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A Lesson In Clippers by Roy Miller
A Lesson In Clippers
Max slammed the brakes as fast as his instinct allowed, but control of his car has already slipped. It slammed into the parking lot on the side of the road and crashed into the vehicle ahead of him.
He quickly disconnected the call and plucked off the AirPods, rushing out of the car to assess the damage. There was a broken backlight and a dent. A huge one, though.
"What in the name of Christ…!" A man rushed from the other end of the street, donning a white tunic and a very angry countenance. "Are you blind, boy?"
Max grimaced at the older man—aged around early fifties. "That’s your car?" he asked. "Listen, I accidentally missed the bumper and lost control, man. But I assure you, I will personally take your car to the mechanic and have it fixed—absolutely without any charge. It’s totally on me."
The offer seemed to infuriate him further. "This is the problem with this young generation," he wagged his finger at Max’s face. "Instead of admitting your mistakes, you think throwing around cash is the solution to fix the problems."
"Look, I offered to fix it for you. So what else do you want me to do?" Max impertinently argued.
The man took a step closer. "Young man, don’t you dare take that tone with me. You were on your phone while driving; I have seen that. And I hope you know that’s a punishable offence. So, give me one good reason for not calling the cops on you."
S**t. There’s no way he could afford to get into a legal mess at this point. Not only will he be grounded, but that shining new car would be taken away from him. Max quickly accommodated his tone, all sober and respectable. "Sir, I am really, really sorry for the inconvenience. I just missed this bloody…I mean, stupid bumper, and that’s all. And I promise that I will make it up to you. Is that a good reason?"
The frowning man focused on his hairstyle. Max has been told that his shining glory, the head full of copper hair, was one of his best features. All the more reasons, he had always kept them long, face-framing, and layered.
"How do you expect to see clearly when this overgrown shaggy mop is falling over your eyes?" commented the man outrageously.
"Well, I just…"
Max was rudely interrupted as the man snagged his elbow and started to drag him to the other side of the street. "Come with me, boy. We’ll have to deal with this problem first. Otherwise, you might lose sight of the road once again."
It was only then he noticed the board—‘Powerhouse Barbershop’—an old-fashioned establishment with the blue and white pole at the front. And before he could even get a word out, Max found himself standing inside the dreaded interior.
Masculine interior, leather chairs, large mirrors, and a weird smell of hair products… Everything else was self-explanatory.
"I really don’t think it’s necessary," Max stammered. "Besides, I don’t cut my hair…" …in a barbershop…
"It’s ‘sir’ to you, boy," the barber snapped angrily and pointed toward a chair.
"And stop dawdling like a kid. Otherwise, I will have to treat you the same way I deal with the delinquent teenagers, who come in here fussing over their awful hairstyles and leave my barbershop with a bald head. Come on, take a seat now."
The stern tone of the barber brooked no argument. Perhaps it was the apprehension of a bald head that made Max comply with the instructions. No sooner than he seated, a strip of tissue and a white cape was tightly pinned in place.
The barber ran his fingers through his long hair, not too gently, and expressed his displeasure. "It’s a complete mess, and frankly, unacceptable!
In my days, respectable young boys didn’t have more than an inch of hair on their heads. What’s your name, boy?"
"It’s Max…Maxim Dunn," he stammered and quickly added. "Sir."
The barber swiftly picked up a large clipper, adjusting the long cord for his convenience, and issued his directions. "Well, Maxim, put your head down now. And sit very still." He froze at the hard command. His heartbeat rapidly against his ribs as he eyed the menacing clipper in his hands.
"I said, head down!"
A firm grip caught the top of his head, yanking his chin down to the chest. The clippers gnarled loudly before the barber plunged them into his victim’s shiny coppery locks at the nape. Max was completely unaware of the massive chunks of hair slithering down the cape as he was made to sit submissively and shorn against his liking. The barber deftly ran the clippers, drawing them higher and past his occipital bone. By the fifth pass, he had already bared Max’s back and tilted his head to the side. The sixth pass went right over his sideburns and exposed his ears. Two more passes, and the right side of Max’s head was completely bared. Surely, the barber was not messing around with the 0000 blades.
"Err…I don’t want it too short, Sir. Please," he almost croaked, looking down at shorn chunk in his lap and unmindful of the damage already being done.
The barber didn’t respond. Instead, he stoically swiveled the chair, pushed Max’s head to the other side, and clamped down. The clippers traveled higher up the temple, around the ears, and the left side received the same ruthless treatment as the right.
Closing his eyes, Max gulped and resigned his fate. The unqualified dominance with which the barber was shearing him was absolute.
Finally, the vice-grip eased a little, and the barber allowed him to raise his head. He began to comb the longer hair on top, giving Max the faintest hope of respite. But the hope was fleeting. The machine purred once again, swiping over the comb as a clump of dry hair fell on his lap. At least 5-6inches was stripped off mercilessly, and instinctively, Max tried to pull back his head.
The grouchy barber wasn’t happy. He caught him by the ear and brought his head back into position. "Boy, can’t you sit still?"
"Err…sorry. I just…don’t want a short haircut, Sir," Max squealed sheepishly like a little boy.
"What you want and what you need are two different things," the barber scolded as he sliced another chunk of hair from the top. The pile was just growing dangerously. He was relentless in his shearing, leaving behind no less than two inches from the scalp. And the farther he navigated towards the cowlick, the length reduced down to half an inch. Finally, satisfied, he paused to contemplate over the haircut and rubbed his palm over the shorn scalp.
Max desperately wanted to see the massacre of his precious locks, but he was afraid to piss off the cranky barber more than he already was. So he just sat and hoped to get this over with. But the barber was definitely far from over.
He drenched his head with the sprayer and gave a good comb-over before assaulting the leftover length with a pair of sharpest scissors.
"When was the last time you cut your hair?" he asked conversationally. "Or are you one of those hippy boys who doesn’t like to cut their hair?"
The tapering around the top began in earnest. Small snippets of hair rained over the cloth, and some clung to his cheeks as well. "I had an appointment last Sunday."
"Last Sunday?" he exclaimed and then tsked. "Does your barber even qualify to hold a scissor?"
"Barberbette, actually," Max almost whispered, feeling a little embarrassed.
"Umm. Janet is quite professional."
Having shortened the top further down, he turned his attention to the sides to taper and match the (almost) whitewalls. A small smirk twisted his lips as he manipulated the position of his head. "Ah! I see. You cut your hair in a beauty parlour." The way the barber said it, the caped guy felt emasculated. He was considered one of the popular lads among his friends for his shiny locks—always well-maintained and trendy. But now, those very locks were lying lifeless on the floor. Moreover, he was denied the mirror as well as the movement of his neck.
Humiliation flushed his cheeks as Max silently sulked in his seat. But the barber continued his monologue along with the ruthless shearing. "Don’t worry, son," he said, almost kindly. "By the time you leave my chair, you will definitely look like a respectable boy with a decent haircut. And no one will confuse for a hipster."
"Um. Thank you," Max whispered weakly. The final touches were longer than the initial hacking. The back of his head had no trace of hair, except for a quarter-of-an-inch pelt blended into the longish hair on top. He combed the front over his forehead, inserted the scissors, and lopped off another inch. Max cringed with the knowledge that he won’t be sporting his traditional, face-framing bangs anymore. The last stage of his haircut involved thinning shears, perfecting the blend of short hairs with clipper-shaved back and sides.
The barber smiled with satisfaction as he finger-combed the ultra-short crop.
"There! This is so much better than the shaggy mop on your head." His expert fingers ruffled the short hair on top. "And no more hair to distract your vision."
Max was dying to get out of the chair. But as he proceeded, a pair of strong hands glued him back. "Oh, I am not done yet, boy. Sit still. We need to clean you up."
"Oh, please, I don’t…"
"Hush now!" The barber worked up the lather all around the back and sides, and not just the contour of his hairline. He was determined to give the caped lad a true taste of a barbershop haircut. Picking up his trusted straight razor, he firmly clasped his head and positioned them high at the temple. With every swipe, he obliterated the faintest shadow of stubble and carved a new hairline for him—one that is at least two inches above the top of his ears.
And the back was even higher. Max sat with his head bowed and relinquished all the control over to the barber while he wiped the rest of the lather with the warm towel.
He applied a few drops of hair lotion and gave a final comb over with a sharp parting. Unlike the first time, Max now had very little hair that could be altered with a comb.
"Now, see for yourself. You look so much better," the barber announced gleefully, swiveling the chair towards the mirror for the first time since the haircut began.
Max stared into the mirror in shock, unable to register his own image. "Oh, f***! My hair…it’s so short and…"
"Watch your mouth, boy," the barber snapped, boxing one of his ears, which were so much prominent due to the lack of hair around it. "I have been quite lenient with you as a first-timer and left the hair on top longer. Men, generally, don’t leave my barbershop with anything less than half an inch."
Then Max was definitely grateful for whatever little was left on his head. "Sorry, I mean, thank you for the haircut, Sir," Max quickly added.
The barber nodded. "You will get used to it. A nice, short clipper cut suits better."
His face grimaced as he slowly took in the severity of the haircut. His fingers stroked the back of his head and met with the smooth denuded scalp. The sides were shaved too high and too tight. The image made his stomach churn and his mouth dry. Instead of a 22-year-old dude, his head looked like a shorn convict. Or worse, a schoolboy.
"C’mon, boy, go along now and fix the car. This haircut is on the house for you." He smiled. "And drive carefully."
No doubt, Max will be careful with the car—now more than ever. The last thing he needed was a lesson in clippers and shorn like a schoolboy.
Thank you for reading the story. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed.