The Sandpaper Razor Meets the Theo A Koch Barber Kid

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The Sandpaper Razor Meets the Theo A Koch Barber Kid

I’m riding the Theo A Koch automatic barber chair, watching the barber foot-pump his metal and leather instrument higher so that he can get at my neck, the neck of eight-year-old me. He has already draped my shoulders and torso in a checkered cloth to keep the hairs he’s about to trim from hiding under my clothes and making me all itchy.

The barber is efficiently cutting away while continuing his running conversations with various customers who sit in a long row of chairs facing the Theo A Koch chair. They talk of fishing and hunting and politics and street repair while thumbing through current issues of magazines like Argosy, Esquire, Field and Stream, Collier’s, Look, Life, Saturday Evening Post.

The shop smells of old cologne and talcum and working class sweat.

I squirm impatiently while the barber plies his trade, his scissors and electric trimmer flashing in the sunbeams that cause the rotating candy cane pole to cast its shadow across my shoes. I gaze at my shoes because I’m required to lower my head while lather is applied to my neck. I read and re-read the Theo A Koch brand name embossed in nickel plated sheen between my feet. The freshly-stropped straight razor makes sandpaper sounds. I cringe, waiting for the barber’s hand to slip. It never does. But it might.

What is that after-shave perfume the barber laves on my neck? What is the name of the talcum powder he dusts on my neck to ease the fresh-shave sting? I don’t understand the ritual of shave and talcum and fragrance and hair tonic, but I do know that I will not feel like I’ve really had a haircut unless I walk away smelling like something other than a real eight-year-old lad.

The barber dramatically takes away the checkered cloth the way Dracula might swirl his cape. I take my feet off the Theo A Koch brand. The shoeshine man swish-brooms the back of my shirt in an elegant gesture of manners and politeness. I walk past the rotating candy cane pole and onto the sunny streets of downtown Tuscaloosa, a brand-new kid ready to face a brand-new afternoon.

I don’t know whether the magazine-thumbing grownups ever tip the barber, though they do tip the shiner of shoes. Kids are not expected to tip, so I get to spend my extra dime across the street at Woolworth’s for the best bag of popcorn I will ever eat…until the next haircut

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.

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The Writer Goes Around Tattletelling

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I am a tattletale.

Can’t help it. I tell tales, but I also in the process rat on people.

I out you and your foibles, vices, beauty, shallowness, brilliance.

I sneak my pen around the page when you are not looking, and immortalize your idiosyncracies and your heroism.

I am a transcriptionist.

I copy you down and tell others things you may not know about yourself.

I tell things you wish I’d keep secret.

I praise you when you don’t even recognize your praiseworthiness.

I describe you so accurately you can’t even recognize yourself in the story.

I tell on other people and you suspect I’m talking about you.

Sometimes you are jealous of me.

Sometimes you secretly admire what I do and wish you knew my secret.

This flabbergasts me, because I don’t know my secret—

I just write and let the fingers and the page and the pen and the gut and the heart tell all.

If I try to force myself to write, it’s like trying to squeeze toothpaste from a flattened, spent tube.

If I try to backtrack and edit or expurgate and obliterate what I’ve written, it’s like trying to fill an empty tube with toothpaste. It’s always too late. What’s written is written.

I am a tattletale, but nobody escapes me. I can’t even stop writing things about myself that I don’t want you to know. It’s always too late.

I out everything when I write.

I tell the future, I look back to the future, I tell the past, I look forward to the past.

I am a writer.

I fictionalize the truth.

I spy the truth in fictions.

No matter how I write it, it comes out true, it comes forth as truth.

I write because I can’t lie.

I write because somebody has to tell the truths that only I can tell.

I am a writer, and I can’t go back and change that fact

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.

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Painful Thoughts of Bugs Bunny and Other Smart Remarkers

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Painful Thoughts of Bugs Bunny and Other Smart Remarkers

Pain is what you don’t expect. Surprise!

Surprise can be painful; pain is always surprising.

Pain is what you anticipate and anticipate and anticipate.

Didn’t Billy Shakespeare say, “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once.” I guess that means cowards tend to allow their imaginations to get the best of them. Valiant people must be deeply into avoidance in order to survive.

Relief comes from finding out that what you anticipated isn’t as bad as you expected.

Pain is all in your head.


Pain is all in your body.

OK, pain is everywhere in your body and your head, it’s just that some pains are more extreme than other pains, so the body does a kind of prioitizing—the most resounding pain is the pain you have to deal with to the exclusion of all other pecking-order pains. The tiniest pain gets the least attention, but is the tiniest pain always the least important pain?

Level of pain does not seem to have much to do with degree of danger. A hangnail can be excruciating, but how often is it life-threatening?

“He died of hangnail pain, poor S.O.B.”

As Bugs Bunny once said, “Pain hurts!”

Why will I do anything to avoid pain, even if that specific pain has little to do with degree of danger?

Walking barefoot across loose gravel is enormously painful, but will it kill me?

“He died of barefoot gravel-walking, poor S.O.B.”

Since this whole subject is painful, I think I’ll change the subject.

Avoidance can be a great pain-manager.

For me, it’s probably the only pain-manager.

Avoidance is a way of life, and it can work wonders, especially when you find it impossible to deal with the reality of things.

I recommend avoidance whenever possible.

I never recommend pain

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.

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The Day the Pocket in My Pants Started Talking to Me

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The Day the Pocket in My Pants Started Talking to Me

Sometimes, when least expected, my pants talk to me.

This happens without any effort on my part.

I’m sitting shotgun at the end of a row of other jazz lovers, listening to a large group of young musicians making music, and I am in thrall. Enthralled. Enraptured. That is, until I hear an annoying but familiar voice making comments about love, life and laughter. I look around to see who’s talking out of place. Nobody. But the voice continues. It is coming from my left pants-pocket, where rests the tiny audio recording device I use to make notes when pen and pad are nowhere to be found.

The voice is my own.

The device has somehow turned itself on, and now I’ve got to squirm quickly, dig down past datebook and cash, and try to retrieve the thing. It is still going on with its internal dialogue. I grab it, bring it out and smash my finger against the OFF button. Fortunately, most of the people around me are still wondering about the source of the voice—they haven’t pinpointed my pants yet.

The evening is saved.

From this day forth, I punch the fail-safe switch after each verbal note, hoping it won’t happen again.

But, my pants being haunted, or the recorder being haunted, the dang thing still switches itself on now and then…but only to entertain me. My disembodied electronic muse has a mind of its own, and I kind of like the fact that, like a two-year-old, it tries to get my attention at unexpected and appropriate times.

In fact, were it not for the notes residing in my pants pocket, this little piece of writing would not have occurred. The first line says it all, and I dutifully write it down. The voice speaks loudly and says THE DAY THE POCKET IN MY PANTS STARTED TALKING TO ME.

Like most diligent writers, I obey my muse and start writing, my pants creating what you just read

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.

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The Day the Bride Considered Ordering a Hit on the Groom

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The Day the Bride Considered Ordering a Hit on the Groom

Walking down the isle arm in arm with Dad was the scariest, most exhilarating experience  of her life so far. As she approached the priest and the groom, all she could think about was The Ring and what lay beyond. The Ring would make her the happiest she might ever be, The Ring and all it stood for…what a gigantic leap that would be. She was so excited she simply could not imagine what would be on the other side of this moment, the moment after the ring would rest secure and properly embrace her finger.

The groom, watching his lovely wife-to-be floating closer and closer, was doubly excited today. His bride expected to wear The Ring, but he had come up with something even better, something more enduring, more representative of the modern world in which they would live together. And she would be even more impressed with him because of his ingenuity, his leap of genius.

The ceremony was a blur, during which no-one thankfully grew hoarse or stumbled or stuttered. The priest said, “The ring, please,” or something like that. Later, sitting in her cell, she would not remember the exact words.

The groom, his ear-to-ear smile lighting up the chapel, pulled from his pocket a small electronic device and turned it on, holding it up for all to see. The image on the screen was three-dimensional, clearly focused, high-resolutioned, state-of-the art in futuristic quality. The image was that of The Ring.

The priest’s brow furrowed, the bride looked a bit dazed, the groom proudly explained, “This is the ultimate symbol of my love for you. This image is permanent, can never be lost (it will remain safe in The Cloud forever), can be laser printed and framed to go over our living room mantel.” He took a deep breath, beaming his pride. “So I give you this image in place of a mere ring, making you the first bride to embrace the future of 21st Century technology, making the mere physical object of a metal ring obsolete and unnecessary.”

The bride’s voice quavered, “Where is the ring?” The groom began repeating his explanation but never finished because at that moment the bride pulled a revolver from her bouquet and…

The Lover of Books was enjoying the surprise birthday party thrown together by his family and friends, and now came gift-opening time. Each package contained a book, since his wife had notified everybody in advance that books made him happier than any gift you could think up. There were big books, small books, new books, ancient books, profound books, gag books, readable books, and he dived into each package as if Christmas were here.

Then, one old friend handed him his final present. A Kindle. An electronic book that would make all his other gifts meaningless and obsolete, his friend explained, quite proud of his brilliance and predictive genius.

The Lover of Books looked at the electronic object as if it were a brown shoe floating in a punch bowl at the Senior Prom. He glanced over at the pile of books he was looking forward to thumbing through, skimming, marking, bookmarking, highlighting, feeling, smelling, storing bits of note cards and confetti within, securely stacking around him like a fortress against the vulgarities of the 21st Century.

The friend was so pumped up about his profundity at giving this plastic and metal gift that he did not notice the Lover of Books reaching into the desk drawer and pulling forth a revolver

© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.

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