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Flattop John 2 (Part 4 of 4) by JB




|||||||||| Flattop John 2: ||||||||||

----------- Part 4 -----------

_||| The Commercial |||//_



John grinned, "Don't worry, Nick. Yer secret is safe with us...maybe...meep, meep!"

Kyle's Corvette rumbled to life and he roared out of the parking lot like it was his own personal
driveway.

Nick leaned on the barber chair again, "So are you two jokers here for a haircut, or did you come
in just to see the show?"

Sam grinned, "Both!" He eagerly jumped up from where he was sitting and plopped down in the
barber chair.

John elaborated on Sam's statement, "I was planning on coming in today to get my flattop
tuned-up..."

"I see it's gettin' kinda soft around the edges, loosin' its shape," Nick interjected.

John craned his neck to see his reflection and brushed his hand up through the squared-off sides,
"Yeah, I noticed that too. So anyway, when I drove up to the 7-Eleven I saw Kyle's 'Vette parked
in front of yer shop. Me and Sam started talkin' about what kind of haircut Kyle would end up
with and how I wanted to be here to see it happen, but I didn't wanna ruin yer hunt by sayin'
something stupid, y'know? I figured you liked doin' yer hunting without an audience."

"Ya got THAT right." Nick replied, adding a bit of a grin at the end to soften the blow.

John blushed guiltily then continued, "So then I remembered I was gonna get my haircut
anyway. Good excuse to come in and watch Kyle's head go up on the wall."

Nick began caping Sam up, "Speaking of heads on the wall...what's that I see over there?"

Sam looked to where Nick was pointing, "I don't see anything."

"Exactly. Last time you were in here I took yer head off the wall and set it on the floor there, told
ya you could reclaim it when ya proved to me that you were a predator, not the prey. Well after
today's hunt, you've got yer head back, my friend. That was some mighty fine stalking you did...I
nearly shot snot out my nose when you told Kyle that YOU convinced ME to give you that
crewcut. Ha!"

Sam grinned, "Yeah, I thought you'd like that."

Nick finished fastening the cape around Sam's neck, "Yer still on probation though, so don't get
cocky, kid." He gave Sam a slight grin, "If I get you beggin' for a mohawk or a flattop with
fenders or any other kind of goofy haircut over the next couple of months, yer head goes back up
on the wall, maybe for good...right next to Gumby's there."

John's eyes twinkled, "Speaking of him...Gumby...Mike," his voice took on an unctuously
innocent tone, "I chatted with him today and, well, I couldn't help but notice that his newly
acquired tapercut had somehow gotten shorter! Too short to lay down, in fact. It was standin' up
all over! The poor guy couldn't even part his hair anymore...You wouldn't know anything about
that, would you Nick?"

Nick chuckled long and hard, "Yeah...good ol' Gumby. He still thinks his hair's gonna grow
faster if he gets it cut more often. He came in today for his weekly trim. Gave him a nice
brushcut, 1 inch."

A sly grin spread across John's face, "I told him it might not work if he waited too long between
cuts, that his hair growth would slow down. He thanked me for the advice and said he might start
comin' in twice a week...How short are ya gonna take him? All the way?"

Nick laughed again, "Actually, I've been thinkin' lately what to do with Gumby...his name's
Mike?...guess I should do him the honor of rememberin' his name if he's gonna be in here twice a
week...I reckon I'll take 'im down to a quarter inch butch, which oughta be by...let's see, if I take
1/4 inch off each time he comes in...the end of next week at this rate...haven't decided yet if it's
gonna be a high 'n' tight though." Nick frowned a bit, "...Y'know, what I don't get is- what good
does it do makin' yer hair grow faster if yer gettin' it cut shorter every time you come in?..
Anyhow, if he still hasn't caught on by then, I'll warn him that his hair's growin' TOO fast now
and that he should give it a rest...I'll probably have him grow it back out to that tapercut he had,
it seemed to be the best look for him."

Sam looked puzzled, "You said you would warn him his hair was growing too fast- what's the
danger? What would happen?"

Nick shrugged, "How should I know?...Maybe he'll wake up one morning covered head-to-toe
with thick dark hair, wolfman-style."

John smirked, "You gonna tell him that?"

"I might...It's all made-up anyway, right? What difference would it make? Might as well have
some fun with it." They all chuckled at that.

Nick reached back and grabbed a pair of clippers off the hook, "So what are we doin' here, Sam?
Same as last time? Sides peeled, 1/8 inch on top?" The clippers came on [CLACK, hummm] and
Nick positioned them at Sam's newly grown-back sideburns.

Sam's eyes widened and he moved his head away from the clippers, "Whoa, whoa, whoa! Not so
fast, Quick Draw. Geez, I haven't told ya what haircut I want yet and yer already trying to scalp
me."

Nick shut the clippers off, "Sorry. I just assumed you wanted it tightened up again."

"Yeah Sam. You should know Nick's motto by now: 'Shorter is better'," John said.

Nick grinned, "Hey, I like that- 'Shorter is better'. Yeah, I guess that IS my motto; if it wasn't
before, it is now." He turned to his work station, dug around in a drawer, and came up with a
black grease pencil. He walked over to the front window and knelt down. Under NICK'S
BARBERSHOP he wrote (backwards): SHORTER IS BETTER in quotation marks, "There, it's
official; my new motto."

"Yeah but, won't yer 'prey', long-haired guys see that, get spooked, and go somewhere else?"
John asked.

Nick shrugged, "They can't say they weren't warned. Besides, that grease pencil's pretty hard to
see from the outside." He smirked.

He tossed the pencil back into the drawer, "So Sam, you don't wanna look like a Marine recruit
anymore, huh? What'd you have in mind?"

"I've been thinking...I meant what I said a while ago, when Kyle was becoming GI Kyle, this
boot camp special doesn't really fit my personality. I'm a casual, laid-back kinda guy...I like how
it looks and all, but it's just not me. I'm thinking of growing it out to a tapercut. Still kinda
military looking but not as severe. What do you think?"

"Hmm," Nick examined the shape of Sam's head and scanned the photo wall for a suitable
example. He walked over and pointed at a picture of a guy, circa 1966, who had a boxy looking
side-parted tapercut with angled bangs, "Like this guy here?"

"Yeah, that's exactly what I want. Just like his." Sam suddenly looked concerned, "Say, you
aren't stalking me again are you?"

Nick laughed, "If I said no, would that answer yer question?"

Sam thought it over, "...Not really."

"Well the answer is no, I'm not stalking you...but it's good to see yer more cautious now. The
reason it isn't part of the hunt is because YOU chose yer haircut, not me. It was the same with
Carlos and his brother."

Sam glanced furtively at the trophy wall, "OK then. That's the haircut I want, a tapercut, like that
guy."

"So what yer sayin' is, you want me to keep my clippers away from yer top and just tidy up
around the ears and neck...well THAT ain't no fun. At least let me take yer sideburns off and
whitewall it up to..."

"NICK!" Sam interrupted.

Nick grinned and grabbed the clippers again, "Just testing."

"Geez," Sam said, "There's no 'off' switch with you, is there."

The clippers came on [CLACK, hummm], "Haven't found one yet." Nick began lowering Sam's
ears, "Y'know, yer gonna have'ta go through a couple different hairstyles to get to yer tapercut,
starting with this medium length butch yer gettin' now. In 3 or 4 weeks it's gonna start lookin'
shaggy, about 3/4 of an inch on top. I want ya to come in and get it cleaned up like I'm doin'
today, OK? No slackin' off like ya did with yer crewcut. After that, well, there's gonna be a spell
when yer top is gonna look scruffy, no matter what; too short to lay down, too long to look good.
Maybe a little Butch Wax will take care of that. All in all, it'll be close to 3 months before you
can say ya got a tapercut...It'd be a lot easier if ya just let me buzz..."

"NICK!" This time it was both Sam and John who interrupted.

"Hey, I gotta try...it's what I do."

John got up and began studying Nick's photo wall, "Y'know, it just occurred to me...all these
pictures of guys with different kinds of haircuts, most of 'em short...You use these the same way
some of the other traditional shops use those old haircut posters, the ones from the '40s and '50s,
right?"

Nick began using the clippers at the base of Sam's neck, "Yep. Never did care for those old
posters. The illustrations don't really look much like the haircuts are supposed to. They make
even a macho haircut, like a flattop, look weird and effeminate somehow. And the guys sporting
'em always looked kinda creepy...Nope, you can't beat real photos of real guys with real haircuts
when pointin' out examples to yer customers...Butches, crewcuts, flattops: I got dozens of photos
of each kind, all of 'em a little different from each other. Plus photos of other cuts like Sam's
future tapercut there and flattops with fenders; even a couple of mohawks and long-haired guys
too...I don't use those much though."

"That's the second time you mentioned a flattop with fenders, I've never heard of that one," Sam
said, "What's different about it?"

Nick used his clippers to point at the wall, "See that photo on the left, second from the top? Next
to the guy with the mohawk, that's a flattop with fenders. Long and slicked-back on the sides like
a pompadour with the deck taken down short and flat...there's a photo of a butch with fenders
right next to it- that's about the goofiest haircut up there."

"OK. But I still don't get the fenders part, are they talking about fenders on cars?"

"Yeah. The fenders over the wheels on cars, old cars anyway, back in the '50s, would stick out
all rounded-like on the sides; the flattop part of the cut would be like the hood of the car in
between the fenders...You interested, Sam?"

Sam couldn't believe Nick was still trying to stalk him, "Yessiree, Nick! I want one of them
flattops with fenders...no, make it a butch with fenders, yeah, that's what I want. Make me look
as goofy as possible!"

Nick grinned, then pretended to be offended, "No need to get sarcastic, buddy...now you've gone
and hurt my feelings...maybe one of these days, after you've grown yer hair out all long and
glossy, I'll run the clippers across yer top and give you that butch with fenders whether you ask
for it or not."

Sam played along, "Couldn't be any worse than this boot camp special you gave me."

"Well I guess we'll find out, won't we...Seriously though, that high 'n' tight butch makes ya look
rough and tough, but a butch with fenders...there was a guy in my high school who had one;
goofiest haircut I ever saw. I thought so then and I still do. It made 'im look like an old geezer
who'd gone bald on top...the flattop with fenders isn't as bad, at least it's got that ridge of hair in
front to give the cut some balance."

Nick finished cleaning up Sam's butch and removed the cape; a light dusting of hair fell to the
floor, "That's better. Now ya look presentable again, Sam. I squared up yer sideburns nice and
sharp, tapered the back of yer neck, and lowered yer ears some."

Sam climbed out of the chair, looking at himself in the mirror, "Looks sharp. Definitely
un-scruffy." He took his wallet out.

"No charge today, Sam. Yer clean-up only took a couple of minutes...and I'm feelin' generous
after that successful hunt with GI Kyle."

"Thanks Nick." Sam put his wallet away, "That was really something, wasn't it...old Kyle and
GI Kyle- two completely different guys."

John got up to take his turn in Nick's chair, "Well, not completely different...appearance-wise,
yeah. But he's still full of himself, still feelin' superior...old Kyle was pretty much of a jerk;
maybe some of Nick's Marine Corps ethics sunk in deep enough to make GI Kyle a better guy."

"Next!" Nick shouted.

John laughed. He was already half-seated, "What was that 'next!' for?...I'm the only other guy
waiting, and I was almost in the chair anyway."

Nick shrugged, "I hardly ever get a chance ta say it...I don't exactly have customers lined up out
the door like those multi-chaired shops with 4 barbers...Usually it's just me and 1 customer,
maybe another guy waiting his turn. Once in a while, a dad will bring his sons in for a shearing
but even then, he decides which of his kids goes next...To tell ya the truth, it gets downright
boring here sometimes."

Sam sat back down in his chair against the wall, "Tell me about it...it gets boring as heck over at
the 7-Eleven at times."

"Same here," John began, "Sometimes I don't see a customer all day."

Nick tossed the cape around John and began fastening it, "Well look at us will ya, a bunch of Sad
Sacks...well, not today!" he grinned, "I'm still on a hunter's-high after hangin' Kyle's head up on
my trophy wall."

John chuckled, "It does look good up there, doesn't it."

"Sure does." Nick wrapped the tissue strip around John's neck, "OK buddy, you ready for that
high 'n' tight now?"

John grinned and shook his head, "Psshh, give it a rest Nick. Haven't you had enough fun
today?...Just a tune-up, please. Make it look sharp again."

"You got it, buddy." He grabbed the spray bottle and wetted down John's hair. The blow dryer
powered up and Nick brushed John's flattop up to its full height, "Looks like ya got here just in
time, John. Yer hair's almost an inch long around the edges; lookin' pretty furry, my friend.
Wouldn't wanna mistake ya for one of the varmints I hunt up in the hills behind my cabin."

"Aw, c'mon, Nick. It's not that bad."

"No. It isn't...I've seen worse." He gave Sam a glaring look.

Sam caught the look, "Hey! It was just that one time...and I was tryin' to grow my crewcut out
and look like a normal person, as Carlos would say."

"And yet ya ended up with a high 'n' tight butch. How'd that happen, Sam?"

"Well whose fault was that?"

"Yours, of course. Yer the one who said: 'Make me look like that guy, Nick. Make me look like a
Marine'. I just gave ya what you asked for."

"Yeah but, yer the one who put the idea into my head with yer Jedi mind-trick!"

John had heard enough, "Hey you two, kiss and make up already."

Neither Nick nor Sam was very serious about their argument. Nick seemed determined to defend
his haircut hunting game, while Sam was still a bit miffed by how easily he was duped into
getting a Marine-style butch.

Nick offered up a slight grin, "I ain't kissin' him."

"Me neither," Sam replied, wanting to get the last word in.

Nick lifted the clippers from the hook [CLACK, hummm] and began re-shaping the sides of
John's flattop, "Speaking of kissing, how are you and yer girlfriend doin'...Sandy, was it? Is she
diggin' the flattop?"

John exhaled, "...Naw...we've sorta went our separate ways I guess...she didn't 'hate' the flattop,
but she wasn't thrilled by it either."

"That's too bad. I would'a sworn she'd like it."

"Well...I don't think the haircut was really the problem...When I got this flattop I also got more
confidence, I became more outgoing...I grew, personality-wise...I guess she preferred Johnny
over John."

"Hmm. Sounds like you could find someone better, my friend. Someone who appreciates the new
and improved you. That shouldn't be too hard, right? Yer a handsome lookin' guy- you look like
me." Nick finished with a grin.

Sam rolled his eyes, "I think I'm gonna puke."

Nick pointed to the corner of the shop, "Use that trash can there. I don't want ya messin' up my
floor."

As they chuckled over that, Nick focused his attention on John's deck, skimming the clippers
over the top of his landing strip, shortening it just slightly. After a couple of minutes of fine-
tuning, Nick pronounced the haircut to be complete, "There ya go, sport. Lookin' sharp again."
He handed John the hand mirror.

John looked at his re-tooled flattop from various angles, "Wow. It looks even better than the first
time...flatter, sharper, more squared-off...How'd you do that?"

"Nick set the mirror back on the counter, "It wasn't me, buddy. It was you. Well, yer hair
anyhow...and me. When a long-haired guy gets flattopped for the first time, his hair is still
trained t'lay down and, in yer case, be parted in the middle...With some guys, their center part is
so entrenched that even when I buzz 'em down to a quarter inch you can still see where the part
was...A first-timers flattop doesn't wanna stand up properly yet; still looks pretty dang good
though. But a couple weeks later, yer hair gets used to standin' up like it's supposed to; no part in
the center to make yer hair lay this way and that, just upward and outward. So now, when I give
you a tune-up, it's startin' t'look its best. It'll look even better next time."

The door to the shop opened and a dad with his 2 teenaged sons walked in and stood by the
doorway. The younger son was around 14. The older one, maybe 16. Both of them decidedly
shaggy, like normal teens. With horrified faces, the boys looked at the flattops and butches and
antlers and photos..."Aw c'mon Dad, can't we go to our regular shop? This place looks bogus."

The dad, sporting a trendy businessman's long layered-cut, was also looking a little dubious, but
resolute, "No, no...This is the shop Mr. Stafford told us about when I bought that car for you last
week. He recommended it highly."

Nick threw them a friendly smile, "Come on in folks. How ya doin' today? Nick Henderson, at
yer service." He saw the looks on the their faces and added his usual line, "I'll cut yer hair any
way ya like."

The dad perked up, "See boys? That doesn't sound so bad, does it."

Nick entered reconnaissance mode: "Hmm," he thought, "up-scale family; hair: neat and
clean...clothing: ditto- and expensive...Dad: a successful businessman; follows all the latest
styles, I can use that...a little unsure of himself, I can use that, too...youngest kid: is he in high
school yet? Dunno, doesn't matter, I'll get dear old Dad to decide his fate...the oldest son:
definitely a high schooler; fair game..."

The dad turned around and, for a split second, Nick thought he was losing his prey, but the dad
said, "Better close the door, Kyle. We're letting the heat in...It's a scorcher today." The oldest son
shoved the shop door shut.

Nick continued his reconnaissance: "Wow, another Kyle!" he thought, "What're the odds? Two
in the same day...must be a sign from Above...or Below...that's it Nick Henderson; yer goin' to
Hell, buddy...oh well, might as well enjoy the ride...The kids: spoiled, but not bratty- well
behaved; they follow their dad's instructions, that'll come in handy...Haircuts: all three look
pretty much alike, same type of hair...I'll use the 'like father, like son' ploy...or maybe...'like son,
like father' hmm...flattops for all, I think...horseshoe flats?...2 'shoed Kyles in 1 day; tempting
...naw, something different...nice, full, '50s-style flats...yeah, that's the ticket...take 'em from
trendy 1979 to trendy 1959...yeah, I like that, has a kind of symmetry to it." Nicks cartoon-
watching habit entered his thoughts, "Be vewwy, vewwy, quiet...I'm huntin' wabbits!...a brace of
3 in fact...just waitin' t'be skinned...I'll bet that car they bought wasn't some old junker, either...
the vanity plate probably says 'KYLE-2'...yeah, that'll be my nickname for the oldest kid:
Kyle-2."

Nick was so engrossed in his reconnaissance that he failed to notice the look on Kyle-2's face,
"Let's go, Dad. There's a guy in the chair and another one waitin'...it'll take too long."

The dad looked warily around the shop, "Hmm...It does look a bit...rustic...doesn't it..."

John and Sam to the rescue:

First, John addressed the prey, "Hey, I'm pretty much done here. I'm just waitin' for Nick to
remove the cape."

Then Sam, "And I already got my haircut. I'm just waiting for my friend in the chair there and
we'll be on our way."

The dad walked over to the chairs against the wall; his sons followed reluctantly, "Well boys,
looks like this is our lucky day!"
__________

The next morning, Kyle/GI Kyle was patrolling his lot, checking for smudges on shiny new
Corvettes; occasionally wiping one off with his sleeve, "Where's that new lot-boy? These cars
need to be buffed and spit-shined or they'll never pass inspection." His severe U.S.M.C.
horseshoe flattop was waging a battle with his up-scale GQ attire. There was also a battle going
on inside his head. It had been only a few hours since his transformation and he was still high
atop Nickland, as if Moses had decided not to come down from the mountain. But occasionally
the real world intruded with messy details that didn't fit into his new clean-cut, ship-shape
universe. He found a dollop of dried bird droppings on a windshield. He scanned the sky for the
offending culprit and shouted, "Who gave you permission to do that!" Clearly, Kyle's new
militaristic image had gone to his head, in more ways than one.

A few minutes later, Mike Brewer/Gumby joined Kyle on the high-end lot. Oddly enough, his
softer looking brushcut got along quite well with his own up-scale clothing, giving him a trendy,
preppy look. Mike took one look at the new Kyle and couldn't believe his eyes, "Kyle?...What
happened to ya, man? Yer all...cleaned-up!" Mike gave him the once-over, taking special notice
of his whitewalled sides, whitewalled back, and whitewalled landing strip, "Geez, man. Went a
little overboard, didn't ya?"

Kyle wasn't about to take guff from a low-ranking recruit like Mike, "Yer out of uniform,
Brewer."

"What?"

Kyle continued his inspection, "What's that furry animal on top yer head? You call that a
haircut? It's disgusting; makes me wanna puke! Get yerself to the barber and have yer deck taken
down good and proper!"

"You OK, Kyle? Maybe the sun's gettin' to your brain now that there's no hair up there to stop
it." Mike was genuinely concerned, "...And yeah, I'll be goin' back to Nick's shop for another
haircut in a few days," he grinned, "I'm gettin' it cut shorter so it'll grow faster!"

Kyle didn't know what to make of that, so he ignored it, "Glad to hear it, soldier."

"Soldier? I'm not a soldier Kyle, I'm Mike. You feelin' OK?" he repeated.

Kyle screwed his face up in annoyance, "Of course I know who you are, Brewer. We've worked
together for over a year. I'm not stupid like y..." He caught himself just in time, "like Kovich
...Everything started to change around here after he got that flattop haircut...This is the new me,
Brewer; prouder, more action-oriented. Get used to it."

Mike now saw Kyle in a new light. He was no longer the hero that he worshiped just a couple of
weeks ago, "Well I'm not sure I like the new Kyle. Yer too pushy and...arrogant." He and Kyle
were both a little surprised to hear that word come out of his mouth. Mike wasn't known for his
vast vocabulary.

As Mike turned and walked away, Kyle was left to contemplate what was just said. Mike's
rebuke was like a slap in the face, and a wake-up call, "Pushy?" he thought, "Arrogant?..That's
not how I meant to come across...and from Mike? Dim Mike?..I must be doin' something
wrong...a Marine wouldn't be pushy and arrogant, not a good Marine anyhow. Maybe I better
tone it down a notch."

"Good heavens! Is that you, Kyle?" Mr. Stafford stopped by while on his walk-around, "My
word!" he smiled, "Let's have a look at you...can you turn around for me please, Kyle?"

Kyle obliged by snapping to attention, stomping his feet in place and swiveling to perform a
military 'right face'. After a second or two he repeated the maneuver 3 more times, bringing him
back to face his boss.

Mr. Stafford was pleasantly surprised, "Well I'll be...Bend your head down a bit, if you would,
please." Kyle lowered his head. "Just as I thought, a horseshoe flattop! My word. I haven't seen
one of those since...well, come to think of it, I've never seen one, not outside of a Marine base
anyway. This is Nick's work, no doubt. Yes?"

"Yes sir. He did a fine job on me, sir," Kyle replied, not realizing just how true his statement
was.

"Yes, I knew it had to be. There are only 1 or 2 other barbers in town who could do a precision
haircut like that...When I suggested that you get a haircut, I assumed you would get a regular
trim...what prompted you to go to such extremes?"

Kyle had to think about that for a second. He finally came up with, "I figured it was time for a
change, sir. I'd been in a rut, sir."

"You can still call me Big Rick, Kyle."

"Sorry sir. But that just wouldn't seem right...It shows a lack of respect, sir."

"My, my. You really have changed haven't you? And I don't just mean the haircut. You've
always had confidence and, dare I say, a high opinion of yourself. But those are the same
qualities that inspired me to put you in charge of the high-end lot here. And now you've added
courtesy and respect to your resume...I must say, I'm very impressed, Kyle. Very impressed,
indeed."

"Thank you, sir."

Mr. Stafford tilted his head to one side in thought, "...You know, Kyle, with that Marine Corps
flattop and your new attitude...Yes, you would be the perfect man to head-up our Jeep lot. I'm
transferring you there and putting you in charge. How does that sound to you?"

Kyle looked stunned. The old Kyle made a brief appearance, "The Jeep lot?" He waved his hand
to encompass the luxury-car lot, "But, THIS is my...I mean..."

"No need to thank me, Kyle...Yes indeed, you'll fit right in. It's mostly military men and
outdoorsmen who come in to buy our Jeeps. They'll take one look at you and know they're
dealing with someone they can trust."

"But..."

"You can start there tomorrow, I'll have you switch places with McAllister. He can join Brewer
here on the high-end lot...Oh, and continue acting out this military role like you're doing now,
you know, ham it up a bit," he grinned, "The folks will enjoy that." He studied Kyle's
immaculate businessman's attire, "Hmm...yes, perhaps you should wear something more
appropriate for the Jeep lot, military themed clothing, Army boots, that sort of thing. Can you do
that?"

GI Kyle took over again and obediently snapped to attention, "Sir, yes sir!"

Mr. Stafford grinned, "Yes! Continue acting like that. The customers will get a real kick out of
it."

Mr. Stafford continued his walk-around leaving Kyle standing at attention, waiting for an
'at ease' command. After a few seconds, when none came, he gradually un-froze himself and
started patrolling the aisles again. A new battle was being waged inside his head now: The old
Kyle was fuming over the switch from the Corvette lot to the Jeep lot, while GI Kyle was
saying- "How high, sir?" in response to his boss' command to "Jump". Just like in the movies, the
Marines won the battle. Kyle decided to make the best of the situation. He began talking, to no
one in particular, "Yes sir! I'm gonna be the best Jeep salesman Mr. Stafford ever saw!...Jeeps
will be flyin' off the lot left and right...five, no ten! Ten a day!...Yessiree, I'll be gettin' Marines
and hunters buyin' 2 Jeeps just so they have a spare! Why, there'll be little 90 year-old blue-
haired grannies drivin' off the lot in shiny new jeeps! OORAH!"
__________

Kyle reported for duty at the Stafford dealership bright and early the next morning. He was
wearing a khaki T-shirt, hunter's camo pants, and logger boots. His employee nametag was hung
on a chain around his neck, dog tag style. He left the staff room and marched toward the Jeep lot.

The Jeep lot was just beyond the pickup lot, where John worked, the two lots being side-by-side.
It was still early and no customers were around, so John was leaning up against a truck with his
arms folded as Kyle marched past. John looked at GI Kyle in his full military 'uniform' and had
to chuckle. He knew Kyle must be seething, being transferred from his posh Corvette lot to the
Jeep lot, and couldn't resist a little dig, "Hey Kyle...you lost? The 'Vette lot's that way."

John and Kyle were unaware that Mr. Stafford had positioned himself not far away to see how
Kyle would do at his new post.

Kyle stopped and walked over to within inches of John's face, "Speak up, soldier! I can't HEAR
YOUUU!"

"I said the Corvette lot is..."

Kyle cut him off, "I heard you the first time, Kovich...The Jeep lot belongs to ME now."

John continued leaning against the pickup with his arms folded, "I think Big Rick might disagree
with you, Kyle."

"Don't be an idiot, Kovich. You know what I mean...With me in charge, Jeeps will be sellin' like
hotcakes!...In fact, if I were you, I'd start lookin' for another job 'cuz nobody'll be buyin' any
pickups."

"Oh, izzat so?"

"Yes, zat's so"

From his vantage point, a grin spread across Mr. Stafford's face, "My, my," he thought, "There
seems to be a healthy one-upmanship going on here."

If Nick had been here witnessing the scene, with his cartoon watching background he would've
recognized it immediately- Bugs and Daffy: "It's duck season." "No, it's wabbit season!" "Duck
season!" "Wabbit season!" As Kyle continued to yell in John's face, one half-expected John to
pull a carrot out of his pocket and start munching it nonchalantly.
John spotted Mr. Stafford observing from the sidelines, "Hey, good morning, boss!" Though he
might just as well have said, "Eh, what's up, doc?"

Kyle 'stood down' and backed away from John's face, "Good morning, sir."

Mr. Stafford walked over to the two salesmen, "There seems to be a bit of rivalry between you
two."

John stood up straight and unfolded his arms, "Sorry Mr. Stafford. I'll..."

"Oh, not to worry, John. It's quite all right." He addressed Kyle a well, "A little robust
competition is a good thing...as long as it isn't taken too far...Seeing you two go at it has given
me an idea for my next advertising campaign...How would you two like to be on TV?"
__________

- 3 months later, September 1979:

[ZapZapZap, BOOM, Zap..ZapZap] "Hey, You got me from behind! I didn't know you could do
that?!" Sam and John were playing Atari Space War at Carlos' house. The three of them, along
with Nick and Carlos' brother, Miguel had become close friends over the last few months.

Carlos had convened a meeting of the crazy-gringos-with-stupid-haircuts club; that's what he
called it, anyway. It was just a get-together with the guys; to eat, play video games, and watch
TV. They were all there at Carlos' house except Nick; he hadn't arrived yet.

[FwipFwip..Fwip, BOOM] "Not again!" Sam said in frustration, "Here Miguel, you try it for a
while."

[ding-dong] Carlos opened the front door to see Nick standing on the porch with a six-pack of
beer, "Welcome to the crazy-gringos-with-stupid-haircuts club. Speak the password and ye shall
enter." Carlos said.

Nick grinned and held up the six-pack.

"Close enough," Carlos said, "Enter, Sir Nick of the land of short-haired people and take your
place at the Round Table."

Nick shook his head and came inside, "What round table?"

"The coffee table, it's round. Have a seat, Sir Nick." Carlos took the beer from Nick and stuck it
in the fridge.

"Somethin' smells good," Nick said as he made his way to the couch, "Whatcha got cookin',
Carlos?"

"Rattlesnake stew. My mom made it...one of her authentic Mexican dishes. This is just the first
course, the second course will be served as soon as the pizza guy gets here."

The guys welcomed Nick in, "About time." "Hey! Don't walk in front of the screen, you made
me miss!" "Hurry up and sit down so Carlos can serve that stew stuff, I'm hungry."

"Nice to see you guys, too," Nick grinned, and sat down.

There was some banging around in the kitchen as Carlos got out some bowls and spoons for the
stew, "Need any help, bro?" Miguel asked.

"In more ways than one." Sam said under his breath. The guys chuckled.

"I heard that." Carlos said as he ladled the stew into the bowls, "Just because I don't like short
haircuts doesn't mean I 'need help'. In fact, Miguel and me are the only ones here who look like a
normal person." He got some good-natured catcalls from the other guys.

Carlos and Miguel had let their hair grow out to what Nick called a 'disco cut'; basically a short
layercut long enough to cover the tips of their ears. The hair on top was still standing upright
near the center but flopping over around the edges. Their short bangs were parted in the center.

Sam thought he belonged in the same group as Carlos and Miguel, "What about me? I grew my
hair out like a 'normal person', too." He was sporting the mid-'60s tapercut he had requested from
Nick 3 months earlier; boxy sides angled outward around the crown; side-parted top; his bangs
cut at an angle.

Carlos refused to let Sam into the 'normal person's club, "No,no,no. Your sides are almost as
short and straight as John's; sticking up everywhere. That is not normal." John was still sporting
his 'Nick Junior' flattop, and of course Nick himself still had his perpetual flattop.

Carlos went around handing everyone a bowl of stew, "The chili peppers make it a little hot, but
not too much."

John looked dubiously at his bowl, then dug in, "Mmm. I was kinda leery at first; eating
rattlesnake stew. But this is good. I like it!"

Nick frowned as he chewed a mouthful, "Hey Carlos, are you sure this is rattlesnake? The
texture's about right, but it tastes more like chicken."

Miguel confessed, "That's because it IS chicken."

Carlos sighed, "Ay chihuahua. Yes, it is chicken. Mom can't find those kinds of meats here, so
she uses what is available...but the recipe is the same...even if it is chicken, not rattlesnake."

John was disappointed, "Aww. I was lookin' forward to bragging to the guys at work about
eating rattlesnake."

Nick took another bite of stew, "Y'know Carlos, the hills behind my cabin are filled with rattlers.
If ya like, I can get yer mom some genuine rattlesnake meat for her recipes. Would she like
that?"

Carlos beamed, "She would LOVE that! Finally, she could make meals like she used to in
Mexico; rattlesnake, armadillo...do you have armadillos at your place too?"

"Afraid not. There aren't any of those in this part of the country...but I can supply your mom with
rabbit and venison. How about that?"

Carlos was overjoyed, "Dios mio, yes!..You'll have to come over to their house for dinner so
they can show their appreciation." Thinking about his parents reminded Carlos of his butchered
home-haircut. He warned Nick, "Whatever you do, don't let my dad talk you into getting a trim
while you're there." The guys laughed.

Nick, the hunter, replied, "I think yer dad should be the one who's worried; I just might talk HIM
into gettin' a 'crazy gringo' haircut while I'm there." The guys laughed louder.

Carlos' face lit up, "Yes! Would you do that? Maybe a skunk-stripe haircut like you and John
have!"

"Skunk stripe!" Nick pretended to be offended more than he actually was.

John, "Yeah. That's what Carlos calls our flattop haircuts."

Before Nick could respond to that, the doorbell rang [ding-dong] and Carlos went to answer it.
"Saved by the bell," Nick said.

Carlos looked out the living room window and recognized the car, "It's the pizza guy." As he
opened the door the others turned their heads to watch.

The pizza guy was sporting a short, flattopped crewcut with whitewalled sides and a broad
landing strip. "Ay,ay,ay." Carlos thought, "Another one."

Sam nudged Nick, "Is he one of yours?"

"Oh yeah."

John smirked, "Did ya even have to ask?"

Nick grinned, "You should'a seen 'im before; long, unparted bowlcut coverin' his ears and
collar."

As Carlos dug out his wallet, the pizza guy looked at the guys in the room, "Hey, Nick!"

Nick smiled back, "Hey, Joey. How's the crewcut workin' out for ya?"

"Great! I'm gettin' twice as many tips now than I did before, just like you said."

"Good thing you came up with that idea for the crewcut, huh?"

"You bet!" He frowned a bit, "Funny thing is, I hadn't planned on gettin' a haircut like this when
I went in to yer shop...weird, huh?" Carlos handed Joey the money.

"Yep. One of life's mysteries, I guess," Nick said with a straight face.

Joey brightened up, "I'll see ya next week to get it tightened up, like ya said." He waved goodbye
and walked back to his delivery car.

Miguel frowned and looked at Nick, "So it's true? You trick guys into asking for short haircuts?
Carlos told me about it but I thought it was just Carlos being Carlos, y'know? His usual
paranoid/neurotic self."

"Hey!" Carlos said, indignantly.

Nick shrugged, "Been doin' it for a few years now. It sharpens my hunting and stalking skills...it
also makes up for all the boredom when I don't have any customers...and besides, it's fun." He
finished with a grin.

Miguel had a puzzled, blank look, "...That's stupid."

Carlos grinned and nodded vigorously, "Yes! See? It IS stupid. Just like I told you guys."

John got up to get the beer out of the fridge, "We know it's stupid, Carlos. I told you I thought it
was stupid, too, remember?..But it's also a challenge...and like Nick said, it's fun...Now, let's tear
into this pizza."

As the guys grabbed their pizza and beer, Carlos switched the Atari console back to regular TV;
a baseball game was on. John plopped down on the couch, "There's a game on? I didn't see it
listed."

Carlos went over to the kitchen counter to get his own pizza and beer, "It's on some new cable
channel; just started a week or so ago. It's called ESPN; the something, something Sports
Network. All they have is sports."

Sam sat down, "Just sports? All the time?"

Carlos took a swig of beer, "Yeah, most of the time they have games on; football, baseball,
basketball..."

"No cartoons?" Nick wondered aloud.

John shot beer out his nose, "Sorry."

Carlos grabbed a towel to wipe John's nose-beer off the coffee table, "Sometimes they have guys
sitting around talking about sports."

"I dunno," Sam said through a mouthful of pizza, "If all they do is sports, I don't think they'll be
around very long...Like that shop down at the mall; all they sold was scotch tape. They were
gone after a couple of months."

As the game went to a break, John quickly sat forward, "Hey! This is the car commercial we
made; Kyle and me!"

The guys all gathered around the TV to watch:

The ad opened with an exterior view of the car lot showroom with the Stafford Chevrolet/Jeep
sign prominently displayed. [voice-over announcer] "It's that time of year again; leaves are
falling and so are prices at Stafford Chevrolet/Jeep during our Fall Harvest sale."

The scene switched to John, dressed in his 'Nick clothes'; flannel shirt, jeans, and hiking boots,
standing next to a pickup. He was also sporting a long, dark brown wig, similar to his own hair
before he crossed paths with Nick.

Carlos pointed at the screen, "Hey, why do you have hair like a normal person?"

John smiled, "Shhh. Keep watching, you'll see."

In the ad, John removed the cardboard price-sticker from the truck's windshield and replaced it
with a new card, displaying the sale price: "Prices are being lowered on every new and used
Chevy truck on the lot," he said with friendly excitement.

The scene switched to Kyle in full-blown Marine mode with his horseshoe flattop and military
'uniform'. He strode manfully toward the camera down the aisles of the Jeep lot, "There'll never
be a better time to get yer hands on a 4-wheel drive Jeep," he shouted, as the camera followed
him over to where John was standing, "Prices are as low as they can go," Kyle said, "Everything
on the lot is getting lowered." He lifted up a long hank of John's 'hair', "...Everything!" he said
with a sly smirk as John got a worried look on his face.

Cut to: Inside Nick's barbershop. Long-haired John was in the chair, caped up. Kyle was
standing next to him with the clippers in-hand. John anxiously looked up at Kyle. Kyle planted
his hand firmly atop John's wigged head, forcing him to look toward the camera, "Everything is
being lowered!" Kyle shouted. The clippers began to whir and chatter loudly as Kyle began
moving them toward John's bangs.

The camera switched to John's point-of-view; as if looking through his eyes: The clippers came
closer and closer and louder and louder.

Next came scenes of various trucks and Jeeps with the voice-over announcer excitedly and
rapidly ticking off the features of each vehicle. The regular price of the vehicle would be super-
imposed on the screen while an animated chainsaw would slice the price apart to reveal the
lowered sale price.

As the animated chainsaw continued to slash prices, Sam asked, "So, Kyle still has his Marine-
style flattop?"

John, "Oh yeah. It's his trademark now. He even traded in his 'Vette for a new Jeep. He's got a
new vanity license plate too, it says: 'OORAH'." They laughed.

The scene switched back to Nick's shop with Kyle, clippers still in-hand, standing next to John,
still in the chair and now sporting a perfectly cut flattop with a shellshocked look on his face.
Kyle, using his 'Marine' voice, "So, if you're looking for a good buy on a Jeep..."
John, still looking and sounding stunned, "Or a new or used Chevy truck..."
Kyle, "Come on down to Stafford Chevrolet/Jeep..."
John, still dazed, "Where you'll always get a square deal." He tilted his head down slightly and
gingerly ran his fingers across his well-defined landing strip. [fade-out].

As a different commercial came on the screen, the guys cheered: "Outa sight!" "Far out!" "All
right!"

"Crazy, crazy gringos," Carlos muttered.

Nick nudged Carlos on the shoulder, almost knocking him over, "Aw, c'mon Carlos. It was a
good commercial. It was fun!"

"No,no,no,no. There are too many guys with skunk-stripe haircuts now...You...John...the pizza
guy...and that guy in the commercial, Kyle. It scares me...It is not normal!"

Nick was getting perturbed at Carlos for using the term 'skunk- stripe' to describe his flattop; he
decided a little fireworks were in order, "Y'know Carlos, a flattop is a fine lookin' haircut; very
masculine...Maybe for next Father's Day you and Miguel should get yerselves manly lookin'
flattops for yer dad." Having lit the fuse, Nick settled into the couch, grinned, and put his hands
behind his head to watch the bomb go off.

"Oh, no,no,no,no. That will never happen! I have finally grown my hair out long enough to comb
again. No, I will not go backwards."

"Hmm, not much of an explosion," Nick thought.

Miguel looked at Nick, then John, and back to Nick again, "You know? Those flattops you guys
have do look very macho. It looks good on you. Maybe we..."

"Ay Car-r-ramba!" Carlos exploded.

"Ah, there we go," Nick thought.

Carlos pointed an accusing finger at Nick, "Dios mio. Now look what you have done! My own
brother has been infected with your crazy gringo virus! Ay,ay,ay. Miguel, mi hermano, nunca,
nunca dicen esas palabras! Los hombres son loco...estupido...idiotas!..."

Miguel started to translate, "He says you're..."

John put his hand up, "Don't bother, Miguel. He's saying we're a bunch of stupid idiots, right?"

"Yeah. That's about it."

Sam pointed at the TV, "Hey, look. They're showing the commercial again."

Carlos stopped his screed and looked at the screen for a second, "...Dios mio, it never ends!
Everyone in town will see this and get infected with the crazy gringo virus!...Ay,ay,ay."

As Carlos launched into part 2 of his tirade, John, Sam, and Miguel followed Nick's example;
they grinned and settled into the couch to enjoy the fireworks show.

"Crazy, crazy, gringos!"




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