Home / Issue 35 / The Barber

The Barber (A Ten-Minute Drama)

By James English

Cast of Characters


Melanie Axel:                         A mother. Forties or fifties.


Jeff Axel:                                 A father. Forties or fifties.


Sandra:                                     A barber. Any age.



Scene


A quiet room.



Time


The present.






JEFF


(Standing next to wife.) Where is she? (Looks at watch.) It’s after four.


MELANIE


She’ll be here. Why didn’t you let me make the appointment?


JEFF


I wanted a barber, not a stylist. You would’ve gotten a stylist.


MELANIE


I talked with Tony. He said either would be fine.


JEFF


He should’ve gotten his hair cut weeks ago. Why is everything always last minute?


MELANIE


When she arrives, I want to tell her what Tony wants. That way we won’t waste any time. People are coming in two hours, but you know my parents. They’ll be early.


JEFF


Would you stop saying that?


MELANIE


What?


JEFF


‘I talked with Tony.’ How do you know what he wants?


MELANIE


You should talk with him. If there’s ever a moment to talk, it’s now.


JEFF


Stop saying that!


MELANIE


I can’t help it. That’s how I feel. (Looks at watch.) Maybe she’s having trouble parking.


JEFF


I want him to look proper. Long hair says he doesn’t care how he looks.


MELANIE


How can you say that? He’s had it long for years.


JEFF


My nephew got married in shorts and a t-shirt. He had tattoos everywhere. It was a disgrace.


MELANIE


I thought he looked fine.


JEFF


My brother was furious. Tattoos at a wedding! What was my nephew thinking?


MELANIE


This isn’t the time to be critical. This is a special day.


JEFF


I hate it long. It’s all part of the same look…the motorcycle, the shabby friends, the loose lifestyle.


MELANIE


You always wanted him to be someone he wasn’t. And now you want to control his hair? This is his day! Leave him alone, for once!


JEFF


It’s not just his day. It’s our day too.


MELANIE


It’s not our day.


JEFF


What’s wrong with a crew cut? It’s dignified and serious.


MELANIE


He does not want a crew cut!


JEFF


How do you know that?


MELANIE


He’s my son! I know!


                (Door opens and barber enters with her bag.)


BARBER


Mr. and Mrs. Axel?


MELANIE


Hello!


BARBER


I’m Sandra. Sorry I’m late. The bride changed her mind at the last minute. What an emergency.


MELANIE


That must’ve been nerve-wracking.


BARBER


It was. Where’s Tony?


MELANIE


Upstairs.


BARBER


How’re the two of you doing?


JEFF


Fine.


MELANIE


Nervous.


BARBER


Of course you are. I know this is Tony’s day, as it should be, but I got the sense on the phone that the hair question was a bit contentious. Shall we take a few minutes to touch base?


JEFF


It’s not contentious. I told you what I wanted.


BARBER


I just wondered…with all due respect…I wondered if Mrs. Axel had any thoughts. On a day like this, I want everyone to be satisfied…I mean, as much as is possible. (Looks at watch.) Do we have time to chat for a few minutes?


JEFF


Tony needs to look dignified.


BARBER


Of course he does.


JEFF


We have people coming from all over! I don’t want my son looking like a hippie.


MELANIE


He doesn’t look like a hippie! His hair has always meant a lot to him. Who are we to tamper with that?


JEFF


It’s not just long. It’s dirty! He hardly ever washes it!

It’s an embarrassment!


MELANIE


He hasn’t had short hair in years. If he gets a crew cut, people won’t even recognize him.


JEFF


Yes, they will! They’ll say to themselves: Finally, the Axel boy has grown up.


MELANIE


Jeff! How can you say that? It’s so hurtful!


JEFF


I’m sorry, but I’ve always hated his hair. It’s as if he’s been sticking his finger in my eye ever since he was fourteen. And now, at twenty-eight, he’s punching me in the face!


MELANIE


Why can’t you respect him for who he is?


JEFF


I’ve tried…believe me…I’ve tried…but now…today…it’s come to a head.


                (Silence.)


BARBER


Shall I go up and handle it myself?


MELANIE


Wait! I need to talk a little more with you. For my peace of mind.


JEFF


No! Go up there! You’ll see what I’m talking about. Just make sure it’s short!


MELANIE


No!


BARBER


If you don’t mind, Mr. Axel, I’d like to give your wife a chance to talk.


JEFF


(Shrugs.)


MELANIE


You’ve done this before, right?


BARBER


Yes. Many times.


MELANIE


So you understand that the parents can have reactions…they can have feelings about the event? They want everything to go well and be in place. They don’t want any surprises.


BARBER


Of course. No one wants surprises.


MELANIE


If there’s conflict about hair, which must happen sometimes, and how do you handle that?


BARBER


Naturally, I try to respect what the client would want.


MELANIE


Yes.


BARBER


It’s his or her day, after all.


MELANIE


Of course it is.


BARBER


But if feelings are running high, for whatever reason, I try to listen. I try to see if the parents and children can reach some agreement about the details…to keep peace in the family.


MELANIE


What do you mean?


BARBER


Color and length and style…things like that.


MELANIE


What else?


JEFF


We’re wasting time, Melanie. Let Sandra go up there and do her job.


MELANIE


She is doing her job. She’s helping me. This is harder than I expected.


BARBER


It is hard.


MELANIE


Just talking with someone who has experience with this…it feels…I don’t know…it’s such a help.


BARBER


Everyone has strong feelings at a time like this. It would be odd not to have strong feelings.


MELANIE


Please…say more.


BARBER


Every situation is different, but in most cases, I take a look and then I break the head up into seven parts: the top, left side, right side, back, left sideburn area, right sideburn area, and the fringe. I like to know how much hair they want taken away from each part.


MELANIE


Seven parts…my hairdresser never talked about that.


JEFF


Take away all of it! The top, the sides, and the fringe.


MELANIE


Jeff, please!


BARBER


Mr. Axel, I don’t mean to be intrusive, and I apologize if I am, but seeing how upset your wife is, do you suppose you could try to listen to her? You don’t have to agree, but can you at least hear her out? It’s not uncommon for parents to disagree about their children’s hair.


JEFF


I don’t care about other parents!


BARBER


(Looks at Melanie.) Do you have any other questions?


MELANIE


No.


BARBER


Shall I go up myself…or shall we do this together?


JEFF


You do it.


MELANIE


No! I want to join you. Jeff, I want you to come with us.


JEFF


I don’t need to be there. I just want Sandra to cut Tony’s hair short and go.


MELANIE


Please, Jeff. This is important to me.


BARBER


Mr. Axel?


JEFF


What difference will it make if I’m there?


MELANIE


Tony is going to see us together. He’s going to know we’re a team.


JEFF


What does that matter?


MELANIE


Please. Do it for me…do it for us.


SANDRA


Well?


JEFF


All right.


BARBER


Can you show me the way?


MELANIE


Yes.


(They mime going up a set of stairs. They walk slowly to a mesh screen, stage left, and stand behind it. The light is such that we can see their gestures as they stand around a gurney or stretcher of some sort.)


BARBER


(Puts down her bag. Pause. Leans over the stretcher.) He’s handsome.


MOTHER


Yes, he is.


BARBER


He has his father’s chin.


MOTHER


Yes.


BARBER


And such beautiful hair. (To Jeff.) He has your curl pattern.


JEFF


(Suddenly bows his head and holds his face in his hands.)


BARBER


I know this isn’t easy. We’ll go slowly. Are you going to be okay?


MELANIE


Jeff, can you talk to him?


JEFF


How can I talk? He’s dead.


MELANIE


No! He can hear us! I know he can! I talked with him this morning. I asked him how he wanted his hair. Please…try.


JEFF


I don’t know what to say.


MELANIE


Say whatever comes to mind.


JEFF


What? What am I supposed to say?


MELANIE


Tell Tony you liked being his Little League coach. Tell him how proud you felt when he hit that homerun against Hayes Oil.


JEFF


(Holds face in his hands.)


MELANIE


Tell him you were a teenager yourself. Tell him you rebelled against your father and bought a motorcycle.


JEFF


(Shakes head.)


MELANIE


Tell Tony you loved him. Tell him you may have had your differences, but you loved him, no matter what.


                (Silence.)


BARBER


Shall I leave? So the three of you can talk?


MELANIE


No! I want you here!


BARBER


Are you sure?


MELANIE


Yes. Having someone who’s done this many times before…I don’t know why it helps, but it does.


BARBER


Yes…people have said that to me. (Pause.) Shall we begin?


MELANIE


Yes.


BARBER


Mr. Axel?


JEFF


(Nods.)


BARBER


I’ll do whatever the two of you want, but it does seem a shame to cut it all off. How about if I cut a little bit and we see how that looks?


MOTHER


Jeff, what do you think?


JEFF


(Nods. His hands still cover his face.)


BARBER


Let me get my clippers. (Sound of zipper opening.) Mr. Axel, could you stand on the other side of the table, raise Tony’s head, and hold it steady while I trim around the back? Could you do that for me?


JEFF


(Moves to other side of table.)


BARBER


Do you know how to hold a head?


JEFF


(Stares at the barber.)


BARBER


It’s not often that we take someone’s head in our hands. I remember holding my son’s head when he was a baby. Do you remember that…holding Tony’s infant head?


MELANIE


(Starts to cry.)


BARBER


Cup your hands around the base of Tony’s head…with your thumbs touching his ears.


JEFF


(Reaches out for Tony’s head.)


MELANIE


That’s it, Jeff.


JEFF


(Nods.)


BARBER


That’s good, Mr. Axel. Now, can you lift up an inch? (Pause.) That’s it. You’re doing a nice job. (Sound of clippers.) We’ll do the left sideburn area, then the right sideburn area, and then we’ll decide about the fringe. How does that sound? (More hair cutting sounds as the lights fade.)






END