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Tucker - the reporter and the recruit by Manny
It was a sad day for Tucker as he got the definitive word that he was being sacked. After a meteoric career that very quickly got him onto major talk shows as a political pundit, a series of much-discussed gaffes quickly clipped his wings. He had an inkling that his blunt commentary, devoid of any attempts at political correctness, might agitate a few sensitive souls, but he failed to predict that outrage that gathered steam and demanded he be removed from his visible TV role as a talking head on the #1 news show.
Since becoming a journalist and TV personality, Tucker had worked hard to stand out -- not just the edgy comments, but also the persona. For one, he wore bow ties almost exclusively....loud colored ones, at that. And, for two, he sported an overgrown Beatles-like moptop of thick, glossy hair. The shag was incongruous with his conservative commentary, but it served to make him very visible on any panel of political pundits. Not infrequently, would he mop back the heavy forelock that flopped about with the same degree of free-spirited lack of conformity that he himself displayed. Tucker was proud of his mane which retained its youthful luxuriance despite his 30 + years of age.
To add insult to injury, his boss read Tucker a sampling of the complaints the network had received after his latest on-air provocation. As he reached for the last one, Mr. Bagwood cracked a smile, "Ah, this is my favorite one, Tucker, especially the concluding line.....'and, besides showing Mr. Karlsen the door, network management should go the extra mile and march him straight to the nearest barber shop. Do him and all of us a favor by putting an end to that ridiculous boyish mop he's always pawing at. He needs to get a haircut and get lost.'" The boss slid the letter to Tucker and chuckled, "You might want the return address to send our viewer a picture of your new haircut, Tucker. I recommend a 'short back and sides'." He concluded the exit interview by saying, "Now pass by payroll so that they can get the details on where to send your final check. Good-bye, Tucker. I can't say you or your awful bow ties will be missed around here."
Tucker forced himself to slink out of the office without responding to the last indignity. As he packed up a box of personal belonging in the office he came across a drawer full of bow ties. He needed to re-make himself. Lay low for a bit and them come back with a different persona. He was still smart and quick-witted. Just change the packaging a bit. Tucker grabbed the collection of bow ties and tossed them into the trash can. He felt good about the move. There was something pleasurable about seeing his obnoxious trademark mixed in with an assortment of papers and scraps left from lunch. No more bow ties!
Then he leaned back in his chair and ran his fingers through his hair....his HAIR! That would be next thing to go! His trademark moptop....if only Mr. Bagwood had followed the viewer's advice and marched him straight to the nearest barber shop! Tucker took out the letter and read it again and lingered over the final lines with the advice about a haircut. He looked at the return address. Who was this Justin Cordell who wanted his shaggy head dragged to the barber? Tucker did a quick google search. The first Justin Cordell who popped into the results had a Facebook site. The address matched his city, about an hour south of where he lived, near the big marine base on Quantico. Tucker's hands nervously clicked to find out more....and then the profile photo almost jumped from the screen. Justin Cordell sported a very military, macho-looking flattop! No wonder the moptop was an anathema to him!
Tucker felt faint. He had long harbored a fantasy....to have his long, shimmering hair shaved off by a military barber into a dramatic horseshoe flattop. To walk out of the shop with nothing but the thinnest rim of hair around the front half of his crown, to have the rest of his head lather-shaved to the skin.
The urge had first hit him when he was covering a story on military recruitment and followed a bus-load of new marine recruits to Quantico. The sergeant who had transformed them from a rag-tag collection of misfits into a crisp, sharp unit had sported the exact type horseshoe that Tucker dreamed about. The sergeant had even joked with Tucker several times during the time he spent on base that he was going to run him over to the barber shop for a real man's haircut. One time he had playfully grabbed Tucker by his mane and whispered in his ear, "How about today? Let's have the barber 'shoe you! Good bye girly boy!" Tucker had wanted to agree.....but laughed off the suggestion. For days, weeks, months and even years later, Tucker wonder what it would have been like to have the sergeant march him over and order his mop shaved.
Tucker quickly jotted off a letter to Justin that concluded, "While the network did follow your advice and showed me the door, they did not go the extra mile as you suggested, and march me to the nearest barbershop to put an end to my 'ridiculous boyish mop'. That is why I am writing to you. I plan to remain in Washington and would be happy to meet your near your home -- perhaps Quantico? -- so that you can see to the matter yourself. Please feel free to contact me at the following number if you are available...."
Tucker's hand trembled with excitement as he signed the letter. Before he could develop cold feet, he quickly sealed the envelope and dropped the letter in the mailbox.
Throughout the next few days, Tucker was almost giddy, wondering if anything would come of the letter. He feared and hoped to receive a call or text from Justin.
Over a week went by and nothing. Eventually, Tucker forgot about the initiative. A month past and his hair now hung down to the base of his collar. It was thick and wavy and needed to be cut. He stared at himself in the mirror. He pulled it back from his face. Oh, it felt so soft. This time, he would visit a traditional barber. He would get shorn! He might get scalped!! But would he get shoed? He didn't think he could go that far on his own. Besides, he much preferred to be "marched to the barber shop" by someone else and be made to sit helplessly beneath the cape while the instruction was given -- "Shoe him!"
His mind turned to the rendez-vouz with Justin Cordell that had never materialized. Justin had seemed like the very sort of person who would love to hover over a cowering caped man, watching the barber snap on the clippers. Another missed opportunity....
Tucker decided to take another peek at Justin's amazing flattop, so he logged into Facebook, something he didn't do regularly. As he did, he noticed a "friend" request -- from Justin Cordell!
He eagerly accepted the invitation and saw that Justin was online. Tucker initiated a chat.
TK - "I was waiting for you to call me or text me."
JC - "I wasn't sure it it was really you -- the loud-mouthed, obnoxious Tucker Karlsen."
TK - "Yep, it was, in fact, the one and only me."
JC - "So glad there's only one of you....I couldn't take more of your brash commentary!"
TK - "I'm still desperately needing someone to march me straight to the barber shop."
JC - "Let's switch over to video-chat, Tuck."
After a momentary lapse, the two were able to see each other on screen. Tucker flaunted his boyish moptop to provoke Justin.
"I was planning to go to the barber shop today," Tucker said as he flaunted his locks.
"OMG your hair is more obnoxious than ever! No paycheck, no money for the barber?" replied Justin. "You need something like my cut -- it's called a horseshoe." Jason turned around so that Tuck could get the full picture. He ran his hand over the bare skin.
"That's radical!" exclaimed Tucker. "My fan club would freak out if I got a horseshoe."
"You'll for sure get a new fan club with a short, manly look like mine," quipped Justin.
"True, but I'd need someone to take me in and explain to the barber what to do with this," replied Tucker. He took out a brush and ran it through his silken mass.
"Hey, you don't wear a bow tie at home," Justin noted.
"Wait, I can put one on for you," he replied. In a few seconds he appear with this trademark bow tie on.
To his surprised, Justin also had come back with a prop -- a huge set of Oster power clippers. "This length here will take you down to the skin. I'd like to shave off that thatch myself! The whole lot of it. You'd look good with a baldy."
"You don't happen to work on the base at Quantico? asked Tucker.
"Sure do, I'm a recruiter," he replied.
"I did a documentary there a few years ago, about the transformation of recruits into marines. There was this bully of a drill sergeant...big, burly, bossy guy."
"Sgt. Jeremiah! He's still there, been there for ages too. We use the same barber on base, get the same haircut...."
"He was itching to drag me to the barber shop....Grabbed me by my hair once. I regretted not going along with it."
"How long would it take you to get down here?" asked Justin.
"And hour and a half, max."
"Jump in your car. I'll meet you at the front gate of the base. Wear your bow tie! Sgt. Jeremiah will be glad to see you again. He's receiving a new group of recruits. He'll slip you into the line at the barbershop."
Tucker's knees felt like jelly as he scrambled to get out of the house as fast as he could and head down the interstate towards Quantico. The thought of actually being in-processed by Sgt. Jeremiah with recruits excited Tucker. As he drove towards the base, he played with his long, girlish hair. In no time it would be stripped from him by a marine boot camp barber. A grown man in line with all the frightened new recruits. It would be an amazing experience -- one he'd thought of frequently since doing the documentary. Tucker realized he'd end up with an induction cut instead of a shoe....something he was willing to endure for the chance to get on base again and in the authority of Sgt. Jeremiah. He remembered the exhilaration he felt when the sergeant had yanked him by the hair and threatened to drag him to the barber.... Back then, he'd been worried about his on-camera visual. Now, he was unemployed and anonymous.
Tucker nervously walked from the visitor parking lot toward the front gate. There were so many men with military haircuts and uniforms. How would he ever spot Justin? Just as a stiff breeze whipped through his unruly tresses and he struggled to keep them out of his face, Tucker heard a booming voice to his side.
"You made it, Tuck!"
Justin's shoe looked even more spectacular in person, and Tucker felt a bit sad that he'd be taken down to an induction instead of getting shoed. But, he was glad his adventure was progressing.
"Justin! I can't believe I'm here. Hair, bow tie and all."
"Come over to the visitor center with me. I need to get you signed onto base. It'll take just a few minutes. You have a driver license, I hope," said Justin, eagerly leading the way. "We need photo ID for this."
Tucker watched a bit mystified at the amount of paper that Justin was shuffling around just to get him on base. So many places to sign -- here, there, now initial down here....and here....just a few more places.
"All this, just to get on base?" Tucker asked incredulously. "I don't remember so much paper work from my last visit."
"Lots of heightened security with world events these days," noted Justin dismissively. "Look, there's the bus with the new recruits just pulling through the gate. We need to hurry. Sgt. Jeremiah takes them straight from the bus to the barbershop. Likes to start their dehumanization process right away before any of the fellows get uppity with him. They feel quite intimidated rolling onto base and he loves to heighten that vulnerability by stripping off their old lives amid a lot of shouts and taunts. Ready to share in that sort of experience, Tucky?"
Tucker gulped. The truth was he was almost exploding with excitement to be turned over to Sgt. Jeremiah and marched right into the barbershop. He thought back to the time the sergeant had yanked him by his hair and whispered, "How about today? Good bye girly boy...."
The two hustled over to where the sergeant was bossing the new recruits who seemed to be in a daze.
Justin called out to the sergeant, "Here's the one I was telling you about, Sgt. Jeremiah! Remember Tucker Karlsen?"
The beefy sergeant glanced over with a scowl followed by a mean smirk, "Sure I remember that pompous dick of a reporter. Fall into line, Missy! Guys, I want this one here with his pretty bow tied around his neck to lead the line over there to the barber shop!"
Tucker's excitement was countered by an equal share of fear and anxiety. He pawed nervously at his hair that was flopping about.
Suddenly, he felt a yank at his mop which caused him to stifle a yelp.
"You missed your chance at a sharp shoe like mine and Cordell's. Today it's all coming off. Down to the wood!" the sergeant hissed in his ear.
"Yes, sir! That's why I'm here -- a radical haircut," Tucker eeked out.
"You're here for much more than a haircut," the sergeant shot back. "You're here for a rigorous course of basic training, followed by at least two years of service in the Marines!"
Tucker was aghast, "No, it's just the haircut!" he insisted, as they neared the barber shop.
"Remember all those papers you signed to get on base?" Justin said as he roared with laughter. "You helped me meet my recruitment quota!"
"But I'm a professional journalist and 32 years old!" Tucker protested.
"You're 32 years old, but you're no longer a reporter, Tucky!" Justin insisted.
"You're the lowliest scrub of a marine recruit!" Sgt. Jeremiah snarled as he pushed Tucker into the door of the barber shop.
"Howdy, fellows! We're going to start out this batch of raw meat with a real loser. Strip him clean and clear up this gender confusion!"
Within instants, Tucker had been slammed into the chair, caped, and had his head yanked back by the burly barber. The process was quick and dehumanizing. The barber handled the clippers amazingly well so that no hair fell to the cape -- just a few strands and tibdits of the entire mop. The rest was flicked away and fell straight to the floor. The old persona of talking head extraordinaire, Tucker Karlsen, quickly piled up at the barber's feet. Tucker could not see his transformation in the mirror -- all he could do was follow along mentally as his plush, girlish mane was clipped off at the scalp. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of what was happening in the next chair. What a group he had been thrown in with, he thought to himself. All the other recruits looked like mere children. And he had signed up unwittingly, almost old enough to be their father!
Abruptly the clipping stopped and the cape came off. Tucker hesitated to get up so Sgt. Jeremiah grabbed him by the bow tie. "Come on, now! We need to get rid of this ridiculous outfit. That's next on your 'to do' list, recruit! Go stand in line over there, along the wall of the barbershop!"
Tucker did as he was told. He saw himself in the mirror. No hair. Bald as a baby. His face turned bright red. He felt humiliated as he watched Sgt. Jeremiah and Justin Cordell whispering to each other and looking at him.
From reporter to recruit! It was the last thing he had ever dreamed could happen to him....
As he pondered the sudden turn of events, he looked over again at Sgt. Jeremiah and admired his plush horseshoe flattop. One day, he wanted one for himself.....
"What are you staring at, boy!?" the drill sergeant barked as he strode over to where Tucker shifted nervously on his feet. "Drop to the floor and give me 50 push-ups! Now!!"
As he did, he saw the amazing pile of his hair on the floor at the feet of the barber....the hair that had attracted Justin's attention as he wrote to express his displeasure over Tucker's political commentary. Then he felt a foot pressing down his rear end as he struggled with push-up #14. It was Justin Cordell, looking down at him, and laughing. What an amazing horseshoe both men sported, Tucker thought to himself....Justin was just the right sort of person to deal with his cocky, self-assured attitude.