The Man Who Cut Hair 

Once upon a time, there was a trigonometrist who lived next to a monastery. Most of his days were spent reading books on triangles, drawing and dissecting them, or looking at shadows, trees, and the great hemisphere of the blue sky. Now and then, however, he had to put aside his work and be the local barber. It was not his trade, but he was the only person for miles in any direction who could wield a blade. The trigonometrist performed these duties without complaining, but was always happy to return to staring at the clouds or gazing at diagrams on the bone-pale pages of a codex. One day, a woman full of life with copper hair and a heavy bosom came to him in tears, begging for help. She needed his services for time was running out. The trigonometrist calmly put away his codex, and got his bowl, scissors, a blade, a carafe of water, some cloth, cream, and balm. As the scissors clicked, he spoke of the angles made by their twin blades, the circumference of the earth, and the beauty of rain. The sound of his voice and the snipping lulled the woman into a dream of black clouds racing over fields of lavender and grain. She slept and never noticed the cool gestures of the blade against her skull. A strange electricity flowed through her body and she could see herself as a child walking with a parasol, her smoking pyre on the night of her distant death, and the intricate folds of the barber’s brain matter, cerebral folds like the lonesome roads of a distant planet, winding and whispering into infinity as he read the fates of triangles and shaped the head of an unknown woman. After the last stroke, when his strong fingers were washing her head, applying balm and massaging her skull, she awoke to the horror of what he had done. The woman wept. She had only wanted a trim to prepare for her wedding, but now that she looked like a runaway slave, she was damned to be cast off as a whore. The trigonometrist felt sad, and apologized. Nobody had ever come for such a thing, he murmured as he stared in the direction of the monastery. She asked him how such an idiot could be a barber. I am not a barber, he calmly explained; I am a trigonometrist. They only started coming to me because I was always clean shaven and possessed the only blades in the area. It was now evening. The woman got up, lit some lamps and a fire in his stove, and began to brew him some tea and bake bread. 


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