The Haircut — a short story for English reading and speaking

It was a quiet day in Reggie’s barbershop. He was giving a young man a fade.

Then in walks a woman brandishing a shotgun… And she is far from happy.

How does Reggie deal with this?

And why is the woman angry?


Read my short story The Haircut to find out.

This funny short story comes with a complete lesson plan attached.

Many many questions to test your students’ reading comprehension.

And a big list of questions to discuss the story too.

Lots of other activities and exercises.

Download the lesson below!

Introduction

Have you ever had a really terrible haircut in a hair salon or barbershop before?

How did you react?

What was the outcome?

The Haircut

The woman burst into the barbershop. A shotgun in her hand.

Reggie didn’t know if it was loaded. But by the look on her face, he had to assume it was.

He raised his hands. In his left hand, his comb, his right, his scissors.

Then, rather foolishly, he said: “Can I help you?”

The customer in the chair in front of him, a regular young man who always asked for the same style, turned slowly to face the woman.

“You,” said the woman. “You’re the man who cut my husband’s hair.”

Reggie kept his hands where they were. It was a rough neighbourhood, and he had seen guns before. He knew that it was always best to comply and be as calm as possible in a situation like this.

But he had never had a 12-bore shotgun directed right at his face before.

“I don’t know, ma’am,” he said. “May I know your husband’s name?”

The woman shifted her weight onto the other leg, then pulled the gun tighter into her shoulder.

“You know full well who I am talking about here,” she said.

Reggie remained calm.

“Ma’am, with the greatest of respect, I don’t know who you are. And I don’t know if I know your husband. Please, just tell me his name.”

“His name is Dwight,” said the woman.

Reggie’s heart dropped.

Yes, he knew Dwight.

Dwight was another regular. A guy in his late forties. A family man.

But he could be an odd fish. He would say the kind of things that didn’t seem to fit in with everyday conversation.

Some of the things he said sounded really quite anti-social.

But Reggie could handle him. He cut his hair about once a month. They talked about the football, Dwight might gripe about something on the news, and that was usually that.

But this morning, Dwight did seem a little off.

He didn’t really seem himself.

He was very quiet, for one thing. And that was not Dwight at all. He would usually come into the shop and just start to commandeer the conversation.

People just accepted it. They just thought, well, that’s Dwight, that’s what he does.

But this morning, he had come in, and not said a word.

Then the second thing he did was he asked Reggie to shave his head.

Reggie thought it was a joke.

“You want me to do what now?” he asked Dwight.

“I want you to shave my head,” said Dwight. “Shave it all off. All of it.”

And so that’s what Reggie did. Dwight was a grown man. He was capable of making his own decisions.

But now, Reggie was faced with Dwight’s wife — a woman he had never met before — and she was holding what he imagined to be a loaded shotgun.

And she didn’t look happy. In fact, she looked very unhappy.

She looked positively livid.

“Yes, I know Dwight,” said Reggie. “He’s one of my regulars.”

The young man in the seat in front of Reggie raised his hand.

“If you don’t mind, ma’am, I’d like to just leave and let you finish your private conversation with Reggie here.”

The woman turned the gun to him.

“No, you stay right there,” she said. “And shut your mouth. Not another peep out of you.”

The young man slid back into his seat, his eyes fixed at the end of the gun just a few inches from his face. Suddenly, the question of whether Reggie was cutting his fade to the degree that he liked was far from his mind.

The woman turned a few degrees and pointed the gun back at Reggie.

“I need to talk to you about what you did to my Dwight’s head,” she said.

“Okay,” said Reggie. “But ma’am, do you mind if I put my comb and scissors on the shelf right there?”

The woman jerked her head and Reggie very slowly and very carefully placed the tools of his trade on the shelf by the mirror.

He stood in front of the woman, his hands no longer raised, but held out palms-up before her.

“I did cut your husband’s hair,” he said. “I cut it to his exact specifications. He asked me to shave his entire head.”

The woman swallowed. Bit her lip.

“I don’t believe that,” she said. “My Dwight would never ask for such a thing.”

“He did, ma’am, I swear,” said Reggie.

Reggie knew that the young man sitting in front of him had witnessed Reggie shaving Dwight’s hair. He had made a comment about it and laughed at Dwight’s bald head.

But Reggie could see the fear in the young man’s eyes in the reflection of the mirror and decided to leave him out of the debate.

The woman continued.

“You’re telling me that Dwight came in here, asked you to shave all his hair clean off and then paid you?”

Reggie nodded.

“On my mother’s life. May she rest in peace.”

The woman took a breath and went on.

“Because for the last, what, fifteen years or so, he’s been coming in here and getting the exact same haircut every time.”

“Yes, I know,” said Reggie.

Something about the woman’s face, the look in her eyes, didn’t make Reggie think that this woman was mentally troubled in any way. She just didn’t look crazy.

She was just very angry. That’s all.

“So why would he do such a thing?” she said. She lowered the gun a little.

Reggie inwardly breathed a sigh of relief.

“I really have no idea, ma’am. I guess he just wanted to try something different.”

Then something in the woman’s eyes flashed. Something barely visible.

But Reggie saw it.

“Well, I don’t like it. I don’t like it one damn bit. I liked his hair the way it was before.”

And there was the nauseating sound of metal as she cocked the gun. She raised it directly towards Reggie’s head.

So what are you gonna do about it, mister?”

Reading Comprehension Questions

Who are the three characters in the story?

Where does the story take place?

Who burst into the barber shop?

What is she holding in her hands?

What were Reggie’s initial reactions when the woman entered the shop?

Why did Reggie raise his hands when confronted by the woman with a shotgun?

How did the customer in the chair react when the woman accused Reggie of cutting her husband’s hair?

What was the woman’s grievance with Reggie regarding her husband’s haircut?

What was unusual about Dwight’s behaviour during his last visit to the barber shop?

How does Dwight usually behave when he goes to the barbershop?

How did Reggie feel when he realized the woman’s husband was Dwight?

Describe the atmosphere in the barbershop when the woman confronted Reggie.

Why did Reggie ask the young man in the chair to stay during the confrontation?

Why did the woman turn the gun towards the young man at one point?

How did Reggie try to assure the woman that he knew Dwight and had cut his hair as requested?

What did Reggie do when the woman pointed the gun at him and asked about Dwight’s haircut?

Why did Reggie ask if he could put his comb and scissors on the shelf?

How did Reggie describe the haircut he gave to Dwight to the woman?

Why did the woman find it hard to believe that Dwight would ask for a completely shaved head?

How did the woman react when Reggie mentioned that Dwight paid for the haircut?

What did Reggie think about the woman’s mental state during the confrontation?

How did the woman express her dissatisfaction with Dwight’s new haircut?

What sound did Reggie hear that made him feel uneasy during the conversation with the woman?

How did the woman escalate the situation at the end of the story, and what did she demand from Reggie?

Essential Vocabulary

barber

handle

towards

shotgun

gripe

breathed

loaded

conversation

relief

raised

faced

raised

assume

witnessed

directly

comb

reflected

gonna

scissors

witness

neighbourhood

foolishly

reflection

directed

customer

barely

situation

regular

visible

considerably

style

mentally

precisely

turned

troubled

specifications

slowly

lowered

inwardly

dropped

cocked

nauseating

 

Exercise

Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

 

Barber: A person whose occupation is cutting and styling hair, especially men’s, and shaving or trimming beards.

 

Handle: The tactful and careful way in which we deal with certain people.

 

Then write a sentence of your own that uses the new word or phrase correctly.

 

The barber expertly trimmed John’s beard and gave him a stylish haircut.

 

John had a lot of experience with his brother’s temper tantrums – He knew how to handle him very well.

 

 

Do this with all the vocabulary and, over time, this will help improve all your English skills — reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Discussion Questions

How would you describe Reggie’s reaction when the woman entered the barbershop with a shotgun?

If you were Reggie, how would you have handled the situation differently?

In your opinion, why did Dwight’s wife bring a shotgun to the barber shop instead of addressing the issue differently?

Have you ever experienced a situation where someone reacted unexpectedly to a decision you made? How did you handle it?

What do you think about the young man’s decision to stay in the chair and not leave the barbershop when the woman told him to stay?

If you were the young man, how would you have reacted in that tense situation?

Imagine you are Dwight. Why do you think he suddenly wanted to shave his head after getting the same haircut for years?

How do you think Reggie felt when he realized he had shaved Dwight’s head against his wife’s wishes?

Discuss the importance of effective communication in avoiding misunderstandings, especially in relationships.

Do you agree with Reggie’s decision to follow Dwight’s request, even though it was unusual? Why or why not?

If you were in Dwight’s wife’s shoes, how would you have preferred to find out about the haircut rather than with a shotgun involved?

Can you think of a situation where someone’s appearance changed unexpectedly, and it had a significant impact on their relationships or how others perceived them?

In your culture, how important are personal appearance and hairstyles? Can you share any specific examples or experiences?

What do you think might be the underlying reasons for someone to suddenly want a drastic change in their appearance, like shaving their head?

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to explain or defend a decision you made to someone close to you? How did you handle it?

How might cultural differences influence the way people react to changes in personal appearance? Give some examples according to your culture.

If you were a regular customer in the barbershop during this incident, how would you have reacted or intervened?

Discuss the role of empathy in resolving conflicts. How could Reggie have shown more empathy towards Dwight’s wife?

If you were Dwight’s wife, what alternative ways could you have chosen to express your displeasure with his new haircut?

Share a personal story or experience where a seemingly trivial issue escalated into a more significant problem, and how it was resolved.

You can download the full lesson plan by clicking the link below!

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