A haircut is a work of art. Getting the right fit for the right face on the right person is what Garbol the wizard did.
Three customers lined the bench first thing in the morning. Mayor Larry Gunderson, secretary Susan Birch, and the witch of Maggery, Darla Maples. The mildew’s smell on Darla’s black, lacy dress filled the room. Garbol took a jar of ambersand off a shelf, muttered a spell, and tossed some grains in the air to disperse the odor.
Larry Gunderson climbed into the barber chair first.
“What do you need today?” asked Garbol.
“I need protection from lies, please. Thick over the top and just above the ears.” He drew a line on each side of his ears with his index fingers. “They ruin my reputation, they block all my good works, and they accuse me of things I could not do. Things that will get me put away for a long time.”
Garbol swung the barber’s cape around in front of Larry and Velcroed it in the back. Blurs of colors swirled on its surface, resolving into intricate shapes and dissolving again. Garbol could see that Larry was right. But he was also wrong. His enemies played upon his ideological blindness, using his contradictions to cover up their own.
“I’m going to cut it short off the top, my friend.”
“Are you sure?” asked Larry.
“It will be better,” said the wizard. He ran a comb through his hair and snipped along the top. “Before I can protect you from other people’s lies, you must stop lying to yourself.” As he said it, he snipped off several layers of self-deception.
The images on the cape swirled and changed, an emerging dominance strengthening Larry’s standing among his enemies, but there was a fundamental alteration of orientation Garbol could not interpret.
“Will I still be able to perform well as a mayor?” Larry asked.
Garbol spun Larry around in the chair and glared in his eyes. “Be a man. Perform correctly and let the seeds sprout where they may.”
Garbol whipped the cape off and shook the hair to the floor. “Next.”
Susan Birch slipped into the chair and crossed her wrists in her lap, eyes to the floor.
“How are you, Susan?” asked Garbol.
“Fine,” she whispered.
“What do you need today?”
“Give me invisibility,” she rasped.
“What was that?” Garbol had heard her, but wanted her to speak normally.
She looked up at him in the mirror. “Please give me invisibility. Keep the bangs long, but cut the rest shoulder length.” She dropped her eyes again. “Everyone is so cruel to me. They look down on me, and I would rather they didn’t see me at all.”
Garbol wrapped her in the cape. Waves of impressions ran through it, sweeping all humanity with it. Garbol could see that she was right. But she was also wrong. Some were cruel to her, true, but some she gave no chance, thrusting upon them her own harsh condemnation.
“I’m going to shorten your bangs, my dear.”
“I love my bangs,” Susan squeaked.
“It will be better,” Garbol said. “Before I can stop your tormentors from aiming for you, you must see the good people who wish to love you.” He cut two inches of self-righteousness off her bangs.
“Will I find peace?” she asked.
Garbol turned her to face the mirror so she could see him bend down to look over her shoulder. He whispered, “You will find all the heartache and agitation that comes with love. Underneath that, you will find your peace.”
He pulled off the cape and shook the hair out. “Next.”
The witch hobbled to the chair and plopped into it. With a tissue she wiped some mucus off her bloated upper lip and blew her enormous nose. She scratched a few warts on her cheek and squinted through compounded wrinkles.
“Hi, Darla. What can I do for you today?”
“Make me beautiful,” she said.
“I’m sorry, Darla,” said Garbol. “I can’t do miracles.”