2014
FLASH FICTION CONTEST
Honorable Mention
$25 Award

THE BARBER

by Sherry Morris

The men who come and sit in my chair never ask what I do with their hair. But then, why would they care? There’s no need to share I get a thrill from their hair. Or say what I do with said hair. That’s between me and their hair….

When the bell over the door rings signaling another customer, my own bell begins to tingle. Today, for example, it’s Justin—tall, lean, pretty Justin and his well-toned arms. He comes with his unwashed hair and three-day scruff. He could wash his own hair. They all could. But they leave it and their scruff for me. They know this is the way I want it. It’s possible one or two have figured out my thing for hair. But nobody knows my real secret. The big one.

Justin knows the routine. He sits in my chair looking at me in the mirror. I look back, giving him my best naughty grin. We are alone in the shop. I can’t resist licking my lips. ‘We’d better get started,’ I say. ‘The usual?’ Justin nods. There’s never really much need for talk. The men come to me dirty and scruffy, knowing I will make them clean. Scratch the surface of that thought, dig deeper. They seek salvation through me. Maybe that is their secret. Everybody has one.

Justin has come for my specialty. I don’t cut hair much anymore. I can when I need to, but I’ve got enough clients now to concentrate on what I crave—the hot towel shave. While I adore all hair, facial hair is revered. It’s what makes a man a man. Moustaches, beards, goatees—all are worshiped and adored, trimmed, groomed and shaped to perfection. And if they desire to be clean, I take it all off, no questions asked. I’m here to serve and please. Both them and me.

Now it’s Justin with the devilish grin on his face. We’re back at the chair after washing the hair. I’ve put the cape around him. I begin preparations for the blade. Gently I cleanse the skin, then apply the first hot towel. It softens the bristles, opens the pores, relaxes the face. A brush applies the foam. I gently but firmly run the blade over his features, taking care as I stroke up the neck and Adam’s apple. My face comes close to his as I work. So easy to lean over and plant a kiss, caress a cheek. But I am a professional. I apply another hot towel and lather again. I want the closest possible shave. And all possible hair. I glide the blade around the contours of his chiseled face. The stubble falls and collects in the folds of the cape. My excitement builds.

And when he goes, when Justin or Joe or Tommy leaves me fresh-faced and smooth, I close up shop for the day. I take that hair, that stubble, those bristles and gather it together. It is my reward. It doesn’t matter it’s from different men with different colours and different lengths. This hair has purpose. In the evenings on my own, my play begins. I apply a thin layer of Vaseline to my face. Then I apply the hair. When I see myself in the mirror I sigh; closer to complete, closer to my secret. I experiment with different styles late into the night. Then I shave myself back to reality. ‘Soon,’ I say. ‘One day.’ I dare not dream more.

Those men who sit in my chair and give me their hair think it’s for them I provide this service. But it’s for me. Me and my salvation. Me and my secret.

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Sherry Morris is originally from a small town in Missouri, but has been residing in London for nearly 15 years, working as a university administrator and dreaming up schemes to retire early. She now loves a crumpet and a cup of tea in the morning, but makes no attempt to disguise her American accent, as it occasionally comes in handy. She has an allotment where she grows flowers, butternut squash and elephant garlic, although parsnips elude her. A short story she wrote about her Peace Corps experience in Ukraine has been published in A Small Key Opens Big Doors.