Virginia looked at the image in the dented, polished metal that served as a mirror in the restroom of a grubby diner. Glass mirrors never lasted long in these parts of Hoganville as they were smashed for the sake of it or to use the silvered shards as makeshift weapons. Due to the less than perfect flatness of the mirror, the face looking back at her was warped as if in a funhouse mirror.
Despite that, the one staring back at her was markedly different after the visit to the barber yesterday. She ran her fingers over the alien-looking stubble above one ear where twenty-four hours earlier had been locks of lush, chestnut brown hair. Wyatt, her mentor, had crudely hacked most of her hair off - enough for her to pass as a shaggy-headed boy. Then they took a trip to the barber in her "new" outfit of cast-off boys' clothes that Wyatt had procured by methods he had not disclosed.
"Wyatt, here, tells me you're going into the newspaper business, young man," the barber, Bill, remarked.
"That's right, sir."
The politeness of the apparent boy drew nods of approval from the four old-timers who used Bill's shop as their daily gathering place.
"Well, you've got to look neat about it, so I'll give you the Newsie Special," Bill replied as he went to work with his shears.
"Thank you, sir."
The Newsie Special meant that the hair on the sides and in back was cut extra short so the newspaper boys could look a bit more presentable between haircuts as they hocked their papers. Haircuts cost them time and money.
When Bill was done, Virginia was startled by her appearance. It was if the mirror was actually a trick with a picture of a boy in there. Slowly, she ran her hand over the top which was just slightly longer than a crew cut. She swallowed hard to keep from crying.
"A good haircut makes you look like a new person, doesn't it, young man?' Bill asked.
Recovering quickly, Virginia nodded.
"Yes, thank you, sir," she replied as she slid out of the chair and dug into her pocket for her few coins.
She passed on one medium-sized silver piece for the haircut and then added a copper for the tip. Even if it wasn't much, Wyatt said it was always important to leave a little tip to develop a good relationship with those she would deal with regularly. Bill put the silver in the drawer and the copper in a cigar box.
"Thank you...should I call you 'young man' or do you have a name?"
That had been another bit of planning. Virginia wanted to keep it similar and had suggested Virgil. Laughing, Wyatt said that was perfect if she wanted to beaten up regularly by the other boys. Since her nickname had been Ginny, he made another suggestion.
"Jimmy, sir," Virginia told Bill.
"Well, thank you, Jimmy. And best of luck to you in your new venture."
Orphaned when her grandmother died, Virginia faced the undesirable prospect of an orphanage. Through the telegraph networks of back alley rumors, she had heard that kids who went into those places were rarely seen again. Why that was allegedly so, no one could say but it was enough for Virginia to want to stay clear of those institutions. It was Wyatt, a boy of nearly eighteen who suggested another option.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Mr Double's Palisade
A MrDouble Production:
Changes last made on: Monday, May 14, 2018