When Junebug’s clippers bit the nape of De’Vontay’s neck, my boy didn’t flinch. The three old men waiting their turn to my right — their dark faces weathered and lined with experience; their peaked fedoras tilted to the floor; their rheumy eyes flicking across Chicago Defender newsprint; and their grizzled beards, now unkempt and wild, waiting to be tamed for latent power — nodded approval.
I watched De’Vontay’s big brown eyes for distress and fear as Junebug shaped my boy’s lining with sharp, bold edges, bringing out the waves in his extra-short buzz cut and making them pop with exquisite definition. Earlier that morning, I’d told Ella that four years old was not too young for the first haircut. I’d tried my best to assure her this time there would be no outbursts, no eruptions; no crying, no screaming; no fear, no distrust — Junebug had a steady, sure hand. He’d honed his craft for thirty-some-odd years with the same enchanted clippers. We’ve traveled further down the path of Their Way since then. This time, we would be blessed with Her Blackstone.
Ella had crossed her arms, clutched her shoulders, and closed her eyes. Two tears trickled through her lashes.
Her side of the family was powerful. Strong. They didn’t make rash decisions. They didn’t take chances. They didn’t start so young with imbuement. I didn’t have to ask if she would be coming to Junebug’s with me and De’Vontay.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that when Junebug added slim sideburns — tapered to a wicked point to De’Vontay’s lining — fat, wide stalagmites burst from the floor and shot up through the ceiling. Over the years, my mother had told a similar story about me. Chairs went flying. So did people. Except for De’Vontay and the three old men.
Junebug’s barbershop would have crumbled down upon us — upon De’Vontay — were it not for those three old men, deflecting concrete and glass and wood with strong, sly eddies and well-placed runes of air. There was no fear nor distress in De’Vontay’s big brown eyes. He was all dimples and no two front teeth. He knew who had just ripped shit up.
I couldn’t help but smile. My boy. But my smile didn’t last long.
As Junebug and the three old men worked to rebuild the barbershop, earth and air majicks twisting and snaking and undulating in fluid synchronicity, I couldn’t help but think to myself:
Ella was right. But so was I.
I crossed my arms, clutched my shoulders, and closed my eyes. Two tears trickled through my lashes.
Shouts and shakes to the Dust Mother, First of the Seven Mothers. She has allowed us another chance to commune with Her Blackstone. She has given us another chance to raise up a second child in Their Way.
About the author
Malon Edwards was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, but now lives in the Greater Toronto Area, where he was lured by his beautiful Canadian wife. Many of his short stories are set in an alternate Chicago and feature people of color. Malon also serves as Managing Director and Grants Administrator for the Speculative Literature Foundation, which provides a number of grants for writers of speculative literature.