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Tom's Cut by Deke Cutter

This story is by Mark. I found it in the wayback machine

By Mark

So he wandered off to the barbershop, having finally made his decision to get the haircut his parents bugged him about. Upon opening the door to Rudy's, the drone of the clippers and clicking of the scissors made him tremble; was he doing the right thing? Rudy looked up over his bifocals, and told Tom to take a seat, he was next, and that it was just a minute or two until he finished up on the seven year old he was working on. Tom sat down, looking over the other patrons, picked up a copy of Reader's Digest, and as he looked over its table of contents, he heard Rudy bellow, "Next!"

Tom's eyes jumped up from the page suddenly, and fixated on an empty barber chair in front of which stood Rudy, the grayed and old barber who had been in this town since he was twenty and just out of the Army. Rudy was performing some perfunctory duties, like brushing the cut hair that had fallen into the chair, and shaking out the cape that was about the be draped over Tom. He carefully placed the Reader's Digest back on the table to his left and slowly rose and made his way toward Rudy's chair.

"You ain't been in here for a while," Rudy noted looking at Tom's hair, which had begun curling in the back. "Why you stay away so long, boy?"

Tom looked into the mirror and he saw Rudy's reflection as he made his way into the chair. "Well, y'know, I've kind of been letting it grow and besides, I prefer it this way." Tom sat down in the chair, bouncing a little as he did. Rudy quickly shook out the cape again, wrapping it around Tom but leaving it loose at the neck. He picked up this sheet of what looked like tissue paper, wrapped it tightly around Tom's neck to prevent the hair from falling down his shirt, and then tightened the cape around his neck. Rudy briskly ran his hands through Tom's hair, making a tsk tsk sound as he did. "Needs cuttin'," and he reach for his clippers. Rudy had several of these red attachments, which fit over the clipper blade to alter how much hair is cut. He picked up one big one, nodded, put it down, and picked up a smaller one and attached it to the clippers. "I guess you'll be wanting it a little shorter, eh?" he asked. Tom was not comfortable at all, and he nodded yes. And within seconds, that drone of the clippers was right on Tom's right ear. "We'll fix you up," Rudy said, wasting no time. The clippers made their way from the nape of Tom's neck up the back of his head. In the mirror, Tom could see locks of hair falling onto his shoulder, as Rudy whisked those clippers up and down, up and down, across the back of his head. Rudy pushed Tom's head forward and seemed to press deeper with the clippers as he ran them over the back of his head a second time. In a few seconds, Rudy turned them off, headed up to the mirror where he brushed them free of the hair that had been collected.

While Rudy's back was to him, Tom reached and felt the now naked back of his head. It felt like his face did when he hadn't shaved for a day or two stubbly and course. There was no turning back now. This was going to be one very short haircut. Tom looked at himself in the mirror. He could see no change. The hair that had been shorn was all in the back, and what he saw in his reflection was what he saw when he first sat in that dreaded chair. The hair was still long on top, a little in his eyes from when Rudy ran his hand through it, and hanging slightly over his ears on the&endash; &endash;side. Rudy changed blade attachments putting on a slightly bigger one, and returned to finish the job. He had lit a cigarette, which hung low from his mouth as if gravity were pulling it down. The smoke made its way straight up, often getting in his eyes and making him squint, but apparently didn't bother him enough to put it out. "Okay, let's go here," he said, turning on the clippers and racing them up the right side of Tom's head. Rudy angled Tom's head to the left making it easier to work. With a couple of quick upward motions, Tom's ears were no longer covered and his scalp clearly visible. As Rudy walked behind Tom to get to the other side, Tom saw the change in the mirror, and his eyes opened wide. There wasn't even enough time to react: Rudy pushed Tom's head to the right side and was cutting off the hair on the left. And in what seemed like seconds, it was gone. Before Tom had time to inspect the damage, Rudy was in front of Tom, pushing his head back a little, and running the clippers over his head. Wafts of long brown hair began falling around Tom, and he wondered how it would all end? The clippers whirred with every swath they made on his crown, and Tom wondered if Rudy hadn't already cut quite enough?

"I think it's short enough," he ventured.

"Just another minute and we'll be done," Rudy corrected, balancing the cigarette at the corner of his mouth as he spoke.

And it was done. The clippers were off, and as Rudy pulled them away Tom saw tufts of thick brown hair hanging from them. Rudy brushed them clean, removed the attachment, and hung the clippers on their little hook. Tom's eyes quickly darted to the image of him in the mirror and he froze.

His hair was now short and neat. On the top, where it had once hung just over his eyes, it was bristly and thin, like a Marine; and his scalp was plainly visible in the light of the barbershop. He reached up to touch it and it felt prickly. He could not take his eyes off himself. It was a different Tom. He had seen haircuts this short before, like when soldiers from the base in the next town drove by, and when his friend Gary came back after basic training, and when his brother Clay came home following a fraternity initiation, in which the pledges underwent a similar cranial amputation. Tom looked at himself, and while he admired the neatness and symmetry of the style, he was thrown by its shortness, and thought he no longer needed to carry a comb with him anymore. Rudy took a long drag on the cigarette, put it out into the ash tray and returned to survey his work. Tom looked down at his lap, draped covered by the cape, and saw it completely covered by hair. Rudy took care of that, removing the cape and shaking it out. And then he put it around Tom again. Was it not over yet?

With a little shaving cream and a straight razor, Rudy tapered and touched up the area around Tom's nape and ears. And in seconds, Tom felt a hot towel draped over his barren head, as Rudy rubbed it around Tom's ears and neck. Then, he ran a brush through the stubble, and stopped to look Tom square in the face.

"Now that's a good haircut for a young man." Tom wasn't sure how to answer Rudy, but praise was not at his lips. He simply offered Rudy a half smile, as Rudy removed the cape and paper from Tom's neck, sauntering to the cash register to get Tom's $8. As he walked to meet Rudy, Tom stared at himself in the mirror, not sure how he liked his new look. But behind him he heard Mrs. Muldavey saying to her son, "That's how you're getting your hair cut," and her son Danny would only moan and cry "no I'm not" about how he hated it and he wouldn't let her, but once Tom was outside the door of Rudy's shop, Danny was in the same chair as Tom, whining and pleading with his mother to change her mind, but to no avail. Tom saw Danny just a few days later on his bike, and thought that Rudy had let him off easy!

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