The last forty years
By Kenneth Burchfiel
“I daresay I haven’t changed at all in the last forty years.”
The man in the chair nodded. The barber trimmed the back of his neck, then added:
“I don’t know if anything here’s changed in the last forty years.”
A ray of sun broke through the dense clouds outside. The window, blurred from years of grime and sweat, displayed the same message as it always had: “POHS REBRAB S’UOL.”
“Well, I’ve been watching all those liberals telling me that we need change. Maybe they need change in that crooked east-coast capital, but I sure don’t. Why, all I need is a few ten dollar bills a day and a few heads to shave.”
The man in the seat laughed. Locks of hair slid down the chair and onto the floor.
“Just look at them fancy barber shops across the river, would you? Thirty dollars for a cloud of perfume and a few snips.”
“That’s why I come here,” the man in the seat acknowledged.
The shop turned silent for a few minutes, until the barber commented:
”Say, do you hear something? Sounds like—”
A five-ton boulder crashed through the ceiling and sent the floor tiles flying. Mirrors shattered and fell on the ground; dozens of scissors and razors and combs fell from their tables; a cloud of hot dust pushed the barber back against the wall.
When the smoke cleared, the man in the seat said:
”I reckon we just got hit by a meteor.”
The barber surveyed the floor, tilted his head and nodded.
”Why, I haven’t seen an asteroid in forty-three years, back when that Eisenhower man was building all the interstates.”
The patron nodded. “It must have been our first day in Normandy when a meteor crashed right through our bunker. Gave our lieutenant a good scare.”
”Well, they don’t make asteroids like they used to. When I was a child, the whole town would come out to watch boulders fall from space. Some of us would even skip school to play in the impact craters.” The barber looked at the smoldering rock, then wiped the dust off the man’s head and resumed cutting.
Again, the shop was silent. The dust made it difficult to cut Martin’s hair, but with a little water and some guesswork, Lou could weed out the singed hairs and trim off the grime.
Both turned to watch a car skid across the parking lot. It flipped in the air, combusted and came to a flaming stop against the barber shop wall. The driver pried open his door and backed away from the vehicle.
”I’d say that was a mighty fine crash,” the barber said. “Haven’t seen one that good in forty-one years.
”Well, the flips made it tolerable.” Mark coughed. “But I miss the glory days of vehicle accidents, when chases ripped apart and seat backs went everywhere. Just yesterday, it seems, I was out in Normandy when a Panzer fell off a cliff. Now that was a crash.”
The engine fire gave out, but the roof had begun to creak again. It seemed that the meteor had weakened the very supports holding the ceiling up.
Just as Lou reached for the hair blower, a twenty-pound chunk of pipe fell on the top of his head and knocked him to the floor.
”Well,” the barber said, “that was quite a hit.”
Martin looked over from his chair. “That’s the worst concussion I’ve seen in fifty-two years.”
Lou looked up at the ceiling. “I’ve had worse. When I was cleaning the chimney as a child, the top gave in and struck me on the head. The doctor said it was a miracle I survived.”
”That reminds me. Should I call a doctor?”
”No, no. Don’t trouble him. I’ll just be unconscious for a few hours, if that’s fine with you.”
The barber stared up at the fractured ceiling. As his eyes closed, Martin could hear him muttering the same thing over and over:
”Those were the days. Those were the days.”