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The Intern, Part 2 by Jack
The Intern, Part 2
The shop filled in quickly and by quarter to eight there wasn’t a single empty seat. It was already heating up for so early in the day and several guys were standing outside the door waiting their turns, however, not one of them sought out the student barber. Not even the oversized red tee shirt with “Roy’s Barbershop” emblazoned across the front and “it ain’t short less you can see skin” printed on the back, solicited a customer. Steadfastly William remained by his station dividing his time between fondling his scalp and staring at it, that was until this dad and his four sons barreled to the back of the shop. The boys looked to be between four and fifteen and all had identical freckles and mops of red hair.
“Five bucks each, right?”
William nodded at the dad.
“Cut like yours?”
“Kinda short, but what the hell, huh, boys?” The dad motioned to the youngest. “Good for summer.”
While William fumbled with the clippers the barber next to him retrieved a booster seat and helped the four-year-old up. William’s hand was trembling as he placed the #2 blade front and center just as he had been instructed. Once the shock of red hair on top was reduced to pink stubble he moved to the sidewall. The little boy started squirming as the blade chewed at the side of his head. It wasn’t a clean cut, more erratic, but good enough for the first attempt. If the novice’s hand was unsteady before, now that he was blending the side into the top it was vibrating like an out-of-control jackhammer. He gnawed into his lower lip and took a deep breath. His shoulders almost eased back into place when he examined his blending job.
The other three boys stared at their brother’s shiny scalp and then at each other. The dad motioned to the next youngest. Prior to beginning his second haircut William downed another Red Bull. At least this kid wasn’t as fidgety and the finished cut looked remarkably better than the first. He timed himself for his third stab at it and was surprised to see that he could finish the haircut in less than ten minutes. The oldest boy tugged on his bangs; they were easily six inches long and fell sweetly over his forehead Justin Bieber style. His eyes pleaded with his dad’s as he backed into the chair. Now feeling more like an executioner than a barber, William looked at the dad half-hoping he would spare his oldest offspring’s treasured locks. His unrelenting eyes convinced William that he had to go ahead with the haircut. The executioner cum barber shook out the cape and wrapped it around the teenager’s shoulders then began pumping up the chair. The kid grasped his hair and tugged on his bangs one last time.
Just as William was about to slice through the bangs a group of boys about the same age as the kid in his chair filed into the shop. There were over two-dozen of them all wearing identical grey tee shirts. The kid in the chair’s eyes shot toward the floor as a couple of them called him by name and started laughing and pointing at him. William glanced down the row of barber chairs to make sure Roy wasn’t watching him before he made a decision to take a little creative license and spare the bangs for the time being and cut in the sidewalls first. He placed his bare blade at the base of the teenager’s sideburn and efficiently guided the clippers up the side of the head stopping just below the crown. He continued carving even rows around the perimeter of the head still not touching the mass of hair on top. Instead of grabbing the #2 blade William fumbled around and switched it out for a #5. Just as he was about to position the blade on the kid’s forehead the man in charge of the grey-tee-brigade shoved to the front of the line and pointed at William and announced that all of them would be getting haircuts just like his. The laughter turned into sighs and groans as they all stared at William’s severe cut. “These boys had a little trouble in school this year, so they’re spending the next six weeks with me in my little bootcamp. Getting them started with nice, neat haircuts.” He rubbed the top of William’s head and smirked at the uneasy crowd. “Discipline. That’s what it’s all about, boys. Discipline and following orders.” While the guy continued his monologue William shifted his attention back to his current customer and plowed through the massive shingle of bangs still clinging to his scalp. The hair was cut short, but not the normal H&T that Roy prided himself on. The young barber grabbed his hair wax out of his bag and spiked up the hair. When he spun the chair around to face the mirror he winked at the kid and patted the tuft of hair he’d managed to save.
William glanced down the row of guys now stone silent standing perfectly straight and tall with their heads facing forward and their hands by their sides. Not one of them had what by any stretch of the imagination could be considered a short haircut. There were no ears showing, no foreheads peaking through and maybe half had hair that grazed their shoulders. One of them even had a long ponytail. The guy in charge stood right in front of the barber chair with his arms crossed over his chest as one by one each boy took his place and was relieved of his mane. Ponytail was William’s first challenge. He grabbed a pair of scissors and chopped the tail off right above the rubber-band then tossed the severed relic into the kid’s lap. As the rest of the hair tumbled over the his face William changed the blade from the #5 to what he thought was the #2 and shoved it through the thicket of hair. When a pretty stark path was exposed William inspected his blade. It was not the #2. Too late now he thought and continued the cut with the #1. He quickly realized that with the 3/32” of hair on top there was little need to blend it into the sides. And considering the magnitude of the task at hand he made a knee jerk decision and instead of fessing up to his mistake used the same blade to attack the entire group’s heads. By the time he got to the last kid he was cranking the induction cuts out at just under three minutes. Any marine barber would have been proud of his progress. When the fresh inductees marched out into the noon sun they were much more solemn than when they entered the shop and their shiny heads glistened like a long string of bare light bulbs.
William’s stomach was growling by the time he’d divested the last kid of his overgrown mane and waded through the mounds of hair circling his chair. Around when he’d finally mustered the courage to ask Roy about lunch he noticed the “loser teacher” in charge of the internship program prance into the shop. Mr. Gionetti hesitated at Roy’s station. After shaking hands and talking for a few minutes Roy pointed down the row of barber chairs toward Bill. The instructor shook his head and looked back at Roy. Roy nodded and directed him to the last chair in the row a second time. The guy kept shaking his head and squinting as he skulked toward William. He stared at William then back at Roy. Roy nodded again then joined them.
“Cleaned up nice, huh? And your boy’s doin’ a fine job.” Roy rubbed Bill’s head, “good kid.” He excused himself and headed back to his chair.
“William. Ah, um, William? William,” he fumbled through his satchel and pulled out a folder. “Banks. You were in my class.” The instructor scowled and swept his hair behind his ears.
William glared at him and cleared his throat, “Y-yep, last semester. You gave me a C-.” He shrugged his shoulders then rubbed the top of his head, “nice haircut. Real professional, huh, Mr. Gionetti? Roy did it first thing this morning. Right when I got here. Just sat me down and shaved all my hair off.” The instructor looked away. “Why don’t you sit down, umm, sir.”
Gionetti eased his willowy body into the chair and craned his long neck to look up at his student. “You’re settling in all right then?” His eyes shifted down toward his folder and he started tapping on the arm of the chair.
Before answering William stared in the mirror at his shiny sidewalls and massaged his cheeks. He glowered down at his teacher’s slicked hair, then at the counter. The 00000 was within easy reach. “Learning a lot right off. Like how to cut an H&T Crew in less than three minutes, you know, marine boot camp style.” His hand seized the 00000, he grinned, then plunged the blade onto his nemesis’s right temple. In one, swift, determined movement he guided the clippers straight back. One clean sweep. One perfect cut. Down to the skin. As the ribbon of hair fluttered down toward his instructor’s jacket William met his gaze. He raised his eyebrows and apologized for failing to cape him then planted the blade on the other side and carved in the rest of the sidewall. He flashed a smile at Gionetti and pointed to the sign above his head, “haircut of the day. Getting pretty good at it, and fast.” Before Gionetti had a chance to say anything he was watching the long slicked hair on top get buzzed down to a #1. This time William took extra care as he blended the sidewall into the six o’clock shadow on top then he called Roy over to inspect his work.
“I’d give the kid a A,” Roy chortled. “Real supportive ‘a you to let him cut all yer pretty hair off, man.” He punched Gionetti’s upper arm, “looks real good on you. Makes ya’ look like a real man. Bill’s a fast learner, huh?”
Gionetti glared in the mirror at the marine glaring back at him and brushed the remnants of his slicked hair off his jacket with the back of his hand. Then he slithered out of the shop without saying a word to Roy or his student.