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Her Instructions by Stillcropped
We didn't often have a disagreement but when we did I knew better than to argue with my wife, she didn't hold grudges but She ALWAYS got her own way, it was something I had learned to live wit. She was going to a family re-union I had always felt slightly detached at these occasions, I was always made most welcome , but, as an only child, and my wife being the middle of seven, the conversation enevitably turned to times past, which left me hovering on the edges of conversation. I had tentatively suggested that I take her to the function and then go and take some photographs of the countryside which was my hobby and part-time business. This did not meet with her approval and I was left in no doubt that I would be attending.
As we set off her demeanour left me in no doubt that she was decidedly unhappy with me and the fact that she insisted we avoid motorways was putting an extra couple of hours onto our journey merely added to the frostiness as we drove through country towns and villages.
It was as we waited on the lights to change to green at one such village that I sensed a certain excitement from within her as she instructed me to pull over as there was something she had to attend to.
As we walked down the street she motioned for us to cross the road and as we did so I noticed we were heading straight towards a slightly rundown shop with the simple wording 'Village Barber' across the window. I hesitated slightly as she made straight for the door then stopped, turned towards me and simply said ' In' . The shop smelled of stale tobacco mixed with soap and the only barber was well past retirement age which seemed to please my wife as she greeted the barber with a wide smile and announced ' as you can see my husband is badly indeed of a proper haircut' The old barber beckoned me towards the wooden chair and as he draped the nylon cape around me he asked the standard question ' what did sir have in mind ?'
Before I could answer my wife was at the barbers side and p!aced her perfectly manicured fingers on his right forearm 'As you can see my husband takes little pride in his personal appearance so I'm afraid it will be my instructions you will be following , but don't worry my husband knows that I always do what's right for him don't you darling ?' I mumbled my acceptance and nodded my head . Catching my eye in the mirror the old barber's face gave me a quizzical look and I responded with a smile and a nod of approval, he shrugged then said ' Well madam what are we doing?'
My wife broke into a huge laugh as she said 'Something that should have been done years ago! Now I want my husband to see everything , so first chop that fringe straight across, just above his eyebrows ' My heart was pounding and my mouth dry as the barber combed my fringe straight down until it touched my nose then with six inch long pointed scissors snipped straight across from temple to temple just above my eyebrows, leaving me with a schoolboy fringe and 3 inches of my locks settling on my lap. My wife gave a little giggle then said ' give him a nice smart, short back and sides, and when I say short I mean SHORT! Make sure it's well clear of his ears and collar'
The barber gave a little smirk as he pulled his comb through my longish locks , it had been more than two months since my last trim, and my hair flopped over my ears and collar, then he spoke up ' Madam, an I correct in assuming that it is something of a military style haircut you wish me to give the gentleman ? ' My wife gave a little grin then announced ' Yes that sounds just about right, my father used to visit his barber every three weeks just to ' keep things in shape' as he used to say. The barber stopped combing and surprised me with the strength of his fingers as he grabbed both my shoulders and ordered ' Right, Sit up straight , shoulders back and move only when I give the order , understood ?' I was slightly taken aback and then bizarrely found myself answering ' Yes, sir' . SIR! Why had I used that term ?
Confident he was now in control the barber set to work, first my locks were parted on the right side and swept across my head and all the remaining hair combed down over my ears and collar, he produced his pointed scissors and starting an inch above my right ear he deftly worked his way around my head dropping long locks of my hair onto my shoulders where they rolled down the nylon cape to the floor. With the scissors tucked into his breast pocket I saw him unhook a set of large back clippers which made a loud whirring noise as he switched them on , he gave a little smirk as he placed his left hand on the top of my head and the teeth of the machine on my jaw at the bottom of my thick sideburn , as by pushed the machine up in front of my ear he pulled my head slightly towards it then moved the clipper slightly away from my skin and in less than 3 seconds years of carefully cultivated facial hair fell to the floor leaving only a slight amount of stubble just in front of my ear. The other side quickly followed then he changed the blade on the clippers and again with one hand on top of my head he rolled my head from side to side as the machine left barely half an inch of hair on my scalp high above both ears to the weight Line he had previously created . His hand now pushed my head down so I was looking at the steadily growing pile of my locks which lay in my lap I left the teeth vibrate on my nape and the tone change as they hit my hairline and ploughed up the back of my head , his firm grip kept my chin on my chest as time and time again the machine was guided right up to my crown. Eventually be stopped and I looked at myself with a bowl cut in the mirror my thick mop of hair still intact above shorn sides ,I caught my wife's eye in the mirror and she raised her eyebrows and have a little shrug of her shoulders.
The barber was now once again busy with his comb making sure my parting was straight then he pulled a single lock of hair straight up with his comb and snipped along the teeth of the comb the shorn hair gently floating to the floor , he then combed the shorn lock back flat against my scalp then momentarily leaned back to check his work then selected the same lock again he snipped another fraction off the length then combed it back into place. Happy with this new length he gave his orders.
"Right young man , look straight ahead and then tilt your head towards your left shoulder as far as you can " No sooner had I complied ,he set to work , comb into My hair a lock lifted clear of My scalp just above my right ear , his scissors opened and closed three times in mid air the metal on metal echoing around the shop then the "SSCCHHNICKK" as on each fourth stroke they expertly caught and severed at least three inches of my hair . As he continued to shear my locks he would say " Head towards me ,slowly, that's good hold it there" in no time I was looking straight ahead and my reflection showed a short cropped side below a lop-sided top, thick but short on the right side long floppy locks hanging to the left.
" Right, you know the drill" he said as he moved to my left side " tilt your head fully to the right and as I work my way towards your ear slowly tip your head all the way over to the other side ,got it ? It won't take long" I nodded my understanding , and bent my head right over. The barber positioned himself to my left , rapidly opening and closing his well oiled scissors in mid air he was establishing a rythym , then in went his comb and the harvest began. I was surprised at the speed he worked at considering his age . Great locks of my blondish locks were now covering my shoulder , he tapped my head with his scissors each time he needed me to re-position my head , and it didn't take long until my head was fully tilted to the right and he removed the last vestage of my once long hair.
Scissors back in his breast pocket, he combed my now short hair into it's pricise parting , my hair had been clippered to between 1/4 and half an inch long all around the sides (and presumably back) of my head to a point level with my eyebrows. On top he had reduced the length to about 3/4 of an inch, just long enough to form the parting , I looked at the pile of hair in my lap and around my feet, then he spoke " Happy so far M'am? Now we have the basic shape I can start the tidy up" At that I turned in the chair and looked at My wife " wait a minute I'm already cropped , he can't take any more off". The barber glowered at me in the mirror as my wife stood up and approached the chair, her frosty look had returned as she turned towards the barber " May I apologise for my husband's behaviour , but I can assure you He will comply with your instructions please continue" and she scowled at me in the I
.The barber appeared at my left side ,comb in one hand and a short pair of thinning shears in the other , he wasted no time , comb into My hair , three snips of The shears ,comb out and attached to it a clump of my hair , shears pushing the hair from the comb to the floor and the process repeated. He continued this all around my head until he had removed the bulk of my hair , combing what was left flat against my skull.
I looked at my reflection and I now sported a soldiers short back and sides my ears seemed to stick out at right angles to my head. Another set of clippers gave a high pitched buzz as they came to life and I felt his hand push my head fully forward , then the teeth of the buzzing machine bit into my neck as he inched it all the way across , he loosened the cape as he shaved my nape , then folded my ears forward and ran the machine up behind each of them. He straightened my head then ran the clippers up in front of each ear removing the stubble he had previously left , turning the teeth hard against my skin at the point where my ear met my cheek. Finally he shook a few drops of hair oil into my scalp and combed my remaining hair flat against my scalp ensuring the parting was laser straight with the oil giving me a slight sheen . " Ready for inspection M'am " he announced as he brushed my neck and removed the cape , giving me a slight smirk in the mirror.
As I stood up I think he deliberately a!lowed all my hair which was in the cape to fall over my shoes as I reached up to feel the skin on my neck which only a few minutes before had been covered in short fuzz my Wife was at my side. " Wonderful " she enthused " I should have got him this years ago, my Father used to get his hair cut just like this every three weeks , do you like it ? " she asked looking me straight in the eye. I swallowed hard ' Well it's different , not something I would have chosen, I mean it's really short ! " Her brows furrowed " It's really smart - not ' really short' ! Really Short was what my Father got before memorial service once a year! , what my mother used to call " A proper shearing! "
I started to backtrack " it's just a bit of a shock I'm sure I'll get used to it" The barber turned towards my wife asking " Your father was an officer M'am? " My wife continued to examine my new crop as she answered " Yes , Major General , we all looked forward to him in his full dress uniform , the stiff collar hugged his neck , and his officers cap sat snugly above his ears , he always visited his barber three days before the service taking his cap with him to make sure not a single hair or bristle was visible once he was fully dressed, we were all so proud of him especially my mother , I remember once .. Oh it doesn't matter"
"Please continue" the barber gently urged.
My wife took a deep breath, "well before one service he returned from the barbers , I was about 12 at the time , and my mother was not impressed , he had gone to a different barbers - I don't know why - My mother placed his cap on and shook her head ' no, it simply won't do' she said come Sunday you won't be happy , go back and get it attended to now . My father sighed but offered no argument he simply said "how much?" She placed the cap once again examined him all around and simply said , 'another inch higher back and sides ,to be safe make it an inch and a half" My father took off his cap, nodded and returned to the barbers. Half an our later he returned and we all stiffled a giggle as he gave us a twirl , my mother clapped her hands exclaiming" now that's what I call a proper good shearing" As she finished her story she wiped a year from her eye.
The barber touched my arm and motioned for me to get back in the seat he then turned to my wife " What you have described is an officer's parade cut ,if it is your wish I can give the gentleman here such a cut , it is rather severe but I am sure he won't object if this is your wish , will you sir? " For a split second I thought of objecting but then catching my wife's eye in the mirror I gave a slight nod of acceptance.
A wide smile spread across her face then she laughed out loud " Ok Mr Barber , let's do it but one thing ,seeing how we're going this short make sure , in the words of my mother make it a" proper good shearing" The barber gave a mock salute stating " Don't worry M'am it'll be a good few months before any hair will get close to these ears or neck !"even I laughed but not for long.
The barber needlessly swept his comb through my already shorn locks once more and muttered something below his breath , he then moved further down his counter and reached to the back of one of the drawers, and placed something shiny in the pocket of his smock, when he next appeared behind me he straightened my head with both his hands, when he was happy with my position he pinned my right ear flat to my scalp. From his pocket he pulled out a set of manual hair clippers with a cutting edge of just over an inch wide, carefully positioning the cutting teeth flat against my scalp and facing my temple he squeezed the blades together, I felt a slight tug as the teeth bit into my follicles right on the skin then the pressure was released , he moved The clippers up another half inch and repeated the process. As he removed the machine I could see a thin white vertical line running from above the tip of my ear to high up on the side of my scalp. After repeating the process on the left side, he attended to the back, again I felt the teeth vertically against my skin in the centre of My head, moments later I felt them touch the bone which protrudes at the back of my head , tug, release.
The barber stepped slightly back then announced proudly " Now we can get started" I moved my head from side to side trying to calculate the damage , as I did so I saw my wife staring intently at my head , then the barber was back at my right side announcing "soon have you done"
He placed his left thumb at the very top of the vertical line and pulled the skin on my scalp upwards and tight, in his right hand was another set of manual clippers slightly narrower than the first pair , they touched my skin where the stubble which was once my sideburn finished , grabbed the bristles and with a squeeze and release sheared them off ,four times he opened and closed the shiny clippers constantly moving them up towards his thumb , releasing the tension in my skin he moved behind me and as once again he pushed my head forward I got a chance to glimpse at the shadow strip of hair running up the side of my head in front of my ear.
The tensioning of my scalp was applied to the back of my head and the brief nip of pain as the teeth of the clippers grabbed and enclosed the follicles on my nape before removing them. My left side was similarly treated and now I could see both strips up the sides of My head and knew the back was the same. He was now behind me , this time only pushing my head slightly down , as the clippers were once again applied to my hairline I automatically arched my head back to meet them , this produced a loud 'TSSK' from the barber and a firm hold applied to my scalp as he guided the machine halfway up the back of my head. As he finished each stroke it felt like the slightly longer hairs were being plucked rather than sheared from my scalp, he worked centre to left then centre to right flicking the redundant hairs to the floor as he proceeded.
When he was happy with the back , he folded my right ear down , positioned the clippers at a 45 degree angle and sheared up and around my ear , leaving a broad band of almost bald skin behind as the clippers met the shorn vertical strip high up on my temple above the line of my eyebrow. The left side soon succumbed to the clippers and I now looked at a man with balded sides, below a slicked down side parted top , just as I was about to stand up his hands were on my shoulders ' last bit' he said and reached into another drawer, plugged in an old electric foil shaver ' not allowed to use an open blade these days ' he said as he ran the buzzing foil up in front of my ear, across and down behind it, full width across the back of my neck and up and round my other ear, ' Done' he said brushing all around my now fully shaved back and sides.
I stood up rubbing my bald back and sides , I faced my wife and forced a little smile and shrug of my shoulders ' Like it?' I asked. She reached up, stroked my now smooth neck and whispered in my ear " Thank you, he's scalped you shorter than my dad ever got " The barber gave a little cough and I turned to him taking a large note from my wallet " Thank you" I said " A little more off than I expected but someone's happy" and I nodded towards my wife , she smiled and as we turned to leave the shop she addressed the barber " Thank you sir, we are now going to visit my mother who so am sure will confirm that you have given him 'A proper shearing' but in case she doesn't approve we'll be back ! "
The barber and I stared at each other as she marched out the door.