Empty Sacrifice by BaldSurfer
"Come on, Jax. It's for a good f***ing cause! A bunch of us are ready to pledge $500 if you do it!"
Jackson didn't even look up from his computer screen as he quietly stammered, "I don't think so, Eric. I'd be happy to make a donation for one of the other participants, but I can't do it."
Eric Danson snickered and said "Yeah. That's what I thought. You're a real team player, Jax." Jackson turned and looked as Eric walked away. Eric was a an intimidating presence - tall, a muscular bodybuilder who kept his hair shaved nearly to the scalp. He was a vice president at the company and most of the guys idolized him, But he reminded Jackson of every bully he'd faced since grade school. Of all the departments at the newspaper, how did Jackson find himself as a graphic designer for the sports department? He wasn't a sports fan. He wasn't athletic. And he was surrounde by jocks and muscleheads who either teased him or ignored him completely. A lot of the teasing was aimed at Jackson's long pony tail that hung halfway down his back. He had a small slender build and from the back, could easily have been mistaken for a girl. He tried growing a goatee to make himself look more masculine, but only a few downy hairs sprouted from his chin. So he did his job, didn't really socialize with anyone, and went home to his girlfriend every night while the "dudes" went to happy hours, played in softball and basketball leagues, etc.
And now Eric was asking him to participate in St. Baldrick's. They wanted to shave his head. Jackson couldn't even imagine it. He would never cut his hair off. And he would certainly never let those guys have a chance to humiliate him so publicly. The department's St Baldrick's event wasn't very profitable. Most of the guys had short buzz cuts anyway so nobody was offering big donations to see half an inch of hair shaved. That's why for the third year in a row, they tried to get Jackson involved.
"They're trying to get me to do it again," he told his girlfriend Maria when he got home. "Those idiot jocks want to pay $1000 to get me to shave my head. Can you imagine?"
"Well, baby, I kinda had an idea," she replied. On my way out the door this morning I saw part of a story on the news about St Baldrick's and what a good cause it is. Then they showed a lady who was also going to donate her hair so a kid with cancer could get a wig. It was so sweet! I swear, if my hair was long enough, I'd have cut it off right on the spot!"
Jackson looked oddly at Maria, her straight black hair bobbed just below her chin. "What does that have to do with me?"
Maria explained her plan. She told Jackson that he could raise a lot of money for cancer research, have his hair used to make a kid feel better herself, and maybe bond with his coworkers at the same time.
"Wajt a minute. You want me to let those gorillas shave my head? Not just a haircut but a shaved head? I'd never give them the satisfaction!"
"But it's such a good cause. And you could do so much good!I'll make you a deal. You don't have to do it with the work guys. I promise I can get at least $500 in donations from my office and my friends, and you can cut your wherever you want. Please, baby! I'd love for us to help."
Reluctantly, Jackson finally agreed. If Maria could raise that much money, he'd do it. By the next evening, she came home with signed pledges for nearly $800. Jackson felt nauseous. This was really going to happen. To make matters worse, Maria had already booked a 7:00 appointment for him that night at her salon. Before he could even protest, she was dragging him out the door. He offered to just make the cash donation himself if he could keep his hair, but Maria said he should donate all that hair to help another sick kid. He was helpless.
Jackson sat in the salon chair, nervous and sick to his stomach. He kept trying to figure out how to run away, but Maria would never forgive him. He thought it was odd how excited Maria seemed to be. Did she secretly hate his long hair? He'd had it this long since he was a teenager. He couldn't even imagine what this was going to be like. But Maria smiled broadly and held up the video camera. Rico, the stylist, tied Jackson's hair into tight ponytails all over his head. He explained that this was the way to get as much donatable hair as possible. Now besides his queasy feeling, Jackson looked ridiculous.
"Ready?" asked Rico, scissors open in his hand.
Jackson swallowed hard and said, "Just turn me around first. I can't even watch this."
Rico spun the chair away from the mirror, grabbed a tail on the top of Jackson's head,sliced it off quickly and handed it to Jackson. He looked at that 18 inch hank of hair and thought he'd vomit. He couldn't even speak. It took only 10 snips to remove years of hair and drop the bunches in Jackson's lap.
"I'm so proud of you, sweetie," Maria assured him. "And you're gonna look so sexy."
"I... I... I thought you already found me sexy."
"Of course, baby. But this will be a nice change. You're already looking so manly!"
Jackson tried not to be insulted by that. He was already too wrapped up in crazy emotions about what was happening. Rico asked if he wanted to see yet or wait for after the shave. Jackson chose to wait until it was over. The strange sensations of losing most of his hair was enough to deal with.
"So how short are we going? Not much left. I could maybe salvage a number one, or do you want to go all the way to zero?"
"I told the sponsors he'd be getting shaved, Rico. I think it's got to be a zero." Jackson was too disoriented and upset to care and didn't say a word. He jumped a little as Rico flipped a switch and the clippers roared to life. Jackson had never had clippers near his head before and it felt strange as the cold metal scraped against his scalp and he could feel the last of his hair disappear in their wake. Moments later, it was over.
Rico asked if he was ready to look, Jackson said "I don't think so" but Rico spun the chair around.
He was BALD! All his hair was gone, save for the merest specs of light brown stubble on his impossibly pale scalp.
"I don't look like me anymore," he muttered. The tears began to flow when he reached out from under the cape and touched his bald head. It felt like fine sandpaper. It felt alien, like his head wasn't even part of his body. The tears ran down his face, a few clinging to his thin downy mustache and peach fuzz on his chin.
Maria hugged him and reassured him. She told him he looked handsome. She told him he was a hero for making this sacrifice to help others. And she told him to think of it as a new beginning - a fresh start. "You can grow it all back if you want. And it'll be all fresh healthy hair again. Remember how dry it was after you got those silly highlights? And how brittle it was when we dyed it back to the right color? Now you can start all over!"
Rico's eyes widened in surprise. You dyed your hair? That hair?" as he pointed to the pile of banded hair in Jackson's lap.
"Yeah," he replied, but it was like a year ago."
"Doesn't matter," Rico explained. "Didn't you read the donation rules? If the hair has been dyed or processed, they won't take it. I'm sorry, bro. I thought you knew."
"I left the house before the story was over," Maria stammered. "I didn't hear them say that."
Jackson stood up, staring at his bald white head, still crying as he tried to grasp what had just happened.
So I just let him shave off all my hair for nothing?
We raised $780 for St Baldrick's.
"I would have donated twice that to keep my hair!" He felt angry, sad and embarrased all at once. Maria cried as she apologized again.
Rico said "Sorry again, Jax. But what do you want me to do with that?" as he gestured to the pile of long hair that had so defined Jackson until minutes ago.
"Just throw it away. It's as useless as I feel right now."
They walked home in silence. Jackson barely slept. And then he had to go to work and face everyone. He hated how much fun those apes would have at his expense. He tried not to draw attention as he walked quickly to his desk when her heard the boom of Eric Danson's voice. "Holy crap!"
Jackson turned around and there were Eric and a few other coworkers - all shaved as bald as Jackson. "Jeez, Jax! Look at you! You look like one of us!"
The guys each reached out and rubbed his stubbly head. They asked why he did it alone instead of with the rest of the office. For a moment, he felt like maybe this would at least help him bond with these guys. He explained the plan to donate the hair and tried to sound amused when he told them how that didn't work out.
"Well, the point is, you took one for the team. Nice job. And hey, I've got a quarter if you shave off that fuzzy excuse for a beard. That's a penny a whisker."
They all laughed and walked away as Jackson sighed and sat down at his desk. He may now look like them, he thought but he'd never be one of them. He looked straight ahead at his screen, tried to keep it together. The air conditioning blew a cold draft across his bare scalp, and the tears began again...