A Heart Stopping Haircut by Deke Cutter
I had been warning him for the last couple of years that he needed to slow down and take things easier, but my dad is just a hard charging kind of guy. You know those tv shows where people buy old houses and get them renovated? My dad is the guy they call in our hometown and for 100 miles around. And there is no substandard housing for the poor folks in our town, if dad hears about it. He and the zoning and code people in three counties work together. And he eats the costs when the landlord won’t pay. So, when, I received the call that he had suffered a heart attack, it hit me hard. Luckily, I work for myself. I’m one of those people you probably love to hate. I came up with a very simple idea right out of college, sold it to one of the big companies out in Silicon Valley for way more money than I should have made at 23 and I was set. Now I write and sculpt and frankly am feeling kind of bored. I’ve actually dabbled in a bit of work with Habitat for Humanity, just to keep things interesting. Now, I was rushing home from Los Angeles to my dad’s hospital bed. By the time I reached the airport back East, I was feeling pretty tired. I turned my phone on and had a message from my mom that dad was resting comfortably, but she was spending the night at the hospital with him. I texted back that I would check into a hotel near the airport and see them in the morning.
When I got up and got dressed I looked in the mirror and thought that my shaggy hair would win no prizes for keeping my dad calm. He and I have always been at odds over my hair. He would always win in the end. He worked hard, played hard, and never turned away a person in need. But, he was old school. Mom, bless her, ran interference. She’d get me to go to the barber and get dad to let me dress like everybody else. She’d negotiate curfew, concerts, everything. So, I said to my reflection in the mirror, "OK mom, I’ll get it cut before I go to see dad." I drove toward the hospital and asked the GPS navigation for barbers nearby. I didn’t like the looks of the first one, but the next one seemed new, clean and upscale. I was surprised to see 4 young looking barbers, two with clients in the chairs. One of the others asked if I had an appointment. (Jeez, I thought, barbers have changed). I explained that I had just arrived in town and wanted to get a trim before going to see my folks. The barber turned to the fourth barber and said "hey Jonno, do you have a 9:00?"
Jonno, who appeared to about 25, came up introduced himself and said, "you’re a lucky man. I had a no show, come on back." He caped me up and said, "so, did I hear you say you’re in town to see your folks? I can clean you up real nice and clean," he said with an eager glint in his eye and the Osters in his hand.
"Hold on there! Look, I want you to trim my hair so it’s just touching the top of my ears and just define my neckline. Leave it just at the top of my collar. I want it parted on the left and just out of my eyes. Sort of a long business cut that doesn’t look too neat."
"Cool man, I hear you’, Jonno said. He turned me away from the mirror, sprayed my hair lightly with water, combed my hair into a side part (It was parted down the middle) and he went to work. The first cut uncovered most of my right ear. He continued around, cutting around the back and finally uncovering my left ear. Then, ne combed down my bangs. They hung to my nose. "I’m gonna cut them at eyebrow level. Normally, with a side part cut, I’d angle them somewhat, but this way will give you the look you want." Then with three quick snips, my bangs, that had always lain so nicely on either side were gone. He continued to cut and I felt smaller amounts of hair falling. Finally, he combed my hair again and turned me to face the mirror and asked, "what about these sideburns?" I was so shocked to see the transformation that I almost couldn’t speak. All of the sudden, I looked like I did the week before high school graduation before dad sent me to the barber. I wasn’t crazy about the haircut then and I hated it now. But, I focused on my sideburns that extended just below the bottom of my ears. I told him that he could take them to midway up my ears. "OK, I’ll do that and clean up your neck." When Jonno finished, I looked in the mirror, my face must have looked disgusted. "Oh man, what is wrong, you don’t like the cut?"
"No, no, you did just what I asked. I just hate looking like this. Let me explain. My dad hates long hair. I love long hair. Dad just had a heart attack and I wanted to meet him halfway before going to see him in the hospital. Unfortunately, Frank Lucas Senior and Frank Lucas Junior are both very strong-willed."
"Wait, are you Frank’s son? He was my no-show this morning! Is he OK? Holy sh*t! Frank never misses an appointment."
"He seems to be recovering well. What a crazy coincidence. And listen, don’t worry, this is the best unwanted haircut I ever got."
"Well, if you ever decide to go short, that will be on the house," Jonno said, as I paid him and gave him a big tip. (Fat chance, I thought).
I looked in the car vanity mirror and sighed. I figured that this would, at least, make things a bit easier with dad. I texted mom that I was on my way. She was waiting for me in the lobby. "Oh Frankie, thank goodness you’re here." After smothering me in hugs. She held me at arms-length, and declared, "Your haircut may appease ‘his Lordship’. He’s irascible because he’s not in control in here, of course."
"How is he mom? And what do you mean, pointing at my hair, this will do? This is back to High School length."
"Oh, he will be fine if he follows doctors’ orders and rest up and changes his diet. And yes, that is your high school ‘long hair’ before he made you cut it." (dang, busted, I thought.) Mom told me that the doctors wanted him to rest, relax and take some time off, but that if he changed his diet, started a more disciplined exercise program, and took the meds prescribed, he would be fine, but he needed to rest.
"And your worried that he won’t let up on work, right? Who does he have as his project managers, lead engineer and designers?" She rattled off some familiar and a few new names to me. "Do you trust them Mom? (best judge of character I ever met). She indicated she did. "OK, here’s what I suggest…."
As we entered dad’s room he was chuckling and saying he would ‘see ya real soon.’ "Well, the prodigal returns. And don’t try to sell me some story about this being as long as you let your hair get these days. That was Jonno on the phone and that boy couldn’t keep a secret if he was in a room by himself. Now get over here and give your old man a hug." The old humbug, I loved him as much as he loved me and we both had a tough time holding the tears back.
"Dad, mom tells me we may be able to spring you from this joint tomorrow if you play nice with the doctors and don’t give the nurses a hard time."
"I’ll do anything to get out of here, the food’s awful. And you know what I always say." Mom and I joined him as he repeated "Time and tide wait for no man." He continued, "I need get back to work."
"Francis Xavier Lucas," mom said sternly, you will return to work under the conditions and when your doctor tells you that you can. Our son and I will discuss our proposal with you and the doctor and if he agrees, that it is in your best interest, it is what will happen. You will not leave me a wealthy "50- something widow" out of your stubbornness. Is that understood?" Dad and I sat in stunned silence as mom stood almost regally before us. Never had I seen her so in charge and brooking no opposition.
"My darlin’ Kate, may I at least hear the plan before we discuss it with the doc. Seeing as how my fate is sealed."
"Frankie, explain the plan. Frank, do not interrupt." (Dad make the tick-a-lock sign).
"Dad, I’m prepared to stay here and help out as long as you need me. I’ve worked with Habitat for Humanity on four houses out in LA and a lot of what I learned those summers working for you made me a valuable guy out there and they gave me a lot of responsibility. I’m also very rich and I have learned that I do not have to take BS from the wrong people and I have a huge responsibility to treat everybody with respect and kindness. So, you and I will take several days of getting me up to speed and you introducing me to who I need to know. Then, you and mom are going out to LA and live in my place. I will arrange a driver, doctors, a chef, a personal trainer, a massage therapist, and anything else you both need until you’ve rested up, lost the weight and are into the new routine the doctors want. That, in a nutshell, is my plan."
"Katie, may I speak now?" (Mom nodded yes.) I agree on two conditions. First, you grant your old man the dignity of paying for our own plane tickets and incidentals. (I agreed) Next, you and I, boyo, our first stop tomorrow is a visit with Jonno. I will be in charge of your haircut and it will be a haircut that I feel will represent me and my business while I am gone and Jonno will see you for my regular appointment every two weeks."
"Doggone it Dad!" I looked over at Mom and said "OK." We met with the doctor who agreed that as long as dad took it really easy this week and checked in with him in a week (next Friday), they could fly to LA next weekend.
Dad’s release from the hospital happened right around noon on Saturday and I was breathing a sigh of relief. I had a reprieve. The barbershop closed at noon and wouldn’t reopen until Monday! Mom had gone ahead to the pharmacy in her car, so I pulled my car up to the entrance and dad hopped in. "OK son, Jonno awaits."
I pointed to the car’s display and said, sorry Dad, they close at noon today."
"Jonno’s staying behind waiting for us," said Dad with a mischievous grin.
When we arrived, Dad did that corny "knock, knock, knock, knock, knock….knock, knock" on the locked door. Jonno opened the door and greeted my dad with a big smile. "Frank, man its good to see you! You look good." Then he saw me and said "Hi Frank, oh boy this going to get confusing."
"In the chair Junior, I’m going to enjoy this." And so, I followed Dad’s directions. Jonno caped me up. Dad said, OK Jonno, you know what to do."
Jonno looked from Dad to me, put a hand on my shoulder and said "you sure you’re OK with this. Its just that you were so…"
"Its OK Jonno, I’m not going to like the outcome. But, its worth it to get this old curmudgeon on the straight and narrow. But I know this will be a high-quality haircut, just a short one. With that, Jonno turned me away from the mirror (gulp!) and picked up a very large pair of clippers. "What size guard is on there Jonno?" I asked.
"Don’t worry about that Frankie, (I can call you Frankie, right?), let me just do my job. He pressed the clippers tight against my sideburn and went up and around my ear and down to the back. Then he started to push the clippers up about halfway on the same side in the back. At this point he turned the chair around and I briefly saw that my right sideburn was basically gone and there was only about a quarter inch of hair left around my ear. I looked in the mirror at my dad who had a beatific smile on his face. Jonno then gave the same treatment to the other side of my head and then turned me round again and started working higher. It felt like he wasn’t pressing quite as hard as he went higher and as he turned me around again I could see that while I was still looking scalped, it wasn’t quite as severe. At this point, he stopped the clippers and said, "before I start on the top, I like to go old school and clean up your neck and around your ears." So, he took off the paper strip, unbuttoned the cape, tucked a towel in and started applying a whole lot of warm shaving cream to my neck and the area around my ears. Even though, I knew he was raising my natural hairline and leaving me miniscule sideburns, I had to agree with dad that, yes, this part felt good. Jonno was a real professional and he didn’t leave me with gaping arches. When he was done, he wiped me down, applied a bit of talc, put a fresh strip around me, noting there was still a lot of hair to fall, and tightened up the cape.
I don’t think the full impact of my predicament hit me until the moment Jonno combed my hair forward picked up a long comb and his clippers and went to work on the top of my head, starting at the back and moving forward. I have nice thick blonde hair, like my dad and even after my previous cut, there were still a good 5 inches on top. I was seeing what seemed like almost all of it fall onto the cape in front of me. When he got to the last few inches in the front and my bangs, he put the clippers down wet the hair and started cutting and, cutting, and cutting with the scissors. Then he got the clippers back out and started blending. Finally, he took some product and rubbed a little bit into the front of my hair and got out a blow dryer and a stiff brush and brushed it up. I had and old-fashioned brush cut, not a crew cut, not a flat top, not a buzz. The hair at the front stood up about an inch and my very thick hair on top appeared to look like a short brush behind it. The sides were tapered down to a number one, giving me a very clean look. I looked like a guy in charge of a successful company in the building trades in our moderate hometown, just what dad wanted and needed, if he was going to leave me in charge. I understood but I still hated the haircut.
I got out of the chair, shook Jonno’s hand, smiled broadly and said, "great job Jonno. I’ll be taking Dad’s regular appointment while he and mom are away. I’ll need to keep this haircut looking fresh. What do you think dad, do I look like the temporary acting head of Lucas Home Enterprises?"
Dad looked like the cat who swallowed the canary. "You sure do son. You look great. But don’t get too comfortable in that chair, remember the haircut goes with the job! Now Jonno, give me my regular crewcut. It will be nice to be the long hair of the family for once." TBC?