Dr. McDaniel Works by Proxy by Manny
I purposely determined to arrive late for class and slip into the back after it started so that I wouldn't have to engage in any conversations. I felt awkward about my new horseshoe flattop, especially how my ears stuck out! Gone was my thick thatch of glossy blond curls....replaced by a vast expanse of gleaming white scalp. I could not get used to it! To make matters worse, the professor and I would show up sporting matching new haircuts on the same day. What would everyone think? I just didn't want to answer any questions or hear any comments....
But, as I slid into the very back row in the large classroom (almost the size of an auditorium), I quickly realized that would not be the case. Two girls in front of me were whispering in rather loud tones.
"Dr. McDaniel looks awful with that haircut! He had such nice hair before -- thick and long, really cool," one gal said with a disappointed tone.
"Now he looks like some neo-Nazi skinhead, or some right-wing ROTC instructor!" the other replied. "If people want to look like jarheads, they should join the military! There is no place of those types on our campus -- we are a very open-minded, tolerant place!"
"We ought to make him wear a 'trigger warning' sign across his chest," the other girl laughed.
I hoped that neither of the two would spot me out of the corner of their eye, looking just like the professor.
Almost instantly, that hope was dashed!
Dr. McDaniel broke from his monologue about foreshadowing in Poe's Cask of Amontillado, and commented, "But, let's hear from some of you students, what you drew from the assigned reading. Anyone?"
Crickets! Then, he strode up the aisle in my direction.
My heart beat quickly....oh, please, not! There was no way he would....
"Cedric! What do you think?" Dr. McDaniel asked.
Suddenly, all eyes in the class were locked onto me!
I was like a deer in the headlights, shocked and silent! Paralyzed with fear and shame.
"Come on now, stand up! That way the class can get a good look at your brand new haircut!" Dr. McDaniel announced.
I stood, sheepishly, still afraid to speak. A murmur of laughter rolled through the class. The two girls in front of me glared in disapproval.
"I'm sorry, sir. I didn't do the reading," I finally muttered.
"Don't let the tidy look fool you, class. Cedric, it turns out, is a slacker! Please stop by my office after this class ends, Cedric!" the professor snapped, returning to his monologue about Poe.
The only upside to the public humiliation was that I had been invited to stop by Dr. McDaniel's office. Any sort of attention from the man I secretly admired was better than none!
When I got to his office, it was quickly apparently that Dr. McDaniel was not at all upset with me about not doing the reading. In fact, he didn't even mention it.
"So, Cedric, has your new haircut attracted a lot of attention? Are you getting used to the horseshoe yet?" he asked, studying my new minimalist look intently from behind his desk.
"Yes and no. Yes, it's attracted attention -- mostly negative. And, no, I haven't gotten used to it. I look awful, I think," I pouted.
"Let's see, people are telling you that you look like a pig cop or some neo-Nazi? Right? And those ears stick out hideously and you wish you had that mass of curls covering them again? Right?" the professor asked rhetorically.
"You are a genius!" I gushed. "Right on both counts."
"I myself have endured a lot of shaming and disapproval, Cedric. 'What happened to your long hair, it was soooo gorgeous?' they whine."
"And how do you respond to those comments?" I asked.
"That it was my hair and I decided to have it all cut off! One minute, shoulder length and the next near-bald! And that the haircut empowered me and that I feel more manly and confident! And for them to mind their own business! That's what I tell them!" Dr. McDaniel pontificated. "And you probably quake and shuffle your feet and wish you were invisible!" Dr. McDaniel stood, unexpectedly, and towered over me. "I quite like your shoe, Cedric!" Slowly he traced his finger along the shoe's perimeter and then tenderly stroked my landing strip. "This is definitely a keeper! We need you to grow a pair of balls and act like a man. Develop some character. And, these huge ears sticking out awkwardly are just what you need. Learn to live with the ridicule. In fact, learn to cherish it! Learn to invite it.
Hmmmmmm. I could be onto something here. Perhaps a total chromedome look for you? Losing your lush curls was a good thing. Am I correct, Cedric?!" he bellowed.
"Yes, sir," I murmured. "Quite correct."
"Good, then you can help me with my next project. Are you familiar with my junior colleague, Dr. Patrick O'Reilly?" he asked.
"Yes, I had him for British Lit," I replied.
"In a few minutes, Dr. O'Reilly will be stopping by my office to pester me. He wants me to approve a research sabbatical. I've been hearing about it for ages. Three months to ride around Ireland, visiting archives. He'll rent a motorcycle to keep expenses down. That long ginger braid of his flailing in the wind as he speeds down back roads....." Dr. McDaniel paused and cracked a mean smile. "Or maybe not! Perhaps he will be made to teach an extra full schedule of classes next semester because that's what I, the Department head, have decided! But I do like to see him grovel....so I've led him along a bit. Stringing him along....vainly imagining himself in Ireland."
Dr. McDaniel let out a mean chuckle.
"And, to be honest, Cedric, I wanted him to see your new shoe. I've been thinking about a little plan for his cherished ginger braid!" Dr. McDaniel exclaimed. From his desk drawer he retrieved a huge pair of heavy-duty shears. He snapped them open and shut a few times. "If, per chance, he were amenable to leaving his braid behind....he might get his little jaunt in Ireland!"
"You would cut it off yourself, Dr. McDaniel?" I exclaimed.
"No, Cedric. That might be perceived as bullying because I'm his superior. No, YOU would take the shears to it! Right at the nape! And then, YOU would take him on over to the University Barber Shop. You know the ropes!" A knock came on the door. "Think quickly! He's here! Don't let me down, Cedric!"
I was flummoxed. I was to devise a plan to prepare the ginger braid for harvest?! I was to lop it off? I was to get Dr. O'Reilly to the same barbershop? My mind raced to come up with a plan.....
"Come in!" Dr. McDaniel called out.
And then he stood in front of me, Dr. O'Reilly. Jeans and a corduroy jacket. And down the back of it, past his waist, hung a huge, mammoth ginger braid! At the base near the crunchy it seemed to have the volume of a baseball bat! And at the end, in the crack of his tight, shapely ass, a flaming tuft of wavy hair fanned out like a huge feather duster! I surveyed the wonderful braid. Then my eyes darted over to the shears on Dr. McDaniel's desk.
"Oh, Joseph! I hardly recognized you. I heard about your makeover....but this is quite a shock! Are you organizing a 'Blue Lives Matter' march, by any chance?" Dr. O'Reilly teased.
"Very funny, Patrick," the Department head snapped back. "Now what did you want to talk to me about? Not that sabbatical request again, I hope!"
"Well, you've never said 'no'. And the University of Dublin needs to know by Friday if I will be a visiting scholar or not," he pleaded.
"When it comes to your own interests, you are very persistent, Patrick! Always looking out for #1....." he murmured with a disapproving tone.
Instantly, I had an idea!! I interjected myself into the discussion.
"Excuse me, but perhaps I might suggest something," I said, standing to be seen and suddenly feeling very assertive.
Dr. McDaniel smiled widely, approving of my bold move. "Of course, Cedric, what is it?"
"I couldn't help but noticing this from where I was sitting...." I said, suddenly grasping Dr. O'Reilly's thick ginger braid near the nape.
My bold move astonished him and surprisingly had him cowering as a result of my firm grip. "This would be a tremendous contribution to the 'Locks of Love' drive for children with cancer. Dr. O'Reilly's donation, I'm sure, would convince you he cares deeply for others, not just #1 as you concluded, Dr. McDaniel." I continued squeezing the braid tightly and firmly immobilizing Dr. O'Reilly.
"Ah, yes, you've just donated your lovely blond hair to that cause, Cedric. Or am I mistaken?" Dr. McDaniel asked with a wink.
I dodged the direct question. "No more thick long curls to deal with each morning," I said, touching my sensitive scalp. "It's quite a change!"
The longhaired ginger prof managed to wrench himself free from my grip. "Is that where your hair went too, Joseph?" Dr. O'Reilly surmised. "I'm impressed! A bleeding heart, after all. Kids with cancer, what could be more heartening-wrenching?"
Dr. McDaniel blushed. Then he adopted my strategy. "The very short haircut has actually been a marvelous change. I feel like a different person!"
"Shall I?" I asked, boldly reaching for the shears.
Dr. O'Reilly winced. It would be a painful loss! He pulled his braid around to the front and fondled it fondly.
"When the braid is laying on my desk, ready to be dispatched to the organization, I will sign the sabbatical request!" Dr. McDaniel announced.
There was a pregnant silence in the small office.
Finally the trembling professor with ginger hair eked out, "Cut it off."
I snapped the shears open and shut a few times. Dr. O'Reilly's eyes were filled with anxiety, even panic.
I grabbed the braid and yanked it hard, exerting control over the nervous ginger longhair.
The professor gasped and quickly became very submissive.
I took the sharp metal blades to the nape. The bundle of hair was so voluminous, the braid would not yield!!
In vain I tried desperately to saw through the copper-like chord of hair.
"Chop it off!" Dr. McDaniel urged.
"I'm trying," I stammered.
In desperation, I plunged the tip of the blade into the middle of the braid, embarking on a "divide and conquer" strategy. I would hack off the braid in two parts. Almost without struggle the blades of the shears snapped together! Half the deed was done.
"Ready to lose this?" I announced as I took the shears to the remaining half that clung to Dr. O'Reilly's nape.
"Not really," he muttered.
CRUNCH! Off it came.
I lifted the long copper plait off like a trophy and held it high in a display of triumph. Then I tossed the massive chord of hair onto Dr. McDaniel's desk. It landed with a huge THUD!
We all stared silently at the proof that the deed had been done with a bit of awe.
Released from my grip, Dr. O'Reilly began to nervously paw away at the truncated base from where the braid had previously hung.
Dr. McDaniel picked up the copper plait. "A very impressive donation here! There must be at least three feet of hair."
Suddenly, the scrunchy that still imprisoned Dr. O'Reilly's hair slipped off and a mass of wild, wavy red hair sprung into a most unruly shock of untamed tresses. Dr. O'Reilly struggled to get his hair under control.
"Will you have the sabbatical papers ready and signed by the time we return, Dr. McDaniel?" I asked.
"Return? From where?" Dr. O'Reilly stammered.
"The University Barber Shop," I announced as I grabbed the wild shock of red hair. "We're not going to leave you looking like Ronald McDonald! Not on your life! Weren't you admiring my shoe as I hacked off your braid, Dr. O'Reilly? Quickly, we don't want the shop closing on us!"
I released my prey, turned and strode from Dr. McDaniel's office. On my heels trailed the meek and submissive Dr. O'Reilly. "Pick up your step, Pat!" I snapped. "I wonder if the shoe is a popular haircut in Ireland...." I chuckled to myself. "Stop shuffling, back there!"
"Cedric, one minute, please! Just a quick word with you," Dr. McDaniel called out.
I popped my head back into his office.
He held up the braid. "I say we have this made into a nice wig for you! To hide those very awkward ears that stick out and that mis-shaped head!"
I gulped uncomfortably. I did look horrible. Dr. McDaniel gloated. "Oh, you look so precious when you're feeling vulnerable, Cedric!"
I felt my shorn head momentarily and stammered, "If the shoe were scraped off...if my head were totally bald...." I gulped anxiously.
"Yes, such a compliant fellow. You'll know just what to tell the barber, I'm sure..." Dr McDaniel purred as he turned back to the thick ginger braid to admire his trophy.