Hair Soliloquy #6: The Secret Struggles of Head Lice

“He who sits in the house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea” Henry David Thoreau.

King Leonidas the Louse sat his hatchlings down every day and read them inspirational quotes just like those, to make them proud about the noble life of a parasite. Leonidas had lived a life on many heads, and was a survivor, a glorious vagrant.

He firmly believed that head lice’s close proximity to the brain, and efficient way of operating made them truly the most intelligent insects; I mean look at bees – sure they’re hard workers, but they’re easily manipulated. If you bother them they kill themselves. Plus they worship a queen. They have no individual desires. They’re patsies to Mother Nature. But Lice look after themselves and let others do the hard work.

Humans, they love the bees, because they can control them and get something in return. Which is why they hate the lice – Lice are free spirits.

Humans are much the worse than Lice. Humans are the biggest parasites on earth, but they’re the least efficient, for all their supposed intelligence.

Groups of lice only gather on a beast big enough to sustain them, and yet humans can’t control themselves – they deplete everything they come in contact with.

How arrogant can humans be to insist they are the ones to lead the world? They haven’t done anything to warrant ownership so far.

No, a world run by fleas would be a better world”, thought Leonidas. “Humans ignore their problems until it threatens the most comfortable. Fleas face the problem head on, take responsibility, and come to a solution. It’s just pure coincidence that more often than not the solution is by moving to a healthy happy animal that can take the pain.

Lice, in Leonidas’ view, were collectors of blood tax imposed by nature; Humans, with their hair shaving and their shampooing products are dodging their taxes.

Leonidas’s current host was an old dog that was reaching the end of his days – he smelled badly but he was reliable for the last while, but as Leonidas’ clan grew, Fido’s life force shrunk; a new host would be needed soon.

There were many potential hosts in this establishment; it was a dog pound. But they had no way of moving; Fido was in a cage all day and had no contact with any of the other potential hosts.

Head lice don’t survive for over 24 hours in the wilderness, so just up and leaving would be a silly decision – but if the host died…there wouldn’t be much of an option.

But at last one day the cage opened. A bearded man with a contraption in his hand was their greeting. They had seen him before, and Leonidas never considered him for hosting duties; but he looked all the more tempting of late, now that he was spouting a thick tuft of facial hair.

Leonidas rallied his troops.

“When he grabs Fido, that’s when we move!” yelled the experienced war chief. The rest of the fleas screamed in bloody valour each raising a clammy leg out from their clamp-like grip on the dog.

But Leonidas did not plan for the next part – the contraption turned on. And it was aimed directly for the troops, his bannerlice, and Him. One could only guess what it would do next. The world moved in slow motion for a while, and some lice began to bolt. They were the first to die, or at least that’s what Leonidas suspected happened them after gravity betrayed them.

“The humans have manipulated the wind now”, thought Leonidas, “but they shall never manipulate me”. He clamped all 6 stumpy legs down hard into the scalp of Fido, who had somehow managed to stay asleep through the entire ordeal.

He was losing his fellow lice, hundreds by the second. Fathers, Mothers, Children were lost. He knew he must fill these people with hope in the face of fear and certain death.

“My fellow fleas,” bellowed a tiring Leonidas, “The world will know that free lice stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many, and before this battle was over, even a god-king can bleed.”

The human in charge of the contraption grew frustrated and pulled away the sucking tube, but Leonidas knew this wasn’t the end. The look in the human’s eyes indicated the storm was still to come.

“Head lice! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty… For tonight, we dine on head!”

The human clicked a button on the contraption and the noise began to ring all the louder, and the dogs began to bark angrier, and the tube began to suck harder, and the lice clamped in all the more desperately.

Leonidas held on for dear life to Fido, as his life flashed before his eyes. A near death experience with a nurse’s hair comb on a schoolchild. A dogfight with a mosquito on a foreign holiday. Near drowning on a trip to the swimming pool, and near burning to death from the chlorine.

All his past loves that had died along the way beckoned to him now; was it his time?

But all of a sudden, silence. Only the whining of dogs, and the grumbling of the human. He approached and picked up the dog and looked at him closely. Leonidas knew this was the time to strike.

“Head Lice! MOVE,” he said before breaking into a crawl for the new home; he was only centimetres away now…and now a hair’s breadth away…and now…in! He had made the move to the beard and could only hope the rest could follow.

And over time they did, one, two, ten…fifty… by the end not many were left behind. Leonidas felt a bit sad leaving Fido, but he suspected the old dog hadn’t much longer to go. He barely reacted when the human kicked him in the hind legs.


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