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Never Run With Scissors by Zero
As he reached to their destination, the only thing that Chris could think of was that he was going to be late for his shift at the coffeeshop.
Of all the Saturday mornings in the world, the kids’ hair salon where his mother usually took his brother had to be closed precisely this very one.
It was days like these that really made Chris miss being an only child and the solitary bliss of his brother-free life.
His mother worked long shifts at the hospital and his father had passed three years ago, which left him to take care of Jamie most of the time. Given the option of returning home with the errand undone and facing an angry monologue from his mom in the evening, he tried to think of something... As he put his hair up in a half-ponytail to keep it away from his face, Chris searched for the nearest and closest thing around.
That was when he saw the old-fashioned barbershop right on the floor below them with the lights on and people moving inside it.
"So, no haircut?" he heard the high-pitched voice of the five-year old standing beside him, looking at the chairs shaped like animals empty on the side of the glass, inside the kids’ hair salon.
"No, you need that haircut" Chris answered "Come on, we're going to the barbershop".
"Come on, Jamie" he looked down at him "You're a big boy, after all, right?".
The kid thought about it for a millisecond "YES! I'M A BIG BOY NOW!"
Barbershop, beauty parlor, kids’ hair salon… What was really the difference anyway? His brother needed a haircut and they were all as good as the other.
"Don't hold my hand, I'm not mom, Jamie" he told his brother, getting his hands inside his pockets.
The child let go immediately "Sorry, Chris".
Quickly, they had moved from one floor of the mall to the other and Chris was opening the door of the barbershop.
Jamie looked around without making a sound, a little bit unusual for him, but Chris didn’t really mind that he kept his mouth shut for a change.
A forty-something man with thinning hair getting his head shaved with clippers was the only customer besides them that Saturday morning, and four of the five-chair place were empty.
"Good morning" Chris voice called the attention of one of the free barbers.
"Chris Giles? Is that you?"
A middle-aged man with very short silver hair tapered neatly in the back approached him with curiosity. Something in his demeanor seemed as fatherly as imposing, but Chris couldn’t place his finger on what It was or why he seemed familiar.
"Look at you! You've grown quite into a young man!".
It came to him then. This man had been his father's barber. It ashamed him that he couldn't remember his name. He vaguely recalled it had an ‘O’ and ‘E’ sound… Ollie? No, that didn’t sound right. Giving up, he just stretched his open palm "Thank you".
"Please take a seat, it's good to have you here!" the man put his hand around his neck and led him to the huge leather chair with eagerness.
"Oh no, it's not me" Chris raised both hands in a negative gesture "I'm here for my little brother, Jamie. I don't know if you've met him before".
The barber looked down at the child with a warm grin "Hey there, champ".
The child didn’t respond, his eyes were still glued to the man getting his head shaved by the other barber.
"It's his first time in a barbershop, he usually gets his hair cut at the kids' hair salon" he explained.
"I see" the man returned his attention to him "So, what should I do? Just tidy it up that mop a bit?".
"Well, actually..." Chris sighed and reached out for the baseball cap on top of the kid's head.
He revealed to the barber what the cap had hidden. The man pronounced an inaudible curse when he saw it. Chris didn’t blame him; he had a very similar reaction when he saw his brother yesterday too.
Parents shouldn’t tell their kids never run with scissors. No. Chris thought they should tell them never even look at scissors or be in the same room with them, at all. He knew he would if he ever had children of his own.
"He decided he didn't want bangs anymore, so he cut them off himself" Chris touched the patch of uneven, jagged hair sticking in every direction right on the five-year-old's forehead. It looked like he had begun to cut a mullet and stopped.
"Hmm... Deborah's not here yet. She's usually the one who cuts boys your brother's age" the barber said, without diverting his gaze from the shorn remains of the bangs.
"When is she coming?" he asked with urgency.
"Don’t know, she said she was going to be late today".
Chris ruffled Jamie's hair "But, can you fix it?"
The man remained thoughtful "With clippers, yes, sure I can".
"No problem. Use them if you have to" he told the barber "Thanks!"
"Come with me, Jamie!" the barber knelt at the child’s height "Let’s get you fixed!"
Chris saw his brother direct his gaze to him, as if waiting for him to say something "Go, Jamie. I’ll be right here".
Soon enough, Jamie had hopped into the chair, propelled up and covered with a cape. Chris decided to take a seat and wait, going through his phone. He guessed that the haircut would take about ten minutes, then another ten for him to drop Jamie with the neighbor until his mom arrived and finally in fifteen minutes more (at best) he would be in the coffee shop for his shift.
He was going to be late. No point in denying it. Chris sent a message to his manager, hoping that would lessen the nag he knew he was going to get when he arrived.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the door opening.
"Chris! What a surprise!" he heard a voice chirping sweetly.
He looked up. His heart stopped when he recognized her. Marau. The girl he’s had a crush on since middle school. Flawless, cinnamon-colored skin inherited from her Indian ancestry, gorgeous ebony eyes and long, wavy hair as black as the night. She was in his class and the captain of his school’s female soccer team, and he could hear talk about leagues, clubs and players for hours.
Chris saw her with a smile spreading across his face and thought then that maybe it had been a good thing that the kids’ hair salon was closed today.
"Hey, what are you doing here?" he rose to his feet to greet her.
"Oh, I work here" she answered taking off her cardigan "It's a part time gig, my mom says that I need to learn to handle money and earn it".
Just when he thought she couldn’t be dreamier, she was also independent and hard-working "That's very cool!".
She tossed her head back and occupied herself putting her hair up "Yeah, just kind of sucks working on a Saturday morning".
"I get you, I have a Saturday morning shift at the coffee shop today as well" he smiled at her "I'd rather sleep in, but I like having my own money, you know?".
"Yeah, that's pretty sweet" she paused "So, getting a haircut today?"
"Oh no, not me" Chris clarified, he rather liked his hair the way it was, long, down to his shoulders "My brother Jamie here is, he really did a number on his bangs last night, he hacked them off with scissors and my mom asked me to bring him here to get them fixed".
Following the sound of the clippers being turned on, out of sudden, he heard a loud and awfully familiar wailing. Annoyed, he turned his attention to the source.
Jamie. Getting the cape covered with tears, snot and the top of his head still with a handful of hairs sticking out awkwardly in every direction, and the rest in a light brown wedge that reached his collar and covered his ears.
Drama queen making a scene out of everything, anywhere.
"Excuse me for a minute" he told Marau as he walked towards his brother.
Any trace of 'I'm a BIG BOY' had vanished from the five-year-old and he was back to being a little kid now. An obnoxious, little kid.
"I don't want to cut my hair!" the five-year shrieked.
"Jamie, come on! Look at the mess you made out of your bangs! You have to cut your hair to fix it!" Chris tried to reason with him "It will grow back!".
"He has an electric shaver!" Jamie was yelling now.
"These are hair clippers. They don't hurt" the barber ran them across the inner part of his own arm "See? They tickle!".
Jamie didn’t stop crying. He didn’t even seem to have paid attention to what the man said at all.
Chris sighed. This would all be so much easier if his dad was still around.
"Just let the barber cut your hair, please, Jamie".
The five-year-old rubbed his eyelids very hard, his face was red "Why don't you cut your hair, Chris?"
"Because I didn't go scissors-happy and f***ed up my bangs like you did" he felt his patience wearing out.
"I heard that, young man" the barber called him out.
Jamie’s sobs hardly let him speak now "But I don't want to be bald!"
"You're not going to be bald, see this comb?" the silver-haired man took off the attachment and showed it to him "If I put it on the clippers, they won't shave you".
"That man on the chair was bald!" the child argued through tears and snot.
"You’re not going to be bald, Jamie!".
Chris considered it for a second.
If he thought about it with cold, hard logic, that actually seemed like a good idea. If the barber shaved his little brother's head then he wouldn't be able to f*** it up again with scissors and wouldn't need another haircut in a while, which in turn meant he wouldn't have to take him for one so soon.
That all sounded like a win-win situation.
But of course he couldn't show up back at home with his little brother shaved bald, his mom would kill him for letting that happen.
"Come on, Jamie" Chris leaned towards him "I promise you I'll buy you an ice-cream if you just sit there like a big boy and let this nice man cut your hair, okay?"
"I don't want ice-cream!".
So, his usual approach was useless. No bribing him to get things his way today.
Chris turned back to the barber then "Are you really sure you can't do it with scissors?".
"I don't think so" the man answered "Besides, if he's going to be squirming and thrashing, I don't think it's a good idea to get them anywhere near his head".
He looked at the time. He really didn't have time for this.
He was going to be really late for his shift if this kept going on.
"Okay, that's it. I've had enough of your tantrum already, Jamie" Chris looked at the five-year-old as he let his hair loose "How about you cut my hair with clippers and let him see so we can move on?" he suggested to the barber.
"Are you sure?" the man eyed him.
Chris lifted his brother from the chair and put him down on the floor "Well, I can't spend the whole day here".
He didn't know why but the moment he sat down, and the barber put the cape around his neck, he was suddenly jolted by an anxiety that seemed to steam from his very gut. Like something inside him told him this was an awful idea.
Okay, what was he doing?
In the mirror, he found Marau's chocolate eyes on him, with undivided attention as the barber ran a comb through his hair and pushed his bangs out of his face. She rested her chin on one of her hands.
Maybe that was the reason his stomach was churning.
"Okay, Jamie. Watch closely" he heard the barber tell his brother after he finished untangling his hair.
Holding his scissors and with zero warning whatsoever of any kind, the man secured the hair on the side of his head with his fingers and hacked off about three thirds of its length.
Chris saw in the mirror the shortened, bluntly cut locks on his temple and gulped.
"I'm taking off the bulk. Easier to work with the clippers" the man explained as he lifted another handful of locks and promptly sliced them.
He observed him work, discarding the clumps he held on his hand on the floor, feeling his head becoming lighter every time he sheared another chunk.
Stay cool, Chris. Marau is right there. He repeated himself through the dry, crunching noise of the blades against his locks. The barber dropped them as he cut them off.
Chris didn’t even know he had that much hair.
Quickly, he finished the work with the scissors and Chris was relieved. The man had cut around the sides and back, it was all roughly cropped so far, but at least his bangs and his hair on top of his head were intact. He saw him lifting his hair clippers.
Jamie was standing right beside him, his face still red and swollen, but apart from soft sniffs he was quiet now and watching his haircut.
"So, what number?" the barber asked him.
"Four" he raised his hand from beneath the cape and gestured lazily.
The man continued combed his hair back a couple times. Then in a swift motion, before he could try to stop him, he raised the clippers and plunged them straight into the right half of his forehead.
He saw six inches of hair falling down past his face onto the cape.
He realized two things at that very minute.
1. He was not going to walk out the barbershop with just a short back and sides or anything remotely like that.
2. The hair he had left was definitely not an inch long.
Actually, he realized a third thing right then:
3. It had been a TERRIBLE idea to come here.
Words abandoned Chris when he saw the path of bristles on his head.
He could see his scalp through.
That was not right.
Not at all.
"See? It doesn't hurt, and your brother isn't bald" like he was sticking his finger inside an injury, the man made a second pass right next to the other.
"Is he telling the truth, Chris?" Jamie asked between the sobs.
He was still too stunned about what was happening to answer right away, until he suddenly remembered he was supposedly setting an example for his baby brother.
"Yes" his eyelid twitched when the clippers went a third time over his head, this time being pulled back across his temple.
"So, what do you say, Jamie? You let Dick over there cut your hair?" the barber stopped for a second and pointed at his colleague.
Right then, as if sent by heavens themselves, Chris heard the doorbell ringing. A young woman rushed inside the barbershop, putting up her hair in a ponytail.
"Sorry I'm late!".
"Deborah! You came just in time! Would you please help fix Jamie's hair? Apparently, he was playing barber at home" the barber glanced at her.
"Sure, let me look at it" she approached him.
Chris didn't catch much of the conversation, as the barber resumed his work with the clippers when she arrived, and another six inches of his hair just dropped to his shoulder.
"Sorry about that, son", the man who used to be his father’s barber told him as he made another pass "My hand slipped. I'm afraid I'm not as dexterous as I used to be".
Okay. Now this guy was bulls**tting him.
Even as extremely as unknowledgeable as he was about barbering, he could tell that was anything but awkwardness or imprecision in his firm, nimble and agile hands as he worked.
As he continued running the clippers over his head, Chris suddenly remembered Marau there in the counter, merely steps away from him.
She was watching more intently now.
He felt his face growing hot.
He wanted an earthquake to tear the floor apart and swallow him whole.
He adjusted his grip over the armrests. The barber nudged his head to the side and started moving the clippers up his other sideburn. His brown hair rained down in a flash over the cape.
Perhaps his manager was going to be too distracted by the fact that he had cut off all his hair to mouth him off about being late for his shift.
Because, he knew he would be.
It was already bad to be sitting here, getting all his hair buzzed off to have Marau watching the whole thing.
"That is very short" he tried to level his voice, observing his mane being reduced to bristles with every pass of the clippers.
"It's a fine number two, son, just what you asked for" the barber answered merrily.
Chris thought he was going to have a heart attack "A two?" he croaked "I thought I was getting a four".
"Oh, you wanted a four?" the silver-haired man secured his head in position to work on the back "Sorry, my hearing isn't what it used to be... don't worry, it'll grow into a number four in no time. Now, head down, please".
He bowed his head forward and felt the barber moving the clippers from his neck all the way to his crown.
In the mirror, he saw Marau giving him what he could only describe as an empathetic and pitiful thumbs-up gesture paired with a smile.
He smiled back at her.
"Your hair is pretty long" underneath the neutral, matter-of-factly tone of the observation, Chris could hear a disapproval in his voice.
"Yeah, it’s been a while since I last cut it" he answered, watching the locks roll down to his lap with resignation.
Then, the man turned off the clippers and Chris experienced a short-lived relief when he saw him changing the attachment for a shorter one.
"I’m going to taper around the back and then clean up a bit" the barber explained as he positioned his head again and turned on the machine.
As he went over his nape again, he saw more hair showering the top of his cape.
Okay, now he was startled.
How much hair was this man going to keep cutting off?
Soon enough, the barber was done and went back to his counter for a trimmer "Remain very still now".
He felt him sculpt his hairline with it, cleaning up the arches behind his ears and the stray hairs that grew down the sides of his neck.
At the very end, without asking him his opinion on the matter, he shaved his sideburns off, right to a quarter inch below where the top part of the ear connected to his head.
"Okay, now we’re finished".
Chris felt relief finally wash over him as the barber removed the cape from his neck and cleaning him with a thick brush.
"You were in need of a good haircut, son".
He thoroughly disagreed with that statement.
Chris thanked him out of courtesy and ventured to raise his hand to his nape.
All he could feel was stiff bristles on his fingertips.
He hadn't had his hair this short since...
Well, since ever, now that he thought about it.
"Chris! Chris!" he heard a tiny voice calling "I got my haircut!"
With his mind in a whirl between Marau and the barber shearing him, he had forgotten entirely about Jamie.
Chris glanced at him. His brother's golden brown mop had disappeared (as any evidence of the uneven mess he had done on his bangs), and he had a very fresh looking close crop that looked really clean, with the back and sides tapered and gradually blending into the longer top.
It looked... well, great, if he had to be honest.
"That actually looks pretty good, it doesn't look like you cut it with clippers at all" Chris smiled at the female barber who had attended his brother.
"Oh. I didn't use clippers, this was all scissors work" she ruffled the hair on his brother’s crown a little bit.
Chris lost his ability to speak.
It took him a while for it to set in.
Then it did.
Did he just get a buzz cut so that brat would stop crying his eyes out at the sight of the hair clippers and all that… just for him to get it done with scissors?
Just f*** it. F*** this. F*** his life. F*** eveything...
Chris looked at the time, again. He really had to go now. His manager was going to be so mad he was this late.
"So, how much is it?" he asked.
"Just 10$, yours is free of charge, son" the older barber brushed his fingertips against his buzzed head.
"Thanks, that’s very kind of you" he touched his head, thinking the man had seemed far too happy to cut off all his hair.
"No problem, it was my pleasure having one of Fred’s kids in my chair" the man patted him hard on the back and then punched him roughly on the shoulder.
Chris rubbed the sore spot on his arm and thought for a second that the physical force and the playful demeanor was so much like his dad. He gave in to a smile.
"You look like you’re in the army, Chris!" he was taken out of his mind by the sound of his baby brother’s voice, and saw him pointing at him.
"Thank you, Jamie" he rolled his eyes.
"Hey, Marau! Just charge him for one haircut, okay?" the barber instructed her.
"Yes, Mr. Roger!" she replied from the counter.
Roger. That was his name.
"Thank you, Mr. Roger" Chris told him.
"You’re welcome, son" the barber slapped him softly in the cheek.
His mom was going to be so thrilled he had gone to his father’s barber this morning.
As he took out his wallet to pay, Chris thought that maybe it had really been a good thing the kids’ hair salon was closed.
Then, his eyes caught Jamie looking straight at Marau, before turning back to him with a huge, proud smile across his five-year-old face.
"LOOK, CHRIS! THE GIRL YOU SAID YOU LIKED IS HERE!"
The silence that followed, settled with the grace and subtlety of a bird crashing against a window.
The whole mall must had heard the five-year-old. Hell, even his manager, a good ten miles away in the coffee shop must have heard him.
Chris felt his face burning hot now, like he had a broiler underneath his skin.
Okay. Now it really was a good time for the ground to swallow him whole.
He cursed the utter lack of indoor voice of that kid "You know something, Jamie? I really liked you better before you were born" he hissed at him.
As if the open declaration wasn’t enough, and to dissipate any possible doubts, Jamie proceeded to grin and point at Marau like he had just learned a fun-fact and say it out loud "My brother likes you!".
Chris buried his face with one hand.
He couldn’t believe it was humanly possible to be more embarrassed than what he was then.
He just wanted to get out of here as soon as he could, so Jamie couldn’t keep on destroying his image and yelling out every single detail of his privacy. He built up courage to look back at Marau, who remained astonished by the information the child had given her.
"I'm sorry, that was weird. He does that all the time, I swear it's a nightmare" Chris handed her the bills, avoiding eye contact.
"It's alright. I have brothers too, you know? I know they can be a pest, and mines are all older and way meaner" she rolled her eyes.
He agreed with her "Siblings are the worst sometimes".
"Hey, take my number. In case you need to schedule an appointment..." she wrote it down on a post-it and handed it to him "…or if you would like just talk someday".
"I'm all for just talk" Chris took it in his hand.
"I'll see you around" Marau grinned at him.
"See you around" he turned around to leave.
"You know what? Next time I'm going to cut my hair with clippers like you, Chris!" his brother proclaimed with all the determination a five-year-old could manage.
"Next time, grandpa is taking you for a haircut" Chris was going to make sure of that.
Looking over his shoulder, he exchanged a glance and a smile with Marau and Chris thought that maybe he would become a regular customer here.