The Training Room
Jeffrey S. Callico
He had been trying for years. Just take the hair, about four inches long, tape it onto a white board, split it down the middle. Simple.
It had been impossible.
And careful? Yes, he had been careful—meticulous, even. He kept the razor sharp. But his nerves kept him from success—those minuscule movements the human eye can barely detect, but to an insect would be like a 9.6 earthquake. His hand, the fingers, did not cooperate: the hair itself was agreeable; “Cut me open,” each of them he strapped down seemed to say, almost lovingly. But hair. So thin, so very, very thin.
It was during an afternoon session that he decided to give up. It can’t be done, he said. It can’t be done, he said again. They can split atoms all day long, but hair—they can’t do that. I can’t either. He removed the tape from the hair—his final specimen—and sealed it in a small envelope, labeled it “The Final Hair.” He took the envelope and placed it into one of his desk drawers, along with less important files: old bills, receipts, contracts, letters, etc. This is where the hair stayed for years.
When he turned ninety-six, he took the envelope from the drawer—it had turned yellow, despite its being in virtual darkness for over forty-five years—and found the hair at the bottom in the fold. Though his hands were shaking more than ever, he held the hair pinched between finger and thumb. He held it up to the light. It still wasn’t split, of course. The hair was still in one piece. Nothing about it had changed.
“Stop trying to split hairs,” his father had told him as a child long ago.
It had been his only motivation.
Inspired to a small extent by Raymond Carvers The Hair.