Still reposting old material. Never could decide on a plausible plot to frame this scene on so I opted for an experiment in pure description.
The street was lit by a golden hour of summer, the shop’s western facing window quickly plated over and polished blinding bright. The barber felt the warmth of it on his back, like the pat of an old friend, and, excusing himself from his customer, walked to the window to draw the blinds.
He glanced at the wall clock and decided not to turn the sign over to “closed” quite yet, then returned to his work. The shop, an enduring two chair concern, was iconic, solid, and male. Well ordered and comfortable, it was unsentimentally adorned with grooming ads, comb cards, and mirrors; modest mementos of its history filling the spaces between. At this moment it was so quiet, it evoked echoes of the absent hubbub of busier hours. The waiting chairs, with their curved chrome arms, were all empty and the only sounds were music from the radio, turned low, and the snip-snip of scissors as the barber put the finishing touches on the head before him, his back to the door. The young man in the chair was absorbed in the magazine he held and attempted no conversation.
This near stillness was broken by the tinkle of the bell above the door as it opened. Intent upon finishing, the barber did not turn but piped out a brief greeting so automatic he did not even hear it himself. Then, he stopped. A surprising sound had caught his ear. For, of the two people he had heard enter the shop, the second had come in upon the unmistakable click of high heels.
He tried to get a look in the mirror, but whoever had entered was already sitting down at the farthest end of the row. He only glimpsed a shimmer of red hair descending out of sight of the reflection. He completed his work and displayed it and it was perfunctorily approved of and paid for. The young customer seemed to be in a hurry and headed for the street, the barber following close behind to now turn the sign and door latch. The sharp snap of the bolt being shot caused the woman to start. The barber looked over to see a well-dressed couple sitting with an empty chair dividing them.
She sat perched on the edge of her seat, the red nails of one well-manicured hand picking nervously at her seamed stockings and the hem of her skirt, the other clutching her stylish purse. Her eyes darted about the shop and then questioningly back to her companion, who sat impatiently flipping through the pages of a men’s magazine, stonily ignoring her. Wearing an off-the-shoulders evening dress, she was made up and adorned as for a night out, her hair fresh from the salon. Parted on the side, it crested above her forehead like a radiant red wave that flowed smoothly past her cheeks and cascaded down her neck until it broke upon her naked shoulders into a torrent of perfect curls. If she had been a rare orchid growing in the middle of a steel mill or a delicate lace curtain hung in an army barracks, she could not have looked more out of place. She sighed softly and the curls jiggled, as an unbidden shiver ran through her.
The barber passed a broom swiftly over the floor’s meager leavings and then stood expectantly behind the chair. There was a pause as both he and the woman looked toward the gentleman, who had not lifted his eyes from his magazine. The barber cleared his throat and called out: “Next”.
The man set down the magazine and stared coolly at the woman. She returned his gaze, her finely shaped eyebrows lowering on consternation then slowly rising in horrific realization. She was up and three steps from the door before he caught her by the wrist. “NO!” she stated firmly, trying to pull away. With a practiced move, he allowed her to put herself off balance before falling back down on the nearest waiting chair, pulling her down across his knee, kicking. Despite her struggles, her head sunk lower and lower to the floor as he used one hand to twist a wrist behind her back for control and used his knee at her crotch to lever her ass into the air. His other hand shot up under her skirt and, her shrieks competing with the sound of tearing silk, the lacey rag that had been her panties was roughly flung away.
Helpless, her skirt was thrown up, exposing the stocking tops and garter clips that framed her shaved vulva and smooth, round behind. She cried out as his open palm descended, the hard smack resonating throughout the small space. She kicked and protested futilely as more swiftly followed, turning her ass cheeks livid until she surrendered and hung limp and sobbing. Still, he continued for several more blows before dumping her to the floor.
Catching their breaths, he kicked her purse, which she had dropped in the scuffle, over to her and told her to “fix her face“. She smoothed powder on from a compact and had to pause a moment to allow her hand to steady before touching up her lipstick. A comb was withdrawn and she wistfully fussed with her hairstyle, although the well-set curls fell back into place easily. Snatching away the purse, as if he thought the primping a stall, the man said: “Get in the chair. Now.”
She looked up at him, her eyes deep, liquid pools of pleading. This only caused him to wrench her to her feet and propel her towards the barber chair. She took a couple of faltering steps but her knees began to shake and buckle, all the more unsteady on the sharp points of her heels. She reached out a shaky hand out to grab the cool porcelain of the armrest but still continued to sink. The man grabbed the woman by the waist, lifting her up and dropping her onto the seat, her skirt pulled up in back so that she gasped from the touch of the chill leather on her hot, sore buttocks.
The barber, who had stood, motionless and expressionless, observing all this, now swirled the haircloth over her with a toreador’s flourish, while the man returned to his seat in the waiting area. A strip of tissue paper was choked about her throat and she felt her hair pressed against her neck and shoulders as the cloth was drawn tight. Then it was gone; the barber sweeping from it underneath with a forefinger. Now she was just a head atop a snowy, ski-tracked mountain, only her shapely calves and pumps showing below the pinstriped cape. With three deliberate compressions of the handle, she rose to working height.
Together, they now looked over at the seated man; the barber, still emotionless; she, breathless and rigid. The man, noticing she was now prepared, looked up from his magazine only long enough to snap: “Cut it short. Like a boy’s”. Her rouged mouth fell open slightly with a soft plaintive sound and she seemed to melt in the chair, her shoulders slumping and her chin falling towards her chest; the tasseled drape of her hair sweeping forward to cover her despairing face.
But, the descent of her head was arrested, the barber’s grip locking on to a back curl. Her hands clutched the chair’s arms tightly as she kept trying to pull away, a tiny squeal of pain escaping from her. Unrelentingly, the barber hauled back until the tension was acute. Then, with a flick, he unsheathed his scissor from his breast pocket and severed the hank. Her head snapped forward as the scissors clicked closed loudly. In the barber’s hand hung the still perfectly shaped curl, heavy and lustrous as ripe fruit. He swept his hand above her head and released it. It butterfly kissed her cheek and tumbled off her breast, it’s bright fire falling, silently as snow but so much weightier, to the cold tile. A tear trailed to where it had touched her face as she trembled and a soft sob escaped her.
Again the barber tugged her head erect and she sat stiffly, afraid now that resisting might make it worse. But how could it be worse? This barber was mindless of the loving care that had been lavished upon these resplendent locks or the skill and time that had gone into creating the stunning coiffure. He just removed it with relentless efficiency, the scissors hissing and snapping around her ears, like a cruel, whispering voice ceaselessly taunting “short, short, short…” with each closing. Her thighs beneath the crisp pinstripe were pressed, at first, tensely together. But as the barber needlessly flicked the shearings forward, so she had to watch each fall, her knees parted slowly to make a bowl of the cape as if to catch and keep them for a moment longer before they were lost. As it gathered, she was reminded of blown roses; soft, deeply hued folds that begin compactly and flawlessly arranged upon the stem; then the perfumed petals falling and spreading soundlessly with every breeze. Unfixed and disarrayed like this, it’s amount seemed extraordinary, it could cover her like a blanket of unskeined auburn silk.
She sighed deeply when it ceased falling and could feel her first indications of the remainder with each swipe of the barber’s comb. It’s black teeth skimming around her ears and descended no farther than the top of her neck. With the comb as their companion, the scissors’ rhythm became staccato and small particles of hair started flying. The barber swept around her head impatiently, lifting the ragged ends and hurriedly snipping them even. When he paused, the cut was still roughed out work, performed with practiced skill, but without finishing touches. He pocketed the shears and comb and, though he waited for the seated man’s acknowledgment, he seemed to have already guessed the coming response.
When he noticed the sound of the scissors had ceased, the man barely glanced up from the pictures of naked women he scanned.
“Shorter.” He licked his thumb tip and turned the pages slowly, his eyes evaluating the images of smooth skin. “Whitewalls.”
The meaning of this automotive idiom eluded her, but she knew it couldn’t be good. From the corner of her eye, she saw the barber turn to his station and heard a heavy clunk upon the linoleum countertop. He seemed to be fiddling with something. When he stepped back around, her eye caught the movement of something black slithering after him. Some kind of power cord, she realized, looking down. Then the sound of a slight snap, sparking an electric whir that rose in pitch as it gained speed. The noise caused her to start bolt upright again. This whirring was suddenly filling her ear and driving out all other sounds, as cold steel was pressed flat to her skin just behind her cheek. The shrieking pitch of the clippers accompanied perfectly the tension that quivered through her as they climbed their way up the sheer wall of her temple. A brief second before, she had been shocked by the shortness of the hair that had still clung there. But now, spilling down her shoulder in little clumps like ruddy straw, it seemed so much and she began to weep again, her face contorting. The chill flat of the shearing teeth did not lift until they reached level with her ear top, where they were again joined by the lifting comb, teeth chattering against one other.
A calloused thumb jerked her ear out of the clipper’s path and then they were lifted and placed low upon her neck. The vibrating, icy machine rose slowly upward and she felt the falling hairs uncomfortably tickling her neck. It stopped terribly high up, only to drop to the next section over and begin the whole awful sensation over again and then again a moment later. By the time he had worked his way around to the other side, she had found her voice again.
“Please stop. Stop. Please don’t cut it anymore. Stop, please stop.” The words squeezed out between her sobs, uselessly, her voice now like that of a child’s. The clippers were warm now from her skin and their own energy, as he sheared bare her other temple and then went back around, blending with the comb. At last, he turned them off and set them down.
She sat motionless, breathing raggedly, terrified to move, and not knowing what to expect. He came at her again with the comb and slashed it like a razor along her scalp where her hair was parted to guarantee for himself it’s precision. In his other hand, he held a new set of scissors, ones whose blades were like stainless combs. She blanched when she felt him lift the hair on her crown and plunge the sinister steel teeth in, touch her scalp, and then work them open and close several times while raising them. Tufts of hair began to rain down again as he moved them all over the top of her head. She just sat now, sobbing nearly silently and rhythmically, as he whisked the shreds of her bangs forward and sheared them still shorter at an angle after swapping scissors from his breast pocket with the dexterity of a magician. Then these last inches were pulled back from her forehead with two swift sweeps of the comb.
Again, there was a pregnant pause as they both waited for a word from the man, her eyes imploring him that it should be over. He evaluated her appearance carefully and a cruel smile twitched at the corners of his mouth.
“Good,” he said, “ Finish, then grease it.”
Her tears were exhausted now, so she sat dazed with her mouth hanging open slightly, unbelieving at her torment’s continuance. Blankly, she stared straight ahead as a hot wet towel was pressed to the tender, newly exposed skin around her ears and neck. She didn’t glance around to seek the source of the whooshing sound that was the hot lather machine, as it pumped it’s steaming, snowy mound into the barber’s palm. He slathered the creamy, burning stuff behind her ears and all the way around the back and she only breathed a slow, resigned sigh and was silent again. She did not turn to see the flash of the unfolding razor, the slap-slide sound of it being stropped told her of its approach. And when, with a light, floating gesture, the barber raised it to her temple and started carving a new, precise hairline, her terror of the keenness of its edge kept her as still as marble. Except, each time the razor touched and scrapped down, she would shudder, ever so slightly, like aftershocks.
From a tube, he squirted a thick, creamy paste and it made a soft, squelching as he massaged it between his palms. As it warmed, the stuff gave off a heavy, lanolin scent, a smell that made one think of old men. When he slicked his greasy fingers through her crown, expression returned to her face as she registered both how little and much there still was there to suck up the hair cream. Again the comb tip scratched un-gently in the groove of her part and the top front of her crown lifted as it was combed back.
The man was on his feet now and stalked around the chair, surveying the results with a satisfied smirk. He gave a curt nod to the barber. The woman was jarred from her dazed shock as the handle was wrenched forward and the chair began to swing. She saw the shop spin slowly before her eyes, past the smug triumph of her lover, standing with hands on hips, and on towards the dreaded mirror, now coming into view. When she faced her reflection fully, the barber jerked the handle again and both her heart and the chair sank, with the same heavy thud, before it.
Under the harsh, unrelenting lights, a dew of teardrops hung upon the black blur that had been her eye make-up, sparkling like diamonds on velvet. The trails of their fallen fellows etched the foundation and face powder that covered her cheeks and now swollen nose. Only her rose lips were unchanged, although she could taste tiny crusts of salt at their corners. And her hair…
Less than half an hour before its glamour turned heads to keep it’s dazzling magic in their eyes just a moment longer. Turning her own head now, she saw from her nape and above her ears only bone pale skin, as if the razor had scraped right down to her skull, it‘s bleached whiteness the screaming ghost of her ravished locks. Above that, the barren skin was speckled with glistening drops of oil that clung to the millimeter short follicles. These tapered up to meet a line cleanly defined by hair, inch long or less, plastered flat. On top, it almost looked the same as when she had arrived; side-parted, the sweep of it arching back from her forehead. But, where before her least movement inspired a crimson, effervescent dance, now the longest that was left to her was so frozen you could count every comb groove. Everything about it that was absent now haunted her, its shine, its smells, the luxuriant feel of it sweeping over her shoulder tops. And with this tumult of loss came grief for this beloved, now murdered, lying dead at her feet.
Unable to look anymore, she squeezed her eyes shut as her chin fell. But, before it could touch, the cape and paper were released and the hair still clinging to it was shaken unceremoniously onto the floor with the rest.
She gripped the chair’s arms and tried to rise, unsuccessfully at first. Finally, she managed to lever herself up and stumblingly escaped her seat of humiliation. But, regaining her feet upon her heels left her, for a moment, as wobbly as a newborn fawn. Then she just stood there between the two men, clearly uncertain of her next move. The man walked over to where her purse lay and, seizing it, pulled it open wide and dumped its entire contents into the wastebasket. She just barely caught it when he whirled about and passed it, with force, at her like a basketball. Pointing down, he brusquely commanded her to clean up her mess.
She crawled all around the chair twice, dirtying the knees of her stockings and scuffing the toes of her shoes, as she dutifully retrieved every scrap, stuffing them into the empty purse, which proved barely big enough to contain it all. When she had completed her task, she remained that way, her freshly barbered head hanging over the open bag, wearily. The man seized this opportunity by stomping forward and roughly shoving her face down into it. With the one hand clamped at the shaved base of her skull, he jerked her skirt up out of the way and again viciously spanked her naked ass cheeks as she squirmed and tried to breathe and cry out through the smothering, fragrant tangle.
His rage now nearly spent, he let go of her. Still on her knees, she gasped for breath and brushed off her face. Despite this, a few stray strands still clung to it as she again looked up at the man with beseeching and apologetic eyes. He looked down on her with the merest hint of thaw creeping into his icy gaze. He placed a hand on one bare shoulder and manipulated her around to face the barber, who had come out from his place behind the chair. Pushing her back down onto her hands and knees again, he smacked her hard once more on the ass.
“Tip your barber.” the man flatly ordered.
Crawling towards the white-jacketed barber, she licked her ruby lips unconsciously, eager to find comfort in a degradation that was, at least, familiar to her. With practiced fingers, she began to undo his belt and fly as the barber’s hand found it’s way to the back of her neck, first with a few gentle, upward strokes against the grain of the short, sheared velvet, then firmly gripping her pale, naked nape and, looking down upon the ruler-straight slice of her part, glided his other hand, barley touching, over the stiff, greasy crest of gleaming copper; all that was left now of her once glorious hair.