Dean walked to the front counter in a daze, his mind still reeling from the horrifying scene he witnessed the night before.
“Can I take your order?” the young man behind the counter asked.
Dean looked at the young man whose bright red nametag said ‘ELI’ in all caps like it was screaming at him. The vibrant color and sickly sweet smell sent lightning bolts through Dean’s head as he glanced around the storefront. A large, glass cooler of ice cream sprawled the length of the store in front of him. The bright red and blue paint reminded him that he had driven to Dairy Queen, the only place he could think to go after spending the morning consoling his devastated wife.
“Wow. You don’t look so good, man. Are you okay?” Eli asked.
The lights in the store were bright, perhaps more bright than Dean had anticipated. He glanced up to see them start spinning slowly around his head, taunting him. His knees buckled, and he stumbled forward a few steps before catching his balance.
“Woah, sir!” Eli shouted, ripping his apron from his body. He ran to the front of the counter and escorted the man to one of the many empty tables. “Are you okay?”
“I think I just need a minute, thank you,” Dean answered. “I’m sorry about this.”
“Nothing to apologize for,” Eli said. “We’ve all been there after a night of drinking.”
A loud laugh grumbled in Dean’s stomach and escaped his lips in a fit of coughs and grunts.
“I wish this were a hangover,” Dean snorted. “A hangover is something you recover from. Some water, some bread. Maybe some tea if you really need it. Greasy food. Done. You’re back in business. But when you come home from working a long day and make one tiny comment about how your wife’s hair seemed to be creating its own colony in the shower drain, and she loses it on you. That – that isn’t as easy to bounce back from.”
Eli sat back in his chair awkwardly. He was prepared for a hangover pep talk. Relationships weren’t really his thing.
“And that’s not the worst of it. Because she didn’t actually yell this time. The yelling – that I can handle. No, instead, she handed me our infant son and stormed up the stairs. I didn’t think anything of it when I first heard the buzzing. Then it registered. I sprinted up the steps with Theo in my arms, but it was too late. By the time I made it to the bathroom, half of her head was completely shaved off.”
“Wow, okay, this was not what I was expecting,” Eli awkwardly leaned away from Dean.
“Yea, you’re telling me. So, I start yelling at her that she’s acting crazy. She looked up at me, held my gaze, and ran the clippers through her long, blond hair once more. She never broke eye contact. It felt like I was staring straight into the depths of hell. All I could see was my life going up in flames. She was having a full-on Britney Spears-level meltdown and I was holding our infant who honestly looked just as shocked as I did. Or maybe hungry. I can see how my son might confuse her bald head for a boob.”
“Okay, didn’t need that visual, thanks,” Eli whispered. Dean was too lost in his story to notice.
“Only when all of the hair was removed from her head did she start yelling. She’s at home to take care of the baby all day. The baby pulls on her hair nonstop all day, so of course, it falls out everywhere. Maybe if I was home to help more often the hair wouldn’t be setting up permanent camp in the bathroom. On and on she went about the baby and her hair until she had completely exhausted herself to tears. That’s when the shock wore off and she realized what she’d done. I was up for hours trying to console her and figure out what to do next. I’m just at a complete loss.”
“Right. Okay, well, I can’t say that I honestly ever expected to hear a story like that, but you came to the right place,” Eli commented.
“No, not Dairy Queen. Okay, listen. I know a guy,” Eli said under his breath.
“What do you mean you know a guy? A guy for what?” Dean asked.
“A wig guy. A good wig guy. Actually, he’s the best in the area,” Eli replied.
“How do you know a wig guy? Wait – don’t answer that,” Dean replied, contemplating his options. “Actually, yes please do answer that.”
“Right, hold on a second.” Eli turned toward the counter. “Yo, Mackie, can you cover me for a minute?”
“Whatever, Eli,” the young woman replied from behind the counter.
Eli settled back into his chair and took a deep breath. “Okay, last year I went to my cousin’s wedding and she put me at a table with a guy named Vinny P. Just P. ‘Like P. Diddy, but in reverse,’ he told us.”
“But doesn’t the P in P. Diddy stand for Puff?”
“Yes, but that part seemed to go over his head,” Elliot shook his head. “Anyway, I’m sitting at his table and he starts talking about his salon and how successful it’s been, despite him having recently suffered a stroke.”
“That doesn’t sound promising,” Dean said.
“Hold on. It gets better. So, Vinny starts telling me about his higher-end clients. Local newscasters, the owner of the biggest pizzeria in town. He says that they all have hair similar to mine except their cuts are always even. He gives me some side-eye, and I start picking up what he’s putting down. I tell him that my track record with salons isn’t the best, but what can you really expect with a $10 hair cut from Hair Cuttery or Super Cuts, am I right?”
Dean turned a light shade of pink and ran his hand through his hair to hide his own embarrassment. Eli pretended not to notice.
“So, I decided I would give Vinny P.’s Barber Shop a try. I rode the crotch rocket there after classes one day thinking I could just walk in. Again, I only know what I know. The girl at the desk tells me they don’t usually take walk-ins but, as luck would have it, they’d just had a cancellation. This beautiful girl walks to the front of the shop to get me started with a shampoo. When I say beautiful, I mean stunning. She had fiery golden eyes, the perfect hourglass figure, and long, flowing black hair,” Eli coughed over the last few words, quickly realizing the sensitivity of that particular subject.
“Anyway, she starts shampooing my hair and we get to talking. Her name is Lauren and she’s a Junior at Villanova. Ya know? The usual conversation. Then, she takes me to the chair to meet Vinny P. He’s a great guy! A middle-aged single guy who got around and liked to party. Exactly my kind of guy. Then, as he was in the middle of telling me a story about an arm-wrestling competition at his buddy’s bachelor party, a younger man comes into the store. He’s a little older than me, maybe in his mid-twenties. He looks anxious. Vinny excuses himself and takes the guy to a back room. I thought it was a little weird but didn’t mind too much since it gave me an opportunity to keep chatting Lauren up. I ended up getting her number, and Vinny came back out to finish the job. Never had a better haircut,” Eli paused.
“Okay, great. How does this relate to wigs, again?” Dean asked.
“Oh, right. Well, I decided to keep going to Vinny’s for haircuts like every four weeks, especially since things with Lauren and I started to heat up. But, almost every time I was in there, Vinny would be interrupted by a random person, mostly men. Vinny would disappear into the back room with these men and come back out a few moments later. I never noticed the men leaving with anything new, like a bag or anything, so I started drawing my own conclusions.
“A few nights later, I had Lauren over for some Netflix and chill time, so I decided to ask her about it. She giggled and asked me what I thought Vinny was doing, so I told her. ‘I think he’s a drug dealer.’ She laughed so hard she almost rolled off my couch. ‘No,’ she said. ‘Vinny makes wigs and sells them to people who require discretion, like balding men.’ I thought that was kind of nice,” Eli reminisced. “Anyway, after she told me she about Vinny, we started making out. Lauren pulled away and told me to meet her in my bedroom in five minutes. I finished my beer and walked to the bathroom to pee before we did the deed, but she had accidentally left the door cracked. She had one leg awkwardly propped up on my toilet and she was shaving her, ya know, lady parts… with my razor. So, obviously, I couldn’t go to Vinny’s anymore since there was no way I was going to keep seeing Lauren after that. I started going to this other barbershop, Frenchie’s in Skippack. The haircuts are equally good. See what I mean?” Eli pointed to his head.
“I did see Lauren a few months later out at the bar. Even though she used my razor to shave her bottom half, she’s still hot as hell so we started chatting again,” Eli explained. “She told me that she didn’t blame me for leaving Vinny P.’s. A lot of people left after he had the second stroke and his hand got a little, ya know, shaky.” Eli pretended to hold a pair of scissors and shook his hand back and forth violently.
“Of course, I was quick to agree with that excuse. Can’t ever let her know I saw what she did to my razor,” Eli laughed. “Anyway, apparently the man has been able to remain in business. Kinda wild.”
“Because of the wigs?”
“Because of his wig business?” Dean clarified.
“Oh, no. He had to give all of that up. He just hired a bunch of younger barbers to work the shop and he runs the business end now.”
“… What about the wigs?”
“You said you knew a guy to help me with a wig?”
“OH! The wigs. Yes, Frenchie is your guy! Also very discreet. He’s in Skippack. Said he learned everything he knows from Vinny.”