Flash Fiction: Toupee-Wearing Man at the Barber Shop

July 14, 2014

Here’s a really short story I wrote. It’s semi-true insofar as I really heard the barber talking about this kind of thing to me and another customer. Well, the whole conversation was in Japanese, of course, so maybe my imagination filled in some blanks where I didn’t fully understand.

Yeah, if you need inspiration for some really weird stories, all you need to do is listen half-heartedly to some gossipy Japanese conversation. What? Did he really say what I thought he said? This happens to me all the time as I go about my daily life here in Tokyo. Please enjoy …

Grass with dew - Vermont, May 25, 2014

Grass with dew – Vermont, May 25, 2014 (Enlarge)

Just a Quick Trim, Please

The barber was telling me about another customer who came in and wanted his toupee trimmed. How strange is that? Imagine the guy sitting down in the barber chair, and the barber starts messing with his hair and suddenly realizes it’s a toupee.

See, maybe that customer has totally psyched himself up to the point where he believes he has a full head of hair. So naturally he keeps on going to the barber shop regularly, just as he always did as a young man, just out of habit.

Maybe a polite and tactful barber would go through the motions and busy himself with the man’s head for a while. He could snip-snip all around with his scissors but never actually cut the toupee. The barber’s assistant could even come by and discretely drop a few clumps of hair on the floor around that guy’s chair. They’d make a good show of it.

Most people, when they go to the barber, just want to be pampered, don’t they? Lonely people appreciate the barber’s glib conversation, and it feels good to have someone run their fingers through your hair and sort of massage your head for you. So the polite and tactful barber is very accommodating, and the toupee-wearing man feels gratified.

After 20 minutes or so, the barber is rubbing the man’s neck with a clean towel and blowing him with a hair-dryer. Then he puts on the final touches with a razor and eye-brow clipper. Would you care for a manicure? Not today? Alright.

A few days later the toupee-wearing man stopped me on the sidewalk and asked why I hate barbers. He must have heard me say something. “Sorry,” I said. “I don’t hate barbers – it’s just that you have no hair!”

Oh, the rudeness. I’ve never been what you’d call socially adept, but this was my lowest moment.

So anyway, maybe this story is a kind of satire of religious people or something. The toupee-wearing man is like a devout religious believer, and the barber is like a cynical priest who knows it’s all a scam but still tries to humor his credulous flock.

These days I’m participating in a lot of online discussions on Christian apologetics sites, so I’m really getting used to people asking me “why I hate barbers.” It doesn’t surprise me anymore.