A Gentleman’s Special
It had been a long hot summer. And today, like the day before and the one before that, there was not a cloud in the sky. It was humid. The temperature was in the high nineties and I was really suffering in this heat. The worst thing for me was my very thick naturally curly hair, which cascaded over my shoulders and down my back. All my life I have had long hair. My mum and dad would never let me have it cut.
“It’s your best feature,” mum was always telling me. “Mine was down to my waist at your age. I have always regretted having mine cut short, you are not going to make the mistake I made.”
“But mum, I hate it long, in this weather it’s just too hot for long hair.”
“That is my last word on the subject, now get ready for school.”
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All the other girls in my class had long ago submitted to the scissors and I certainly was the odd one out as far as hair was concerned. Jenny, my best friend, was always going on at me about my hair. “Why don’t you have it cut, it would look so much nicer short.”
“I would love to, but my mum and dad would go mad if I had it cut without their permission. And besides that, I can’t afford the prices they charge in the ladies’ salon in town.”
“I could always do it for you,” she said smiling.
“No thanks, if I get it cut I will have it done properly in a salon.”
“OK, if that’s what you want, if you change your mind you know where I am.”
That afternoon it just seemed to get hotter and hotter, sweat poured from my brow. My thick long hair stuck to the back of my neck. I was getting more and more uncomfortable as the day wore on. At last, I thought as the school bell started to ring. It was 4 o’clock, time to go home. I decided to walk home through town instead of taking the bus. I knew it would take longer, but I could save the bus fare towards the price of a haircut. Looking in the shop windows, the reflection that peered back at me was one of wild curls spraying in all directions down my back. I must admit, it looked a mess. Further down the street I passed the ladies’ salon, Madame Shirley’s. There was a price list in the window. My heart sank as I noticed the price of a lady’s restyle – $25 00. I put my hand in my pocket. Even with the bus fare that I had saved I still only had $10.00. I carried on walking through town. At the next junction I turned right and on the left-hand side of the road there were three shops. The middle shop caught my eye. It was a barber’s. I slowly walked towards the front window and noticed lettering embossed on the window. “Haircuts only $15.00, no waiting.” Just below it was cardboard sign which was taped to the window. “This week only, GENTLEMAN’S SPECIAL $10.00.”
I looked in, it was empty except for an old man sitting in the barber’s chair reading a newspaper. I hesitated, but continued walking away from the shop. Suddenly I realised, this was the answer to my problem. I will go in there and get it cut. I just hope he will cut it for me.
A bell rang out as i opened the shop door. I cleared my throat. “Do you cut women’s hair,” I asked the barber nervously.
“I only do men’s haircuts. There’s Madam Shirley’s around the corner. Why don’t you go there?”
“I can’t really afford her prices. All I want is for it to be cut short, it’s driving me mad in this heat.”
“As I said before, men’s haircuts only.”
I started to turn towards the door when I decided on one last try. Give me a Gentleman’s Special, then. ”
“Pardon, did you say you wanted a Gentleman’s Special?”
“Yes, real short.”
He started to smile. “Are you sure you want a Gentleman’s Special”
“OK then.” He put his newspaper down and slowly climbed out of the barber’s chair. “Take a seat.” I walked towards the chair. This was the last chance to change my mind. I hesitated for one moment, took a deep breath and got into the chair. I stared at my reflection in the mirror. My curls seemed to have exploded outwards. At that moment I realised there was no turning back, I had to do it.
With a flick of his wrist the barber quickly spread a cape over my shoulders and tied it tightly around my neck. He then picked a comb up off the workstation and began to try to untangle my wild curls. The next couple of minutes were agony as he tugged and pulled without much success. I could sense his frustration building up. Realizing the futility of the task, he reached over to the workstation and picked up his scissors. He pushed his comb under the mass of hair on the side of my head and pulled my hair outwards. He then started to furiously snip away like a man possessed. At first, small pieces of hair slithered down the cape. Followed by much larger ones. By this time, I have to admit, I began to have second thoughts. However, looking at the amount of hair which was falling to the floor, it was a bit late to change my mind now. I stared at my reflection in the mirror. The right hand side of my head had been brutally cropped short, leaving my ear totally exposed. He moved around to the back of the chair. Using his hand he pushed my head forward. I could feel the scissors slicing though my hair, more and more curls fell away. He moved around again, continuing the cut at a frantic pace. I looked again at my reflection. I looked so different. My reflection was obscured when the barber moved to the front and started hacking away at the top. More hair cascaded down onto the cape.
Suddenly, he stopped cutting. Looking at my reflection he said, “That’s a lot cooler for you now, don’t you think?”
“Well yes,” I stammered, “it’s a bit short.”
“It’s what you asked for, a man’s haircut. Can’t change your mind now.”
“I know, but it’s a bit uneven isn’t it?”
Suddenly the look on the barber’s face changed. “I’ve not finished yet,” he sneered. He turned away and picked up what looked like a small torpedo with an electric flex attached. “I will even it up for you, shall I?”
“Er… yes, if it’s not too much trouble.”
He unraveled the electric cord and plugged it into a socket under the workstation. And then walked behind me and pushed my head forward so that my chin touched my chest. I heard a click and a low humming noise. I suddenly realized what was in his hands. It was a pair of clippers. The barber quickly pushed them up the back of my neck to the top of my head. He repeated this action four times. More and more hair fell onto the cape. The barber changed his position. The clippers continued to peel away all the hair on the sides of my head. Stopping for a moment, he looked at my reflection in the mirror, checking his work carefully. Then, without warning, he pushed the clippers across the top of my head, ploughing through what was left of my curls. Time and again, going over and over the top of my head until every last curl was removed. The barber paused for a moment and then ran his hand across the top of my head. Satisfied with the result, he switched the clippers off and returned them to the workstation. Looking at my reflection it was hard to believe I was the same person who walked in here 20 minutes earlier. My long curls had been cut down to stubble. The barber removed the cape, sending all my curls to the floor. As I got out of the chair the realisation of what had happened to me started to sink in. I had been scalped.
“That will be 10 dollars, please.”
“I only wanted it short, not like this,” I said angrily.
“A Gentleman’s Special, you asked for, and a Gentleman’s Special you got.”
“I bet all men who come in here don’t end up like me. Scalped.”
Turning around he pointed to a sign on the wall. “GENTLEMAN’S SPECIAL (clipper shave) $10.00”
“If you wanted anything different, you should have asked.”