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THE HAIRY LITTLE GIKL/Pamela Ward TEN YEARS AGO, Mrs. Lewis and I had a hairy little girl and we named her Penny. She was like this: slim and delicate, yet with that sweet puff of infancy that softens each soon-to-lengthen line. She was covered all over with white-gold swirls ofhair, whorled like the pelt on a newborn goat, but thinner than a goat's hair. Yet it could not at all be called thin. It was in fact remarkably heavy for a human child. The hair was about half an inch long on her arms and legs, somewhat shorter and finer on her trunk, and spread its bright veil right over her lovely little face. The hair that sometimes covers infants at birth is called lanugo. Normally it is dark, and normally it disappears in the early weeks. In Penny's case it was colored like a fast fire, and the doctor who delivered her—Dr. Putnam of Mercy Arts Hospital—held my newborn daughter up to the light in the first seconds of her life and observed in astonishment: "Hah! Blond lanugo! And a lot of it!" Lanugo, little new lagoon, New and goony loony tune, Renew the dew beneath the moon, Loony little new lagoon. Lanugo, little new lagoon, New and spoony trial balloon, Ring a rhythm 'round the rune Loony little new lagoon. As things turned out, it was fortunate that the hair was not black, because after a full decade it is still there, and, indisputably, there is a difference in effect between dark hairiness and fair hairiness. Had Mrs. Lewis and I found ourselves parents of a little mink, sleek as midnight , rather than of the small fleecy cloud we got, it would have almost certainly been more than we could deal with. Genesis tells that Esau was twin brother to Jacob and son to Rebekah and Isaac. This, of course, would be Isaac of the trinitarian invocation: "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." No "Esau" in that trinity, you notice. But Esau was the elder son, the firstborn, the rightful heir. Apparently the God ofAbraham et al. was simply not minded to be the 176 · The Missouri Review God of Esau as well. This firstborn, Esau, was, from birth onward, hairy. "My brother Esau is an hairy man," saith his brother Jacob, "but I am a smooth man." And Jacob, by his own guile and his mother's partiality , by his father's senility and the fickle intervention of the Lord God of the Chosen Ones, defrauded his brother, Esau, even unto this day, of both birthright and blessing. Clearly, Jacob knew how to get on in the world. I am Mr. Lewis, my first name is BiU, and I am a man given to daydreams , a doctor of philosophy. On the occasions when it is necessary that I look upon my physical seU, I prefer to do so in the mirror of the downstairs bathroom, where the defective design of the light fixture produces shadows that score my face into a ruminative mask. I know that, in natural light, all my plump round circles give quite a different impression, distressingly like a Uttle Dutch Buddha. Almost forty when Penny was born, I have in the years since then entertained myself a good deal with my oddly endowed little daughter. When as a tiny child she misbehaved—which was seldom because Penny really was a very good little girl, a natural performer too shy for the stage—I threatened her not with the bogeyman but with the Argonauts. I evolved for her a string of nicknames ranging from Loony Tune to Lamb of God and from Amalasuntha to, of course, Esau. Esau is the name that sticks in me, the name I have not spoken aloud. In her younger years, Penny responded to all of the verbal games and all the namings, each of which related tangentially in her father's mind to her fleece, in good spirit and perfect innocence. Though I've done her no good by my games, neither have I meant her harm. It is just that, for a long time now, I've played with...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 176-201
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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