The Barber's Son (Short Story)

"And how old are you, young man?" an elderly man asked with a gentle curious voice. He was smiling at a confident bright brown-eyed little boy who was standing next to the man’s chair.

The little boy stretched out his right arm above his head so enthusiastically that his heels raised off the floor, and his fingers were just as taunt as he separated them with such intensity it was as though he was going to high-five someone with all his might. "Five!" he proclaimed proudly.

The elderly man gasped, raising his eyebrows with astonished disbelief. "Five? Wooww! You're a big boy now." He chuckled as he lifted his head to face his reflection. The barber wrapped a cape around his neck, covering his lap and torso, ready to have his hair trimmed and a clean shave.

"Ok, son." The barber crouched to his son's eye level, "Head back to your seat and colour some pictures in your colour-in book. I want to see some fine artwork! Can you do that for me?" he asked softly.

"Ok, daddy!" the boy cheerfully galloped over to his seat, climbed up, and opened the book of outlined cartoon characters that was sitting on the coffee table in the back corner of the barbershop. Flicking quickly through the pages, he decisively nominated an image that was to be adorned with the array of potential colours that his pencil case treasured. The little boy picked up the case and carefully unzipped it, exposing all of it's secrets: tools that create masterpieces. He withdrew a freshly sharpened blue pencil, and giving himself a couple of seconds to hold it correctly, he got to work.

"That's my boy." the barber stood with a prideful smirk on his face, his eyes still locked on his son. I'm lucky to have such a golden child. He thought to himself as he walked over to his own collection of tools. Picking up a pair of clippers, brushing it down from the last customer, he turned towards the elderly man and got to his own work.

The boy could hear his dad and the elderly man talk in the background as he coloured in the sky of the image in the book.

"Such a cute little boy you have. What's his name again?" he heard the elderly man say.

You could hear his dad beaming as he gave a polite laugh before replying, "Tobias, is his name."


Clippers began chipping away at the hair that the barber had selected to be sacrificed. Clumps of grey hair fell to the floor silently. The boy paused colouring in and stared at his dad performing his craft, watching him wave his wand over the elderly man's head, observing the magical transformation with the man's complexion changing from messy to tidy, shabby to neat.

Snip. Snip. Snip.

Tobias was transfixed by his dad's intense focus on his customer’s hair. Like he was under a hypnotic spell, he finely chopped stray hairs with his big silver scissors, then laughed mid conversation with the customer as if the spell had released him for a split second before resuming back to his masterpiece. He seemed so happy and confident.

Likewise, you could see the elderly man enjoying himself within the conversation, chuckling in his old man's chuckle and grinning as he chatted away with the barber through the mirror that sat in front of him.

The boy watched quietly as the barber bopped up and down, panning around the gentleman's head, taking in his artwork from all angles, making sure his craftsmanship was just right and satisfactory for himself, and of course, his customer.

After some time trimming back the mini grey forest, the barber pulled out a hand mirror and stood behind the elderly man, tilting it just right so that the gentleman could inspect through his mirror the barber's handy-work on the back of his head. The elderly man nodded, smiling with delight, and the barber placed the hand held mirror back on the bench and started untying the knot of the cape.

Tobias shot from his chair, dropping the yellow pencil he was clenching between his fingers, and picked up the broom (that was still taller than him when he lifted it upright) and started sweeping around the chair, collecting all the offerings.

"Oh my." The elderly man said again with an animated surprised expression on his face, rising from the chair and pulling out his wallet. "You're a hard little worker aren't you?"

The barber brushed away all the rogue free hairs from the elderly man's shoulders. "Yes, he definitely is my hard little worker!" he collected the cash from the gentleman's outstretched arm, opened his till, inserted the money, and closed it again.

"Well!" the elderly man said, drawing out a one dollar coin from his wallet "I believe every hard worker needs to be paid for their diligence. Especially when they're keeping their father company on this fine rainy day." He leaned down and offered the dollar to Tobias, which Tobias clasped with both hands with excitement as if he had found real gold. This gave the elderly man so much cheer and delight that he chuckled heartily as he rose back up and smiled compassionately at the barber.

"You're doing good." The elderly man placed a hand on the barber's shoulder and with sincerity, he offered, "Always here if you need any help." A moment passed, "She would be proud of you."

"Thank you." the barber replied warmly.

The gentleman said good-bye and opened the door, took a step out and paused while holding the door open for another gentleman to walk inside. "Thank you." said this younger gentleman to the elderly man as he stepped inside and closed the door gently behind him.

Tobias swept the hair in a small pile and brushed it up in a pan as his father gestured his new customer to take a seat in the comfy leather padded chair.

After disposing the clippings in the bin, Tobias sat back on his chair and examined which part of the picture he was going to colour in next. At the corner of his eye he noticed a blurred yellow strip lying on the black and white checked vinyl floor and moved his head slightly to get a better view. Giving his eyes a brief moment to focus, he realised it was the pencil he had dropped. He paused for a second, contemplating whether he is bothered enough to get off the chair and pick it up. He peers up to weigh his options, but gets distracted as his eyes lay, once again, on his father's face in full cheer.

The words conversed were lost as Tobias entered a trance of complete bliss. It brought giddiness to his belly seeing his father always happy, smiling ear to ear, when he was working away on his customers' crowns. The way he would stop every now and again to analyse his work from multiple angles and then continue on taking a chunk off here, and a small snip there, pausing, re-analysing, and repeating the action if he was not satisfied. And if he seemed satisfied, he would look at the customer through the mirror and request feedback and confirmation of his progress. All while seemingly lost in another world, completely spellbound to perfecting each haircut to the customers' wishes.

Tobias watched his father intently as the barber circled, seemingly dancing, around the chair, wearing away the colour of the vinyl of where he frequently stepped and glided his feet. His arms seemingly flowing like water with accurate precision that no strand of hair could escape his hands' attacks. Lost in his father's trance of flow, it seemed as if the room got brighter.

With a sudden jolt, seeming to be a burst of inspiration, Tobias closed his colour-in book, and pulled the scrap book from underneath, opening it up to a blank page and started drawing frantically.

He paused every now and again for a few seconds, pondering which pencil would best be suited for the figure he needed to draw next. What colour was best matched with the colour he could envision within his mind.

"Have a great day!" Tobias heard his dad say, not realising that some time had passed while he was frantically drawing and colouring in his spur of imagination.

No other customers had walked in, or were waiting for their turn, at this time. So Tobias, with his finished interpreted snapshot of the world that he could see, he grasped the opportunity to show it to his dad.

The barber looked down at his son who was tugging at his apron for his attention away from cleaning out one of his clippers. "What have you got there? Did you create a masterpiece for me?"

He sat in the barber's chair, picked up his son and placed him on his lap. "Show me what you have created." he said excitedly.

Tobias held out the freshly torn piece of paper from his scrapbook and prompted his dad to take it into his own hands. The barber obeyed the implication and started depicting out loud what he could see.

"I see you, there, at the bottom left corner with your children's books." He placed his index finger with his free hand on the drawing of his son, and then glided it over to the next character. "And this is me, I'm assuming, cutting my customer's hair. But who is this?" Completely knowing who it was, he glided his finger over to the right top of the page, placing it on a figure that seemed to have wings and a yellow ring above her head.

"That's mummy!" The boy said gleefully collapsing in his dad's chest and resting his head on his dad's shoulder.

"Thank you, son! This is beautiful." The barber didn't take his eyes off the image as he paused, surrendering to this blissful moment, taking it all in together as a family.

And with a soft voice, almost in a whisper, he looks up and says delightfully "I can feel her, too."