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Just Like Craig by Andrew

I scowled across the breakfast table at my elder brother, as he had found great amusement in the fact that my mother had ordered me to get my haircut on the way home from school. Inwardly I groaned, it was Friday and I was often allowed to hang out all evening with my mates on non-school nights. Not tonight though, Friday afternoons and evenings were always really busy at my regular barbershop.

For an instant I considered appealing to my Mother for a change of heart, but I recalled the consequences of the last time I had tried this, my mother collected me from school and came to the barbershop with me. I was glad I had had those second thoughts, as I realised that it had been longer than usual between haircuts, as I had pretended to be ill on the last occasion I had been despatched to the shop, and a few weeks prior to that had been able to honestly claim that I had had to stay late at school for rehearsals for the school play.

Indeed it was probably wise to keep quiet because my brother had been less able at avoiding the barber's chair, indeed the other morning I had been teasing him about it, and I regretted telling him about pretending to be ill. On reflection perhaps it was better to get a haircut.

None-the-less it was a shame, I thought to myself, now my hair was a little longer it was starting to resemble the style I had always wanted, but never been allowed to wear. There was a guy living up the road from us, his hair I had always admired, it was a shaggy look, nestling over his collar and ears, immaculate sideburns and a fringe just fractions of an inch out of the way of his eyes, luxuriously thick in appearance when moussed. I took one last long look in the mirror at what might have been before leaving the house for school, careful to ensure that my brother had left well in advance so as to avoid letting him tease me in front of my mates.

The school day passed quickly and without incident, in part due to the successful avoidance of my brother. We were normally told to go to the barbers together, which upon reflection I think I preferred, I shuddered as I remembered the first time I was told to go alone, I'd actually welcomed the opportunity, that was until I turned up at the barbershop only to find my brother and two of his mates outside whereupon they proceeded to follow me into the shop and amid their laughing and joking instructed the barber to shave my head. Fortunately the barber had seen such behaviour before and banished them from the shop.

The school bell rang out at four and sedately I made my way through the school gates, I was in no rush, the shop would be packed out, so I may as well take my time I reasoned, that way if my brother was hanging around waiting to embarrass me - he'd have a long wait!

I bought myself an ice cream, one advantage of going for a haircut on my own, was that I would be able to keep the change from the money my mother had given me, normally my brother had that. It was as I was coming out of the shop that I noticed Craig walking ahead of me on the pavement, he was instantly recognisable to me as I studied his hair style at every opportunity. I followed behind on my way to the barbershop.

It only took a few minutes to reach the end of the street where the Town Barbershop was situated, and I was surprised that Craig was still in front of me, I wondered where he could be going, and then as he turned into the cul-de-sac, I wondered for the first time whether he could possibly be heading for the barbershop. It was too much to hope, as soon as I had thought it, I dismissed it as so unlikely, hair like that was styled in a fancy salon, and then as I too rounded the corner Craig was standing outside the barbershop, lighting a cigarette.

My mind racing, I instinctively turned around and moved out of view of the shop, gathering my thoughts I realised how irrational I was being, but part of me wanted to watch Craig get his hair cut and I had instantly realised that he needed to join the queue before me. I retraced my steps back up along the high street, until then I turned and headed back to the shop, surely I had given him enough time to finish his cigarette. I paused for a second to glance at my watch before taking the final corner, I was shocked to see it was almost five. The shop would be locking its doors to new customers in seconds. Struggling with nerves I strode on, delighted to see Craig being ushered into the shop by the barber, with seconds to spare I followed Craig into the small shop, and the barber locked the door behind me. Boy that had been close!

I took a seat alongside Craig, the only remaining seat in the shop, Friday night was always very busy and normally I resented having to sit and waste my Friday evening away in this way, but this evening it didn't seem to be much of a waste.

Glancing around, I noticed that everyone else was wearing the same bored expression as they sat patiently waiting their turn. There were a couple of faces I recognised from school, lads from the senior year, two primary school kids with their mother and two guys in their twenties wearing suits, Craig and I made eight, mentally I calculated that I had over two hours to wait, so settled back into my chair and reached into my bag for a book.

First to take the chair was the youngest of the two primary kids, and it was good to note that the barber was reaching immediately for the hair clippers, that in itself I thought would reduce my waiting time by ten minutes, a thought which was confirmed for me as the kids hair was buzzed to the same short length all over, minimal styling required. His brother replaced him in minutes and he too received the identical summer buzz, though he was losing more hair than his brother. They were both pleased to leave, obviously they had been promised a treat on the way home.

Next up were the guys from school, they had clearly come together and were both getting the same style, nothing radical but short and smart none-the-less, my mother would have approved. As they left, I studied the clock, it was nearing six o'clock and there were still three customers to go. I rummaged around in my school bag triumphantly emerging with a chocolate bar to munch on, I was missing my after school snack.

Four of us left, then three as the first of the business guys left the shop, at twenty to seven the other followed immaculately groomed with an evident spring in his step, I guessed he must have a special evening planned that night.

My breathing slowed as I waited for Craig to take to the barbers chair, I was really keen to watch how the barber achieved such a flattering style, maybe I could get some tips just in case my hair ever achieved such length. I could already feel myself edging forward on my seat, just a little concerned that Craig did not share my enthusiasm to get his haircut underway. He turned to look at me, and embarrassed I avoided his gaze. Surely he could remember that he was before me in the queue, I decided to look absorbed in my book.

More anxious seconds passed, with neither of us making a move to our feet. I was aware that the barber was now standing over his chair. 'I think you were next buddy' I heard, still not daring to look up, could he talking at me, after an age I had the courage to put down my book, and relief washed all over me as I saw the barber's eye contact locked with Craig, and Craig was loosening his tie and at last rose to his feet.

It was odd to see Craig so nervous about getting a haircut, after all I had hair as good looking as his I'd relish the change to sit in front of a mirror admiring myself, but there was no hiding Craig's concern. I strained to hear the instructions Craig was giving to the barber, but with no success, as an aeroplane flew overhead at the crucial moment. Craig's face looked red and was clearly perspiring and it was shrouded in the pale blue of the barber cape.

As the barber combed Craig's hair I couldn't resist running my hands through my own hair, feeling pity for myself as in lest than half an hour it would have been consigned to the shop floor, unceremoniously dumped with the rest of the day's clippings. At times being a kid could be so cruel.

From my seat I could see Craig's face, and for a second we made eye contact, then both of us looked away embarrassed. Then the barber picked up his scissors, and talking to Craig's reflection clearly asked 'Sure?' and biting his lip Craig nodded slowly and the barber set to work.

For a minute of two the only view I could get was that of the barber's back, which was irritating, even more so when the barber shuffled around to the back of Craig's head, and I saw that the barber had left the side of Craig's head with only about an inch of hair, most of his ears were now on show. I was more than surprised as I had not known Craig have anything other than a trim for at least three years. My book suddenly became the most boring read ever, and found its way back into my school bag.

Once the barber had completed his cutting, Craig's hairstyle was well and truly mutilated and had certainly lost my envy. Craig was by now looking less uncomfortable, but that immediately changed as we both focussed on the hair clippers which the barber was now brandishing.

'Last chance to change your mind!' the barber said, pausing for a reply 'It's not too late yet. You sure?'

A lump clearly formed in Craig's throat, confirmed as he croaked his confirmation. Then staring at his reflection intently he watched as I did the horror of the hair on the right side of his head being clipped off to a stubble. After a dozen sweeps of the clippers the barber paused, Craig's ear was now exposed in its entirety. 'That short enough for you?'. Craig did not immediately reply, instead lifted his right hand from below the blue cape and gently stoked the stubble. 'That's a grade one, I can get it shorter if you'd like.' He went on helpfully.

That was enough for Craig to reply, the same dry throat making every word of his short sentence an obvious effort. 'No, that's fine'.

Instantly the clippers cracked back into their electric buzz, and were being guided from nape to crown, each time causing a thin swathe of brown hair to drop around Craig's shoulders, doubling the now significant heap of hair resting on the cape. The barber was exact and fully of concentration, as he made sure not a single hair escaped the teeth of the clippers. After many more passes the clippers were eventually returned to their hook.

I grinned to myself, I certainly wasn't envious of his hairstyle now! The barber combed the remaining hair once more creating a radical bowl-cut look that looked ridiculous on an older guy. Fortunately the barber did not appear to be finished and was now spraying a mist of water across the remaining long locks. Now combed flat the look was even more comical, and I wanted to laugh, but the solemn faces of the barber and his customer restrained me. The comb separated a section of hair, the barber pulled it high and taut between his fingers, and the scissors cut, leaving a tuft of hair little over an inch long behind.

Quicker and quicker the long wet clumps of hair were severed, leaving short spikes of hair. Once all the hair was a uniform length the barber began again, but this time with exacting precision. After each set of cuts he'd comb Craig's hair forward and ruffle it with his fingers. The short hair was drying rapidly and made him look much better.

Craig was definitely now very relieved with the way his new look was shaping up, though I thought I could see a look of abject fear in his eyes when the barber picked up his clippers once more, this time removing the clipper guard.

Not that he needed to worry, the barber only intended to use them to graduate the longer hair to the short, getting rid of the ugly pineapple effect that the hair had dried into. I was surprised though at just how much more hair seemed to be cascading down to the mountains now lying on the cape and floor.

I looked at the clock, it was half and hour since Craig's haircut had begun and was now drawing to a close. The barber enjoyed waving a hand mirror behind Craig, to let him see the full effect of his work. Craig took his time in admiring his new look, as he watched his reflection his posture straightened, and a broad smile swept across his face. Clearly it was a hit!

'Careful when you stand up!' Chortled the barber, and upon catching Craig's puzzled expression, 'Losing that much hair in one go may make you dizzy!' Craig joined his laughter with an embarrassed grin, running his hand across his new haircut in ready anticipation of the teasing he would face in the coming days.

As Craig rose from the chair, taking the tissue offered by the barber, he looked over toward me his face a mixed tale of embarrassment and relief. He looked down at the heap of hair strewn around the barber's chair, and gulped in the awareness that most of it had been his. He rubbed his scalped again, growing more and more accustomed to the feel of his grainy scalp, aware that whatever he did this was one style that would remain in place whatever he did.

Craig paid the barber and left the shop quite content, leaving me almost in a state of shellshock as I got to my feet at last to get my haircut.

'What's it to be?' asked the barber, jollier now he could see that the end of his day was insight.

'Well I had intended to get my hair cut like his' I said nodding toward the window where I could see Craig was still stood lighting up a cigarette.

The barber dampened and combed my hair, without it tousled wave it was a lot longer than I had imagined, perhaps a trim wouldn't be so bad after all, then in a few weeks it'd be back to how I wanted it. I was pleased, this had turned into a great evening after all..

The barber positioned my head, like he had for every other haircut I had ever had, and the electric clippers whirred into vibration, and my dreams of looking like Craig became real, sadly though it was not what I wanted. I went home that night with a haircut so short that even my father was impressed. Perhaps I could encourage him to make my brother get his hair cut this short too!

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