Dec 1, 2009

Scissors - Part 1


by Charles Baxter

The barber, whose name was Harold, had read the sports section, the business news, and was working his way down the front page when the boy and his mother came inside, The boy was wearing a spring coat too large for him, with mittens attached to the coat sleeves with alligator clips. The woman, upon entering, stood up straight as the barber looked at her and dropped his paper onto the floor.

“Louise,” he said, and the woman nodded. It was midday, and there were no other customers and no other barbers. Outside, the ice had melted into puddles, and the boy was stamping his feet. The woman and the barber stood looking at each other until finally he said, “Louise, it's been a coon's age.”

“Has it been that long?” she asked. She dropped her spring coat on one of the chairs, helpd her son out of his hat and coat, and led him toward the first barber chair. “Such a nice day,” she said. “Like spring, even though it isn't spring yet. Time for Robbie's first professional haircut. And I thought well, certainly, you should do it. “She leaned forward an dkissed the barber on the cheek.

“I've seen you around town,” he said. “Sometimes I wave, but you never seem to see me.”

She smiled. “Oh,” she said, “I see you. And I always think, “Well, there's Harold, and he's waving at me,” and what I do is, I sort of wave back, but, you know, mentally. Not so anyone would see.”

They stood there for a moment, the barber looking at the woman's face, doing his best not to stare at it, and the woman turned in profile to him, gazing at the display of Pinaud Clubman aftershave and Lucky Tiger hiar tonic on the windowsill. Her hands were on her son's shoulders.

“Did you know, Harold, that they're going to send a hot air balloon down, well, I mean, just over the main street in a littlle while? I heard about it.”

“It's a promotion,” he said. “Tulip Days in Five Oaks. They're going to drop discount coupons from the balloon into the street. It's good for business.” He was tugging nervously at his mustache. He stopped himself and went over to the counter near the mirror and came back with a board, which he put over the arms of the chair. He hoisted the boy up on the board and tucked the cloth in around his neck and spread it over is shirt and pants. The boy squirmed for a moment.

The barber bent down. “So, how old are you, young man?”

Three fingers poked up under the cloth.

“Can you say it?” the barber asked.

“He is very shy,” the boy's mother said. “But he can say it. He knows. He's three, aren't you, Robbie? Aren't you the handsomest kid in all Five Oaks?”

The boy said, “No,” and looked at the floor. He smiled for a split second, and, just as quickly as the smile had appeared, it vanished.

“Everyone's handsome at three,” the barber said. “It's later that they aren't. Louise, how do you want his hair cut?”

“Sort of normal,” she said. “Sort of like a normal boy.”

Harold nodded and began clipping around the boy's ears. His knees were trembling slightly and he had to lean againts the chair to steady himself. He noticed that his scissors were't quite steady, either, so he stopped for a moment. His face, and Robbie's, and Louise's, were reflected, in the usual way of barber shops, forty or fifty times, accordion like, back into darkness beteen the two wall mirrors.

How's George?” the barber asked.

“George? George is fine. George is always fine. He's the definition of fine. Except he's losing his hair. You should know. You cut it. Don't you two talk?”

“Yes,” Harold said. “About the weather. And sports.” she said. “You told me.”

“I'm a barber, Louise. I have to talk to these men about something.”

“Well,” Louise said, standing by the window, “you could toak to George about me.”

“What would I say? I don't see you anymore, exept to wave. And I don't want ot be curious, do I?” He stopped cutting the boy's hair to glance at her. She shrugged. “No, I do not talk George about you. That's not even…” He thought of a word he never used. “Conceivable. That's not conceivable.”

“Oh, you cauld say something about me. To him. But he wouldn't notice. He'd go right on sitting, having his hair cut, and not noticing.”

robbie squirmed, and Harold began to sing “Boris the Spider,” walking his fingers across the top of the boy's head. Robble laughed and said, “No Boris.” When he had settled down again, Harold bent to clip the hair at the back of the boy's neck.

“Robbie's hair color is the same as yours.” Louise said, “and his eyes, too, the exact same. youknow, sometimes I have these thoughts, when I'm lying in ben, late at night, next to George, and he's snoring, you know, asleep and ignoring me, and anyway, I'm looking at the way my toes poke up under the blankets, so there are two little peaks down there at the end of the bed, and I'm having these thoughts, and the only trouble with them is, they're tricky. you can't say them around George, you know?”

“Sort of,” Harold said, She was as beautiful and as crzy as ever. His craziness, his wildness, had once been able to match hers, and then it could not. “Have you ever tried to say them?”

“I'm trying to say them now,” Louise said. “You remember in junior high, when we had that math teacher, Mr. Powers”

“He taught shop class.”

“He did that too. Anyway, once in science club, one of our meetings when you weren't there, he said that maybe the universe was imaginary. That maybe it was all made up. And that it could be a thought in someone's head. Or, maybe it was a trick, sort of like a practical joke.”

“What are you saying, Louise?”

“You're so handsome, Harold, no wonder I fell in love with you. But you're so mild. You never took me anywhere. You never even drove me out of this town. you talked softly and you had nice hands but you didn't spirit me away. That was the one thing you had to do, and you never did it. You never even took me to a movie. Of course there was George by then, but you see what I'm getting at.”

“Oh, God, Louise,” he said. “For Gods sake.”

“”But that's it,” she said, “that's what I'm saying. I'm not blaming you. You never took me away because I as married to George, that was the first thing, and the second thing was, you were yourself> Mild. A very very mild and pleasant-feeling man who never did anything execpt cut hair. Who couldn't take me away because he just couldn't, hat's all. And that's what I mean about the universe. Those are my thoughts, when I'm lying awake at night.”

“Your thoughts.”


“I don't get the part about the universe.” He was finishing up on Robbie's hair, trimming along the sides, going quickly so the boy wouldn't have to sit much longer. The fine, blondish curls fell over his fingers onto the floor.

“the universe, Harold, is a practical joke.”

“On who?”

“Why, on us, of course. They put it together to be a joke on us.”

To be continued on page 2….

Scissors - Part 2

“No they didn't.” He let himself take another glance at her. Her face had its customary intensity, which made her beautiful no matter what her thoughts were. Harold lightly brushed the hair away form the back of the boy's neck. “It's too complicated to be a joke. Let's get a look at you, young mand. “He swiveled the chair around so that he was face to face with Robbie. “He looks very good. Like a proud little boy.” He touched the fingers of his right hand to hes own lips, and then lightly placed the fingers on the side of the boy's cheek. A shiver ran down his back.

“I saw that,” she said.


“Don't think I didin't see it.”

Harold lowered the chair, pulled the cloth away from around the boy, and flicked out the hairs onto the floor. The boy jumped down and went to the window.

“Up there,” the boy said. At that moment one of Harold's regular customers, a teacher in the high school named Saul Bernstein, walked into the shop, ringing the bell over the door.

“Hey, Harold,” he said. “See the balloon? “ He pointed outside, toward the sky. Down at the other end of the main street a hot air balloon with an enermous red tulip painted on its side was floating in a northerly direction just above treetop level toward Harold's barbershop. “Well, hello,” he siad to the boy.

The boy turned to loot at Saul. “Hi,” he said. Meanwhile, the boy's mother was reaching into her purse for money. From her pocketbook she drew out a ten dollar bill and handed it to Harold.

“You can't give me money, Louise,” he said quietly, handing it back to her. “You just can't.” Saul watched the two of them for a moment, then walked to the back of the barbershop and began to search through the old copies of Argosy and Sports Illustrated.

By now, both the boy and his mother had their spring coats on. Louise touched Harold once on the arm, then turned toward the window. “It's dropping something,” she said. “Little sheets of paper.”

“Those are the coupons,” Harold said, rubbing his hand across his eyes. “Like I told you. the whole thing's a promotion for Five Oaks business. We're trying” He seemed to lose his thought for a moment. “We're trying to keep the businesses prosperous.” He laughed, a faint and unhappy sound deep in his throat. “Two dollars off a haircut if you use the coupon before May first.”

“Well,” Louse said, “we'll just have to go out, Robbie and me, and search up and down the street till we find one of your coupons, Harold, and that way, the next time we come, we won't have to spend George's money at full price.”

Harold didn't say anything.

“We'll come back,” Louise said, “because I love the haircut you gave Robbie, it's just wonderful how he looks now, and I want you to be his barber. I don't mean just now; I mean from now on. Won't that be nice? Every month, you can cut Robbie's hair.”

Harold seemed to nod at the floor.

“Mom?” the boy said. “Go out now?” His mother smiled, opened the door for him, and, as soon as he was out on the sidewalk, she walked over to Harold and kissed him on the cheek.

“Tulips Days,” she said. “What a good way to welcome in the spring.” She brushed a bit of her son's hair off Harold's shoulders and then turned to go. “See you,” she said. “And God bless you, and I mean that.”

When the bell rang again, announcing her exit, Saul put down the magazine he had been reading and walked over to the window, taking his time. Outside, white coupons were fluttering down out of the sky and landing on the sidewalk and in the street; some of the cars going by had their windshield wipers on. Louise's boy stood next to a parking meter in the snowstorm of paper, one coupon stuck to his fore head and another lodged in his shirt at the back of his neck. His mouth was open, as if he hoped a coupon would drop into it. His mother had turned to walk down the street; she was checking in the gutters and poking at the papers with the toe of her boot.

“You know,” Saul said, standing beside Harold at the front of the window, “I love this town. They do this promotion even remember to do it on Saturday, but then they forget about publicizing it, so no one's here, almost, except the usual lay bouts like me, and a few others like that lady out there, grabbing up those coupons. What's the matter, Harold, you feeling a little faint?”

For moment, the barber had leaned forward, and he had had to reach out and touch the sill to straighten up. “I'm fine,” he said. “I had a touch of the flu. Nevertheless, that was last month. I just feel a little bit of it now and then.”

“Must be what screwed up your bowling last week,” Saul said. “Another night likes that, and we'll have to drum you out of the league. Ha.” Saul had a laugh, which was not a laugh, but a spoken word, which he sometimes put at the end of his sentence.

“You guys running these businesses are goint ot have to think of something else next year instead of dumpting all these trashy discount slips out of a hot air balloon onto the street. It is not good for business. It's too weird. I don't care if it is Tulips Days.”

“Saul, yo want your hair cut, or what?”

To be continued on page 3 ….

Scissors - Part 3

“A trim. The usual trim so I don't look like a wildman and give all the other Jews in this town a bad name.”

“Okay,” Harold said. “I think I can do that. But you got to sit down in the chair.”

“Torture by Mr. Harold of Paris,” Saul said, settling himself in the chair. “And don't do any of that funny stuff with the hair dryer. that was a cute kid, that boy whose hair you just cut. You did a nice job. A real sweetie, that kid was. Did AI tell you Patsy is pregnant? My wife? Patsy? Harold? Hello? Hello?”

Harold was standing behind Saul, a pair of scissors in his rihgt hand. He was staring at the floor and holding onto the chair with his other hand.



“Harold,” Saul said. “amybe you need a little air.”


“Buck up, Harold. Life goes on. Listen, you want to close the shop for a minute and go out for a beer? What to do a bit of basketball down at the high school? I've got the keys, Harold, keys to the gym. You could practice that lousy lay-up of yours, and that jump shot. How about that?”

“That would…yes,” Harold said. He was looking at himself in the mirrors, his reflections curving back into darkness.

“No, more of this,” Saul said, getting out of the chair and taking the cloth off from around his neck.

“No more snipping hair this morning. come on, Harold, we will go have lunch.” He stood at the door and turned the sign so that it read CLOSED. “Let's go.”

“I should stay. It's supposed to be a big business day.”

“Come on, Harold. A break. To relax.”

“All right.” He took off his smock and went over to the coat rack for his jacket. “You know,” he said suddenly, “the coupons and the hot air balloon were my idea. They were all my idea. The things I think of doing. Now it's all on the street, but we forgot about the wind. Imagine. It's spring, but we forgot about that.”

“It was a good idea, Harold, a good idea, and very original.” They went out to the sidewalk, and Harold closed the door behind him and locked it. Coupons were swirling in circle pattern and now stuck against his shoes. “It's a day of discounts,” Saul sai, “Everything's discounted today. The world is forty percent off. We should take advantage.”

“Sun's out,” Harold said.

“My point exactly.” Saul bent down toward the gutter and gathered up two hadfuls of coupons. “Bargains galore. What should we do with all these coupons, Harold?”

“Make them fly,” Harold said.

“Anything you say.” Saul threw a fistful of papers up into the air, and as they fell, Harold thought of the one time when he bad taken Louise out for dinner, one weeken when George was gone. She must have forgotten. They had driven to a seafuood restaurant thirty miles away, in Bay City, and Louise had ordered whitefish. All during the meal, she had held his hand. He hadn's noticed how awkward it had been, hadn't even thought about it until later, when he had patiently reimagined the dinner, minute by mnute. the light from the candle had made her hair shine with aslightly reddish glow; the curls, and the way they fell over her shoulders, made him think that any kind of future might be possible. But they didn't talk about their future. Instead, they sat there describing each thought, in that moment now, Harold smiled and reached out to touch Saul's shoulder.

“Did you know that woman?” Harold asked.

“No, Harold, I never did.”

“I knew her once.”

“I know that.” He reached for the barber's sleeve. “Hamburger time,” he said, walking up the street toward the diner.

The End.

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Nov 9, 2009


This story tells about Mrs. Ferguson’s family. She has two daughters, Rossie and Emma, and one son, Mike. She has been break up for nearly two years and now she’s getting married with Jim Mc. Donald. Jim has one daughter. Her name is Kristy. But Emma cannot accept this situation because she must to share her room with Kristy, that in her mind is perfect stranger, well, almost. One day, her step father has to work in another place. So Emma takes this chance to tell her mother that she won’t to share her room with her step sister, Kristy.

Mother : Emma, I hope you can share your room with Kristy.

Emma : But mother, It’s not fair. Mike and Rosie will have a room each.

: Why must I be the one to share?

Mother : Look Emma, I know it’s not deal

Emma : Ideal? It’s Terrible…

Mother : It’s only for a short time. We’re hoping to buy another house quite soon.

Emma : Oh yes, soon. What does ‘soon’ mean?

Mother : Look Emma, It will be like having another sister

Emma : I don’t want another sister. One’s bad enough!

Mother : Well, it will be like having a friend to stay. You love having friends to stay.

Emma : No, it won’t. The good thing about having friends to stay is that they go home again

Rossie : Oh, come on! You like Kristy McDonald, don’t you? You’ve got so much in common.

: You’re exactly the same age…

Emma : Oh yes, exactly! The very same birthday, for goodness sake!

Mike : You’ll be twins! great.

Mike thinks it’s a great joke that Kristy and Emma were born on the same day.

Emma : Shut up, Mike! Mother, tell him to shut up! I share my birthday with Kristy. Now, she’s : sharing my room! I’m going to have nothing to call my own.

Rossie : But Emma, you get on fine with Kristy!

Emma : I hardly know her.

: And you’re expecting me to share a room wit her for the rest of my life

Mother : (Laught). Before you know it

: you will leave home and be off to university or collage or somewhere.

Emma : Oh great! Now you want me to leave home.

Mother : Of course not. Emma, don’t be silly. Stop making such a fuss

Rossie : yes, you’re beginning to get boring about your stupid room. There are more important

: things in life.

Emma : Anyway, It’s easy for you to talk. You don’t have to share your room with a perfect : stranger

Mike : Hey, this is boring. Here, I will let you share a cracker with a perfect brother.

: Come on, pull.

Emma : Whatever!

Emma fell angry on that time and she go to her bedroom and leave her mother, Rossie and Mike In live room. But when she arrives, she finds Kristy has been there.

Emma : I don’t know how many more surprise I can take.

(She turned to Kristy who was sitting in the God beside her)

Emma continued.

Emma : Did you know your father had let the hotel already?

Kristy : Not, but he said we’d get all details later.

Emma : Like how! I think it’s terrible that they kept everything secret till the last minute.

Kristy : Do you really? I think it’s quite funny.

: The old parents are not as boring as we think

Emma : Oh, Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind them getting married

Kristy : That’s nice of you

Emma : Well, I quite like your father.

Kristy : So do I

Emma : And I don’t mind your family coming to live in our house.

Kristy : That is nice of you

Emma : Oh, come on, I don’t suppose you’re in love with the idea either sorry

Kristy : Oh, I don’t know anything to get away from the prison. Sorry

Emma : I thought you love it. You always seem to be having a great time.

Kristy : I like to keep my father happy

Emma : Well, it just that our house isn’t very big, you know. It’s Ok for all the others but

: I think it’s just a bit much having to.

She paused, realizing that this didn’t sound very polite.

Kristy : Having to share your room with me, you mean?

Emma : You’re going to find it a bit of a squash as well, you know.

Kristy : I had to share a room with another girl at school.

: Besides, don’t you worry, stepsister. I’m not going to be in that room very much

: I’ll be out on the town

Emma can’t speak anymore. She loses her words. Now Kristy can understand why Emma was so worried about having to share her room. It certainty is not large. In fact it’s tiny and now it has two little beds and two little tables, chairs, bookcase, stereos and two huge great teenage girls.

Day after day, the relationship between Emma and Kristy more friendly then the first time they share room together. They are getting used to each other. Emma may be a genius at English but not when it comes to Math. To be fair, Emma is giving Kristy a lot of help with her English. And also, Kristy has got to know a lot of people, or any real friends among the girls at school except Emma. And now they even go to lunch together and walk to school and back together. Of course, this situation make their family confused, what happened with them? especially for Mike.

(In the Living room)

Mike : Mom, do you know what happened with them?

Mother : Oh, I see…

Rossie : Yes mom. I also feel like that. Now, they’ve always together in everywhere, every time.

Mother : So, where’s the wrong?

Mike : Not wrong mom! But it unusual

Rossie : Strange…exactly

Mother : I don’t know why, but I hope they always like that.

: So, we can live with peaceful.

Rossie : I hope so…

Mike : yeah, me too.

Mother : By the way, where are they? I see them at home.

Rossie : They’re going to the bookstore. Emma wants to but a new novel.

: Now, she likes to read a novel that written by Jane Austen, you know.

Mike : I’m sure it’s because of Kristy Mc. Donald.

Rossie : Of course yes.

Suddenly Emma and Kristy heading to home and then, they join with mother, Rossie and Mike.

Emma : We’re home

Kristy : Hi…mom..!

Mother : Where have you been?

Kristy : We’re going to but a novel for Emma and then she’s treat me in Japanese restaurant.

Mike : You bring something for me?

Kristy : Oh…nothing. You’re not lucky yet

Mike : How poor I am

Rossie : Wait, Emma…you’re look so different now.

Emma : Me? What do you mean?

Rossie : I still remember a few days before, you’re very angry to hear that Kristy will be live : here and sharing room with you. What happened later on!

Emma : Well, I know…I do stupid mistake last time. I aware that there is no reason to hate

: her because in fact she is a nice girl

Mother : Emma…I’m proud of you. Finally, you’re realize your mistake

Emma : Kristy…I’m sorry. I promise, I will be a good sister for you.

: We are twins after all.

Mike : Wow…it’s so nice.

Rossie : So…what about how Kristy?

Kristy : Well, It’s ok for me, because we’re twins. And I will always forgive you.

Emma : Thanks…Kristy. You’re the best.

: Mom, I’m sorry because I also make you worry and unhappiness

Mother : It’s ok, honey. But remember don’t do it anymore.

Emma : Yes, Mom. I promise. Trust me.

Mother : I hope it’s not only for now but also for the end of our life

Rossie : We’re family, so we must share and loving each other, Right?

Mike : Right

Kristy : Exactly

Mother : Now we start a new life.

Finally, Emma realizes her mistakes. She promised that se will be a good sister for Kristy. Now, she is really quite enjoying being a ‘twin’.