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Dr. McDaniel Leads the Way by Manny
I struggled to keep up with Dr. Joseph McDaniel as he strode quickly down the hall of the English Department. His crisp flattop with skinned sides that almost glowed in the neon lighting was like a shining beacon I felt compelled to follow. It was with a mix of dread and anticipation that I thought about my own pampered mass of blond curls and what would happen to them when we reached the University Barber Shop. The place was a bit of a curiosity to me, that it still attracted business even though it looked stuck in the 1950s. I never imagined that I myself would one day examine it from the inside!
Dr. McDaniel looked back to make sure I was still following him and flashed a toothy grin. "Ah, still with me, I see, Cedric. Good!" As he walked he fondled the snowy white skin on the back of his head. I desperately wanted to touch it too, but dared not mention anything like that.
We exited the building and headed towards University Avenue. "Dr. McDaniel," I said cautiously, catching his attention.
"It'll be just a few more minutes, Cedric! Stay with me!" he snapped authoritatively.
I gathered up a bit of courage and hustled up to walk alongside him instead of trailing behind. "It's just that I'm a little uneasy about what people might say if we both show up in class tomorrow with matching flattops...." I mumbled.
Dr. McDaniel stopped in his tracks and glared at me. Then mocking me with a feigned effeminate voice he echoed my whine, "....I'm a little uneasy about what people might..." Then he bellowed, "What people?! Say what?! Is there any crime in getting a flattop? So, this is what the next generation of college graduates is made of....whining, fretting, molly-coddled nervous nellies!"
With that he whirled back and continued at a fast pace toward the barbershop. I felt thoroughly humiliated! Now he thought poorly of me. I would have to cooperate fully and be totally compliant. I would endure the shortest flattop imaginable to patch things up. I scurried behind him with my head down, nursing my feeling of shame and inadequacy.
We walked in total silence to the shop. Dr. McDaniel pushed the door open and strode in. I followed behind mechanically. Then I realized I was in the barbershop. It was empty save us and the one barber who appeared to be in his late 50s.
"Gentleman," he said, acknowledging us and rising from his chair. He smiled at both of us waiting for one of us to speak.
I expected Dr. McDaniel to announce that we were there for my benefit -- to mock me somehow and make me scurry to the big, oversized chair.
Instead, he took a seat in the barber chair himself! Dr. McDaniel seemed to relish sitting in it, examining himself in the large mirror that was bathed in neon. What was he up to?
"It looks like you've just gotten a haircut, sir," the barber said, somewhat confused.
Dr. McDaniel flashed his characteristic large grin. "That's right. Just two days ago. My first flattop. But, after I got home, I wish I had gone shorter. How are you at horseshoes?"
The barber smiled broadly and dutifully cast a huge white cape and covered Dr. McDaniel and most of the chair -- all of it save the chrome and enamel base. "How am I at shoes? An expert!"
"Then shoe me!" Dr. McDaniel ordered the barber with a confident command.
I watched in total shock and awe as the small remnant of Dr. McDaniel's hair was taken even shorter and more of his glowing white scalp was uncovered. When the barber swiveled the chair around to work on the back, Dr. McDaniel's eyes and mine locked in an intense stare.
He wasn't saying a word, but I knew what was on his mind. That man is trying to look like a college kid with the overgrown thatch of hair. He's nearing middle age and needs a good shearing. In fact, he needs some toughening up in the process. He needs a shoe!
After the barber finished sculpting an amazing horseshoe shape out of Dr. McDaniel's flattop, but tidied it up with lather and a razor. My time to take a seat was approaching!
"Amazing! Perfect! Just what I wanted," Dr. McDaniel told the barber confidently as he showed off his work with a hand mirror.
"The shoe is such a manly cut!" the barber announced. "Perfect for you, sir! Just the right head shape to make the shoe really work."
And with that the cape came off. Dr. McDaniel stepped over to the cash register to pay.
The barber nodded to me, "You can take a seat, sir. I'll be with you momentarily."
I felt frozen in my chair, waiting for Dr. McDaniel to order me to comply with the barber's request. But, he kept right on paying, as if the two of us were not connected. He didn't say a word. I was at a loss about what to do.
"Keep the change," Dr. McDaniel chirped to the barber, putting away his wallet.
I stood, confused, still not knowing what to do. I looked at Dr. McDaniel, but his expression was blank. Than I looked in the mirror at my treasured mop of blond curls that I thought helped me fit in on campus with the younger students. I desperately wanted to regain Dr. McDaniel's respect....and possibly his affection.
I walked toward the chair.
I saw Dr. McDaniel crack just a bit of a smile. I plopped down into the big throne-like seat.
"I'll be waiting for you in the corner coffee shop, Cedric." There was a large grin on Dr. McDaniel's face as he exited the barber shop. Then it was just me and the barber!
"So, what'll it be for you today?" he asked in a neutral way, studying my overgrown thatch.
I stammered. The air in my throat felt totally constricted. My lips were dry and my stomach churned. All those physical symptoms told me exactly what I knew I needed to do.
Finally, I blurted it out. "Shoe me. Exactly like you cut my friend's hair."
The barber smiled approvingly. Out came a fresh cape, and suddenly I felt there was no more escaping. I was going to get my first barbershop haircut!
He briefly tried to drag a comb through my curls but quickly gave up, opting instead to go straight for the clippers. The huge machine in his hand looked menacing.
"Do you want to watch? Or do you wanted to be surprised at the end? I know you're going to like your new look, pal. All this hair is really too much for a man your age," the barber said playfully as he batted a curl that flopped in my face.
"Surprise me," I said, beginning to feel excited about the impending transformation.
"Okay, take one last look at the old you," the barber said, before he began to swivel the chair to face away from the mirror.
I only wished Dr. McDaniel was there to watch me get shorn down to the wood. But, I knew I'd feel proud to walk into class the next day and watch his reaction to my makeover.
Suddenly I was jerked back into reality. The barber gripped my head with a vice-like hold and shoved it down so that my chin neared my chest! The click and purr of the machine was unmistakeable. I flinched as the naked metal teeth began chewing through the sensitive nape. The curls began to give way to the shoe!
I was like putty in the hands of the barber, submissively allowing my head to be cocked and shoved. The vibration of the clippers on my scalp felt amazing. It was like I was undergoing a hallucinagenic experience. And then I saw the first clump of my curls hit the cape and roll right down into my lap. This was quickly followed by a huge shower of even larger clumps. In a matter of seconds, my lap was a cauldron of cut curls.
Then the barber spoke for the first time, "It's a good thing you requested the shortest possible flattop. With curly hair like this, any sort of deep pile flat is near impossible to maintain. How long have you been planning to ditch the long hair?"
The question caught me off guard. "Oh, really, uh, just today, actually. It was like a spur of the moment thing. My friend who I came in with had his shoulder-length hair cut off over the weekend and he seemed quite pleased with the change."
"That man had shoulder-length hair? Must be a professor at the university! I don't even like to see the fellows, the college student types, with that long floppy hair. These clippers are a man's best friend!" the barber laughed. "I guess that's why I'm a barber!"
"Well, I have to say, the flattop he got really impressed me. And the shoe you gave him....very manly!" I exclaimed.
"Your shoe is shaping up nicely too," he said reassuringly.
Just then the barber shop door opened. It was Dr. McDaniel!
"You are looking fantastic, Cedric!" He grinned from ear to ear. "Wow, just a totally different man!"
"I'm glad you came back to watch," I said smiling tenderly at him.
He reached into my lap and picked up a fistful of curls. "Wow, look at all this," he exclaimed as he dropped the mass back into my lap."
"I heard you shed a lot of hair this weekend yourself," the barber chirped.
Dr. McDaniel's face blushed momentarily. "Yes, that's the truth. Even more than Cedric here. My sister's husband is a marine colonel and basically said the long hair had to go!"
Sister's husband?! So he might not be married after all....my heart leapt at the possibility!
His green eyes blazed as he studied my haircut. "You are looking so good, so hot, so manly! The women won't be able to keep their hands off you....."
"Or you!" laughed the barber, nodding at Dr. McDaniel's own shoe.
"The only woman I want putting her hands on me, is my wife!" Dr. McDaniel announced. "And speaking of....she'll have dinner ready for me shortly, so I must be on my way. I'll see you in class tomorrow, Cedric," he called out with a friendly tone. "The haircut....you made the right decision, pal!"
And with that, the dreamy, handsome, manly Dr. McDaniel strode out the door.....
I felt emotionally battered. My hopes dashed.....and then the chair began to slowly turn to reveal the new me.
"A drumbeat....." the barber announced in an animated tone.
Nothing could prepare me for the shock in the mirror. My mouth dropped open. Who was that man staring at my with a numb and expressionless look on his face?
"Well, what do you think?" the barber asked.
I thought about Dr. McDaniel's enthusiasm for my new haircut....he had actually called me "hot"! Then I saw how much my ears stuck out and how awfully large my nose looked. The shoe was not a good look for me. I stammered nervously, "You did a great job. Uh, I like it."
"Wait till I show you the back," the barber said with an excited tone as he reached for the hand mirror.
All I could see was bare, shiny white skin. Just like Dr. McDaniel's!