My old man used to say you could tell the worth of a man by how much crap was on his boots. If there was mud on the toe, he was probably a farmer; greasy laces, a mechanic. Wingtips, a lawyer.
He ran Dunk’s Barbershop on Oldfella Road, right across from the laundromat. The place is long gone, of course. It became a beauty salon, then a used bookstore, and is now a Hallmark outlet in case you ever need a ready-made apology in a colored envelope.
Dad hired me on when I was five-years-old. I swept the floor-hair and dumped it into an old ash bucket. I must have been a sight then. Five years old and ponying around the floor with a broom twice my size. The locals got a kick out of it, and some of them gave me pennies for the gumball machine. Dad paid me a dime for every day I worked, which was usually Tuesdays and Fridays after school, and Saturday mornings. Doesn’t sound like much now, but it added up. And Saturday noon, after he closed the place, we’d go over to Donny’s over on Marshall Street, and he’d treat me to a gypsy dog, loaded with cheese, onions, pickles, and sauerkraut. That, my friend, is a kid’s version of a sirloin steak with all the trimmings.
He was basically a good guy, my dad. When he had his final stroke at fifty-three, I stopped breathing for a minute or two. I knew it was coming; hell, we both did after the first one. Even so, it cut me hard. To this day, I’ll take care of my own damned hair before I let anyone else touch it with a pair of scissors. Funny, that. I haven’t thought about Dunk’s in a long time. You don’t think about haircuts until you see someone coming towards you with long hair. It gives a man pause, makes him think about where his heart used to be. I’m twelve years older than he was when he passed. Doesn’t seem fair.