Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Clippers By Patrick Gleeson

He leant back - ‘I don’t remember how long I’ve had it,’ he murmured. I watched him shift in his chair to get comfortable; it’s a normal thing for them to be nervous, I think, because these people don’t normally get treatment of any kind- not anymore, anyway.

It was a warm day, and we were nestled in a small corner behind a pillar in its shadow, escaping at least some of the heat; my shirt was unbuttoned midway down my chest, and he had done the same, his: tattered, denim, resting on his body like a potato sack.

We had chatted a bit before, pleasantries: hello, nice to meet you, what’s your name - what you would expect. He had a nice smile and showed it when he greeted me back, shaking my hand. His palms and fingers were cold, despite the heat. I asked him if he wanted anything to drink and offered what I had, what he could see; he turned his head, assessing, before asking if I had any tea or coffee; he was tired, he said, but needed it more for his hands, which he was wringing as he spoke. I didn’t have any and told him so, but ended up running to the cafe only a minute away and getting him a cup of tea; he thanked me again with his smile - he took a sip before sitting down.

I threw the sheet around his neck and fastened it behind, then grabbed the clippers. The whirr of the razors made him jump a little, which made me laugh - he laughed too, his eyes closed, wrinkled. Not knowing how long he’d had his beard for, I tried to make a guess - maybe four, five months? I asked. He shrugged - ‘probably, that seems right,’ he replied.

I started at the sides of his head, by his ears, trimming down with great, almost-weightless clumps of hair falling from his face and onto the tarmac. His skin underneath was clear, a light brown colour like his arms and chest. He seemed happy as I shaved it off - he was whistling, the tune perfectly pitched, with no hair in its way, to stop it from taking off.

‘How does it feel?’ I asked him as I put some moisturiser on his cheeks and chin.

Colder! he said, still holding his tea, still smiling.

I held up a mirror to his face, and in the shade of the pillar on that warm afternoon, I could see a calmness in him, in his features that reflected back at me - I couldn’t see it when he had the beard, and I told him so. He laughed, this time showing his teeth, and thanked me for being a kind man, for taking time out of my day to give him some attention, to make him feel like he always ignored. He rubbed his face with his hand, cheered and hugged me.

‘I feel like a new man!’ he shouted, grinning.

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