2005 – Merle Drown – Man With A Comb

Fiction selection from the 2005 issue

Man With A Comb
by Merle Drown

He always carried a comb. Of course back in the old days, when I first met him, we all carried combs. A few years older than we, he set a standard for us. Running a comb above his ears, he’d sweep his dark hair back on each side, then finish with a flip of the long wave over his forehead. His comb held cool in every tooth.

After supper when the small town shops closed for the evening, he draped himself over a parking meter, delicious disrespectful. When he stood, slipped comb from pocket, and slid it through his hair, we admired his slick grace more than any athlete. He performed this dance as if it were neither act nor art, and we pretended not to know.

Over the years our hair grew wild, then short, wiry, brushed, picked, let alone. We left our combs behind.

Not he. Nor did he change his style, frozen as it thinned, turned gray, receded, finally revealing a pool of scalp.

We were sure he was dead, his parking meter held up by his ghost, as empty as the deserted shops, closed now even at noon. We drove down the old street, conjuring combs and grace, and then he emerged from the dark entryway of an old brick building with rooms by the week.

Shorter now, slump shouldered, part lines in his face, his hand shook with timid tremors as the comb made its tired journey. We waved and called his name. He waved back, the comb, as if forgotten, still in his hand.

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