and tended it carefully. He protected it from shears and razors, and it protected him, too. It kept his face hidden. It kept him safe. It had also made him kind of crazy.

“Please,” he said,” Please stop--no, just stop saying that. You can’t--” He looked his beard in the face. The beard said nothing.

“Fine,” he said, tears dripping into his beard. “I’ll do it.” He lifted the razor, and hair began to fall.