The man settles into the barber chair for his appointment. Dick is back for the first time in months. Grant is two-and-a-half, and his hair is overgrown. He sits on a chair just across from the barber’s chair, waiting his turn. The door opens, and an old-timer walks in. He sees gray-haired Dick and smiles.
“Dick, you’re back. Where ya been?”
Dick wraps the man in the barber’s shawl. “Hey, ya, John. You didn’t hear, huh?”
John shakes his head and puts his hat on the coat rack. “Nah. Your kid just said you were out for a while but would be back in a month or two.”
Dick wraps a white disposable collar around the man’s neck and says, “The usual?”
“Yes, sir,” the man says.
Dick looks up. He wears a button-down shirt and he loosens the top two buttons to reveal a long scar running down the middle of his chest. “Open-heart surgery, John. Quadruple bypass.”
“No kidding, buddy,” says John. “Sorry to hear that. You doing ok?”
Dick starts the clippers and begins to work on the man’s back and sides. “Yeah, yeah. Doc says I gotta keep my stress level down, though.”
John chuckles. “Then what are you doing back at work, you ole bastard?”
Dick laughs. “Stressing me out too much to be at home so much with nothing to do.”
“Ah ha,” says John. “The wife’s after you.”
“Something like that,” says Dick, as the man’s thick hair falls in neat clumps to the floor.
A few minutes later, Dick holds a mirror up behind the man’s head and says, “How’s that look for you?”
“Perfect,” says the man. “As always.”
“The little guy now?” Dick says.
“If you can fit him,” says the man.
Dick nods. His hair is trim and gray with specks of black still throughout it. He wears glasses and pushes them back on his nose. “I scheduled him, so let’s get him up here.”
“All right, Grant,” says the man.
Grant hops down from his chair. Dick puts a booster across the arms of the chair, and the man lifts Grant into it.
“How are ya, buddy?” Dick says to Grant.
Grant trembles and doesn’t answer.
“Go on, pal. Tell Dick. What big news did we have this week?”
Grant looks to be on the verge of crying. His face is flushed red, and he wiggles. “No! I don’t wanna cut my hair!”
The man stands unmoved. “Did you get a little sister this week?”
“See-ya Shell,” says Grant, looking around as Dick puts the shawl on.
“What’s her name?” Dick says.
“That’s her name,” the man says. “Lucia Michele. He can’t say it very well.”
“Huh. Pretty name.”
Dick wraps the white collar around Grant’s neck, and now Grant is wiggling a lot. He’s also larger than most two-year-olds and has often been mistaken for a four-year-old.
“So what do you want today?” Dick says looking at the man.
“Just a little boy’s haircut. Short sides. One or two is fine. Leave the top just combable.”
“Got it,” says Dick.
“How old are you, pal?” John calls from the waiting area.
“He’s two,” the man answers, as Grant looks around frantically to see what Dick is doing. “He’s a little out of sorts with a new sister at home.”
“You don’t gotta tell me twice,” says John. “I was the youngest for four years, and then my parents had a little girl, and I never got over it.” He laughs.
The man also laughs. “It’s definitely an adjustment.”
Dick turns on the clippers and brings them up to the left side of Grant’s head. Grant jumps up and tries to get down. The man grabs him forcefully by the shoulders and holds him in place. Dick starts to cut, and even with his dad’s strength, Grant thrashes and begins to cry and yell.
“I don’t wanna cut my hair! No! I don’t wanna cut my hair! I hate haircuts!”
The hair flies off but not in neat clumps. Snot is pouring from Grant’s nose, and flying hair is getting stuck in it. Grant tries to spit and winds up with a mouthful of snot and hair. He leans forward to try to wipe his tongue with his right hand, but the man wrenches him back into place.
Dick finishes the left side. He looks to move the clippers to the back of Grant’s head, but now Grant is rocking back and forth, then side to side. Dick is starting to look red-faced, and a bead of sweat is on his brow.
“Come on, Grant,” the man says. “The clippers don’t hurt.”
“They hurt! I hate haircuts!” Grant bellows, and his raw strength is too much. He cannot be held still.
Finally, Dick sighs and says, “I don’t think this is happening.”
The man feels heat rise up his neck and into his face, but there is no arguing. The decision is made.
“I apologize. I’m really, really sorry,” the man says, as he unbuttons the shawl for Dick. Dick steps around him, pulls it off, and shakes it out.
The man grabs a tissue from a box on the counter and wipes Grant’s nose, mouth and chin. Grant is red-eyed and red-faced. He hops down from the chair and pulls the white collar off.
“Let me pay you,” the man says.
“Just the $14 for you,” says Dick. “No charge for him.”
“Yeah, but you reserved the time.”
“It’s okay,” says Dick. “I didn’t cut his hair. Let’s call it even.”
The man hands him a $20 and says, “No change on that.”
“Oh, thank you,” says Dick.
The man takes Grant’s hand. “Come on, pal.”
They walk through the waiting area, and John is on his feet. “Better luck next time, buddy,” he says to Grant. Grant just sniffles.
They emerge hand in hand from the air conditioning into the hot July afternoon. The afternoon sun is blinding for a second, and the man squeezes his eyes tight, tears starting to sting them.
He opens the driver’s side back door and lifts Grant into the car seat, then leans in and buckles the latch. For a moment, he looks at Grant–the left side is shaved, and the rest of his hair is overgrown. He rubs Grant’s head.
“How to explain this to your mother,” he says. He slams the door, sighs, and gets into the driver’s seat.