Let Us Rest in the Shade of the Trees – Padgett Powell (from Unsaid One)

—In the grove of trees down there is a table and a barber pole. You place your hat on the pole, and—

—I do?

—One does.


—Would you allow me to tell you?

—Prosecute your voyage.

—One places his hat on the pole and a barber will emerge from the woods and give one a haircut. It is an old barber who has cut the hair of certain famous deceased men. Now he is enfeebled and shaking so badly that you will need repair to another barber for corrective attention to your new and sadlooking do.

—Is the barber pole turning?

—Yes. Why?

—Because I would feel odd, if not outright dizzy, watching my hat turn while waiting at a table in a grove of trees for an old barber to emerge and give me a bad haircut.

—I do not mean to suggest you must do it.

—No no, of course I will do it. It is a grove of trees with a table and a pole and a haircut to be had, I will of course do it. Something that is done is to be done, period, in the interest of good and modest citizenry.

—In the interest of being a good fellow, you mean.

—That is what I mean.

—Yes, well, then the barber of some famous dead will affect to cut your hair as you sit at the table in a pleasant breeze by a table in the shade of the trees. The whirling of your hat will not disturb you overmuch once you begin to worry about the undeft motions of the man with scissors and razor about your neck and throat and eyes and ears and nose. The straight razor under the nose when the nose is pinched up—the razor poised for the Hitler cut, that cut which will take out the hair which would otherwise form the Hitler mustache, I mean to say, will be your worst moment.

—I will sail through it as if it is the fifth of May. The table—is the table perhaps early American, unlevel, of two or three broad virgin boards badly joined?

—You have the picture, my friend.

—I do. I will enter the grove of trees, placing my hat on the pole, sit in the straight-backed chair, await the geezer, accept my scary butchering, in the corner of my eye my fedora turning dizzily, my arm resting on the uneven planks of pine or walnut or cherry since indeed it could be real wood if what you say about the table is true, all of this in the shade of the trees and in a breeze. I will be oddly and momentarily a complete man living a full life.

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