Private Journal of Doctor Jack Tyler December 29th, 2012 “The Haircut” – Part III

     I frowned at my grandfather saying, “Hey, my hair isn’t that long.”

     “No, but it looks like the last time it was cut someone took a weed-whacker to it,” he grunted and gestured at the seat. “So which of you mop-tops is going to be first?”

     “Mop-Top?” Darlene repeated, scrunching up her face in such a way it was clear she didn’t know whether to be amused or confused.

     Luckily Cheryl came to her rescue, “That was a popular way of describing men with long hair back in the 60’s. I think it started when the Beatles came here to the United States for the first time.” Here she paused and studied me for a moment and then added, “You just need to look at your father to get a good idea of how long their hair was back then.”

mop tops

     My offspring gave me an appraising stare and then shook her head. “They considered that long? Looks more he’s losing some…”

     “That’ll do,” I cut in giving her a look that once upon a time would strike terror into her heart. Now all it did was earn me a mischievous grin. Sigh… they grow up fast and much harder to intimidate these days.

     Meanwhile, Nathan had hopped into the barber’s chair, much to my grandfather’s satisfaction. Especially when Nathan started asking him about the NY Mets.

     “That bunch of bums!” granddad snarled, while tying the styling cape around Nathan’s neck, “Don’t get me started. And why are you bringing them up? This isn’t baseball season.”

     “My point exactly,” Nathan replied cheerfully, “If they play during the off season they might actually find someone they can beat. Maybe a girl’s softball team for instance.”

     Darlene immediately jumped in saying, “You’ve got to be kidding. We’d mop the floor with those losers, any day of the year.”

     “You tell ‘im,” granddad smiled and turned back to Nathan, “She gets that from my side of the family.”

     “And mine!” added my grandmother pointedly. Then she turned to Cheryl and said in a stage-whisper, “He’ll never admit it, but he always loved the fact that I wouldn’t put up with his nonsense.”

     “Like hell,” granddad shot back, “I married you because no one else was willing to try to straighten you out so you’d behave more like a lady.”

     “And how did that work out for you?” Nathan asked innocently.

     Granddad glared at him for a second then murmured something about, “Gimme time. I’m still working on it.”

     I was about to comment how he’d already been working on her for almost 70 years, when I noticed my son Joe picking up an old photo album off the table. “Be careful with that,” I told him, “That contains some priceless pictures in it.”

     Naturally he gave me a skeptical look. “Dad, you say that about all the albums at home and it’s just filled with pictures of us when we growing up.”

     Looking up into the mirror, granddad saw which book Joe was holding and said, “Memories of family will be more precious than you’ll ever know one day. But that’s not what’s in that book. Those are photos, most of them signed, by some of my favorite customers from over the years. Go ahead and take a peek, you might recognize one or two faces.”

     Obligingly, my son did as he was told and immediately his eyes widened at the first image he came across. “Cary Grant!” he cried.

Cary-Grant

      “You’re kidding?” his sister gasped and went over to see for herself.

     Meanwhile, Granddad got to work on Nathan and was saying, “Really nice fella. Great head of hair. Loved working on it and passing the time with him. How old was he when you first brought him to my shop?”

      Nathan had to think for a moment. “Let’s see, he was still pretty new in the vaudeville circuit when I met him. I’d say he was just eighteen at the time.”

     “That’s what I thought,” Granddad nodded, “Always stopped in for a shave or a haircut whenever he came to town too.”

     Meanwhile Darlene had turned the next page in the album and started frowning. “Who’s the funny-looking guy with the big nose? Was he famous too?”

      “Let me see,” Nana told her and went to take a peek. After a moment she smiled, “Oh, that’s Jimmy.”

     “Which one, Stewart or the other one?” asked Granddad looking up from his work.

      Nana shook her head at him, “Did Jimmy Stewart ever have a big nose?”

Jimmy_Durante2

    Suddenly, Nathan leapt out of the chair and swung around. His nose had grown considerably as he started talking fast in a raspy, jolly voice. “Who’s got a big nose? Madam I’ll have you know this schnozzola has given me the world’s most memorable profile. It even got me into Guiness just last year.”

     I quickly jumped in. “You’re in the Guiness Book of World Records?”
“Nah,” Nathan replied in the same voice, “Any chump can into that old waste of paper. Nah, it got me into the Guinness brewery and straight into one of their vats. And lemme tell ya, it weren’t full when I fell in, but it was plenty empty when I got out. Ha-cha-cha-cha.”

     My son Joe, who had been frowning as if in deep thought, suddenly spoke up. “I know that voice. That’s the guy who was the narrator from the ‘Frosty the Snowman’ cartoon.”

     “Hey, that’s right,” his sister agreed. “And the cartoon version of him did have a big nose just like that.”

    “Dat’s right kids, and lemme tell ya. They still didn’t do it justice,” Nathan continued in Mr. Durante’s voice. “Why just the other day I…”

     At that point, Granddad grabbed Nathan by the arm and made him sit back in the chair. Of course this didn’t stop the rush of jokes coming out of his client. In fact it wasn’t until he pulled out the hot towel and placed it over the comedian’s face that the dialogue became more muffled, but not completely silent.

    From then on, the rest of us continued going through the album marveling at the number of famous folks who Granddad had had the pleasure of working on over the years. Nathan helped supply some visuals to the proceedings, much to everyone’s amusement and delight.

    When Granddad finished with Nathan, Joe was more than willing to sit in the chair next and get his hair cut. Not that he really needed it, but by this time he was eager to hear more of namesake’s stories. In the meantime I sat back and waited my turn in the chair. It was great seeing my kids really connecting with their great-grandparents. Like Granddad said earlier, memories about family were priceless and at that moment, I was wishing I had my phone out taking pictures. But I didn’t, because Nathan had already grabbed it and was shooting away.

   I later found out, both he and Cheryl had videotaped some of the exchanges and nonsense that followed. It was a great visit, but what made me the happiest was on the way home both Darlene and Joe asked when we were going to visit again.

     We made a lot of memories tonight and all because of a simple haircut.

    – The End

*Stay tuned for an all new story next time. Until then… Happy Reading everybody!  

Private Journal of Doctor Jack Tyler December 29th, 2012 “The Haircut” – Part II

            Darlene rolled her eyes at her brother and sighed, “I don’t know why he’d need a haircut. Does it really matter?” Then before he could answer, I saw her expression change. “Actually, that is a pretty good question. Dad…?”

            Holding up my hands I said, “Don’t ask me, I’m just here for Nana’s cookies and hot chocolate.” I wasn’t about to admit that I’d never really thought about it myself.

            Just then Nathan, who was not three feet away, turned to my grandmother saying, “You know I could’ve sworn I’d walked in with a bunch of people, was I just imagining things? Or did I suddenly turn invisible?”

            I watched her pat his arm and say, “No, you’re just getting to that age when everyone thinks you’ve gone deaf or your mind has gone wandering and you aren’t paying attention. I get that a lot.”

            “Not from me!” I called out loudly.

            Nathan looked around, “Did you hear something?”

            “Aw it’s just this old house creaking, or my joints, one or the other,” Nana told him.

            “Must be the house,” he assured her. “I told your dad when he was building it to use hickory but as he pointed out it was more expensive and harder to get here in Connecticut.”

            Nana laughed as she led us down the hallway.

barberspole

            There was an old barber pole on the wall, next to the door that led downstairs.

            My grandfather had been the town’s barber for over sixty-five years, before he finally ‘retired’. The shop was still in business but being run by one of my cousins who specialized in not only classic haircutting, but the more modern ‘faded’ style as well. I myself spent a lot of time in grand-dad’s shop when I was a boy and people often thought I’d follow in his footsteps. In reality, I was studying how he interacted with his customers since he always had a way with them. I learned an awful lot about putting people at ease and drawing them out from watching him, which has been a great asset to my medical practice.

            I slipped past Nathan as we reached the door to offered Nana my arm which she accepted, then we all headed downstairs.

            “Here we go through ‘Dr Who’s Tardis’ again,” I heard my son Joe murmuring behind me, only to be shushed by his sister saying, “Oh, shut up, I like that show.”

            “That’s just because you think the current one is cute,” he shot back.

            Glancing over my shoulder I saw Darlene make a face, “Ew… I’ll take David Tennant over him any day of the week. I mostly like the companions, especially Amy…”

            At that point Nana chimed in with, “I still prefer Tom Baker myself.”

            That earned several groans from the rest of us, although deep down I had to admit she had a point. He was a master of comic timing and seriousness when it came to the role of the Doctor. I would’ve said more but we’d just reached the bottom of the stairs and my grandfather’s ‘shop’.

            Even though my dad, Nathan, and I helped set the place up for him, I always found myself transported back to my childhood every time I came down here.

the-bookcase-and-barber

           One wall of the room was dominated by a large mirror, with shelving covered by numerous barber implements, stood before two chairs that had come from the shop itself. There was also a small flatscreen television staring down from above the mirror. In short, there were also other chairs and tables around the room, but to all intent and purposes, the place was a mini-barber shop. This had been my grandmother’s idea after a number of former clients kept pestering her husband for haircuts because he was the only one who knew how they liked their hair done. Plus, they missed having their regular bull sessions with him.

            But most of all, she knew my grandad missed keeping busy.

          My grandfather was lounging in the older of the two chairs, when we came down. Getting out of one of the chair, where he’d been reading the paper, he stood up. “About time you got here Nathan, I was about to…” he began then spotted me and my family. “Oh good, lord you brought the entire crew with you. Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me tonight.”

          TO BE CONTINUED…

        *Author’s Note: Sorry for the short entry. I was working on it this past weekend and had to go to get some routine lab work done (which took a couple of hours… groan). Plus family and a bad cold took more out of me.  Didn’t want to leave you all with nothing, so I figured a short entry was better than nothing, especially when I’m trying to do at least at two entries a month. To be concluded in two weeks… unless the story decides it wants to be longer.

Nathaniel’s Blog March 19th, 201- “An Evening With Family”

bookstore front

Finally got back into town after several weeks of book signings. Of all the things I’ve done over the years, I thought becoming a writer of novels would be the least demanding.  Boy was I wrong.  Writing the books was one thing.  I made my own hours, wrote when I felt like it, etc.  That was all well and good.  No one told me about the other half of the equation.

Finding an agent to represent me was a bit of an issue for a while, but I had time on my side and I eventually got one.  Then having them pitch and find a publisher was a bit of a wait, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  Once we found one and their editors got a hold of the manuscript, then things started to change.  Seeing my oh so wonderful pages come back covered in so much red I had to run to my ‘supply room’ just to make sure I hadn’t spilled any bags on the pages without realizing it.

Mind you, the day I got to see my first book on the shelves at the bookstores and online, was a real thrill.  It got even better when I found out it made the NY Times Besteller list.  I was so proud.  My hard work had paid off and I could sit back and relax while planning out the next installment in the series.

That’s when reality decided to come knocking at my door, and it brought it’s buddy ‘The Learning Curve’ along with it.

The demands for book signings and the interviews started pouring in.  It wasn’t easy getting people to understand I rarely do daytime appearances, and even those I keep short and sweet.  I have to glut my cells with fresh blood in order to handle the exposure, even at a minimum.  Unfortunately, this gives me a very ‘pink’ complexion that people often comment on.  I usually tell them I got a bad sunburn the day before.  Actually it’s partly happening right at that moment, but I can usually last a few hours so long as I’m not in direct sunlight. I learned this little trick decades ago out on the battlefield, but I also learned the downside of too much blood and the nasty side effects it could have.  It’s a delicate balancing act, but I’ve learned how to maintain a balance.

Anyway, with the latest round of publicity for the newest installment of my ‘Love Across Time’ series out of the way, it felt good to come back here and spend time with my godchildren.  Or rather, this particular set of godchildren.  Lord knows I’ve got a number of them out there, including a few overseas.

But, Brian and his family are rather special to me.  Their ancestors were friends of my family before I joined the Union Army.  One of my best friends was David Weston.  We fought and nearly died together several times.  He became highly decorated and became my captain in time, or rather just in time.  It was shortly after his promotion that I… became what I am.  I confided in him what had happened and he helped keep my secret by assigning me to night duty and scouting missions.

fallen soldier

When David fell at Gettysburg, I had myself listed among the fallen and came back here in secret to break the news to his widow Madeline, who was expecting at the time.  She had braved the lines to be near him and had been sent back home after becoming pregnant.  Upon hearing the news she went into labor and I was all she had available to help her with the delivery.  Long story short, I managed to keep my own needs in check while I helped deliver the first of my many godchildren.  Although, that boy, also became my step-son, two years later.  But that’s another story.

In any case, you can understand my attachment to this family, who also consider me one of their own.  Especially, Brian’s children Lisa and Geoffrey.  In spite of a thirteen year difference, Lisa is very attached to her baby brother.  Who sometimes attaches himself to me with a vengeance.  Like tonight.

He’s been well-behaved, but I couldn’t help noticing how he keeps watching me intently.  As if he’s hoping for something, but is afraid to ask.  I can’t figure out what he wants though.  I did the ‘money-shake’ thing with him as soon as I came in.  He loves being turned upside down and watching coins suddenly rain down around him.  I used to do it to his sister too, until she complained she was too old for that sort of thing.  Too bad.  I was going to start using dollar bills in her case.  Oh well.

Anyway, we’d just finished dinner and were sitting in the living room when Geoffrey finally comes up to me and asks, “Are your feet going woof yet?”

It takes me a moment to realize what he means.  I got into the habit of using a phrase from the 1930’s to complain about being on my feet too much.  The last time I did it in front of little Geoffrey, I’d used a little of my shape-shifting ability to produce two smaller versions of my ‘Black Dogs’ to play with him.  Poor little guy is allergic to dogs, which is sad because he loves to play with them.

I smile and grab a blanket from nearby.  After covering my legs with it I tell him, “As a matter of fact, my dogs are barking.”  Then I look down and he follows my gaze.

There is movement under the blanket and radiates down to where my feet would be.  A moment later, two black puppy-shaped heads peak out from beneath the blanket.

Immediately, the boy’s face lights up as they bark happily at him and pounce.  Since they’re smaller than what I usually produce, I was able to give them complete bodies this time.  I let them detach from me so they can play with Geoffrey.  As the three roll around on the floor together, Lisa comes to sit next to me.  She knows I won’t be able to move for a while, or at least until her brother gets tired and goes to bed, which will be in about an hour or so.  I hope.

“Would you like to come with me to The Crypt tonight?” I ask her, knowing it will be all right with her parents.  I checked with them earlier.  “It’s Friday so there’s no school tomorrow.”

“YES!” she cries excitedly and kisses me on the cheek.

As she takes off to get ready, I turn to Brian and his wife Mary, “Don’t say I never give you any time off from your kids.  Just make sure you enjoy yourselves.  Maybe you can make me another godchild.”

“No way,” Mary replies archly, “I got my tubes tied after Geoffrey was born.”

“Doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy going through the motions of making another one,” I smile.

She blushes furiously, but I can tell the idea has a lot of appeal to her.

Behind her, I see Brian grinning broadly and mouth the words ‘Thank you.’

I simply nod and continue to watch Geoff and the puppies at play.  He’ll be good and tired by the time they’re done with him.  The boy will sleep soundly tonight.  An earthquake wouldn’t be enough to wake him up.

It feels good being part of a family, every once in a while anyway.  Maybe, one day, I’ll even let myself settle down and stay put.  The question is where?

My family homestead is nearby.  I know it’s just sitting there empty, waiting for me.  The problem is that there might be another who’s also waiting for me, within its walls.  A person I made a promise to, that I failed to keep…

Civil War House