[The following is a mostly true story. Whatever that means.]
My dad says that the important skill a barber possesses is not his ability to cut hair. The ability to cut hair is important of course, but it comes in a very close second to the ability to talk. Because basically you’re this guy’s prisoner for fifteen minutes, sitting in his weird chair while he does things with sharp objects very close to your head. Hmm. Come to think of it there may be a story in that somewhere.
But this story, like I said before, is true. Or at least as true as a story can be after two retellings and being processed by a writers imagination.
The story goes like this. My dad goes to the barber a couple of weeks ago, this barber, like all good barbers (and good hairdressers too for those of you who might accuse me of sexism) strikes up a conversation.
And somewhere in the conversation it comes out that I am a writer. I would be lying if that part of the story didn’t make me a little proud, to know that my father is willing to talk about his son’s prospective writing career with complete strangers. Anyway so somewhere in there my dad mentions that I’m a writer and the barber says, “Oh is that so? You know, I do some writing myself.”
My dad, a little surprised by this says, “Really? I didn’t know that.”
“Oh yes,” says the barber. “Yes indeed.”
“Have you been published anywhere?”
The barber shakes his head. Dad glances up at his reflection in the big mirror that covers the wall of the barber shop and sees that the guy looks just a little nervous.
“What I do,” the barber explains, “is I type out all my stories on the computer. When I’m done for the day I print out what I’ve written and close out the file without saving.”
“I don’t understand,” my dad says. “Why go to all that trouble?”
“That’s the only way I can be sure,” says the barber. “Don’t you see?”
My dad doesn’t see, and he says so.
“They can see that stuff if they want to. They can get right onto you computer and see all your files. This is the only way I can be sure, see?”
My dad, realizing that logic has become something of a rare commodity in this situation does not ask who “they” are or why “they” would be so anxious to read the writings of a small town barber. Instead he asks, “Well do you ever plan to get any of them published?”
The barber shakes his head. “Not me, Albert” (My dad’s name is also Albert. But I’m NOT a junior. Clear as mud?) “I’m putting them all in a safe place. Somewhere where no one will find them until after I’m dead. Then…well we’ll see.”
“I don’t understand. Why not send it off to some publisher somewhere? Who knows? Maybe you’ll get published, get rich.”
The barber shakes his head looking a little sad. “I can’t do that,” he says.
“Well, I’ll tell you,” says the barber. “When I was a young man I had my palm read, my fortune told. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but over the years every single one of the predictions that fortune-teller made came true. I met my wife on a train. She conceived within the first year of our marriage. And then my dad died in a car accident three days before my thirty-fifth birthday. All of this she told me, understand?”
My dad says he does, but that he doesn’t know what any of that has to do with the barber’s hidden manuscript.
“Well,” the barber answers, “I’ll tell you. That fortune-teller said one more thing to me. She said, ‘You’ll be a bestselling author. But not until after you’re dead.’ And you know what? I’m not in any great hurry to die.”
[This has been a mostly true story. Had this been a story I made up, there would likely have been some twist at the end where the barber took off his face to reveal a mass of quivering alien flesh underneath, and my dad would have melted him away with that gel stuff barbers keep all their combs in. But this story was true, apart from the things I made up, so none of that stuff happened. You’ll have to settle for this.]