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Years and Shears Later (Part 2) by Armando94


2013

The issue with these cold winter months, it got dark real fast. Like, the minute it turned five o’clock, you would have thought it was midnight. Ryan was wondering this same old thought as he stared out the barber shop window, hands over the broom he had been mindlessly sweeping the floors with. Another Saturday in the books, and thank goodness there had been no snow like predicted. A bitter cold, yes, but that was manageable.

"Ryan," Al called his name from behind, Ryan whipping around from his stance. His barber patted the empty chair, "Its yours if you still want, unless you need to head home." The other barbers in the shop were cleaning up their stations or wrapping up with their last clients of the weekend.

"No, I’m still good, thanks Al," Ryan placed the broom in a corner by the door, knowing he’ll need to use it soon after his biweekly haircut made a mess on the floor.

They say that getting a haircut can really change your mood, make your day brighter, or at least you see things brighter and better. But Ryan would have never thought that an unwanted haircut could have totally turned his whole world upside down. Well, maybe not upside down, that usually has a bad connotation. And all things considered, the shearing of his boyish locks in the fall of junior year turned out to be the best thing for him. Even if, the circumstances it took to get him into his barber Al’s chair, were a bit more regretful.

But Ryan had made it out of that sticky situation and come out a whole new kid, a man one might even say, no longer a boy even if he was still a teenager by all means. He sat in Al’s chair, as his barber caped him up like usual, and turned the chair around. "The usual we’ve been doing?"

"Yes sir, thanks," Ryan nodded his head. Since that fateful haircut, Ryan had kept the top pretty similar, short and brush cut like with a bit in the front. But since this past summer, he’d graduated the backs and sides into a high skin fade. A bit of inspiration from all three of his older brothers. The twins, Owen and Sean, made sense, given they were merchant marines and had to keep their hair pristinely in check. But his older brother, James, had slowly started to wear his hair like this while away at school, as a lot of his baseball teammates had started to as well. Ryan also thought it looked pretty sweet, the way the short hair and skin looked against a cap James wore, same with the twins and any official caps they wore too.

Al began with the back, taking the clippers up halfway his head. Another thing Ryan had come to oddly love about this particular haircut was the way the clippers felt against his skin. Even when it was only two weeks growth of hair back there, the feeling was incredible. Like a total release from those few hairs that had grown back. But it was more than a few, as short tuffs of hair floated down onto the winter gray cape. After the back had started to be cleared away, the barber continued with the sides. Another thing Ryan loved about getting these biweekly haircuts, not that it was ever a problem for him, but if any stragglers stuck out by the ears. He always noticed that in friends and classmates now, he couldn’t help himself.

Al had been good to him and kept his word, as Ryan had as well. He worked in the shop, cleaning up and manning the till, every day after school and spent his whole Saturdays here, unless something for his family popped up. Even on those Saturdays, he’d bring in all the workers their own coffees, and maybe a jug of it from Dunkin so some of the first few patrons could warm up while they waited on these winter days. Ryan had built his people and communication skills with all the men and boys that had walked in and out, keeping everything in order and there were no mistakes or mishaps, or worse fights. Also, his communication with the other barbers on a constant basis was great. Not that he had to worry about being respectful to his elders, but still. These men, like many other adults, noticed how polite this young man was.

And most of all, Al had been privately schooling Ryan in the barber trade. Not that it was a surprise to anyone else in the shop, they all were aware, even some having volunteered their heads. It also was no surprise to Ryan’s own parents that he would end up falling into this, in fact, they were glad he had. Since the summer, when he spent more of his time here, and Al had broached the topic, it seemed only natural given all the time and effort Ryan had put into this side gig. And he saw a lot of benefits out of it, mostly in himself. It was something he could work towards and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment for. Something that Ryan felt like he always lacked in the classroom, especially seeing as he was never a student per say. He could easily go on to college and major in something he didn’t have a passion for, then come out with debt and try and find a job. Or, he could pick up a trade, such as this, and learn from a master like Al and all the other men in this shop. Al had many plans, ones he wouldn’t speak of at this early of a moment.

After Al had finished with the first shearing, he continued the fade further up to the crown of Ryan’s head, followed by switching out for the balding clippers, and really bringing half of his scalp down to the wood, his pale skin on bare view, which would be the first to feel the snap of the cold when he stepped out from the shop in less than an hour’s time. But he loved it, loved even the smell of a fresh haircut, especially in the temperature of a day like today. That tonic and powder and pomade, cutting through the air like a sweet knife.

Then Al began to clean up the top with the clipper over comb technique, but still enough left in the front to flip it up and style it. And before you knew it, the haircut was complete, with Al taking the clippers just one last time at Ryan’s neckline, to make sure it was all cleared away, before releasing him from the chair. Ryan smiling back in the mirror, as always, feeling renewed and refreshed. "Alright, next!" Ryan cheekily said, taking the cape from Al’s hands, and guiding his barber now into the barber chair. Settling him and securing him in it, before Ryan turned away and picked up a spare white tunic hanging on the wall that he typically used himself. Fastening the buttons exactly onto his body, before sanitizing the tools at the barber’s station. Then picking up a spray bottle and a set of scissors and a comb.

"The usual for you too, sir?" Ryan asked Al as they looked at each other through the mirror.

"Yes, sir," Al nodded his head, as Ryan began to saturate his head down. Nothing too major for a guy like Al, in fact, these biweekly haircuts were something he had been doing long before Ryan came along. Sometimes another one of the barbers took care of it, but he usually liked letting the kid have a chance. And because he was getting real good at it, and hadn’t even been to proper barber school yet. Well, there would be time for that in the fall, when Ryan could officially start his training. Right now, it was like an old school apprenticeship. Right down to the old school set up of it all.

Ryan only had to trim back Al’s hair, make sure everything was clean cut in the back, around the ears, and occasionally having to thin out the barber’s hair. But that was rare, and initially, one of the other guys here would handle it, but always show Ryan how its done. But tonight’s cut wasn’t anything crazy, small wet clumps of salt and pepper gray hair plopping onto the cape Al was wrapped in. Once all the trimming had been done, Ryan cleaned up and squared off the backline of Al’s neck, before blow drying him off and styling the hair just as Al always had it.

Before they knew it, the final client of the night was done, and they were both cleaning up the shop before heading home for the evening, Ryan saying he’d see Al next week, as he threw on his now infamous black leather jacket that was once his brother’s, now had become his officially. He had other coats to wear, but this one had a sentimental value he could never shake.

Ryan made it home just after six in the evening, which was perfect as his whole family was just setting the table and getting ready for dinner together, a last dinner together before the twins had to go back early for school. James would still be here another week, which would be nice, but then he’d be gone too. So it was nice to have this Saturday evening together before everyone floated back to their usual grind. As they all sat down to a roast chicken and vegetable dinner, and said their meal prayer, Ryan’s father opened with, "So how was the shop today, Ryan?"

After Ryan had swallowed his first bite, "Good, pretty busy, since we didn’t get hit with that snow they were calling for," he stated, "and Al let me have another go at cutting his hair."

"Do we need to report a murder, or did he make it out of the chair alive?" Owen teased, and Sean laughed back. All in good humor, and family love. "You know I’m just teasing. How’s it going, little brother?"

"Thanks, not bad. Al’s hair doesn’t call for anything big, but practice is practice."

"Have you practiced on any of your buds yet?" Sean asked.

"God, no," Ryan blushed. "I don’t know if any of them would want me to, I—I guess it really hasn’t come up when we hang out."

"Really? That’s surprising," Sean added.

"Eh, it doesn’t bother me," Ryan shrugged it off.

The family continued on with their meal and conversations, the twins discussing what time they would be heading out tomorrow afternoon. Towards the end of the meal, James said, "Looks like Al wasn’t the only one to get a haircut today," pointing out his youngest brother’s fresh cut. "You haven’t cut any of your friends’ heads yet, or any of ours actually. I’d be willing to let you have a go at me."

Ryan, and the whole rest of his family, opened their eyes so wide at that statement. "Really?"

"Yeah, why not," James grinned back. "Besides, I have a week till I go back to school, so, if you nick me or mess it up, I’ve still got that week of insurance that it will slightly grow back. Plus, always can wear a hat in winter."

"Oh, your on," Ryan was now up for the challenge. He had begun to collect a few haircutting tools over the last year, especially since the summer when his training began. Once dinner was done, the whole family cleared the table and helped with the dishes.

"Go get your set-up ready, son," Ryan’s dad said, "we’ll handle the rest. I’m interested in seeing you in action now, might even let you have a go at me."

Ryan beamed and then dashed off to his room where he gathered his belongings before bringing them into the shared bathroom with his brothers. Assembling everything along the counter, James appeared moments later with a chair, saying "Can’t do it without this. Need me to take off my shirt or get a towel, man?"

"Don’t worry about it," Ryan patted the cape, one of the spare ones Al had gifted to him that he didn’t need as it had gotten old and faded. Then he opened his right hand towards the chair and said, "Have a seat."

He fastened the cape around James, a bit nervous now, but still excited. Then, once that was all settled, and they were looking in the mirror, he asked, "So…what will it be today, sir?"

This made his older brother laugh, "No need to call me sir," James shook his head, "but I want to see what you can do. I’m sure you can sort of gather how I have my hair cut usually when I’m away at school, right?" James had, like many other guys his age, been going for the recently popular JT haircut which got its fame from his recent comeback hit Suit & Tie. A simple but still nice fade on the sides and back, with the hair parted one way. It was like giving an old school look a more modern feel and vibe, and a lot of younger men were seemingly following suit. Ryan had half considered letting himself grow his hair out so he could wear this similarly to his older brother, and all the other guys. But he didn’t want any jibes for seeming like a copy cat. Plus, he was already a big fan of the short top he’d been maintaining, and now the even shorter sides and back.

"Yes, that works," Ryan nodded his head, as he began to prepare the clippers.

He stalled a moment, as he stood there with them, before James realized what was happening, "Hey, don’t sweat it man, its just hair, after all. You can always shave it off if it goes bad."

Of course, that was not at all what Ryan wanted to happen or do. "I don’t want it to come to that, I don’t want to fail you though either."

"Fail me? Are you kidding?" James said from underneath the cape, looking at his brother now. "You could never do that, man. Besides, you gotta start from somewhere, right? So come on, let’s get to it, they don’t charge you by the hour at Al’s for cuts too, do they?"

This eased Ryan and made him laugh, "No, I don’t get charged for cuts at all, I can’t give them to any customers who come in."

"So, see this as practice, like earlier tonight, and every other time you have. Its like me playing baseball, there’s a practice and there’s a game. And even if the game doesn’t go well, there’s still another chance."

Ryan nodded his head in ascent and then fired up the clippers, beginning to peel away at the right side of James’ head. Luckily, there wasn’t too much there, since he’d gotten a haircut before coming home for the holidays a few weeks before. Of course, this made Ryan a bit hesitant as it would be noticeable if he did a bad job. But, he had to start somewhere, and start somehow. And start now, most importantly. No point dragging it out.

So, he carried on with clipping his eldest brother’s hair, dark brown tuffs falling down onto the cape and the floor. All the while, James looked at peace while sitting there having his haircut, like this was something he was used to. Which he was, just, not typically by his youngest brother. As Ryan continued onto the back of his head, taking one hand and positioning James’ head and chin to lower just a bit. As Ryan continued through the back, James’ skin was showing through, just enough though that there was still some stubble of hair. Taking it halfway up the head, and the same along the sides. Making sure to not go too far up to the top. Holding the ears back as he worked around them, trying to not nick his brother in the ear and cause a trip to the ER.

After this first set of clippers, Ryan moved on to the next set and began to blend that in with the work he’d already done. As this happened, James struck up conversation, very casual, about school and friends, in order to put his brother at ease. And, one day, he would need to multitask if he wanted to be a professional as well as make his future clients feel comfortable in his chair.

Once all the clipping was done, and the blending as well, it was time to move onto the top of the hair. This was a bit nerve wracking. Not like he hadn’t done this earlier this evening for Al, but still, the fear of messing up his eldest brother’s hair still was blocking his psyche. Ryan wet it all down, sopping wet perhaps by accident even. He slowly and meticulously combed through James’ hair, sectioning it off this way and that, re-creating the part his brother already had. Then, slowly, began to trim it back. Just the way he’d been taught, start from one side, at the bottom, and then work his way up, bit by bit.

After what Ryan thought was good, James told him, "A little more off the top, if you will, sir," with a wink. Ryan just nodded, a bit stunned, and then went back over those same sections and repeated, taking a bit more than before. This time, he felt a whole lot more relaxed though, at ease finally and in the flow like he would when doing a test trim on Al. As Ryan was going over these sections again with the scissors and comb, the twins had appeared in the doorway, and were eyeing up the entire scene, not uttering a word.

"Not bad, fellas?" James asked them.

"No, not bad at all," Owen nodded.

"Maybe I’ll have to be next," Sean suggested.

"Get in line, you two," their dad suddenly appeared behind them, which made all five of them laugh.

After James’ cut was done, Ryan blow dried him off, added a bit of pomade, and styled it up. "Man, giving me the whole works tonight, I guess I gotta go out and do something to show it off," James joked after Ryan did this and then released him from the cape and chair. James stood up, smoothed one hand to the side of his head, and then the other on the opposite. "You did good, little brother," James held a hand out to shake Ryan’s. Ryan casually reciprocated, but then James quickly brought him in for a quick bro hug.

Of course, the father of the house did let the twins go ahead of him. Both of them had a simple haircut, having kept their freshman year look with a high and tight. So, really easy for Ryan to take the number two to the top of both Owen and then Sean’s head. The severe sides and back though was a bit more of a challenge, as Ryan knew this had to be done almost perfectly. He knew there were inspections nearly weekly. So, Ryan was constantly going over the hair again and again, to the point where Sean said, "I think you’ve gotten all you could, little bother. Next, that guard’s gonna fall off and I’m gonna end up bald," which made Owen laugh, standing to the side with his freshly cut head.

"Leave him be," James shook his head, but couldn’t help hide his laughter too.

Once all three brothers were done, now it was time for the final client of the night. Their father had a usual man’s business cut, so that wasn’t too hard for Ryan to manage. As he was only a few minutes into the haircut, and the three older boys had abandoned the makeshift barber shop, their father said, "You know, if you keep this up, I’ll let you use the garage come spring. Sound good?"

"Sure," Ryan said, trimming the back up. "Although, I don’t know if I’ll be having many customers just yet."

"You haven’t mentioned it to your buds, son?"

"Well, they know I work at Al’s, but I haven’t offered to cut their hair. Don’t know what they’d say."

"Come on, there your friends, for years now. Its not like your performing open heart surgery without the degrees."

"True," Ryan laughed a bit. "We’ll see, give it time."

"Exactly, give it time, don’t stress about it. Just a thought, you never know what they might say."

But Ryan wasn’t looking to rush into things unnecessarily. Take everything a day at a time, like he’d been doing the past year or so. Things had been going so well, why rush them?

After the last man was done and all cleaned off, and Ryan had finished cleaning up the bathroom, he headed downstairs, anticipating to just hang around with his parents and watch something on TV while his three brothers all went out. But to his surprise, they were all still here. Surely, the twins wanted to see their friends one more time, no? And James had a week left, but maybe some of his friends were heading back to school too?

"What are you all doing here?" Ryan asked.

"Come on, we aren’t gonna ditch you the night before we go back, brother," James stated. "What movie is it gonna be, Ryan?" Ryan couldn’t help but smile, and said he didn’t really care what it was. So instead, the twins left on SportsCenter, and all the men in the house sat around in the den with their fresh haircuts, enjoying each others company and all that was to come.


(*Part 2 had to become a Part 2 and Part 3, expect that one reasonably soon...)




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