Welcome to the Club by Vittore
Since my work takes me all over the state, to little towns and city streets a casual visitor would miss, and since I like to keep my hair neat and businesslike, I’m always on the lookout for a barbershop. The other day, as I drove through a place that was not much more than a post office, a general store, and few houses, I noticed a tiny one-room shop with two cars and a pickup parked in front. The red-and-white barber pole was twirling.
It was only a week since my last haircut, but the place had an old-time look, and I couldn’t resist. Maybe I would have to wait on the other customers, but I was in no hurry. I pulled in beside the pickup, got out, and stretched my legs. As I reached for the door handle, it swung in, and a man’s voice greeted me.
"Come on in, there’s room for one more."
A man in his forties who could have been a cop or a farmer held the door. He was in good shape, with a broad chest and arms bulging out of a black T-shirt. A man much like him was in the one barber chair, under a camouflage-pattern cape. The barber looked to be in his fifties, but he was as fit as the other two men, in a tight black polo shirt tucked into black pants. He was the one who had spoken, in a pleasant bass register.
"I’m almost done with Len, here, so take a seat , and I’ll be with you shortly."
I sat, and the three carried on with their conversation. They all knew each other. The barber’s name was Jim and the man who opened the door for me was Norm. I gathered that Len and Norm were cops, they hunted in the woods whenever they got the chance, and they were old friends. Jim seemed to be an ex-cop, and he shared their interest in sports and the outdoors.
The usual magazines and newspapers were scattered around. I usually pick one up to browse, especially if the paper has local news and ads. This time, though, I couldn’t help staring at the three men. Each had a completely shaved head—no stubble, no whiskers.
The barber put the finishing touch on Len, a dab of oil that he rubbed in the scalp to make it shine, then whipped off the cape. As Len stepped down, the barber looked me in the eye.
Len was a bit shorter than Norm, but if anything more muscular. Norm made no sign of getting up, and instead of leaving the shop as I expected, Len sat beside his buddy. Both wore black tactical pants with the ends tucked into military-style boots. They seemed to be waiting for something.
I climbed into the barber chair, and Jim wafted the cape over me.
"What will it be?"
"Just a light trim," I said.
"Are you sure? It looks to me like you had a haircut not more than a few days ago."
"Maybe. I travel a lot, so I forget."
"That’s too bad. I thought maybe you came in here on a mission."
"What kind of mission?"
"You know, to have done with it once and for all. Quit fussing with that mess on your head and get cleaned up. Like these two gentlemen here."
"You mean a head shave?" I was nervous, but also intrigued. I knew about the bald-by-choice look, and I admired men who had the guts to go through with it, but I never considered it for myself.
"I talked Len and Norm into it, and look at them now, happy and free. I hate to say it, mister, but you’re going gray and getting thin on top. You’d look ten years younger with no hair at all. How old do you think I am?"
All three laughed.
"See, that proves my point. Sixty-seven, and still going strong."
"It’s a great look and a great feeling," Norm said. He laid a big paw on Len’s bald head and stroked it.
"Once you shave, you’ll never go back to hair," Len said. He clearly enjoyed the attention. He placed a hand on his friend’s bare scalp and returned the favor.
"What do you say, mister? I don’t think you took the time and trouble to drive all the way here just to get a snip."
"Jim will treat you right," Norm said.
"Smooth as a baby’s butt," Len said.
"You can make me look like one of these guys?" I said.
"Well, they’re a little younger, still wet behind the ears. More like me."
Again, Jim fixed me with those steely eyes. Inches away from his gleaming head, where the skin was untroubled by so much as a hint of hair.
"Can I keep my beard and mustache?"
"What do you say, boys?" Jim addressed the audience.
"The beard is getting gray, too," Norm said.
"Trim it down to the chin," Len said. "And clipper the mustache. All he needs is some fuzz around the mouth."
All I could do at this point was nod. Jim grabbed his clippers, and before I could voice a second thought, he made a few quick passes. He sheared all the hair off my head and most of the beard. He then used a hot, wet towel to soften the stubble, smeared cream all over, and removed every last bit of hair with a straight razor.
Norm and Len watched from the sidelines and approved each step of the process. By the time Jim was done, only my upper lip and chin had hair, and even that was severely short.
In the mirror, I saw a bald man with a muzzle, a man I barely recognized. Jim shined me up, and he lifted off the cape.
"Good job," Norm said.
"He looks presentable now," Len said.
"Welcome to the club," Jim said.
We all shook hands. I was a member now.