Harry made a ferocious Pimm’s Cup cocktail and brewed dandelion wine that served both as Vee’s facial toner and an excellent chilled drink after a long day mucking out the llama and alpaca pens at Twist of Fate. His galenicals were known throughout the Valley for curing everything from athlete’s foot to warts.
For weeks Harry had puttered in his shed near the llama enclosure, shutting the door on Vee and her inquiries. He measured, poured, baked, and sampled. Something. Today the odour reminded Vee of ground shrimp shells and rabbit pellets.
Vee watched Harry clamber across the beach at low tide chipping barnacles into a bucket, just as she had watched as he lugged three dozen Bay Leaf plants and 6 dozen sage and borage seedlings home from Anderton Nursery in the spring. He potted the Bay bushes in white plastic buckets scavenged from the grocery store. Tidy marching rows of borage were planted between the strawberry beds. The sage was winkled in any spot he could find in the herb garden.
All spring and summer Harry tended the bay shrubs, shaping and plucking like Vee used to do when she had eyebrows. The borage blossoms with their whiskery buds and flowers he had bought on a whim thinking they looked like the llamas and alpacas (and Vee, too) and were an omen of success. And, the flowers were delicious in his Pimm’s Cup.
Donna, the female llama who shared a pen with a pig named Donny, gave Harry the hairy eyeball and retreated to the far end of the enclosure away from the smell that poured from the cracks in the shed like the noisome outflow from tailing ponds in Alberta.
He tested it on their new baby alpaca, Charice, then he told Vee his plan. She stroked her naked scalp as he told her that Charice had been used as the guinea pig.
“Cease this folly at once Harry. We can’t risk our stock and our fleece on this hair brained scheme. I won’t have our reputation tarnished by your nonsensical mountebanke tendancies.” Her hand stayed on her head and she twirled her finger imagining a long strand wrapping around it. .
Harry was certain this was the formula that would make them rich. Despite the risk of losing his own thin halo of hair, he began to take his own medicine. At the very least, if total baldness ensued, he’d show solidarity with his darling Vee.
He was convinced his product worked on alpacas. He’d witnessed success with Charice. Clumps of soft fleece fell without the backbreaking work of shearing. Well, if the stock were too valuable, damn it, he would peddle it at the Valley’s farmers’ market to people.
Locals knew Twist of Fate’s stock. They’d visited the farm with their kids at Easter to hunt eggs.Their children had birthday parties in the barn and walked the llamas and alpacas through the cool fir spiked hills. Families had brought their dead pets’ hair to be spun into yarn combined with alpaca and llama fibre and knit into hats and mitts in remembrance by Vee. Now they combed Charise with their fingers and held the strands that came away in their hands.
Harry set up a stall and made a sign: “All natural, organic hair removal. An ounce a day keeps the hair away.” He brought Charise as proof and displayed a photo album of her before she started taking his pellets. He listed the ingredients and offered ½ teaspoon size samples.
One woman with a goatee sampling the granola-like pellets, sighed, “It tastes like Thanksgiving. I can almost smell the turkey.” Harry said “That’s the sage.” Local spa owners bought it as a painless alternative to waxing. The Island hippies, who for decades had allowed hair to grow in all places hair naturally grows, gave it a whirl. He sold all 50 pounds of the product.
At the end of the day, Charise’s left side was nearly bald. Harry scratched his head, puzzled why the formula worked on only one half of the alpaca. He failed to notice fresh furze under his hand where his cap of pink flesh used to be. No one else noticed either.
The following week, Harry looked down the hill leading to the farm at the long line of cars and walk-in customers clogging their narrow rutted road. He beamed and hollered at Vee to open the store and said with a toothy smile “I told you so!” Vee remarked, “Harry, what did you do to your teeth? They’re as white as bleached fleece and your bald spot has stubble.”
The customers, many with braids as long as Rapunzel’s, were not smiling. A stiletto staggering blond with arms the size of an Olympic wrestler’s, was shrieking “I wanted it off, not on. I look like a monkey!”
Harry held a mirror up to each person and said “Smile!” to show them how white their teeth were, but they all demanded their money back. Vee opened the till and refunded every last one, the stack of bills thinning down to nothing.
He figured sage – too much sage – was the problem. It overpowered the subtle scrubber of his secret ingredient. Kelp, if you must know. All natural salt. The magic of the sea.
Harry leaned against the shed, chewing a borage flower and watched Charice in the next pen, rubbing back and forth against the fence as lumps of her fleece dropped to the earth. Better sand the rail so she won’t gouge her tender exposed skin, he thought, and work on a new galenical for whatever was causing the itch.
Rumour had it a certain American politician’s people had contacted Harry for this rejuvenator to stimulate something positive from their candidate’s head. A slick limo had been seen in the Valley and reported parked outside Twist of Fate’s barn a few days ago.
Fleecing continued in the traditional manner but Harry smiled more than ever and followed the politician on Twitter. Maybe, he thought, all I need to do is rebrand and try again.
Photo credit: Sue Christie
(If you are new to Harry Bittercress and his long-time lover, Vee – formerly Lady Veronica Smock-Speedwell – and want to read their backstories, you can find more by clicking on the “Harry Bittercress and Lady Smock” category in the sidebar of the homepage.)