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July 1, 2012, vol 8, no 2

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Stella Pierides

The Haircut

They enter the park at night. They come with axes, saws, knives, and creaky shoes – not that I let this disturb me. They cough a lot, and they drag their feet, but they are here with one goal in mind: to get as much wood as they can in the shortest time possible.

I lie on my bench with eyes open. When I hear them, I close my eyes so that they don't feel threatened.

These are people of means. They are homeowners trying to keep their families warm, cook a meal with the wood since the electricity was cut. The lucky ones. We, "the parked ones," as we call ourselves, lost our homes; we park here for the night.

I let out a snore, then turn my back to them. They never bother me, and they never get any wood from the pine trees; they are city folk, they don't know any better.

Once, one of them came and sat right on the edge of my bench. I curled up, exhaled deeply. He lit a cigarette.

I felt sorry for him. I had seen how he'd tried to cut a piece out of the trunk of a pine as if it were a steak. Seriously! His hands were sticky from the resin. I wanted to tell him to at least take a few twigs with him back home – pine needles make good tea, full of vitamin C – but didn't dare. What if he turned on me? Hunger makes people go wild.

Who would have thought I'd end up like that, homeless. Years ago I sold my field to pay the rent for my Athens apartment, while setting up my own barber shop. You should have seen my straight razor! The chair! Then disaster struck. The money crisis. Since it started, fewer and fewer men can afford the barber; their wives cut their hair. This has meant no business and no apartment for me.

They said it is my fault. I was too greedy, too ambitious to leave my field and my village; should have stayed with growing vegetables and shearing sheep. Who knows? Sometimes I agree with them. I did try to go beyond my means. At other times, I feel sour, real sour. I have as much right to my dreams as they have to theirs.

Anyway, I am getting carried away. The guy smoked his cigarette to the end, spat, then searched his pockets. Getting up, he took out two coins. I could work out he struggled choosing; then he picked the smaller one and left it next to me on the bench. He sighed.

a time to sow
and a time to pray
scarabs in the pines