Good Girl

The young woman interrupts, “Cut it short, it's way too long.” Then, she returns to the sitting area and sits beside me. The barber trims the man’s mop with commercial hedge-clippers.

He’s sitting beside me. We’re both waiting for haircuts. His hair is thick, pure white. His beard is shaggy. He’s got skin like old boot leather.

There’s a woman with him, she’s in her late-thirties. Maybe forty. She is wearing a Pizza-Hut uniform.

The barber calls out, “I’m ready for you, sir,” while sweeping clumps of blonde hair from his recent victim.

The woman helps the old man to the big chair. He holds her arm. The barber asks what kind of haircut he wants.

“D-d-d-d…” the old man struggles to say. “S-s-s…” He’s working hard to make words.

But nothing.

The young woman interrupts, “Cut it short, it’s way too long.” Then, she returns to the sitting area and sits beside me. The barber trims the man’s mop with commercial hedge-clippers.

“What about the beard?” the barber asks. “You want it trimmed, too?”

The old man stammers so hard, his face contorts. He looks like he’s in pain. His heart is there, the words aren’t.

The young woman hollers, “Give him a shave. He needs it.”

She leans backward into her seat and takes a deep breath. She sighs, closes her eyes. She is too young to be so tired.

Her phone rings. She walks outside to answer it. She paces the sidewalk, flinging hands in the air, talking into the mouthpiece. Whoever she’s yelling at is getting an earful of words.

A customer enters. When the barbershop door opens, I can overhear her outside. She’s saying, “Can’t this wait? I’ve been working all day…”

She’s outside for a good while. When she returns to her seat, she has a red face—she’s sniffing, wiping her eyes.

When the barber finishes, he removes the old man’s cape and spins him toward his reflection. He gives him a hand-mirror. The old man’s hand shakes so violently, he drops it.

Then, he tries to form words, but can’t.

The young woman springs toward them. She picks up the mirror. She kisses the old man’s cheek. She runs her hands through his hair and touches his forehead.

“Daddy,” she says. “You’re so handsome.”

He grins with one side of his face.

All the other barbers gather around the old man’s chair. They all frown and agree: the old man’s a bona fide ladykiller.

I wish you could see the old boy’s smile.

He stutters with a thick tongue. It’s hard to watch. “Th-th-th…” is all he says. He just can’t make it happen.

He’s out of steam. So he holds his daughter’s hand and pats it. The two are silent. Sometimes, hand-pats speak louder than words.

She helps him onto his shaky knees. They shuffle toward the cash register. She opens her purse. She pays.

He blurts out, with a strong voice,“THANK YOU, DARLENE.”

Clearer and more booming words have never been spoken.

She looks at him. She says nothing. Neither does anyone else. And I’m glad.

Because words would’ve spoiled it.

19 comments

  1. Nancy Kane - March 24, 2017 9:53 am

    Full circle…

    Reply
  2. Long WayFromHome - March 24, 2017 9:56 am

    Beautiful!

    Reply
  3. Kate - March 24, 2017 10:17 am

    Most of your vignettes make me cry, this one was no different. People, the majority of people, are normal wonderful human beings. Thank you for introducing them to me.

    Reply
  4. Cherryl Shiver - March 24, 2017 10:19 am

    Once a man, twice a child……..there is nothing harder than raising your parent. You just remember how good they made your lifetime.

    My sons never had a Grand Daddy. Both of our Mommas were widows when we married, young widows. I am so proud of how my sons make time for their children to be with their Daddy, and you should see how much my husband loves it.

    Family ties, a strong bond.

    Reply
  5. Elizabeth Sessions - March 24, 2017 10:28 am

    From all of us walking the same walk with elderly family members, thank you.

    Reply
  6. Cindy Plageman - March 24, 2017 11:18 am

    I taught school for 30 years ….I could teach a child to be a good writer…but being a wonderful writer is a gift. You view the world through eyes that look below the surface and into the heart…thank you.

    Reply
  7. Fran - March 24, 2017 11:25 am

    Oh my!
    You are so good, Sean. So very good.

    Reply
  8. Peggy Black - March 24, 2017 11:52 am

    God bless the Darlenes in this world and the daddies who love them.

    Reply
  9. Michael Bishop - March 24, 2017 11:52 am

    “He grins with one side of his face.” Funny how context turns that sentence from a wince-provoking grotesquerie into something altogether touching and profound. Some words spoil things, but others — others illuminate them.

    Reply
  10. Laura Young - March 24, 2017 12:29 pm

    Your posts always evoke emotion in me- sometimes a laugh, sometimes a smile, and sometimes tears. This one brought back 14 year old memories and had me bawling. My daddy at age 87 had a stroke that didn’t leave him physically weakened but instead took his mind. He wandered from room to room in a house he built with his own hands, yet didn’t recognize where he was. He would say he had to “sh….” and in the bathroom didn’t recognize the toilet till I pushed him (taking a lot of strength to do so) down onto it. It was like his butt recognized what his mind could not. But mostly the change was he didn’t know his family. He called me “chick” at times (his pet name for Mother), getting so mad one time because I wouldn’t let him get out of bed in the hospital, that he slapped me so hard he left a handprint on my face. My daddy never hit Mother or me (other than spankings deserved in childhood), so this one had left me sobbing. I worked in Georgia at the time coming over every Thursday to take care of Daddy till Sunday night and I remember well the last time I saw him alive- it was Sunday night and I was leaving, dreading the drive with me crying, grieving the loss that had not yet come. As usual I said, “Bye Daddy, I love you!” I expected the state that had followed goodbyes for weeks, but he looked me in the eyes and smiled, saying, “I love you, Laura”. I hugged him tightly then cried all the way home. He died 3 days later. God is good- providing a fitting goodbye for a daughter who needed it.

    Reply
  11. Deborah - March 24, 2017 12:46 pm

    It is the cycle of life. I am there. This truly resonated with me. They did it for us and we gladly do it for them. Even when you are tired and your brain can’t process all the role reversals.

    Reply
  12. Gary Featherston - March 24, 2017 12:55 pm

    Thanks a lot! How do you think it looks for a grown man to sit in a small town cafe, looking at his phone, tears running down his face, as he ignores his omelet?? I am SO done reading your writing!!…in public.

    Reply
  13. Jimmy Maddux - March 24, 2017 1:36 pm

    I have recently become a reader, and I cannot tell you that I have been disappointed. Each story portrays a way of life that I have experienced. Today’s story reminded me of my Grandfather and my Great-Grandfather. Both of these gentlemen could speak, and they were generally clean and tidy as my Grandmother was in charge but they had to be taken to town for their haircuts. The barbershop was a busy place and it was frequently inhabited by a mix of men from various backgrounds and ages. After getting their hair cut, they always thanked the barber and whoever drove them to town. These gentlemen lived in a time when manners were expected and practiced. Oh how I long for a return to those days.

    Reply
  14. Sam Hunneman - March 24, 2017 2:12 pm

    Well damn… (and I mean that in the best of all possible ways)

    Reply
  15. Lydia Mason - March 24, 2017 2:13 pm

    Beautiful expression of the love bond between daughter and daddy. Brought tears and memories of days gone by.

    Reply
  16. Jamie - March 24, 2017 2:49 pm

    Whooo! Fighting back the tears this morning, a clear picture of my own sweet daddy patting me on the cheek. Thanks for your writing that clearly comes from a deep understanding and respect for humanity. 🙂

    Reply
  17. Kay Keel - March 24, 2017 4:46 pm

    Bawling right now…your words are SO beautiful! Thank you from all of us with elderly parents.

    Reply
  18. Marion Pitts - March 24, 2017 10:40 pm

    I’m in tears! I’m so enjoying your stories even if I don’t tell you each time. So much to learn, think about, and enjoy. You are a blessing to me-and others,too, I’m sure.
    Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  19. Carol DeLater - March 25, 2017 4:47 pm

    OMGosh. I well needed reminder this morning. My husband’s health is failing. Sometimes he forgets. When he doesn’t hear I never know if he didn’t hear or can’t bring his mind back to the present. No far off stare yet, but I fear it’s coming. Three mini strokes….hopefully it’s only from that. There is always love. Sometimes patience needs a nudge.
    xx, Carol

    Reply

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