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David had always hated having his hair cut, perhaps because throughout his teenage years he had been forced into 4 weekly cuts at the local men’s’ barbershop. Each time he hoped that this time he would not end up looking like as if the local sheep farmer had sheared him. When he finally moved out of his parents’ house he was able to rid himself of the monthly cropping and do what he wanted with his hair. At first he grew his hair long for several years until he realized that it didn’t really suit him and so he went back to a short’ish style. He still was not keen on having his hair cut and so tended to choose a salon rather than a barber shop. Until last Thursday anyway..

David was walking to work on his usual route from the train station when he decided, for no reason, to take a different way to his office. Walking along the unfamiliar and quiet sidewalk, he glanced into each of the shops that he passed. Across the street, he noticed a small barbershop wedged tightly between two other stores, and he could not help looking in as he walked past. He stopped – somehow drawn to take a closer look. He felt scared for some strange reason. The shop was closed at the moment, but he could see through the faded net curtains and slightly grimy window, a single old-fashioned barber’s chair and small piles of cut hair from previous cuts left lying all over the floor. The whole shop had the look of somewhere that was closing down, if it hadn’t already gone out of business. Suddenly he heard a voice behind him:
“Yes, can I help you?”

He turned around and saw a middle-aged woman hurrying along the sidewalk towards him. She was in her late forties he guessed, slightly taller than he was, and with her bleached blonde hair cut into a severe looking short crop. She wore heavy make-up – bright red lipstick and matching red nail varnish on her long nails – and her body was squeezed into a tight-fitting pair of black leather trousers and a leopard print top. She was overweight and almost bursting out of the top. He felt his eyes being drawn to her substantial cleavage.

“I’m late opening today but I’ll be with you in a moment young man” she said, pushing a key into the door of the barber shop.
“No, it’s okay I was just looking”, David said hurriedly, trying to rush away, almost embarrassed at having been caught looking into the shop.

The woman unlocked the door to the barbershop and looked irritably at David; “Come on, I don’t have all day to wait for you!”
He started to protest but she simply put out her arm, pushed him into the shop, and closed the heavy door behind both of them. Inside the shop she led him towards the waiting arms of the large old-fashioned chair and firmly pushed him down into its waiting embrace.

“Take a seat young man, I’ll be with in a moment”, she yelled as she disappeared into the back of the shop leaving David sitting in the chair looking at his nervous reflection in the mirror.

Although being quite tall, he somehow looked small sitting in the big chair, his feet left dangling in the air. This is ridiculous he thought to himself. Why don’t I just get up and walk out of here? But, whether it was her severe manner, or maybe even some deep-seated desire to be cropped once more, he remained sitting in her chair. He looked down at the shelf in front of him and saw two pairs of electric clippers, a razor, a comb, and a pair of scissors. It was as if he had slipped back in time to the almost forgotten nightmare haircuts of his childhood.

He heard a noise behind him and saw in the mirror the woman appearing from the back room, now wearing a short, pale blue nylon overall from which emerged her slim legs, still encased in the tight leather trousers. Although he could see that the print top was now gone and was she wore only a bra under the overall. Before he had a chance to say anything she had torn off a strip of paper and she was fixing it firmly around his neck. Then a large, striped cape was draped over him reaching almost down to the floor, and tied very tightly at the back. David felt almost trapped by the cape, feeling the silky material weighing down on him. He felt a tickling as the tiny pieces of hair from previous customers were now pressed against his skin. She then tied a shorter, heavy black vinyl cape over his shoulders.

“It looks like it’s been quite a while since you last had a proper haircut young man”, she informed him, raking her scarlet nails through his hair, “It’s time to get you properly neat and tidy I think. My name is Mrs. Stern”.

David started to say something, but then thought better of it when he caught a glimpse of her grim expression in the mirror. Surely she can’t do that much damage he thought, just a quick trim then he can go back to getting it cut properly at his normal salon. Before he could think anymore he felt a hand on the back of his head.

“Head down”, she commanded.

He felt his head being pushed rapidly forward until his chin was almost touching his chest. Out of the corner of his eye he saw her select a pair of electric clippers from the shelf as she kept her other hand holding his head down. David heard the click and the buzz of the clippers, and then felt them touch his neck. It had been several years since he had last heard that sound and since he had seen them slicing through his hair. She pressed the clippers against his head as she started to drive them up the back of his head, their tone changing as they bit into his hair. Immediately hair started to fall onto the capes he was wearing as the clippers climbed higher and higher up the back of his head. David began to panic wondering when she would stop as he felt the clippers rise right to his crown.

“Keep still!” Mrs. Stern commanded as she started to buzz another strip up the back of his head.

He sat there almost in shock as she continued to strip the hair from the back of his head. Although he could not see how short she was cutting his hair there seemed to be a huge amount of hair falling onto the capes and then onto the floor. He was sure as well that he could now feel a draught across the back of his head. Finally, after working her clippers all over the back of his head, Mrs. Stern released his head and he could look up and see himself in the mirror once more. There did not seem to be that much damage he thought but before he could check further, his head was pushed roughly over to one side as she started to run the clippers up the right side of his head.

As the clippers started to work across the side of his head David could now see for the first time just how short he was being clipped. He guessed the hair left behind after each pass of the clippers was no longer than ΒΌ of an inch, maybe even less. Giving in to his fate he sat there as she worked the clippers around both sides of his head, reducing his hair to a spiky shortness. A wave of relief swept over him as the clippers were turned off. But, this was short lived as she merely changed the comb on the clippers and then started to run the clippers across the top of his head. After a couple of minutes, the hair on top was left clipped down to about half an inch, maybe even shorter.

“There you go”, she said, “We’re starting to make some progress now”, as she switched off the clippers again and placed them back on the shelf.

David tried not to look in the mirror, but he felt drawn to see just how bad it looked. He turned his head from side to side looking at the havoc wreaked on his hair by Mrs. Stern. His heart sank as he realized that in less than ten minutes she had turned the clock back to his childhood haircuts that he had thought were gone forever. He was snapped out of his daydreaming by the whine of the second pair of clippers as she once more pushed his head firmly down. “I need to tidy up the edges now”, she explained. Once again he felt the cruel touch of the clippers at his nape. How much more can she cut off, he thought to himself. He relaxed slightly when she didn’t go as high with the clippers this time, but it felt strang
e to him where the clippers had just been. Having “edged” the back of his head, she moved around and moved his clippered head over to one side once more.

“You need to show a bit of skin above your ears, keeps it neat”, she told him as she bent his ear down and started to run the clippers closely against his skin.

After she had done both sides David looked in the mirror once more. Incredible! Mrs. Stern had cut his hair to just stubble in an inch wide strip above both ears. He lifted his hand out from under the cape and rubbed his hand up the back of his neck. He started to panic as his hand rose higher and higher and he realized that his nape had been brutally shaved down almost to the top of his ears.

As he looked in the mirror, he could see Mrs. Stern fiddling with something behind him and he heard a whirring sound that he did not recognize. She turned back towards him and he saw the white cream she held in one hand. He suddenly realized what she was going to do just before she started to spread the shaving cream over the recently clipped hair on the sides and back of his head. As she was wiping her hands on a towel, David tried to turn his head to see just how high up the back of his head she had spread the white cream.

“Head down again and hold still, just want to finish you off!”, she told him, a smile playing across her lips.

With his head pushed painfully forward again, he glimpsed her taking the razor from the shelf and make a few practice flourishes in the air. He could almost hear the razor scraping across the back of his head. He held very still as she worked the razor further and further up the back of his head. Surely, she cannot be shaving me to the top of my ears he thought. He had little time to worry further as once more, his ear was folded down and she started to scrape the remaining stubble from above his ears. As the whiteness was ruthlessly stripped from his head he stared in horror at the wide bare strip that was left behind. He tried to tell himself it looked worse than it actually was as she worked the razor across the other side of his head. He sat there almost in a daze as Mrs. Stern briskly wiped the sides and back of his head with a rough towel.
“There you go young man, one proper haircut”, she said as she stood behind him holding a hand mirror so he could see the back of his head.

He froze in horror as he saw the broad sweep of freshly shaved skin from the nape right up to the top of his ears. His neck look absurdly long and the shaved strip at the sides made his ears look much larger than before. Before he had a chance to give his opinion on the haircut, the capes were lifted off and lumps of his hair tumbled to the floor.

He stood slowly from the chair, his legs weak feeling after his ordeal. He numbly walked to the till to pay for his cropping, unable to stop feeling the vast expanse of shaved skin on the back of his head. Each time surprised at just how high the razor had worked its brutal path.

“Now, I expect to see you in 2 weeks time for a tidy up”, she told him, “Any more than that and next time I might have to give you a short cut!”.

David walked out of the barbershop feeling the cold breeze on his newly shaved skin. As he walked to his office he stared in the windows of the stores he passed, each one giving him a fresh view of the severe haircut he now sported. He wondered how long it would it would take before his hair looked even remotely normal again. He knew one thing for sure, he would never be going back to see Mrs. Stern again for a haircut. Or would he?

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