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What A Pickle by Deke Cutter

What a pickle I’m in. Josie has been one of my clients since I started a part-time college business. I would offer to set up computers, electronics, small "handyman" jobs—just about anything that I knew how to do that could earn me tuition or rent. Well, here it is 15 years later. I’ve stayed in the city where my alma mater is an that little business has grown into a company where I employ about 60 people, including 5 college students doing what I used to do in a more organized way and getting work-study credit.

Getting back to Josie, from helping set up a home entertainment center for her, she had become not only an important client, but a mentor and a member of my family. Josie had shown me how to set up a business plan, how to start a business, how taken me shopping for my "get a bank loan suit" and had made sure unruly bark brown looks were well trimmed and tamed for that important meeting with the bank and for later meetings with important clients. So, when Josie called, I usually took It as a chance to get out from behind the desk and take care of her problem myself if I could. I checked myself in the mirror by my office door and thought that Josie would have some choice words for me about my hair. I’d let it grow since I had last seen her, and my thick wavy hair would not meet her standards.

I still couldn’t believe that Josie had downsized from her huge home into a spacious condo in the city. When her last kid was out of the house, the long-divorced, but still very attractive Josie, wanted, as she put it, to start living. At the very young age of 56, she was semi-retired, maintaining only her role as Chairman of the Board of her company.

"Vincent, give me a hug. Let me look at you. That hair!" Josie went on to thank me for coming over and explained the very simple repair problem she needed.

"There you go, Jo. Its tricky when you’re getting all your systems set up in a new place. By, the way, you really have made this new condo yours!"

"Funny you should say that. This whole building is mine…well, one third mine. I met the head of the company that was redeveloping the building and came to a very good arrangement with him.

"I should have known you weren’t going to become one of those annoying rich people who retire young and…"

"Don’t say it because it ends in gets drunk, fat, fit, or boring."

We had a good laugh while Josie made us both coffee and asked me about my love life, bemoaning again that neither her daughter nor any of the several "perfect women" she had chosen for me had become my wife. She went on to remind me that that all men and especially successful Italian men (we were both of Italian descent) were in need of adult female supervision. Then she suddenly turned the conversation. "While you’re here, would you mind doing a little job for a new friend." I should have smelled a rat because Josie normally knew that she just needed to have her friends give her as a reference when they called, and they went to the top of the list and got my best workers. But, I was so enjoying spending time with her and had cleared my afternoon.
"Andy has lived in this building for almost 35 years. He and his late wife raised their three kid in a two bedroom/den unit. The main reason I bought into the project was because people like Andy were supposed to be guaranteed the chance to by or "rent to own" their homes as part of the city’s affordable housing plan. Then I heard that the city and the developer were claiming they couldn’t afford to uphold that end of the bargain. I contacted my ex-husband, Jack, (thank goodness for friendly divorces) and he confirmed that his friends in the real estate community thought it was a scam. I gathered some evidence and made the developer an offer he couldn’t refuse. Jack let the mayor know that his law firm would be offering their services pro-bono to the residents who would be dispossessed. And voila, my stake made it possible for the folks like Andy to stay and have their homes upgraded."

"Josie, you are a wonder."

"Flattery will get you nowhere, buster. Let’s get down to Andy’s."

Andy’s apartment was one story above the ground floor of the rambling 10 story building. Andy was a genial man who had obviously fallen under Josie’s charms. I noticed that his silver hair was immaculately cut and tapered. He greeted us "Benvenuti" (welcome) and looking a looking at Josie, added "ciao mi bella amica". Josie introduced me. Andy shook my hand warmly and thanked me for coming. He told me how Josie had told me all about him. Like many folks his age, his problem was with having been born too late to have soaked up the basics of modern technology. The rewiring of his apartment and upgrading of his apartment had been impressively done and I could see Josie’s involvement in all of it. Andy basically confirmed that, telling me he was eternally grateful to our "beautiful friend." On cue, Josie joined us and pointed to the wall behind us where a working fireplace held family pictures, including several of a heart-stoppingly beautiful woman.

"These are Andy’s children. Marco and Johnnie are both in the military. And this lovely woman, Josie said, pointing to a large picture, is Rose." I could hardly speak. Luckily, Andy made it unnecessary.

"Now, Vincent, how much do I owe you for saving me from ‘what do they call them?’ the geeks. I demurred saying something about any friend of Josie’s, as my eyes snuck another glance at the picture of Rose. Andy was about to remonstrate further, when Josie stepped in again.

"I think I have the perfect answer. Andy is a master barber and you, Vincent, are in desperate need of a good clean haircut. Come Andy, show Vincent your den.

Had I not been so besotted by the picture, I might have been quicker on my feet, as Josie set her trap. Vincent opened the door to his den and one corner of the room had a beautiful old barber chair and a couple of shelves and even a sink and mirrors. Andy explained that he still worked a couple of days a week at one of the most popular shops.

"I teach the young barbers all the old clipper and razor techniques and how to give Barber Shop haircuts." Here, I give cuts for friends, old customers and my boys, when they are home. Rose’s ex, that bum, he’s the only one who ever turned own my offer of a haircut, he said, ‘I prefer my stylist’ pops.’ Boy was I glad when she sent him packing."

Josie guided me across the room and into the large comfortable chair, so much better than anything I sat in at a salon or even the high end shops I visited. Josie smiled and said she was leaving me in Andy’s capable hands and slipped out, closing the den door behind her. As Andy placed the striped cape over me and put the white strip around my neck, he sensed me tense up.
Vincent, do you trust me to cut your hair? Josie wants me to give you a nice haircut. She thinks you don’t realize how important your image is. No if you want, I will just give you a little trim and you will look fine, probably like you always do. Or, you let me do my job and we will see if it changes your world.

My brain was in overdrive. I own a successful business. My hair has never been an issue. I owe a lot to Josie. If I let him cut my hair, maybe I can get his daughter’s number. What if he cuts it real short? Everybody is going to laugh. Josie won’t. Rose…..

Andy, I have to trust you and Josie.
With a nod of his head, Andy picker p his clippers and started shearing hair from the right side of my head. A huge chunk fell onto shoulder and then to the cape. This was going to be serious. He continued doing the same demo work on the right back side of my head. Andy chattered away telling me that tapers and fades were very popular styles with all aged men and that my hair was perfect for any high, low, medium, long, or short version. He continued working around my head occasionally stopping to adjust something on the clippers. I later learned, he was changing the guards and lengths. Soon, more hair would fall. First shorter lengths, then just a little spray. Finally, the clippers ceased. Andy picked up a spray bottle to wet the hair on top of my head. When he did so some dripped down and I felt it trickle down onto the newly shorn areas of my head. I thought that I must be nearly bald. My i had never been that short. Andy started cutting away at the top, but, he surprised me, the long bangs that hung down below my eyes were only cut to just above my eyebrows then he continued to cut the top . Next he combed my hair. Then he stopped, got out a disposable straight razor, got a handful of hot foam from a funny looking machine and placed it around my neck and ears. He carefully shave these areas, giving me another weirdly enjoyable sensory experience. He cleaned that up. Took a bit of product, rubbed it in his hands, pushed it through my hair and combed it again. Then, he turned me around to face the mirror. Facing me an Arrow Shirt ad. from 1960. The haircut was perfect. I had to admit, I was looking at a handsome man with very short hair on the sides his head and a wavy kind of pomp on top. I didn’t recognize me.

"What’s the matter, youu don’t like?"
"Oh, no Andy, it’s not that, it’s the shock. I’ve never seen my hair so shiny.
We can fix that, I’ll give you a sample of a product with a matte finish.
I put on my biggest smile, "Great."
At that moment, the door opened and delicious aromas came into the den and with them, the portrait from the other room came to life! It was Rose!
Daddy, Josie and I are making manicotti, whoa you must be Vincent, looking sharp. My old man is still the best barber in town. I blushed rubbing the back of my newly shorn head. Josie insists you stay for dinner Vincent, something about "conning you" into a haircut. Andy pointed to the pile of hair he was sweeping, and she laughed the most melodious laugh I’ve ever hear and said, well you obviously needed it.
If you like it, comeback in two weeks and I’ll tidy up your neck for you, that’s the thing with short hair, you have to keep it neat.
I’d love to stay for dinner, and I sure will come back for that clean up (what am I saying?)
To be continued-if you would like to know what happened when my staff saw my new haircut and when I met Rose’s little boy.

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