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The Wallet by htflatnc

The Wallet

New city hundreds of miles from where I had lived before, my first real job and it had been over six weeks since my last haircut. With last minute preparations on my thesis, exams – both given and taken – and packing things up, who had time for a haircut? My hair wasn't that long usually, but after six weeks without a haircut and I looked like a sheepdog. The two inches I had on top was now almost four inches, hair covering half my ears and hair on the collar. This wasn't me. At least it was not the normal me.

When I got to my new city, I didn't have a lot of money having gotten by on a student's stipend plus some occasional work tutoring. Rental van, rent on a new apartment and (gasp!) deposit were going to put a large dent in what cash I had. It was peanut butter sandwiches, chili, spaghetti and a burger as a treat. So it would be, I thought, until payday.

I got to my new job and found out we were paid every two weeks unlike the once a month I was used to. What a relief! Only two weeks of grinding poverty! But then I found out it would be a week after that before I'd have a cash infusion. It was a co-worker, Mike, who was explaining this to me. He saw the expression on my face as I took the roller-coaster of his explanation of two weeks of poverty turning into three. Mike also clued me in on a credit union where I could open an account with only a dollar, so I could get direct deposit of my paycheck. Even I in my strapped state could afford a dollar. So many details!

Mike was five or so years older than me (I was 25 at the time), yet he took me under his wing. Every day for the next three weeks when he was in town, Mike took me to lunch. It was great having a balanced meal at least once a day. Mike was also teaching me the ropes of what to do at work. A week or so after I started work, I found out that Mike was actually assigned to train me and he would be moving into his boss's job in about a month.

Mike was very fit and worked out three times a week at a gym and would go for a run the other days of the week. I couldn't afford to join a gym at least until after the first payday, but I did start running with Mike. We lived less than a mile from each other, and his usual route went past where I lived, so very convenient for both of us.

First time I met Mike, he had a freshly cut high-and-tight crewcut with about a half inch in front that was tapered back to clipper shaved at the crown to match the back and sides. His hair was light brown to dirty blond. He was also clean shaven. Very clean cut, very good looking, and smart. Little wonder he was being promoted.

Towards the end of the second week during lunch, I joked with Mike that his hair was getting kind of shaggy. Mike reached up, running his big mitt up the back of his head and said, "Yeah, it's almost the end of the week, so time to visit Drew.” Then he looked at me, and added, "Besides, you've got no room to talk. Your hair is really a mess. I get mine cut every Friday afternoon after work. When was the last time you had a haircut?” Then he reached the same big mitt up to my forehead and ran his hand back.

I was somewhat flustered by his action and said that it had been over two months since my last haircut. "With the end of school, the move, and now my financial position, there just hasn't been any time or money for a haircut. It's one of the first things I'm going to do once I get paid. I'm really tired of having long hair.”

When I said that, Mike's eyes lit up. "So you're going to get a short haircut like mine?”

"I've never had a short haircut like yours,” I said. "I think your haircut looks great, but not sure at all it would work for me. No, I was thinking of getting it cut the way I have for a long time – off the ear and collar, about an inch on the back and sides, and two inches on top.” There was a pause as I could tell I had disappointed Mike. Then, I asked Mike, "Where is it that you get your hair cut?”

"Oh, I see Drew every Friday just after work, as I said. Been seeing Drew for the last five years since I moved to town, just as you did.”

"Did you know about Drew before going there?”

"No, it was Jack, Mr. Hudson. He was a regular with Drew's father. Drew had just started at Gibson's Barbershop when I began going there. I became one of his first regular customers.”

"How long have you been getting that great looking crewcut?” I asked.

"So you do like it. I thought you did from the way you keep staring at it.” Mike let that sink in for a couple of seconds and then changed gears, "I started getting this studly crewcut when I started going to see Drew. My hair was even longer than yours when I first went to Gibson's.”

"Did you make the transition all at one time?” I asked.

"Yes,” Mike said and I was expecting more, but only silence followed. Then Mike said, "Time to get back to work. Let's go.”

Thus ended that haircut conversation.

On Friday, I asked Mike if he'd take me to his barber next Friday for his regular haircut. He shrugged and said sure. He turned away and I could have sworn he had a big grin on his face as he turned away, but I could have been mistaken.

The next week came and I finally had some money. No, I was rich. Rich compared to how life had been the last three weeks. Rich compared to how much I had as a student. Rich!

Friday I took Mike to lunch to pay him back for all his generosity. Our conversation turned to getting a haircut. Mike asked if I really did like his haircut and I said I did, which was true. He then asked me again if I was going to get the same or a similarly short haircut. I said no, I didn't think so, but I had hesitated and there was uncertainty in my voice. So I began wondering if I was going to cave and get a haircut like Mike's. Through the fog of my thoughts, I heard Mike say that he would come get me at 4:30 and we'd go over to Gibson's and I'd get to meet Drew. Even if I wasn't getting a short haircut, I was really looking forward to meeting Drew and also getting something done about this mop on top of my head.

When I got back to my office I looked on the internet for Gibson's Barbershop. They had a Facebook page, but not an actual web page. There were pictures of what had to be Drew's father and a young female named Janice who had the same last name as Drew's father. So I assumed she was Drew's sister and Andy's (the older barber) daughter. They had six or seven pictures of the interior of the shop and customer's in the chairs getting haircuts. There were three chairs, but the third chair was always unoccupied in all of the photos. I thought that was strange, since I knew Drew worked there as well. I wanted to see a picture of Drew. So now there was a slight mystery: What did Drew look like and why wasn't he on the Facebook page? Judging from Janice's picture, that Drew had started at the shop just before Mike started going there, and that Mike had been going to the barbershop for five years, I was guessing that Drew was a good-looking guy in his mid- to late-twenties.

After surfing for about fifteen minutes I got back to work and 4 o'clock rolled around quickly. Mike called just after four and told me that Mr. Hudson gave him a last-minute assignment that he needed to wrap up for a meeting Mr. Hudson was having on Saturday. Mike gave me the address but I already knew it from my Facebook visit earlier in the day. Mike said he definitely expected to see me for our Saturday run with me looking cleaned up and not like a scarecrow. I said I would go by there and take care of it. Last thing Mike asked was, "Can I talk you into getting that short haircut?”

Again, I hesitated, and said, "No, I think I'll stick with a shorter – much shorter – version of what I have now.” And Mike said, "It's never too late,” and hung up.

I had everything wrapped up by 4:30, so decided it was a good time to leave and drive over to Gibson's. It wasn't far from where both Mike and I lived. We often ran by there on our morning runs, but it was long before they would open, so I had never taken notice of it.

I pulled into the parking lot just before 5. I remembered from their Facebook page that they closed at 5:30, so there was not going to be a problem. I walked in and all three chairs were occupied with two twenty-something barbers, one man and one women, and another with a forty- or fifty-something barber. The woman was Janice from the Facebook page. The forty- or fifty-something man was too young to be the elder Mr. Gibson and so I was expecting the young guy to be Drew. Who was the older guy I wondered. I was the only customer waiting, so I sat down. All three customers had evidently just started their respective haircuts, so it was going to be a fifteen minute wait, I figured.

I began looking around the shop and there were one or two things that were different from the Facebook photos. Some of the pictures were different and the waiting chairs were different, but otherwise, the shop was the same. So I sat down, waited and watched the other customers getting haircuts. This was something I enjoyed doing – watching other guys get haircuts. It had been a while since I had done that, but then it had been a while since I had gotten a haircut. I just wish that I had been able to come with Mike and watch his haircut. I would really enjoy that. Next week. I'd be able to do this next week.

I figured two of the chairs were a father-and-son combination with the kid being about 14 or 15. The kid was getting a longish buzzcut and the father had a business cut that was very similar to what I would normally have. Janice was cutting the kid's hair and the forty-something barber was cutting the father's hair.

The barber I thought was Drew was giving a very short haircut to a guy who was in his early 20s. The back and sides were shaved about ¾ of the way to the temple and then clipper shaved the rest of the way up. On top the hair was about four inches long and was being cut and styled into a quiff. The blow dryer and the Layrite were used to perfection as was the razor to outline the front hairline. A good-looking guy with a sharp haircut: That's the very thing you like to see on a barbershop visit.

Drew was also a good-looking guy, but with a completely different haircut than his customer. Drew's hair was cut exactly like Mike's. So that's how it happened, I thought. That's how Mike wound up with Drew's haircut. He had seen it, liked it, and gotten it. I wish I could be that straight forward, but it just wasn't going to be.

I began thinking about whether I could get a haircut like the Layrite guy. My hair was certainly long enough. The barber would be removing all of it on the back and sides and a couple of inches off the top. While the customer had dark straight hair, mine was blond-red and wavy. Much more work to get it in a quiff like the Layrite guy.

Janice finished up first with the kid's buzzcut while the older barber was about to start the father's outline shave. Janice motioned me to come to her chair, but I thanked her and said that I was going to wait for Drew. The kid came over to a chair in front of his father and sat down while Janice went to the back of the shop.

The older barber then spoke up and said, "Did I hear you say you were waiting for Drew?”

I said "Yes, Drew.”

He said, "I don't think I've ever seen you in here before.”

I said, "That's right. It's my first time here. Mike Evans recommended that I come and get a haircut from Drew.”

"Oh, Mike sent you,” the guy said. Then thinking, "Hmm, that's really odd ‘cause it's almost closing time and Mike isn't here. He's always here on Friday afternoon.”

I then explained about Mike having to stay late to do some work, and the older barber was finishing up the shave. The father stood up and paid for the two haircuts and left. The older barber went back to his chair and cleaned it out. He then looked up at me and said "Ready?”

"I was going to wait for Drew,” I said.

"I'm Drew,” the older barber said.

"You're Drew!” I exclaimed as I got up and went over to his chair. Drew put on a paper strip, caped me up snuggly, and then walked over to flip off the barber pole outside and close the blinds in the shop window. He also locked the front door and pulled down the blinds. "Time to lock up, especially since I know Mike isn't going to be coming.”

I then explained my confusion about which barber was Drew. Drew then explained he had spent over twenty years in the military, his father's health deteriorated and he wanted to come home and help with the barbershop. He was able to do a barber's course while still in the military and able to get a license right after getting back home. His father still came in the shop, and the two younger barbers were his children. So confusion cleared up.

Through all that explanation, Drew was combing my hair trying to get the knots out. "How long has it been since you got a haircut? Your hair is a mess. How do you want it cut?”

"I was seriously thinking about getting my hair cut like the guy getting his hair cut into a pomp. But do you think it would work?”

"I don't know. There's only one way to be sure and that's to try it. I think it will.”

"Such confidence,” I said.

"Well, it's not like it is an unrecoverable haircut. There's still plenty of length. I'd recommend not going as short as his on the back and sides for the first haircut. If it does work out on top, then I can either come back and cut it shorter this time or wait until the next haircut.”

I said, "That sounds like a really good plan. Let's go.”

With that, he told me to come over to the sink and he shampooed my hair. Oh, how I wish it had been Janice who was leading me to the wishing well. Ah, well, can't have everything. Drew threw me a towel and I dried off my hair. I went back to the chair, sat down and threw the damp towel in the bin.

Drew turned on the clippers and had a 3/4-inch guard which he proceeded to take up the back of my head almost to the crown. Over two inches of hair tumbled down over my shoulder onto my lap. He lifted the hair off my ears with a comb and ran the clippers up to the temples. Once the bulk of the hair on the back and sides was cleared away, Drew used a comb to lift up the hair on top leaving about four inches. Next came the Layrite and the blow dryer to put everything right. The hair on top was behaving and Drew was able to get a fairly high quiff and it was looking sharp. Drew brought out the mirror and let me see. The back and sides were only roughed in, but the basic outline was there. I told Mike I thought it looked great, but I thought the back and sides should get a shorter taper. He agreed and went back to work tapering in the back and sides so that it was skinned about a quarter inch into the hairline and then tapered to the ¾-inch length near the temples and crown. It took him another ten minutes to accomplish this. By this time it was approaching a quarter of six.

Drew handed me back the mirror and I nodded and took my hand and rubbed it up the back. This was a really cool looking haircut that felt great. It wasn't like the boring haircut I would otherwise have gotten. I was really happy and said so.

Drew did an outline shave and made my sideburns pointed. I thought that was really great. I told Drew that I thought I had definitely found my new barber.

Drew pulled off the cape giving it a snap and my hair was lifted up and then floated down to join the rest of the pile of hair on the floor. I stood up and walked over to the register. I reached into my pocket to pull out my wallet. And my wallet wasn't there. My wallet wasn't there! Where is my wallet? Did I have it out in the car and leave it on the passenger seat? Did I leave it at the office? Had I been robbed? All of these thoughts were running through my mind in a loop at the speed of light. I was beginning to panic. "I don't seem to have my wallet with me. I may have left it in the car,” I exclaimed. Drew's son was standing by the register as well.

Drew turned to his son and said, "Can you believe this guy? This is the third time this week and the thousandth time in the last year that some guy comes in saying he doesn't have his wallet with him, it's probably out in his car, and then leaves without ever paying never to be seen again.”

"No, really, I'm going to pay you. I just can't figure out what I've done with my wallet. I've told you that I know Mike Evans and he comes in here all the time. I'm not going to stiff you. It may be tomorrow when I come back with your money.”

Drew just looked at his son and said, "Again, can you believe this guy? No, no, no. We're not going to have one of you freeloaders we've never seen before come in get a great haircut and run off without paying. You're going to pay. Now.”

"I told you, I don't know what happened to my wallet.”

"Then we'll figure out another way for you to pay.” And with that Drew and his son grabbed me and dragged me back to the chair. "Sit still or you will get hurt,” Drew said. He was standing in front of me with a menacing look on his face. "I was a drill instructor and I know how to handle punks like you. It's time to pay up.”

Drew's son put the cape around me and said, "Let the payment begin.” This time it was Drew's son who was going to be my barber.

"My name is Andy,” Drew's son said. "I'm actually Andrew Gibson the third. The third Andrew Gibson. The third generation of Gibson who is a barber.” With that, Andy fired up the clippers, grabbed the top of my head and pushed it forward. "I noticed how you were eyeing my haircut all the way through your haircut. I know you want your hair cut like mine, but just can't bring yourself to do it. Whether you like it or not, you're going to get your hair clipped short, very short.” Andy pushed the clippers up through my well outlined sideburns obliterating them. The clippers stopped when they got to my temples. Andy was taking unrushed, deliberate strokes of the clippers running them top to bottom all the way around my head. Again, hair fluttered down onto my shoulders and then cascaded down the cape into my lap. Before long, Andy turned off the clippers and traded out the blade that was on them. The clippers jumped back to life. I could feel them running over the top this time, forehead to crown. Lots of hair was now fluttering down with each stroke landing on my nose and shoulders before doing their dive to my lap.

"I really like your haircut and it's exactly like Mike's but I'm also glad I had that quiff at least for a few minutes.” Andy laughed at that.

About then, there was some noise coming out of the back of the barbershop. Mike and Mr. Gibson walked out from back of the shop. "You guys finally got here,” Drew said. "It took you long enough. Andy has almost finished the transformation.”

Mr. Gibson walked over and rubbed my head. "Yeah, he's looking a lot better. He was walking around our office for three weeks looking like some kind of street person.” Mr. Gibson then tossed my wallet onto my lap to mix with the clippings. He said, "You know you should keep a better grip on your wallet. Loose that and you could get into trouble.”

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