There was much more to barber college than Charles had expected. His first day saw him thrown into a bunch of bizarre classes like ‘Awkward small talk with Dimitri Petrov’, or ‘how to do eyebrows without asking’ by a very forthright Scotsman”
He had only been in the college for a matter of weeks but his course Barberdom; Phase 1 was already nearly complete – He was off the grounds of the college now and doing his work placement apprenticed to a barber, Hank Skinner.
He would miss the aesthetic of the college, the way it’s tall towers reached high into the sky beyond the clouds, but he knew he was only scratching the surface of the place – he was just a ‘phasewunner’ – and he often saw people in elaborate robes and fancy hairstyles sneering at him.
He had learned along the way from his classmates that there were a staggering amount of levels, or phases to pass; but you could only reach the next phase of barber knowledge by paying dearly.
No matter the cost, though, those who were of a higher ranking seemed determined to rise no matter what the price – and his classmates seemed zealously devoted to the goal.
“It’s only cutting hair,” Charles thought. “How passionate could you be?”
The college had quite a substantial dossier on him, Charles Figured. This was based on the suspiciously personal opening interviews. They were very….thorough. Uncomfortably so. Questionably so.
He had to tell them everything about him. When he asked why they said, “we need to know you’re the right type of person for the trade, and right now, you’re looking pretty good. Now tell us more about where you hid your neighbour’s dead cat.”
Come to think of it there were a lot of odd things about Barber College that he hadn’t quite noted all at once. He hadn’t had time to reflect until now; He had time to think because his boss Hank wasn’t exactly chatty – he was a haggard old man who clearly hated what he did.
“The amount of money I wasted on those scoundrels,” Hank said, snipping a customer’s hair venomously. “And now I can’t afford to leave,” he finished.
Charles couldn’t help but notice how the customer squirmed in his seat as Hank made stabbing motions to his head. “I’m sure if you don’t like life as a barber you could do something else,” he began. Hank scoffed.
“Fat chance – do you know what kind of people run that college? You try to get out and they ruin your rep. I told them stuff about myself, intimate stuff, and if I try to leave they’ll land that on the media.”
“But you’re a hairdresser…” began Charles. “…why would they do that?”
“You phasewunners are all so naïve,” growled Hank. “Did you not look around you when you were in that place? Did you not wonder why so much was hidden from you?”
Charles thought for a moment – Hank had a point. They were very secretive. And they got very tetchy about some things. Once a student bragged to a teacher that he could trim a beard better than a Viking. The teacher grabbed him by the collar and led him out of the room. The Teacher was back in an hour’s time but the student was never seen again.
Or the garden – they were forbidden from seeing it. The one time that Charles was ever rebellious was when his friends tried to see what was over one of the tall garden walls. Jake, his friend was the only one who managed to make it over the wall.
The look of shock on his face made Charles curious about what he saw. But he never found out what was over there because Jake fell over the other side, and he sounded like he was apprehended by a few members of the Campus’ substantial security.
What happened next sounded suspiciously close to someone being fucked off a cliff. Jake was never seen again.
“There were a few odd things going on alright,” replied Charles, and Hank choked out an obnoxious chortle, making the man whose hair he was cutting alarmingly close to getting the Vincent van Gogh look based on how close the scissors came to his ear.
“A few odd things. I suppose you’ll tell me Hitler was slightly misguided,” Hank snorted. “Did you never wonder why they needed all that information on you?”
Charles felt a bit stupid but he soon stopped feeling sorry for himself as a kid started screaming in the waiting room, “I want a Mohawk!”
“We’re not letting that 8-year-old get a Mohawk are we?” asked Charles in hushed tones.
“Let the little shit have a Mohawk, we’ll see how he likes it when he’s thrown into a dustbin tomorrow morning,” replied Hank. “Now, how is that?” Hank asked his customer who was now sheet white.
“Yesthatsfineperfectthanks,” he replied before throwing the money at him and running out the door.
“That pussy,” muttered Hank before he bent down to clean up the hairy mess. While he was down there, putting the hair in a plastic bag, he saw an angry looking bearded man in the waiting area. Hank snarled at him, and handed Charles the bag of hair.
“Go around the back and Light up the furnace,” instructed Hank. “We’ve got another beard”
“Why do we burn the beard hair but bag up the normal stuff?” asked Charles. “And where do you put it all?”
Hank sighed in exasperation. “That’s phase 5 information, Charlie. You need to reach the next level of barbership to know where the hair goes…”
Charles frowned and turned toward the back room to turn on the furnace. But Hank grabbed his shoulder before he could set off. He pulled him close so that he could say something quietly in his ear.
“Charles, why do you think Tom Cruise has such good hair? Or Will Smith? Or John Travolta? Travolta tried to leave the barber life, He was bald in recent films, and what happened? The gay rumours.
“They say that Tom Cruise is so high up in the organisation now that he can cut his own hair. Get out kid, while you still can,” Hank pleaded. Charles looked at him and laughed out loud.
“Yeah right,” he giggled, “good one, Hank. Way to scare the new guy. Next you’ll be telling me that beard hair is evil.”