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Jim's Clippers by Smart Gent
I’d been attending my local church for about 18 months and had got to know some of the people there well. One of these was a chubby man in his mid-sixties called Jim. After losing his wife several years ago Jim now spent most of his spare time doing voluntary work in the parish. I worked regularly with Jim on volunteer tasks such as the food bank and helping to count the Sunday collection money.
Jim was always friendly, very down to earth and I could tell he didn’t worry too much about his appearance. He always wore what I thought of as old-fashioned clothes, a plain shirt, patterned V-neck jumper, grey trousers and plain black shoes. Having a stylish haircut didn’t seem to interest him either. His stubbly grey hair would reach a length of about an eighth of an inch all over and then periodically he’d turn up at church with it all completely shaved off.
I was intrigued by how unconcerned he seemed to be about these regular shearings, as if hair was just a tiresome fact of life which you had to get rid of, like when you cut your nails.
On those days when Jim appeared with his head newly shaved and I’d be working with him at church I couldn’t help staring at his bare scalp. I was fascinated by how it looked and wished I had the courage to get my hair cut that short. I wasn’t sure if I could ever go completely bald like Jim but secretly wanted someday to experience having my hair cut short with electric clippers the same length all over. I wondered where Jim went to get his hair cut. I imagined it would probably be some old man’s barber shop on the outskirts of town.
I also wished I wasn’t so self-conscious about my own hair, which was light brown, mid length and fairly wavy. I went every month or so to a stylist who’d lightly trim it with scissors but in my dreams I wanted to submit myself to a no-nonsense traditional barber. I tried to think of ways to ask Jim where he got his hair cut but could never find an opportunity, without him thinking I was a bit weird for wanting to know.
Luckily that summer there was a fundraising evening at the church hall with a few people doing musical acts on a small stage. It was a very hot evening and with a big crowd of people in the hall the atmosphere was stifling. During a break in the music I stepped outside to cool down and found Jim standing on the pavement, drinking from a bottle of water.
"You’ve got the same idea as me. It’s getting too hot in there", Jim said to me in his usual friendly manner.
"It is", I answered. "I thought I’d take a break to cool down."
"I always feel the heat. Being this fat doesn’t help I suppose" Jim continued, laughing, "at least I don’t have to worry about my head overheating." He rubbed his bare head.
"Ha ha, that’s true. On hot days like this I sometimes think it would be a good idea if I did the same as you," I remarked, pleased that the subject of hair had finally come up.
"Well, why don’t you?" Jim said with enthusiasm, "You never need to bother about combs or hair gel ever again once you shave it all off."
"Which barbers do you go to, Jim?" I stuttered.
"I don’t. I cut it myself. Got my own set of clippers. Once every couple of weeks, all over, job done."
"I don’t think I could manage cutting my own hair. I’d need to go to a barber" I continued, pleased at the way the conversation was going.
"What, and pay six or seven pounds just for five minutes in the barber chair? I could do the job for nothing…" Jim said, taking another gulp from his water bottle.
I wondered what Jim meant for a moment. Was this a genuine offer?
"Do you mean you’d have a go at cutting my hair?" I asked, trying not to look too excited.
"Yes. If you want. At least it would save you a bit of money" Jim replied.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This was exactly what I wanted, but I didn’t dream it would ever happen. I quickly tried to think of an answer before the opportunity was lost.
"OK, Jim, that would be good. As long as you don’t mind" I said.
"Of course I don’t mind. I hope you’re not expecting a fancy style, though. I can only do short, y’know," he laughed. "You can come over to my house on Sunday evening after we’ve counted the collection, if you’re free."
"Right. I’ll be there, Jim. Thanks." With that, I walked back into the hall, my heart pounding against my chest with the thought of what I hoped was going to happen in a few days’ time.
Getting a short haircut at Jim’s house dominated my thoughts over the next few days. I was pleased he didn’t think it was a strange idea. I kept reminding myself it was Jim himself who first made the offer. But at times I wondered if it might be sensible to back out of the agreement. I was seriously worried that colleagues at work would be shocked at the drastic change in my appearance and that I would have difficulty explaining why I’d done it.
At other moments I daydreamed about Jim cutting off all my hair right down to the skin like he did to himself. However, as time got nearer, caution intervened and I settled on a more sensible plan of asking Jim to cut my hair with a Number 2 or 3 attachment on his clippers. That wouldn’t be so much of a radical change.
Sunday evening finally came around and, as usual, I was with Jim counting that day’s church collection. He didn’t mention the haircut arrangement at any time and I was worried while we were working whether he had completely forgotten about it.
But, as Jim was locking away the bagged money collection in the safe, he turned to me, winked and said, "Are you still ok for your appointment with the barber?"
"I am, if you are," I gulped nervously.
"No problem, it’s not very far to my house," he smiled as we both left the room.
After locking up the church hall we walked down a couple of quiet terraced streets and arrived within two minutes at Jim’s house, number 32.
In a moment he had unlocked the front door and we stepped into the dim hallway of what turned out to be a cosy terraced house.
"Would you like a cup of tea first…or should we just get down to business?" Jim asked as he removed his jacket and hung it on the end of the staircase.
My heart was beginning to race at the prospect of what was about to happen to me. I knew there was no turning back.
"No thanks, I’m fine," I replied, trembling slightly.
"Come into the kitchen then and I’ll get out the clippers."
I followed Jim into the small and cluttered kitchen area. He pulled out a wooden chair from the breakfast table and gestured for me to sit down.
Jim then bent down to open a kitchen cupboard and rooted inside.
"Ever since I bought these clippers at a car boot sale I’ve saved a fortune. I’ve never needed to go to a barber ever again," Jim smiled as he pulled out a battered old cardboard box.
"You bought your clippers at a car boot sale?" I asked, now seated expectantly on the kitchen chair.
"Yes, they only cost me a fiver. Now…you’ll need to put something over your shoulders so you don’t get covered in hair. Here, take this big towel and tuck it into your collar."
I took the towel and tucked it in as I watched Jim take the large old fashioned black clippers out of the box. From a faded plastic bottle he oiled the blades, unravelled the long lead and plugged them into the nearby kitchen wall socket.
"Are you ready?" Jim asked as he switched on the clippers with a sudden clack. The loud growling and buzzing sound they made was alarming and I suddenly remembered what I’d planned to ask for.
"Er, I was thinking, can you just cut it with a Number 3 attachment?" I stuttered.
Jim looked slightly nonplussed. "Sorry, I don’t know what you mean," he said, looking down at the instrument still buzzing away in his right hand.
"You know Jim, the plastic attachments you put on the clippers for different lengths…" I continued, getting anxious.
"Er, I haven’t got any of those. When I bought the clippers they just came in this box with this bottle of oil," he said as the clippers continued to buzz away in his hand.
I hesitated for a moment. But then something stirred deep within me. Getting all my hair completely shaved off was what I really wanted, I thought, and I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. Taking a slow deep breath and looking at the loudly vibrating clippers, I said quietly to Jim, "Go ahead then, I’m ready…"
I felt Jim’s big heavy hand on the top of my head as he eased it firmly downward. A shudder passed through me as the cold blade of the clippers touched the nape of my neck. Jim then pushed the now growling clippers very slowly upward, very firmly against the scalp. Immediately I could feel great clumps of soft brown hair tumbling down off my head.
Jim continued, concentrating in silence with more and more slow upward passes until the back of my head felt like it had never been before, completely bald.
"It’s coming off nicely" he said quietly. "OK, now for the sides."
Forcefully tilting my head sideways, Jim pushed the now warm clipper blades up my sideburns, removing them swiftly and completely. He then pushed the buzzing clippers way up to the crown of my head. A lot more of my wavy brown hair was now falling onto my shoulders and scattering onto the kitchen floor.
I was mesmerised. The sensation of the loud buzzing clippers near my ears was incredible, a completely new feeling.
Seeming to gain more confidence, Jim then firmly pushed my head the other way and attended to the left side of my head. More of my brown hair deftly parted company and dropped down from my denuded scalp.
Not being near a mirror I had no idea what I now looked like. I knew my head felt almost completely bald as I could feel a cool breeze from the open kitchen window on my newly exposed skin. There was now only a little bit of hair left on the top of my head to remove.
"I just need to cut the top now and you’re nearly finished."
I looked up as Jim’s large body steadied itself in front of me. He placed the clippers carefully at my forehead hairline. They glided slowly back to my crown, as he carefully repeating the action several times. The very last tufts of brown hair dropped to the floor.
"Yes, that’s it. Your haircut is done. It looks good, even if I say so myself" Jim smiled as he stood back to admire his handiwork.
My hand went instinctively to my head as I rubbed my new bare scalp.
"Thank you Jim. It feels very different!" I gasped.
"You’ll get used to it," commented Jim, "Now one of us needs to sweep up all that hair off the floor and we can have that cup of tea."
"I’ll do it" I replied, as Jim handed me a plastic dustpan brush and pan.
As I busied myself, still adjusting to the strange feel of my freshly shaved head, Jim switched on the kettle.
"There won’t be nearly as much hair to sweep up next time. I’d recommend that I cut it every two weeks."
It was clear that Jim was assuming I would want to now stay bald, which surprised me. He was absolutely right though, and as I emptied the full dustpan of my brown hair into the kitchen bin I silently said goodbye to it for good.