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You Tell Me by Just_Me
Yesterday, I decided to do it. I fulfilled a lifelong fantasy.
I had already picked the shop. I hopped on my bike, and headed over there. I hesitated for just a second before I pushed the door open, thinking, "You’re taking one helluva risk here, Chase."
A cheerful voice immediately said, "Good morning. Come on in." He stood up and walked toward me, with his hand extended. "I’m Harry."
"Hi, Harry." An uncontrollable urge passed over me. "Were your parents prophets or psychics?"
He looked startled. "I’m sorry. I don’t understand."
"Well, I thought your parents might’ve been prophets when they named you Harry. You’re mighty hairy."
He gave a forced laugh. "I’ve never had someone say that before."
I felt bad. "I’m sorry. I’m always goofy, but that was rude of me, and I didn’t mean to be. Let me start again." I held out my hand. "Good morning, Harry. Nice to meet you. I’m Chase. How ya doing today?"
A real smile passed over his face. "I’m not complaining. I always say that life is good as long as my ex-in-laws are in the grave, and I’m above ground."
I grinned. "That sounds like something I would say."
He brushed off the leather seat of his big chair. "What can I help you with?"
I ran my hands through my hair. "As you can see, I’m in desperate need of a haircut."
He looked me over. "That’s a fair assessment." He grinned. "It just so happens I know how to cut hair. Hang up your jacket, and have a seat."
I hung Hilda on the rack (Yes. My coat is named Hilda. I named her when I got my first leather jacket about twenty years before. My Harley is Bertha Mae. Hilda, Bertha Mae and I have had some fun times together.)
I sat in the barber chair, and was struck by how comfortable the chair was. "I want a chair like this. How do you think it would look in my living room?"
He laughed. "Don’t ask me. Ask your missus."
I held up my right hand, showing the tan line where my wedding ring had been. "I’m newly divorced. No missus."
He shook his head. "I’m sorry to hear that."
I snorted with laughter. "I’m not. I’m thrilled to be rid of the bitch. Should’ve done it years earlier."
He grinned. "I feel the same way about my ex."
He picked up a comb and started getting the tangles out of my hair. (A motorcycle is not good for long hair.) "What am I going to be doing for you today?"
I grinned. "I don’t know. You tell me."
He stopped combing my hair. "Huh?"
"I’m starting a new life as a newly single man in a new town with a new career. I want a new look to go with it. Do whatever you want. I don’t care. I’ll be happy with whatever shows up in the mirror."
"Yes, sir. Anything!" I looked at him. "The only clue you’re going to get from me is the fact that I march to a different drummer, and I’m not afraid to be different."
He paused. "What styles have you thought about?"
I grinned. "You’re not getting any ideas from me. Whatever you pick is what I want."
He was obviously stumped. He rubbed his balding head, and the short bristles of his crewcut made a rasping sound. "I’ll be damned. I’ve been a barber for a long time, and I’ve never had anyone give me carte blanche before."
His eyes gleamed, revealing the first hint of a sense of humor. "What if I give you a monk’s haircut?"
"I’d say a prayer for your soul."
"What would you say if I gave you a high and tight?"
"Hoorah! Semper fi!"
"Where’s the enemy? Let me at them!"
"An induction cut?"
"Drive on, drill sergeant. Drive on."
He squinted, making the wrinkles around his eyes more pronounced. "What would you think if I shaved your head?"
"I’d hope you’d polish it until it gleamed like a bowling ball in the sun."
I thought, "Damn! I’m glad I picked this shop. I like that he immediately went to short cuts."
He kept asking questions. "A short back and sides?"
"Daddy, can we get ice cream on the way home?"
"How would you react to a Mohawk?"
"I’d rip some holes in my t-shirt, and go buy some safety pins to put in the nine holes I’d get punched in each ear." I looked at Harry. "What do you think, should I get my septum pierced too?"
He laughed. "I think you’d do it, wouldn’t you?"
I grinned. "Damned straight I would!"
I think he was beginning to enjoy our banter. He fired another question. "A businessman’s cut with a pompadour?"
"Amen, brothers and sisters. Join me in singing hymn #498 while they pass the offering plates. Don’t forget it’s more blessed to give than to receive."
He bellowed with laughter. "That was funny!"
He kept on. "Flattop?"
"I’d sing, ‘I can mash potato. I can do the twist’." I smirked. "That’s a lie. I can’t dance." I asked, "Hey, Harry, can you teach me to do the twist?"
He grinned. "Yep! I can teach you to do the twist. It was the only dance I learned as a kid." He asked another question. "What if I decide to just trim you up? What are you going to say then?"
"I’m going to say, ‘Damn it! I should’ve picked a different barber."
He laughed. "You have an answer to everything, don’t you?"
He looked at me for a second. "One more question. Modern or old-fashioned?"
I was on the verge of answering him when I caught myself. "You tell me."
He started combing my hair. He muttered to himself, "This is going to take some thought." He kept talking to himself. "He obviously wants a short haircut. If he wanted long hair, he would’ve gone to a salon instead of a barbershop."
I pretended I hadn’t heard him. "I’m sorry, Harry. I didn’t understand. Did you say you wanted me to go to a salon?"
He laughed. "Hell no. I’m itching to get my hands on your hair, just trying to figure out what’s gonna make you look the best."
"It’s gonna take more than a haircut to make me look good."
He growled. "Oh, shut up. You know you’re a handsome man, but I think I can make you look even better." Then he started talking to himself again. "He’s probably in his late thirties or early forties. That’s too old for something real trendy, but too young for an old man’s haircut." He seemed to realize he was talking to himself. "Chase, just ignore me. I’m an old fart, and I talk to myself."
I laughed. "Hell, I’m not old, and I talk to myself. Sometimes the only way to have an intelligent conversation in this world we live in is to talk to yourself."
Harry grinned. "That’s the damned truth!" He glared at me. "Now shut up, and let me figure out what I’m going to do with you, since you won’t help me out none."
"Sir, yes sir!"
"He’s dressed casually, but nicely. That could be a clue." He shook his head. "Nope, that’s not a clue. He could just be off work."
He lifted the hair on the side of my head. "His ears ain’t too big, and they don’t stick out. That’s a good thing."
I was enjoying his dialogue. It was almost like being able to read his mind.
He walked in front of me, and stared a minute. "He looks like Dick Tracy with that strong jawline." He nodded, as if agreeing with himself. "Hell, I’d commit murder and mayhem to have a square jaw like that."
I thought, "The crusty old bastard isn’t nearly as close to senility as he’s pretending. He’s putting on a damned show for me."
I sat back, determined to enjoy the show…and maybe egg him on a little bit. A thought hit me. "I’ve never liked my nose. Anything you can do to help disguise it?"
"Hell, you took care of that. You let your damned hair grow so long no one could see your nose." He looked at me carefully. "Ain’t nothing wrong with your nose. It might be a tad big, but it provides balance for that square jaw of yours."
He pulled my hair back from my forehead. "It’s a damned shame you’ve been hiding those eyes behind all of that hair. Whatever I do to you, it’s gonna make your eyes show up." He looked at the ends of my hair. "Well conditioned, and no split ends, so he takes good care of his hair. Maintenance won’t be a problem." While he had my hair in his hands, he rubbed some between his fingers. "Coarse, but not too coarse. He’s got just the right amount of wave in his hair too. It ain’t too curly."
Harry picked up a comb, and parted my hair on the left. "I wonder?" He poured some hair tonic in his hand, and rubbed it in my hair. Then he combed my hair straight back, slightly subduing some of the waves.
He eyed me over again, muttering, "He looks like a bit of a hell raiser. He might just be brave enough to do it." I saw a twinkle come in his eyes, and knew he had made up his mind, just a second before he said, "Got it. I know what I’m doing." He picked up the clippers. "Last chance for you to give any input."
"Go for it. I can’t wait to see what you decided."
"One more thing. If I’m going to cut your hair, I’m going to do something with the beard!"
"You’re in charge. Whatever you think."
He ran the comb through my hair one more time, and muttered, "I ain’t gonna fight with trying to get clippers under this mess!"
He pulled his scissors out of the pocket of his white tunic and gathered my hair into a low ponytail. He had his scissors ready to cut when he stopped. "Are you a damned lawyer?"
I had to laugh. "Hell no! Why would you ask that?"
"Well, I just wanted to make sure you’re not a sneaky lawyer who’s planning on suing me if you don’t like what I do."
"I just went through a divorce. Lawyers are NOT my favorite people."
"Well, if you are a lawyer, remember I’ve been through a divorce too, and I ain’t got nothing except my barber equipment."
I told my favorite lawyer joke. "Do you know what the ideal weight for a lawyer is?"
Harry thought for a minute. "Not a damned clue."
I delivered the punchline. "All lawyers should weigh less than five pounds, and that includes the urn."
He laughed so hard he dropped the ponytail he had just gathered up.
He gathered my hair back up, and held it at the base of my neck. "I guess you ain’t gonna give me no hints, so here goes." After several snicks of the scissors, he dropped about eight inches of hair in my lap. All the hair still attached to my head fell in my eyes. I pushed it back, and looked at myself. It looked like I had a blunt cut bob. thought, "I hope like hell he’s not planning on leaving it like that! I’d be constantly tucking my hair behind my ears."
Harry grinned. "All done. That’ll be $25."
I grinned back. "Think again!"
He smirked. "You said ‘barber’s choice’, This is my choice."
I decided to play into what he was saying. I started to get up, even though I still had the cape in me. "It’s not what I imagined, but I’ll trust you if you say this is the best look for me."
He frowned. "Sit your ass down. Ain’t no man leaving my barbershop looking like you do right now."
He turned the chair away from the mirror.
"Why did you do that?"
Harry grinned. "I didn’t like you getting a sneak peek of what I’m doing. Since you won’t give me no clues, you’re not gonna see a damned thing I’ve done until your haircut is over."
I was a little disappointed, but said, "Fair enough." I pulled my phone out. "I can always cheat and use my phone."
His grin negated the growl he gave when he said, "Give me the damned phone. No cheating allowed."
"What if I want to film my haircut for posterity?"
"Sounds like something a damned lawyer would say. Give me the phone."
I "reluctantly" gave him my phone. He thumped it on the counter. "Life was a helluva lot better before everyone started carrying one of these damned things around."
I tried to sound grumpy when I said, "Get busy, so I can see what you’re going to do."
He had the clippers in his hands before I could say anything else. A huge smile spread across his face. "Now the fun really begins."
I knew Harry was talking to himself when he said, "Should I start on the beard or the hair?" He answered himself. "I’ll do the beard first. I don’t want this bushy thing messing up the haircut I’m planning, not even for a second."
The clippers made a clacking sound when he turned them on, followed by a steady drone that sounded like a hive of bees. He tucked my bangs behind my ears, and placed the clippers on my cheek, and pushed them straight up. Six inches of beard joined the ponytail in my lap. The other side of my beard was in my lap a short time later.
At first I thought he was leaving me a goatee, but then I got puzzled when he started clipping around my mouth. My mind raced. "What the hell is he doing? Is he leaving a soul patch?" A few seconds more, and I thought, "It’s more than a soul patch. A chin strip?" I answered myself. "It’s not a chin strip, and it’s not a goatee. What the hell is he doing?" After puzzling a little more, I thought, "I give up. I’ll just have to wait and see."
He clipped and trimmed for a bit, and then muttered, "That’ll do until I can shave him, and really clean him up."
Harry moved to the back of my head and pushed the clippers up a ways, and stopped. He put them back at the nape of my neck and went back up. I thought, "High, but not too high. It’s going to be interesting to see what he does."
He picked up a comb, and went clippers over the comb up toward my crown. I couldn’t tell how much hair was left on the back when he moved to the side.
For the first time since I had decided to get a haircut, nerves hit me. I broke out in a cold sweat. I wiped my palms on my hands, trying to get rid of the clammy feeling (it didn’t help). My stomach started churning, and I thought I might get sick.
Harry grinned. "There it is. I’ve been waiting for it."
"This ain’t the first time I’ve peeled someone down. At some point, the reality of what they’re doing hits, and they always look like they’re going to pass out." He chuckled. "You were too damned cocky when you walked in. I knew the fear would eventually get you. I’d be willing to bet you just thought, ‘What the hell am I doing? That’s more than twenty years of hair growing on the floor."
I was still feeling sick, and my reply sounded weak to me. "You’d have won that bet."
Harry was very cheerful when he said, "Relax and get used to it. It’s too damned late for me to do anything but finish it up now."
He turned the clippers back on and plowed up the side of my head. The clippers released a torrent of hair onto the cape.
After the sides were done, he attacked the top, clipper over comb for a while, then he pulled some scissors out of his pocket again. It seems like all I heard for the next ten minutes was the "Click, click, click" off the scissors. What looked like a ton of hair fell in my lap.
Harry put the scissors back in his pocket, and went rummaging through his cabinets, murmuring, "Where the hell is the damned thing?"
I was tempted to look in the mirror while he was busy, but resisted the urge.
Harry finally popped up. "Here it is."
A familiar sound filled the air. I blurted out, "What the hell? A blow dryer is the last thing on earth I expected to see in a barbershop!"
Harry grinned, grabbed a brush and started drying my hair. He damn near pulled me bald-headed as he tugged and pulled on my hair. I mused while he was fixing my hair, "What in the name of all that’s holy is he doing? He tugs one way, and then the other." (I should’ve said I mused when I wasn’t wincing. OUCH! He pulled a lot.)
I was really confused. Nothing made sense. Not a damned thing he was doing gave me a clue as to what kind of haircut I was going to wind up with.
He poured some more hair tonic in his hands, and rubbed it in my head. I thought, "I’m going to have the oiliest hair in history, by the time he gets done." I grinned at myself. "That’s OK. I’ve always liked the vintage look." A thought popped in my head, and I immediately negated it. "No, he couldn’t be. He wouldn’t, would he?" I started paying attention to what he was doing again. "I think he is. I’ll be damned. That’s weird." More thoughts circled my head. "Chase, you might’ve screwed up. You’re not going to like that." An instant later, I thought, "I don’t know. It might be fun to be so far off the beaten path. Give it a chance…if you’re right."
He finally finished up with my hair, and reclined the chair. He laid hot towels all over my face, and on the back of my head. "You stay put for a minute. This will soften up your beard."
After a few minutes the towels disappeared, and Harry raised the chair. I heard the whirring of a machine, and Harry spread shaving cream all over my face.
I grimaced when he opened a straight razor.
"What’s the matter?"
"That razor looks scary. It reminds me of a horror movie."
He smirked. "I’ve never slashed anyone’s throat yet, and I don’t intend for you to be my first victim. Just relax. Most men enjoy getting shaved."
I did relax, and enjoyed the sensation of being shaved by someone else for the first time in my life.
When he was through shaving me, he shook some liquid in his hands. "This is gonna burn." He slapped my face, and I howled.
"You’re goddamned right that burns. What the hell is it?"
"It’s just aftershave. Your pores are wide open, and I need them to close."
"Hell, that burned so badly it didn’t just close the pores on my face. My ass puckered so hard it closed up. I may not be able to take a dump for a month."
He grinned. "If you’re not a comedian, you should’ve been."
He grabbed a comb, and touched up my hair. He sounded nervous when he said, "Are you ready? If you don’t like it, I can do something else."
I used my best game show host voice. "Harry, show me what’s behind mirror number two."
He slowly turned the chair toward the mirror.
I stared at myself. Harry stared at me, as I stared at myself. He finally said, "Well? Do you hate it?"
I managed to keep a straight face when I looked at him. "Well, I’ll be damned." I looked in the mirror again. "I’ll be goddamned."
"Is that a good ‘I’ll be goddamned’ or a bad ‘I’ll be goddamned’?"
I kept him in suspense. "I thought I had imagined every haircut imaginable, but I never thought about this one."
He growled, "Tell me what you think, damn it!"
"I wondered if this might not be what you were doing. It’s very different."
I looked in the mirror, and reached up and touched my head. It was almost as if the hand reflected in the mirror wasn’t mine. I shook my head in disbelief. "I don’t recognize the stranger in the mirror." I paused. Then I let the smile I had been holding in spread over my face. "I don’t recognize him, but the man in the mirror looks mighty damned good. He has a mighty fine barber." I looked at Harry. "I love it, Harry. Thanks for making me look better than I ever have."
The tension that I had seen mounting in him melted away from him. "I oughta hit you upside the head for not answering right away. The last few minutes were hell. I would hit you if I wasn’t afraid of messing up your hair. I think it looks mighty damned good."
I grinned. "I agree. I couldn’t be happier." I kept staring at myself, and muttered, "A side part with a small jelly roll and a medium fade. Who would’ve ever thought? It’s a perfect solution for my natural curl."
Harry held up a mirror for me to see the back, and my eyes lit up. I thought, "The back is not as high as it felt like it was." I pointed where the top hair met the back. "I love the hint of a DA you left in the back. It’s a nice touch. I never would’ve thought about that."
"That’s why I’m the barber, and you’re the customer. You’re paying me to think about things like that." He blurted out. "I thought about giving you an elephant's trunk, just to pay you back for not giving me a clue."
"I’ll be damned. I never thought about that either." I shook my head. "The elephant’s trunk is a cool look, but I think it’d be too much hassle to keep up with. I’m glad you went with this." I kept looking at myself. "I’ll have to admit, when I was trying to make up my mind what style I wanted, the closest thing to a jelly roll I came up with was a classic greaser with a DA."
I looked at myself, and the gold loops in my ears caught my attention. I started laughing.
"What’s so damned funny, Chase?"
"It’s been so long since I’ve seen my ears I had almost forgotten I had my ears pierced." I looked at him. "Should I take them out?"
"I’m normally not a fan of men with earrings, but they look good on you. I say keep ‘em."
I looked again. "You may be right. I’ll think about it."
I touched my head again, feeling the bristle on the side. "I’m curious. What made you decide to go with this style?"
"Well, every time I see a man with a thick head of hair, my first thought is ‘He’d look great with a flattop or crewcut’. I thought about that, but figured you wanted something different, and this just popped in my head."
I laughed. "I honestly figured I’d walk out of here with a flattop. Not sure why, but that’s what I thought you’d go for."
He grinned. "You were almost right. It was a close call." He kept talking. "To be honest, I first thought about the jelly roll when I noticed your square jawline. As a kid, I used to draw cartoon characters with different haircuts." He smirked. "Yeah, I wanted to be a barber even then. Anyway, I always drew Dick Tracy with a jelly roll. This is the first time I’ve got to re-create one of my drawings." The explanation kept going. "When you wouldn’t tell me if you wanted modern or old-fashioned, I thought, ‘Give him both’." He pointed at my head. "I think I succeeded. The fade is contemporary, but with a nod to classic. The jelly roll is quintessential Fifties." He grinned. "Who knows? You might start a fad. When folks see how good you look, they’re going to want to copy it."
He grabbed a comb. "This haircut is also versatile." He quickly combed it into a really high pompadour with a side part. "Still looks good, huh?"
A smile spread across my face. "I love it!"
A few more passes of the comb eradicated the part, and revealed a pomp that stood straight up at least four or five inches. A little more work revealed a pomp that drooped forward. Harry grinned. "Elvis has left the building, ladies and gentemen."
"This style takes a little time, but you're used to that." He chuckled. "You’ll still get your hair done faster than you used to."
As a finale, Harry slicked my hair straight back. "You’re now ready for a black tie event."
"Guys who ride Harleys don’t get invited to many black tie affairs."
"Who knows? With the way you look now, you might get invited. I’m sure the ladies are going to be dying to get their hands in your hair. Hell, you’ll probably get some invitations from guys too."
I grinned. "You may be right. I do look pretty damned amazing."
A huge smile crossed my face. "I’ve never done anything with my hair but blow dry it, and part it. I like having options. Who knows? I might do a different style every day." I looked at him. "Would you mind putting the jelly roll back. I liked it."
I stopped him. "Tell me what you’re doing. I want to make sure I can recreate this look in the morning."
After he got my jelly roll combed back, I sat looking at myself. "Harry, I hope you’re planning on being here all night. I want to just sit here and look at myself."
He grinned. "You can sit there until another customer comes in. I’m kicking your ass out of the chair then." He was quiet for a moment. "What do you think about the beard?"
I stood up, and walked to the mirror, grinning. "I honestly haven’t even noticed. I was too enthralled with my hair."
He started explaining what he’d done, while I inspected it. "I know the beard charts all call this an anchor, but I call it the arrowhead, because it looks like an upside down arrowhead. Your chin is a little square. I left the point a little longer to disguise the squareness." He pointed at my moustache. "I did the pyramid because your moustache naturally grows in an almost straight line. I thought that drew too much attention to your nose. With the downward tilt it brings the focus to your mouth." He kept talking. "I disconnected the goatee from the moustache, because it felt too heavy with the full circle beard, and the weight of the beard drew the eye away from your hair." He was almost shy when he said, "You’re hair’s too nice to let something detract from it."
All I could think of to say was, "Damn! You thought of everything."
He laughed. "I tried. I want to keep you as a customer. I like you."
I shook his hand. "I like you too, and you’ve got me as a customer for as long as you’re willing to put up with me."
"Thanks. I’d like that, and don’t worry. The undertaker’s not following me around. I’ve still got a lot of years left in me."
I looked in the mirror and laughed. Harry looked alarmed. "What’s so funny?"
Once I stopped laughing, I said, "Two things. First, I imagined a lot of different scenarios when I was planning my haircut, and I didn’t get a one right." I looked at myself. "However, you got everything right. I wouldn’t change a thing."
He wiped his forehead. "Whew! What a relief. What’s the other thing that was funny?"
"Well, my head looks tiny now, without all the hair and beard, but my face looks huge, because you can see all of it for the first time in twenty years."
"Your head and face are in perfect proportion. You’ll get used to it." Then he laughed.
Of course I wanted to know what he was laughing about. He replied, "I had a ‘I should’ve’ moment. If you decide you want a change, I’ve still got a few tricks up my sleeve."
I was immediately intrigued. "What do you have in mind?"
He laughed again. "I’ll never tell. You’ll just have to wait and see what shows up in the mirror."
I smirked. "Ensnared by my own words. That’s evil!"
"Not as evil as what you did to me. I probably worried five years off my life this morning, wondering if you would like what I was doing."
Author's note: I got the idea for this yesterday while on lunch. I made a few notes in my phone, and came home and wrote it in one setting.
I've never posted anything that I didn't worry over for a few weeks. Let me know what your thoughts are.