Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Why I Shaved My Beard

Boris knows 10,000 ways to kill a man, or so he says. I myself was always skeptical of the 10,000 ways claim. I once listed the number of ways I knew how to kill a man, sort of as a control group, and I only made it up to 237.

The 10,000 figure seemed to me, then, to be highly suspect. I thought it was typical Boris posturing, just what you'd suspect from a two foot long sheep puppet slash accomplished Russian spy who has crashing at my place rent-free for the better part of ten years.

For one thing, I asked him, wasn't 10,000 a bit round for such a fickle number? Surely there must be a great deal of estimating there.

"I rounded down," he said.

For a journalist (or former), a plausible answer that is also an excuse is like a red flag to a bull. Suddenly I had to know. So I indulged him. I asked Boris to list the ways he knew to kill a man. So began one of the most disturbing half hours of my life.

Boris' answers were not just plausible, they were chillingly specific. Where as my written list of man-killers would read like "32. Gun," Boris's were like meticulously plotted novels. They were not limited to weapon, wound and way of escape, but included such nuances as time of day, geographical location, size and body type of the intended victim, and detail after disturbing detail.

It was just too much for me. After it became clear that Boris could easily match or exceed my number, I decided it was perhaps less important to verify Boris' figure than to avoid spending the rest of my life thinking about how he could disfigure my own. That was about a year ago.

I'd since let this incident pass in to an amusing memory of a horrifying moment. Then, last month, I'd been working on planning a conference in San Francisco, and I'd sort of let myself go a bit. I wasn't getting enough sleep, and I barely had enough time to shower.

On the plus side, I had grown a wonderful beard - well past a goatee, full facial, with lovely amber highlights I'd always suspected I had but had never known for sure. Sure, it was arguably a product of my own laziness, but I also saw it as a sort of badge of maturity and pride. No one else at work had managed such a significant beard, that was for sure.

Then, one day, I found Boris just sitting there on the couch, staring at me. Because Boris is a stuffed sheep with no internal means of locomotion, this would otherwise seem perfectly natural, but something about the way he was staring gave me an oddly familiar chill down my spine. I asked him what was on his mind.

"If I put that thing in your paper shredder, it would look like an accident," he said.

So that's why I shaved my beard.