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Icarus: Growing Gray (Birthday Vingette)


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Sean sat in the barber’s chair. His hair was getting a little long anyway, he thought to himself, but that wasn’t the reason why he came. This year, he’d be getting someone else to do it. He had less and less of a need for the job to be professional. Her eyes were fading anyway. Still, he was supposed to be in his fifties, and aging well only goes so far, especially when her own aging was taking a turn for the worse.

“You know, I don’t get many folks come in asking for their hair to get dyed gray,†the barber said, making conversation as he clipped away at Sean’s hair. Sean knew he wouldn’t be able to come back to this barbershop. Barbers – not the people at hair salons who turn over every couple months, real barbers – they have long memories, and too good of memories for faces. Maybe he’d be able to get away with it for a year or two, but eventually, an ageless man would draw the exact sort of attention that he did not want.

“How old do you think I am?†Sean asked him. The barber pursed his lips and paused for a second to look Sean over.

“Maybe… 23, 24?†he guessed. Sean shook his head.

“Try 34,†he said, taking over twenty years off his true age. Despite that, the barber burst out a quick laugh as he started to cut Sean’s hair again.

“You got to be… got to be messing with me. You look like you still get carded when you go into a bar,†he said.

“And that’s why I’m getting my hair dyed. It’s been too long since the last time; you can’t even see it. Nobody takes me seriously – I’ve been working at my job for five years now and I still get called the young guy,†Sean said.

“I wish I could have that problem,†the barber said, looking down at his potbelly then glancing up to his own thinning hair.

“I can’t complain too much,†Sean said with a chuckle. Then it was time to change the subject. “Who do you like in the Series – the Rays or the Phillies?†The two men began to talk about baseball, and the conversation moved away from dangerous topics.

At home, he began to get dressed to head out. He wasn’t going far, even though she thought he was coming from Arizona. It gave him an excuse to dress like Freedom City felt much colder out than it really did. The more of his body he could cover up, the less obvious it was that his muscles were still rock-hard, and far larger than any fifty-six-year-old man’s should be (without the use of steroids, anyway).

The posture was important, too. In his line of work, Sean had to project power in every step, every movement of his body. Here, he had to remember pains that he had never really felt. He tried to remember if he had said that he was suffering from arthritis last time; he hoped not. Really, this last year, he had been feeling much better than he had for years. His shoulders slouched, and he let his hands shake a little more than they otherwise would. He looked at his reflection in the mirror. It wasn’t a disguise that would fool anyone who was looking closely, but the person he was going to see expected him this way. He fixed the cap on his head and walked out his apartment down the street.

Sean knocked on the door. Just when he was starting to worry about what could be taking so long, he heard shuffling on the other side of the door. It opened a crack and an old woman peered out. Sean smiled, a warmer smile than anyone would see any other day of the year.

“Happy birthday, Ma,†he said.

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