Hair stories: Part 2

Husband and I pulled into the parking lot of 7 Mile Fashion, a store on Broadway. At least one vendor had set up shop outside its front door, and people milled around near the entrance.

The last time I had visited the place I was alone, and it was one o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon—not a risky time to shop. On my way into the store, though, several men in the parking lot had plied me with various comments and requests. So on this trip, I wanted hair and not harassment; Husband would stick with me and make sure of that.

I entered the North Minneapolis business, making my way to the weaves and extensions aisle. I glanced around. Alone again. Where was Husband? I retraced my steps to the door and spied him outside the glass, chatting with a man. I returned to my quest for a long blonde ponytail to clip into my hair—a new look for summer. I picked through the merchandise.

Soon Husband rejoined me, clutching a container. “The guy out there lured me in with these homemade cookies.”

“No doubt.” I pointed to a package of clip-in hair extensions. “Do you think this’ll work for a ponytail?” The picture showed long blonde artificial hair hanging from a strip of elastic.

He shrugged. “Maybe?”

“I could wrap it around a few times.”

A woman appeared next to me. She tapped her bejeweled fingernail on the package I was eyeing. “Nah, that’s gonna be too heavy for you.”

I turned to her. “Really?”

“We’ll find what you want,” she said, her confidence as bright as her splashy blouse.

I liked her already. “You work here?”

Her laugh sparkled like her nails. “No, but I know what they got.”

I asked her name—it was Shonda—and described what I wanted.

“They keep those up behind the counter.” She planted her hands on her hips and scrutinized my hair for a full second. “You’re a number six-thirteen, honey.”


She flicked a finger for us to follow as she plunged into our mission. Husband and I tagged along behind her like two kids scampering to keep up with their mama at the grocery store. She charged toward the checkout counter.

Two employees rang up customers, but Shonda butted up to the front of the line and slapped an open palm on the counter’s surface. The nearest employee shot a cool gaze at her.

I grimaced at Husband. My new look for summer wasn’t that important. No style emergency here. We could probably wait our turn for help.

“We need a long blonde ponytail, ten or twelve inches,” Shonda said, her head bobbing. “Color six-thirteen.”

“We’re out,” the worker said, not missing a beat, still punching keys on the till.

“No, you’re not.” Shonda flicked her hand at one section of the shelving behind the two employees. “The ponytails are right there.”

“We don’t got ‘em,” the second employee called over from his register.

A few more back and forths, and my new friend won. Like magic, some suitable options materialized.

Shonda held up an eighteen-inch-long piece—black streaks running through pale blonde strands—for $84.99. She wrinkled her nose. “Not what you’re looking for.”

I agreed. She pushed it back to the employee.

“But this one…” She snapped up another package. “This is it.”

And it was. Ten inches long. The perfect match to my hair. Only $11.99. She gave me the rundown on how to fasten it in. Expressionless, the employee tolerated Shonda’s impromptu lesson for me right there at the front of the line.

“You’re amazing,” I said to her. “You need to work here already. I’m serious.”

She snorted out a laugh. “Yeah, maybe.”

I extracted my card to pay for my new do. The transaction complete, I looked around. But Shonda was gone.

Husband and I headed for the door.

A voice, glittering with adventure, floated to me from somewhere in the store. “Bye, Tamara.”


I turned around to wave to her. But she was already back in the hair extensions aisle, doing what she did best.


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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.