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The Friendly Barber by Deke Cutter

I’m happy with my new place. It’s in a nice building. Its just 8 condo apartments but its well-maintained and I can walk to work. The Sunday before the movers brought the furniture over, a buddy and I loaded up some of my fragile and valuable items. Phil had a van that he borrowed from his brother and we filled it and my car. There is only the one elevator in the building, so we were trying not to hold it up too much. On one trip, the door across the hall from my new place opened and a guy about our age came out and offered to help us unload. We were both sweating and breathing hard so we said sure. The guy introduced himself as Eddie and we finished the job in half the time with his help. Phil had to get the van back to his brother, but I invited Eddie to join me for a beer at the pub down the street after I stopped in my new apartment and washed my face and combed my hair which had got kind of messed up from all the sweating and lifting. I have wavy dark blonde hair that I comb up into a pretty decent looking long wavy pomp. Its sort of my signature look.

Eddie turned out to be a nice guy. We shared taste in music and both were big soccer and baseball fans. Neither of us were currently attached. He was divorced and shared custody of his 3-year-old son with his ex-wife and I was just over a serious relationship that ended when she didn’t want to get married. Eddie mentioned that if I ever needed a package delivered during the week, I could direct it to his shop, "right down the street." He said all the neighbors had permission to do it. I asked him what he did. He said, with some pride, "I own Center Avenue Barber Shop. Its two doors down from here."

"Wow, thanks for that offer Eddie. I’ll undoubtedly take you up on that some time." I was hoping that his next offer wouldn’t be for a haircut. I wouldn’t mind cultivating a friendship with him, but his closely cropped haircut suggested a difference in our haircut preferences. Luckily, he changed the subject.

"So, what do you do Mike?" I told Eddie about my job supervising a group of inspectors who go around making sure construction companies are meeting State and local codes. The companies pay us so that they don’t get fines or shutdown orders from the government inspectors. We talked a while longer and agreed to meet up in a few days after I got moved in. Eddie and I hung out together and I got to meet some of his friends. One of the guys, Luke said to me, "with a haircut like that, you didn’t meet Eddie at the shop." Like most of Eddie’s pals, that were there, Luke had his hair cut by Eddie and it was shorter than mine. Eddie piped right up, though: "Knock it off Luke. When Mike’s ready for a haircut from me, he’ll come to me and I’ll clean him up." That was the first time Eddie had ever made any comment about my hair. And it made me start to feel guilty. Eddie had turned out to be a good friend to me. Heck, he even trusted me to look after his kid one Saturday morning when his ex-wife had an emergency and had to switch days with him at the last minute. I knew the day was coming when I would have to face Eddie’s clippers.

Fate intervened in the form of my boss. The guy who managed our office halfway across the country had to take an extended sick leave unexpectedly and they needed me to go out and cover for him. O.K., I thought, I can go to Eddie, let him cut my hair and still have lots of time for it to grow back out. I was to leave on Sunday, so I figured I’d go see Eddie on Saturday. Friday I was starting to pack, and I heard a knock at my door. I looked through the peep hole and saw it was Eddy. "Hey Mike," he said, holding up a 6-pack of my favorite IPA, "how about a little farewell celebration."

"C’mon in Eddy. Heck, I’m only gonna be gone for 6 weeks. And, um, besides, um (I could feel my face reddening a little), I was planning on seeing you tomorrow, er, um…for a haircut." (there now it’s real, I thought).

Eddy got the biggest smile I had ever seen on his face. "O.K., Mike, let’s not make tonight too late of ‘a session’ then. Why don’t you come in early with me so I can take care of you before it gets too crazy. Now, let’s drink some of this beer. You got any munchies man?" Once again, Eddie turned the conversation away, but this time, he kept that smile and I noticed him checking out my hair quite a bit. A little before 10:00 PM, Eddie got up to leave. He told me to he’d knock at 7:00 AM and to have my hair washed and not to put any product in it.

Standing in front of the bathroom mirror the next morning, I started to comb back the sides of my hair. The longish wet strands laid against the sides of my head and blended in nicely with the back giving it a good full look. My bangs fell down onto my forehead and into my eyes. I combed them back and they fell into the wavy pomp I loved so much. I gently patted my hair. It looked so good! What did Eddie have in store for me? I forced myself to turn away from the mirror and was just putting my shoes on when Eddie knocked on my door. "Come on big man! We have work to do." He was holding a brown paper bag," I picked up some bagels. You can have one when we’re done."

When we arrived at the shop, Eddie opened the door and told me to get comfortable in his chair while he put some coffee on. He handed me a book. "Look through this while your waiting." The book was what I would call Eddie’s portfolio. He later told me he called it his ‘brag book.’ The book was filled with pictures of cuts Eddie had done and Holy Cow, Eddie was a superstar. There were long haircuts, incredible pomp styles like mine, short haircuts too, but the man has talent! Now, I really felt like a jerk for not trusting him, but thought, "hey, I’ll end up looking good."

Eddie came out drinking coffee. He put the mug on the counter behind his chair. Next thing I knew he had me caped up. "So, Mike, now you know I’m a pretty good barber huh?" I could feel myself blushing. "If you had ever spent more than two minutes in the shop, you’d know that. But you just thought all I did was short clipper cuts. So now, you are going away for six weeks and I know how you think. You figure I’ll cut your hair short and you’ll have six weeks to grow it back. Well, my friend, who am I to disappoint you?" With that, he combed my long bangs straight up and cut off four of the six inches. I sat there speechless because Eddie had caught me out. He put his scissors down and picked up a pair of clippers. Oh, no-no guard. He started about half-way up the side of my head and carved a line into the side of my head and went all around my head. "A nice tight fade should serve you well for 6 weeks." Eddie proceeded to remove my sideburns and all the hair below the line and then continued the fade leaving me with almost no air on the sides and back of my head. He went over the bottom quarter of my head with a foil razor, taking it down to the skin. "Now you’re starting to look like one of my rugby buddies-those guys you met. Two of them are cops, two are firefighters and Luke’s in the reserves. His hair was longer than yours before he joined up. Too bad you never met my bandmates. I had to drop out when little Ed was born, but they all look like Bon Jovi and I take care of their hair too. Now let’s take the rest of this top down. Eddie efficiently too my lovely wavy hair down to the same two inches he had reduced my bangs to. He then spent some time blending and point cutting. Next came the shaving cream and straight razor. Finally, Eddie took some styling product rubbed it in his hands and rubbed it through my hair. He combed my hair forward and pushed the bangs up into a little quiff forming that quintessential "noughties" flip up haircut. It was done to perfection and, I have to admit, I looked good and like I was back in college.

I said, "Eddie, what can I say. You were right, I misjudged you and you gave me a short haircut and I was afraid to lose my beautiful waves. I apologize man. Even if it had turned out you weren’t a superstar barber, I should have given you a shot out of friendship. You know how much I loved my longer locks, but this is one fine haircut, too nice, under these circumstances. I want to make amends to you properly. Would you mind taking the top down to a Number 2? I’ll still have 6 weeks to have it back to enough length for you to give me a decent cut when I come home. And after that, you are my barber and I will leave my haircuts in your hands, unless some gorgeous lady comes into my life and objects."

Eddy, the friendly barber, picked up his clippers, said "deal," and went to work.

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