The Prodigal's Buzz Part IIi by Deke Cutter
Luke arrived for dinner with his family on Saturday, feeling excited to see them and not-at-all self- conscious about his appearance. His mother greeted him with a huge smile and hugs and kisses. "Luke, I am so happy to have you home. Can I tell you a secret? While that haircut’s a bit extreme, I’ve always thought short hair would suit you. I know daddy pushed you into it, but, my you look more handsome than ever." Now come in and say hello to everyone before your dad and Johnny pull you away.
As they moved into the living room that was almost the size of Luke’s apartment, Lucy jumped up from the love seat she was sharing with Johnny. "Come here brother-in-law to be, I want to give a big hug to the man who got "Mr. Give Me the Usual" to try something different." Mwah, was the sound of the exaggerated kiss she placed on Luke’s cheek as she rubbed his head. "I love the fresh summer haircut on your brother and this bold new look on you!" The two blushing brothers embraced and gave each other the universal "back of the head stubble rub" of buzzed buddies everywhere.
"Luke, grab yourself a drink, I want you and John to join me in the library," dad said.
On cue, the guys’ mother said, looking at John, "oh good, that will give Lucy and me a chance to talk about the properties you two are looking at." With that, the three men went across the hall to the library/office.
Once settled in the comfortable leather chairs, John was the first to speak. "Luke, whatever you are doing man, you are doing right. I am hearing really good things bro!" Who thought my long-haired GQ brother, in two weeks would convert our scruffy crew into clean-cut buzz boys."
Luke laughed and said, "you know, I was completely freaked out when dad sat me in that barber chair two weeks ago. But on the very first day on the job, I learned what dad had been trying to get me to understand for all these years about understanding our workers on a human level. They were all willing to give me a chance. The thing with the haircuts was a real bonus. First-of-all, for me, short hair is practical for this kind of work, but its also helped me feel like I related to the guys. Having to go to my MBA reception with my new look last week also taught me a lesson about what kind of people have real substance and value and that’s something I want to talk to you both about. Dad, I don’t know if John mentioned seeing Max with me at the barber’s yesterday. His father indicated that he had. Max is getting ready to finish an Associates Degree in Construction Management. He wanted to get a short haircut because he thought he would be taken more seriously. He said, hearing me talk with the guys about getting my long hair chopped off gave him the gumption to get his flat top. Dad, I’ve watched Max at work, and I’ve met his girl. She’s a teacher who went through school on academic scholarship. Max couldn’t afford to go to college right out of school, so he went to work for us. I want to ask if we might consider re-instituting our tuition program to help Max and folks like him. We’ve rebounded well. I’d love to see Max get a BA or BS and join our management team."
His dad said "Luke, that is a very good idea and I know your brother wants me to do it too. Let me talk to the accountants and HR. This new tax law is so complicated that we have to make sure that a program wouldn’t end up hurting our employees. Another life lesson that I thought our Senators and Members of Congress would know, never agree to a deal, a contract or a piece of legislation if you haven’t read it and understood it. I hope we can do it. Do you have anything else you want to tell me and your brother?
"Yes dad, we have a couple of young masons, their names are Russo and Lucciani. They are third generation stone masons and brick layers. I’m just wondering if there might be enough of a market for custom stone work that we might exploit. These guys are very talented. They are also very proud of their craft and willing to teach it. They showed me how to lay bricks, dad, me!"
His father and brother both looked inscrutable. After a minute, dad said, "that’s strategic thinking son. I will think about it. Now John, if you will excuse us, I need a few moments with your brother." After John closed the door, their father said, "I am so proud of you, son, I don’t know whether to hug you or kick you in the butt. He then embraced his son in a bear hug and both men were near tears when he released Luke. "If I would have known one buzz cut could have turned you around…. Seriously, I didn’t expect to see this kind of growth in you so quickly. Everybody down at the site has said good things. You have been putting in extra time and I know about your helping-out at the depot, so you can get a chance to understand some of the trucks and construction equipment. Even Mike the barber called me to tell me about your arrangement for Max’s haircut and how effusive you were in praising Rico yesterday. Let’s keep this process going. You will continue at construction project for another month. Then we will move you to a more challenging division. As a reward for your progress, Rico can give you a number 2 or a number 3 buzz now."
Luke’s next month passed quickly. Before he left, he was pleased to learn that his father had, not only brought back tuition program, but turned it into a cooperative education program and Max was to be the first to benefit from it. He’d also really enjoyed the looks on the Oasis boys faces when his father and brother had come down to the site and singled them out for praise and a private chat. At lunch, the two, in their usual manner, argued over who would tell Luke about the chat. In the end, they talked over each other. Basically, they were asked if they would be interested in working in a new specialized masonry and stone work, if one were formed. "They told us they liked our haircuts too." Russo said.
"I’m glad I convinced you that we should go back to Mikes last Friday," Lucciani said.
"That was my idea," Russo replied. And they were off, leaving Luke laughing.
On his last Friday, Luke and Max made their regular visit to Mike’s. Max got his regular flattop and Luke settled in for his Number 3 buzzcut. As they were driving back to their apartments, Max asked, "so when you finish with your assignment, that will be before next June, right?" Luke indicated it would. "So, if you were going to be my best man and Janie wanted us both to have flattops, that wouldn’t be a problem next June?"
It took Luke a second to process what Max had just said. He pulled the car over, turned off the engine, and let out a very un-MBA-like yell. "Did you just tell me your engaged and ask me to be your best man? HELL YEAH! And damn straight I’ll have a flattop!
Luke’s second "work experience," His father decided would be in the maintenance division because it included maintaining building interiors and exteriors, including paving of parking and access roads. While his father had removed his haircut restrictions, Luke found himself not ready to forego the clipper cuts, even temporarily, just yet. So, he found himself asking Rico to "ease me into a crewcut similar to the one my brother’s been getting this summer." Luke found the first part of the assignment to be a chance to improve some of the skills he had learned while working at the depot. He got to do some digging using a pay loader and a steam roller on a parking lot that was being resurfaced. As August turned into September he noticed that he was the only one on the outside work crew maintaining a crisp clipper haircut. The younger guys who had buzzes when he arrived were starting to get that shaggy look. One of them explained to him that you need some insulation in the fall and winter for leave raking and snow removal.
At about the same time, Luke noticed that John was going back to his regular short businessman’s cut. John said to Luke, "I’ve been meaning to talk you bro. Lucy’s mom asked me to grow my hair out to my "regular" length for the wedding in April. I was kind of enjoying my new look, but, you know me, keep the peace. I know you’re getting a flattop in June, but could you grow some hair until April so my best man and me will kind of be rocking the same style at my wedding too?"
"John, you want me to be your best man?" You and your buddies have been tight since pre-school. Shoot, most people Bobby and you are brothers."
"But YOU are my brother Luke and you’re the best man I can think of for this. And, so Luke continued to work through and when December rolled around, he reluctantly explained to Rico that he needed to grow his hair out to match his brother’s in time for wedding right after Easter. Rico laughed and told him that he looked almost as sad as the day he lost his ‘pretty hair.’ Luke joking replied "I was just sad that some crazy kid with a pair of clippers was being let loose on my head." They both shared good laugh. By April, Luke’s hair had grown in and he and John went for their pre-wedding cuts the day before the nuptials. John and Lucy went on their honeymoon and Luke, at long last, entered the executive suite. Those who remembered him could not get over the physical changes that almost a year of manual labor had brought about. Nor could they believe his new humility, kindness, even his sensible short haircut. Luke seemed to be a new man. He loved his new responsibilities and approached every task with the best interests of the company, the workers, his family and the community in mind.
Luke, Max and Janie had become very good friends. As the wedding approached, Janie told Luke that she really wanted him to meet her Maid of Honor, since they were the entire bridal party and she wanted everybody to feel comfortable on the big day. So, about a month before the wedding, Luke found himself returning to the apartment complex he had called home. Andrea and Janie had met in college. Andrea had planned to be a science teacher, but her professors had convinced her to continue her education and she now was a biochemist working for a firm developing new drugs for various diseases. She was smart, witty, and beautiful. She and Max seemed to hit it off quite well. Eventually, the subject came around to Max’s former crowning glory. "I have to admit," Andrea said with her brown eyes twinkling, "I loved Max’s long hair," but I had to remind myself that he was my ‘bestie’s’ fiancé when I saw him in that flattop tonight."
"I owe it all to Luke. If you like short hair on guys, you should have seen Luke when we first met. He didn’t have that "make me look like my dad cut then, did you bud? He had a Number 1 buzz cut and looked like an advert for the local Construction Workers Union."
"Yeah, I had to drag your sissy butt to the barber to get you straightened out," Luke said before the two men broke into uncontrollable laughter. Luke got control of himself and added, "don’t worry, this mop will be gone before the wedding, Luke and I are going to have matching flattops for the big day." Janie explained her request that Luke get a flattop and how much she loved the look on Max. Andrea said that she couldn’t wait to see the "two studs" on the big day.
A week before the wedding, Max and Luke were driving to Mikes for Luke’s big chop. They wanted to make sure that Luke’s hair had a week to settle into the flattop before the big day. "So, Janie tells me you and Andrea went out on a date man. What’s up with not telling me about it?"
"C’mon, Max, it wasn’t ‘a date,’ it turns out our offices are just a couple blocks apart and we met for coffee."
"And the two lengthy phone calls."
"Dude, you are worse than a teenage girl."
"Admit it man, she’s hot and you like her."
"Yeah, I do. I hope she likes me in this flatty, man."
As, they went into Mike’s, the guys were shocked to see Luke’s brother John having Mike put the finishing touches on John’s flattop. "John, WTF?" Luke exclaimed.
"I’m not letting you have all the fun anymore bro. Besides, I thought it would freak out all the guys in the executive suite when we both show up with flattops on Monday. Plus, Lucy said she heard about some town up in New England where the wife of every guy that got a flattop got pregnant in record time. You know how much we want to start a family."
Luke rolled his eyes and got into Rico’s chair. Max sat in Mike’s for ‘a little cleanup. "You ready for this Luke?"
"Rico, I can’t wait to feel those clippers move up my head again." With that, Rico, turned on the clippers and went to work, expertly clearing away the growth from the sides and back of Luke’s head. As Mike made the necessary adjustments to Max’s cut, Max looked over and saw Luke’s eyes closed and a slight smile on his face.
"Luke, you dirty dog, you’re thinking of Andrea rubbing her hands all over your head, aren’t you?"
"Shoot, I did the same thing the first time I was in this chair, only I was thinking of my Janie.
Twenty-five minutes later Luke was looking in the mirror at himself transformed. He loved the flattop! He couldn’t believe how much he looked like John. They were only 11 months apart in age, but the haircuts made them look like twins. Even stranger was when Max stood next to him in the barbershop mirror, he realized, that they too looked like brothers with their matching flats. On their way home from the barber’s Luke had an idea. Max, you’re taking a couple of summer course to get a jumpstart on the academic part of your co-op program, right?" Max indicated that that was right. Plan oncoming to the office on Monday at 10:00 AM. I’ll square it with everybody. It’s the staff meeting, and I’ll say its to introduce you as our first coop student. You heard what John said about freaking people out, well a third flattie ought to send the suck ups over the edge."
On Monday morning with their plan in place (and even their father’s jovial agreement), the two brothers, well dressed and shod strode into the office with their matching flattop haircuts. Luke had surreptitiously pinned Mike’s Barbershop Business Cards on the announcement boards in several locations. Not a word was said, until the staff meeting when Luke deferred to John on the agenda item Cooperative Education Program. John then explained the re-introduction of the program, Luke’s role in determining its usefulness and viability and then said that he was going to invite the first participant, "a man who reflects our corporate beliefs, our corporate culture, and as you will see even looks like the future of our corporation. With that, Max was brought in, wearing a suit borrowed from Luke. He spoke briefly expressing his gratitude and left.
Max and Luke both took off work on Friday and planned to spend the day doing wedding prep. And getting ready for the rehearsal dinner that evening. Max asked how things went at the office. Luke said "two flattops and several guys have had their long hair cut back…pretty much the ones John and I expected to"
"What do you think’s gonna happen when they see you two grow your hair out?".
"Not likely that’s happening. John’s convinced its fertility magic and Andr…I mean I’m really loving it.
"Come on big guy. You were about to say Andrea really likes it, weren’t you?
"Oh hell yeah. And thanks to your big mouth, even though I do really love being one of the "three flatskateers," she wants to see me in that sexy number 1 buzz cut you told her I had last year. So, guess what buddy boy, upon your return from your honeymoon, we have an appointment at Mike’s to become the two buzzkateers, unless I can convince John to join us. Then we can grow or flats back together."
That’s as far as I have gotten with the story of John and Luke. Hope you enjoyed it