Cora pushed her hair from her eyes and examined the eighteen-inch-high white neon letters, all capitals, floating dead center in the display windows; the left window, PSYCHIC, the right window, BARBER. Even though they seemed a matched set, Cora was certain they weren’t meant to be read together; they couldn’t be.
Since Tuesday, when she first spotted the signs on her way to work, the notion had consumed her. She had taken any little opportunity to walk past the shop, always on the other side of the street, of course.
Cora had never been an impulsive person, not for a single day of her twenty-seven years. So, most of the folks in the small Ohio town where she had taught for five years were convinced she had lost her mind, when she announced that she was moving to Seattle.
“You have taken leave of your senses,” Emma Huber said. “Moving clear across the country.” That had been the Thursday before Cora left town; Emma had been her landlady.
No,” Cora replied. “I just need something different.”
But, until Tuesday, Seattle hadn’t turned out to be that different from Ohio. Classes. Meetings. A movie or a book, and bed. The neon signs called to her, now, offering mystery; today she would be bold and find adventure.
A chime sounded as she entered; a real bell set on a spring above the door. Inside, one wall was mirrored, the other lined with chrome and leather chairs. There was no one in the place, other than a pleasant-looking fellow, in a white tunic, who stood beside the lone barber’s chair, holding a full black bib.
“Hello, Miss Winchell,” he said. “My name is Gideon.”
“How do you know my name?” Cora asked. Gideon pointed toward the window with the tip of his shears.
“Come on,” he replied. “Wouldn’t be much of a psychic, if I didn’t.” He pointed with the scissors again. “You’ve come to get rid of that mop.”
“Sit down. I know just what you need.”
Gideon snapped the bib open, waving it before him as if he were a matador, and, in a rush, Cora was settled into his chair, bib snugged under her chin and clipped into place behind her neck.
“It’s been forever since I was in a barber shop,” she said. “When–”
“When you were a tyke, your daddy used to take you along when he went to see–what was that fellow’s name?” Gideon turned her away from the mirror and began to work.
She smiled, remembering Saturday mornings, snuggled in the special chair just her size, listening to the snip of the scissors and the men talking.
“His name was Myron.”
“That’s the fellow,” Gideon said. “Dark hair and a big nose. Had to stand on a box to cut your daddy’s hair.
“Come on,” Gideon said. Interrupting.
He snipped away and after a time, the bell chimed. A young man entered; tall and a bit pudgy, but nice-looking nevertheless. When he spotted Cora in the chair, he see-sawed to a stop, one hand still on the doorknob.
“Don’t be bashful,” Gideon said. He didn’t stop cutting.
“Am I early?” the young man asked.
“Nope. Eleven-thirty, just like I told you on the phone,” Gideon replied. “Take a load off, while I finish the lady.” Gideon pointed to the seat opposite the barber chair; the young man settled in and glanced about the shop.
“Any magazines?” he asked. Cora liked his voice; it sounded like home.
“Nope,” Gideon said. Still working. “That’s what’s wrong with the world these days. Folks don’t talk anymore.” Gideon set the comb and scissors aside and took up a brush and spray bottle.
“Take you two,” he said. “If you had your nose in a magazine, you’d never know you and the young lady are both from Ohio.”
“And you’d never know she teaches English and you write books, or that you both could eat Thai food for a week and never get tired of it.” Cora and the young man looked at each other, both speechless.
“Daniel Scribner, this is Cora Winchell,” Gideon said. “Miss Winchell, Mr. Scribner.” They both said ‘how do you do’ at the same time and then laughed together.
“Okay,” Gideon said. “That’ll do it.” He twisted the bib away and held out his hand, helping Cora from the chair.
Cora twirled before the mirror, admiring her new haircut. It was short and full; framing her face as if it were a picture. She decided the cut brought out her eyes and the high roundness of her cheeks; she liked it. In the glass, Daniel was watching, smiling. She decided she liked that, too. Gideon waved to Daniel and the young man slid past Cora, into the chair.
“Just a little off the sides?” Gideon asked.
“How did you know?” Daniel replied.
“Come on,” Gideon said. “Wouldn’t be much of a barber, if I didn’t.” He reached to turn the chair, but Daniel held up his hand. It shook, ever so slightly.
“Miss Winchell,” he said. “Would you have lunch with me today? There’s a little Thai place just up the block.”
“Yes, Mr. Scribner.” Cora wondered who was speaking for her. “I’d like that.”
“Sit for a spell, then,” Gideon said. “Be done in a jiffy.” Cora settled in to wait, and the click of the scissors filled the shop. Then, Gideon whisked the bib away and Daniel stood, reaching for his wallet.
“How much?” he asked.
“Yes, Gideon,” Cora said. “What do I owe you?” Gideon waved away their questions.
“On the house,” he said. He slid his comb into a tunic pocket. “Consider them introductory cuts.”
K.C. Ball is a retired newspaper reporter and media relations coordinator. She lives in Seattle, a stone’s throw from Puget Sound, with the love of her life and two demanding cats. She writes because if she doesn’t she’ll just burst.