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Wilson & Sons

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Ever since its establishment in 1768, Wilson & Sons Barbershop had been a proud family business. For two and a half centuries, ten generations, there had been a proprietor named Mr. Wilson, who, aided by his family[1], had cut the hair and shaved the faces of the men of London. Currently, that man was Steve Wilson [2], and his siblings Emily and Chris were the other barbers. His ten-year-old son Marty was set to be the next heir to the business, though his contribution to the store was currently limited to sweeping up hair. [3]

Customers came and customers went— but there was one who had, apparently, been there since the very start: A.Z. Fell. He was a plump, white-haired man with a pleasant personality and a sense of style about a century out of date. He came in every two months like clockwork, always wearing the same outfit, and was always served by the current Mr. Wilson. When Steve came of age, his father had let him in on a secret: there were records of this same customer stretching back right to Frederick Wilson, the founder of the shop.

The customer was, it seemed, somehow immortal— and what’s more, he was terrible at hiding it, because he treated his barbers as confidants. When Greg passed the Mr. Wilson mantle, he also gave Steve the Tome of A.Z. Fell: a journal written in by every Mr. Wilson since Steve’s great-great-great-great-grandfather Benjamin Wilson, listing all the stories Mr. Fell had told his barbers over the centuries. [4]

One prominent figure in the Tome was someone named ‘Crowley’. No Wilson had ever quite determined the exact nature of Crowley’s relationship with Fell [5], but in any case, he was definitely another immortal. Only three Crowley sightings had occurred in the history of Wilson & Sons, the most recent by Steve’s great-grandfather Jonathan Wilson in 1938. The description of his appearance in the Tome was fairly different for each one, but there seemed to be a common thread that Crowley was a skinny redhead who dressed in dark colours and wore sunglasses at all hours.

It gave a sort of continuity, having the Tome— when Mr. Fell said “you won’t believe what Crowley has done this time”, Steve could respond, without missing a beat, “it can’t be as bad as that time in Prussia”.

Mr Fell’s hair did, in fact, grow enough to make haircuts possible (although it would barely have been any weirder at this point if it didn’t), but according to accounts in the Tome, he had been getting the same haircut and shave at every appointment for at least as long as the Tome had existed. [6] The barber appointments seemed to be more a social affair than anything else for Fell; the job of a Mr. Wilson was to listen to Fell talk about Crowley (as well as ‘work’ [7]) for as long as he needed, and pretend that the simple haircut and shave actually took that long to complete.

What’s more— without Mr. Fell, Wilson & Sons wouldn’t have survived as long as it did. Not only did he always give them regular custom with generous amounts of gratuity, but every time the Wilson family was in hard times, a miraculous financial windfall would always come soon after a Mr. Fell appointment. Maybe a cousin would win the lottery, maybe ten new customers would simultaneously find out about the shop and become regulars, maybe a wad of hundred-pound notes would just show up addressed to ‘Mr. Wilson’. [8]

One thing’s for sure— A.Z. Fell was the best customer Wilson & Sons had ever seen.

***

December 2018

 

“The usual?”

“Yes, thank you, Mr. Wilson.” [9]

Steve set to work doing the same haircut as always, as slowly as usual. “So, what’s Crowley done this time?”

“Ah.” In the mirror, Steve saw Fell blush. “Well, as you know, our bosses have been less controlling about our association since the whole fiasco in August…” Steve had heard a vague account of the ‘fiasco’ in Fell’s previous appointment— he had an inkling that it might have, in truth, been something to do with all the ‘mass hallucinations’ that had happened one weekend that August, especially given Fell’s clearly supernatural nature, but he had no plans to disclose that inkling at all.

“Yes, and?”

“Well, since we last spoke, Crowley… He asked me on a date. And I said yes.” Mr. Fell looked happier than Steve had ever seen him before.

“Congratulations! …So, wait, you weren’t together before? Because We’ve [10] been considering it as a possibility since… well, since long before it became a legal possibility, let’s just say. What with… the general vibe you give off.”

Mr. Fell huffed, acknowledging Steve’s last point. “Ah. Well—” Mr. Fell stopped, seeming to have a sudden realisation. “Actually. Looking back. Perhaps… perhaps we have been since August, when we had lunch at the Ritz. Or maybe even since… well, before I started coming here. Maybe since… the beginning, but we just weren’t… aware of it yet.” Mr. Fell had stars in his eyes as he gave this cryptic monologue to the barbershop mirror.

Before he could stop himself, Steve turned around to address his sister. She and Chris were both currently trimming hipsters’ beards. “Em! Chris and I owe you twenty quid!”

Emily barely reacted at all; she had wholly expected this day to come. “Nice,” she said, making finger guns, before returning to the task at hand.

Mr. Fell decided not to comment on this interaction.

“Would you like to tell me about the date, Mr. Fell? Since you don’t have anything to complain about today.”

“Oh. Yes.” And Mr. Fell, indeed, told Steve about the date, and went on some tangents about past maybe-dates [11], and rambled about how much he loved Crowley, all the while beaming. Steve had never seen a more convincing argument for the existence of true love. He hoped that he and his husband might someday have what Fell and Crowley have— or the nearest equivalent possible for mortal beings, at least.

Just as Fell was finishing talking, and Steve was finishing the haircut, Steve heard the sound of a car pulling up to the shop, with Bohemian Rhapsody blasting at full volume from its speaker system.

He looked out the window, curious— and there was a vintage black Bentley. The very same car that Jonathan Wilson had described in his June 1938 entry of the Tome.

The car door opened, and out stepped a man. Steve gasped. The man was tall and skinny, he had red hair, he was dressed in black, he was wearing sunglasses although it was a cloudy afternoon— it was Crowley.

“What’s the matter, Mr. Wilson?” Mr. Fell noticed the barber staring out the window.

“Er—”

Then, Crowley pushed the shop door open. [12] “Hey, angel.”

“Oh, hello, dear. Mr. Wilson is almost done with my haircut, then we can go.”

“…Angel, I think your barber is broken.”

This was quite a justified statement, because Steve had been staring at Crowley for about half a minute, his face frozen in abject shock at being the fourth member of his family to ever see Crowley in the flesh.

“Uh. Hi. Mr. Crowley. I’ve— We’ve heard so much about you—!” Steve awkwardly managed to say.

“…Okay,” Crowley said.

Mr. Fell raised a hand. “Ah, sorry, dear— I have told Mr. Wilson a lot about you, and you haven’t come by in. A while.” Perhaps Fell did truly believe ‘Mr. Wilson’ was one person.

“Oh, yeah. Well, all good things, I hope?”

Mr. Fell smiled affectionately. “Crowley, I’ve been coming here far too long to hope for that.” Crowley nodded in a way that said ‘fair enough’. “Perhaps you could pick me up from here more often, though; then he might not make such a big deal out of seeing you.”

Steve nodded rapidly, wide-eyed. To not only be the fourth Mr. Wilson to meet Crowley, but to be the first to meet him more than once—!

“Good idea. Anyway, are you ready to go now?”

“Let me just…” Mr. Fell got out his wallet, and handed a fifty-pound note to Steve. “Keep the change.” Then he walked off by Crowley’s side, and they zoomed off together in the old car, Queen music blasting once again.

Steve went into the back room, got out the Tome, found a pen.

This would be a story to tell the descendants.

***FOOTNOTES***

1Not just sons anymore; Frederick Wilson had been rather short-sighted when naming the business.[return to text]

2Technically, his father Greg owned the establishment, but Greg’s hands were too shaky to cut hair nowadays; Steve, as the heir to the business, had taken over when Greg retired in the early 00s.[return to text]

3Nieces and nephews were also allowed to work at the shop; Emily’s teenage daughter occasionally came by after school, although she’d usually only be there for an hour or two before Emily’s wife came to pick her up to go to some event or extracurricular activity.[return to text]

4This knowledge was originally passed down the line of succession orally, but when Benjamin took over in 1846, he decided that he wouldn’t be able to keep track of all the stories without writing them down.[return to text]

5Steve and his siblings had actually placed bets on that matter, in case the waveform was collapsed in their lifetimes.[return to text]

6The only exceptions were the time he had sideburns for a two-decade chunk of the 19th century— and the time he got them again from mid-2012 to mid-2018, for no discernible reason. It didn’t even seem that Fell liked the latter period of sideburns; he seemed visibly relieved (although vaguely troubled by something he Couldn’t Talk About) when he asked Steve to shave them off.[return to text]

7Nobody was quite sure what Fell’s job that he talked about was; he owned a bookshop in Soho, but according to his conspicuously-vague ‘work’ stories, it was also the case that he and Crowley worked at rival companies with overbearing bosses who disapproved of their association. An enduring theory was organised crime.[return to text]

8The note attached to the cash would be ‘anonymous’, but always in Mr. Fell’s very recognisable handwriting.[return to text]

9Fell always called Steve that, and had called Greg the same, and presumably further back as well— he could just be overly formal because he was used to olden times, but it was entirely possible, in Steve’s opinion, that Fell didn’t realise it was a hereditary title. Especially since, to the best of Fell’s knowledge, every Mr. Wilson remembered anything that had ever been told to a past Mr. Wilson…[return to text]

10‘We’, with an audible capital W, was how Steve referred to the line of Mr. Wilsons— he couldn’t very well say ‘I’, but there was a sort of collective memory thing going on.[return to text]

11Some of them were interactions Steve remembered from the Tome (his ancestors had even annotated one or two of them with terms now considered somewhat homophobic, followed by question marks), but others had never been brought up to any Wilson before.[return to text]

12Crowley was… David Tennant’s ginger doppelgänger, now that Steve got a better look at him. Perhaps Fell and Crowley are Time Lords, Steve thought for a moment. Fell certainly did love bowties.[return to text]