Short story about a barber who learns how someone will die?
January 10, 2008 8:40 PM   Subscribe

What is the short story where there is a barber who, upon touching a person's head or hair, is able to see how the person will die? That's all I can really recall about the story. I read it years ago when I was in high school in one of the literature books that some classes use for instruction.
posted by mulligan to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure it's that how the person was going to die?

James Herriot in one of his books about his life as a veterinarian in the Dales wrote about a barber who could see people's lives when he touched their hair. This became significant when Herriot had to operate on the man's dog and it stopped breathing. Herriot took it out into his garden and spun it around his head to get it to start breathing again. When the man got his dog back after the (successful) operation he twiddled a strand of the dog's hair and said she had been floating.

Here's the story in Dog Stories, but it was in one of his trilogy of vet stories first.
posted by winna at 9:16 PM on January 10, 2008

The original story is in The Lord God Made Them All.
posted by winna at 9:20 PM on January 10, 2008

I may be mistaken, but I believe I read the same story and that it was also in an anthology. I seem to recall that existentialism played into the themes of the story and that light is reflected from the badge of a soldier or someone like that. Let me know if that sounds familiar and I'll see if I can recall enough to find something in Google.
posted by acoutu at 9:24 PM on January 10, 2008

There's also a short story by Joan Aiken, I believe, about a barber who can read people's minds when he cuts their hair.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:30 PM on January 10, 2008

Best answer: This page discusse a Joan Aiken story called "As Gay as Cheese":

Mr. Pol the barber has a unique gift. Merely by laying his hands on a customer’s head he can tell all there is to know about them, what they’ve done and what they’ll go on to do

Could that be it?
posted by bunglin jones at 12:47 AM on January 11, 2008

I think there's something like that in Fifth Business, by Robertson Davies, too, but it's probably more along the lines of mind reading. Who knew that was such a common literary theme?
posted by Hey, Cupcake! at 3:40 AM on January 11, 2008

I've seen an Indian English movie titled "Everybody Says I'm Fine" by director Rahul Bose that has this very same premise. Xen is a barber who cannot help but listening to people's thoughts in his own head when he is cutting their hair. You can find a synopsis on IMDB and there is also a review of the movie on New York Times.
posted by MayaLisa at 6:37 AM on January 11, 2008

That's definitely the one I was thinking about, bunglin jones -- thanks for finding it!
posted by gingerbeer at 3:19 PM on January 11, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks a lot. I didn't give you guys much to work with and I'm still not entirely sure what the story was, but the one suggested by bunglin jones seems to be the most likely candidate. I appreciate everyone's answers.
posted by mulligan at 11:41 PM on January 11, 2008

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