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The Haunted Chair (Part 2 of 2) by JB


{{{ The Haunted Chair }}} Part 2 of 2


He smoothes it forward again, "Why can't I remember what
happened?...Did I join the Marines?"

Chuck shakes the hair clippings off the cape, "1 down and 2 to go, which one of you
jokers is next?"

Scott and Derek look at each other, silently asking who's going in the chair next. Scott
shrugs, "Me." He gets up and steps into the old barber chair.

With Matt and the college guy getting buzzed, there is a good-sized mound of hair on the
floor now. Chuck grabs a broom and starts sweeping it off to the side.

As Chuck finishes sweeping, Scott goes slack-jawed and glassy-eyed like the others
before him. The ghost of Danny Nordquist, a 1959 senior student at Mountain View high
school now occupies his body.

Danny/Scott sees his reflection in the old wall mirror, his dark blond flattop is a month
overdue for a tune-up. The front is an inch and a half long, his prized landing strip
disappeared 3 weeks ago, and the top is starting to flop over around the edges, angling
outward like a pair of feathery blond wings.

Chuck sets the broom aside and tosses the cape around Scott, "Maybe I should do what I
said a little while ago and take that haystack of yours down to a nice old-fashioned
flattop," he grins.

Danny's blond flattop is almost the same shade as Scott's layercut. He grins back and
brushes his hand across the furry, plush deck atop his head, "It IS gettin' kinda bushy,
isn't it...I wouldn't call it a haystack though."

Chuck lifts up a 6" long hank of Scott's honey-colored hair, "Looks like a haystack to
me," he grins and lets it fall back down.

Derek grins mischievously from the waiting area, "How 'bout a Marine-style butch like
you gave Matt?"

Chuck winks at Derek, "Sounds like a winner to me, Scott. A quarter inch butch, skinned
on the sides; that sound good to ya?"

When Danny/Scott doesn't respond, Chuck tries again, "How about it, Scott? Does that
sound good?"

Danny turns his head and sees Chuck waiting for a response, "Sorry, I thought you were
talkin' to that guy there," he points at Derek, "His name's Scott?...Hi, Scott. I'm Danny.
Glad to meet ya."

Both Chuck and Derek come to the conclusion that Scott is continuing the joke started
by the college guy, and they're no longer amused. Derek thought the first guy was a hoot,
and Matt carrying on with the joke was also funny, but kind of strange and creepy. And
now, with Scott, the joke has become old and stale. Derek sighs, "C'mon Scott, the joke
isn't funny anymore."

Danny looks puzzled, "I don't know who this 'Scott' guy is, I'm Danny Nordquist." He
looks up at Chuck,"Gee Roy, you've been cuttin' my hair since I was 12...you gave me
my first flattop when I started high school. And now..." He grins, "Oh, I get it...this is a
joke! You guys are actin' kooky just ta put one over on me; make me go ape on ya or
somethin', right? Jeepers, ya ought'a warn a guy first, I didn't know WHAT was goin'
on," he laughs.

Derek can't help but think, "Geez, where's Scott gettin' all this dorky language from? He
sounds like a character in some old black 'n' white movie."

Chuck sighs. He's given up trying to figure it out. "Fine," he thinks," If these bozos
wanna keep jokin' around, then OK. Let 'em. It's no skin off my back- they're the ones
who'll be stuck with these haircuts for the next few months."

He lifts Scott's hair up in back to fasten the cape around his neck, "OK, 'Danny', what
did'ya have in mind? Ya want that Marine-style butch?"

"You mean like a pigshave? Naw, I'd look like a goofball. I'll stick with my flattop. I
need ta look all spiffy for the senior prom on Saturday. Just square it up nice and sharp
and take it down close enough for a nifty landing strip on top...oh, and leave the sides
kind'a full and boxy-like, my girl Cindy, she likes the sides full...the landing strip is for
me." He grins.

Chuck grabs the rotary clippers off the hook and they start to [whrrrr], "A big ol' landing
strip for you and full boxy sides for yer girl, got it." Using a flattopper comb to grab
hold, he lifts the hair and begins running the clippers up through the shaggy, feathered
sides of the layercut that Scott spent years to perfect.

The bell above the door jangles again as 3 college students enter the shop. Vern's chair is
open so one of them climbs in while the others take seats against the wall. The guys in
the waiting area hear the whirring of the heavy-duty clippers and look over to see Scott's
golden haystack being buzzed off. They grin with fascinated horror and settle in to watch
the show.

After a minute or so, Chuck has taken Scott's sides down to a choppy tapercut like the
college guy/Rusty's mushroom-like cut at this stage. He lifts the top hair and makes
several quick swipes to remove the bulk, leaving it less than 2" long with some of it
standing up, some laying down, and some that can't quite make up its mind.

Chuck switches to the rescued clippers and methodically squares up Scott's sides to a
sharp boxy taper, a little over an inch long near the top, "How's that, full enough for ya?
Is 'Cindy' gonna like it?"

Danny/Scott brushes the back of his hand up through his tapered sides, "Yes sir. That
looks swell. Feels good t'be squared away again. We've been real busy plantin' our fields
for the last few weeks. Between that and my schoolwork, I didn't have time t'come in for
my regular tune-up."

Chuck spends the next few minutes leveling the top using the clippers over the flattopper
comb. Because of the fullness of Scott's sides, he has to arch the top downward a bit to
achieve a decent landing strip, "Full on the sides, short on top. Is that how ya wanted it?"

Danny/Matt tilts his head down to get a good look at his landing strip, "Neat! This'll look
swell with that white tux I rented for the prom."

Derek, sitting across from Scott, shakes his head in disbelief. He never thought he'd see
his buddies getting butched and flattopped. And just for some lame joke, "Geez." He
sees the other guys in the waiting area looking at Scott's flattop with the same disbelief
as himself.

"How about a little Butch Wax?" Chuck asks, fully expecting that Scott has never heard
of it before.

"Naw, that stuff makes my hair look all stiff and spiky-like. Cindy likes it lookin' soft
and fluffy...so do I, I guess. A little brilliantine would be good though, but not too much,
OK? Just enough t'make it a little more shiny."

Chuck is surprised that Scott knows about Butch Wax, and even more surprised that he
knows about brilliantine. He rummages through the bottles and tubes of hair products on
the counter, "Brilliantine...brilliantine," he says to himself, "...I know I've got some here
somewhere...here it is." He splashes a few drops of the oily liquid into his hand, rubs his
palms together and starts massaging the brilliantine through Scott's boxy flattop, "Huh..."
he thinks, "How did Scott know about brilliantine?...Good call, though. Really brings out
the highlights in his hair...Maybe he got the info from the old ad posters on the wall."

Chuck rinses his hands off and lifts the blow dryer off its hook [WHRRR]. He grabs a
boar-bristle brush in his other hand and starts standing Scott's flattop up to its full extent.
The bristles of the brush separate Scott's hair into its individual strands, giving it a glossy
look that catches the light from every direction.

Danny/Scott shouts over the noise of the dryer, "When did you get that, Roy? That air-
gun whatchamacallit...Jimminy! It sure is noisy...Kinda nifty, though. What'll they think
of next." He grins.

Despite his annoyance at Scott for continuing this strange joke, Chuck can't help taking a
liking to this 'Danny' character that Scott invented, "Good kid," he thinks. "With this
flattop haircut he reminds me of myself at that age; comes from a farming family; hard
worker; excited about takin' his girl to the prom...wonder where Scott picked up all the
old '50s slang?...I didn't know he had it in him." Chuck doesn't realize just how true that
last part is.

The blow dryer gets returned to the tool rack and Chuck finishes up by using the edger at
the base of Scott's neck. After a few seconds with the duster brush he lifts the cape away,
"There ya go, sport. Enjoy yer shiny new flattop...yer gonna have it for a while."

Danny/Scott grins and climbs out of the chair, "You bet!" As he pulls his wallet out his
grin disappears and he starts to blush as he sees the price list on the wall, "Five dollars!
..Jeepers Roy, last time I was in, it was only a dollar fifty...I don't think I have that much
with...oh wait, I guess I do. Golly, where'd all this money come from? There must be at
least 15 or 20 dollars in here!" He gives Chuck a five, "Thanks, Roy." He stands in front
of the old wall mirror and runs his hand down his landing strip, "It'll probably be a while
before I come in again...I don't think I can afford t'get it cut as often anymore." He heads
for the door, "See ya, Roy."

Derek calls out, "Hey Sco...er, 'Danny', aren't ya gonna wait for me t'get my haircut?"

"Sorry, Scott. I've gotta pick up my tux for the prom. And after that, I got chores t'do
...Maybe next time." The overhead doorbell jangles as he leaves the shop.

Chuck is annoyed but not angry, "So Derek, ya wanna tell me what's goin' on here?"

"Hey man, don't look at ME. I don't know why they're actin' so weird...Yer not gonna see
ME gettin' a butch or a flattop!"

Chuck isn't buying it, "You guys cooked up this little joke with that first guy, 'Rusty',
didn't ya?"

"No way! He was already here when we came in. I've never seen him before!"

Vern chimes in, "I can vouch for part of his story. That college guy was in here a good
15 or 20 minutes before the 3 stooges came in..." He chuckles, "Y'know, we always call
those kids 'The 3 Stooges', well now they look the part: Matt, with his short butch, well
he's obviously Curly. Scott, his hair isn't frizzy, but the sides of his boxy flat are longer
than the top, so he's Larry. And Derek here, with his dark bowlcut, well he's gotta be
Moe." The barbers chuckle amongst themselves.

"Very funny." Derek says as he tosses his bangs out of his eyes and steps into the old
barber chair.

Out on the sidewalk, Danny/Scott is approaching the furniture store where Matt is still
sitting on the bench. Matt has been trying to come up with an explanation for his tight
butch haircut and why he can't remember how or when he got it. He looks up and sees
Scott walking toward him, "Hey Scott!" His eyes zero-in on Scott's flattop, "Geez man,
you too?...Hey!...Where ya goin'? Slow down, I wanna talk to you."

Danny/Scott stops, "You mean me? Huh...the guys back in the barbershop called me
'Scott' too...Do we know each other?"

"Well of course we know each other! Stop jokin' around. I'm tryin' ta figure out how we
got these haircuts...do you remember how you got that...flattop?" Even though he's
distraught, Matt can't help from snickering a bit.

"Sure I remember..." Danny/Scott looks at Matt and frowns, "Are you sure we know
each other? 'Cuz I think I'd remember a guy with a haircut like yo..." Scott's eyes go
vacant and his jaw slackens as Danny leaves his body.

Matt notices the blank look on his friend's face, "Hey Scott...are you OK? You look like
yer havin' a seizure or somethin'."

Scott blinks a few times, "Yeah, I'm fine." He glances around, "How'd I get out here?...I
was..." He concentrates, "I was sitting in a barbershop...Chuck's shop..." He looks at
Matt and grins, "I was watching you get butched!" He points at Matt's high and tight
haircut and laughs.

"Take a look in that mirror there, why don'tcha." Matt points to the furniture store
window. He watches as Scott takes a few steps over to the window. He sees Scott's eyes
bug out and his jaw drop.

"What the hell!?" Scott presses his face as close to the glass as he can and reaches up to
feel his landing strip, "What happened?...When did I get this, this...flattop!..oh wow,
man...Geez!" He was almost in tears, partly from losing his well-sculpted layercut, but
mostly from confusion.

"Surpriiise." Matt says, dryly.

Scott steps back to get an overall view of himself. He runs his fingers up through the
plush, shiny sides then wipes his oily hand on his "Class of '79" T-shirt, which is at odds
with his "Class of '59" flattop, "How did this happen?"

As Derek settles into the old chair, Chuck grins and tosses the cape around him, "So
what'll ya have, Derek? A Marine-style crewcut? Or maybe an old-fashioned flattop like
yer buddy Scott."

Vern adds to the teasing, "If ya ask me, he'd look good with a high 'n' tight butch like ya
gave Matt."

Derek blushes humiliatingly at the idea of getting a short haircut, "Knock it off, you
two...I don't know why Matt and Scott got those dorky looking haircuts but I'm just
gonna get..." Derek's eyes go blank and his jaw drops open. The spirit of Greg Varley, a
1964 sophomore at Mountain View high school enters his body.

"Gonna get what?" Chuck continues his teasing, "A flattop with fenders?...A mohawk?"
He sees the vacant look on Derek's face and gets a little concerned, "Hey Derek, you
OK?"

Greg/Derek blinks his eyes, "What?...I felt kinda dizzy for a second...it's OK now,
though...What'd you say?" Greg's voice is still breaking, high and low, having recently
gone through puberty. The others hear Derek's regular, mature voice.

"I asked you how you wanted yer hair cut." Chuck can't quite put his finger on it, but he
senses something has changed in Derek.

"Oh. I guess you better give me a shortcut like I had last year, y'know, above my ears,
standin' up on the sides and kinda short on top too, but still layin' down, I still wanna
have some bangs in front, y'know? I don't really WANT a shortcut, I spent all summer
growing my hair out like this, y'know, like the Beatles. But today in school I saw some
older guys, juniors I think, they had crewcuts so they're probably on the football team.
Anyway, they pulled this kid into the boy's restroom, he had long hair like me. The older
guys came out laughing and then the other kid came out with a REALLY short butch!
'bout an eighth of an inch! And he was kinda crying...One of the older guys looked at me
all grinning-like. So I think they're probably gonna do to me what they did to that other
kid...They don't like guys with long hair...some sorta 'jock' thing, I guess."

"Wait, wait, wait." Chuck is inundated by Derek's long and rambling recital. He tries to
break it up into smaller pieces, "You said the other boys were older than you? I thought
you were a senior this year."

"Me? I'm a sophomore. This is my first week in high school...you knew that."
Greg/Derek looks puzzled.

In the back of his mind, Chuck thinks Derek is playing the same game as his buddies
before him, but he's not sure. Something seems different this time, "Hmm," he thinks,
"Just a minute ago, before he got that dizzy spell, Derek seemed genuinely horrified at
the prospect of getting a short haircut, but now..."

Chuck fastens the cape in back and grabs the rotary clippers. As they begin to [whrrr],
the other 2 college students in the waiting area look over and grin, anticipating another
major shearing.

As with the others, Chuck quickly removes the bulk of the hair from the sides and back
then spends the next several minutes smoothing away the choppiness till Derek is left
sporting a sharp, uniform taper all around his head- 1/4" long at the sideburns, 1 1/2
inches at the crown. He repeatedly lifts a comb up through the thick plush sides,
checking for irregularities and clippering them off. Chuck switches to the edger, squares
up Derek's short sideburns and outlines his ears and neck.

He still wants to know if Derek is playing a game, or if it's something else. He asks
Derek some more questions, hoping to trip him up and give himself away, "So, Derek..."

"Greg," Greg/Derek corrects him, "Why'd you call me Derrick? That's my brother's
name."

Chuck continues, "OK, 'Greg'...must'a been a slip of the tongue...What's yer last name
again?"

"Varley. Greg Varley...but you already know all this stuff, Roy. Sorry...Mr. Koslowski.
My parents said I should call you by your last name, out of respect.

"Again with the 'Roy' thing," Chuck thinks, "Sounds so familiar..." He starts combing the
top of Derek's hair over to one side, "You wanna leave yer hair down on yer forehead, or
parted on the side?"

Greg/Derek thinks for a sec, "Better part it on the side. Those big guys at school really
hate how the Beatles' hair hangs down in the front."

"Better safe than sorry, huh?"

"Yeah. I don't wanna end up with a butch like that other kid...I had a butch till I was 13,
about 2 years ago. It was OK I guess, but then everybody started growing their hair
longer and I didn't want to look like a nerd so I grew mine out too, like I'm getting today,
a shortcut."

Again, Chuck is swamped with Greg/Derek's rapid-fire storytelling, "Whoa. Slow down,
Motormouth."

Greg laughs, "That's what my dad calls me- Motormouth. I guess I kinda talk too fast
when I get wound up."

Chuck side-parts Derek's hair, trimming the outer edge so that it just starts to flop over,
like a rooster tail. He combs Derek's bangs down on his forehead and uses the clippers-
over-comb method to slice the bangs off at a sharp angle- about 2" at the longest point;
barely an inch at the shortest, near Derek's temple. He spends a couple of minutes
blending the longer top hair with the sharply tapered sides.

Chuck steps in front of the chair and studies Derek's tapercut for symmetry. Satisfied, he
loosens the cape in back and dusts the loose hairs away. Seeing the top of Derek's
football jersey, he tries again to trip him up, "So Der..I mean 'Greg', are the Mustangs
gonna go all the way this year?"

"The Mustangs?...Are they some college team? I don't think I've heard of them."

Chuck starts to lose his patience. He loosens the cape and pulls it partly away, "Yer
wearin' a Mustangs jersey! The Benton high school Mustangs!"

Greg furrows his brow and looks down at his short-sleeve madras print shirt, "I'm not
wearing a jersey...and anyway, why would I wear some other school's jersey?..If I was
wearing a jersey it would say Mountain View high school Coyotes...I don't understand
what yer talking about, Roy..Mr. Koslowski."

Chuck frowns for a second, then his eyes widen in astonishment, "Mountain View!?.."
he says. He thinks back a week earlier when he and his brother Wade salvaged the old
chair from the deserted town, "The barbershop", he thinks, "the sign said Roy's
Barbershop...Roy!" He recalls his own words, "Fine old name for a fine old shop!
...What's goin' on here? How do these guys know about Mountain View?"

He presses Derek/Greg with more questions, "So uh, 'Greg', did'ya do anything exciting
this summer?"

"Not really. My friends and me rode our bikes a lot...mostly to the lake t'go swimmin'
...the lake seemed really warm this year." He grins, "The summer before last, our family
went to the Seattle World's Fair. That was a blast! We went up in the Space Needle, that
was real neato. And we..."

Chuck interrupts, "Whoa, whoa, whoa...You went to the World's fair? In Seattle? That
was in '62, right?"

"Yeah. Two years ago. So anyway, we..."

"So this year is 1964?" Chuck is fully aware that 1964 is the year of the Mountain View
tragedy.

"Well duh! Gee Roy, yer sure actin' weird..."

The others in the shop were looking at each other with bemused grins. They didn't know
what to make of Derek's time-travel story.

Greg/Derek continued, "So anyway, they had a bunch of cool carnival rides at the
World's Fair, most of 'em I've never seen before. Me and my brother Derrick went on this
one ride, the Meteor. It's kinda like a Scrambler only it tilts up like the Round-Up.
Anyway, we had just eaten a Belgian Waffle with whipped cream and strawberries and a
stretchy donut-like thing called a fri-jo and Derrick got sick on the Meteor and threw-up!
The barf went flying everywhere and landed on a lot of people, it was soooo cool!"

By now, everybody in the shop was either chuckling or outright laughing, including
Chuck and Greg/Derek.

Greg/Derek continues, "And then we went into this big building and got into this clear
bubble-elevator thing and went up into all these shiny metal cube-things. I don't
remember much what we saw up there but it kinda neat." Greg wrinkles up his nose,
"Pew. Who cut the cheese?"

The others laugh.

"Man, somebody really let one!"

More laughter ensues, and a few shrugs as nobody else smells anything out of the
ordinary.

Greg/Derek isn't laughing anymore, "Whew! It's getting worse...it smells like rotten
eggs."

The laughter stops as the others begin to wonder if there's a gas leak in the
neighborhood. Yet, nobody else smells anything unusual.

Greg/Derek holds his hand to his forehead, "Geez...it's giving me a headache." He
glances out the shop window, "Hey! There's people fallin' down out there!...There goes
another one!"

One of the college guys gets up from the waiting area and looks out the window, "I don't
see anybody falling down, just people walking by."

Greg/Derek pounds his hand against his head trying to stop the pain, "Ow. My head
really hurts bad...Roy? Maybe we should get out'a he..."

Greg's head slumps down onto his chest and he starts to fall forward.

Chuck grabs his shoulder. He's really worried now. He jostles Derek, trying to rouse him,
"Hey, Derek...Greg?...You OK?...Hey!"

Greg is no longer present. Only Derek remains. He takes an abrupt deep breath and
blinks his eyes, "What?...Ow. Why does my head hurt? Did I fall asleep or somethin'?"
He absently runs his hand up through his hair, stopping suddenly when he feels the plush
tapered sides, "What the..." He gets out of the chair and looks at himself in the old wall
mirror, "Geez!..When did THIS happen!?..Did you do this, Chuck?...Geez!"

Chuck looks apologetic, "Sorry Derek, but that's the haircut you asked for." He thinks for
a second, then adds, "Do you remember anything about Greg?"

"Who?...Greg who. Did he tell you to cut my hair off like this?...I look like I'm in first
grade again. Geez." He looks around the shop, "Is he here now? Is one of you guys
Greg?"

Chuck sounds emotionally spent, "No. Greg's not here anymore."

Derek digs out his wallet but Chuck waves him off, "No charge today Derek. I can't
really explain why you got that haircut...maybe one day, but not today...Go find yer
buddies. Maybe together, you guys can come up with an explanation."

Derek frowns uncomprehendingly and heads out the door, running his hand up the back
of his tapercut.

Chuck has a haunted look in his eyes. With apprehension, he asks, "Who's next?"
__________

A few days later, Sunday, Chuck is nearing the end of his drive back to the deserted
town of Mountain View. His old beater pickup has left the wooded hills behind and is
barreling along the highway surrounded by sagebrush and the occasional pine tree. He's
traveling alone this time, his brother Wade having ended his visit a week earlier.

Chuck has been going crazy trying to come up with an explanation for what happened at
the barbershop. He figures if any answers are to be found, they will be found in
Mountain View. Aware that the town was scheduled for demolition, he hopes he isn't too
late.

There haven't been any other 'visitors' to the barbershop since Greg, he was the last one.
Which made sense to Chuck, since Greg was the last person to sit in the old barber chair
when he succumbed to the toxic volcanic gas.

The pickup reaches the crest that overlooks the town. In the distance he sees the placid,
but deadly lake- everything else is gone, "Dang! I'm too late." He stops his truck next to
the bullet-ridden population sign, which is the only thing remaining of the town of
Mountain View, Pop. 7,200.

He gets out of his pickup and gazes at what used to be the main street. Every bit of the
town has been removed, leaving just freshly bulldozed earth and a few newly planted
saplings to give the area a headstart back to its natural state, "Dang," he says again.

He opens the door of his pickup and starts to climb in when, through the passenger's-side
window, he spots an overgrown dirt road heading away from the highway. He walks
around his truck and looks at the dusty tracks heading off toward a hill about half a mile
away, "Maybe there's still a house or two up there...worth a look, anyway."

He turns to head back to his truck when he sees a small weather-beaten wooden sign
lying facedown next to the dirt road. He picks it up, turns it over and brushes the dust
off, "Cemetery," he reads. His eyes follow the road snaking around the hill, "Well it's not
much, but it's all I've got."

He props the sign up in a clump of sagebrush, gets in his truck and heads up the narrow
dirt road, his truck getting a thick coat of dust along the way.

At the top of the hill he drives into the cemetery and parks in a small turnaround. The
first thing he notices is a large, 6 foot, polished granite marker standing off to one side.
He gets out of his truck and looks down at the lake and what would have been the town,
"Nice view." On his way to the granite marker he looks at a few of the graves and
quickly realizes that not much info can be gained from them. Most of the markers have
faded with age and are illegible, or are overgrown with thick brush. A couple of the plots
are fairly well maintained, "Hmm, evidently some surviving family members still make a
yearly trek to spruce up the grave site." Chuck doesn't recognize any of the names on the
headstones and continues over to the large marker.

The polished granite monolith is a memorial to the townsfolk who perished from the
toxic gas. Chuck reads the dedication at the top of the stone slab:

- In Memory Of Our 127 Loved Ones Who Lost Their Lives In The Great Disaster Of
September 10th, 1964. You Will Always Be With Us -

Below the inscription are the names and ages of those who perished. Chuck scans the
first column of chiseled names and immediately catches his breath when he sees:

Russell (Rusty) Baker - Aged 11

Chuck is filled with sadness and wonder, "Are you the Rusty that visited my shop?" He
traces the engraved letters with his fingers, "Guess you never got to grow your hair
longer like you wanted..." He has a sudden flood of emotion, partly from thinking about
all the things that Rusty never got to do, and the realization that he has been part of
something miraculous, sorrowful, joyful and inexplicable. He wipes a tear from the
corner of his eye, "Sorry that I was a little short tempered with you, Rusty...I didn't
know."

The next familiar name he encounters on the memorial is:

Arnold Gunderson - Aged 49

"Arnie Gunderson...You seemed like a hardworking, no-nonsense kind of guy, like my
brother Wade. And an adventurous outdoorsman, like me...I think we would've been
buddies."

The next name that jumps out at Chuck is:

Roy Koslowski - Aged 67

"Roy...we finally meet. A fellow barber. They all thought I was you...funny how that
works...Thanks for the old chair...and the clippers, and all the other stuff. I'll put it to
good use."

Chuck reaches the end of the first column of names and starts down the second:

Daniel Nordquist - Aged 23

Chuck puts his hand on the name, "Danny...aged 23." He does a mental calculation,
"We're probably the same age, both graduating in '59...You were just getting started with
your adult life...Did you hitch up with Cindy? Did you have any kids?"

There is only one more name that Chuck would be familiar with. He runs his hand down
the smooth stone until he gets to:

Greg Varley - Aged 15

Chuck smiles, "Motormouth...I'm glad you got to enjoy the World's Fair...I wouldn't
worry about losin' yer Beatles haircut, they broke up a few years later anyway...you
should see how guys are wearin' their hair today!" His grin turns sort of wistful, "You
had a way with words, you could've been a writer..." His grin returns briefly, "or a
politician." His grin disappears completely as he recalls Greg/Derek slumping over in the
chair, "...I hope you didn't suffer too much." He wipes another tear away.

Chuck steps back a few paces to view the memorial in its entirety, stopping to
contemplate all the what-might've-beens, the nature of life, and what comes after.

He turns to walk back to his pickup and stops abruptly. On the dust-covered driver's-side
window is written:

Thank you
- Roy

For a couple of seconds Chuck is astonished and bewildered. Then he swivels around
quickly and scans the area, looking for the culprit. But there is no one else, and nowhere
to hide in the low-growing sagebrush.

He turns again to look at the impossible writing and is further astonished to see that,
now, all the dusty windows have been written on, "That wasn't there before," he thinks.
Then he shouts, "That wasn't there before!"

On the back window are the names:

Rusty Arnie

On the passenger's-side window is written:

Danny

And across the front windshield:

Greg

Each name has been written in the dust in the unique style of handwriting belonging to
its owner.

Chuck laughs...the cries. Then laughs some more, "I thought that was just an old saying-
'Don't know whether to laugh or cry'. And here I am...laughing and crying." He laughs
again and wipes the tears off his face.

He places his hand flat against the 'Thank you' message on the driver's-side window and
silently offers up his own thanks to Roy and the ghosts/spirits/essences of the four
visitors.

Chuck opens the door to his old beater truck and turns toward the cemetery once again.
He raises his hand in a silent farewell and climbs into the pickup.

As he heads back down the dusty road to the main highway, he gives his horn a quick
[HONK, HONK], "Goodbye Greg and Scott and Rusty and Arnie. Goodbye Roy." He
reconsiders his words and laughs, "On second thought, I'll see you later!"




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