Wednesday, November 30, 2011


The Backyard Haircut

Bean ran for his life. He was just out of reach of the whirling blades of a giant lawn mower. The air was thick with blue smoke and the smell of sweet cut grass. Heat from the engine glowed red hot on the back of his neck. Bean peeked over his shoulder as he ran. Yellow mower eyes gleamed above a cruel mower mouth.
Don’t slow down”, he said to himself, legs pumping like pistons. But escape was impossible. With each step his feet plunged deeper and deeper into the soft, squishy earth until only his head and shoulders remained above the long, green grass. The lawn mower was very close now. A wide ribbon of neatly cut grass unrolled behind it to the horizon and disappeared over the edge.
He was trapped, arms pinned to his sides. The ground shook and quaked around him. The whine of the blades was loud and shrill. All that shaking, quaking and whining made him dizzy. Dust and grass swirled around his head in a bristling cloud. His nose tickled. It was hard to breathe.
Bean slowly opened his eyes and rubbed his head. He was lying on the floor next to his bed, tangled in the covers. Arrow, his slobbering dog, painted his nose with her gritty tongue. A loud sputtering sound filled his room. His neighbor Mr. Cadillac, a retired weatherman, was mowing his lawn. It was a chore he did every Saturday morning.
Bean exhaled a long sigh of relief, enough to inflate a large balloon. There was no monster mower with yellow eyes and teeth. He smiled. It was Saturday. But just as quickly, his smile melted away like ice cream on a hot summer day. Saturday was Hair Cut Day. Beans balloon deflated with a loud and impolite PLZZZZZGH!
Dad pulled his big, black bag down from the shelf in the front hall closet. The bag contained every kind of hair-cutting tool and accessory ever made. It held long scissors and short ones. Inside were blunt-nose scissors that looked like dolphins, and ones with rows of serrated teeth that would make a shark give up an eye tooth. One pair had a tail attached to the round thumb hole, forming the letter Q. They seemed to be scolding “QUIET” or “QUIT YOUR SQUIRMING”.
There were combs of every color and size. One was transparent like a stained glass church window. Another was fat, purple and looked like a rake. A long, thin yellow one made a sound like a xylophone when you plinked the tines with your finger. A bone-handled modal sprang open like a pocket knife when you pressed a hidden latch.
Tubes of jell and tins of wax mingled with long chains of gigantic safety pins. A cracked mirror in a pink plastic frame reflected the cover of a book called 101 POPULAR HAIR STYLES FOR KIDS, 2nd Edition. The cover was a picture of a boy about Beans age, taken a very long time ago. His hair looked chewed by weasels.
Deep inside the bag, past the wax and scissors and combs, at the very bottom where light never reached, something else waited patiently. Dad lifted it from the bag and held it up like a newborn kitten. He whispered to it as he slid the thing from its blue velvet bag. It had a hard shell that was cool to the touch. A steel nameplate riveted to the side read DYNALUX ELECTRO-GLIDE 5000-THE WORLDS MOST POWERFUL ELECTRIC RAZOR-WITH SWISS MOVEMENT.
Swiss Movement? Bean couldn’t help but imagine squads of tiny mountain gnomes skiing over his head with long scythes, mowing down rows of hair.

In the backyard crates were stacked on boxes, crowned by a rickety three legged stool. The crooked tower cast a long, black shadow across Arrow asleep in the driveway. It could be seen for blocks around. A thick orange electrical cord snaked out of the garage and wound around and up the tower. Dad appeared with the DYNALUX ELECTRO-GLIDE 5000 cradled in his hands. He gazed lovingly at the sleek machine like a man about to speed off in a fast, red sports car.
Slowly Bean climbed the dark tower. Escape was impossible. “Arrow”, said Bean, “save me, boy!” The dog eyed the Swiss monsters’ shiny steel blades. He slunk away with a low growl.
. Dad pinned a bed sheet tightly around Beans neck like a backward cape. He peered into his black bag and sorted through a handful of chunky cutting attachments. He selected a bright red one and snapped it into place over the sharp blades of the DYNALUX. It looked like the cow-catcher on the front of a wild-west steam locomotive.
Dad connected the power cord, threw the switch and the DYNALUX ELECTRO-GLIDE 5000 roared to life. The air was filled with a metallic buzz. The machine snarled, “I’m gonna peel your bean, Old Bean!”, or so it seemed.
Dad pointed the razor at him. He looked very serious. “Don’t move a muscle or I’m liable to gap you”, said Dad
Bean sat still as a statue. The DYNALUX ELECTRO-GLIDE 5000 looked like it could cut a gap wider than the Grand Canyon in the blink of an eye.
Dad put on his glasses and opened 101 Popular Hairstyles for Kids. He studied a complicated diagram for cut number thirty-eight, the Riviera Hi-Top. He didn’t notice Mr. Cadillac approaching from the other side of the fence. The old weatherman reached across and grabbed the razor. He offered to demonstrate a haircut called the Wind Shear that could withstand gusts up to eighty miles per hour.
He lost control of the machine. The thrumming razor skipped across Mr. Cadillac’s head in a funnel cloud of grey fuzz. It left a twisted path of devastation in its wake.
Mrs. Finchpheeder, the widow from across the street, appeared and gently took the razor from Mr. Cadillac’s trembling hand.
Let me show you a style called the Rocky Mountain Avalanche ”, she said. “It was a favorite of my late husband.” Mr. Finchpheeder had been a famous mountaineer.
Mrs.Finchpheeder looked like a squat, jolly Statue of Liberty. She thrust the DYNALUX ELECTRO-GLIDE 5000 high above her head. The razor took off like a helicopter. It hovered and dove over the mountainous coiffure piled atop her head. It set off an epic landslide of blue hair.
Teapot, the man who delivered the Daily Blab and Cackle, came up the walk. He pointed to a front page color photograph of the Great French Chef Yves Du Declare, a man more famous for his wavy golden mane than for his Tangy Mango Flan. Teapot snatched the razor away. The Swiss machine revved like a turbo-charged blender. It grated, chopped and pureed Teapots curly tresses into a light and fluffy soufflé, which promptly fell.
Perrault, the mailman, relieved Teapot of the little machine. “Dis ting it sound like dat devil Buck” he said, “Mrs. Beaglemans beeg, bad Husky dog.” The DYNALUX ELECTRO-GLIDE 5000 leaped from his hand. It circled around and came in low from behind. The razor pounced on Perrault. “ By gar, eet is lek mad dog, I tell you wat”, yelled Perrault!
Give that thing to me, sailor” said old Admiral Horace W. Ledbottom, USN (Ret.). The Admiral had been tending his wife’s grape arbor up the street. “The boy needs a flat-top”, said the old salt. “Man your battle stations! Full speed ahead! Damn the torpedo’s!”
The ELECTRAGLIDE came about and mounted a surprise attack on the old gobs’ noggin. “Remember Pearls’ arbor!” cried Admiral Ledbottom.
Across the way, head-phoned Roddy Mipod stood working on a ladder. He hummed along with the music as he trimmed his hedge. The 5000 swooped in, cutting an arc through the air and tore into the junipers. While Roddy warbled “Love, love me do, you know I love you”, the DYNALUX sculpted a topiary tribute to Paul, John, George and Ringo. It was a very good likeness of the Fab Four.
Arrow tried to run, but the D.E. 5000 had legs. Faster than you could say casaba melon the poor dog stood shivering, shorn smooth as an eggplant.
Dad lunged for the razor. The ELECTAGLIDE dodged him easily. It transformed his shirt into a colorful bird’s nest of thread then shaved the words “SWISS POWER” into the hair on his chest.
Finally, the ELECTRAGLIDE turned slowly toward Bean. Hovering two inches from his nose it swayed like a mesmerized cobra. Bean sat frozen under the cape. There seemed to be no escape. With a loud BRZZZZZA the razor shot forward. Bean clamped his eyes shut. His nightmare was about to come true.
The orange extension cord Dad used was exactly fifty feet long. It wound around Mr. Cadillac, Mrs. Finchpheeder, Teapot, Perrault, the Admiral, Roddy, The Beatles, Arrow and Dad, a distance of precisely forty-nine feet, eleven inches. One inch shy of Bean’s head, the plug yanked free from the electric outlet. The 5000 had reached the end of its lifeline. It clattered to the ground and lay still and smoking.
Bean helped Dad bury the ELECTRAGLIDE 5000 in the backyard. Arrow stood by growling, wearing a warm doggie sweater. From that day forward, Bean got his hair cut at the barbershop. He never got a backyard haircut again.

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