The Father of My Shaggy Son

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I recognized the man’s face instantly, even though I had never met him before. He was truly the spitting image of Michael, my teenage son who had visited me from twenty years in the future. This must be Michael’s father. The man was standing on the other side of the street, waiting to cross. He was carrying a large duffel bag and was looking down at his phone, so that the top of his head was in view. The red hair on the crown of his head was short enough to stand up.

The man wouldn’t know that he was destined

to marry me. I had forgotten to ask Michael the name of his father, so I only had the man’s appearance to go on. The only way to establish a connection would be for me to approach him, most likely to ask a question. Perhaps I could ask him the quickest route to Paddington Station. I didn’t need to go there, but it seemed likely enough.

“Excuse me. Could you tell me the quickest route from here to Paddington Station?” Here goes.

“Um, no, actually, I’m sorry, I don’t know London very well. I was just discharged—honorably, of course—from the Army, and flew into London from overseas. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be much help.”

Aha, a former military man. That explained the beautiful flat top. From his accent I guessed he was from Glasgow.

“Are you settling in London or just passing through?”

“I’m just passing through. I’m headed home to Glasgow in a few days.”

“I recognized your accent. I’ve always wanted to take a nice long train trip up there. I’m quite a train fan.”

“You too? Wow, I haven’t met too many women who share my enthusiasm for trains. As a matter of fact, I am taking the train home.”

From here it wouldn’t be too hard to invite him to step into a café. Perhaps because I knew how this romance turned out, I had an assurance to me that read as charisma. Maybe it was just fate after all. Whatever it was, I left the café that day with Jamie’s contact information and a promise to see each other again.

We met up about a month later, in Manchester. Neither of us had any business there, but it was roughly halfway between London and Glasgow. I had never been there before, and neither had Jamie.

“How are you adjusting to civilian life? I see you’ve let your hair grow out.”

“Not well. I don’t miss the military, but it did provide a sense of purpose and a routine. Having a uniform and regulation hairstyle helped cut down on the pointless day-to-day decisions to be taken about useless shite. I have no idea what to do with my hair, so I just left it be.”

I frankly preferred him in his military haircut, but I could see that his dress sense in civilian attire had improved in a short time. In time he might figure out what sort of haircut suited his taste and lifestyle.

“What are you doing nowadays? I’m still at my same corporate job in accounting. At least I’m not on a zero-hours contract anymore.” It was essential to cherish the small victories.

“Not much. My parents are teachers, but I don’t think it’ll suit me. I’m still looking for a job, preferably in Glasgow, but I’m prepared to move to London if necessary. Not sure how I’ll afford that, though.”

I realized that he wouldn’t be able to buy rail tickets very often, especially if he had no job. If he came to live with me in London he wouldn’t have to pay exorbitant rents while he looked for a job, but I couldn’t offer this so soon after meeting him for the first time. I knew that we would eventually marry and produce Michael, but Jamie didn’t have this information, so my offer would seem sudden and quite forward.

I need not have worried. Jamie left his phone with me on our table in a Manchester café that day as he went to the men’s room, and when he got a message and the screen lit up, I gasped. The home screen was a picture of Jamie posing with Michael, much like the pictures I had taken with our son when he came from the future.

When Jamie returned, I mentioned that he had gotten a message and that I had seen the picture on his screen, then showed him the pictures I had taken with Michael on my phone. It was unmistakably the same young man in both sets of pictures.

“Well! Now that we know how things will turn out, we might as well plan the logistics of it. We could move in together. Did Michael tell you our wedding date or if I ever found a decent job?”

“No, he didn’t. There are so many things I wish I had asked him.”

“Never mind.” Jamie had a twinkle in his eye. “Some things are better left as surprises.”

Both of our families were astonished at the speed at which we got engaged and then married, especially since Jamie wasn’t in employment when we announced our plans. We knew that it would work out, and that was enough. Romance is expensive anyway, especially when you don’t know the outcome. Jamie and I were quite proud at how cheaply we managed to hold a decent wedding. His grandfather had left him his kilt and all the accessories that went with it when he passed away, so Jamie wore that. I must say he looked dashing in it, even if his hair wasn’t great.

Once we were married and Jamie had moved into my Acton flat, I felt safe and happy. I told him all about Michael’s visit in minute detail. In all of my previous relationships I had fallen madly and unwisely in love as a first step, but this didn’t happen with Jamie. He was a natural part of my life, as if he had always been there.

“And this is the room where you cut off Michael’s hair. I saw the pictures of this room after you had finished, and Michael told me all about it.”

“His first impression of the finished style was that it was just like your haircut. Not the one you have now, clearly.” Jamie had let his hair grow out into a shaggy mullet thing that sent the honest message, “I have no money” and not the rather more posh “I like retro Britpop ironically.” If Jamie ever did manage to score a job interview, this hair might make a bad impression.

That was when it dawned on me. The reason Michael’s haircut had turned out just like his father’s was that the two men in my life had the same barber—me. I had probably only learned to do the one cut, the short crop that I had given Michael.

“I can see it in your eyes that you’ve just gotten an idea. I think I know what it is, too. Did you ever invest in a real haircutting cape?”

“No, I’m afraid all I have is my beloved old polka dot towel. I loved it as a baby and managed to keep my mum from throwing it away. It’s probably a bit scratchy, so you should probably keep your shirt on under it.”

“Right, I see. Eventually we’ll get a proper cape and save up for a pair of clippers. Time is money and clippers made the job quick in the Army. I’m not particular about style, as I’m sure you’ve noticed by now.”

“I liked your military flat top.” There, I said it. “It showcased your face nicely and looked competent and professional.”

“So did I. It was practical and easy to manage. That’s decided, then.”

I smiled. “Let’s get to work, then.” I grasped my husband’s hand and led him into the same bathroom where I had shorn our son when he had visited from the future. The fittings were old; the plumbing was likely Edwardian and hardly updated since. It didn’t matter as long as it worked.

It was obvious to Jamie that the stool in the bathtub would be the only possible seat. He lifted it out of the bathtub and set it down in the middle of the room. Again, he would not be able to see the mirror from this height, but I didn’t have any surprises planned anyway.

After I had wrapped the old towel around him I began to comb out the shaggy mess, pushing the sides forward in the Sassoon approach. I would start with the back, the same way I had done for Michael.

I inserted the comb at his nape and began to slice off all of the hair that protruded out from the teeth of the comb. I would be going over this again later anyway.

I worked my way up all the way to his crown in the back, and then began to laugh. His hair now, in its half-shorn state, looked even more ridiculous than before. He could easily pass as a glam rocker.

Next up was his left side. I parted his top hair so that the majority of it fell to the right. Then I sliced row after row of hair vertically starting from behind his ear until I could see enough of the ear through the now-thin layer of hair covering it to pull the ear down and outwards. I remembered that I enjoyed snipping around Michael’s ears, too.

After I had re-parted his top hair and repeated this procedure on the right side, I gathered the remaining top hair into a loose ponytail at the back of the top part of his head and sliced through with my scissors. If I stopped now Jamie would have a crude version of the cut that men often styled into a quiff.

“Do you want enough length on top for a quiff or a side-parting?” It had never occurred to me to ask Michael for his opinion when I was cutting off all of his hair, but the parent-child relationship is different from a husband-wife one. It felt only right to involve my husband in decisions taken about his own hair.

“No, I can’t be arsed with styling products. Just mow it down like my old Army haircut. That’s what we agreed, and it’s what I want.” As Jamie moved his head to look up at me standing behind him the longer front part of his hair flopped about. “I don’t like it floppy like this. Chop it off.”

Without further ado, I inserted the comb at the crown of his head toward the back and began cutting, angling the comb slightly as I moved it forward so that the front would be just a little bit longer.

I moved in front of Jamie in order to cut the fringe. It would stand straight up, which was what we both wanted. Now my breasts were at his eye level. I could see that he was enjoying the view.

When I was all finished and had cleaned up afterwards, Jamie took a shower in order to get rid of the prickly cuttings that inevitably clung to his skin. This would be less of a problem once I got a hold of a proper cape, but for now it was a real discomfort.

While he was in the shower I straightened up the duvet on our bed and unbuttoned my blouse down to my navel but kept the bottom of it tucked in. The thought of my husband emerging from the shower wet and naked, including his now-exposed ears and neck, was appealing. He was still fit from his military past, too.

When he came out into our main room he noticed that my bra was visible and smiled. The rest is not difficult to imagine. In our excitement we forgot to use protection, for which I will always be grateful. I am convinced to this day that this was when Michael was conceived.

The haircut may have helped Jamie make a good impression at the firms where he interviewed, but it wasn’t until I was transferred to my company’s Glasgow branch and he started looking there that he found something. When our joint incomes gradually increased, we got a set of clippers and a proper cape and I continued cutting my husband’s hair at home. The short crop turned out to be ideal for camouflaging greys and thinning, too. Most of all, though, I think Jamie and I enjoyed the intimacy. I loved to nuzzle his neck from behind after a going-over with the clippers.

After Michael was born and grew old enough to have opinions on his own personal style he didn’t want his hair super-short like his dad, but one day when he was about eighteen he suddenly came home with the same haircut as his father. I didn’t remember cutting his collar-bone-length hair all off at first, but then I realized that I had—twenty years ago, when Michael visited me from the future. From then on, he insisted that I maintain his short haircut, and I was happy to oblige him.


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