K. CON GAMES (415)

I’m losing too many friends. Gerald “Scope” Wallace could be a handful. Most of my other friends were afraid of Scope. But the funny ones catch me, regardless. His specialty was wise-ass. The first time we met he convinced my Wife and I to go to Raleigh on New Years Eve, 1972. Going there he swerved quickly off the road to a shack with the neon sign, BEER. Got to get a couple, he said. The place was awful and the cashier was overly rude. Perfect for Gerald. After several attempts to be nice and getting nowhere Gerald took the bag of beer, turned and on the way concluded with “…you certainly do have a nice place here!” A few hours later he got us all kicked out of the FROG AND NIGHTGOWN (Scope liked jazz. And wine.) “… the grapes got me again”.
My last haircut reminded me of Gerald. With little hair left, I go Great Clips for the minimum. And, I have learned how to register “on line”. Twenty minutes wait, maximum. The trouble was a storm caused school to be cancelled and the shop overflowed with “walk-ins”. And the staff had not booked enough tattooed, pink haired clipper wielders.
Much like the express line in the grocery store when everyone has 50 express line items and a pocketbook full of coupons, and the cashier runs out of register tape—Oh Mother, things ain’t going well.
I am winning the patience game. Kids groaning, adults shouting at the barbers, people leaving. My 20 minutes is already 30.
And, another cycle has rotated without me. Hmmm—trying to get the kids out ain’t working! They all have full heads of hair to be cut with monograms in their hair and color variations I knew not of.
Many of the grumbling had to stand. I read another hairstyling magazine and the seat next to me was vacated by a mad veteran left the shoppe.
All of a sudden there she was. Everyone knew her. My guess is nearly every small town has one.
She works in the local hardware. Knows where every nut and bolt in the store is, but has never found tact, kindness, or patience. And here she sits by me in midst of the angry. I thought of Gerald.
After a long silence I began the one sided conversation:
Me–you a local person?
Old salt–Swansboro. (silence)
Where did you go to high school?
Salty—Swansboro.
Where were you born?
Swansboro.
Do you work around here?
Swansboro. silence. end of round one.
No sound but angry grumbles. Riot coming?
I said nothing.
And then the break.
She ASKED ME—how long you been waiting?
Forty minutes late.
You register on line?
yep. silence. round two.
Then, me first. “and you know its like cooking. You work all day on the meal and everyone eats in five minutes.”
Salty with first crack of agreement–grunts.
Me: Not only that, everyone ahead of me has some special request. They could cut my bald head in 5 minutes. (the hook and she takes it)
THEY CAN’T CUT YOUR HAIR IN FIVE MINUTES!
ME WITH THE BAIT–“Want to bet””
Loudly now, “You are damn right I’ll bet you!”
(The crowd shifts from anger to silence upon witnessing the developing scene.)
HOW MUCH YOU WANT TO BET?
SHE–I’LL BET YOU ANYTHING YOU WANT!
100$ I SUGGESTED. (the crowd hushed moan).
Well, no.
Me-how bout a dollar? DEAL! The crowd erupts with applause.
“TOM” is called. I’m up, bet is on.
I show the old salt time on my six dollar watch. She nods ok.
I am in the first chair so my talent is tested. First a whisper to my girl who has heard what is going on: “Don’t talk. Cut it as quick as you can. Big tip”
Next hide the watch under the apron, but where I can watch the time. The crowd now watches gleefully. Some make side bets. The watch is at four minutes and ticking. Patches of white hair flurries abound. Barber is doing her part.
Salty’s first mistake. She didn’t make note of the starting time. Beneath the cloth apron I deftly reset the watch giving me added one plus needed minute needed to beat the deadline. I kissed my cutter and showed Salty the altered watch. YOU OWE ME A DOLLAR! THE CROWD ROARED.
She smiled and handed me the buck. I started to put it in my pocket, but then goaded her. Boy –I got you. You didn’t check the real time. The trim took more than six minutes! She giggled, probably her first. I gave her her bill back. The crowd, waiters and those inside have completely changed moods. I turned to leave and waved at the victim, then the crowd, Halfway through the door I turned around and said “got you again.” That dollar is yours and you won a dollar on the bet. It dawned on all as I looked into my wallet. I showed her nothing but large bills. Now stunned I took the bill back. Can I pay you with this? Gerald smiled down, or up. I had them all scratching their heads.
I reached in my pocket and took out four quarters and paid my debt.

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