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Manhattan Transfer

CAPTAIN JAMES MERIVALE D.S.C. lay with his eyes closed while the barber's padded fingers gently stroked his chin. The lather tickled his nostrils; he could smell bay rum, hear the drone of an electric vibrator, the snipping of scissors.

"A little face massage sir, get rid of a few of those blackheads sir," burred the barber in his ear. The barber was bald and had a round blue chin.

"All right," drawled Merivale, "go as far as you like. This is the first decent shave I've had since war was declared."

"Just in from overseas, Captain?"

"Yare . . . been making the world safe for democracy."

The barber smothered his words under a hot towel. "A little lilac water Captain?"

"No dont put any of your damn lotions on me, just a little witchhazel or something antiseptic."

The blond manicure girl had faintly beaded lashes; she looked up at him bewitchingly, her rosebud lips parted. "I guess you've just landed Captain. . . . My you've got a good tan." He gave up his hand to her on the little white table. "It's a long time Captain since anybody took care of these hands."

"How can you tell?"

"Look how the cuticle's grown."

"We were too busy for anything like that. I'm a free man since eight o'clock that's all."

"Oh it must have been terr . . . ible."

"Oh it was a great little war while it lasted."

"I'll say it was . . . And now you're all through Captain?"

"Of course I keep my commission in the reserve corps."

She gave his hand a last playful tap and he got to his feet.

He put tips into the soft palm of the barber and the hard palm of the colored boy who handed him his hat, and walked slowly up the white marble steps. On the landing was a mirror. Captain James Merivale stopped to look at Captain