Perroni’s by Adam Kluger

Word of Bisbee’s Dad’s funeral got passed around through friends via emails.

Good ol’ Bisbee.

Stanley Schlumperdink thought to himself of the times that he and the Diabolical Bis would hit on chicks together at Trader Vic’s at The Plaza in High School. Bisbee preferred the Tiki Puka Puka to the Spider Bowls. Either way. The girls back then had candy flavored pussies and a real love of high fashion.

The bell always rang as you entered Perroni’s Barbershop. It was a New York institution. All the private school kids went there for haircuts and Stanley had been no different. Through the years it was the one relationship he could always count on.

Pepe Perroni was behind the front barber chair near the window as always. He was the rock-star and rainmaker. He ran the ship and had done so for over 40 years. Stanley knew that because for 40 years he only went to Pepe.

Pepe was everybody’s barber. Famous athletes, celebrities, businessmen and regular New Yorkers. The place was an old-time Barbershop with Sinatra blaring in the background and gold poles gleaming. Old time newspapers and magazines in the racks. When Stanley was a kid he used to sneak a look at the Playboy Magazine and no one ever scolded him. It was a place for men. Haircuts, shaves. The old-fashioned kind with a straight razor and shaving cream. The attractive older female attendant would massage the stubbly beards of customers and then put piping hot towels on their faces. It seems like Olga would apply upwards of 7 different creams, lotions and towels before she would finally apply the straight razor. There was no rush. Barbers would perform minuets with scissors behind their client’s ears. Studying the lay and gradation of the slope of hair on the neck to determine a sense of perfect balance.

Customers waiting in line were in no rush either they enjoyed watching the masterful Pepe making jokes with the other barbers or his attractive attendants, always the gracious host and boss. Everybody knew and loved Pepe. He knew more secrets than a fortune teller or a psychiatrist. Pepe’s barber chair was the place you could sit and get a haircut and exhale.

“How are you my friend?”

“Ok”

Pepe could tell otherwise. He knew Stanley like the back of his hand. He knew Stanley’s father and Uncle and family and he remembered when a young 7 year old Stanley offered to help clean up all the hair on the shop floor with the giant broom to the delight of everybody in the shop.

He knew Stanley’s heart. He felt his pain. He knew. Pepe knew people quite well. He was NYC’s best barber but he was a lot more than that. He had been divorced and he had seen his share of financial shenanigans from old business partners and he ran a successful barber shop but that didn’t mean that he didn’t know how the world really was.

“So, what’ll it be?”

“Make me look good.”

“Always, always.”

They smiled at each other.

Then Stanley closed his eyes and sank back into the chair. The face in the mirror in front of him was almost unrecognizable.

“Get rid of the beard, right?”

“Yep–just electric razor.”

“No straight?”

“Nah”

“You got it.”

The beard was gone in a minute or two.

“That’s much better.”

“Don’t look like a terrorist.”

“You know who was here the other day?”

“Who?”

“Woody Allen…he was shooting a new film in the barbershop.”

“Did he give you a cameo.”

“He should have.”

Stanley felt the electric razor cutting his hair. It was a pleasant feeling. Pepe was kind of like Santa Claus he thought. The shop had a feel of Santa’s workshop.

Fly me to the Moon…”

Stanley snuck a quick glance around the shop. Packed as always. But Pepe was not rushing. He was happy to have Stanley back in his chair and the feeling was mutual. There wasn’t much chatter this time. Stanley didn’t initiate too much.

“Work?”

“Tough these days.”

“The woman?”

“Same.”

“We got to just do our best that’s all we can do.”

“You said it.”

They shared a look.

One of Pepe’s smiles was more precious than most things.

It was reassuring and it was Pepe. He didn’t say much sometimes although he could also talk a blue streak all the time.

But Pepe knew.

As he worked the electric razor expertly on Stanley’s hair and wet and cut his bangs and snipped away, the haircut was nearing its conclusion and it was what it was which is what Pepe Perroni had done for every day of his life that he put on his apron and welcomed a customer into his barber chair.

It was not just the best haircut Stanley Schlumperdink had ever gotten (like all of them) It was a feeling that enveloped him as he got off the chair, shook Pepe’s strong hand and hugged him with a tear in his eye.

“How’d we do?”

“Perfect Pepe, perfect.”

“Next time don’t wait so long for a haircut, ok, kiddo?”

“You got it, Pepe. Thanks.”

After paying at the old-time cash register, and slipping $20 into Pepe’s hand as a tip, with one last hug, Stan the Man, smiled as he walked out of Perroni’s to the sound of a jingling bell, the rush of a cool breeze in the sun and a sudden desire for an iced coffee and a napkin to scratch out a new “to-do list” at a nearby Cafe.

Adam Kluger

Banner Image: Pixabay.com

 

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