Andrew Leighton had been away from home for over 5 years. He had served in the marines and at the end of WWII returned to the states only to live like a vagabond. But something happened while trekking through Damascus, Virginia. He was walking down Main Street when he saw his reflection in the window of a barber shop. At first he didn’t even recognize himself. His hair was long and his face was shadowed with stubble. Impulsively he stepped inside, the distinguished looking barber noticed his combat boots and smiled, “All vets get a free cut and shave son.”
Andrew smiled, “No thanks – my dad is a barber.” Andrew walked out the door. As he left the Damascus city limits he began to hum – if he pushed hard he could make it home for Father’s Day.
Weeks later he stood outside his families barber shop. A voice pierced through the silence, “The owners will be back next week.“
Andrew looked at Myra McCreary as she arranged produce in front of the mercantile. She gave him a hard stare –“Andrew Leighton is that you? Your folks will be thrilled to see you. Your father had a heart attack last month but Doc says he should be fine.
Andrew looked at the ‘Help Wanted’ sign posted in the window. Myra gently touched his shoulder, “I have the key if you would like to go inside for a bit.”
“That would be great – thank you.”
Once inside Andrew placed his duffel bag down on the wooden floor. He dug a nickel out of his trousers and placed it in the Planter’s peanut dispenser. He cranked the handle hard and retrieved a palm full of peanuts. Exhausted he collapsed down into the barber chair and choked down the stale peanuts. He opened the drawer and pulled out his dad’s flask of brandy, opened it and took a swig.
This is where the gentlemen of Luray would congregate and chew the fat in a haze of cigar smoke. At day’s end the chatter would ebb as the men collected their hats and headed home. Andrew’s father would always hum while sweeping the floor before closing. His favorite song was “Summertime.”
Livin’ had been easy…
He noticed the photograph of his kid brother Davy sitting in the barber chair for his first hair cut. He remembered how Davy cried while clenching his Superman coloring book and a red crayon. Andrew asked for the crayon and drew an “S” on Davy’s barber cape. Then he whispered in Davy’s ear, “Real superheroes aren’t afraid of haircuts.”
Davy sniffled himself silent, “Okay Andrew - I trust you.”
When Andrew was 14 he spotted Whitney Watkins reading on the pier at Hanson’s Pond. Andrew looked at Davy who was wearing his new Superman cape. “Look Davy, you really want to be a hero? I’ll give you a nickel for an ice-cream cone if you leave right now.”
Davy looked at Whitney – then looked at Andrew and knitted his brows. “Make it a double!”
Andrew dug into his Levi pocket for a dime – “Here you go kiddo.” He watched Davy charge down the dirt path barefoot – cape blowing wildly behind him.
An hour later love-struck Andrew headed home. Shock washed over him as he noticed an accident scene as an ambulance sped off. Andrew fell to his knees once he saw Davy’s cape and the ice cream soaked asphalt.
Minutes later he found his parents huddled together at the hospital. His father looked coldly at Andrew, “Where were you?”
Three days later Davy was buried. Andrew draped Davy’s cape over the coffin before it was lowered into the dark earth.
Andrew Leighton was a tortured soul - forever haunted by his brother’s words, "Okay Andrew - I trust you."
The barber shop was never the same; his father now swept the floors in deafening silence. Andrew enlisted in the marines – a death wish cloaked in honor.
Andrew changed clothes before heading to the hospital. He paused in the hallway before entering his father’s room. Leonard was humming as he gathered his belongings to go home. Lorraine was urging him to relax.
Leonard kissed her on the cheek, “Work is how I relax.”
Andrew entered the room, “Happy Father’s Day.”
Leonard approached Andrew, his eyes filled with joy, “Son, you could use a haircut.”
Andrew smiled, “Know a good barber?”
Leonard hugged Andrew so tight he thought he would never let go.
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