Stone was in a good mood. His girlfriend, Jacqueline, had promised to give him the capital to set up his very own barbershop. Well, she was more of a sugar mummy than a girlfriend, but who was keeping score? She was in the habit of outdoing herself to make his life comfortable, but this one just topped the charts. He could already see it- Stone’s Place. This is what he had been waiting for his whole life. It was finally here.
Stone was one of the lucky ones. He loved his job. He woke up every morning at 4am to exercise, after that he would shower, dress up and head to work, only stopping on the way to buy Auntie Adiza’s waakye. He always got the same thing- 3 cedis worth of waakye, 1 piece of wele, 1 unbelievably rock solid piece of meat, 2 eggs, talia, gari and extra shito. Auntie Adiza’s daughter had a soft spot for him and always made sure she was the one to serve him. After breakfast, he would walk up to the shop and wait for his fellow barbers to show up. He had been cutting hair since he was 16, right after his BECE exams, and there was no doubt that he was good at it. He had started in a small kiosk, tucked away in the middle of Amasaman. Alhaji Hussein was the one who gave him this opportunity, but he soon decided that this wasn’t where he wanted to spend his hair cutting days. People didn’t cut their hair often enough and the only source of entertainment was Alhaji’s radio which was often out of tune. His window of opportunity came three years ago when he helped a woman change her flat tyre around the Holy Spirit Cathedral. She ended up introducing him to her cousin who got him the spot at Cut It!
He had always had a charm that won over the ladies. He wasn’t the most handsome guy in the room but he could get a lady to do pretty much anything. That’s why he felt sorry for Jacqueline sometimes. She was a 56 year old woman who dressed like a 27 year old girl, and who believed that having Stone in her life was nature’s way of keeping her young. And yet they both knew he wasn’t going to marry her. They had never talked about it before, but he knew that she knew. She was so good to him regardless. What he didn’t have in looks, he made up for with class. One of his favourite clients, Philip, taught him that people make assumptions about you just by looking at how you carry yourself. He took that lesson seriously and took conscious steps to ensure that he always looked and smelt good. He also listened when his clients were talking and picked up words like unscrupulous and magnanimous, so that people would also be impressed by the way he spoke. This had gotten him places. Just last week, he was taken to the private residence of one of the most powerful men in Ghana to cut his son’s hair, just because of a conversation he had with one of the man’s best friends.
Fridays and Sundays were his busiest days at Cut It! Most people came for a haircut to look good for that wedding, outdooring, funeral, beach party or some other event on Friday nights. On Sundays, the mothers and fathers brought their children for a haircut for school. Saturdays brought in the church goers and football commentators. The barbershop could transform into a stadium in just a few seconds. Most of the football fans never actually cut their hair here, but it was good for business that clients could count on a lively football discussion anytime there was a match. Of the three barbers who had chairs at Cut It!, Stone was easily the clients’ favourite. There were many of them who would prefer to wait or come back later if Stone wasn’t available. He always tried to remedy the situation by recommending the other barbers whenever he was out of town. Sometimes it worked, but clients like Pius Ofori would postpone the haircut until he got back. Pius was an overweight 30 year old man who used too much cologne. Rumour had it that he was bald, hence the sakora look, and yet every week, he would stroll into the shop for a haircut and insist that no one other than Stone touch his hair. Nobody dared to suggest that he didn’t have any hair on his head so it wouldn’t make a difference who touched his hair. It was their own case of the emperor’s new clothes.
By 2pm, it was a full house, which was to be expected, given that there was a match at 5:30pm- Chelsea vrs Manchester City. Most of the stadium guys came in early to get a good spot. His only problem was it made the people who were not football enthusiasts slightly uncomfortable. They were always in a hurry to leave and sometimes they would prefer to come back on another day. Stone always wanted his clients to feel welcome, and that is why he always struck a conversation with whomever was in his chair. He had learnt so much from those ‘in my chair’ conversations- where to get a plot of land at a decent price, what auditors look out for, how to draft a contract, where to get his shoes, which joints were worth the money, all sorts of things. Kuma, one of the ‘area boys’, opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of water and said, ‘Stone, I go take the money give you eh’ (Stone, I will give you the money later). Stone knew that he didn’t intend to pay a dime, but he just smiled and nodded. Haruna sat in his chair and turned to Stone, ‘Charle, the usual!’ Just then, a van passed by the shop, with Shatta Wale’s voice booming out of the speakers. ‘Charle, I can’t marry a girl who listens to Shatta Wale oo!’, Haruna said. Everyone burst out laughing in the shop so Haruna had to raise his voice above the noise to make his point. ‘No, guys, I make serious!’ (loosely translated to mean ‘no, guys, I am serious!’). Reggie, one of the other barbers asked him why. ‘Ma guy, if my wife listens to Shatta Wale, there will be no positive future prospects for my children. I mean, just listen to the guy. I don’t see how anyone can call this music and even enjoy it. There is no crime in enjoying his songs, just don’t expect my ring on your finger!’
Stone could feel Fiifi’s eyes on him. He was an adorable five year old boy who took to Stone after he had told him a story so that he would not be afraid of the buzzing sound the clipper made the very first time he came to cut his hair. Today, Fiifi’s attention was on the fade haircut that Stone was giving Haruna. His bewildered eyes followed Stone’s every move and when he finally wiped Haruna’s head with a towel from the towel sanitizer, he heard Fiifi whisper loudly, ‘ Wow, magic!’ It was Fiifi’s turn to sit in the chair and it was endearing to see him get lost in the barber cape. Stone whispered to him, ‘Close your eyes and count to 90. By the time you finish, I would also have finished.’
‘Uncle Stone, I am going to recite a poem at church so make it extra special.’
‘Is that so? If you count loud enough, I am sure the haircut would be just perfect’
After one and half minutes, Fiifi asked, ‘What comes after 79?’
‘Ok! 80, 81, 82……..90!’
‘All done!’ Stone replied. He dusted Fiifi’s neck with talcum powder and helped him off the chair. ‘Mummy, when I grow up, I want to be a barber like Uncle Stone!’, Fiifi announced triumphantly. ‘God forbid!’, his mother quickly retorted. Fiifi looked bewildered and asked innocently, ‘Oh why?’ The laughter erupted throughout the barbershop as his mother hurriedly stuffed his barbering kit into her bag and mumbled an apology to Stone. Stone was more amused than offended- he could imagine that Fiifi’s mother genuinely wanted more for him than just a barbering shop. Fiifi waved and smiled a two-front-teeth-missing smile at Stone and everyone else in the barbershop.
Jacqueline would make a great mum, he thought to himself. He just wasn’t sure if he wanted a child out of wedlock. The match was about to start and all the hushed conversations had ceased. Pius and Haruna were the leading Chelsea supporters and they were already boasting about how they planned to celebrate their victory. Just then, Mr. Addoteye walked in proudly with a slim scantily clad girl on his arm. Everyone knew she was not his daughter- all his children were below the age of 13. To make matters worse, she sat in his lap and draped her arm over her shoulder, dangling her anklet in the air and toying with his earlobe. The disapproval hung thick in the air and Stone smiled to himself.
There was an unwritten rule in the shop, two actually. The first one was that nobody should use foul language when there are children in the shop. The second one was that nobody should bring side chicks to main chick zones. Mr Addoteye had clearly flouted the second rule, because everyone knew his wife. She accompanied her children to cut their hair every Sunday. The fact that she was a quick tempered, aggressive woman made his move even more daring. Kuma declared that he would pay GHC 100 to whomever was willing to bet, if Chelsea lost. Haruna retorted and asked him to pay for his water first. After everyone had had a good laugh, Kuma insisted once again that he was willing to bet. Kwesi, one of the attendants in the shop next door, agreed to the wager. Then the match began.
Shortly after the match started, James one of his regular customers and good friends, walked in for a haircut. He was uncharacteristically not interested in the match. Stone quietly asked him if everything was ok. James told him that his mother had passed away two weeks after his girlfriend broke up with him. Stone was dumbfounded. He told him that it was tough but he also knew that James could rise above it. He offered to help in any way that he could and refused to let him pay for the haircut. ‘Charle, thanks waa!’, James said. ‘What are friends for?’, he replied. James was one of the people who taught him subject-verb agreement when he first came to Cut It! He owed him a whole lot. The boys yelled- Drogba had nearly scored the first goal for the day.
At half time, nobody had scored and both the groups were getting agitated. Almost as if she were on cue, Mrs Addoteye marched into the barbershop- every bit of her 240 pound body ready to fight. She had seen her husband’s car in the driveway and had apparently been tipped off by the Hausa koko seller across the street. She yanked the girl off her husband’s lap and flung her in the opposite direction. ‘Look at you, disgraceful man! If you are going to cheat on me, ensure that you do not get caught. And of all people- no, all things, with this broomstick that has lost weight! And you’, turning her attention to the girl who was now cowering behind the fridge, ‘if I ever smell you anywhere near my husband, I will beat this residue you call a body and make your face unrecognizable. Look at her! Didn’t your seamstress tell you that the cloth wasn’t sufficient for this style? I am giving you 5 seconds to leave this place. Don’t mess with a Ga woman- if I say I will do it, trust me, I can!’
Almost as though nothing had happened, she turned to Stone and asked how he was doing. She ignored her husband and walked out of the barbershop with a satisfied look on her face. Mr Addoteye squirmed uncomfortably as Kuma jumped to his heels to reenact the drama that had just played out. Stone began to tidy up the place- he swept the hair strands into one corner, rearranged all the gadgets on the counter and pushed the towels into the washing machine. The match was almost over and nobody has scored yet.
If Kuma was white, the blood would have literally drained from his face as Sergio Agüero slid in a final goal in the last but one minute. Seconds later, the referee blew the whistle and the thundering cheers from the Man City guys made Stone smile. Kwesi was especially elated because he was GHC100 richer. Stone knew he was going to miss this when he moved to his own barbershop, but for now, while it lasted, he planned to enjoy every second of it.
©Maukeni Padiki Kodjo, 2015