Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shave and a Haircut

When the lanky man strolled into my Hair Care Beauty Salon, my head swiveled, and the heads of my two other stylists and their clients popped up. "Oh my!" Mrs. Ellison, the elderly, gray-haired lady sitting at my station said. 
"Such a handsome young man."
"Just a second," I told her. I set my scissors and comb on the sink. I stepped up to the reception counter and said in my most customer-friendly voice, "May I help you?"
The lanky man tried to smile through his scruffy beard and mustache. "Umm...I found your salon listed on the Internet." He cleared his throat. "I'm participate in the Locks of Love program?"
"Yes, of course," I said. "We cut hair, bundle it properly, and send it on so it can be made into a wig for youngsters who have lost their hair. For whatever reason."
His deep brown eyes turned solemn. "My niece—my sister's little girl—may be in need. She's eight."
"Oh no! I'm so sorry."
"Just checking..." At this point, the lanky man flipped the longest ponytail I'd ever seen over his shoulder—beautiful, silky, chestnut-brown hair. "I may want to donate this."
I blinked. "It's certainly long enough. Not bleached. You realize it takes a number of ponytails to make a hairpiece. Your hair mostly likely won't be included in a wig for your niece."
"I understand that."
"You'd like to make an appointment?"
He gave the ponytail and long look. "Two weeks from now," he said. "I'll call to cancel if...if I don't need it cut."
My heart ached for him and his niece. With a deep sigh, I wrote his name into my appointment book—Jeremy Foxx—and we said good-bye.
During the next couple of weeks, I thought of Jeremy. So handsome. Such long hair. His poor niece. Of course I knew why he wanted to donate his hair: If his niece lost hers, he wanted to prove he'd be there for her in every way. I wondered if I'd see him again. I hoped so. But then I hoped not.
My pulse spiked when Jeremy stepped cautiously into my salon at the appointed time. "Shave and a haircut," he said simply.
Once he was seated, I pulled the elastic from his ponytail and braided his luxurious hair. "Ready?" I asked. He gave a nod, and I snipped his ponytail off with two quick strokes. I glanced at him in the big mirror in front of us. "You all right?"
He nodded again, his face expressionless.
"I'll give you a wash," I said. "Then cut your hair short on the sides, a little long on top? Is that all right?"
"Shave it all off," he said. "Beard and mustache, too."
I gulped. "You're sure?"
While I shaved his head, I tried to get him to relax. I told him my name. Patti Albright. I asked him questions about himself. He was an elementary school art teacher. During the summer he worked as a wood carver, sculpting animals—owls, bears, eagles—from tree stumps in people's yards. We were both single. Never married. Doctors feared his niece Lisa had a cancerous tumor on her brain.
When I finished, he stood, scowled at himself in the mirror, and rubbed the top of his head and his chin. "Smooth," he said with a rueful smile.
"You've done a wonderful thing," I said. I forgot to breathe when I added: "With or without hair, you're handsome."
He shrugged sheepishly.
"Call me," I said. "Keep me posted. Please."
He called to say Lisa would have to undergo surgery to remove the tumor. He called again to say that nearly all of Lisa's tumor had been removed but because of its location a bit remained. Doctors were optimistic that with chemo and radiation therapy they could destroy the rest; Lisa's prognosis was good.
I knew that chemo and radiation meant Lisa would definitely lose her hair, and I was delighted to have played a small part in having a wig made for her. My staff and I pooled our money and sent flowers to Lisa in the hospital.
I didn't expect to see Jeremy again. But a week after his last phone call, he appeared at my salon. While my staff and their customers smiled at us, he fished a cell phone from his pocket, clicked a button or two, and said, "Look at this picture."
A grinning Lisa, her head still bandaged, held a chestnut-brown wig in her hand. "She can't wait to wear it," Jeremy said. "And she's expected to recover fully."
"I'm so happy for her. And for you." I glanced at him. My heart danced. Dare I speak?  "Looks like you'll need a haircut soon."
"First how about dinner and a movie over the weekend. We'll discuss it."
I smiled. "A shave, too?"
He smiled back. "All right," he said. "Shave and a haircut. Just for you."

The End

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Good Sports

           "Do you really like living alone in that little town of Grinnell?" Mom said. "Are you working too hard? Do you have enough fun?"
We were sitting on her deck just off the kitchen of her condo in St. Petersburg, Florida, drinking coffee in the cool morning sunshine, palm trees waving in the background.
"Mom, I have tons of friends in Grinnell, and you know I love my work..."I skipped the part about living alone.Being lonely.
I'd been raised in Grinnell. After dad died two years ago, unable to stand the harsh winters any longer, Mom moved to this retirement community where several of her friends had relocated after their husbands' deaths. This was my first visit.
"We're going to play golf later, Amy."
I frowned. "Mom, I don't play golf anymore."
"You'd be surprised at how many nice people you can meet on a golf course."
She meant how many nice men I could meet. Single men. I'd played golf in high school to please Mom and Dad, but sports simply weren't my thing. Music, art, drama—these were my passions. They made my heart go Bump! But Mom didn't seem to understand that. She and dad had been high school and college jocks.  Football for dad. Golf and volleyball for Mom.
My two weeks with Mom in the Florida sunshine was wonderful, but it ended too soon. The evening before my flight home, Mom's friend from Grinnell, who'd played golf with us, appeared on the porch waving a putter. I'd known her since I was a little girl. "Would you please take this putter back to my son, Amy? It's one of his dad's. A new design. Somehow it ended up in my golf bag when I moved."
 "Sure," I said. "What's his address?"
"I'll have him call you and arrange to pick it up."
The next day aboard the plane, a good-looking guy with curly black hair sat next to me. After the plane was airborne, he said, "You must've played a lot of golf—you have a really nice tan."
"I love the beach," I said. "Plus my mom dragged me around the golf course a lot."
"Do you play well?"
"Not at all."
He laughed. "Lots of women play better golf than men—I've known a few."
Now it was my turn to laugh. "Well, I wouldn't be one of them." We talked about our vacations. He'd been visiting a former college roommate from his football team. Then he told me he was a lawyer.  Single. I told him I was a high school art teacher. Single. I told him I especially loved visiting museums and art galleries. Our little museum back in Grinnell was one of the best in the state. He was a big pro football fan—the Patriots—and hadn't been to a museum since high school.
Oh, well, I thought, when we landed in Atlanta and he had to change flights, it's not like we were meant for each other. And my heart didn't go Bump! when I met him. No passion at all.
My second day home, Charlie Bennett called about his putter.
I told him where I lived and sat on my front porch swing, waiting for him, reading my mail, the putter beside me.
Charlie parked in front of the house and strolled up the walk. He was tall and brown-haired with glasses. Nice-looking. Wavy brown hair. My heart surprised me with a little Bump!
I stood and held the putter out for him. "Your mom thought you might want this."
"I don't play golf," he said, and took he putter from me.
His dark-brown eyes seemed to study me cautiously.
"You probably shoot in the low seventies? Right?"
"I played in high school. I wasn't any good. Never been into sports."
"Then why would your mom—?"
Before I could finish the question, the answer hit me. Charlie had already figured it out. Smiling, he said,  "Meddling moms."
"Oh wow! I can't believe how devious they are."
"Blame my mom," Charlie said. "Last year she sent one of her friend's daughter home from Florida with a tennis racquet for me."
"Really?" I said, laughing.
"I knew all along this was a set up.
I could've told you over the phone to toss the putter. But actually I wanted to meet you. I sort of remember you from when we were kids. Our moms used to take us to the park."
"I don't remember—"
He noticed the flyer for the Young American Sculptors exhibit lying on top of my opened mail on the swing. "I want to see that show," he said.
I'm sure I looked surprised. I felt my eyebrows rising. "Honest? I understand it's going to be a great exhibit. Pieces by some highly talented people."
He cleared his throat. His Adam's apple bobbed. "Would you like to go?"
"I—" My tongue seemed stuck to the roof of my mouth.
"Maybe have dinner first?" he said.
I managed to swallow. "I would," I said, sitting back down on the swing. A little bewildered, I made room for Charlie. "Sit—we need to talk about a few things..."
"Like our busybody moms...and why I like museums?"
"Exactly," I said.
Bump! Bump!