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Note-Taking While Listening to “Floyd, the Barber”

Cal Freeman


he barber is bored. On nights like this, he’s not a barber. His hair gets unruly. It might be wise for him to quell the barber’s boredom and bad luck by sitting himself in one of his own chairs and praying for a hand to appear.

He doesn’t think the rats are an individual rat when he sees one run through his yard on consecutive nights. What runs once is what others attend to while thinking of springing into action. Credulous people believe a single act proliferates but not that others are prolific. A barber knows differently in sweeping hair from linoleum.

The heart is as much of an implement as a pair of scissors. There are things to say about spirits, hearts, and bodies, and sometimes the three are synonyms. Sometimes the ogival moonlight pierces him like a scissor and makes for a long subsequent day.

He counts hairs strewn across the floor of his memory. The actuary can’t count on longevity any more than the barber can. It’s funny that the appellation “the barber” is correctly preceded by a comma in the song title, but it makes sense. Pointless punctiliousness is the quintessence of barbering.

It’s Labor Day, after dark, and the people south of Dartmouth are confused, or they’ve failed to calibrate the recursive nature of the recent past to the recent present. He’s walking through somebody else’s trash night and remembering what matters most. Not the flattening of a Low E a whole step to D; he wouldn’t think of it, just as many of us refuse to think of the constituent parts that make us.

A silver maple leaf soughs in the lawn. A stain glass lamp shade mutes the incandescent light in a living room. The most impressive barrel is the one with the address spray-painted in silver on the side. They don’t know (the ignominious they with their doorbell cameras and fictive renderings of the multifarious threats afflicting us) that the holiday will set their pick-up back. Day, holiday, he knows nothing of their pasts.

He, himself, here comes everyone, contemplating what scurries around the corner in ground cover (myrtle is indelibly like hair) at the sides of buildings, what scurries into the open (he saw a Cooper’s Hawk the other day on a fence down by the creek) at its own peril, believes that contingencies necessitate calendars and existences like this one are full of contingent plans.

No tone or cowlick is special. A widow maker rubbing against a neighbor tree sounds exactly like a chair cranking up to a barber’s height. A taxidermized deer above a mirror is no better than a plastic one. “There used to be more to work with up here,” he tells me as he stares into the sky, as I crumple into the chair.


Cal Freeman