Floyd the Barber

Contributor: W.M. Dufresne

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There is a desolate barbershop still limping along on Terrier St., but you wouldn’t know it unless somebody told you. It smells like turpentine and all the equipment is really old and what most would consider crappy. But Bob is still cutting hair and making good conversation there.

When I first visited Bob, he was trimming sideburns with surgeon’s precision while Dr. Phil babbled on the TV. Some inanimate booger green chairs sat in the middle of the room. From the very get-go I could tell that he was honing in on every individual hair follicle, sniping them joyously with his battered old clippers.
I sat there for awhile and watched Bob like a gardener tending to his anthropoid flowers. A black African American man outside dressed as the Statue of Liberty was shrieking obnoxiously about taxes and tax preparation and discounts while holding a red body-sized cardboard arrow. People stuck in traffic tried not to make eye contact with him. He was pointing his arrow every which way and playing it like an air guitar. It was simultaneously absurd and enchanting. I immediately wanted to do my taxes.

Some effeminate doctor in blue fatigues opened the door to the place and the once hum street murmur came blasting in saxophone style. Bob seemed to have liked this gentleman, this doctor. They had known each other from haircuts long past; sideburns long trimmed.

On that day, Bob was a master of razors and the blades. He was mythological, almost. A folk hero in my mind.

Old Mrs. Westwood confirmed this to be true. She popped in through the doorway in a sudden and spry manner just as the blue fatigued doctor was leaving. You could tell she was eager to see Bob. On the TV the nightly nightmare called the news started sounding off.

I was now positioned to be Bob’s final haircut of the day.

The razors were increasingly loud and throbbed hot about my ears. 80-year-old Mrs. Westood sat in the audience. She came just for the conversation. At least she was honest.

She had known Bob since he was a little chap. I remember her saying something about how she helped him get through Boy Scouts. His nickname had been Greyfoot back then and in her exchange with him, she referred to him as such.
Bob was buzzing about my head with a great deal of mental equipoise and skill of the blade. Through the hot scrap of the tiny microblades, I could still hear the emasculated Statue of Liberty sounding off and carnival barking outside.
When Bob took out his straight blade razor to clean up my neck I saw it immediately as a relic of the past; something to be revered. It had such impressive intrinsic value. It took skill to whip it around, sharpen the blade, and put it to someone’s neck.

When he was done I felt so smooth that when I walked out onto Terrier Street I felt like I was walking into an Artic wind tunnel. For a moment I forgot all about him and Mrs. Westwood and the blue fatigued doctor and the state of the world as evidenced by the nightly news and that dingleberry Dr. Phil. The cold air dizzied my epidermis and pulled it tight like the membrane on a snare drum.

I crawled into the driver side with the utmost caution. Ever since I was a kid and my big cheese schoolbus ripped a door off a parked car, I’ve had this idea that if I timed my entry incorrectly I might lose my head or at least a limb to another sideswiping car. My worthy vessel was ready for voyage. In the rear-view mirror I caught that damn Statue of Liberty twirling his giant arrow like a baton over and over.

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William Michael Dufresne is a writer living and working in Pittsburgh, PA. His work has been found in a number of online literary publications including the Compendium Review and Bulletproof Glass. He is currently working on a book called Souvenir about mania in big cities.
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