It's what you asked for. by Stillcropped
I sat in the old fashioned barber shop and watched the old barber finish off a traditional short back and sides , as he dusted off his client he nodded at the chair saying ' take a seat , be with you in a moment'
As I sat in the chair,he threw the cape over me commenting on the weather and how it hadn't stopped raining for days , then 'so what are we doing, an all over or leaving a bit cover on top?' As it had only been 3 weeks since my last no3 all over his option was fairly easy to work out. I cleared my throat 'ehmm yes, I want it a bit longer on top but the back and sides taken in close'
As he reached for the clippers he asked 'how short do you want me to go on the sides and back?'
I took a deep breath and asked as a sort of question 'eh, as short as possible?'
He turned and in one movement bent my head down with his left hand and ran the electric clippers up the centre back of my head with his right , going all the way from nape to crown, he then turned the clippers off and put them back on their hook and picked up a hand mirror, showing me a wide strip of pelt covered scalp in the mirror he said 'well that's the bare blades, short enough?' His manner not so friendly.
I replied ' yes that will be fine,......if that's the shortest?'
He placed a hand on each of my shoulders , and looking at me in the mirror challenged ' I just told you that's the bare blades'
I was now getting a little annoyed and retorted,
'Yes I know you did but you also asked me if it was short enough, which would suggest to me that you could go shorter, I did ask you to go as short as possible , if that's it, fine , if there is an alternative then please show me'
There was a long pause, then he moved to the counter and opened a drawer and produced a velvet cloth which he unrolled on the top of the counter and removed something from the cloth. Moving behind me he again pushed my chin to my chest, and began to tell me a story.
'Every month I unwrap these, clean and oil them and set the blades, they were my father's and his father's before that.'
I felt cold steel on my neckline, then the skin being pulled tight causing a slight discomfort and me to move my head up to ease the tension which was met with a firm 'keep still' he continued 'I've not used these for over 5 years since one of my regulars passed away and frankly never thought I would use them again' I felt my hair being pulled tight then released with a slight nip to the skin ' these are finest English stainless steel clippers set to shave you to 1/250th of an inch ' the tension,release,nip sensation continued higher up my head ' any closer and you would need a razor , my head pulled back slightly then another nip, ' what they do is grab the hairs, pull them tight right at the follicle and then shear them off' as he spoke I visualised what they were doing , ' You need to be a skilled barber to use these as they can easily cut the skin' I felt them at the crown of my head and then he released his grip on me and placed the silver clippers back on the velvet cloth and again picked up the hand mirror. When he showed me the reflection I let out a loud gasp, beside the first cut strip was another about half as wide but instead of pelt there was merely a shadow of dark dots each of which had recently housed a hair, the contrast was startling. The barber traced his finger across both areas ' Bare blades 1/16th inch ,manual clippers 1/250th inch they don't make them like that anymore, I take it that's short enough for you?
I stammered 'They've shaved me bald!'
'It's what you asked for , as short as possible, so let's get you evened up and then you can decide what you want to do about the top'
'What do you mean?' I asked.
He held the mirror up again and pointed at the line between the 2 cut areas ' see that line? Well even if I clipper the top with the bare blades you'll still have that line between the top and the manual cut back and sides, your choice but it won't be the best look'
' what do you suggest?' Although I knew the answer.
He reached for the silver clippers and gave a laugh as he replied
'An all over, last you for months'
'Do I have a choice?'
Again he laughed ' when I used these every day many years ago my customers then had no choice, in ,clipped and out , in less than 5 minutes , repeated every 4 weeks although the repeats only took 2 minutes. But it's up to you, you can get up now if you want'
I swallowed and asked 'were you an army barber?'
His eyes glazed as he remembered days gone by ' as a matter of fact I WAS the platoon barber, but no,the times I'm talking about I was both a warden and barber in the local borstal. A good scalping was the first taste of discipline the bad boys got, no exceptions down to the wood , teddy boys or skinheads made no difference they all got the same treatment. You could see them squirming as they watched me skin the victim in my chair knowing they were getting the same next. No mirrors it was the next day in the shower before they saw my handiwork. It would do no harm if we had more of that today, world would be a better place. So what's it to be?'
Despite my predicament I had warmed to him, I had been a bit offhand and I realised he had decided to teach me a lesson I cleared my throat 'Five minutes and the shearing was done?'
He looked at me in the mirror and nodded slowly, I looked at my watch ' and now?'
I jumped as he barked 'sit up straight , no slouching you scruffy specimen' as I straightened myself in the seat I could see the years roll back in his eyes, he spun the chair to face away from the mirror then a firm hand on my forehead,my head tilted back looking at the ceiling and the feeling of the clippers pulling and shearing my locks from forehead to crown. He was very firm , bordering on rough as he silently pulled my head around to meet the clippers which seemed to be digging into rather than gliding across my scalp. I could feel my scalp being pushed by the teeth of the clippers and clumps of hair although short were thick and quickly built up in my lap. Finally he rubbed his hand over my entire scalp and applied the clippers in short strokes anywhere he found any hairs that had escaped the first pass. He set the clippers down and again placed both hands on my shoulders looked at the clock '6 minutes, not bad for an old timer! Now they never got this but I'm going to tidy up your neckline with the razor before I turn you round' he took another couple of minutes scraping away behind my ears and what I could feel high on my temple and way above my collar on my neck. As he slowly turned the chair to face the mirror staring back at me was a virtually bald convict with a seriously severe and humiliating head shave. My skin stung as he rubbed cheap after shave into the freshly shaved areas, he held up the mirror and a thin red line ran from mid ear to mid ear with no trace of hair below it, and sideburns had been razored square high above the top of my ear.
'Happy with that?' He asked
I smiled 'no not really'
The look on his face changed to thunder and I knew he was in another place ' No SIR!! And you should be grateful for a free haircut! Report back in 4 weeks'
I bit my lip and wondered how I had got into this mess 'ehm thanks but I don't think so, you've done a , well, good job, but not what I expected.... Sir'
He bristled slightly 'discipline,sadly lacking you got what you deserved and if you know what's good for you ,you'll be back in 4 weeks for a re-run and the next time no lip. Now out, go on, at the double'
At that I grabbed my jacket , left a note on the table and made my way out the shop to the sound of his laughter, wondering how I could possibly explain this bizarre haircut to my friends and more importantly my girl friend.