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My name is Carl and at the time of this story I was 17 years old. My parents had been sent abroad to work for 8 months to a year, they decided as they did not wish to disrupt my education that I should stay with my aunt (my mother’s sister) and uncle together with my cousins, 15 year old Roderick (Roddy) and 13 year old Christian (Chris). I got on quite well with my cousins, they attended a different school to me but their chief characteristic was that every 6 to 10 weeks they would turn up with particularly vicious short back and sides haircuts which I used to tease them mildly about and they would look enviously on my thick chin length brown hair.

I had settled in well, the journey to school was easier than my long trek in from the country. It was the Friday before the May half term holiday. Over breakfast my aunt said ‘Carl, we need to do some shopping in town this afternoon, we’ll meet you at the cross at 4pm.’ Turning to my uncle she said, ‘ Do you need anything? Oh, by the way the boys need a haircut.’

My uncle indicated that he didn’t need anything and agreed that the boys did indeed need a haircut I bristled when the word haircut was said but the fact that my aunt had not addressed me and had mentioned ‘the boys’ I assumed that she meant Roddy and Chris.

I met them at 4pm and we ambled round town making a few purchases and we headed back to the car. On the way we stopped outside a Barber’s shop.

‘Right, you need haircuts’ said my aunt in the general direction of my cousins. We trooped in. I had heard of this shop from school friends and how there was one older barber who was renowned for cutting hair very short, still I didn’t expect to be getting a haircut. I surveyed the scene, the older barber was sitting in his chair reading a paper while a young barber had evidently just started to cut the hair of a customer. The older barber got up and my aunt said, ‘Roddy, you’re first.’

Turning to the barber she said with considerable emphasis on the first word. ‘Short back and sides please.’

Roddy dragged himself to the chair while we all sat down. He was quickly caped and the barber was soon snipping his top hair. I settled to read a newspaper. I gazed up from time to time, the young barber was busy on his customer. I noticed the older one had finished snipping. He put his scissors in his pocket and reached for a set of black hair clippers and switched them on. I could hear their low bass hum. He manoeuvred Roddy into the chin down position and began to work on his back. After each pass of the clippers, a dark stubble was left behind . He completed the back and then proceeded to blend the stubble with the longer top hair using clipper over comb. He then worked on Roddy’s left side which was invisible to me. I watched all this out of curiosity never before having a really short haircut. While this was happening the young barber had finished his customer and had decaped him and received the money for the haircut.

He smiled in our direction.

‘Your turn, Chris,’ said my aunt.

Turning to the younger barber, she said again with emphasis on the first word. ‘Short back and sides, please.’

Chris rose and mounted the chair and his haircut was underway. I breathed a sigh of relief. My cousins were getting their usual savage haircuts. This would not apply to me. The older barber had started on Roddy’s right side and this was soon stubble, he quickly blended the hair and went round tidying up the hairline. The clippers were switched off, the older barber looked at my aunt and received a nod.

‘Hair Oil?’

Another nod.

A few squirts with the hair oil and a last combing then Roddy was released from the chair. He walked back to us massaging his nape. Then I became conscious of the older barber and my aunt staring at me. My aunt dug me in the ribs. I had not got away with it. I rose, my heart pounding and walked slowly to the chair, as I arrived the barber said.

‘SHORT back and sides?’

‘short back and sides,’

I responded reluctantly and settled into the chair. I was caped and the chair was adjusted. My hair was combed and a few dashes of hair oil applied so the barber could cleanly part my hair down the left side. He started to cut the right top and soon a rain of hair was settling in the cape or drifting off to fall on the floor. The barber worked quickly, with practiced ease and soon the top right was cut. I kept staring at the reflection in the mirror. If only he would stop here it won’t look so bad. He finished the top right and went to work on the other side of the parting, a new rain of hair fell, onto the left side of the cape or onto the floor. I stopped staring at my reflection and looked down at the mass of my brown hair on the cape. I amused myself by sliding pieces of hair onto the floor by adjusting the position of my hands underneath the cape. I was awoken from my daydream by the barber putting me in the chin down position. I stiffened myself for the clippers, instead more scissor cutting of the top back. Suddenly he stopped snipping and put his scissors into his pocket. He reached out for the black clippers and I heard a loud bass hum as they were switched on. I braced myself for impact but only felt a few swishes as the clippers were moved from right to left across the back, only a few long tendrils of hair appearing on my shoulders to mark the devastation. The clippers were moved from left to right and I could feel that they were getting close to the scalp. He stopped and then combed the top of the back. He used clipper over comb but this was soon completed as he blended the long or should I say the ‘less short’ hair with the clipped hair. The clippers were placed on my right nape and I could feel the warm blades They were moved up, the sensation was very pleasant, I liked the fact that on one pass the blade was warm but on the next the clippers felt cool. I then inwardly shuddered as I realised what they were doing My back was soon reduced to stubble. I now had a short back.

He then tilted my head to the left and started work on my right side. I could appreciate his technique. On the first pass of the clippers the length was taken out. After each pass the cut hair seemed to hang motionless for a second before cascading down onto the cape. I watched in horrified fascination as the hair was left about 1 inch long. My right ear appeared during this treatment. I had stopped sliding hanks of hair on the floor and had opened my legs to create a small bowl in the cape and the severed side hair slid neatly into this to join the impressive pile that had accumulated there. The second pass reduced the hair to ¼ inch and this enabled him to blend the hair, using clipper over comb, with the top. This finished, the final pass of the clippers took my right side to stubble. I now had a short back and side

This gave me a comical appearance as the left side was the only long hair remaining. He tilted my head to the right and sheared my left side, more hair slid into the ever more heaped pile of hair in my lap. I felt once more the warm sensation as the clippers reduced my left side to stubble. I was now short back and sided. He paused but the clippers continued to hum. Starting at my left he tidied up the hairline and reduced any small tufts that had remained from the clippering, finally finishing at my right side. He turned the clippers off and replaced them in their cradle. He reached for the hair oil and gave me several good blasts before combing my hair. I now looked like my cousins. I had ears that stuck out slightly and the long hair had concealed this, in my newly shorn state to me they looked very prominent. He brushed my nape and then released the cape. A quick flick of his wrists sent my hair tumbling to oblivion on the floor. I fell out of the chair and walked over to my grinning cousins. I grinned sheepishly back at them, massaging the stubble on the back of my head, and knew that they were going to get their own back on all the teasing that I had given them.

(This was not the end of the haircut horrors, worse was to come later).

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