Just a Drop

It was not that Michael Flatbush was nervous, for he was not. There was no reason to be. The man would just be fetching hot water, or towels, or soap. It was the waiting though, just the waiting that got to him. The endless cooped minutes. There was nothing good about it. Especially when you’re stuck in the in the chair already.

He drummed his fingers on the false leather arm of the chair, feeling the brush of the nylon smock on his knuckles. It had been a spur of the moment haircut decision. He might never have bother if he hadn’t had a little drink. Just a drop of whisky after work. It was the sort of decision that you make when you catch sight of your half-cut reflection on the side of a car or in a shop window and fail to recognise yourself. He’d been meaning to for a time, of course, but who doesn’t leave it an extra day for the third day in a row? He didn’t much like mirrors, not just now, so why would he look?

The smock had a line of white piping around the edge. The flat maroon of the fabric ribboned with reflected light. Where do you buy things like this? Michael imagined that there was a giant barber’s warehouse, full of old magazines and nylon smocks and shaving brushes. They would have imported them, special. It was enough to make him smile for a second. If he had a magazine, that would have been a little better. Just something to pass the time. That was what he was really needing all the time, something to stop him from feeling so old. It wasn’t that time didn’t pass, not really. It was that the time wasn’t filled.

Of course, he wouldn’t have needed the haircut if Janice at work hadn’t been on at him to get a haircut. But that was her way. Little notes on what you were doing, how you were looking. Her speech had asterisks attached, and she pinned them on your manner. Still he had seen himself, and the spike in his hair had started to curl away from any control. Janice, at least on this occasion, had a point. Not that she was anything great to look at.

From his vantage point, Michael couldn’t really see anything. His eyes scoured the little table in front of him for points of interest as he waited for the barber to return. He really had been gone a long time. There was nothing much to see. A couple of combs, some scissors, a tub of something that Michael could almost, but not quite, smell.

Soon enough he’d be decent. He’d show that Janice at work. He was serious, seriously. Michael let his eyes follow the line of the table leg down to the floor. Old tiles and wayward curls of hair there. Nothing much to look at. A single drop of new blood on a flat white tile.

He looked up, finally turning his eyes to the mirror, and saw in a sudden rush exactly where the blood was coming from.

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Douglas Noble was born in Scotland and grew up all wrong. Don't blame his parents though, they tried their best.

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