Roy and Peggy Gibson are solid, church-going citizens of their rural Alabama community. Roy works as a mechanic for the local John Deere dealership, a job he’s held since his discharge from the Navy 25 years ago. He’s husky and still vigorous at 53. Peggy, 49, is a nursing assistant at the Pleasant View Nursing Home. She’s added a few pounds to her frame since she was a skinny high school cheerleader, but her shoulder-length hair is still a dark seal-brown. Steve, their son, is a master sergeant in the army stationed in Germany. Their daughter Ashley is in her final year of nursing school at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Now it’s just the two of them at home. They are a middle-aged couple, no longer young, but not yet old, who have settled into a rather boring routine—work during the day, TV after supper, church on Sunday. But today their lives are going to turn in an unexpected direction.
The Supermarket Parking Lot 3 PM Saturday
Peggy and Roy have just completed their weekly Saturday grocery shopping. A loaded cart stands next to their F-150 pickup. Peggy is angrily confronting her husband of thirty years.
I seen the way you was watchin’ her, Roy.
The blonde-headed girl ahead of us in the checkout line.
Don’t act dumb. You know the one—the chickie with the real short haircut.
Okay, yeah. I did notice her, Peg. Not every day you see a girl with a haircut like that.
Tell you what I noticed, Roy. The way you was studying her. That’s what I noticed.
What do you mean?
The way you was staring at her—like you was undressing her with your eyes right there in front of everyone in the supermarket.
You’re wrong, Peg. I was just me being curious.
She sure looked hot, didn’t she?
I ‘spose so, but that don’t mean I’m gonna have sex with her.
And you better not try, you horny old coot. It’s not the first time I seen you lusting after a short-haired chickie young enough to be your daughter.
Honey, you gotta stop this nonsense. You know I’m a one-woman guy.
And you can thank your lucky stars for that, Roy Gibson. Otherwise you’d be singing soprano in the choir. I know you got the hots for those girlies with hardly any hair. Be a man. Stop lying and ‘fess up.
Okay, I ‘spose I do, Peg. That don’t mean I stopped lovin’ you.
Bet a million bucks you’d love me a whole lot more if I had my hair like that girl in the market. Am I right?
Your hair is good the way it is. I like it just fine.
Don’t bullshit me, Roy. You’d love to see me get my hair chopped off real short. I know you would.
Please, Peg. You gotta stop this. You’re making a big fuss over nothing.
Nothing, my foot. Short hair is a big fucking deal for you.
I wish you wouldn’t cuss. You know I’d never make you cut your hair.
Yeah, that’s because you value your manhood. But you’d love it if I did, wouldn’t you?
I dunno. I might.
Don’t be such a doofus, Roy. You’d absolutely love it if I got my hair cut as short as that girl. Admit it.
Okay, Peg. You’re right. I got a thing about short hair, have since I was a teenager. But it’s under control. Just some harmless fantasies, that’s all.
I wish that was true, Roy, but it ain’t. You spend way too much time drooling over pictures of short-haired girls, the ones you find on the Internet. That’s time we could be spending together.
It’s nothing, Peg. No big deal. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.
In a pig’s eye, Roy. I don’t believe you for a second, and I’m gonna prove you wrong.
What d’ya mean?
Someday soon I’m gonna to cut my hair real short. Just like that blonde chickie, maybe shorter. Then I’m gonna check if you’ve got a hard on. Your limp pecker proves I’m wrong. If you’re hard, you’re a lying bastard.
5 PM Three days later
Okay, Roy. Get your ass in gear. It’s time to go.
Where we going?
Remember? I’m getting my hair cut and you’re gonna watch.
You can’t be serious, Peg.
Well, I am and you’re gonna to watch. Then you’re gonna pay for it. Get your jacket, Roy. We’re going.
Where the hell are you takin’ me? This ain’t the way to the beauty parlor.
I ain’t going to the beauty parlor. Sadie would never cut my hair short enough.
Where we going?
Going to your barber shop, mister, the onliest place in this jerkwater town to get a serious short haircut.
This is a big mistake, Peg. You’re gonna to regret going there.
We’ll see about that, Roy. Just shut your trap and come along.
At the barber shop.
Honey, you can’t go in there. It’s for guys only.
We’ll see about that.
Afternoon Roy. Back so soon?
Hi Jerry. It’s not for me.
For the lady then?
Yup, it’s for me. You cut ladies’ hair, don’t you?
Sure we do. Just step up into the chair, darlin’, and tell me what kind of haircut you’d like.
I want a short haircut.
We got all kinds of short haircuts. You gotta tell me what kind.
Lord, Jerry, I don’t know. What are my choices?
Look at that chart up there on the wall. Those are the styles we do here.
What about that one on the top left-hand side? What d’ya call that one?
That’s a flat top. It’s pretty short.
Appears that’s the one I need.
If I cut your hair that short it’ll take forever to grow out.
Don’t plan on growin’ it in out. Gonna be permanent. I need a real short haircut and that looks like the best one.
Honey, you don’t want that one. It’s a guy’s haircut. Folks’ll think you’re a lezzie.
Let folks think what they like. I saw the way you ogled that chickie in the supermarket. That’s not the way you look at a lezzie. That’s the way I want you lookin’ at me.
Peggy, don’t do this. I forbid you.
Tough cookies, Roy. My mind’s made up. Jerry, let’s get started.
Roy, I don’t want to do this without your okay, but Peg sounds pretty determined.
Yeah, she’s got a hair up her ass today. She’s outta her mind with jealousy, Jerry. Nothing I can do about it. Go ahead. Give her what she wants.
Okay, little lady. It’s against my better judgment, but I’ll do it. I’ll give you a flat top, but you’re gonna regret it.
We’ll see about that, Jerry, but that’s what I want. How many times do I got to tell you?
Okay, lift your hair so I can put this tissue around your neck. Next, the cape. Not too tight is it?
Nah, just fine.
First, I’m gonna cut off the bulk. You got lotsa hair and clippers don’t work so good with long hair like yours.
Fine, fine. Do what you need to do. Just give me the damn haircut, Jerry.
The next five minutes pass without conversation as the barber cuts Peggy’s dark hair to a chin-length bob. Mounds of her brown hair pile up around the base of the barber chair. Peggy stares into the large mirror mounted on the wall. The expression on her face is grim, but determined. There’s no sign of regret. She’s not about to reconsider. Her husband watches from across the room. He shifts in his chair, nervously crossing and uncrossing his legs. It’s obvious he’s uncomfortable, yet his eyes closely follow the barber’s actions.
Well, the first part’s done, Peg. Next I’ll use the clippers to buzz the back and sides.
Go ahead, Jerry. Do what you need to do.
How short you want me to clip it?
Short as in that picture.
You serious? That’s mighty short.
I know. That’s exactly what I want.
Peg sits perfectly still as Jerry repeatedly runs the clippers up the back of her head. Large clumps of dark hair sheared by the unforgiving blades tumble to the floor. When the back is clipped down to a fraction of an inch, Jerry begins mowing the sides of Peggy’s head. More seal-brown locks fall from the blades. She doesn’t flinch or betray any emotion. When the back and both sides are clipped close to her scalp, Jerry cuts the power to his clippers.
Next I’m gonna wet your hair and brush it back off your face.
Why you gonna do that?
Wet hair cuts easier. Besides, I gotta brush it back so it’ll stick straight up. You’re hair’s been hanging down all your life. Now I gotta make it stand up.
Okay. Do what you need to do. You’re the boss.
Jerry spritzes a shower of water over Peggy’s head and brushes her hair back with a stiff-bristle brush. Then he stands behind the chair and places his hand on top of her head.
Now I’m gonna reduce the length on top. I’ll be cuttin’ it pretty short.
I know. Get on with it already.
Peggy watches as Jerry slides his open fingers across her head and snips off five-inch strands protruding above his knuckles. He moves methodically from the back to the front of her head, snipping as he goes, gradually reducing her hair to about an inch all over. She’s watching her husband, and to Roy’s surprise, she’s smiling like she’s enjoying being shorn.
Not too much more, Peg. You gotta be patient.
That’s okay, Jerry. Me and Roy got all evening.
Jerry brushes Peggy’s hair again. Now the hair on top of her head springs up vertically, but it’s a ragged, uneven surface, nothing like the illustration on the chart.
You’re not done yet, are you?
Not by a longshot. Next I’m gonna buzz the top. This is the hardest part. You gotta sit real still.
I won’t move a muscle, I promise.
Peggy is still smiling as Jerry begins trimming the top of her head. He inserts his comb horizontally into her upright locks and passes his clippers over the comb, shearing off every bit of hair sticking above the teeth of the comb. Jerry works slowly and deliberately, occasionally stopping the check the length. Finally, he appears satisfied. He switches off the clippers and holds a small mirror so Peggy can inspect what’s left of her hair.
Well, what d’ya think, Peg?
Looking good, Jerry, but not short enough.
You’re kidding me, ain’t ya?
I’m dead serious, Jerry. I want it shorter on top.
That’s gonna leave a landing strip on top. I know you don’t want that.
I don’t know about a landing strip. All I know is you gotta to cut it shorter.
Okay. Okay. You’re the boss.
Jerry fires up his clippers again. This time he’s not using the comb. He guides the buzzing blades back and forth across her head, removing another fraction of an inch with each pass. Peggy sits still as a statue. Across the room, Roy’s eyes are bugging out of their sockets like he can’t believe what he’s seeing. Again Jerry stops and holds the mirror so Peg can inspect his work.
Yeah, that’s good. You got the top nice and short, but now the sides are too long. Can you cut them shorter?
Sounds like you’re askin’ for whitewalls. That what you want?
What d’ya mean, Jerry? What are whitewalls?
That’s when I shave the sides so close there’s no more hair showing, only bare skin. That’s why we call them whitewalls.
Peg looks at her husband. She sees he’s getting more and more exited. It seems like she’s taking her cues from his behavior.
Yeah, I want whitewalls, Jerry. Go ahead and shave me.
Okay, but it’s your funeral. Your husband’s gonna be real pissed.
Take a look at him, Jerry. Does Roy look the least bit pissed?
Peggy’s husband struggles to keep a straight face, but can’t erase his look of eager anticipation.
Ain’t that the darndest thing! Old Roy looks like the cat who swallowed the canary. Guess it’s okay with you if I shave the sides, ain’t it Roy?
Roy just nods.
Okay, darlin’. I’m gonna slather some shaving cream on the sides of your head. You gotta sit real still again while I’m usin’ my razor.
You’re the boss, Jerry. I ain’t gonna move one bit.
Roy can hardly contain himself while Jerry shaves both sides and the back of Peggy’s head. His grin stretches nearly from ear to ear. At last, Jerry wipes away the leftover shaving cream and holds the mirror for Peggy a third time.
Not much hair left, darlin’. If you want more cut off I’ll have to shave you bald.
No, this is just fine, Jerry. You been real patient with this fussy old lady. My husband ought to pay you extra for this.
Roy starts to rise from his seat, but Jerry stops him.
There’s one more thing. Usually when I do a flat top, I apply hair wax so it stays standin’ up. You want that, Peg?
Sure, give me the full monty, Jerry.
Jerry reaches for a blue jar in the cabinet behind the chair, takes out a dollop of wax and massages it into Peg’s abbreviated hairdo. He brushes the top one last time and removes the cape from Peggy’s shoulders. She steps down from the chair and Roy withdraws several bills from his wallet.
Here’s some extra for your trouble, Jerry.
Looks like the both of us gonna be regulars from now on.
Y’all come back anytime.
Peggy and Roy walk out of the shop hand in hand, something they haven’t done in quite a while.
Outside the shop
You can’t lie about your hang up with short hair any more, Roy. I got you dead to rights.
Sure did, Peg. No more beating around the bush. You gonna keep your hair like this?
Dunno, Roy. Depends on how you treat me.
I’m gonna treat you just fine, Peg.
Then my answer is yes.
She reaches down and discretely pats the bulge on the front of his jeans.
What you wanna do now, Roy?
Guess I’d like to go home.
Sounds like a fine idea.
Then get your ass in the truck, Peg. We’re goin’ straight home.
And what you wanna do when we get there, mister?
Something we ain’t done in a long time, honey.
Roy and Peggy jump into their pickup and take off at a high rate of speed.
Folks around town were shocked when they saw Peggy’s mannish haircut. They stared at her and made rude comments behind her back. She just smiled and ignored them. She had accomplished what she set out to do.
Like my mamma always said, sometimes all it takes is one special ingredient in the stew to make your hubby a happy man.