Chrome dome

Julie Norris blogged two days ago, “Beneath most tech writers lies a creative writer, I believe.” She also dusted off a story she wrote a while ago, posted it and asked the rest of us technical writers where our “real” writing is.

Fun idea, Julie! I’m bravely following your lead and posting an old story of mine. “Chrome dome” was published in Fair Lady magazine many years ago. It’s one of ten “real” stories and articles I’ve managed to have published over the years. Do you know those short, light-relief pieces that some magazines print on the last page? This was one of those. I hope you enjoy it.

Chrome dome

Do you go to the hairdresser just before a special occasion, or do you risk it only when you’re comfortably mid-way between them?

I felt like a slow-roasting chicken in an oven-bag. Goo oozed down my neck. Whenever I moved, cling-wrap crackled around my head and hot airstreams blasted my eyes. My lips were dry. The lip-gloss melted into thick blobs as I smeared it on.

In the world outside the hairdryer, a toddler whined. Not my problem.

Why do they have so many mirrors in these places? You turn to talk to your neighbour, only to find she’s in the opposite corner of the salon. I’m convinced there’s a design to it: to disorientate you, turn you into a mindless zombie. So that you won’t notice the hatchet job.

Thoughts bubbled to the surface of the heated cauldron that my brain had become. Did I turn off the iron before I walked out of my apartment? Is there enough money in my purse to pay for this torture session? What if the top of my head catches fire? Plan the escape-route to the nearest wash-basin.

At last Jacques appeared. My time was up. I emerged, exhausted but triumphant, secure in the knowledge that it would all be worth it. A quick rinse, and the glow of success was immediate. I relaxed into the chair, revelling in the sultry new me. The colour was a sexy, sensuous burgundy.

“Just a trim now?” Jacques stood by, scissors in hand. He picked up a hank of hair. “Mmm, gorgeous,” he murmured, caressing the lustrous thickness.

The thud-thud of tiny feet, a squeal of glee. That toddler again. Heads whizzed round. We all saw what was going to happen. Then we all went into suspended animation. All except the little horror. With a delicious crash, he rammed the instrument-trolley into Jacques’ hitherto immaculate back. There was a faint tug at my head, lost in the general mayhem. Shiny silver things rained all round me. The little horror squealed his fear and delight.

Then came an unnatural silence. Heads popped out from under dryers. All eyes were on me. Jacques stood stock-still. With that dream-like feeling of swimming through treacle, I turned back to the mirror. Jacques still held my hair. But it was no longer attached to my head.

“My Mommy’s gotta Mickey Mouse plaster.” Having imparted this useful bit of information, the little horror wandered off.

In the eerie stillness, Jacques lowered his arm and carefully laid the tress on the counter. He picked up a mirror, and showed me the bare streak curving over the crown of my head. I nodded. There was nothing to say.

“Get buzzed.” The suggestion came from a rotund, sympathetic man in the seat next door. He smiled at my shocked gasp. “No, doll, really. A high and tight. It’s the only thing to do. You’ll love it, really.”

I turned back to Jacques, my authority figure in this suddenly-changed world. He snapped out of his daze. “Have you ever considered a buzz-cut, Madam?” His eyes pleaded above the professional mask.

Actually, I had. I’d just never had the nerve to go through with it before.

The clippers peeled away the layers of hair. Jacques stood back to view the result. My head was so light, I felt dizzy. Goodbye, tired generation-X. I rubbed the back of my head, sensuous, cool. My hand rounded the crown of my head, stopped, went back to a large gash in the otherwise smooth fuzz. Jacques was shaking his head in despair. My neighbour danced up from his chair and stood on tiptoe to peer at the top of my head. The mirror again – there was still an uneven bare streak.

“How about a landing strip?” suggested Jacques uncertainly. His eyes were on my neighbour, not on me.

“Uh-uh. Not right for her.” He tilted his head to one side, then the other. His eyes lit up. “How’s about I write on it for you?” He twirled round, to display the four Xs marching across his head, from ear to ear. “We could do a rose… That gash there could be the stem…” Inspiration struck: “…Or a thorn?”

I was beginning to feel like a tarted-up tennis-ball. Time to started afresh, with a clean pate. Demi did it, and Sigourney too. Why not me?  I turned to Jacques. “Go for the chrome dome. Ms Clean. Make it gleam. High gloss please – and a bottle of baby-oil to go.”

Now heads turn as I walk down the street. I dash into a boutique. Suddenly I’m a power-dresser. Anything else looks silly. Everything is more real, more immediate. There’s nothing to come between my and my cellphone.

I hope my veil stays on at the wedding tonight.

The end

So come on tech writers, ‘fess up. 😉 What else have you written and where is it now? On occasion I own up to the writings of the opinionated, slightly staid bookworm who follows me around and dubs himself the travelling worm. Patty Blount writes about her fiction projects on her blog. Any more?

Thanks again to Julie for a cool idea.


About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 18 April 2010, in humour, technical writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Hi Sarah,

    The first thing that comes to mind is a tribute piece “Randy Pausch’s Legacy: A Lesson for Teachers” I wrote a while back (!).

    I don’t recall writing anything along the lines of “Chrome Dome”, however. Enjoyed reading it.

  2. Hallo Jim
    It’s nice to “see” you, and thank you for the link to your post. That’s a lovely tribute to Randy Pausch and to the great ideas he has given so many people. Bringing creativity into our day jobs, making it part of the teaching process and even further, part of the learning process – that’s awesome.
    Cheers, Sarah

  3. Amazing! My jaw dropped at her… your? bravery! I’d have gone for the wig.

    Great imagery. Loved it. (And thanks for the mention!)

  4. I admit I am T R Y I N G to write a horror novel. I know how it begins and how it ends. I finally have my protagonists’ names. The middle is a bit of a muddle, but I’m struggling through it. Being creative isn’t easy when you’ve just spent 8 hours on the clock as a technical writer.

    • Hallo Craig

      I luuurv a good horror story! You’d have to be careful your fiction style doesn’t creep into your day job.
      “Click the button. The window creaks open.”
      “Beware the popup. Click ‘OK’ if you dare!”

  5. techquestioner

    I wrote a children’s Christmas story about an elf for a writing class in college,and for my youngr siblings,that I’d love to get published if I could find someone to illustrate it. I’ve always imaginied it as a picture book, but never really followed it up.

    • I’d love to read that story. It sounds so cute. If your brothers and sisters enjoyed it then it’s already been through some strenuous user testing!

      There are places on the web where designers and graphic artists gather. Sometimes they do the odd project out of interest and for fun. I’ll ask my son if he can recommend somewhere where you could post your story and see if anyone has ideas for illustrating it.

      Cheers, Sarah

      • Here’s a reply, copied verbatim from a Facebook comment to my question about places on the web where designers and graphic artists gather.

        I know a few communities of great amateur artists who would doubtless have some people interested in work like that. (It would probably be necessary to offer payment though.)


        An excellent community with a range of skill levels. Your friend could either look for artists who are advertising or they could make their own thread somewhere on the forum with the job description.

        A list of artists for hire:

        A great example:


        Very similiar, perhaps slightly more professional and aimed towards digital art for games etc.

        A place to sign up as a potential employer:


        Much, much, more amateur. However, it would be cheaper, and you’re working with people who are more human!

        Here you must not post a request directly in the art forum unless you have a moderators permission. Payment would certainly be necessary here. An email/private message to a moderator with the details of the job, asking where to post the job offer would be a good idea.


        Hopefully I’ve been helpful in some way. Keep in mind that the examples these artists provide are more mature/cutting edge in style, but I’m sure they would be willing to do illustrations that a child would enjoy when they’re offered payment!

        === END QUOTATION ===

        Thanks Ryan!

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