Ginger Nuts and Carrot Tops
By Adam Dixon
“Do you know much about the world before they took over?” Mandy asked, taking a long drag on her cigarette. Her colleague, Jack, leaned casually against the back door of the hair salon, staring at the brick wall of the alley in front of him.
“Not really, darling,” he replied, his voice musical and feminine. He inhaled vapour from his e-cig, the base of it lighting up in a flash of pink. “That’s why I’m curious about it. You lived through the change, though, didn’t you?” He cocked his head inquisitively as he asked, his silver earrings dancing merrily at the movement. Standing there in his stylish faded-blue jeans and trendy white shirt, Jack was in stark contrast to the plump older lady next to him dressed in a simple, muted dress and sensible shoes. He was the very picture of youth and optimism to Mandy, and she felt a longing for her simpler past. She nodded, absent-mindedly smoothing her fringe. Her hair, like Jack’s, was dyed bright orange.
Mandy and Jack both worked in the salon, and their main task each day was to treat customers’ hair with dye. Orange dye, exclusively; there were traces of the dye in their fingers from continual use of the stuff. That was the way of the world now, for during the 2020’s, ginger-haired people had unexpectedly, inexorably and irrevocably taken over the world. It was now 2053, and barely anyone could remember exactly how it had happened, but somehow it had. One of the first obligatory decrees that had been passed by the new world leaders had been that who had not been born with ginger hair must dye theirs bright orange. Initially, it had been a way of gaining a measure of revenge against decades of international ginger-jokes and ridiculing. It had since become part of the everyday structure of society once the initial grumbling and protestations had died down, and so bright orange hair could be seen from London to Beijing and everywhere in between.
“The bloody hair dye was the biggest change, obviously,” Mandy said, tucking a loose strand behind her ear. “Caused quite a bit of trouble once people realised that it was a serious demand. That’s why they had to get the Nuts involved.” Jack nodded, he knew that much. The Ginger Nuts, or just “Nuts”, were enforcers of the societal rules, essentially a secondary police force walking the streets. Many believe that the job title was again a means to subvert the previous stigmas towards red-haired people. It certainly appeared to have worked, as the Nuts were regarded with a grudging respect by the people of the world and were generally obeyed without question.
“Ginger Nuts…” Mandy continued, chuckling softly. “Why, I remember a time when that term was used to take the mickey out of the poor ginger lads and lasses! That and Carrot Top, but now they’re both respected titles! Unbelievable… Anyway, the dye created the new class system as well, labelling everyone ‘Pures’ or ‘Dyers’, as you know.”
“I read that Danny Dyer’s career took a bit of a nosedive thanks to those terms.” Jack said thoughtfully. Mandy threw her head back and cackled loudly.
“Yeah, and that was a good thing for us all!” She exclaimed with good humour. “One of the benefits we could all agree on!” She chuckled for a few moments, with Jack smiling and shaking his head.
“But, yeah, it all changed quickly,” Mandy said, becoming serious again. “Overnight, really, or at least it did to my mind. Quite a lot changed, but not all of it was noticed at first.”
“One of the major changes was the reshuffling of the monarchy, right?” Jack asked.
“Yeah, that was a bit of a to-do!” Mandy took another contemplative drag on her cigarette. “Prince Harry being declared the next in line to the throne ahead of William and his children. That caused quite a stir, make no mistake! Nearly caused some kind of civil war once Charles died! But it all settled down eventually and King Henry the Ninth was crowned without too much hassle. Not quite sure how they pulled that one, either, but they did.”
“Shocking,” Jack shook his head in disbelief. “It’s amazing how much stock people put in the royal family these days.”
“Well, you just watch this space, my lad.” Mandy said gravely. “Supreme Carrot Top Bollins has never been one for royals, even before all that power went to his head. He’ll likely abolish the monarchy in the UK if he has his way. He’d at least like to pretend to be a republican, I’ve heard. A republican emperor, imagine that!”
“We’ll see.” Jack appeared troubled. He shivered as a cold wind blew down the alley, brushing an unruly lock of hair across his high forehead.
“Why have you never asked me about this before, Jack?” Mandy asked, twirling her disappearing cigarette between her fingers. “We’ve worked together nearly two years now, you and I, and you’ve not asked anything about it all. So, why now?”
“I dunno, darling,” Jack shrugged, and gave Mandy an apologetic smile. “I suppose it’s just been on my mind recently. It all seems so ordinary to me, but at the same time it seems so silly, it’s hard to explain. Maybe my generation is brainwashed against that sort of thing, or maybe it’s just the job getting to me. It’s not exactly stimulating work, is it?” Mandy shook her head.
“You’ve got that right, love,” she sighed. “You’re a clever lad, and this ain’t exactly rocket science. But, it’s an important one in the grand scheme of things. Keeps people from getting arrested, which is fine by me even if it is a bit on the silly side. Don’t let anyone else hear you talking like that, though. It’s alright with me, cos I’ll never breathe a word, but others might take simple questions as rebellion and turn you in to the Nuts.”
“Don’t worry, darling,” Jack winked at her cheekily. “I know better than that. At least I can have a chat with a wise old mare like you if I’m feeling curious. That’ll do me just fine!”
“Old mare!” Mandy cried in mock outrage, swatting at Jack’s arm. “You little scamp! I’m not too old to give you a clip ‘round the earhole, sonny Jim!” Jack laughed and held up his hands in surrender.
“I know, I know! Sorry, darling, couldn’t help myself.” He smiled at her and slipped his e-cig back into his pocket. “We’d best get back to it, though. Don’t want Dave to think we’re skiving.” Now it was Mandy’s turn to grin.
“Oh no, we don’t want that,” she said sweetly as she nonchalantly ground her cigarette butt under her shoe. “He’ll have you over his knee in a heartbeat!” Jack grimaced as he opened the door for her.
“Oh, don’t!” He pleaded. “He would as well! Have you seen the way he looks at me? Dirty old perv!” Mandy cackled as she stepped back into the salon, her mirth filling the alley for a few brief moments. Beyond that, the world moved on in much the same way as it always had. People hurried to and fro along the street, each one about their own business, as usual. People lived, loved and laughed under the same sun, and very little was new…except that that same sun was now peering down on a sea of uniformly bright, orange hair.