“Tiffany, I’ve got to talk to you, can I close the door?” Penny swooped into my office and swung the door shut before I could answer. The pile of preschool applications on my desk blew off in the breeze of the door. Penny bent down and pushed them into a messy pile and dropped the whole mess back on my desk. She found my stapler and dropped it on top, then pulled a side chair closer to my desk. “It’s Sasha. In the Dolphins class.”
I knew the child. Her parents were from Romania, and her father was a PhD candidate in Petroleum Engineering. Her mother taught Russian as an adjunct lecturer. Sasha and her brother, Alexi, had been at the school since the beginning of the fall semester. Both seemed to have adjusted in the three months they had been here in Texas.
“I’m sure she isn’t involved in the Russian collusion investigation. “ I joked with Penny. Penny was the only teacher at the school that shared my liberal political leanings, and we frequently had lunch together to discuss our stress and fears of the current Administration.
Penny shook her head. “No, I am being serious. Sasha drew a picture of her friend Emma. But she drew the picture with Emma having short hair. Really short.” Penny took a deep breath. “And now Emma’s hair is really short. Just like the drawing.”
I thought a moment. “So did Sasha cut Emma’s hair?” I was already dreading having to tell Emma’s mother about the hair. Emma had wavy blond hair that went mostly down her back. She had been at the Children’s Center since she was an infant. No, this was not a conversation I wanted to have. And yet, since the director was out of state at a conference and the assistant director was home with a sick child, it was going to be me.
“That’s the thing,” Penny said, “I didn’t have scissors out. There is no hair in the trash. There should be so much hair.”
“Maybe Sasha flushed it down the toilet?” I could think of several ways to get rid of cut hair. When I cut my own bangs, which my hairdresser hates, I usually flush the wisps of hair.
“I think it was the picture.” Penny was a bit pale.
“You think that a five year old child drew a picture and then the picture came to be true? Like some kind of magic? This isn’t Hogwarts.” I knew that Penny was a huge Harry Potter fan.
I got up and walked to the door. “Let’s go see.”
We went down the hall to the Dolphins Classroom and I followed Penny in. The children were sitting in a circle while the teaching assistant was reading a story. “Blueberries for Sal.” A Classic. I looked at the back of the children’s heads, looking for hair that had been chopped by a five year old. And I didn’t see any bad haircuts. I looked at Penny. “Is she in the bathroom?”
Penny pointed at what I thought was a little boy with a neat, almost military haircut. “Right there.”
My heart nearly stopped. Emma looked like a marine recruit. There should be 12 inch strands of hair somewhere. Penny pulled me over to her teaching table and picked up a child’s drawing. There were two little girls in the drawing, one with short blonde hair and a blue dress and one with curly brown hair and a red dress. I looked at the children, and Emma was wearing a blue dress and Sasha was indeed wearing red. “Do we have any more of Sasha’s drawings?” I wasn’t sure I wanted the answer.
“This is the first time I have noticed something like this happening.” Penny said.
“Well, you could always ask Sasha to draw a picture with Emma’s hair long again.” Which I knew was a dumb idea, but Penny brightened up immediately.
“That’s why I came to you. I knew you would know what to do!”
“Um, Penny, you really don’t think that …”
It was too late. The assistant was done with the story and the children were going over to their centers. Penny had squatted next to Sasha and seemed to be having a deep conversation with her.
All I could do was go back to my office and try to get ahold of the assistant director and ask if she could contact the parents instead of me. Although since she wasn’t physically here, I would still get the brunt of the anger.
I called Keira, the assistant director. “Just a head’s up, Sasha gave Emma a haircut.”
“Please god, no. Of all the little girls to pick on, she picked Emma?”
“Penney said that Emma said that she asked for it, she liked it short.” I didn’t tell Keira that Emma said that Sasha didn’t cut it with scissors, that she used crayons. I was still wondering how two five year olds would know to get their stories straight.
Penney came rushing into the room, holding a sheet of manilla paper as I was hanging up the phone. “Look, long red hair!” She held up a child drawn picture of the same two little girls, except now the one with the short brown hair had long curly red hair. Penny guided the real little girl into my office. “Come see Miss Tiffany, Emma, let her see your hair.”
The little girl walked cautiously to my desk. “I told Sasha I wanted hair like Ariel.”
I reached out and touched her hair and looked up at Penny. “This is not funny. I really don’t have time for your jokes today.”
Penny took Emma by the hand. “Come on, Emma, let’s go back to the classroom. We need to ask Sasha to make your hair yellow before your mommy gets here.”
I wasn’t sure what to do. Surely this was some kind of joke that Penny was pulling on me. Emma’s red hair felt real, and didn’t feel like a wig, but on the other hand there is no way that the short blond hair I saw a while ago was a wig either. I really wished that Keira or Trish was here to deal with this. I looked at the pile of applications on my desk and started to try to put them back in order.
“What the actual hell, Tiff?”
Trish was back and standing in my doorway.
“I’m gone for two weeks and you install a swimming pool on the play ground? We can’t have a fucking pool on the play ground, we will lose our license!”
I stared at Trish. “I have no idea what you are talking about.” I got up and followed her to her office, where the window overlooked the preschool playground, which now featured an in-ground swimming pool, complete with water slide. It looked frightening similar to the pool at a local park. My knees started to shake and I sat down on the sofa in her office. “There is no way I would or could install a pool like that, on our budget, in only two weeks.”
“There is a pool outside my window.” Trish was at least using preschool appropriate language again.
“I have an idea, but you are not going to like it.” I told her about last week, when Sasha kept changing Emma’s hair.
“That has to be Penny jerking your chain. She knows you are stressed out this time of year with the waitlist and new enrollments.”
I stood up and said, “let’s go to the Dolphins classroom.”
Trish stared at me. “You are seriously trying to make me believe a five year old child drew this and it appeared.”
“It’s a pool. We have to get her to fix the drawing and get rid of the pool.”
“You are pranking me, aren’t you? You and Penny?”
“Did you look at that pool? You think that is a prank? If I had the money to put in a pool like that, I would put it in my yard, or better, I would be driving a car manufactured in this century.”
Trish followed me to the classroom. The children were off in another building having their active time, since they could not use the playground with the pool right there. Everyone saw the pool and wondered what Trish was thinking when it first appeared two days ago.
Penny and I had already looked for a drawing of the pool the day it appeared, but had no luck. But we did find a picture drawn by a five year old of a herd of horses.
I woke up in a sweat. I was in my apartment bedroom. Did I dream the pool? Did I dream the hair cut? Lord I sure hoped so. I glanced at the clock, I was supposed to be at work in an hour and a half, but no time like the present. I pulled on a pair of chinos and my maroon logo polo shirt (the 2000’s equivalent of the mechanic shirt with the name Bob embroidered on it) and made the ten minute drive to the children’s center. After throwing the old Honda into park, I went straight to the playground. Never in my life had I ben so happy to not see a swimming pool. I took a couple of deep breaths, then went to the break room to get some coffee before going to my office. Trish was already in there, pouring multiple individual French Vanilla creamers into her stainless steel travel mug.
“Hi Trish, you’re back. How was the trip?”
“Pretty non-eventful, and I like it that way. Things here okay?”
“Wonderful.” I walked over to the coffee pot, thankful for some caffeine to put that bad dream out of my mind. I picked up a white blur out the window with my peripheral vision, and walked over to the window. It was just one of the ducks in the duck pond.
Duck pond. Oh shit.