4th May


The barber was sitting in one of the chairs, reading a paper. He got to his feet pretty smartly.

‘Yes, sir. Take a seat. Haircut, is it?’

‘Yes, thanks.’ I suppose I could have been wanting a shave. The leather was warm from his backside, but after a minute I forgot that.

‘Not busy today?’

‘I’ve been busy,’ he said. ‘You just caught me during a lull. Not that I mind.’ He swept the nylon cape over me. ‘How do you want it today?’

He said it as if I came in every couple of weeks, had a different style every time. Whereas I hadn’t been in for years, and there wasn’t much left to style.

‘Just a tidy-up,’ I said. ‘I’ve let it get a bit long, what there is of it.’

The barber’s hair had thinned as well, but he still had a lot more than I did. I remembered his face. He’d worn glasses back then too, but not with such thick black frames. They were probably the fashion now.

He began to snip away. I said, ‘I used to live around here. Long time ago. I was a regular customer of yours.’

He paused in his cutting, studying my face in the mirror.

‘I thought I recognised you,’ he said. I didn’t believe him but it was okay, just barber talk.

‘You and your father had the business between you then,’ I said. ‘I’m talking fifteen years ago at least.’

‘Oh, right. That is a long time.’

‘You had a good rapport, the two of you, is what I remember.’

‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘We did.’ And the way he said it, I knew nothing more was
required on that subject. His father had been the cheery one, always pulling the son’s leg, having a go at him but not in an unpleasant way. For the customers it was like watching a show, a gentle kind of comedy. But if you’re on the receiving end of that every day, from your own dad, maybe it’s not so funny.

‘I happened to be passing,’ I said, ‘and saw the shop. And I needed a haircut.’

‘That’s what I’m here for,’ the barber said.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harp: Esther Swift
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