Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Natural Barber.

In middle school and high school, I loved to write stories.

I've been wanting to post something I wrote,
and today on my bookshelf at home, I found the perfect thing.

I never could write a real plot,
and you won't find one here.

I don' hold my breath for snow days. I don' pay no attention to the weather at all. If it happens, it happens. You don't hafta know everything before it happens.

So that's why I'm walkin' down the street in a beat up old windbreaker jus' as it's starin' to snow. Well, look. They all turned out to be right. It was gonna snow. But it didn' help nothin' to chit chat about it. Woulda happened either way.

Mr. Kemp waves to me from the doorway of the barber shop. There he is with a big ol' broom, already sweepin' away the three or four flakes that have had the chance to pile up. But he goes fishin' sometimes with my old man, so I nod back.

Just as I pass his storefront, I hear him call, "Darren!"

I whip around. "Yeah?" My voice is all scratchy 'cause I haven' used it for the past hour and Mr. Kemp took me by surprise.

"How'd you like a job here? Just sweeping the floors?" He grips and ungrips the handle of the broom like somethin' spooked him.

I smile, 'cause Mr. Kemp keeps the word count down, just like I do. I could work for him. He's a real decent guy.

Then I think of a catch. I always look for a catch 'fore I agree to somethin'. 

"My dad put y'up to this?"

Mr. Kemp laughs like he knew I might say that. That puts me out for a quick minute, but soon he says, "No, sir. On my honor as a barber."

I woulda laughed, but my cheeks are too cold. Do ya think they got some barber code of honor? I wouldn' be surprised. Maybe there's a barbers' guild and they issue those red and white striped poles and those aprons.

"I getta wear one of those aprons?" I ask without movin' my lips.

"Standard issue." Mr. Kemp smiles proudly.

I look around like I'm still considering.

"Well, okay. Sounds swell."

Mr. Kemp smiles and beckons me toward the door. A little bell tinkles as I walk through into the warm shop. Whatta nice place. I used ta get my hair cut here, when I cut it regularly. Now my hands fly to the hair around my ears, ashamed.

Mr. Kemp slips into the back room without a word. I look around at the black and white tile floor and the pictures on the walls--movie stars my mother likes, photographs of the town fifty years ago, and advertisements for hair grease and shaving cream. I shuffle around like I'm spooked, but it's justa show.

Mr. Kemp comes back with an apron and Wallace McCann. I forgot--he works here too, don't he? Oh well. He's as gooda fella as any, jus' talks too much.

"Well, Darren Nichols! Whatta guy! How are ya?" Wallace asks. Then he stands with his hands on his hips, waitin' for an answer. Man, does he got bug eyes. After a quick minute, I remember to nod and grunt.

Mr. Kemp shuffles forward and hands me the apron. I slip it over my head like a medal, right over my stupid windbreaker.

"Look at that, Doc," Wallace laughs. "Looks great! He's a natural barber!"

Well that sounds looney.

Mr. Kemp brings me a broom from the closet. "Well uh, let's see how ya do."

I set to sweepin' under the four chairs and under the sinks. It ain't hard or nothin', but I make sure to get all the corners. It's good, honest work. I might even call it swell if I didn't haveta hear ol' Wallace McCann goin' on and on.

"We-el-lllll, looky here! He is a natural, eh Doc? Look at his technique! Reminds me of a young me--yeah Darren, you might not believe it, 'cause I'm a honesta goodness barber now, but I started riiight there where you is now, sweepin' up for Mr. Kemp! Make sure and don' miss those corners! Ha ha ha! Well gawwwlly."

I'm 'bout done now so I stop.

"Done well, Darren," Mr. Kemp says.

I nod and grip and ungrip the broom handle.

Mr. Kemp touches his bald head. "Well uh, can ya manage... an hour? Every day after school? What time does school end these days?"

I wanna tell him I might as well come in the mornings sometimes 'cause I hardly ever go to school, anyhow. But I jus' say, "Two thirty."

"It'll jus' be minimum wage, ya know."

"Yessir." Sir? Yeah, I guess Mr. Kemp is a sir.

He looks out the window. "Well lookit that! It's sure is snowin' now--Get on home, son."


  1. I read the whole story in a lazy New York accent. It was a good read.

  2. When did you write that?