It was almost five o’clock. Regina Morris swept her barbershop, glancing at her watch and her own chestnut flat top in the mirror. Her last trim was still good. Mary, her eight-year-old, skipped into the shop from Reggie’s office in back, and hopped in the barber chair facing the street.
“Haircut, Mommy. I really, really need one.” Mary wore the same half-inch flat, tapered to her nape.
“You just had one a couple of weeks ago.” Regina caped Mary in pinstripes and ran the Osters up her neck. She’d never refuse Mary a haircut as long as she wanted it short.
The little blonde and redhead made faces from the sidewalk.
“Little butch girl, wants to be a boy,” the blonde taunted.
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The redhead flaunted thick curls to her waist. Blonde hair layered in waves to the other girl’s elbows flew in Mary Morris’s face as the other girl turned away.
“Are they Sally Kramer and Jordan Clark?” Regina bent Mary’s ears and tidied up around them with smaller clippers.
“Yes, and they tease me. They say I’m really a boy in a dress, just cause they have long hair and I don’t. But I don’t like long hair, Mommy. I like my hair cut just like yours.”
Sally and Jordan rubbed Mary’s head and taunted her with faces and notes the next day at school, even as Mary jumped rope with Alexis and Dixie at recess.
Jordan grabbed the jump rope from little Mary Morris. “Little butch girl looks like a boy. Go play with the boys.”
Sally Kramer pushed Mary against the wall of the school, watching tears stream down Mary’s cheeks. “I’ll bet little butch girl’s really a boy. Let’s take that pretty dress off her.”
Mary ran away, crying, clear to the old high oak tree behind the barber shop downtown. She climbed. If she climbed high enough, Jordan and Sally would never get her.
Three-thirty. No Mary skipping into the barbershop from school. Regina trimmed the man’s businessman’s cut. Still had a perm drying under the dryer. A quarter to four. No Mary.
Cute blonde and bowl cut Alexis burst into the shop. “Reggie, I wanted Mary to play after school, but she ran away. She was crying, Reggie, and I found her. She’s up in the big oak tree, way up high, and she can’t get down.”
Reggie’s perm came out from under the dryer and paid, with a tip. “Go. I’m dry enough.”
Mary clung to a limb in the oak tree in the wooded lot behind the shop, crying. “Mommy, don’t be mad.”
“Climb too high, did you?”
“Yes. Now, I’m scared. I don’t want to fall.”
“Hold on real tight.” Regina Morris climbed the oak tree limb to limb.
“Mom, what are you doing?”
“You might not believe it, but I climbed trees all the time when I was your age. You’re way better at it. I never went this high.” Regina sat beside Mary on the big limb with a hook in it toward the sky. She had no idea the town’s barber climbing this tree had drawn such a crowd.
“Mama, what are you doing?”
“Well, I thought I’d sit up here with you now that I’m here.” Regina took Mary’s hand. “You know, you don’t have to wear a flat top just because I have one.”
“But I like it. I don’t want long hair.”
“Even if Sally and Jordan tease you?”
Mary wiped tears across her cheeks. “Yes. I want to go down now.”
“You promise to tell me when someone teases you or makes you feel bad?”
“All right. Let me go down first, then we’ll see if we can get Sally and Jordan not to tease you.”
Regina Morris climbed down and watched her daughter do it the same way. Backing toward the barbershop, she faced the crowd. “You want to see how this comes out, drop around the shop about nine Saturday morning.”
There was more? What would happen Saturday?
Time usually stands still when you’re waiting for something, but Saturday seemed to arrive in the little town in an instant. Regina Morris watched seconds to nine a.m. tick off her office clock.
“Why’d I have to put on a school dress and come down here with you on Saturday, Dad?” she heard Jordan Clark whine. “You gonna make me watch you get your hair cut? Why are you jerking me around?”
“Mom, what gives? What’re all those people doing out here?” Sally Kramer demanded.
They were right on time. Regina let Sally Kramer and Jordan Clark and their parents into the back of the shop.
Regina stalked Jordan Clark. “He’s not jerking you around, but I might give it a shot.”
Regina jerked the seven-year-old off her feet by a handful of dress and bent her over the office chair. Jordan screamed as the barber flipped up her skirt. Dad was the Judge. Dad was letting her do this. The yardstick stung the little redhead like a hornet. Seven times. Dad was not stopping this? Even when Jordan screamed and bawled.
“I should have spanked you a long time ago,” said the Judge.
Regina let the whimpering Jordan up. “Sally.” The barber bent her finger three times.
Regina grabbed the blonde like a frog snapping a fly out of the air, bent her over the chair and gave her the stick, seven times. She bent closer to the crying girls’ faces. “I can find this again if you still want to sass.”
“N-no, ma’am,” Sally blubbered as Jordan sniffled and whimpered.
“Now, what’s the story? You two like to tease Mary and call her names because she’s got short hair? I got the same haircut. Push me around. Go ahead and do it.”
“We… we were just… just kidding,” Jordan cried.
“You two are gonna get to see what it feels like. That hair is coming off.”
Judge Jon Clark and his Court Clerk Tracy Kramer stood and said nothing, watching the horrified faces of their daughters.
“Yes,” Regina said. “You two will get flat tops just like Mary’s. Today. J comes before S. Sally watches Jordan lose her hair first, and the two of you will get trims every three weeks for the next year. Blow your noses and march.”
Jordan was tissued and caped in pinstripes in the barber chair facing Main Street.
“Mary, open the shades, please,” Regina said.
Mary Morris opened the front window curtains. Jordan sat stunned, at everyone she’d ever known here watching from the street.
Regina fitted the Number One on her Osters and clicked on the buzzing, resonating machine next to Jordan’s ear. The child shut her eyes. This was really going to happen. She was really going to lose her beautiful red curls. But did the WHOLE town have to watch?
Regina pushed the clippers around Jordan’s ears first. Jordan was just going to be bald. She knew it. She’d be in a hat for the next year. Hair, hair, hair kept dropping to the cape as the clippers pillaged through her beautiful hair, but… shivers raced up her spine. She had stopped crying. This was making her tingle all inside.
“Reggie, may I watch, please?”
Regina turned her toward the mirror. One side of her head shorn; hair just long enough to cover the skin. Jordan Clark looked like a field of grain half combined.
“They buzz, and, and I can’t tell you what it feels like,” Jordan whispered. You’ve got to try this, she was telling Sally with her look in the mirror.
Reggie bent closer, even gave Jordan a peck on the head. “Now you know why Mary and I like short hair, but try to make it less than obvious, okay?”
Jordan lowered her head, begging for the buzzing clippers to chew through hair and tickle her neck.
Hugging her mother, knowing she was inching closer to losing honey blonde hair to her elbows each time Regina Morris pushed the buzzing clippers up the right side of Jordan’s head, Sally wondered if she could even wait for this until Jordan’s haircut was over.
Chunks of red locks brushed Jordan’s right ear on their way to piling on her shoulder. She watched them slide to another pile on the floor. Jordan Clark could not even blink. Reggie rubbed something like jelly through red hair on top of Jordan’s head, combed straight back and pushed the clippers across the comb at half an inch. Jordan pinched her lips together. She was busted if Dad saw her grin.
Reggie stopped the clippers and turned a crank at the counter. Jordan saw Mary Morris’s smile. Mary knew all about the hot shave.
Reggie dabbed the warm cream around Jordan’s ears and across her neck. She stropped a straight razor across leather and leaned closer to Jordan. “I feel the same way every time I get my hair cut, too, but at least try to look sorry, okay?”
Jordan covered her mouth, but the shave, the scraping around her ears and across her neck drove her crazy.
Reggie massaged lilac talc through Jordan’s red flat top and pulled the cape away. “Last part of your punishment. Sweep your own hair off the floor. Sally.”
Jordan wiped a hand across her mouth. Sally gave a little nod. Head down, she trudged to the barber chair, as Jordan swept dustpans of red hair off the white tile floor.
Sally shed another tear, as she was tissued and caped. “No, you can’t. You can’t cut my hair.”
Reggie started the Osters, lifted blonde with the comb and sheared it from the side of Sally’s head. Sally watched years of growing her beautiful hair wasted, but… Jordan was right. This haircut with clippers was WILD!
Her ear bared, the left side of her head trimmed short, short, Sally watched Reggie turn the Osters and hold the buzzing blade against her hair until she had buzzed through it at her nape. Cool barbershop breeze hit Sally Kramer’s bared neck. Eyes frozen on the mirror, buzzing like bees at the back of her head drove Sally mad as chunks of blonde hair fell with every pass of the Osters up the back and the right side of her head. Sally Kramer moaned.
“Shh,” Reggie whispered. “Mama’s gonna figure out you wanted this.”
Sally nodded, even cringed. She hardly even noticed when people outside the shop slipped away from the two girls who always thought they were most popular getting haircuts for being bad. Sally watched Reggie rub the same jelly stuff in her hair on top that Jordan had gotten. She stared but did not blink when honey blonde hair fell from the top of her head like hay falling to a mower.
“Hot shave,” Jordan mouthed. She rolled her eyes.
Reggie Morris shut off the clippers. Sally stared at Sally. Shorn. Mowed. But no way did pretty Sally Kramer look like a boy with this haircut, and the razor scraping her neck and around her ears was worth getting this haircut. Sally could not take her eyes from Sally as Reggie worked lilac talc into her cut. She had a flat top, too.
Reggie watched Sally sweep and dump her own hair. “I hope Sally and Jordan have learned your lessons.”
Pinching smiles from their lips, Sally and Jordan looked at their classmate, Mary. She held back a grin too.
“Well?” Jordan’s father, the Judge demanded.
“Oh, oh, yes,” Jordan said.
“We’re sorry we teased you, Mary.” Sally winked. Jordan hugged Mary Morris.
“See that it doesn’t happen again, Sally Kramer, or you will wear a flat top for two years,” her mother said. “Pay Reggie for your haircut and come right home, young lady.
Judge Jon Clark and his court clerk Tracy Kramer left their shorn daughters in Reggie Morris’s barber shop.
Sally handed Reggie money for her cut. “Thank you for my haircut, Reggie.”
Jordan paid for her flat top, smiling from ear to ear. “Reggie, could we come play with Mary and get our hair cut again next Saturday?”