Ron is a long-time writer of non-fiction articles who also enjoys writing short fiction.
Buddy didn't want to have his hair cut; it was just that simple. But the question was, how to prevent it.
He’d been excited when his dad told him they were going for a drive. So he ran and jumped eagerly into the car, his excitement growing as his dad drove toward the strip mall where Buddy’s favorite ice cream shop was located. When they swung into the mall parking lot, Buddy was already looking with anticipation toward the Mr. Freeze store located just a few doors away on the right. But instead of turning toward Mr. Freeze, Buddy’s dad went in the opposite direction, and finally pulled into a parking space in front of Mr. Paul’s barbershop. When Buddy realized the awful truth, he felt betrayed. Although his dad hadn’t said anything about it, Buddy knew exactly what was coming, and he was outraged.
A haircut! Without even warning him, or giving him a chance to escape, his father had tricked him into coming to get his hair cut.
It wasn't that Buddy didn't want his hair to be neatly trimmed – he didn’t care about that one way or the other – but he loathed the process of getting it that way. Especially that part about having to sit absolutely still for an extremely long time while the barber did awful things to his head. So, as his father lifted him onto the children's board laid across the arms of the barber’s chair, you could see in Buddy's eyes a fierce determination to resist this indignity to the bitter end.
But four-year-old Buddy knew he had to be careful, or his resistance could result in some serious consequences to himself. Frank, his father, was a no-nonsense type who made sure that Buddy understood from his earliest days that disobedience to parental authority would always be a very uncomfortable proposition. So, when Buddy tried to climb back into his father's arms from the seat where he had been placed, Frank simply commanded, "Buddy, be still!" He then went and sat down as if it never crossed his mind that Buddy might not cooperate.
Even at the tender age of four Buddy was a thoughtful young man. So he sat and studied his problem. He didn't want a haircut, and he had made up his mind not to let the barber even touch him. But he knew from bitter experience that if he made a fuss, his dad would make his life very difficult when they got home. What could he do to mount a determined resistance without letting himself in for some painful consequences?
It was a tough problem, and Buddy became very still as he tried to think it through. He thought, and thought, and thought some more, and finally decided that there was just no choice. It was a matter of principle. If he chickened out on this, to what even deeper depths might he fall later in life? He was going to have to loudly refuse to let that barber cut a single strand of his hair, and he’d just have to take whatever consequences his father would mete out to him. After all, even four-year-olds had their dignity to uphold.
But just as he began to screw up his face into a mask of defiance, and started to open his mouth to scream out to the whole barbershop a loud, rebellious "no!", he saw that his father had already gotten up out of his chair and was moving toward him. Buddy froze. He hadn't even done anything yet. He knew that his dad was usually a step ahead of him, but this was ridiculous!
As Buddy was trying to adjust to his father's prescience, Mr. Paul, the barber, was congratulating Frank on his well-behaved son.
"Yes," said Mr. Paul, "it's very unusual for a young one like this to remain perfectly still throughout the whole haircut."
"Well, Buddy is a good boy," agreed Frank, as he lifted his astonished son from the barber's chair. "He usually gives a lot more trouble than this, but maybe he's beginning to grow up."
With amazement Buddy realized that while he had sat there thinking and thinking about how to protest this whole outlandish procedure, the barber had completed his ministrations – the haircut was over!
Thus was born the habit that stuck with Buddy all his life. Many years later he would confess in a television interview that the idea for the novel that won him a Pulitzer Prize was worked out as he sat in a barber's chair, concentrating hard in order to forget what was happening to his head.
© 2018 Ronald E Franklin