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Alex in Wonderland by htflatnc

Alex in Wonderland

Alex was sitting on a park bench reading a book, when he suddenly noticed it was 5 minutes until 2. It was a wonderful day – the sun was shining, with a few scattered cumulus clouds to stir the imagination; the temperature was warm, but not hot. It was the beginning of spring. In preparation for the warm weather around the corner, Alex had a 2 o’clock appointment at his salon and he did not want to be late.

The salon was across from the other end of the park, about 500 yards away. There was time if he hurried and the stoplights were cooperative. As Alex was hurrying through the park, a white rabbit scampered across his path, stopped and looked at him curiously. Alex rushed past – he didn’t want to be late.

Alex had moved into the neighborhood in the fall of last year after three years of helping a developer renovate the area. Alex was an architect and really appreciated the details in these older houses and shops in the neighborhood. The buildings reflected old money but they had been allowed to go to seed and were now being revived. Alex had played no small role in this.

Alex got to the corner and had to wait for the light to change before crossing. On the corner opposite was Derrick, the Rastaman, one of the neighborhood’s perennial characters. Once Alex was halfway across the intersection, he could smell the unmistakable smell of ganja. There was no discernable music playing, but Derrick was dancing – no doubt to a tune inside his head. "Alex," Derrick shouted. Before Derrick could get started talking one of his blue streaks, Alex cut him off and said, "Sorry, Derrick, but I’m late. Goodbye for now." Alex hurried off to the salon as Derrick was yelling something after him.

Just as he entered, Derrick looked at his watch. It was 3 minutes after 2. This place required punctuality, and he was late. He looked up expecting to see Jan, the receptionist, but the interior was completely different. Instead of Jan there was another woman with her hair done in a 1950s style, wearing a dress out of the 1950s, and then he noticed the surroundings. There were no plants to greet him – just linoleum and rather harsh fluorescent lighting. There was a bank of old-fashioned hair dryers with women in curlers sitting under them. The wooden counter that he had been expecting – that he had designed as part of the facelift for this salon – was not there, but rather a glass counter with various hair products Alex had never seen except in magazines. And the smell: sulfur and stale cigarette smoke.

"May I help you?" the receptionist asked.

"Does Jan have the day off?" Alex asked back.

"Jan? There isn’t anyone named Jan working here," the receptionist replied.

"I have a 2 o’clock appointment with Elaine. I’m sorry I’m late. I hope I haven’t inconvenienced her," Alex continued.

"There must be some kind of mistake. We don’t do men’s hair here. Only women’s," the receptionist responded.

"Is Elaine here? She owns this salon. I’d like to see her if I could," Alex said.

"I’m sure that will be news to Angela, since she owns this beauty salon," the receptionist replied huffily as another woman approached. She too was wearing a polka dot dress that could only have come from the 1950s, high heels to match and a beehive hairstyle.

The other woman asked, "Is there something wrong here?"

"This man says that he has a 2 o’clock appointment with Elaine and that Elaine is the owner of this shop," the receptionist said.

Before Alex could say anything, the other woman called out, "Elaine, come here please." And a third woman approached. She was younger and had a poodle hairstyle.

"This man says that he has a 2 o’clock appointment with you and that you told him that you – and not me – owned this place," Angela said.

"I’ve never seen him before in my life," Elaine said.

"I’ve never seen her before either," Alex said.

"At least somebody agrees about something. Mister, are you drunk or crazy?" Angela asked.

Alex was very confused at this point. "I just wanted to get my hair styled as I always do at this place. I’ve been getting my hair styled here once a month since I moved here last fall."

Angela said, "I can’t smell any alcohol, so you must be crazy. We don’t cut or style men’s hair here. We’ve never seen you before. Please leave before I call the police."

Alex said, "All I want is to get my hair cut."

Angela was opening the door for him and said, "Then go to a barber shop. That’s where men go to get their hair cut. Not to women’s beauty salons."

Alex was back out on the street after having been tossed out of the salon he had been going to for the past eight or nine months. He was dazed and confused. And those women had been so rude to him. They acted as though they were getting ready to chop off his head. He didn’t understand it. Renovation of the barber shop had not been his project, but rather his partner Jerry’s. Jerry had a thing about barber shops and haircuts that Alex didn’t understand. But Alex knew Jerry would have done a first rate job in the renovation. Jerry was all the time trying to get Alex to get a much shorter haircut, but to no avail.

Jerry had once asked Alex if he had to get a short haircut what would it be. Without hesitation, Alex had answered "A flattop." Alex thought they had an enormous amount of appeal, but didn’t quite understand it.

Alex did want to get his man bun washed and trimmed. There was a barber shop a couple of blocks away. Alex knew it had been renovated and taken over by some young hipsters whom he was pretty sure could take care of his hair.

When he came out of the salon, Derrick had danced up the street. "That didn’t take you long," he said.

"They wouldn’t cut my hair. They said they would only cut women’s hair."

"It’s a sign from the Lord," Derrick intoned. "The Lord does not mean for us to cut our hair. Look at mine. It is perfect. Per-fect. And you put yours up rather than letting it flow free the way the Lord meant for it to. You should let it down."

Alex listened to all of this and wondered whether Derrick was right and that he was the crazy one for thinking about cutting his hair. And then he came to his senses. "Got to go, Derrick. Good talking to you as always," Alex said and walked briskly down the block while Derrick slowly danced his way in the same general direction. Nothing Derrick ever did was in a straight line.

Alex was tall, 6ft4in, 34 years old, but always had to watch his weight and exercise in order not to develop a middle aged paunch. His architectural practice was successful and he got along well with his partner, Jerry. But Alex and Jerry were opposites. Jerry was very meticulous about almost everything, while Alex was the free spirit and at times visionary. Jerry kept his light brown hair cut short in a crewcut with bangs, but the bangs were never more than two inches in length. Every time Jerry let them get to that length, he would have them clipped back to the length of the rest of the crewcut only to let them grow out again. Alex had the man bun that if he let it down would reach to his shoulder blades. Alex thought his man bun was very professional and attracted a certain clientele. His hair changed color as it grew longer – blond at the roots to auburn at the ends with a transition in color along the strands. Another large difference in appearance was that Alex had a full beard while Jerry was clean shaven. Alex and Jerry respected one another and realized that they complemented one another.

As Alex approached the barber shop, there was Derrick dancing out in front. "What? How did that happen?" Alex wondered. I walked much faster than he danced down the street.

"How did you get here so fast?" Alex asked.

"I’m on a mission to talk you out of going to that barber shop. There is nothing but evil and wickedness in there. Perdition shall surely follow" Derrick intoned.

Without saying anything, Alex went past Derrick and opened the barber shop door. He noticed that the name on the door was "Hartz Barber Shop."

When Alex walked in, he saw there were four barber chairs, three filled. There was only one old man with a white flattop waiting. And all eyes were focused on Alex. There was nobody else there with hair longer than three inches, nobody with a beard. Alex’s hair was at least 18 inches long and he had a beard that was four or five inches long.

Suddenly, Alex heard the old man say, "Off with his hair."

"Be quiet, King. You don’t want to scare off the beatnik before he gets a haircut," said a barber cutting the hair of a 10- to 12-year-old blond boy getting a crewcut. There was not much hair on the cape, indicating this was a trim from a previous haircut that had occurred not more than about 10 days ago.

Alex began taking in more of his surroundings. In the second chair, a blond teenager was getting a flattop. Again the short clippings on the cape indicated this was maintenance from a flattop delivered not long before. And finally an older man in his early forties was getting a short tapered haircut with a crisp side part. Alex wondered if this was a father with his two sons. This was in fact the case, as Alex would learn at the end of their haircuts as the father paid for all three.

Then Alex saw something he had not expected, there was a 1957 calendar with a classic red and white Chevy Impala convertible with a jet hood ornament on it. 1957? What was going on? 1957 would explain the haircuts and the clothes he was seeing. It would explain also what he had seen at the beauty salon he had been kicked out of. But when he had gone outside, it was 2017 all over again. But how did Alex get to 1957 and only in the barber shop and the beauty salon? This was most curious.

The fourth barber stood up and asked, "May I help you?" Alex went over and sat in his chair. The good looking blond barber was in his late 20s, tall and had a flattop.

"Mister, are you with the circus?" the barber asked.

"No, he’s not with the circus. He’s a beatnik," the other barber said.

"No, I’m not either one. I’ve been in the jungle in South America for the past two years. And it’s time to get a haircut and a shave," Alex boldly – and believably – lied.

The barber clipped Alex’s beard to stubble in short order whereupon the barber leaned the chair back and tucked in Alex’s shirt. "I’ve never seen clothes like these before," the barber said. "Did you get them in South America?"

There was, of course, only one way to answer that. Before Alex could answer the torrent of questions that followed, the barber had a hot towel on Alex’s face making conversation virtually impossible, so the questions died away.

Before long, Alex was clean shaved. A strong jaw line had been hidden under that beard all these years.

After a bracing application of aftershave, Alex sat up in the chair. It was now time for the man bun to undergo destruction.

"Off with his hair," King once again said.

"Soon enough, King," one of the other barbers answered.

"How do you want your hair cut, Mister Explorer," Alex’s barber asked him.

"What would you recommend? It’s been a while since I’ve had a haircut at a barber shop" Alex asked.

"I’d definitely recommend a flattop for you. With the blond hair and your jaw line and shape of your head, flattop is the way to go," the barber said without any hesitation.

"Take it away," Alex said.

The barber went over and got the Oster 76 clippers and started them up. He came back over to Alex and gripped his man bun. He began digging the clippers into the base of the man bun just below the clasp. With a little bit of difficulty, the man bun was finally severed and he dropped the wadded-up hair into Alex’s lap.

And then something most unexpected happened. The man bun began talking to Alex. At first, the man bun was talking gibberish, but then it started to make intelligible sounds. It was saying that the man bun was no longer alive. If Alex had only gone to the beauty salon like he planned to, the man bun would still be alive. The man bun was very sad that it was no longer alive. Evidently, Alex was the only one who could hear the man bun talking. Alex undid the clasp holding together the man bun and began letting smaller bits of hair drop to the floor and the man bun quit talking to him.

The barber was almost finished giving Alex his flattop. Alex liked the way it looked and thought it was much better than the man bun he had before.

The barber then asked him, "Do you want the flattop in pink?"

Suddenly, Alex heard a dog barking as his phone was ringing. It was Jerry calling. Quickly gathering his wits, Alex answered the phone and noticed it was 2:30.

"Alex, Elaine called and said you didn’t make your 2 o’clock appointment. What happened?" Jerry asked.

"Sorry, I was here in the park and evidently I dozed off," Alex said.

Jerry: "She said she was sorry but she wouldn’t have another opening until the end of next week."

Alex: "That’s ok. You haven’t been to your barber shop yet, have you?"

Jerry: "No, why?"

Alex: "It’s time the man bun hit the floor and I get a flattop."

Jerry: "Meet you over there in fifteen minutes."

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