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The Christmas Haircut

Page 1

Neil Blick

“Now out into the lovely day” is Milton’s cheerful discharge message, aimed to signal to each newly-clipped customer that it is now time to rise from his barber’s chair. The transaction is almost complete, all that is left to do is hand over the cash-only, set price for a now-completed haircut, then leave. Milton’s most recent client is quite spritely for a well-aged man with an arthritic hip. He explains that he would not be back for some time, then proudly attributes this to an upcoming carnival cruise to Noumea. Milton, with a gentle smile, nods to the man who beams with joy from approval gained, then steps to the red front door. He is gone. Now the next stands up from the brown wooden bench and takes five paces to the lone, still-warm barber’s chair. Eight men wait for their turn to come, each identifying their place in line, all knowing the unspoken barber shop etiquette. A place of ritual, modest contemplation and mostly predictable patterns.

Next will be the customer waiting on a chair below a collection of old American car numberplates, an almost bald man. Dense blackish stubble surrounds his neck and ears.

“Number one all over”, he requests. He should pay half price, but will pay full price, as all clients do. Milton makes the bald man becomes balder. The man then smiles at himself whilst rubbing his hands over his skull.

“Now out into the lovely day”.

So the day progresses in Milton’s barbershop. Eight minutes to each haircut, maybe nine or ten if the hair is thick and coarse. But, for Milton, most heads are grey and thin, maybe with bare patches to ease his job. Milton knows nearly all of his customers. Not by name, by cut.

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