Oliver and the barber brothers by Manny
My hand was already on the door of the barbershop, pushing it open, when I realized that my usual barber, Aaron wasn't there. It was a small, two-chair shop that was operated by two brothers. The Stowe brothers had a specific protocol. When the chair faced the mirror, it signaled the barber was not working that day. When it faced the waiting area, the barber was ready to tackle the full range of shaggy heads that entered the shop.
Aaron was my normal barber, and he did a great job of leaving my executive cut looking tidy, albeit rather full and longish. He had a gentle hand and was very cautious when giving a trim. I tipped him quite well. Consequently, he was always very solicitous of me and took his time. The grand finale of my barbershop experience would come when Aaron would slowly swivel the chair around so that I could see his handiwork. He would smile with pride as he held up the hand mirror. Then, he would finish my relaxing experience with a generous application of hair spray to keep my helmet-like coif intact when I left the shop.
His brother Brandon, on the other hand, was a very aggressive barber with a heavy hand. Whether wielding a set of clippers or heavy duty thinning shears, he attacked his clients' hair with gusto and gave them their money's worth -- even if they didn't ask for it! I had only been on the receiving end of Brandon's handiwork once, and that was enough. I had looking rather scalped and gotten a big ribbing at the office when I showed up on Monday with a very 'barbered' look. I had watched Brandon many times while waiting for Aaron delivering shorter-than-requested results to his clients.
Each time I watched him work, I found my stomach in knots. I had a strange mixture of fear and fascination about Brandon. He was a take-charge barber, and I recalled with a mixture of dread and anticipation what it had been like to be under his cape. The firm hand forcing my head about in uncomfortable angles. The helplessness I felt watching large clumps of my pampered hair hitting the cape. The desire to asking him to lighten up a bit but remaining silent. Those feelings of vulnerability had unexpectedly caused a stirring of pleasure that I could not explain. Periodically, I toyed around with the idea of letting Brandon have his way with me again. But, I always opted to play it safe and wait for Aaron.
That morning, seeing Aaron's chair facing away from the mirror, I was tempted to reverse course and return at a later date. However, I was badly in need of a haircut. I had just returned from a month-long road trip and my hair was very much on my nerves. The forelock, which I normally left quite long, was so heavy and bulky that it was very hard to keep brushed back away from my eyes. The sides lapped over my ears liberally and at the back, a thick growth covered half my collar. There was only one word to describe me: shaggy. If I didn't get my regular trim, I could suddenly go from an elegant executive look to a very untidy, sloppy one.
I pushed the door open and nervously stepped in. Brandon emerged from the barbers' private area, through the curtain that hung in the doorway.
"Aaron's sick today," he announced without much animation.
I shuffled nervously and stammered a bit, casting a quick glance at myself in the mirror. 'Leave now!' I told myself. My tongue felt tied and my feet paralyzed.
I detected a bit of a smirk creep across Brandon's face as he eyed me. He realized I was nervous and surmised that I was on the verge of letting him tackle my abundant mane.
Brandon stepped forward toward his chair, "Come, have a seat. I'll give you a haircut today." There was a tone of authority in his voice, like the matter had already been decided. He would deal with me and my overgrown executive style.
I complied rather meekly. "Oh, that'll have to do. I just can't go another day without a proper haircut," I said with a dry, throaty voice.
Brandon's smirk intensified. He patted his chair impatiently. "Here you go." His hand was already on the cape that he would fasten about my neck. He eyed my thatch with the intensity of a hunter spying his prey.
My mind was addled. Without remembering the specifics, I found myself suddenly caped and felt Brandon yanking a comb through my hair.
"My brother calls himself a barber, but no self-respecting professional would allow a client get to this state," he chuckled. By then the comb had done it's job and Brandon smoothed my hair into place. His hands lingered on my brown locks. I could feel his steely gaze surveying my bulky mane.
I regained my voice. "Aaron's a fine barber. I'm the one who's let it get overgrown like this -- been on the road for a while," I explained.
"Not to worry," he said, reaching for a set of clippers. "I'll have you looking much better momentarily." He forcefully moved my head forward so that it was inclined to the cape; I saw the expanse of cloth in its pristine, white estate. "So, what'll it be? Medium or short?" he asked perfunctorily.
Obviously, 'just a trim' was not an option. Did it matter, I wondered to myself? I knew Brandon would shear me with gusto.
My cautious self urged me to try to temper Brandon's aggressiveness by selecting 'medium'. It was really the only valid response.
But, in that split second of hesitation, fascination overpowered fear. The rate of my heart beat escalated wildly. The years of considering placing my fine coif in jeopardy once again were coming to a head!
"Short," I announced in a clear voice.
Brandon's response was captured in the immediate click of the clippers coming to life. I felt the cold teeth of the clippers on my neck below the hairline. They were naked teeth! Not the large plastic guard that Aaron usually used on me!
"I can do short," Brandon stated in a matter-of-fact tone.
Then, to my horror, I felt Brandon slowly, forcefully, purposefully drive the clippers right up the back of my head, closely to the scalp.
The sound of the metal teeth hitting my dense locks sent out a bit of a muffled shrill shriek. I expected him to quickly ease away from the nape into a taper, but the teeth chewed away close to my pate....up, up....through the occipital bone....up, up....through the half way mark.....up, up....it was like they would never stop climbing. My heart beat wildly. He was scalping me! Brandon was clipping off my plush executive style! As his clippers approached the two-thirds mark, nearing the crown, Brandon finally he pulled them away a bit.
I felt apoplectic! He had just shaved a swath up the back of my head, almost to the skull. I was heading for a dramatic makeover. In stunned shock I sat helplessly in the chair while Brandon schemed his next assault with the clippers.
The aggressive barber sensed my tension and added to it. "Aaron's not going to recognize you when I'm done with your haircut, Oliver. The regulation is one of my most requested haircuts. With the arsenal being so close, I must give at least two dozen regulation cuts per week."
"A military regulation haircut?!" I stammered.
"When a client wants to go short, I don't stand in the way," Brandon remarked lightly, almost joyfully. "On a middle aged man like you, a regulation, clipped down very tight, will take about 10 years off your looks."
Immediately, the clippers began their second drive up through my hair. I sat in numbed silence. Brandon was giving me a short, military-length haircut!
The barber became quite animated and starting babbling as he stripped away my executive look. "Had a businessman come in here the other day. Type like yourself. In town on business. Suit, tie, briefcase. Hair not as long as this, but way too floppy in my opinion. Said he wanted a trim. I had just begun tackling his mop when one of the major's from the arsenal entered. Super nice fellow who sports the sharpest flattop around here. Dense black hair. Short on top, but no landing strip -- just an immaculate small patch of shiny black hair that totally covers the scalp and stands perfectly erect. I point to the major and say, 'His haircut would suit you.' The businessman is like nervous as a cat. 'No, no....just a trim,' he insists. So, I start clipping away. Hair's falling to the cape. Guy is really nervous....'You're not giving me that flattop, are you?' he asks. I guess he's not used to facing away from the mirror. I toy around with him and ask if he's changed his mind. He says something like it wouldn't look professional, to which the major took exception. I gave him his money's worth with regard to the haircut. Lowered his ears and unleashed the thinning shears on his top. Wish he'd have opted for the flattop. Never seen a fellow more anxious to get out of my shop. Told me to keep the change from a $20. That was quite a tip!"
By the time Brandon finished the anecdote, the back of my head had been stripped of almost all the hair. The cape still looked quite white, except for a few long strands of my dark brown hair that had inadvertently slid forward from the shoulder.
The story made my stomach churn. Brandon clearly liked playing with his clients' emotions. I had known that about him when I decided to walk into the shop earlier. And now, I found myself stirring with the same excitement that I'd sensed the last time I'd been under Brandon's cape. What really set me on edge was the random discussion of the major's flattop. If there was ever an ultra-short haircut that appealed to me....my wildest dreams and deepest fears...to walk out of the barbershop with a flattop, just like the major's.
I decided to pick up on Brandon's story. "That major with the flattop you were talking about," I said, tentatively. "I've seen him in here before." The fact was that I thought he was the most manly, handsome fellow I'd ever laid eyes on -- with crystal blue eyes and a squared jaw. "And every time I see him, I've admired his flattop."
Brandon paused. He stepped in front of me and I sat up a bit, more relaxed. A smile spread across the barber's face as if he'd discovered my secret. "Don't tell me...."
I grinned sheepishly, "Yes...but I've been worried about...."
The barber continued my thought, "...what people would say."
"That, and what I'd look like with one. What if a flattop made me look ridiculous? I'll never have the courage to ask for one myself."
Brandon continued smiling and took the comb out of his breast pocket. "Do you want to watch the transformation? Or see the new you all at once?"
He began combing my thick forelock straight down. It dangled past my eyes.
"See the new me all at once!" I exclaimed. I was almost bursting with giddiness.
With that, Brandon snagged the heavy forelock with his comb and lifted it from my face. I had a split second to object, but held my tongue. With a quick drive of the clippers over the comb, the massive lock fell past my eyes in one dramatic move. Suddenly, my lap was full of shorn hair! My forehead was fully exposed. There was no going back. Brandon was going to take me down, and take me down flat!
My stomach churned with excitement and anxiety. I was finally getting the flattop I'd always admired but never had the nerve to request.
Brandon's hands switched into super high gear. In torrents, mounds of my hair began raining down on the cape -- clumps, strands, snippets. I completely surrendered to Brandon's plan for my head. In a mesmerized estate, I watched my hair pile up on the cape. When he started leveling the top, I instinctively sat stiff and straight.
After about fifteen minutes of working in silence, Brandon paused. "The major's flattop is actually quite conservative, Oliver. I'm thinking perhaps we should take you down even shorter....."
"A landing strip?" I asked with a tone of incredulity.
He smiled widely. "Shorter!"
"A high 'n tight?!" I gasped.
"Shorter!" he insisted.
My lips quivered. "A shoe?"
"Are you asking me or telling me?" Brandon said with a calm, persistent voice that demanded an answer of me.
"Shoe me, Brandon!" I burst out suddenly. "I want you to do it. Everything scraped off clean except for the slightest rim of hair."
I was going for broke. No more dreaming, no more wishing, no more pussy-footing around. I had just asked for the haircut I feared most. A horseshoe flattop! I felt both numb and tingling with excitement simultaneously. From my deepest depths came the order for the haircut that I dreaded and admired most.
As Brandon was swapping out the clippers for a smaller set, the door to the barbershop swung open.
"Hey, brother, I thought you were sick," Brandon said as he greeted his brother Aaron.
"Right after I called you, I started feeling better, so I decided to come in anyways. I know Mondays can be very busy," Aaron said.
Then, he recognized me under the cape, "Oliver! Oliver? Oh, my, what has Brandon done to you?"
"Go ahead, tell him, Oliver," Brandon insisted.
My voice cracked slightly. I felt nervous, like I'd betrayed my solicitous barber, Aaron. "The truth is, I've always wanted a flattop. In fact, I just told him to shoe me," I stammered.
"No more prissy, Mr. Executive hairstyle for Oliver," Brandon beamed. "He wants to look like a real man."
"But you've always been so insistent about leaving your hair longish and wanting just a trim," Aaron said incredulously, still struggling to come to terms with my radical makeover.
Brandon interjected, "Maybe you want to check out your current look before we start scraping this down to a horseshoe. You've given the handsome major a run for his money, like this." Brandon began swiveling the chair around slowly. My heart beat wildly. I was about the see the new me for the first time.
I was blown away by what I saw in the mirror. I was unrecognizable. The flattop was perfect. The small patch of hair on top that jutted up, ramrod straight, from the top of my head was flat as a board! The cape was totally covered with my cut hair. I looked like a totally different person. An authoritative, determined type! A macho type who could kick ass.
"Well, what do you think?" Brandon asked.
"It's perfect, just like this!" I exclaimed. "I can't believe I finally have a flattop." I reached out from under the cape and touched the #0000 shaved sides that felt like the finest of sandpapers. Then I fondled the plush pelt on top that stood straight with no product in it. "Feels amazing," I murmured.
Brandon began to remove the cape carefully. "Well, leave it like this for the time being. But don't think that eventually a nice wide landing strip is going to appear right up here somewhere," Brandon noted as he eyed the patch of hair that remained. "One day yet, I'm going to shoe you, Oliver!"
He dusted me off thoroughly, then spoke to Aaron. "See, brother, sometimes you need to help your clients along. They want it but just can't bring themselves to ask for it...."
"I just follow the instructions I'm given," Aaron murmured.
Then Brandon turned to his brother and glared at him a bit before snapping, "And, since we don't have any clients right now, it's your turn, Aaron. Take a seat!"
"Oh, Brandy! You don't mean it...." Aaron gasped. There was panic and anticipation written all over his face.
"I certainly do! It will make my point clear to you!" he snapped. "Barber knows best -- and, in this case, big brother too!"
Submissively, Aaron took a seat in Brandon's chair.
"All these years, working by my side, with that pathetic, nondescript business cut. I'm going to make a real barber out of you yet, bro!" Brandon stated as he cast the cape.
"Shoe me!" Aaron gasped with a breathy, throaty voice.
I lingered in the shop to watch Aaron's transformation. As I sat in the waiting area and observed the makeover, I fingered my plush top. The velvety pelt felt so soft. I felt a stirring within me, a strong desire. I wanted to undergo the same process Brandon was applying to Aaron....a head full of lather being scraped away until only the thinnest rim of hair remained in the pattern of a horseshoe.
Periodically, Brandon would pause from his work and stare at me with a knowing grin. We both knew what would happen next.