by Alex Pruteanu
The man in the chair grunts.
And the sideburns? Same tight line?
The man grunts again.
The barber works around the back of the neck meticulously, using short strokes and wiping the white paste from the blade on a small hand towel he keeps draped across his left shoulder. He does a slow, semi-circle shuffle around the man’s back looking probing judging. Then scraping quickly with the sharp edge.
Family? All right?
The man grunts, but gentler, and shrugs.
The barber says Nah, and pushes down on his customer’s shoulders.
Coming around to the throat.
The barber lifts slowly under the chin. The man acknowledges with a mhm. His Adam’s apple pops up. The barber withdraws the blade and lets the laryngeal prominence fall back down before he gets back to work.
You know in the Old West a customer used to hold a pistol to the barber’s ribs when he had his throat shaved.
The Adam’s apple pops back up again.
Nah. Only I talk.
Guess nobody trusted nobody back then. The barber controls his snicker by pushing air through his nostrils, holding his blade very still on the man’s flesh.
When he’s done, the barber wipes off the man’s face with a hot towel. Splashes something on his hands. Grabs the man’s face and pats. He reaches around the neck, unfastens the white sheet, and shakes off excess hair. Then he sweeps up around the chair, picks up the clippings and hands them to the man, who puts them in a plastic box.
The man wipes off his shoulders, opens the door, the bell rings, and he steps through and out.
What was all that abou’?
The other man waiting for his turn.
The hair in the box thing? What was that?
It’s what he wants after every haircut.
The barber says: he uses it for his dolls. He makes dolls for the village kids. He used to make them in the concentration camp. Before. You know. Before.
Since emigrating to the United States from Romania in 1980 Alex Pruteanu has worked as a day laborer, a film projectionist, a music store clerk, a journalist/news writer, a TV Director, and a freelance writer. Currently he is an editor at NC State University. Alex’s work has appeared in Guernica Magazine, Pank Magazine Specter Literary Magazine, Connotation Press, Thrush Poetry Journal, and others. He is author of novella “Short Lean Cuts,” (Amazon Publishing) available as an e-book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and in paperback at Amazon.