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Returning Home: The Horseshoe by burrlypup
It was the darkest day of my life: I was on the curb, with no money, and no future. Just a month prior, I was an accountant for one of the largest banks in the United States, but some very unwise decisions left me unemployed, and my spending habits left me with nothing to cushion the blow. I desperately grasped for new work, but it was pointless. My once good name was poisoned and I had to think of something quick, or fall even lower.
It was such a humbling experience. I had a lavish $8000/month NYC apartment full of my playboy toys and belongings, a 2015 BMW, thousand dollar suits for every day of the week, and the feeling I was unstoppable. The only thing I took was a dark grey suit, some photos, and my laptop. Everything else was repossessed or thrown out into the street for the homeless to rummage through.
Ultimately, I had to move back in with my parents. Thirty years old and back with the parents. It was a bitter pill.
Almost 5am, I got off the Greyhound bus and as I disembarked, the humidity hit me like a brick wall. It was a hot July morning, sweat beaded on my brow and I wiped it off with a relic of my former wealth - a silk, monogrammed handkerchief. It had been a good two months since I last had a haircut, though I knew my days of visiting a salon were dead and gone. My silky brown locks seemed to soak in the humidity, giving them a sleek shine. Good thing, considering I had no product to tame my hair with. My long, golden forelock that looked so stunning when I dressed in suits. I inhaled deeply and tried to imagine myself back at the top again, it would be only a matter of time.
"Welcome home, son," my father stretched out his arms. I expected him to gloat, but it never came. My pops led me to his old truck and we started out journey back to the farm.
Having not slept since I was evicted, I slept through that first day and woke up at dawn the next day. My parents were kind enough to take me in, so I was going to make sure I pulled my weight. I needed to stay focused and make a plan, so I hiked five miles into town. My parents still didn't have internet, so I would have to do my job searching at the library. It was a small town, population 734 - now up to 735.
As I checked the job listings, I knew it would be a tough road ahead. Many jobs in town paid only $7/hour. I paid my former housekeeper twice that! I applied at as many jobs as I could before the library closed at 5pm. I used my charm with the head librarian, Mildred, and filled out a volunteer card. Mildred was likely in her nineties and spoke with a slow southern drawl, "You're welcome to volunteer anytime you like. Perhaps you should seek out Ted before you go on any interviews."
"Who's Ted?" I asked.
"He's the barber, across the street and down the block on the corner. He'll fix you up with a sharp haircut, only $6. My husband, actually everyone in town goes to Ted. Matter of fact, here's $6 - go ahead! It'll make me happy." Mildred handed me some bills, which I took.
"You've been so nice, I really can't take your --" Mildred cut me off.
"DAMMIT SON, TAKE THE MONEY!" Mildred shouted, and smiled sweetly before getting into her 1963 Corvair, flooring it but stopping at the red light thiry feet ahead. I gulped and looked down the street in the direction of the ominous swirling red, white and blue barbershop pole. I walked down and took a deep breath as I entered. The air conditioning was a huge relief. I took a look around the small shop that was maybe twelve by fourteen feet with one chair and three waiting seats. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"You going to let out all my cool air, son?" Ted said as he smiled at me, ushering me in. I felt so rude for standing in the doorway like that, "I'm sorry, Sir." Ted must have been sixty, though was very limber, cleanshaven and had a head full of white hair cut into a smart businessmans cut.
"Have a seat, I'll get you cleaned up in a jiffy." I did as I was told. I noticed I was gripping the bills Mildred gave me, so I shoved them in my pocket like a seven year old would. I relaxed as Ted caped me up. After losing everything, I realized the only thing I had left was my appearance. I looked in the mirror ahead at my reflection. I only saw that foolish playboy, and it sickened me. I needed a change and shedding the long locks would be a good start.
"I'll be looking for work, and dealing with this heat, so I need a short haircut." There, I said it!
"You're in the right place, son. Let's start with a free shave on the house," Ted smiled at me as his clippers were raised to my cheek. Soon as my face was buzzed, Ted had placed some hot towels, then lather and expertly shaved my face. His calculated strokes amounted to shaved face in less then a minute, followed by a double handed slap of tonic on both cheeks and around my jaw. I felt so refreshed, and the haircut hadn't even begun.
I hadn't felt clippers on my nape since college - and now Ted was shearing the sides of my head with them, fairly high around the sides and seemingly higher in the back - I was getting scalped! He turned off the clippers, and I smiled politely. Regret set in as he wet the top and snipped my forelock off - a good three inches gone in one snip! He worked over the top of my head, seeming to snip, ponder the shape of my head, and snip more.
Ted placed some waxy pomade in my hair and brushed it back, using the blow dryer to make it stand up. My hair looked awful. Ted pick up the clippers and placed a comb on top of my head, then ran the clippers over it, repeating this as he moved the comb closer to my crown and over it. He examined the top, clipped again, then ran the clippers down the middle! I was going to leave bald.
My eyes were closed after that. I couldn't look at myself. Then I noticed Ted was applying hot lather around my neck, gave it a quick shave, and began massaging a hot towel over my shorn head.
"All done!" Ted announced, lifting the cape, scattering my hair to the floor. I opened my eyes. I wasn't bald, but had a very sharp flattop. I turned my head as I examined the cut, it was very masculine and suited me very well!
"Looks great, what do you call this cut?" I asked, elated I wasn't bald.
"Horseshoe flattop, son! I was cutting you a nice regular flattop, but your hair is so dense you can't even see skin through the landing strip. Check it out!" Ted gently nudged my head forward, and I saw the top - perfectly buzzed tight with about half an inch in front. The 'landing' strip was as short as the sides, but he was right, my thick dark hair worked well with this cut.
As I pulled out the $6 Mildred gave me, Ted pushed my hand back. Then reached for a shoebox.
"Here son, your first job." Ted handed me the shoebox - it was full of receipts and tax documents.
"Now I can't pay you what you were making in New York, but I'll pay you $15 an hour to help me organize my finances."
"Thanks so much Sir, I'll have this sorted out by tomorrow! But how did you know I'm from New York?" I asked.
"It's a small town, son and your pop was in here yesterday. Now if you'll help me sweep up your hair, I'll be happy to give you a lift home. You'll get a sunstroke if you try to walk home now." Ted offered, and I readily accepted.
It was strange sweeping up my own hair and depositing my long locks into the bin. I could identify my forelock amongst the pile since it had a golden streak in it. The wind felt amazing on my freshly shorn head as we drove down the road with the windows down in Teds 1988 Oldsmobile. I had lost so much, but in that moment I felt richer than I had in years.