Magnum Opie (PG-13)

“Ooohh, well now that is surprising,” the old man said as he swept a comb through the slick hair of the customer seated in one of the shop’s creaking barber chairs, “I can’t believe you wouldn’t have heard the story yet. It’s a – a real doozy, that’s for sure.”

Without waiting for a go-ahead (or any sign of interest for that matter) from his captive audience, the thick-spectacled barber lifted a pair of scissors and continued in his lilting, oddly staggered delivery, “Now this was, oh, just a couple of years ago now. Right after the Bicentennial I recall – or later; it’s hard to tell when you have so many people around here who – who leave up their flags and bunting and such for so long after the fact. Not that that’s a bad thing, understand – oh no – but then you have folks like Howard Sprague leaving his Christmas tree up until the beginning of February. Honestly.” The barber clucked his tongue and lifted his considerable black eyebrows. “Oh, but Opie, yes, I was talking about Opie.

“This is while Opie was out west going to school in Berkeley – California, you know, just across from San Francisco. He majored in journalism. Such a smart boy. Always was. Good boy. We were all so – so proud when he went off. Whole town threw him a farewell party. Only time I ever saw Andy – that’s Andy Taylor, Opie’s pa – only time I ever saw him get all misty eyed. He sure did.

“Now you’ll hear – you’ll hear all kinds of things about those schools out there – what goes on, all the – the protests and the drug taking and the – the hippies like during the war. All of those young men with the long, long hair. Oohh-” he briefly trailed off with a shake of his head and a look to the faded poster of men’s hairstyles adorning the wall between the long mirrors. The dozen variations on the buzzcut and the D.A. seemed to reassure him. The barber started back in with a couple of quick clips, “But Opie did just fine. He made the dean’s list each year and was writing articles for the school paper. Real news stories like you find in the big town papers – like – like the News and Observer out of Raleigh. Andy and Helen had already moved out to Cleveland by then but Barney – Barney Fife, I mean – Barney subscribed to that school paper and he came in here whenever it arrived to read Opie’s stories to us. I’ve never heard such big and – and important sounding words in all my life.

“Well, Opie was writing kind of investigative type stories – he and his writing partner, a boy named Danny Gelman – a Jewish fellow I believe. They did all kinds of what you’d call ‘exposés’ – yes, ‘exposés’ of bad and – and illegal things they saw happening on campus. Sort of calling attention to it, you know, so the local authorities could step in and put a stop to it. That’s Opie all right – sees something wrong and sets it right. Mm-hmm.

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