Once upon a time in a land far far away there lived a little hairdresser called Shlomi Cobblebox.
He was not special in any particular way. But he was an expert at perms, blow-drying and smoking cigarettes like his life depended on it. Plus his scissorcraft was second-to-none. He was in charge of the hair of everyone in the town of Thylacine and was very highly thought of.
Our story begins one summer when Shlomi’s work was done. He was sat in one of his salon chairs with his feet up on the counter by the mirror. His scissors were cooling down in a glass of chilled water and he was sipping at a glass of absinthe. After a hard day of slicery and gossiping, Shlomi was famished. Normally he would have slipped out to an outdoor café but today he was quite content with just drinking and enjoying the summer haze beaming through his windows.
He was just sat there, eyes closed, when he heard a street vendor down the road calling out: “Peeeeanut butter sandwiches! Come buy ’em here! Crafted by peanut artisans for your taste buds! Cheap as chips!” The thought of peanut butter sandwiches sounded good to Shlomi Cobblebox so he quickly ran to the door and called out to the vendor, a simple peasant woman, and said, “Hello, dear! Peanut butter sandwiches? You had me at ‘peanut’. Could I buy one?”
The peasant woman came to Shlomi with her basketful of peanut butter sandwiches and showed him her wares. Shlomi, being quite fussy, made the woman place all of the sandwiches upon his counter where he inspected them, weighed them, squeezed them for freshness and make enquiries of the woman regarding quality. He was not impressed with her story that each peanut butter sandwich had been crafted by blind albino monks and put together according to recipes handed down through the generations but he was hungry and a sandwich was a sandwich.
“Well, love. The peanut butter seems to be finely made. But I will pay you only one silver piece for this delicacy and nothing more. One sandwich, me thinks.” The peasant woman agreed to the price and went away.
Shlomi placed the peanut butter sandwich upon a counter and then knelt down so that his nose was settled an inch from the food. He then started stamping and shuffling his hands up and down his sides. He jumped back and then jumped left and then to the right. He wriggled his behind and started spinning around arms outstretched. During all this movement, he was singing, “I am going to eat you, peanut butter sandwich! I will eat you good! One bite or two! Peanut butter sandwich, you are mine!” This was his peanut butter sandwich dance. Shlomi had a different dance for every type of food you could imagine.
In the meantime, during his dietary exertions, the peanut butter odour had awakened the ants that lived in his wainscoting. One of the truths of the universe is that ants love peanut butter sandwiches and that they would go to war with each other for just one nibble of this king of sandwiches. Why this is so, I can’t say. In any case, the ants had rigged up a rudimentary mining operation when Shlomi noticed them
“Hey, ant boys, get out of here,” called out the hairdresser. The ants understood him perfectly well but a sandwich is a sandwich and they were determined to get as much of it as they could.
Shlomi lost his temper when the ants ignored him. He retrieved his scissors from the glass of water and said, “En garde, you knavish ants”. The shears went snicker-snack and seven of the ants laid dead. The others had ran back to the wainscoting where they were devoured by a hungry spider.
Shlomi Cobblebox was quite proud of his scissorwork and immediately went out to have a t-shirt with the words ‘Seven With One Blow’ printed upon it. He thought that Thylacine needed to know how skilful. he was. When he walked around with this shirt, everybody was bound to want to shake his hand in admiration. Which only goes to prove that you don’t need brains to be a hairdresser. He was so cerebrally challenged that he thought he should leave the town and go further afield just so that he could show off his prowess to the world.
After his t-shirt was made for him, he went back to his salon and grabbed his scissors. He stuck them in his belt like a sword. He also took his peanut butter sandwich and wrapped it in waxed paper. This he placed into his satchel. In front of the salon he saw his cat, Steve, gnawing at a rat. Shlomi placed the cat into his satchel alongside his peanut butter sandwich. As you would.
Shlomi took to the road with Steve the cat and his peanut butter sandwich. He puffed out his chest so that any people passing him would see his t-shirt and his boast. He walked all the way through the Swamp of Frogs to the city-port of Hamelin and then onwards to the Forest of Spiders. The road led him here and there and everywhere. Sadly most of the people in the land were unable to read and so his shirt did not impress anybody.
After a month or so of pointless wandering, Shlomi found himself on Mount Hogburn. He climbed up it until he came face-to-toe with a eighty-foot tall giant. This giant was just sat there idly reading a newspaper. Well, I say reading but it was more of a case of looking at the pictures and laughing at the cartoon strips.
“Ahoy, giant!” called out Shlomi.
The giant put down his newspaper and peered myopically at the hairdresser. “Hello, little ‘un,” said the giant. “My name is Spode. What brings you up here?”
The little hairdresser stood up straight and said, “Good morning, Mr Spode, sir!” It always paid to be polite to people who could squish you flat with one verruca-covered foot. “My name is Shlomi. I am on my way over the mountain. Would you like to keep me company?”
Spode gave him a sarcastic look. “Why would I do that? I wouldn’t be seen dead with such a tiny peep like you.”
Shlomi pointed to the ‘Seven With One Blow’ written upon his t-shirt. Spode read it. Admittedly he had to do so by moving his lips at the same time but he read it none-the-less. Understandingly he thought it referred to seven men. Seven men in one blow would be easy for a giant but for a man not so much. Spode could respect that but still he felt like he needed to test the hairdresser. So he took a rock from the slope of Mount Hogburn and crushed it and crushed it and crushed it until water dripped from it. “I’d wager that you can’t do that, little peep!”
“Easy peasey!” called out Shlomi Cobblebox, and he placed his hand into his satchel and took out the peanut butter sandwich, still wrapped in waxed paper, and showed it to the giant. “See this flat rock? Watch this! Hand rock, rock hand!” And with those words, he quickly unwrapped it and showed the sandwich, a little green after all this time, to the giant. “You made water appear from a rock. I made a peanut butter sandwich appear from a rock!”
Spode was dumb-founded. What could he say to that. Water was all very well but a sandwich was a sandwich. Maybe it was a fluke? He picked up a bent stick and threw it so far away that the eye could not see where it ended up. “Beat that, peep!”
Shlomi picked up a similar stick and pretended to throw it. “See? I threw it so far that it went all the way around the world and landed back in my hand.”
“Erm…yes, that is impressive,” said the giant, “but can you sing?” And with that challenge, Spode started to sing a song about little green kittens. All giants are lousy at singing but when you can destroy a town simply by sneezing, nobody will admit it. Suffice to say, Spode didn’t sing so much as make farting noises with his mouth. When he was finished, he turned to the hairdresser and said, “Well, peeps? Can you sing better than that?”
Shlomi picked up a mouse and placed it in his satchel. He cleared his throat and then opened his mouth wide. The noise that came out sounded much like a cat being beaten up by a mouse. When he was finished, coincidentally at the same time that Steve the cat escaped the satchel, the giant applauded. “Oh very well done,” said he. “I will go with you.”
(What became of Steve the cat involved exciting things like dragons and low-flying sheep and shall be told another time)
Shlomi and Spode went on together. They had been travelling for a few weeks when they came to a maze of mirrors. Normally seen only in funfairs or on the sets of cheap horror movies, The hairdresser was understandably surprised by seeing one in the middle of nowhere. Unlike the mirror mazes that he was to, this one covered several thousands of acres and was almost a mile tall.
Spode said, “You are valiant, for a human, so I will tell you a secret. We, the giants, are descended from carnival folk and this humble mirror maze is the traditional home of my race. What with you being so valiant, I would challenge you to spend a night in our maze.”
Shlomi accepted the challenge. After all, what could happen to him in a mirror maze? Besides it beat sleeping outside again with the wolves and the wild cats and the lost housewives.
When Shlomi Cobblebox and Spode went into the mirror maze, they met many other giants in the entwining and multifarious corridors. The hairdresser suspected that the giants were a little inbred judging by the fact that they all seemed to look alike. Shlomi and Spode moved on though the maze until they got to the centre where the living quarters were. As with all the corridors, this immense area had mirrored walls, mirrored ceilings, mirrored tables, mirrored chairs and even the floor was mirrored.
Spode showed Shlomi to a bed. Unlike everything else, the bed was not mirrored. Mirrors may be pretty but try sleeping on one. The giants weren’t THAT stupid. In any case, the bed that Shlomi was given was too big for him what with it being the size of half a dozen football pitches. So the hairdresser slept near the base of the bed.
Spode was still dubious about exactly how strong the hairdresser was. He had words with his fellow giants and they had worked out a plan to prove it once and for all. So a few hours after Shlomi had drifted off to sleep and started dreaming about being a cheese-pirate, Spode crept towards where he was sleeping. He could hear the small man snoring. Very quietly, he pulled down his trouser and urinated as hard as he could.
Giants are a simple folk and they find their pleasures wherever they can. And one of these pleasures was also their gravest death sentence: death by pee-pee. Nobody ever survived it. It was the number one punishment.
Now, a giant’s urination strength was powerful. Not only would it drown a person, it could also carve through rock like a knife through butter. Spode’s pee beam went right through the bed, sawing it in half, and even caused the mirrored floor to buckle. When he was finished, he smiled. Not even the valiant little hairdresser could withstand death by pee-pee.
As dawn arrived, Spode and the other giants went out for hotdogs and to gaze at the clouds. When Shlomi walked up to them and said, “Hello, is there a hotdog for me?”, all the giants shrieked like they had stuck their tongue on a mousetrap. The hairdresser was alive! He had survived the number one punishment! If he could withstand the yellow torrent, he could quite easily beat them all to a pulp. They quickly had it away on their toes and were never seen again. But that is another story and shall be told another time.
Shlomi Cobblebox went on his way with his satchel and stomach now full of hotdogs. When this supply had at last been all eaten, he found himself in the land of Chiquito. This was a land of stony plains and not much else. The only place of any note was the royal palace and it was in this place where the valiant hairdresser collapsed. A diet of hotdogs followed by starvation does not equal a good lifestyle so it is no wonder that he fainted.
As he laid there in a hotdog stupor, the people of Chiquito stood over him and reading the words on his faded t-shirt. “‘Seven With One Blow’, wow,” they said. “But what would such a valiant warrior want with us? And why does his breath hold the meaty aroma of stale hotdogs?”
A group of Chiquito’s soldiers went to King Bareback Mamba and told him of the new arrival and the whiff of hotdogs. They told the king of his t-shirt and the words upon. They also mentioned the unfriendly city of Pokpok and their legions of female soldiers and how these soldiers had been seen doing traditional soldiery things such as marching, saluting, getting hit by friendly fire, and complaining about the defence budget. All in all, this added up to the threat of an imminent invasion from the hordes of Pokpok. Under the advice of his warriors, King Bareback Mamba decided that Shlomi Cobblebox should be press-ganged into military service for the good of Chiquito.
When Shlomi finally awoke from his hotdog hangover, he saw one the king’s chief courtier and supreme hanger-on who offered the little hairdresser two choices: military service or more hotdogs. This did not require much thinking. Shlomi accepted the king’s generous offer and was quickly given the rank of general and a cardboard box to sleep in. Within minutes he was complaining about the defence budget like a true soldier.
The rest of the Chiquito army were understandably upset. The usual way of promotion was through dead man’s boots. Many a general had killed his way to the top from the lowly position of washer-up in the staff canteen. This was probably the reason why Chiquito never won any of their battles with other cities. In any case, Shlomi’s fellow soldiers were afraid of confronting and murdering the hairdresser to gain promotion. “Why should this guy get a cardboard box to live in when we only have a tin whistle to sleep under? But if we attack the little putz, he could get rid of seven of us in one blow. Unless we ambush him but we haven’t been taught how to ambush yet…”
So the disgruntled grunts went to petition the king for Shlomi’s dismissal. They threatened to leave the army unless the king agreed to do as they said. “But weren’t you the same people who suggested that I should press-gang him into military service,” asked King Bareback Mamba. The soldiers shuffled their feet and muttered. “And now you want me to rid you of him because you don’t want to be shown up?” The soldiers went “um” and “er”. “Are you not contradicting yourselves?”
The soldiers said, “Yes, but there are more of us than there is of you. Unless you want us to usurp the throne and replace you with a chicken imported from Pokpok, do as we say!” The king shuffled his feet and muttered. The King went “um” and “er”. The king, very quietly, did as he was told.
“Shlomi, my dear boy,” said King Bareback after the hairdresser was brought to him. “I may have been a little hasty in press-ganging you, um, so if you would sort out a tiny little problem for us, I will allow you to be honourably discharged.”
“Will I receive a military pension?” asked Shlomi.
“No,” said the king flatly. “Now, my dear boy, I would like you to go the Forest of Skulls and kill the twin giants, Helmholtz and Ratchet. They have been causing a bit of trouble. You know, murdering and robbing and eating noisily in cinemas and suchlike. You do this and I will give you my daughter’s hand in marriage, half the kingdom as dowry, the right to arm bears, and a coupon for one free meal at Chiquito Fried Mosquito. I will also send one hundred horsemen with you just in case your t-shirt is nothing but a hollow boast.”
Shlomi agreed to the deal. He had managed to deal with a whole group of giants, so two shouldn’t be any problem. Plus a free meal at CFM wasn’t to be sneezed at.
The valiant little hairdresser rode out on his new horse, Gluehooves. Following him were the hundred horsemen (or centaurs as they preferred to be called). When they arrived at the outskirts of the Forest of Skulls, Shlomi said to the centaurs, “Right, lads, you lot just wait here. I can defeat the giants by myself.”
Shlomi rode Gluehooves into the forest. The forest was named after the shape of the tree canopies which looked like massive leafy skulls. When the wind blew though the leaves, it looked like the skulls were chattering to themselves. This fair put the willies up Gluehooves who did not like it one bit.
The hairdresser hadn’t gone far into the forest when he came across the two giants playing tennis. Shlomi was aghast at the sheer size of them. They were only thirteen-foot tall. They were just giant dwarfs, not giant but giantish. Shlomi felt a little disappointed but at least his job would be a lot easier to accomplish. Plus they were pretty lousy at tennis. But what else could you expect when you are using skull-headed trees instead of racquets and huge stone boulders instead of tennis balls?
Shlomi watched them for a while. When they paused for a break, he stepped forward and said, “Ahoy, giants! I do not mean to disturb you while you scoff down your strawberries and cream but I could not help noticing that your tennis skills are a little handicapped by the state of your balls!”
Helmholtz and Ratchet stared at Shlomi, their cream-smeared faces identical in their expressions of puzzlement and annoyance. “How so?” they chorused, strawberries shooting out from their maws.
“Weeeell,” said Shlomi, plonking himself onto a fallen log, “how about using a ball that has more spring to it? Those boulders have no give and they are damaging your…um..racquets.”
“What do you suggest?” asked Ratchet (or Helmholtz).
“Can you think of any alternatives?”
Ratchet and Helmholtz looked at one another.
“Come on, giants! Use your heads!”
A light lit up in their eyes. “Heads!” they shouted. “Use our heads!” And with those worlds they pulled each other’s heads off and slumped to the ground.
Shlomi shrugged his shoulders and took out of his satchel a peanut butter sandwich. He had just finished when the centaurs, who had got tired of waiting, found him licking his fingers. They looked at the beheaded giants and then back to Shlomi licking his fingers. Their brains swiftly put two and two together and made ‘seven’ with one blow. They looked at him and then at the pools of blood. He was indeed a valiant little hairdresser.
When Shlomi returned to the king with the heads of the giants, the crowned one quickly went back on his word and refused to give the man his rewards. “Before you receive my daughter’s hand in marriage, half the kingdom, and the right to arm bears,” King Bareback Mamba said, “you must do one more thing for me, just one. In the Forest of Skulls is a creature that is more dangerous than a sackful of giants. More deadlier than the quickest zipper snake. More horsey than the lowliest donkey. A unicorn. Bring it to me for I need a new pet. Then you will get your riches.”
“You forgot the coupon, sire. Is that still part of the package deal?”
“Yes! Yes! Go get me that unicorn!”
Shlomi took a sword, a catapult and three bags of soapy toads with him into the forest. He took these things for no other reason than to confuse the king of Chiquito. He quickly dumped everything after he had walked a mile into the forest. Journeying on without his props, he soon found the unicorn munching on some grass.
“Ahoy there,” called out the hairdresser. “Can you speak?” You may think this is a stupid question to ask a horned horse but this was the olden days when animals spoke. Nowadays they have nothing to say.
“No,” said the unicorn. “And in case you were wondering, you didn’t hear me say that. Or this.”
“Hear me out, please. I have a deal which will be of advantage to the pair of us.”
“I’m listening although, clearly, I’m not speaking, you get me?” said the unicorn winking at Shlomi slyly.
“If I offered you all the grass you could eat, would you like that? Indeed, all the apples too, I know horses like those. And,” Shlomi racked his brains for something else connected with unicorns that he could use to tempt the creature, “and, um, virgins! All the virgins you could ever want. They will groom you and stroke you and make your life heaven on earth.” Shlomi had no idea where he was going to find virgins but that would be the king’s problem,
The unicorn gave him a dubious look but agreed to the deal.
When Shlomi Cobbebox had given the unicorn over to the king, the sovereign went back on his word again. King Bareback Mamba made a third request. Shlomi was to catch the biggest boar in Chiquito and only when this was done would he be allowed to marry the king’s daughter.
“The biggest boar?”
“Yes. A boar which is big. A big boar,” said the king peevishly.
Shlomi looked at the king’s courtiers and the king’s soldiers and the king’s daughter. “Did you hear that?” he asked them. They nodded. And with that nod, Shlomi picked up the king and dragged him all the way to Chiquito’s prison. “Biggest bore? Consider yourself caught!” laughed Shlomi. None of the courtiers or the soldiers fancied taking on a man who was as powerful as the valiant little hairdresser, and none of them fancied pointing out that the king was referring to a ‘boar’ and not a ‘bore’ but they knew which side their bread was buttered, so they all quickly bowed before him when he returned.
Shlomi Cobblebox married the king’s daughter (a comely wench with the unfortunate name of Pigbristle) and was crowned king of Chiquito. And they all lived happily ever after.