Ken’s Barber Shop: A New Challengeby Manuel Esteves
Hi! My name is Jon. A lot of changes have occurred in my life over the past few years. I’ve met this wonderful young man named Ken. He’s 25 and I’m 24. He owns this old fashioned Barber Shop. And needless to say, Ken changed my life completely. It used to be I had rather long, shoulder length hair with a full beard. I guess it was my way to rebel against people and other things from my past like Military School. But the day I met Ken changed all of that. Now, I’m completely shaven, sort of like Kojak but with a goatee. Ken, within an hour, helped me to regain my confidence and freedom.
So my life has changed quite a bit. I’ve left my old marketing job in the city. Too far to commute and way to detached from the peacefulness right here in Wilsonton. So I opened my own ad agency, right next to Ken’s Barber Shop and Vincenzo’s Butcher Block on Main St 5 months ago. Just like Ken’s Grand Opening, the whole town showed up bringing cake and goodies to help celebrate. I specialize in small town ads in local papers and some radio spots. Not a lot of money, but enough to live comfortably. But most of the time when I don’t have a client, I go over to Ken’s and sit and chat, watch him cut hair, and simply enjoy the bustling sidewalk passers-by. And every once in a while, a new treat materializes at Ken’s door…
It was Friday May 26, on Memorial Day Weekend. I joined Ken in the shop to listen to a radio ad I produced for him enticing the younger crowd to come in. It’s a New Summer, so come in for the New You! The previous ad campaign was so successful for the prom that Ken was seriously considering renting out the vacant chair. And the types of people that come in that door everyday defied classification. In fact, a large portion of his clients were guys and gals from the nearby County College. Ken’s Place, as the town called it, was the place to go to discover the new you! Not a bad slogan, if I say so myself.
“Jon, I loved it. Couldn’t do it any better myself.” Ken was sitting comfortably on the red cushioned Barber’s Chair.
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“Well I’m glad you like it.” I put down the 1955 Life magazine I was looking through. “I hope it brings in a lot of people. I mean how could you beat your price for this weekend?” We had worked on the special together. Our town was a mixed community of lower and middle class families and a lot of larger families in the surrounding area as well. So we decided on a 2 for 1 deal. Any sibling, friend, or just plain acquaintances could get two haircuts for the price of one. And of course, Ken added in an even more enticing offer, making all crewcuts $1.00 for the weekend. I think next to a good head shave, Ken enjoyed them the most.
As we were sitting there chatting, the door chime went off. There stood a young man and young woman. They were about 20. And they were twins! The young man had shaggy blonde hair that was hiding piercing green eyes. He wore a green tye dye shirt and cut-off shorts. The young lady sported the same look, except that she was a little paler and of course had developed a rounder shape here and there. The two seemed to walk at the same pace as they approached the red chairs. “Hi there!” they spoke in unison, as if in stereo. “Hi,” Ken and I answered. Ken looked them over and smiled. That same smile I remembered him sporting when he stared me down outside his shop for the first time.
“Well,” Ken got up from the Barber’s Chair. “Both of you have come to the right place!” He came over and motioned the young man to sit down in the barber’s chair and waved the young lady to take a seat by me.
The girl took her seat next to the Life magazine I set down. She looked nervous up close. Her pink lips were not quite touching and her breath was almost quick like a pant. The guy ran his fingers through his hair, then looked at his sister. She nodded and he took his seat in the big barber’s seat. You can tell he was not used to sitting in the authentic chair. Probably spent most of his life getting chop jobs at the local mall with his mommy, I thought. He was very nervous. His hands shook a little as he tried to find a comfortable place to rest them.
Ken, of course, was now full blown ecstatic. He was moving around getting a spray pump to dampen the hair and placing the sheet tightly around the guy’s neck. “Great, so what will it be today?” Ken stood behind the lad, holding his shoulders down with both of his hands. The young man now looked like a 5 year old boy, not quite sure what to say as he stared in the mirror his gaze looking at Ken then himself.
Suddenly the girl sitting next to me answered the question. “He wants a crewcut. Real short for summer.” She had startled me a little. But Ken seemed almost prepared for the answer. He never even flinched when she said the words. He moved over to the counter top and picked up his black tube clippers. With a few runs through the hair with a comb, he turned them on. And a look of terror almost tore through the boy’s reflection in the mirror.
Ken picked up a small tuft of hair with two fingers and sheared it off. He gave it to the young man in his lap. Then he bent over and whispered something in his ear. I could barely make it out. “Enjoy it kid. Stop fighting it and just enjoy it!” Ken then went about cutting off the young man’s shock of hair. He held the man’s head as he ran the clippers over the top from front to back. Long tufts of hair went flying all around as Ken flung them into the air. “Always a flair for drama,” I mumbled to myself. He continued working diligently on top taking quick but steady passes until the boy had stubble in a horseshoe pattern on top. The boy looked terrified, but I did catch a glimpse of wonder in his eyes. Ken had decided to let him watch himself be transformed, a privilege few experienced.
Ken didn’t miss the routine as he began shearing off the sides, gliding around the ear lobe. The lad had small ears. I guess the look would actually complement him quite a bit. Then he finished his routine with the back, throwing the shocks of blonde hair into the boy’s lap. The boy was playing with it. At least he was now smiling. The fear and shock now over. He now looked like a senior at Coonoga Military Academy, ready to depart for Paris Island for boot camp.
Ken did a little outlining with a smaller razor than completed the task with a straight edge razor and a little lather. The boy had never been shaved before either. He took a delightful pleasure at the cold metal touching his skin. With a little lotion rubbed all over his scalp, the boy was done. Ken untied the sheet and exclaimed “Next!”
The girl stood up as the boy left the chair. She walked over rubbed his head and said, “It feels so cool! I’m next!” And walked right over to the vacated seat. Ken was still brushing away some of the boy’s hair when she sat right down in the chair. She looked like she was comfortable, as if she had done this before. Ken moved over and carefully secured the sheet around the young lady. In contrast to the boy, she actually looked excited from the start. I could see that Ken would enjoy her even more than the boy.
After Ken dampened the hair a little with a spray bottle of water, he combed it out, taking small playful strokes. The girl stared directly into the mirror and asked Ken, “What do you think I should get?” Ken continued touching the yellow blonde hair but never removed his stare from the mirror. “I guess,” Ken responded, “it depends on just how adventurous you are?”
The girl hesitated a little, but then grinned as if she had made up her mind. “I want to look like my brother! Exactly like my brother!” Ken didn’t need to hear anything more. He swung the chair around to face me and the lad who was still busy playing with his head. He discovered the pleasures of feeling the small bristle now in place on his scalp.
Ken brought over the black tube clipper. He played with the hair a little longer then slammed on the motor. He quickly guided the clippers up the side of the girl’s head. She giggled at each pass, as Ken dropped the golden thread in her lap. He worked his way up, slowly around the ears up to the top, always being careful to catch the tufts and place them in her lap. She was gathering them, tying them together. Ken continued all around her head, giggling with her as the hair was sliced right off the head. Ken had finished the sides now and started holding onto the remaining hair on top. Slowly he plowed the black clippers over the tufts on top catching all of them as they fell to the back. After a few quick strokes, the girl now resembled her brother even more, if that were at all possible.
Ken took out the straight blade, and outlined around the ears and the nape of the neck, with short quick strokes. Afterwards, he worked in a nice lotion all over to refresh the newly shorn head. The girl was eagerly awaiting the final image. Ken loosened the sheet and held it over the girl’s face. He then slowly turned the chair to face the mirror once more and quickly tore the sheet away. “Voilą!” he exclaimed. “The finished look, the new you!”
The girl held her hands up to her head. A large smile appeared revealing large white teeth that glared in the mirror’s reflection. She was satisfied and happy about the new her. The boy got up and rubbed his sister’s head. “It feels even better than mine,” he announced as he helped his sister rise from the barber’s chair. The girl pulled out two singles and handed it over to Ken who was admiring his work on the two twins. “Here you go!” she reached in and took out a $20 bill. “On the house,” Ken answered. The girl smiled and grabbed her brother’s hand as they left the shop. They made their way out rubbing each other’s heads and laughing and giggling. They were an interesting pair. And I couldn’t help but wonder what their family and friends would say.
But now I focused in on Ken, who looked a little perturbed. “What’s wrong Ken?” I walked over towards the barber pole he was leaning on. “Oh, I guess nothing. I only wished there were more of those two in this world.” His mischievous grin reappeared as I hit him for the bad joke. “Oh, get in the seat!” he ordered. “It’s been a few days since your last shave.”
“RIGHT AWAY SIR!” I responded and jogged to the barber chair. “Private Jon reporting for his shave sir!” I stared at him with innocent eyes as I got into the chair.
“What am I supposed to do with you?” he answered as he prepared his tools of the trade. “Teach me your skills master!” I answered. “Teach me your skills!”