Richie was gnawing on his thoughts, such as they were, much like a Staffie does with an infant’s face. He was cutting my hair, being a barber like what he is, and his conversation was focused on his favourite current subject. His haircut technique, incidentally, involves trimming a bit, standing back, looking miserable, studying the bit he’s just trimmed, discussing women he’d like to shag but hasn’t quite got round to yet, then after briefly and distractedly scratching his groin, returning to the job in hand. Of the three barbers in town, he’s the most convenient. He also wears a flat cap.
“So, I just don’t get it. You went on holiday by yourself. And you never shagged any old ladies? I don’t believe you. If it was me, I’d have been shagging them all like a good ‘un. There’s always loads of old ladies looking for it. I’d have had them all back in my room, I’d have told them I had something nice to show them. And they wouldn’t be leaving until they’d seen it. Ha ha. And your Anita let you go on your own? My old lady wouldn’t have.”
I broke in upon his sordid train of fantasy, as he stepped back to admire his work. He sucked in hard and shook his head. In a builder it’s usually a worrying sign that something unexpected’s going to add a couple of hundred to the eventual invoice but with Richie it just means he’s internalising some vile sexual fantasy involving a non-consenting pensioner.
“Richie, my holiday was way back in the summer. Find something else to think about why don’t you? And it’s not a case of her “letting” me go. She goes away with her friends sometimes. I go away on my own sometimes, because I don’t have any friends whose company I could tolerate for more time than it takes to have a haircut, if you know what I mean, and usually we go away together. I think you’ve missed a bit there, me old mate.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Richie sighed. “I was about to do that bit. It makes me think though. You go away on your own. There’s women available. You don’t get a shag. You a queer or something? If you don’t mind me asking. I know you’re married and everything, but you know. Queers get married too. I read about it.” Once again, after snipping a few single hairs, he’d stepped back to drink in the results of his labours.
“Richie! You’re cutting my hair, you’re not restoring the Sistine Fucking Chapel. I want a haircut, it shouldn’t really be that difficult. And listen, I didn’t want a shagging holiday, I wanted to walk in the hills and swim in the sea and spend time winding my fragile psyche down to a tolerable level of numbness. And I’m not a queer, as you so charmingly put it. Do you actually get any queers in here for a haircut? And if you do, do they ever come back for more? And why isn’t Wee Fraser here any more?”
Richie turned to Ollie, the sullenly ginger man wearing a hi-vis bolero who had been patiently waiting his turn for a trim.
“See Ollie? I always told you he was the sensitive sort, didn’t I?”
Ollie was watching a game show on the telly. He looked at Richie. He looked into the mirror at me. Not a flicker of animation crossed his features.
“Alright Rich?” He asked Richie. “Alright mate? You nearly finished?” He asked me.
Richie indicated that he only had my eyebrows, ears and the tragic overhang where my nose meets my forehead to finish de-tufting and he would indeed be finished.
Life is usually sweet, but it’s sometimes like living in the village of the fucking damned.