One sunny day when I was eleven, Kenny and I retrieved a large mirror from my basement, stole across the train tracks and from a perch on top of the loading dock aimed a laser beam of bright reflected sunlight over the main street, through the barber shop window, and into the eyes of Mr. N–, who at the time was giving one of his take-no-prisoner haircuts to an unfortunate. Collateral damage.
Villainous? Yes. But it was adolescent retribution with cause. The eye-blinder was for all the pinches, puckers and nicks he put into my oversized ears and skinny neck over one year of forced and anguished visits.
Before each haircut I pleaded with my dad, showing my scars, revealing iniquitous horrors, but he must have had some kind of mutual commercial agreement, to wit: Mr. N– bought our Springside Shopping Center groceries, and I, with father’s coin, got his Pool Hall and Barber Shop haircuts–bloodletting thrown in at no cost.
As for my friend Kenny, he had a vested interest in the crime, although to a lesser degree; because, after a couple of regrettable Kenny croppings, his dad gave in to my friend’s protests and stopped sending him.
The barber was probably not what we had imagined him to be–part senile, part shell-shocked. But he was shaky. We assumed it was from age, or from whatever went on at the Legion.
It was the clippers’ never-to-be-changed blunt edge of the sickle that tore the skin. And whenever he went for it, snapping the electric servo into rabid life, I slunk into his black leather barber chair so far that he had to give the hydraulic foot pump two more kicks to get me back to slashing height.
But when he was on me I stayed stone-still. Only my dilated pupils moved, darting this way and that, trying not to seize on the leather strop hanging by my side, or stop at the shelf by the window where the straight razor soaked in a fluid-filled glass jar. A dermatological tailings pond.
My motionless state didn’t matter. There was hamburger to be made. And when all the cuts were stanched–some requiring time–I left shorn, but looking like I had an angry English hedgehog dragged over my head and down the back of my neck. Quitting the chair and emerging from his shop was like a scene from Hellraiser.
So I didn’t feel bad, when on that bountiful sun-sweet day, he came racing out the front door brandishing a comb still dripping with blue Barbicide. Me and Kenny just flattened ourselves into specks. Mr. N–, confused, finding nothing close by, recalculated and lifted his head to our horizon. But at that distance he couldn’t make us out, let alone make the chase. So he shook his comb in our direction and retreated into his den twisting the Venetian shutters closed.
Kenny and I took an exaggerated circuitous route back to the Shopping Center, where I lived, and which happened to be right beside the barber shop. We slunk through the back door and into the basement, put the mirror back in its place, and setup living with our perfect transgression.
I’m still living with it. You see, to me, long hair was more than an anti-establishment statement, it was also a safety measure. Even now, 40 years later, I resist the shearing chair. It had crossed my mind, but I’ll not start my new year with a haircut. Cheers!
Happy New Year! Love to all!