The Man Who Wouldn’t Shave His Beard

Arizona State Fair 2008 - Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim XPRO from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Kevin Dooley, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

The man walks up to the counter of our stand at the fair and I know he will be a talker. I don’t know how I know this, but after years of waiting on people, I know. It is like a sixth sense. Perhaps it is something in the eyes, something lost or weary. Perhaps it is something in the shoulders, something heavy.

“You know,” he says, rubbing his beard like a sage, “I’ve been out of work now for 18 months. I’ve seen a tough stretch. A tough stretch indeed.”

He pauses. I wait.

“You sure you don’t have any pumpkin pie?” he asks, a sidetrack, a rabbit trail.

“No, sorry about that,” I say. “We don’t have enough space to carry refrigerated pies.”

“Oh, I’d just need one,” he says. I don’t say anything, because I know he doesn’t want to talk about pies.

“I love a good pumpkin pie. So anyway,” he says. “It’s been a tough stretch. I called up to York fair and they said the carnies hired people on a temporary basis, you know, to help set up the rides and run the food stands. So I showed up and applied and worked for two days.”

“Did you enjoy it?” I ask.

He shrugs.

“It was work,” he says. “It was money. But after two days, that woman comes to me and says I can’t work for her and keep my beard on.”

He laughs.

“Can’t keep my beard on! Well, I’m not shaving, not my beard, and I told her so, so she told me to take a hike. I called down here to Frederick Fair and applied to work down here for the week.”

“So you’ll be here this week?” I ask.

He nods.

“And they’ll let you keep your beard?”

“Yep, I’m running a fryer, just making french fries and corn dogs. That sort of thing. I done it before and I suppose I’ll do it again.”

He rubs his beard.

“Said I could keep my beard, you know. I have to wear a hat though. Can’t stand wearing hats, but I suppose I can respect her, wear the hat. I could use the money.”

He walks away. I can tell that, for this man, walking away from a conversation is like peeling off a scab. But I also know I’ll see him again. It’s something in the way he walks away, the slow movement of his gaze, or the way he shifts his hat nervously.

2 Replies to “The Man Who Wouldn’t Shave His Beard”

  1. I have to wonder about the woman who found his beard acceptable for two days, but not the third.

    Thank you for being kind to the man with the beard. There are an awful lot of lonely men out there, and your patience and kindness may have been the best thing that happened to him all day.

    Most men’s identity is their work, and to a lesser degree, their family. Perhaps if you don’t have either, you cling to what you do have, perhaps a beard, and to a lesser degree, a preference for pumpkin pie.

    “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

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