“Tying The Boats” by Amanda O’Callaghan

A week after she married him, she cut her hair. The scissors made a hungry sound working their way through the curls.

You cut your hair, he said, when he came home. Nothing more.

She thought he might have said, You cut off your beautiful hair, but his mouth could not make the shape of beautiful, even then.

She kept the hair in a drawer. A great hank of it, bound together in two places with ribbon almost the same dark red. Sometimes, when she was searching in the big oak chest that she brought from home, she’d see it stretched against the back of the drawer, flattened into the joinery like a sleek, cowering animal.

Once, she lifted it out, held it up to the light to catch the last of its fading lustre. She weighed it in her hands. The hair was thick, substantial, heavy as the ropes they’d used when she was a girl, tying the boats when storms were coming.


“Tying The Boats” first appeared in Bath Flash Fiction, 2017, as the First Prize Winner.

IMAGE: John Everett Millais “Only a Lock of Hair”, 1857–1858 . Oil on panel. H 35.3 x W 25 cm. Manchester Art Gallery. UK.

Amanda O'Callaghan

Amanda O’Callaghan’s fiction has been awarded and shortlisted in the Bath Flash Fiction Award, Flash 500, Bristol Short Story Prize, Fish Short Story Prize, and others. Her work has appeared in multiple anthologies including The Best Small Fictions and Flash. She lives in Brisbane, Australia.  Her collection, This Taste for Silence, was shortlisted for the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction.  www.amandaocallaghan.com.au  @ocallaghanac

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