A Child of the Fifties

by Paul Schroder

Chapter 15

One Saturday I heard my Mother yelling for me. "Paul... come home now." Yelling was a mother's main messaging device all the way up until the 90's. They don't have to yell so much today as the kids don't seem to get any further than the back yard. Hand signals out the patio door seem to suffice.

I don't recall if I was at Jimmy's or Sam's but I came running home. It wasn't wise to keep Mother waiting. I ran up to the steps to find her waiting for me.

You need to wash your face and hands honey, and change your shirt. We're taking you to get a hair cut.

Now, this was something entirely unexpected. It was always our Father who gave us boys our haircuts. He'd been my only barber my entire life. He was pretty good at it too because he had a few years to practice on my brothers.

"How come, mother? Why isn't Father going to do it?"

"Well, Paul. Your mother just wasn't thinking ahead. You have your first day of school tomorrow and I forgot to have your Father take care of it when he was here."

"School, Mother? I get to go to school tomorrow?"

Wow, now that's some big boy stuff. Both my brothers go to school. Sam goes to school. I start dancing and shooting my fingers in the air like Yosemite Sam. I blow the smoke off my finger guns and think... I wonder if Jimmy is going to school too?

All of a sudden I'm feeling nervous and I ask my Mother "will Jimmy be going to school too, Mother?"

"Well, I haven't asked his mother but I'm sure he will be. He's the same age as you."

This gives me a level of comfort. This is a big, scary step, after all.

"Hurry up, get washed up. Your clean shirt is laying on top of your bed."

On the way to the barber shop I squat on the front seat of our station wagon so that I can see out the windows good. Kids were basically just small, guided missiles in cars in those years. It just took a fairly good accident to launch us into low orbit. Cars had seat belts for five years before my Father would wear one. He figured they were for sissies.

And speaking of my Father, it turns out this was my Father's barber we were going to. He went to this barber since he and Mother were married. I believe his name was Adam, although I'm not completely sure. I remember his shop though.

There were three chairs lined up in a row with a long counter behind them and huge mirrors behind the counters. The chairs were set up in three identical stations. There were jars of combs soaking in green stuff and shiny metal containers like in the doctor's office. Hair trimmers hung on hooks and their long cords draped down to the floor.

He had chairs along the opposite wall along with some tables loaded with magazines. There weren't any customers waiting though because it was early afternoon.

Adam knew my mother and they greeted one another. He looks at me and says, "I guess Bill Junior here needs a trim for school tomorrow, eh?"

"Oh," mother chuckles, "this is our youngest, Paul. Bill Junior is in high school now."

"You don't say? Boy, I swear, 10 days must go by for each day that I wake up." And he shakes his head.

"Wow... do you know Rip Van Winkle, mister barber?" I ask.

"I guess it would seem that way to a youngster. You will find that the older you get the faster that time starts whizzing by."

"Hop up here young fellow," and he pats the back of a barber chair, "and we'll lower your ears."

I turn and look up at Mother, wide-eyed and a bit in shock.

She chuckles and tells me "it's just an expression, honey. He isn't going to do anything to your ears."

Phew...the old guy needs to learn to speak English, I'm thinking.

I climb up into the chair as I'm directed and proceed to slip my shirt off and hand it to my mother. She takes it from me, grinning, and explains to Adam, "hair makes him itch, so his Dad has him remove his shirt so he can clean it off his neck and shoulders easier."

"Makes sense," Adam tells us. And he whips out a big ol' black apron that he wraps around me and the upper half of the chair. I feel him fasten it behind my neck.

"So," he says, evidently directed towards my mother, "a regular boy's cut?"

I can't hear her answer so I assume she just nodded her head. But I also pretended he was asking me, and not my mother. "Not today, Adam." I reply casually. "Give me a Mohawk, please."

I had crossed my fingers knowing they couldn't be seen under the apron but they weren't very effective.

Both my mother and Adam laugh and my mother says, "you can have one when your thirty, son."

Well, I guess that's better than being told no.

Mother sits down across from us and I hear the snap, buzz of Adam's clippers starting up. He puts his hand on top of my head and pushes my head down, towards my lap, and starts at my neck.

I guess mother neglected to tell Adam how ticklish I was, especially on my neck. Dad has known about it all my life so he warns me to "keep your ass still, dammit, because here they come." And then I'm in a vise grip.

I can feel the intense vibration of those clippers all the way down to my toes. My head snaps up defensively and poor old Adam makes an audible gasp!

He snaps the clippers off and says. "Well, he's getting a pretty dang good start on that Mohawk he asked for."

My mother's mouth goes into an "oh" shape and she gets up and looks at the back of my neck.

"Sigh! Well, just blend it in the best you can. His Dad holds his head in a vise grip when he trims his neck. I'm sorry I didn't think to warn you"

I had felt that thing buzz up the back of my neck and part way up my skull. And so, of course, I just had to see the damages. Ol' Adam was intent on finishing the job but I wasn't having any of it.

I'm doing my best to twist around in my seat so I can face the mirrors behind me. Adam figures out what I'm trying to do so he just swivels the entire chair around. I can see myself good in that wall of mirrors. Problem is I can only see my front and not the back.

Adam grins and asks, "you're sure you really wanna see the damages son?"

I nod accordingly and he gets this serious expression on his face. "You're sure... cuz it's kinda bloody and all."

Boy howdy, that got me. My eyeballs pop open and I slap my hand back there. I knew that as soon as I saw the blood on my hand I was gonna pass out. I sort of tensed all my muscles, steeled my nerves and pulled my hand around front. Nothing!

Ol' Adam is just chuckling away. I look up at him like he's Satan himself. His grin drys up quick because I think he can see retribution in my eyes.

"Here you go, Sonny. Take this mirror and hold it behind you. If you twist it just right you can see the buzz mark. And it won't look so bad once I even it out a bit."

He's right. It doesn't go as far up my head as I thought it did. It's a strip about two inches up from the nape of my neck. I hand the mirror back and haven't said word one to ol' Adam. I think that makes him nervous.

He just sighs, turns the chair back around and gets busy trimming away. After a little bit he points to the calendar he has hanging on the wall. It has a picture of Mount Rushmore with the President's heads carved into it. I saw that picture in one of Billy's school books.

"Do you know how the artists were able to carve our Presidents into that rock and make it look so real?"

"No" I said. I couldn't imagine the effort involved in such an undertaking.

"It was quite simple, really, when you think about it." I knit my brows together and glanced up at him.

"How could that be easy?" I asked the loony ol' bird.

"Well, shucks son. All you gotta do is chop away the parts of the rock that don't look like a President."

I thought about his disclaimer for about 3 seconds and then I was howling in laughter. My mother was chuckling as well. Adam paused the haircut so as not to make another slash.

Okay then. The ol' fart had redeemed himself.

"Say, Mr Adam, did you tell my father that joke?"

"No, I don't believe I have."

"Well is it all right with you if I get to tell it to him?"

"Well, I'll tell you what, youngster. If you'll forgive me for teasing you about cutting your neck, I will relegate to you all my rights to that joke."

"Does that mean yes?"

"Yes, son. It means yes."

"Okay then. I figure I won't pay you back for your trick then."

He grins and unsnaps the apron from around my neck.

"Don't get up yet, pardner, let me clean off the loose hair."

He brushed my neck and shoulders with a soft brush smelling of talcum powder. Mother handed me my shirt and while I put it on she paid for my hair cut.

"Say, Adam," I ask, climbing down from the chair, "did you give my father his haircuts when he was a little boy?"

That seemed to set him back a bit. "Just how old do you think I am, boy?"

I just look up at him and grin. "Gotcha" I told him. "Let's go, Mother. I need to make sure Jimmy is going to school too. Oh... and Sam too."

On the ride home my mother tells me, "now you know why we made you put those pants and shirts away you got for Christmas. I knew you'd want to wear something nice on your first day of school."

"Good thinking, mother. Say, how come my brothers have already started school?"

"They go to a different school that you, son. You and Jimmy and Sam will go to the elementary school."

"Wow... does detective Holmes teach there?"

Mother knit her brows together in confusion. "Why would you ask that, Paul?"

"Why, elementary my dear Mother... hahahahahaha!"

That first day of school was super interesting. The teacher smiled a lot and was pretty. I was still kinda nervous but every kid in there was nervous too. Most of them knew each other cuz they'd all gone to kindergarten. I don't know why my Mother didn't let me go.

Anyway, one little girl was so nervous she cried all morning. Jimmy finally sighed and went over and sat next to her and held her hand. That made her quite and she just kept staring at Jimmy kinda dreamy eyed. Hahaha... he looks over at me and just shakes his head and rolls his eyes. The teacher gave him a hug after class was over and thanked him. When we were on the bus he said he knew what to do because he had a little sister. "Yea," I giggled, "but your sister isn't in love with you!" I got an arm punch over that.

Sam was the one that got us all on the right bus. And she was talking non stop about her day. She said the kids weren't all stuck up like they were at her old school. And then she says, "but I figure I could beat up just about anyone in my class if I had to."

Jimmy and I looked at each other and grinned. I would pay to see Sam rocket some guy to the moon.

When we got home, Mother made me take off my good clothes. After I changed I grabbed a comic off my stack, all excited like.

My mother heard me yelling from the kitchen. "Ding dang it! It didn't work!" I came trudging into the kitchen, comic in hand and threw it disgustedly onto the kitchen table.

"What didn't work, Son?"

"School. School didn't work, Mother. I was there for a whole day already and I still can't read my comics!"

She sat on a chair next to me and ran her hand through my hair. I didn't own my own comb in those days and mothers fingers were about the closest thing to a daily combing I got. She gave me a kinda wistful looking smile.

"I can't believe you're in school already. I tried to keep you with me an extra year. I knew you were smart enough you didn't need kindergarten. I guess I just don't want you growing up. Your brothers are so big now and they don't seem to need me anymore.

I could hear the sadness in her voice and so I slid off my chair and climbed up onto her lap. We kinda hugged and rocked for a little bit. Then Mother slid me off her lap and pointed to my comic.

"Reading doesn't happen overnight," she said. "But you do your work at school and listen to your teacher and, I promise, you'll be able to read by Christmas."

"Oh," she continued, "and my prized student gets a snack everyday after school." She set down a small plate with a cut up apple and some cheese squares on it along with a glass of milk. I grin and say "wor's my whiskey, woman?" That earns me a grin and wink.

I met Jimmy as he was coming out of his door. He'd changed too. We walked over to Sam's together. Mrs Humphreys let us in and told us to go on back to Sam's room. When we did we noticed Sam was still in her school dress.

We didn't have to wear uniforms at our school but boys did have to wear long pants and girls were expected to wear dresses. Me n' Jimmy never heard her complain once about wearing a dress and that's not like Sam at all.

"How come you haven't changed yet, Sam?" Jimmy asks her.

"I have, Jimmy." This isn't the dress I wore to school.

Now the two of us are ALL confused. That means she came home and actually put on another dress.

"Are your parents taking you somewhere, Sam? Is that why you're wearing a dress?"

"Ahem..." she clears her throat and says, "I've decided I want to try being a girl again, for awhile. I figure if I don't like it I can always change back."

I can see Jimmy's ready to get all worked up. "But...but, you can't spit or cuss and... and you can't do headstands cuz boys will see your underwear and... DAMMIT Sam... why?"

Everything Jimmy's saying out loud I'm thinking. It's like we are about to mourn the loss of a friend. Sam has passed away and some girl wants to take her place.

Sam... I mean, Samantha tells us, "I liked some boys at my old school. But the boys I liked didn't like girls. So I quit being a girl and made some really good friends, the two of you, I mean. But there are some boys in my class now that are talking with girls and playing with us at recess and I kind of like it. I liked being a girl today. And, there's this one boy that said I'm cute." Her cheeks turned rosy red with that admission.

Jimmy doesn't seem to be buying it. He has this big ol frowny face. Sam notices it and continues.

"I'm still me, Jimmy. I still spit and cuss and I don't care if someone sees my underpants. We can still wrestle and I'll still tickle you until you pee. Jimmy... you don't have to treat me one bit different. I'm happy with the way you treat me cuz we're friends. The three of us are best friends."

She spits in her hand and holds it out towards Jimmy. Jimmy waits a bit, gives a small smile, spits in his own hand and shakes hers. I get to repeat the routine but I also get a hug.

"Does this mean we gotta call you Samantha?" He asks.

"I'd like that. But you don't hafta. My friends get special privileges."

With all that settled, the three of us wander towards the front door. We've decided to go ride our bikes for awhile. Mrs Humphreys walks up to the door with us.

"Everything all right, Boys?" She asks.

"Yes Ma'am," we reply.

"I can understand if you feel like your going to miss your friend Sam, but I think you'll find that your friend Samantha can be just as good a friend." And, as her Momma, I really missed her and I'm so glad she's back. Samantha gives her a quick hug.

Then Jimmy pipes up with "yeah... okay. But don't expect us to be having no sex with her cuz we don't like girls!" He gives an emphatic nod of his head with that statement.

Missus Humphreys looks kinda startled and stands there speechless for a minute. Then she looks at Jimmy, all serious like, and nods her head.

"Alright, Jimmy, we will keep that in mind."

As she closes the door behind us I can hear her burst out in laughter. Jimmy doesn't seem to care so I don't say nuthin.

Next time, I see my brother Dick doing sex stuff. Ewwww. Write to me and tell me if I should tell Sam or not.

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