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The Pine Ridge Barber-Part 4 by Kaleb McKinley
A note from the writer: I realize that some of our readers prefer quick, to-the-point, clip 'em and move on types of stories. This series is not designed to do that, but, rather to give a description of each scene that might occur in a barber shop. While we all share a haircut fetish, most of us have particular aspects of the fetish that are stronger than others. This particular series looks to touch on some of the most common themes like short haircuts, including flattops, high and tights and shaved heads, as well as face shaving, shampooing capes and barber chairs. The Pine Ridge Barber story is designed to be a continuing series that is somewhat like a soap opera. Some characters in this series will be recurring while others will not return in subsequent chapters. New characters will be introduced and storylines will evolve. At least, that is what I envision. Feel free to ask for what you want to see in the story and I will make every effort to incorporate your desires into the storylines. Over the next couple of chapters, Brunhilda and Ava will be giving a variety of short haircuts and even head shaves. I will try to add new depth to the characters, as well, and bring them to life while being as descriptive as possible. I hope you enjoy...and, if not, well, at least you didn't have to pay for something you didn't like...as so many of Brunhilda's customers did. Happy reading! --Kaleb
Ol’ Brunhilda was a woman of few words, but right now, standing outside, she was chatting it up with the sign installers, talking and pointing and looking very animated. Of course, as I thought about it, she was talking about something that was a part of her barber shop and if there was one thing she was passionate about, it was her barber shop, along with everything that goes with it. She had what seemed to be a strong, almost insatiable desire to cut men’s hair very short, to shave them, to shampoo them and she wasn’t happy unless she fulfilled that desire.
Billy cautiously raised his head from the headrest. He peered at Brunhilda as a condemned man would peer at his executioner. The future proceedings had him anxious and I could tell by the nervous twitching of his feet. He moved his head toward his right and strained his neck muscles to see his electric company bucket truck. He could barely see the front of the vehicle and he longed to climb up in the cab and drive away, freed from captivity in the barber chair. With a rapid, almost resigned motion, Billy let his head fall back onto the worn, black leather headrest. I wondered how many men’s necks had been caressed by that old Koken headrest while a very close shave was administered at the hands of this woman that I had dubbed Brunhilda. I had so many questions that needed to be answered. Questions that included her real identity. What is her actual name? I’m pretty sure it’s not Brunhilda, although it does fit her most appropriately. How long has she been the Pine Ridge Barber? Is she a lifelong resident or did she move here at some point more recently to strike fear in the hearts of the male residents? Why is she obsessed with short haircuts for her clients and why does she seem to not have any mercy on the men in her chair.
At this point, I realized that in Billy’s struggle to look at his surroundings, he had slid a bit farther down in the chair. Now, instead of being in the position that the barber desired, the top of his head was on the bottom of the headrest which pushed his chin to his chest. I had a pretty definite feeling she would not like this, but would she say anything? Part of me felt anxious for Billy, but that certainly didn’t overcome my extreme excitement to witness what was next in the barbering of this man. He turned his head to his right again, but did not lift it up from the headrest. His eyes examined each item on the backbar. He took in all of the haircutting instruments hanging on hooks. Clippers of every type and size adorned the barber’s workspace and hung there like ornaments on some sort of barber-themed Christmas tree. He spotted one that instantly sent a chill through him. The device was clearly marked by the manufacturer: Wahl Balding Clipper. Even though she had sheared him pretty severely, he was thankful that she had not chosen to use the balding clippers. He silently questioned how many men before him had fallen victim to this dreaded device. As he moved along with his inventory of the barbering tools, he looked at the assortment of attachments, combs and a count of four straight razors. Billy swallowed hard. He never acknowledged my presence and I continued to work on the computer. I was currently running a virus scan, so I had plenty of free time to carefully watch his every move. He examined the sink which had a collection of three shampoo bottles in various stages of fullness. He knew his head was going to be washed and scrubbed in that sink and he was dreading it based on the treatment he had received thus far. The old silver hot lather machine, which was probably almost as old as Brunhilda, was perched prominently on the top of the backbar. He pushed his head back over the headrest to get a better look. A small bit of lather clung desperately to the dispenser and was starting to get a bit crusty as it dried out. Next, he glanced at the floor and noticed his shorn hair mixing with the same of other men who had met their haircut fate at the hands of Brunhilda earlier that day. There were clumps of a varying shades of brown, blond and black. She must have clipped a dozen or more heads so far that day and it was still early afternoon. As he finished his somewhat terrifying tour of his surroundings, he looked at a white wastebasket which was not being used for usual stuff that one expects, but instead for used towels. Towels that had been wrapped tightly around men’s necks, others that had been used in the neck or face shaving process, still with swaths of stubble and dried foam. Still other towels appeared clean, but had probably been used to dry their heads after a good, firm shampooing.
It was then that my eyes were drawn to a type of novelty sign above the mirror behind the chair. The sign was metal and was embossed with clippers on the left, a partially opened straight razor on the right and the words: Get in the chair, sit still and shut up! In the same moment, Billy spotted it, too. Just then, the door swung open. Billy let out a slight gasp as it startled him and we both focused on Brunhilda, framed in the doorway. Billy quickly repositioned his head. He had become so involved in the examination of the shop and I had become so taken in by studying him that we failed to notice the sign company men had returned to their truck and were now coming back with measuring tools. Brunhilda instantly noticed that Billy was not properly positioned. "Are you attempting to slide away, son", she asked sternly as she walked briskly and with determination back to the reclined barber chair. "Are you?", she queried again, more deliberately when she failed to receive an immediate answer. "N-n-no, ma’am", Billy stammered. "Not at all, ma’am", he stated, his voice just a bit shaky. From the smirk on her face, it was obvious to me that she enjoyed this game that she was playing. I couldn’t decide if she was a bully or just a stern woman who demanded respect and obedience from men. As she positioned herself directly at the head of her splayed-out customer, she fully demonstrated her unusual strength. Bending slightly forward over Billy, she reached under the cape and placed her hands square under his arms. With one quick motion and a slight grunt, she pulled Billy’s body back into the exact position that she wanted. As his head tilted back over the headrest, I could see a look of total shock on his face. He and I both could not fathom what just happened. This large woman, around sixty years of age, had just hoisted up, by approximately three inches, this masculine, thirty-something, two hundred pound guy. Much respect, Brunhilda. Much respect. She wasn’t even so much as mildly winded.
"Now", she said, matter-of-factly. "Let’s get you shaved and back up there on those electric poles, Mr. Lineman", referencing to his profession. "This shave is going to be the closest and best you’ve ever had. Have you ever been shaved by a barber?" He didn’t want to keep her waiting with another slow response and he immediately answered, "Just the back of my neck, ma’am." Turning to the backbar, Brunhilda retorted, "Yes, I figured as much. Most men have. I mean a barber shop face shave." She sounded irritated and impatient.
"No ma’am", he said plainly.
"Well, you’re in for a treat, then. My face shaves are the best compliment to my haircuts. I only have one hard and fast rule, young man. No squirming! If you’re a good boy, you’ll walk out with the hair that I left you fully intact. If you misbehave, I’ll decimate that flattop and shave your head clean." With that she let out a gravelly, hoarse laugh that let you know she was joking…or, was she?
With a snap of her fingers and a lightning-fast turn to face the door of the back room, she called out for Ava. Until now, I hadn’t realized that the girl had disappeared. "Ava? Ava, get in here! It’s observation time." The voice from the back room responded, "Coming, Aunt Bertha."
Holy moly! Brunhilda’s name is Bertha. Wow! It’s still a perfect name for such a formidable woman. I thought about it for a moment. I’ll probably still call her Brunhilda…privately, of course.
Ava hastily made her way to the chair, smiling at me as she passed by. As she took her place on a padded barstool near her aunt, she focused intently while Brunhilda, Bertha, Aunt Bee, whatever you want to call her, began vigorously rubbing a strong smelling facial cleanser onto Billy’s face. I could clearly hear the scratching sounds of his stiff stubble against Brunhilda’s firm hand. The aroma of menthol filled the barber shop. Her hands were so rigid and strong that I could hear Billy’s cheeks and lips slapping against his teeth as the astringent was massaged into every pore. With such brusque treatment, I considered that maybe the hair would prefer to just give up the fight and fall out rather than face the razor. After approximately sixty seconds of the barber roughing up Billy’s stubbly jaw, Brunhilda released his face from her grasp and instructed Ava about the need to properly prep a man’s face. "Otherwise, they’ll squirm like a snake and squeal like a pig", she announced, her country analogies striking a chord with Ava, who chuckled and nodded her understanding. "They’ll always let you know if the prep time was too short or the razor is too dull", she continued. My heart was beating a bit faster. "Before you even recline the chair, you should have assessed the thickness and coarseness of the stubble", the old crow babbled on. Ava was taking in every word and Billy was lying as still as a dead man. The old woman drew a large mound of steaming foam from the lather machine. Standing behind him with her right hand full of the rich, white cream, she applied it first to her waiting customer’s chin, swooping up his left cheek, then, pivoting the chair slightly, she administered a dose of lather to his right cheek. With no time wasted, she ended with an almost dance-like move, turning to face him while she dragged her thumb back and forth across his upper lip, sufficiently covering the bristles protruding from it. She began to massage his face, surprisingly enough, in a rather gentle way. Well, as gentle as this stern, stout woman can be. The reclined customer had even relaxed somewhat well enough to close his eyes for a few moments.
Brunhilda wiped her hands on a towel that she had strewn over her shoulder and lumbered over to the towel steamer. "Good and hot, Ava. That’s how you want your towels. It’s essential to a good shave. Otherwise, you might as well pull the hair out with tweezers." She paused to let her words sink in, then she continued, "The same applies to a head shave. We’ll work on that in the near future."
Billy’s eyes popped open. He was hoping against all odds that he wasn’t going to be the visual aid for that barbering lesson. Brunhilda and Ava never acknowledged his look of fear. Instead, the barbering professor of Pine Ridge continued her lecture while retrieving a long, steam-filled towel. She handled it without so much as a grimace. She then returned to her hapless victim and, while stretching out the towel, provided a quick disclaimer. "This is gonna be real toe-curler, son". With that, she mummified his face and simultaneously pressed the towel to extract as much hot moisture as possible. Brunhilda was nothing if not exact. Just as she predicted, Billy’s body tensed and his toes appeared to curl downward in his boots, as though by digging their way out it would somehow lessen the agony that the hot towels were imposing. He writhed and grunted and mumbled, but I couldn’t make out what he said and the old lady barber and her apprentice didn’t seem to care.
"A firm hold assures the stubble will soften", she directed. The process was repeated again with pretty much the same results, only this time with Ava conducting the hot towel wrap. She tucked in the ends of the towel as she was directed to do and her aunt appeared pleased with her form and technique. Ava tightened her grasp and worked her way from the cheeks to the chin and neck and then back again. Wafts of steam continued to escape from the towel and Billy’s ass tightened and his feet twitched over the edge of the footrest. As Ava finally began to slowly remove the towel as though she were unwrapping a gift, she gazed down at Billy. His eyes seemed to plead with her, "No more, please."
"Good work, girl!", the old barber praised her young student. "His face is ready for the blade."
Brunhilda stepped in to take control once again. The lather machine whirred and spit out a considerable bit of foam which she immediately applied to Billy’s face. In fact, it was so full of white lather, if she would have put a cherry on his nose, his face would have looked like a giant ice cream sundae.
Once she was satisfied that he was prepped sufficiently, she opened her large, intimidating straight razor. "Watch me closely, Ava", the demanding old barber lady called to her niece. Upon saying that, she pulled the razor strop tight and instructed the girl on the proper way to sharpen a blade. "If you hone and strop correctly, the razor will slide through a man’s stubble like a hot knife through butter." Noticing that while Billy’s head had not moved, his eyes were watching each stroke, so Brunhilda added, "The good thing about this strop, Ava, is it can sharpen the attitude of a misbehaving man as good as it can sharpen a razor." The pair thought this was amusing and shared matching smiles while Ava nodded her understanding.
Gripping the top of Billy’s closely cropped head, Brunhilda ratcheted it to the right which left him staring at his lathered face in the mirror above the backbar. Using her free hand, she pulled back on the chair’s lever, locking the brake and preventing it from turning. "Thirty degrees, girl", the barber proclaimed. "That’s your safe angle for the best shave." Her niece seemed to be making mental notes as she looked over Billy’s face from her vantage point on the barstool. Brunhilda’s thumb tightened the skin near and just below his left ear and her cold steel blade made its first contact with Billy’s upper cheek near where his sideburn once was. The unmistakable razor-on-stubble sound emanated from the barber chair. The shave had begun in earnest. I could sit and listen to that sound all day, whether it’s coming from the shaving of a man’s head or his face. There is something about that aural sensation that speaks to me. It begins with a tingling of sorts, like butterflies in my stomach, and then works its way south.
I realized at this point that the sign installers who had been dutifully cleaning the window were now perched on the dropped tailgate of their pick up truck, which was parked just past the front door of the barber shop. The older of the two young men was on the phone, but was clearly observing Billy’s shave. The younger guy was sipping on one of those energy drinks and was glued to the action. He seemed to know, without being told, that his time in Brunhilda’s barber chair was nearing. I watched him briefly run his fingers through the flips and curls of hair sprouting from under his ball cap. Sensing an audience, Brunhilda looked up briefly from her task at hand, making eye contact with the young buck and giving him a quick wink before resuming her harvest of Billy’s stubble. Yes, there was no doubt. Those curls were as good as clipped.
The barber had nearly completed Billy’s left side. With a bit more narration on the proper techniques and several more strokes of the razor, she wiped her blade and a thick crop of beard stubble was deposited onto the towel that was angled crosswise on her customer’s shoulder stretching like a beauty queen’s sash across his chest.
"Shaving is a lost art, Ava, my dear. Learn it well", Brunhilda stated. "See the difference it has made already?" The left side of Billy’s face appeared more gentle and boy-like without his somewhat thick, two day old beard. With that, she powerfully maneuvered his head to the left, pressing his freshly shaven cheek against the headrest. Bits of shaving foam were clinging to his ear and there was some on his temple that had been transferred from the barber’s hand. She used the towel on her shoulder to dab his forehead. "You’re sweating. Are you hot?", she questioned in a bit of an irritated manner. He quietly responded that he was nervous. The old barber woman cackled and gleefully informed him, "Calm down, boy. I haven’t lost one yet."
With lightning-fast reflexes, she unlocked the chair and swung it around a hundred and eighty degrees. Reapplying the lock, the shave continued for another twenty minutes. Relathering. With the grain, against grain. Pithy comments while instructing the young barber apprentice. Commanding Billy to stop squirming as she pinned his head against the headrest attempting to collect every minute bit of hair that this man’s face had grown over the past couple of days. Finally, it was done. She rubbed her thumb and index finger over his cheeks, chin and neck, searching for any missed hair that hadn’t fallen victim to her blade.
The sign installers walked up to the building, picked up some equipment and loaded it into their truck. The older one, who appeared to be the leader, indicated to Brunhilda that they would be back. Evidently, there was some problem. The old barber nodded and waved her hand impatiently, essentially dismissing them and silently letting them know that they could do whatever they need to do.
A splash of aftershave caused Billy’s feet to dance despite not having a floor beneath them and his body to writhe in a vain attempt to get away from her hands. As I looked up at his face, he appeared transformed. His skin was so smooth. I witnessed what he must have looked like as a teenager before puberty caused his facial hair to bud. In contrast, his flattop made him look so manly and distinguished. There was no question about it. Brunhilda was brutal, but she was also good at her job. She could clean up a man without any trouble. And, she wasn’t done yet. This stud from the electric company had one more session in his masculine makeover. The shampoo.
Bertha the Barber wasted no time. Time was valuable. There were other men that needed to be sheared and shaved today. Without being told, Ava raised Billy’s head and placed a towel folded lengthwise between his upper back and the back of the chair. Then, she flung the used towel that was on the lineman’s shoulder into the used towel bin. Taking the towel that had been spread across his chest, she wrapped it around his neck and straightened the cape. The barber had paused to take a sip of her coffee from a metal thermos. She nodded her thanks to Ava for getting Billy ready for the shampoo and returned to her waiting customer. Clicking a small release button on the headrest, she dropped it down, getting it out of her way temporarily while it was still attached to the chair. She released the chair’s brake and simultaneously pushed the lever forward lowering the chair from its former elevation. While rotating Billy toward the shampoo sink, she lifted his head and slipped it into the black basin. Within moments, steaming water rose from vicinity of Billy’s head. As she grabbed the hose, Billy could be heard telling her the water was hot. She seemingly ignored him, but she must have adjusted the cold water valve slightly because his protests stopped.
Brunhilda spared no shampoo and manhandled his clipped head while working up a froth. Ava was now being schooled on the proper way to scrub and scour a man’s scalp. It was important, Brunhilda stated, to scrub it good and firm because, as she said, "Most of the time, a shampoo in the barber shop is the only real cleaning a man’s noggin will get. They have a tendency to just let the shampoo and water run over their heads. Use this opportunity to get them clean. Make sure you use your nails for an invigorating scalp massage." With those words, she set out giving poor, helpless Billy the scrubbing of his life. I could hear him whine and groan and once he even uttered a "please, ma’am" as things reached full intensity.
The rinse was much more calm as the barber worked out all of the suds until the water ran clear. His head was then wrapped in a large, white towel. As quickly as she had laid him back some forty-five minutes prior, she up righted the chair and continued robustly drying what was left of his hair. As she removed the towel, for the first time, Billy was able to focus on his completely new look. The old lady barber didn’t give him much time to observe himself as she quickly grabbed a comb and a small dab of Lucky Tiger Cru-Butch which she furiously applied to his hair. Ava was front and center, learning how to make a man look his best after she had properly clipped, sheared and shaped his flattop.
Brunhilda swung the chair around to face the mirror behind the backbar so that Billy could have a closer look. His eyes took in the square appearance of his new cut and then moved on to his hairless face. The absence of hair on the sides of his head made his ears appear larger. He by no means had big ears. They were just more prominent. What had this woman done to him?!? His face was somewhat sullen as he tried to process this new appearance and he wondered how his friends, family and co-workers would react.
Brunhilda could see his less than enthusiastic reaction. She spoke firmly. "You’ll get used to it, son. It’s an acquired taste." Ava watched with a gleam in her eye as her aunt dominated Billy and instructed him on how to maintain this type of haircut. "Don’t get all distressed about it. You look terrific." She continued, "I’m a barber. I know men’s haircuts and I know what looks good. This haircut will be maintained every two weeks. No ifs, ands or buts." She turned the chair to face the waiting area and with a flourish, she pulled off the cape. A lone bit of hair that had been clinging to the fabric, tumbled down to meet its comrades and be swept up by Ava’s broom later in the day.
As he stood up to pay, she charged him only for the haircut. "The shave and shampoo are on the house", she said as she tossed his dirty ball cap to him. "Don’t you put that nasty, sweaty cap back on my clean and perfect flattop, boy." Without hesitation, he stuffed part of the ball cap into the front pocket of his jeans leaving only the bill of the cap visible and he thanked his new barber for the haircut and shave. "Two weeks. Don’t forget", Brunhilda stated matter-of-factly, her voice unyielding in its demands. "Yes, ma’am. Thank you, again, for the haircut and shave, ma’am." Billy had been broken at the hands of this cruel lady barber from Pine Ridge. He would be a flattopper now, at least until Brunhilda, the Decider of Men’s Haircuts, decided otherwise. "Bring me some of the other boys from your crew. I’m sure there are plenty in need of a trip to my shop." With a devilish smile, she said, "I’ve seen some of them around town. My clippers and razor would be delighted to meet them." Billy nodded, indicating that he would recommend her barber shop to his co-workers. "Good, Billy Boy. You’re dismissed. Have a good afternoon." With her final words to him, he walked out rubbing the back of his head and then his face. He still looked embarrassed at the thought of the domination and the brutal haircut he received from Brunhilda.
Since the work on Billy was complete and there was nothing left to observe, Ava asked her Aunt Bee very politely if it would be okay to go and get some ice cream. "Sure", was the answer. "Be back in an hour."
As Billy’s big truck roared away, she looked at me and said in her usual condescending way, "Well, computer boy, what do you think? I answered that it was certainly a masterpiece of a haircut. She appeared unimpressed by my compliment. "What’s your name, again", she queried. "Scott Thomas", I told her.
Well. Scott Thomas, aren’t you finished with that computer yet? " I responded that the work was almost complete. "Umm, hmm," the barber countered. There was something strange about the way she said that, the way she said "umm, hmm", as though she didn’t believe me. My thoughts raced for a moment. Did she know about my fetish? Was it that obvious? Was I not as covert as I thought I was?
Nah. Probably just my imagination. Brunhilda seemed aloof and everything she says always has an edge of sarcasm. She made small talk and asked a few innocuous questions about me and my business as she tidied up her work space. Oddly enough, she never swept up the hair. She left it around her chair like a furry trophy. It was a sort of prize, much like a hunter who mounts and displays his game. There was that ratcheting sound again and she removed the headrest and stowed it in its place beneath the seat of the chair.
As we talked, she offered me a cup of afternoon coffee, which I readily accepted. I love coffee and would drink a pot a day if it didn’t make me jittery. I was learning a few tidbits about this rough and tough lady barber, but I was still a little too nervous to ask questions I was longing to know. I kept telling myself that there would be time. I didn’t want to seem weird by pummeling her with questions. I also didn’t want to piss her off.
As my scans wrapped up, Brunhilda was sipping on her coffee and looking out the window while telling me the lowdown on Pine Ridge. Just as I was about to give her the results and what I was doing to fix the problem with Ava’s computer, I heard tires squeal and looked up to see a small car crash into the back of an SUV. "I saw that coming a mile away", Brunhilda quipped. "People just don’t pay attention." We walked out of the barber shop to see if anyone needed medical assistance. The guy from the dry cleaners was already on the phone with 9-1-1. Fortunately, as it turned out, no one was hurt and it was more of an inconvenience for both drivers. Soon, police were on the scene, taking statements, evaluating the accident and issuing any citation that might be needed. I returned to the shop to continue my work and download virus protection on the laptop that I had been working to fix. From time to time, I would glance up to see what was happening. Brunhilda was comforting a small boy who appeared to be about six years old. It was an odd sight to see such a powerful, scary woman showing a soft side to a frightened kid. I chuckled to myself, "It must just be men she hates."
After she gave her statement to the officer in charge of the accident, she returned to the barber shop. She busied herself by adding more liquid lather to the lather machine and taking a load of used towels to the back of the shop. The accident was clearing up and traffic was moving a little more smoothly. The SUV that had been hit was operational and drove away. The small car was going to have to be towed.
Upon returning to the front, Brunhilda went straight to the barber chair and pulled the headrest out again. She installed it, set the height at what appeared to be the second notch from the top and walked out of the shop, stepping onto the sidewalk without saying a word.
"Hmmm", I thought to myself. "That’s strange". But, then, again, Brunhilda marches to the beat of a different drummer. I looked up at the chair again. It appeared to be waiting for someone…but, whom?