The Professional by ‘Cat’
Sam saw her leave the cafe and cross the street just as his previous customer was leaving – old Archie who always came in for his regular trim on a Monday afternoon, more for a chat than anything, since there was rarely much to take off. Sam always clicked the scissors alot just to look busy and keep up appearances.
He knew immediately she was coming to him, from the tentative, nervous way in which she walked. ‘I must do it, whatever. Somehow. Just do it.’ is what she seemed to be saying to herself. But against that would be her mother’s voice perhaps:
‘Madness – whatever got into you?’
And she wouldn’t know what had got into her. Perhaps it was a kind of madness. All she would know was that she wanted it. She had always wanted it and now was her chance. Student probably. It was the season, end of September, when they arrived. First day in a new city, first day, tomorrow, at college. No one knew her. For them she wouldn’t seem different. It would be as if she had always been… what? He didn’t know yet. She would tell him. If she made it.
She had been up and down twice, casually glancing in the window. Yesterday, too, when he was busier, she had been past, peered in, then scurried away when interested heads had looked up. Sam had seen it all. Seen her earlier go into the cafe, perhaps to watch. There had only been two customers, one waiting, one in the chair. She would watched two men leave, and know no one had go in. In fact no one in the street at all. Now would be her chance, if only she could find the courage, to do it cleanly. Now.
He changed the channel on the radio so as to get more sixties music, picked up a magazine, and casually sat down in the barber’s chair, in her view through the large shop window, making sure she didn’t realise he was aware of her. He didn’t want to influence her decision one way or the other, just let her see he was OK and there was nothing to be afraid of – it was all going to be very matter of fact.
Yes, she’d probably been watching the shop, they often did that, from the cafe across the street, the nervous ones. Sometimes they would pass the window, occasionally as many as ten times before they plucked up courage to come in. They would find out his slack times, then wait till no one was there, and if they had the courage they’d plunge in. If not, they’d pass by, or sometimes come in and ask for cigarettes, or even get as far as the chair and cop out at the last minute and ask for a trim.
Whatever they did he was always the same – accepting. He wanted to show them that whatever their fantasy was, they could live it, and it would be OK – if not, it was their choice.
They knew his was the place to come because of his notice in the window:
Finally, the doorbell jangled gently, and she was standing there, tentatively, smiling slightly.
He smiled back at her.
She was pretty, with delicate, pointed features, brown eyes and thick reddish brown hair that disappeared into her raincoat. Smart.
“Yes, madam. How can I help you?”
He said this very straight and direct, showing no surprise at seeing a woman in a man’s hairdresser’s, no angle to his voice, meeting her eyes warmly, but remaining entirely matter of fact. This moment was important, and could make or break the interaction.
She couldn’t answer to start with. It was all she could take for the moment, to be actually in the place. She would be shocked by its matter-of-factness, something Sam had done a great deal to cultivate. The radio playing, the hair on the floor, row of plastic chairs to sit in while you waited, a pile of well-thumbed magazines on a coffee table, one large barber’s chair, very chrome looking, with in front of it, a large mirror, a basin, and on the wall round it the various tools of the trade including – in its place of honour – the clipper, with scattered on a ledge on either side of the basin, its attachments. All of it deeply symbolic, traditional to the barber-shop. Deeply symbolic and deeply erotic, each implement there to caress, excite, to sheAr you, like a lamb, ready for the dance of the world, a dance which despite his forty years and his family man status, and his own natural baldness, still fascinated him.
He didn’t rush her and he could see she was pleased about that. He was OK. Eventually it came, nervous, very, very quiet, jerked out, almost mumbled.
“It says you do ladies here.”
And then she was smiling and blushing from embarrassment, as if she had just been discovered with a stolen sweet and expected to be scolded. But she wasn’t.
For his part, he could tell immediately she was educated, from a good home. He’d been right – almost certainly a new student at the college. First week away from home, time to come out and be her real self. It was much more difficult for the more middle class ones, there was a big barrier to do with expectations, pressures to look as you were supposed to, not as you wanted to be. They had to pluck up a lot of courage, some of them, to make this statement about how they wanted to be, and she was clearly one of these. There would be consternation at home when she returned for the Christmas break – “Darling, what have you done to your hair?”
“Yes we do,” he said. “You want it cropped short?”
He loved that word, cropped, so short, so sharp on the tongue, so direct, so to the point. No shilly-shallying with a word like that. Either you wanted it or you didn’t. Yet he had said it without edge, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to be a woman who who came to a man’s barbers and got yourself a crop. A real crop. Not one of these imitations from a unisex or woman’s hairdressers where they flunked out. Oh no. It would be high and tight if she got one here.
But he wanted to seem natural about it, and thus allow her to relax, to own what she wanted, despite the embarrassment.
She had owned it. He was pleased. The thing to do now was to move her on quickly. He turned away from her and busied himself with preparations
“Sure, we can do that. You can hang up your coat in the corner.”
When he turned towards her again, she was standing nervously by the chair, fingering its plastic. She was wearing a very short summer dress, exposing lightly tanned bare arms and shoulders and her long legs. It was of a simple plain brown colour and stuck tight to the curve of her body – which was slim, but womanly – he could see the cleavage above a good-sized pair of breasts. But the effect wasn’t at all erotic, because of the way she was holding herself, almost crouching as if she was making an excuse – “sorry, it’s only me” – but she was lovely – she just didn’t yet know it.
“Sit down,” he said kindly.
It was as she tentatively moved forward to sit in the chair that he noticed the length of her hair – straight and abundant, falling in a glossy, reddish brown torrent right down her back which didn’t finish until it sat in a neat line across her backside.
Hesitantly, but gracefully, she sat down, getting the feel of the chair.
‘I’ve never been in a men’s barber’s before.’
‘What do you think?’
‘It’s nice. I like it.’
She leaned back in the chair and as an afterthought flicked her hair so that it streamed now down its back nearly reaching the floor.
He was touched, but still very careful to show no surprise and make no comment. He selected a clean cape from a drawer, and shook it open. Then turned towards her.
She smiled at him, in the mirror, asking for forgiveness.
“Yes, it looks like it’s been there a long time,” he said, allowing a little joke. “Needs a bit of a trim.” He put the cape round her, closing it under her hair at the back – he had to lift it to do this, and he found it heavy and silky, with a slight perfume. It had clearly been washed and combed out lovingly very recently, probably this morning, going by its high gloss and freedom from tangles.
“This is my first ever haircut,” she said, “apart from just having the ends done.”
He was adjusting the height of the chair.
“Important moment then.”
She was serious and slightly worried, suddenly.
He began gently combing her hair forwards, so it hung down over her eyes, into her lap, getting a sense of its weight and texture. He also wanted to check her ears. If they stuck out or were large, he would have to warn her – not stop, just warn. They weren’t. They were small, regular, and stuck close to her head. She was intelligent, she’d probably checked them herself anyway. Sat there in front of the mirror at home, after a bath, it all combed back and flattened, trying to get a sense of how it would look – of course it never helped, you had to do it to find out.
“It’s probably better to cut it dry, since its so clean already.”
He could see she liked the compliment. But he didn’t want to say what lovely hair it was, because she might change her mind. He could do that once there was no going back. Better for business, that way.
“Closely cropped you said. With the clipper.”
He was testing her, ad making it easy, too. Now all she had to do was assent, or even stay silent. If she didn’t want it so short she could say so. But if she didn’t, she wouldn’t be here. It was the clipper they wanted. All of them. It’s why they came.
“I’m a bit worried about whether it will stand up.”
Now he combed forward a lock of hair from the very front, slipping two fingers around it, measuring its length, letting it fall gently down in front of her face,
“It’s is always a risk the first time. You don’t know till you try it, that’s the trouble But your hair is straight and strong. I would say it will stand up nicely. If it doesn’t, then you can wear it even shorter – when it’s very close indeed it doesn’t matter if it stands up or not.”
He was aware that he was giving permission again, if she wanted it. It was nice to get an easy conversation going. He needed to assert himself as a professional, push her to take what she really wanted, yes, but at the same time let her know she was safe and had choices.
“First cut coming.”
He measured out a length of hair over her forehead with his fingers and held the scissors ready.
He’d cut off the hank of hair he had combed forward. It slithered into her lap. It stirred him to see it fall. It always did. Satisfying, somehow. Now she had a thick, roughly chopped fringe high on her forehead and she could see.
There were tears in her eyes as she looked at herself. She sniffed.
“Sad to see it go.”
“Yes. It’s funny. I’ve always wanted my hair short ever since I can remember, but now I’ve plucked up courage and it’s happening, I feel sad.”
“Well, it’s an old friend.”
“Old enemy more like – you’ve no idea what it’s cost me.”
“Bit of both, then, perhaps.”
“Oh yes, people have always admired it, but were they admiring me? I don’t think so.
She was talking now, letting it all out, and this was good. He could proceed more confidently, do what he had to do. This way she wouldn’t hate him for it afterwards. She would become a good customer like the other women who came. Surprisingly, nearly a quarter of his customers were women. Somehow word had got around – they could come in and be accepted. Some of them claimed it was for “practical reasons” or for “sport” – he didn’t challenge this, but he knew it wasn’t. It was part of their fantasies, their sexuality, they needed to look like this. He was pleased by what the young woman had said. It was straightforward and frank.
He began going over her head in small sections, raising a hank of her hair with the comb, then clipping two fingers around it, holding the hair firmly between them his had firm against the scalp, then
hacking it off across his fingers so another hank slipped into her lap. He couldn’t take too much at a time because her hair was so thick and strong. Anyway, it was much better to take small pieces at a time and revel in it.
It was slow and patient work.
“Don’t be put off by what I’m doing. It’s not the final cut. That comes later.”
“I always wore my hair long because my mum and dad liked it that way. I’m an only child you see. I had to be their nice little girl, and the image went with it, bows, frilly dresses, the lot. Secretly, I wasn’t like that, though. I wanted it short.
“Then this other girl in the class had herself done – turned up with a skinned head. She was pretty. Blond. I admired her for doing it. The other girls laughed. But I loved it. And they would ask her why she did it. But she never answered. But I knew. I knew because I wanted it too. Sometimes I would sit behind her looking at the way her little hairs curled around the crown, and her perfectly formed round head, longing to be like that. I would lie in bed at night having long fantasies about how I would go to the barber’s and get it done. But I didn’t dare.”
“Not till now.”
“She had longer bits at the back. I don’t. I just want it short. Very. Everywhere.”
She was talking so intimately now, he could be proud about his knowledge and skill, push her a little further into completely fulfilling her fantasies.
“You have the looks. You can take it. Look, your hair’s standing up nicely now.”
And it was. All over over was a furry half-inch crop, still with a longer fringe at the front, which he fluffed gently. This was as far as many young women would go – it was urchin-like, appealing, and with her pretty face very feminine. He decided to give her the option, but he knew she wouldn’t. He was playing with her, really.
“You could stop here if you like. I could tidy it up, it would look very nice.”
Now she was firm, a tremor of erotic energy and need in her voice.
“No. Go all the way.”
“Right, he said. “Here we go. Very close.”
He picked up the clipper, and put a number two attachment on it., then went round to her rear, and placing his hand gently on the top of her head, gently pushed it forward, exposing the full length of her neck.
“I’m going to give you a number two – it’ll be about a quarter of an inch.”
He felt her tension as he placed the clipper against the base of the neck at the line of the shoulders, and checked again.
There was a moment’s pause and then he heard a very shaky
“Mm. Go on. Get it over.”
He slid the switch forward so a strong, deep hum filled the room, then slid the machine smoothly up, up along the neck, up over the ridge of the scalp and on over the crown, taking with it a band of brown which fell silently onto the cape and left a deep trench, where there was a complete change of texture to the hair – instead of thickly textured, slightly rough, it was now lying close to the head, silky smooth, with peeping through between the short strands the white of the scalp. Near the crown where the hair stood erect from the head, more white showed.
“Mmm. It feels good. Like a caress. I’ve waited so long for this moment. I’m shaking all over. I’m sweating.”
He repeated the stroke until there was no more sound of cutting then went slowly round the head, working up from below towards and a little onto the top.
As he worked, her shaking increased, until she was shivering uncontrollably.
He carried on until both the sides and the back were completely done. He stood back.
Still shaking, she looked at herself in the mirror – a sort of cockatoo look now, with a line of roughly cut erect hair remaining on the top. She laughed.
Then he moved to the front between her and the mirror, very serious, and laid his hand on the fringe, to keep it against the head and away from the clipper.
“Hold your head still now. It will only take a moment.”
Somehow, she became serious herself and managed it, and he firmly slid the clipper over the top of her head again and again until he was satisfied all had been taken and after brushing aside some cut hairs that obstinately refused to fall, stood back. He was still between her and the mirror so she couldn’t see what he was doing, only feel it. He shortened and reduced the fringe so instead of folding fully down it stuck out a little at the front and consisted of just a few widely spaced spikes sticking out somewhat at the front, to soften the front a little.
It was important for him that she couldn’t see what he was doing in these final moments – it was like a theatre before the curtain went up, and the audience went ‘wow’ when they saw the stage set. He always, if the style allowed, cut hair in such a way that the client couldn’t get the full effect until the last minute. This usually meant doing the top and front last, with himself between them and the mirror, as in the present case.
Only when he was fully ready did he stand aside.
He saw her look in the mirror at herself. Her eyes were wide and nervous.
What she saw was a perfectly smooth crop made of quarter-inch hairs standing perkily erect, with a strong band of white scalp visible in the centre, but moving as she moved her head, and different hairs were presented vertically to the eye, which could then look straight down each shaft.
She smiled at the daringness of it
And there was no doubt it suited her, bringing out her big, vulnerable brown eyes, so now they looked enormous, and revealing her pert, pretty features and warm smile.
“It’s so pretty – I hadn’t realised. Thanks,” she said, and beginning to turn her head a little more confidently, admiring herself. But there was an edge to her voice.
“I like it but – will it go shorter? Just a little. I want it even shorter. I want to go all the way. Please. I don’t want to stop now.”
A kind of pert flirtation had come into her voice.
“I can do a number one if you want. It will be very close indeed.”
“That’s what I want. Please. And no fringe. Just take it off. All of it. Number one.”
At one level he was angry with her. He’d done his best to make her look nice, he really had. And it hadn’t been good enough for her.
“I’ll have to charge you more. It’s a second cut. And the fact that it was so long in the first place makes it more expensive.”
But there was a tremble in his voice as he spoke and his eyes had lingered on her for too long and she had known – known all about him, and the OK had had a sexy angle to it, like now it was he who had been discovered with the sweets, and he was trembling as he slipped the number one clipper onto the machine and turned it on because she was beautiful and she had contacted his own need and desire. Simply, powerfully, he wanted to do it to her as he had always wanted to do it to women – beautify them in this strange, strange way, shearing them, as his wife knew only too well. And the kids. All of them sheared, of course. And the family all laughing at him for it, while enjoying it too, Dad’s perversion, calling him to the TV when a good one came on, and he having to go each time to have a look. And at the weekend he’d been called, and what a one! Something only very special women did. A pretty, round face she’d had with sharp features, hazel eyes and dark hair. Not that it was so short – it was, about a quarter of an inch, but she’d done what only a very few women did. She’d emphasised it by putting wet gel onto it to make the hairs stick together into thick spines. In this way she exposed the white of the scalp and every time the camera was on her you were confronted by it – her crop. And she would have known that, known that there would be hungry, needy eyes dwelling on her from round the country, grateful too, but in the end wanting her, wanting to be her lover, envying the lover that she must have, must with a crop like that, how could she avoid it, avoid being fucked, night after night in need and salutation. And his wife had known that she was one of these special women, known that despite her own attractions, own crop, would be fucked for this other woman tonight, and had laughed, because, with all that she did, she didn’t have the fetish. And here he was, as he sometimes was, knowingly and unknowingly, in his shop, with one of them, these special women. And what did you do to them? You sheared them. And then, if they let you, if they wanted it, you fucked them. It was in the room now, this fucking. He wanted her. And she knew it. And she liked it, innocent that she was. She liked it, because she said nothing now, just…
… bent her head for it as he placed it low on her neck. But it wasn’t far enough forward so he forced the head further down, at the same time forcing the clipper up and over the crown so she would feel it hard now, like his penis, hard and sharp against the scalp.
He vaguely heard her intake of breath as the clipper did its job, saw her mouth open and stay open as she responded to stroke after hard stroke, her tongue half out. At the sides he pressed so hard that although she tried to resist, the head was pushed sideways and then sprang up again at the end of each stroke. He was standing to the side so she could watch everything in the mirror, and she was, brown eyes big and staring. She was shaking again as the clipper went over and over, leaving the scalp fully visible, so now instead of hair with scalp peeping through it was all white scalp with tiny spikes of hair thinly distributed over it. Then standing behind so she could see, took it straight over from the front, brutal and quick again, taking the fringe he’d worked so hard at straight off, leaving a strip of stubbly white right in the middle, then taking his time before finishing her and doing the other bits that stuck up to the side, then not bothering to finish, needing to make sure by going over and over the head several times till it was perfect, shorn. Then impulsively stripping off the attachment altogether
The slightest of nods.
So now it was hot bare metal against the scalp at the sides, exposing it completely now, white and smooth, doing it right up way up beyond the ears and up over the arch onto the top, and then the back, shaving her, right up the neck and over the crown, leaving her only the hint of darker stubble on the very top forward part of her head, and then, in a few impulsive strokes taking even that before standing back.
“Short enough for you now?”
There was no reply. She hadn’t heard him. She was shaking still. Then he realised that there was a rhythm to her shaking. He could see the cape moving between her legs and she was trembling, but this now in a different way, getting more tense, building up. She thought he couldn’t see but he could. He busied himself for a moment cleaning the clipper head, then he pretended to be impatient with the radio, and searched for another station. Covertly, in the mirror, he saw her reach a crisis, give a final shudder and relax, all the time looking at herself, and moving her head to get different angles on it.
He came briskly over to dust her off and remove the cape, allowing the mountain of hair in her lap to slide dramatically to the floor.
There was silence as she eased down from her climax still staring at herself, enjoying herself in the moment of her baldness.
At last she looked at him in the mirror, looked at him apologetically, enormous, dark, appealing eyes: “Do you like me?” they said.
She got up from the chair – it was wet where her crotch had had been. She didn’t notice.
“I’d better pay you.”
She walked unsteadily to her purse, and trembling took it out. She produced a note and offered it. “Is this enough? I’ve been a lot of trouble.”
He was overcome with desire. She seemed so fragile and naked in her baldness. His hand, instead of going for the money, went to her head and stroked it. She didn’t move. Just stood there.
But he went no further. He was a professional. He had a duty of care for her. There was a boundary. His business relied on the preservation of that boundary.
He took her money and put it in the till. There was no need for change. Then she was recovered and going for her coat.
“A cut like this grows out very quickly. You should come back next week for a trim – that way it stays precise and exact – they stop looking so good when they get raggy. Half price for regulars.”
“OK. I will. Thanks.”
Then seeing herself in the mirror again.
“I like it.”
“You look gorgeous.”
It was from the heart. She smiled.
And then she was leaving and he saw her walking briskly and confidently up the street, so different now – a woman who knew she was beautiful and was desired. And he knew others would think she was beautiful and desirable, too, with her tight shave and even tighter arse and her big breasts and her youth and beauty. He was left alone with her long tresses carpeting the floor and some cleaning up to do. It had been a good piece of business. Tonight, he knew, he would be randy as hell again, and his wife would have an inkling as to why. She always knew. But she didn’t care. She would take him, with a laugh, as she always did. Oh yes, he would have to wipe the seat – there was a shadow in the entrance, another customer was already arriving. And it was another woman.
Copyright � Cat (Andrew Mullett), January 1997.