Sunday, October 25, 2009
Carlos, Cloverdale's Singing Barber
Carlos waited for a customer. The chair was empty. He was on his third reread of the morning paper. Lunch was still two hours away leaving him with no other option than to put his jacket on, step outside and attract attention. He stood up from his chair, folded his paper and picked up the broom. He thought it best to sweep up the hair left behind by Dr. Fooper, Headmaster at Cloverdale’s Comprehensive School, before inviting someone else to occupy the one and only chair in Cloverdale’s Roman Way Barber Shop.
Carols thought as he swept. He pondered over the day’s musical selection? Yesterday he delighted the pedestrians on High Street with his rendition of ‘The Days of Wine and Roses’. The day before it was ‘Moon River’. The citizens of Cloverdale truly enjoy the voice of their very own singing barber and Carlos was grateful for that, but times were changing and Carlos was looking for a younger clientele. His regular customers were his age or older. And as the years pass more and more of them were dying, leaving Carlos with a dwindling customer base.
Carlos looked out the shop's large plate glass window at the turning barber pole hanging near the door. Last month It stopped spinning for the first time in 30 years. Carlos debated whether or not to have it repaired. A spinning barber pole usually meant a shop for old people serving antique hair cuts that were popular in the days when people didn’t care how they looked. At least that’s how one teenager summed it up as he walked by the shop on his way to school. Carlos had it repaired anyway. His old timers would be confused had he not.
Carlos walked up to the door and open it. A little tarnished brass bell tinkered overhead. It too was a faithful companion for the last 30 years, alerting Carlos to incoming customers if he happened to be in the back room or upstairs in the family’s apartment making himself a sandwich and cup ot tea.
He stepped down onto the sidewalk. Alma Flitter wished him a good morning as she walked by with her dog. Carlos commented on the weather. She didn’t hear him but nodded anyway. She forgot her hearing aid on her way out the door.
Carlos turned to look at the three posters in the window. One advertised the Harvest Festival and Fair. It needed to come down. Another urged everyone to vote in the Shire elections held eight months ago. He definitely needed to take that one down. The third poster showed twelve black and white head shots of a boy with different types of hair cuts. It was so faded from years of being exposed to the sun you could hardly tell what it was. Carlos decided to take that one down also.
“Good morning Carlos,” an older gentleman jabbed him in the ribs with his cane as he walked by.
“Oh, how are you Floyd,” Carlos answered. He noticed his ten year customer was wearing a suit. He thought that strange for a Wednesday.
“Why the suit?” Carlos asked.
“Funeral,” was Floyd's response. “One of your customers he was.”
“When did he die?” Carlos was sincerely interested and not just passing the time of day. Marvin Melps was a fifteen year regular. He was just in last week for his regular monthly hair cut.
“Slipped getting out of the tub. Broke his neck. Same day he had his hair cut. I suspect he got his hair cut, went home to take a bath to wash off the clippings and slip bang.” Floyd slapped his hands together for effect.
“You’re killing us all off one by one.” Floyd said while waving his cane. He continued down the sidewalk toward St. Bartholomew’s.
Carlos was in temporary shock. Why hadn’t he known about Marvin? If he had known he might have considered going to the funeral. But that would have meant closing the shop - not a smart thing to do on a funeral day. The funeral rebound business was always pretty good. People had to take time off for the burial so why not get their hair cut that same day? It would save coming in after work or on a Saturday. Carlos decided to send a card to Marvin’s common law wife instead. The couple had been together since the free loving days of the 1960’s.
Carlos sat down on the bench in front of the shop. It was a beautiful Autumn day. He again considered his options. Would he sing from his wide repertoire of Andy William’s hits or try something more upbeat and modern to try to attract a younger clientele?
After a few minutes he stood, reached into his pocket and pulled out his mouth organ. He blew a note to get the pitch, put the organ back into his pocket and broke into full song - right there on the High Street's sidewalk. Cloverdale’s Singing Barber was in good form as he belted out “I Feel Good!” The song made famous by James Brown.
Carlos was successful in attracting a crowd, including 23 second graders from St. Bartholomew Primary School who were on a walking tour of the village Center with their teacher Sister Ina Wallop of the Convent of the Sisters of Every Increasing Hope. The sidewalk erupted in applause after the final note stopped echoing back and forth between the brick buildings lining the street. Carlos bowed deeply, glowing in their appreciation.
“You’re weird,” little eight year old Buster Williams shouted from the gathered onlookers. Sister Ina quickly and firmly put her hand over the boy’s mouth to stop him from saying anything else that would embarrass her.
Carlos smiled at the boy while pulling his scissors and comb from his blue barber jacket.
“Send him to me Sister. Send him to me,” Carlos said in his evil barber tone, complete with matching grin and hunch back walk. “I’ll have him sorted out in no time.”
Little Buster broke free from the Sister’s grasp and ran screaming down High Street. The spectacle brought another round of applause from the assembled gathering, several of whom stepped forward for a hair cut. Carlos pointed to the shop’s door and beaconed them in.
“It was going to be a good day in the barbering trade,” he thought.