Because in this technological age of progress and freedom, there are still some that lose out.


It's not a bad job. Could be much worse. I count myself lucky. In many ways it's much better than my old work: here, they don't make you carry glitter and wands and flimsy wings, and unlike my old job, you don't have to carry around the huge sack of coins on every shift, which is great news for a back like mine.

Yes, I was lucky to start out in the tooth fairy business. Joined it late, however, when the golden age of the company was long gone. Nowadays, the pickings aren't as rich. "Kids just aren't as imaginative as they were," the boss had said on my last day, shaking his head as he shook my hand. I repressed the urge to contradict him. I'd have said 'gullible'. Who'd want fifty pence for a loose rotten molar when complaining about the pain can earn a new video game? No one believes in the tooth business anymore. Besides, I've noticed that many mothers seem increasingly reluctant to part with these little mementoes of childhood: when the teeth stop coming, it's only a matter of time before the hair gel, vodka, and before you know it, it's a job for the condom fairy.

Nah, at least this career is stable. As I said, I count myself lucky in this day and age to be employed at all. There's less and less work these days. The bogeymen firm closed down years ago – insolvency. Used to be a great enterprise. Now, it's only a couple of freelancers that keep the reputation alive. Same for Closet Monsters ®. I guess furry fanged things just can't compete with hockey-masked lumberjacks these days.

Still, even in this kind of financial climate, my pay isn't too shabby. We keep most of what we collect (of course, leaving a few strands here and there to remain inconspicuous) and then sell the rest. People don't want plastic wigs and polyesters – the real human stuff is the key, and boy can it sell. My current client, a ponytailed artist, will be giving me a big bonus this season, tweezers crossed.

It's easy work too. All you need are some comfy shoes and tweezers (though on the heavy duty shifts some carry epilators too), and there's no end to the work. The firm has a huge clientele base. There are those that go for new customers, but in our rounds we just go to the regulars. Thesenames have been with the company for generations: we run in the family, so they say. We mind them, keep an eye out, don't make ourselves too obvious. Fired at work? We send our guys. Debt? New baby? We're on our way!

Course, when you do this sort of work, it tends to make you reflect on your own life a bit more. Most of our clients are past their prime, and so am I. The constitution isn't as fit as it was – relying a bit too much of the old dusts and sparkling powders to get around. Hah! There was a time when I could break the teeth of the meanest cat!

My wife? She ain't young, but the silver hair tends to help in her line of work. When we met, she was on the Three Wishes training course, and I was between jobs. Now, she says she's thinking of retiring. Things aren't what they used to be, she says. It's too much fuss finding clients with allotments or vegetable gardens, she says, let alone telling them to catch rats, and she got in trouble when she used her wand once on the girl's gerbil. There just aren't enough kitchens or pumpkins, and she'd never fit into this new disco/club scene. And besides, not everyone can marry Prince William. Not even her wand can accomplish that.

Of course I worry, though my salary's enough to support both of us. We have no kids to worry about, which is probably for the best. Sometimes I wonder what is the world coming too? My current career choice feels pretty secure, but in the long run, who knows? I'm not as fit as I was, so I dunno how much longer I can work. And will there be any more work? All those 'cures' the humans try (it makes me shudder to think of them. They don't work but it does make our job much harder) and all the genetic research they do – though all they need to solve that one is to look up our database.

The economy's in decline, they say, and who can deny it now? Him Up North, now that's a sad case, used to come out once a year, but now... no one knows where he is or how he is.

Still, there's one guy I know. He'll never want for work. Constantly on business trips, you wouldn't believe it. We don't meet often, usually in passing (he's a pretty taciturn guy, sole trader business, that's how it is); wouldn't call him a friend, but I've bought him a few drinks in my time.

Last time I talked to him, he asked me how my health was. "Not good" I said, "Not as active as I was, and local kids ain't never heard of Peter Pan, and the last guy I worked with had lice". I'll say this for him, he's a good listener.

I was gonna ask him how his work was going, but before I could, his pager beeped (he has it set to 'funereal carillon') and then before he even finished his drink, he had to go, he was that busy. He apologised (bedside manner's important in his line of work), but he had too meet with his three partners. Turns out, troops caught in some foreign battle, massive casualties, war zone. Food supplies cut off and medical aid can't get in. Pile of paperwork, v. urgent, gotta rush, bye.

"I'll see you soon, then?" I asked him, and then immediately regretted it. But he grinned at me in that toothy way of his, and said

HAIR TODAY...