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The Surprise Barber 3-Part 2 by Armando94


The Surprise Barber 3 (continued)


The call on Monday was inevitable, Bruce almost had a feeling about it. He had technically always been on a temporary contract anyways. So he wasn’t surprised when the owner of the salon called him in to say that this week would be his last. He didn’t even feel his heart sink. He already knew it in his gut that this was coming. All he asked instead was to be able to go pick up his things that day, which she obliged to and met him a few hours later so he could clear any of his personal supplies and products out of the salon. And then he handed her the keys, signaling truly that this was the end. Perhaps if he had stayed the extra week, it might have allowed him to have a new perspective and not lament so much into the next few weeks. He knew he wasn’t going to be going up to Ray’s and asking for his old job back, whether there was space or not there was no space for him in that business or any of those friend groups. He hadn’t heard from Mike, hadn’t heard from Aidan, really anyone at this point. He did not have the best relationship with his family, and did not want to admit his defeat and by what cost.

He’d packed up a bunch of cigarettes on his way back from the salon earlier, and was on his third one by now. He hadn’t smoked since he was young and stupid. Well, he never really grew out of the young and stupid phase so it seemed. Never owned up to his own actions. He made himself a drink as well and had been nursing a couple of those all afternoon into the evening. Trying to distract himself from what would come next.

It was only a matter of time before something like this happened to him, he always knew it in the back of his head. But his vanity and arrogance always got the better of him. He had to admit that much at least. And even that he didn’t want to, it only filled him with more dread. What on earth was he going to do now? Maybe he could find a different shop or salon to work at, maybe even move away? No, he’d already put enough money and work into this condo of his just to let it be rented out by some stranger, because he had no one in his life now to rent it out to or he could trust to handle it. But he certainly couldn’t move on with his current life, he had to start new, fresh. Whatever that may look like.

And that was just it: a fresh start.

This idea almost made him want to cry, and if you told him to do this a few years, hell, a few days earlier, he would have slapped you silly and said no way. But he was left with no choice at this point. It was time he rid his old and bad ways, and tried to have a clean slate. This led him to strip off his clothes in his bathroom, bare naked, and take a pair of clippers, no guard attached. He took a shivering breath in, closing his eyes as he place it at forehead’s center. And then, he flicked the machine on, opened his eyes, and watched as he carefully guided the #0 blade down the middle of his head. There went his hair, his dyed hair to be exact. Leaving behind a hint of dark stubble that usually was pronounced across his cheekbones, but now was plain across his head. He made the bald strip even wider with each and every swipe of the clipper, reducing his head down to that faint dark pattern. Goodbye to his hair, as he brought it around to the sides and back, the dark clumps falling around him and onto his tiled floor. Bruce holding his energy and anger in, not allowing himself to cry until he finally had clipped his plate down and got a good look in the mirror. It was not done, not even close. He started up the faucet and began to run it with hot water, then running his head under it as he screamed out in pain. Then he applied some of the basic Barbasol he had hanging around, a deep cleanse of it foamed around his entire head, covering the entire surface down to where his sideburns would be by the ears. Then he grabbed one of the straight edge razors, placed in a new blade, and began to scrape away, leaving the clumps of shave on a dirty towel, and then swipe another scrape of head again. Bit by bit, working all across the top, to the back and sides, using the bathroom mirror and an additional one to make sure he got everything. Feeling around his head. That was one thing for sure, he was a good barber. Not a single nick by touch or a missed clump of hair by sight. He had certainly brought the whole thing down. True chrome dome fashion, secretly one of the things he loved most about giving to men in his chair when the hair was receding or they were graying…like he most likely was going to.

He evened out the beard a little, figuring he would let it continue to grow more full and thick, really giving himself a new appearance no one would notice. But it was certainly obvious, the darkness of his beard and eyebrows, up against his head. Even with how nice of a tan he’d gotten all summer. He could certainly use the next few weeks of let his head get some sun. Plenty of lotion would be needed, but he had nowhere to go at the moment. So, he would spend the rest of August, out on the top of his complex’s roof while no one was home or around, lotioning and tanning his head to the point that it was already starting to match the rest of his body which was only growing darker and darker as well. He hadn’t been to the gym in weeks, he was loosing his muscle mass and growing skinny also from how much he had been smoking the day throughout and drinking by night. But there was nothing else for him to do, no where else to go and no one to see.

Finally, the Thursday before Labor day weekend, Julian decided to give his old protégé a surprise show-up at his condo in the evening. He knocked on the door, Bruce already having drank so much at this point that he didn’t even look through the door hole to see who it might be. He opened the door wide for Julian to see him in all his new "glory", the tanned skin and bald head, a heavy beard growing in, he was in nothing but a pair of boxers with socks on and a wife beater shirt.

"Where the f*ck is Bruce," Julian asked the stranger to him.

"Nice joke," Bruce crooked.

"No," Julian stepped in to inspect Julian. "You look like the picture of hell. What happened?"

"Lost my job," Bruce conducted him into his apartment with his hands, and lit up another cigarette, "lost my friends, everything. Just me now, taking care of my plants and cleaning this place, hanging out on the roof getting the last bits of summer sun in."

"Well the summer is gonna be over pretty soon," Julian stated. "And you’re gonna need a new job to pay for all this," Julian pointed out all the take-out cartons and bags around the living room, the cigarette butts accumulated as well, and empty glasses that had probably been filled and refilled with different liquors every night.

"What’s the point," Bruce puffed out. "I messed up."

"Yeah, well you always did," Julian shook his head. "Now maybe its time you get yourself out of it and get back on track, hey?"

"No point," Bruce took another drag in. "No one wants me anyway."

"I’m not saying you go back to any of your old friends, or old jobs. Screw that, you think I’ve been like that? I know you sure as hell haven’t, hence why you called me up about a month ago. You always find yourselves in these sort of situations, and you never take anyone’s advice. Well look, now you have no one’s advice but me. Clean up your act, or get a new one." Julian shook his head, then said how he was going away for the holiday weekend. Bruce wished him well, and half-promised they would keep in touch. Maybe Julian was on to something. Of course cleaning up Bruce’s act was going to take a miracle…but what about a new one? After all, he had always been great at role-playing and messing around with people’s heads. Perhaps what was his downfall was the only way he was going to get back up

*********************************************************************

A couple weeks after Labor Day weekend, Bruce decided he at least needed a new job. Cutting hair would still make him happy, so he wasn’t looking for a career switch. And he hadn’t already bit the bullet on moving out of town. So, he did the only sensible thing and start looking around. Walking around town, no one recognized him, he was a complete stranger to anyone and everyone. Even if there was someone who might have recognized him, they certainly wouldn’t have now, and he was not looking in their direction anyways.

He stumbled upon an old timey barbershop, where most of the men in here looked like they were over the age of forty, both working and getting haircuts. Thankfully it was a quiet morning as he walked in that day, the front barber and owner saying, "May I help you?"

"Yes," Bruce nodded his head. "I’ve noticed the last couple of weeks you have a spare chair open in your shop."

"Ah yes," the owner turned around to look at the vacant chair in the row of five. "John retired just recently after the summer. He’d been here nearly forty years, back when my father owned this place."

"Ah, so it runs in the family?"

"It most certainly does," the owner said. "Why you askin?"

Bruce said, "Well, if you’re looking for some additional help, I’d be happy to give my service. I am currently unemployed and looing for a new shop to work out of."

The owner nodded his head and said, "How many years you been cutting hair?"

"Professionally, nearly eight, but I’ve been cutting my friends’ hair since I was a teen."

"Damn, and you have only started in the profession the last eight years?"

"What do you mean?"

"This ain’t a second career thing for you, man?"

"No," Bruce shook his head, "I’m—I’m only twenty-seven, gonna be twenty-eight in a month."

"Shoot, my fault young man, you just seemed a lot older looking for your age," the barber tried to come back from that comment, not really knowing how to other than saying, "You know what, we haven’t put up an available position spot in the papers or even online, so, I guess we could give you a trial, see how you do."

"Thank you, sir," Bruce sighed of relief. "I—I can’t promise I’ll bring any new clients in…I’m kind of new around here," he lied.

"That’s alright, son," the owner stated. "We are a walk-in only business anyways, but most clients due to have preferred barber if they are willing to wait. I’m Steve by the way," he stuck out a hand.

Bruce had a brief pause before taking Steve’s hand, this was another big moment, another time to sigh and let the past remain the past. He greeted his hand and said, "Call me Ed," because his name was Bruce Eduardo after all. And Ed really gave him that old man quality he was apparently so much showing off these days.

"Ed, you’ll fit right in. Come back tomorrow and we’ll get you started. We’ve got a few barber tunics you can borrow before we order you some, unless you have some of your own."

"No, Steve, I’d prefer new ones. To start fresh and clean."

"My kind of guy," Steve said. "And of course, you will be tested by cutting each of the other four barbers’ hair, not just anyone who comes in."

"I look forward to it," and this was truly the first thing Bruce had to look forward to in a while.

*********************************************************************

Aidan was home for winter break of his sophomore year, finals had been pretty rough. He had had no social life since Halloween it felt like! But he was glad that a lot of his friends from college were pretty serious too, so at least he wasn’t alone. He had good company, and now he was excited to be home to rest and relax, and see his friends from home and his family. He really needed this break. Unfortunately, he had neglected to get a haircut too, probably since Halloween time. And his hair was not overly unkempt that his parents didn’t make a comment at Thanksgiving. He had to run out and do some errands for his parents, and was taking his time walking through the downtown, peering through the windows. A liquor store, a few restaurants where tons of people were gathering and celebrating, a barbershop with five barbers all working away past five, all older men with hair gray or graying except for the one in the middle who had a shaved head and a full beard. Maybe Aidan should stop in here, one of these barbers would be done soon enough, and all he needed was a trim, right?

He kept walking by, deciding against this establishment, maybe another time, but not today. He had to pick up another thing a little further down for his dad, and by the time he was done, he didn’t have the energy to walk past that specific barbershop and see if any of the guys had an open chair now or soon. For all he knew, they could have closed up for the night. So, Aidan got in his car and started to drive away, taking a different route home, passing by multiple strip malls, his vision caught by one of them, luring him to pull in and get out of his car. He didn’t know what the impulse was, but he felt it, so he did it.

"Ray’s Barber Shop" flashed about the store, maybe this was why he didn’t go to the old man’s one earlier, because fate wanted him to come here? He had heard of this place, it was where a lot of younger guys like himself went, and looked like where they also worked. So he decided to go in, test his luck, see if anyone was available.

He had no anxiety or fear on him, it was a crap shoot either way so he casually said to the few guys behind the counter and register, "Hey, I know its late, but does anyone have an opening right now? I can always come back tomorrow."

One of them, the tallest of the three said, "Don’t worry, I’ll take him."

"You sure, boss?" another one asked.

"Its fine, besides, I lock up anyways," the barber came around from the counter and stuck his hand out, "I’m Adam, I’ll be cutting you today."

"Thanks, Adam, I’m Aidan," he shook his hand back.

"Ha, that’s funny, Adam and Aidan. Come on back, man, I’ll get you started. Looks like you are in need of a cut."

"Yeah, I think I let prepping for finals and then taking them get the better of me this semester."

"You got that right," Adam said as he secured the cape around Aidan and consulted with him on what they were looking to achieve. Aidan said just a normal skin fade, and maybe leave a little bit of length on the top so it could be styled on top. Adam thought this was fair enough and that it worked for him, so he went to town on his new client. It also just felt so good to get cut, Aidan thought to himself, he really needed this. Besides the physical aspect of looking cleaner, it just made him feel better. And talking to Adam was great, he was pretty chill. They didn’t have the same interests per say, but they got along and kept talking and talking. The barber over from him named Mike, who seemed oddly familiar but Aidan couldn’t remember why, damn finals and all, played a little into their banter as well, while he was cleaning up from his last client. Aidan felt good sitting in this chair, it just felt right and calming. He knew for sure he would be coming here every time and chance he got to come home, which maybe would force him to visit his parents on weekends once in a while, especially if he was bringing his car back with him next semester.

"How we looking," Adam showed Aidan the back of his head at the end of the haircut. He really had Aidan lined up and looking fresh, possibly even better than Bruce ever had.

"Well, you have yourself a new client, if you’ll take me," Aidan stated.

"Of course, man, can never have too many," then Aidan paid for his haircut and left Adam a little something extra money wise in the tip, since it was the holidays and all, and promised he would definitely be back before he went back to school for the semester.

*********************************************************************

It was a couple days before Christmas and Bruce, or Ed as everyone here knew him as, was just settling into a good chapter of the book he had ben reading. Better he did that than go out for another smoke break, but it was getting colder these days and he realized how horrible of a habit it was that he ever started. One thing was for sure, since starting this new job, he was slowly feeling better about himself, even if not health wise. Cutting hair had always been his passion and while he had a new batch and crop of clients of varying ages and people he didn’t know all too well yet, he felt like he had found a new home to settle into, perhaps one he could stick at for the rest of his career and be left to his own devices and leave his past alone.

The door opened to the shop, the bell above it giving off a jingle. Everyone’s attention turned to the blonde thing that appeared in the doorway. Bruce had to suppress a laugh and bite on his tongue, he looked absolutely flabbergasted and like he was gutted this kid. Total difference than the last way he saw him in the summer, pompous prick who was high and mighty, drunk on his own oblivion and self-appreciation. And none of the other barbers were available at the moment.

Perfect.

"Come on over, son," Bruce sat up from his own chair, and motioned for the blonde guy to come over to him. "I’ll take care of ya."

The blonde kid looked like he might have even crapped his pants! Just look at his face, and the way he sat down in the chair, hardly looking up in the mirror.

"Won’t you want to take off your coat, son?" Bruce really had this old man thing down pat now. He was owning up to it, so much so that when he saw a couple sprouts of gray in his beard the other week, he figured he’d leave them. He knew that the rest would take time to really follow through, but he was going to leave them be in the bush on his face, and not mess with them.

The blonde boy shrugged out of his winter puffer and Bruce took it gently from him and put it up to hang on one of the coat racks in the waiting space behind them. Then, Bruce whipped out his white cape that matched the white tunic he wore for the day, and tightened it around this boy. "I don’t think I’ve ever cut your hair before, son. My name is Ed," Bruce stuck out his hands, his hands that looked old from all the smoking and perhaps lack of lotioning he had done recently. They didn’t look disgusting per say, but they could have been better well kept, and had been earlier in the summer. Plus, he prided in his arm and hand hair really coming through now, like a monkey man.

"Will," the blonde said, but didn’t know if he should shake the barber’s hand, until Bruce eyed him up and he realized he’d better do just that.

"So, Will," Bruce clapped his hands on either shoulder, saying, "what are we doing today?" Will had really let his hair go a bit, maybe he still was an aspiring model after all. But if he had been, he still should have attended to it so there wouldn’t be so many split ends. As it came down over his ears and touched his collar.

He let out a sigh, "I got busted and in trouble, and my folks aren’t cutting me any slack this time. They said no more second chances," he let out another deep sigh. "So my father walked me to the recruiters office this morning and I’m deploying out to sea in the new year after my basic training. So he wants me to get started on changing my act now."

"Hey, a man of service, nothing wrong with that," Bruce played along. Oh, this was going to be good. He got a little closer to Will’s head and asked, "Now, did daddy give his boy any specific instructions on what the nice barber should do today? Or do I need to ring him up?"

Will let out a disgusted sigh, saying, "He said…he said a high and tight. Whatever the barber felt was best."

"Ah, a man after my own heart, your pops," Bruce smiled, rubbing Will’s shoulders once again. "Don’t worry now, young William, we’ll clean you up real well so you are looking like you can set sail for sea tomorrow!" Bruce said as he went to his station and began to brandish off the clippers, removing the last attachment for them, and not leaving a moment of hesitation or second guessing for Will before he began to peel away at the side of his head without a guard.

Bruce cleared the path like he was clearing through victory, for this certainly was some kind of one. Leaving the blonde, dead hair of Will flying down like daisies and weeds in the summer grass, after the landscaping company came through for their weekly trim, as Will would soon enough have to learn all about his weekly clean-ups on his new crop. Bruce continued to clear away the hair from the sides and back, trying to ease up the young man, but really tease him down, about what life was going to be like in the navy for him, how great it would be for him to serve their country, to wear that wonderful uniform.

"Why, I bet you will look just absolutely smart in that sailors cap and uniform," Bruce smiled. Then he twisted the knife a little more. "Why, have you ever thought about modeling Will? I bet you would make one great runway star," and the boy in the chair said nothing as he continued to get sheered down like an animal.

Bruce was not letting this boy get away with anything, the top was brought down with #1.5 guard, which made Will audibly drop his mouth and moan at the sight before him. Bruce wanted to shove a cigarette in his mouth to keep himself from not laughing, but he knew Steve would have a word with him if he even so much as tried. "Yep, a nice, clean and tight cut for one of our nation’s finest," Bruce stated. "Your folks are gonna love this."

"I’m sure they will," Will put the emphasis on "they".

Then Bruce got down to his level and said, "And some day, you will too, boy." The rest of the haircut carried out in remote silence, then with Bruce just edging and beveling out between where the top had a patch of hair and the sides and back were completely bare. Once the haircut was complete, he dusted Will off and released the cape saying, "Fresh and new, son." He walked Will up to the front, saying how he hoped when the boy was deployed home, he would make sure to visit the shop and tell "Ed" all about the navy life. And for a brief moment, Will’s "Okay" response had a slight smile to it, and that just about was a Christmas miracle for Bruce.

He walked outside with Will, went to go light up a cigarette for himself, the boy looking over at him, wanting to have one too. Bruce shook his head and said, "Alright, son, but only because you better be giving this up when you go to the navy. Ya here?"

"No promises," Will coolly and casually lit up his cigarette. The two of them stood out there in the dark and cold, looking out at the little town before them. "Here’s to the New Year, man."

Bruce nodded his head in agreement, "Here’s to the New Year, to all the new there is."


THE END

(thanks to all for the previous comments from the other two in the series. If you have not already, please read the other two that came before so this final one split into two makes sense!)



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