The Unemployable Hiram Legge

Another customer death. Hiram Legge was his name. I didn’t know him very well, he’d only come into the shop about five times, usually to rent a pressure cleaner for his mother’s house. He lived with her there. I’m not sure if he had a job. I suspected he didn’t. He was a little old drunk with a red nose. I pictured him drinking at night with his mother, doing all the manly chores around the house and living off her social security. One of his chores was of course pressure washing. Another was murdering possums. He went to jail for it in 2007. The article about it is still online. What happened was there was a trash bin somewhere between his house and city hall. A possum had somehow got into the trash bin and Hiram Legge stood over it looking in, armed with a stun gun and a shovel. He plunged the shovel into the bin a few times trying to kill the possum. It was still alive when a lady from Animal Control pulled up. She lowered her window, asked him what he was doing.  “Oh, it’s just a possum,” he said, looking at her with the most deadpan expression imaginable. “I’ve already killed 21 or 22 back at the house. This one’s a little more wily. I’ve tried tasing it, drowning it. Nothing seems to work.” And with that, he plunged the shovel into the bin a few more times as if it was totally normal to do that on Tuesday morning across from city hall just after an animal control officer asked you what you were doing. She told him to stop. She then called the police and he was arrested for animal cruelty, a charge he no doubt thought was bullshit. “It was a damn possum,” he probably said to himself. “A possum is a wild animal. What did I do wrong? I was raised to believe possums were inferior to man. They have no souls. My mom told me so and she’s a Christian.”

Unfortunately, the possum didn’t survive. According to the article in the Palm Beach Post, authorities gave it a proper burial. Hiram, on the other hand, who died on April 30th of this year at age 66, was cremated at Scobee-Combs-Bowden Funeral Home & Crematory in Boynton Beach. I don’t know what happened to his ashes. I guess his mother got them, if she was still alive. If not, they probably went unclaimed and are sitting in a ziplock bag in a musty storage room somewhere. I don’t think he had any other family.

As for his soul, I imagine it went to Possum Hell, where it lives for all eternity in a garbage bin with a big, dumb, violent possum standing guard over it, armed with a shovel and a stun gun and a bucket of water for whenever drowning is necessary.

Hiram Legge was a Trump supporter, if that means anything. The last time I saw him he was standing on the side of the road wearing a MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hat.

Here is a sketch I did of him. I copied it from a 2010 mugshot when he was arrested for driving with a suspended license (first offence, with knowledge). It was probably his mother’s car.

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Odin, Loki & Co.

It seems like whenever you return to the old haunts
of your youth, the universe aligns to tell you, Go back!
You don’t belong here anymore.
You’ve already broken free, evolved and made new.
All that’s here for you is dried-up and dead.

Don’t you see it in the passing faces of the morning train,
in the rows of suburban houses,
in the listless grind of traffic,
in the raging commerce of men,
in memories
of an old way of life that’s gone forever?

And knowing that it’s gone.
And knowing you can never get it back.
And accepting it.

You’ve got to learn to let go.
And learn it so well that letting go becomes innate in you.
Only then will a pathway over the mountain
open itself to you.
Only then will the old gods asleep
underground awake for you.

They wait for you,
not as you are, but as you can be.
Detached, uncompromising, transmogrified,
in harmony with nature and wholly expressive
of your most sublime potentialities.

Let go.
And embrace the letting go.
The old gods await.

Botched Haircut Blues (Courtesy of Sport Clips)

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Last weekend, I drove with my parents and a family friend to Captiva Island for my sister’s wedding. It was both her and her husband’s second one, so it was pretty casual, even by Florida standards. I wore my father’s clothes. His shirt, trousers, tie, shoes, socks, boxer shorts – yes, even the boxer shorts that I wore belonged to him. It was just easier that way. I always traveled light. I had come to Florida from Berlin six weeks before with just a backpack and left my wedding suit at Erica’s parents’ house in England. There was no need to buy another one. Nor was there reason to invest in socks or underwear or anything else that could easily be borrowed. True, not all his clothes fit perfectly; true, no one ever called my dad a fashion maven. But I was willing to put up with that for the sake of convenience.

I got a haircut three days before the wedding. I went to a place my dad suggested. That was my first mistake. Never go to a barber shop your dad suggests, especially when he’s devoid of vanity and 3/8ths bald.

The place was called Sport Clips. That alone should’ve sounded an alarm. As if sports were ever synonymous with good haircuts.

My hairdresser, it turned out, was a plump, squat, Sancho Panzaesque Jewish woman of about 60. She sat me down in the chair, threw the cloth over me and asked me how I wanted it. I explained, but she didn’t seem to absorb. I asked her if she knew who David Lynch was. No, she didn’t. I told her to just trim the top; the sides and back I wanted very short.

“You mean a high fade?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “But blend it in. No lines.”

She gave me a confused look, but started in anyway, putting the top of my hair in barrettes and hacking away at the sides as I told her my life story. She’d never been to Germany, she said, but her parents spoke Yiddish, and there were many German words that had Yiddish roots and vice versa. One such word was פֿאַרקאַקטע, from the German verkacken, which in English means to fuck something up.

About five minutes into the haircut, a customer arrived, and the other hairdresser strode out the back. She was unusually tall, and blond, and very pretty, in a tight black miniskirt and high heels. Why didn’t I get her? I wondered. I watched her in the mirror. I’d always been attracted to tall, statuesque women, but the more I looked at this one, the more something rang false. She seemed way too gussied up for a place like Sport Clips, and her hands were the size of trash can lids. Still, better her, or him, or anyone, than the one presently at work on me. She was having trouble getting one side to align with the other, so to compensate, or out of frustration, she ploughed the clippers up the side and half over the top, turning what was supposed to be a high fade into a top of the head fade, though restricted to just one side.

פֿאַרקאַקטע

She knew it.

She tried to fix the blunder with a pair of scissors. Then she tried a few sleight of hand techniques, combing my hair in several different directions over it, but it was no good. The combover was a failure. She’d kicked the ball into her own goal, and knew it, but there was nothing she could do. Nevertheless, when she was finishing up with me she asked me what I thought of the haircut.

“I’ll know,” I said. “When I get home. I have to look at it at home.”

She yanked the sheet off me and we walked together to the cash register.
“That’ll be $14,” she said.
I couldn’t bring myself to stiffing her.
I gave her a $20 and asked for $4 back. She stuck the $20 in the register, gave me a $5 and a $1 back and shut the register.
“But your tip…” I said.
She turned it down with a wave of the hand.
You know you got a bad haircut when your hairdresser turns down the tip.
I stood there feeling the errant spikes on the top of my head.
I thought about the wedding. I thought about how I’d be wearing my dad’s shirt, tie, shoes, trousers, socks, boxers, and now this: פֿאַרקאַקטע.
“Thanks for coming to Sport Clips,” said the tall blond in a friendly baritone.
“Uh huh,” I said. I felt the top of my head.
I pocketed the change and got out of there, never to return.