Ali ran his comb through Chris’s hair and gently clipped away. Usually Chris was quite talkative; but not today.
“You’re awful quiet today, Chris. Here I thought you were getting married next weekend. Don’t tell me she figured out there’s no future in marrying a cop?”
There was no reaction on the other face in Ali’s mirror.
“No, the wedding is still on. It’s the honeymoon that looks like it’s going to be a problem.”
Ali didn’t say anything for a moment. Barbers are like bartenders; clients sometimes like to unload on them, and sometimes they don’t. He waited to see which it was this time. Ali had been cutting Chris’s hair since the kid had first joined the Ontario Provincial Police.
Must be about forty haircuts by now.
“I got a domestic disturbance call yesterday.”
“Nasty?” Ali guessed that Chris didn’t want to discuss the honeymoon.
“The usual; mostly screaming and throwing things. The neighbours got tired of the noise and called 911. By the time I got there, they were angrier with the neighbours and with me than they were with each other.”
“So, it ended okay?”
“Except for the cat.”
Ali paused, fascinated. All kinds of images raced through his head. Had Chris pulled his gun and shot the cat, run it over in the driveway, or delivered kittens maybe?
“So, what happened to the cat?”
Chris took advantage of the absence of barbering to shift in his chair.
“I was trying to separate the man and his wife and the darn thing bit me!”
“That cat is going to cost me my honeymoon.”
Ali stopped cutting again. Haircut Number Forty could wait.
“The cat hasn’t had any of its vaccinations, and they won’t turn it over to animal control for quarantine, so I have to go in for rabies shots. That means every day for fifteen days I have to go in and get a shot. And that means I can’t leave the country.”
“You can’t honeymoon here?”
“It’s a prepaid, all-inclusive Caribbean vacation. No refunds. If I can’t go, Shari will have to go alone, at least for the first 10 days. Otherwise, we lose everything we saved so that we could go in the first place.”
“Go on her honeymoon alone?”
Ali shook his head, and resumed his task.
He could see that Chris had that “thousand yard stare”. It didn’t take much imagination to figure out what he might be thinking about. Ali was a pretty good listener, but it seemed like this time, talking might be in order. The question was; what to say.
“This is your fortieth haircut, Chris.”
“I said, this is the fortieth time I’ve cut your hair.”
“Oh, right, yah. You do a good job, too.”
“I wasn’t fishing for a compliment, but thanks anyway. What I mean to say is that you’ve been coming here for quite a while; ever since you guys came and investigated that break-in I had. We know each other pretty well. You even strong-armed me into going to that church of yours.”
Now it was the young policeman’s turn to smile.
“Yah, another example of police brutality. Lucky for you, you came quietly. I hate it when I have to cuff a perp and drag him off kicking and screaming.”
Ali knew that Chris’s handcuffs would likely rust from disuse if it weren’t for the fact that they were plastic, so he smiled into the mirror.
“You were working the weekend the pastor spoke about trials. After all the trouble that day when those two guys broke in, roughed me up and took the cash, I had a hard time figuring out how anybody could ‘consider it pure joy’* under those kinds of circumstances.
Chris looked thoughtful.
“And what did you decide?”
“Well, everything happens for a purpose; to ‘grow us up’ in faith. And that’s a good thing; something to be joyful about. So that cat bite, and the rabies shots and missing the first half of your honeymoon, must be meant to make you a better believer. So somewhere in there is a reason to have joy. Maybe the wait will make your marriage stronger. Maybe you’ll lean a little harder on God. Maybe, you learn to look out for concealed weapons that have teeth. Maybe …”
Chris laughed; an honest, joyful sound.
“You can stop cutting now. I got the message.”
*James 1:2 NIV
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