Leroy the barber was what you might call a real hoot. He was a diminutive man, with a shock of silver hair and jet black eyebrows that looked like huge, wooly caterpillars. His favorite saying was “I ain’t never seen the beat in my life.”
The walls in his shop were covered with pictures of Hollywood movie stars, including Elizabeth Taylor, Betty Grable and Susan Hayward, but his favorite was Marilyn Monroe standing over that subway grate. When she died, he mourned her death and placed a wreath on his front door.
All the men came to his shop to get their “har did,” sit around telling tall tales and jaw-jacking, as they called it.
When they walked in, they would say “how’s mama?” Leroy would smile and say “I reckon she’s fair to midlin.”
Everybody knew that Leroy carried his mama around in the trunk of his car. When she died, he couldn’t bring himself to plant her in the cold, dark ground so he had her cremated.
He never could find just the right urn to hold her ashes so he put them in his trunk and that’s where she had resided for the last nine or so years. Leroy loved to joke around and sometimes he would muse that now and then he reckoned mama was gettin’ a little antsy because he could hear a faint voice saying “let me out…let me out.”
Leroy said he had been a barber “since the beginning of time.” He had seen wild hair, tame hair, lots of hair and no hair. He had seen black hair turn grey and thick hair turn thin.
There had only been one mishap in his shop and it involved Billy Ray. It was prom time and Billy Ray was taking his best girl. He had come in for “just a tiny little trim.” The attachment fell off of the clippers just as Leroy was running them across the top of Billy Rays’ head and he skinned him. What initially looked much like a reverse Mohawk, became Billy Rays’ new bald head but he was good-natured and said “aw, it’s just hair and I reckonspect it’ll grow back.”
On that memorable day, as Billy Ray was walking out, Reverend Smythe was walking in. He chuckled when he looked at Billy Ray and said “good grief, son. What the hell happened to your hair?”
Reverend Smythe was a hell-fire and brimstone Baptist preacher who taught the fear of God and wanted everybody to be ready for their ever-lastin’ callin’. He didn’t mind using a bit of profanity now and then, if it got his point across and he would sometimes surprise the congregation with an off-color comment, such as “masturbation makes Jesus weep.”
One thing he wouldn’t stand for was anybody taking the Lords’ name in vain. When he would hear somebody say “oh, my Lord,” he would say “you ought not be calling on the good Lord unless you’re really needin’ him.”
Reverend Smythe was an avid reader of anything written by Earl Stanley Gardner and he particularly enjoyed the Perry Mason stories. He could read a paperback novel in one day. He was even known to read Harlequin Romance Novels on the sly. He got a twinkle in his eyes when he said “there’s nothing better than a good murder mystery or a great romance.”
Reverend Smythe was married to the church but at one time, he had a sweetheart. They were a handsome pair. He was a tall, fetching man and she was considered to be the catch of the town. She was a free spirit and had her own idea about a “higher power.” She even suggested to him that God might be a woman.
Being a fundamentalist, Reverend Smythe couldn’t justify her views, nor could she accept his and they parted ways. He became bitter and found forgiveness difficult but he sojourned on and through his faith, he eventually found peace.
She left Whisper and they lost touch but she was never far from his mind. He kept a worn and tattered picture of her tucked away in his Bible, next to the circled scripture “and when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in Heaven may forgive you your sins.”
He believed in an omnipresent God who heard and answered all prayers. He preached that good would always outweigh evil and honor and integrity were the mark of a true Christian. He ended every sermon, reciting The Golden Rule and followed it with the Lords’ Prayer. Outside the church, every parishioner got a handshake, a smile and a “God bless you.”
He had unwavering faith but soon that faith would be put to the ultimate test.
To be continued___________________