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A Heart Stopping Haircut Part II by Deke Cutter
This is Part II of "A Heart Stopping Haircut"
After my dramatic and traumatic short haircut and dad’s regular crewcut from Jonno, we headed home. Mom just shook her head and said that "she hoped this business was over with for a while." She then insisted that Dad lie down and rest. Luckily, the house was a sprawling mid-20th Century Ranch, all on 1 floor so there were no steps. After dad was in their room, Mom pulled me into the kitchen and asked "how much do you hate it honey?"
"You know, Mom, I never would have got this haircut myself", I said, rubbing the brush that was my head, but I don’t look hideous and Dad is happy and I think it will make him go along with our plans for his recuperation. Who knows, I may even grow to like it, nah, never gonna happen, but I can live with it for two months and Jonno is a hoot. I’ll enjoy his banter as I put up with the haircuts." That seemed to relieve Mom a good deal.
After dinner, the three of us sat and talked a little bit about the business, we decided that could wait until tomorrow, but focused on the plans for getting things ready for them in LA. The rest of the week went pretty smoothly, everybody that worked for Dad was so glad he was OK that they were willing to be really helpful with the transition. At the end of the week, the doctor gave the final OK and I saw them off at the Security Line at the airport.
One of the things that kind of surprised me was that Dad’s aversion to long hair didn’t seem to extend beyond himself and his son. Not a single guy in the office or in the field had hair as short as mine had been after my first haircut when I got home. This irked me a bit because some of the guys with "public facing" jobs had the kind of haircut I felt most comfortable with. I made it through my first "regular two- week appointment" with Jonno, on the Friday of the first full week after Mom and Dad had left. They seemed to be doing well. Dad had dropped a few pounds. Mom was enjoying the personal trainer and they were both eating well. Jonno kept me amused while he was reducing the little bit of growth I had managed in two weeks. I told him that I was surprised that the guys working for Dad weren’t forced regulars here like me. "Oh thanks, Frankie, we still haven’t converted you, huh? Frank Senior would love that, but he knows that its not worth the battle. He said you convinced him of that. He’s told me about a couple of smart mouth guys though, good at their jobs, that he’d like to get down here and teach a lesson to."
I stopped back at the office after my haircut, having really planned on just picking up my steel-toed boots and heading for one our job sites. Instead, Connie, the Office Manager, came in and closed the door. "Frank. I hope I’m not out of line, but I’m old school and I just don’t do disrespect."
"Connie, did someone disrespect you because I will not…."
"No, it was you that was disrespected and by extension your Father. Your dad has gone out of his way to get specialized training and apprenticeships for a few younger workers in the kinds of crafts that are in high demand in renovation and even custom design work. Jill Andrews, for example, is a brilliant artist in woodwork. She worships your dad for sticking with her through two unexpected pregnancies. But, Billy Wade doesn’t know when he has it good."
"Wait, Billy the guy we put though graphic design school and who is all gung-ho to learn the basics of electrical engineering next?" Connie indicated that it was him. "Do you feel comfortable telling me what he said?"
"He’s a complicated guy. I think your father’s absence has really knocked him off his stride. But that is no excuse for coming in here and saying that ‘Daddy’s crown prince swooped in with no experience and expects us to bow down to him, what nerve taking off Friday morning like Big Frank did, who does he think he is?’ And ‘Who is Junior to come in here with his laid-back California act and his butch haircut with the white line showing its brand new. I bet daddy made him get his haircut before he could take over.’ You know, your dad took a chance on him and really did a favor for his family. The family was comfortably middle-class, but they lost everything in the Great Recession. They say that losing their home broke his father who died of a heart attack the day of foreclosure. He, his mother and sister moved into a rental property that was a mess. Your mother knew the widow, they had worked together years ago. She put your dad on the case. You know how he works, quietly gets it done, this time telling the bum who owned it that Lucas Home Enterprises expected him to keep it at this standard or pay for the entire renovation or sell the property to LHE. Two follow-ups from Zoning and Code enforcement on the guy’s other properties, and he sold it to LHE, and your dad immediately mortgaged it to Mrs. Wade at a 0 percent interest rate. Not even Billy knows all the details." But that didn’t stop Billy going off the rails. Your dad had met him during the renovation of the home and saw something in him. So, he offered him some part-time work, got him to focus on school, and into the apprentice and intern programs. I don’t think he likes another young guy getting your dad’s love."
"Thanks Connie. I think its time for Billy to get rid of his childish ways. Could you tell him I want to meet with him for a discussion of his progress at Four O’ Clock in the Afternoon. I had told my dad that I didn’t take any nonsense from anybody and I meant it, but that I also treated people with respect. This would be a test.
Billy Wade was about my height and weight. His dark brown hair covered his ears and touched his collar. It was parted on the side, but he had a luxurious forelock that he constantly pushed back out of his eyes. He tried to look nonchalant as he walked into the office, but I could see the concern in his eyes. I came around from behind Dad’s desk and offered him a seat in one of the comfortable armed leather chairs and took one right across from him. "I know I got to meet you briefly when my father brought me around, but I wanted a chance to get to know you better."
"Thank you, Mr. Lucas, sir."
"Oh, no need to be that formal, please call me Frank. And how would you prefer to be addressed-William, Bill, Billy?"
"Everyone calls me Billy, but I would really prefer Bill."
"Bill it is, then. You see respect is important in this firm and to our family. Bill, I’ll get to the point, my father has told me that he considers you a real asset to this company. That is why he has been willing to invest his personal time and company training resources in you. All he asks in return, as you know, is respect, and the commitment to remain with the company for a certain number of months per training resource unit committed, or you repay us in cash." (I could see Bill getting very anxious and ready to interrupt me). I held up my hand and then rubbed it gently across my newly trimmed brush cut. This caused Bill to push his forelock back and try to hook it behind his right ear.
"I understand you voiced some concerns this morning out in the common area that should really have been directed to me personally. Let me tell you a little about myself, Bill. From the time I was fifteen until I graduated college, my summers were spent working for my father. Those early years I did the lowest things on the totem pole, but as I got older, I found that I really enjoyed different aspects of design and building and my father was great about letting me make a contribution and earn my wage. I combined what I learned here with what I learned out West in college and was extremely fortunate. I came up with an interactive design tool that nobody else had thought of or patented. It made me a very wealthy man. I never have to work again if I don’t want to. Because I am able to choose how I spend my time I have worked with Habitat for Humanity to build several homes, from scratch in the Los Angeles area. I am here for one reason, to get my dad healthy so he can come back here and keep doing what he loves and giving people like you and Jill Andrews and all the others opportunities. Now, I have two more things to tell you, but I’d like to see if you have any thoughts before I continue."
I could see the embarrassment and shame in Bill’s eyes. "Frank, will you accept my sincere apology? I acted like an immature jerk this morning. It was inexcusable. Please do not fire me or ask me to leave. I love working here. After my father died Frank Senior has been like a father figure to me."
"Well Bill, I don’t want LHE to lose you. Let’s continue our discussion in my car. I want to show you something you may not fully appreciate and then I am going to tell you a final story and introduce you to someone who knows my dad very well. He and I will help you make a big decision about what is important. OK?"
"Connie," I said, "Bill and I will be out for the rest of the afternoon. I’ll check my cell and my emails when I get home tonight. As we approached the first run down house in an otherwise pleasant working-class neighborhood, I asked Bill what he thought about it. He replied that he thought it was a dump. He repeated similar assessments of the next two places I showed him. "Well Bill these houses are all rentals owned by the man that your mom rented from after your dad passed away. Do you remember meeting my dad when he renovated your house??
"Yes, I thought that was part of the ‘rent to buy’ that Frank Senior later took over."
"Not quite, Bill. Your original landlord is a bad guy. My dad does pro-bono work, as you know. Well our moms worked together years ago and my mom, suggested that Dad and the zoning folks make an example of that bad landlord with a fix up of your mom’s place. Then, the Zoning and Code people made him promise to either keep the property up or sell it. So, dad bought it and arranged the mortgage with your mother. Now neither of them wanted you or anybody else to know about this. It stays between us. I am trusting you."
An abashed Bill just shook his head in agreement. "Now, let’s talk about haircuts. My father has always hated long hair on men. I, however, prefer long hair. When I lived at home it was our constant battle. So, when I arrived back after his heart attack, my hair was longer than yours. I figured before I went to see him, I would get it cut back to a length that was the longest he let me have when I lived at home. You see I really hate short hair, but I really love my dad. Well, he appreciated the gesture, and it even turned out that I, coincidentally, picked his barber for my cut! But, in order to get Dad to move out to my place in Los Angeles for two months, so we could get him into a program of diet, exercise and healthy living, I had to offer to step in here at LHE. He had one condition, this haircut, and I have to get it every two weeks in his regular appointment slot on Fridays at 9:00." I timed this so I would be parking in front of the shop just as I said this. Come inside with me, Bill, I want you to meet Jonno. He’s Dad’s and my barber. Jonno was waiting at the door to welcome us. The other barbers were gone. "Now Bill, it’s really up to you, but if you are truly sorry and really want to show some respect, how about you let Jonno take you through the two-step process he took me through last week. He’ll give you that compromise cut I got on the Friday and then since you mistook my cut for a "butch", let him give you a butch cut that you can keep and show to Dad when he gets back." Bill looked at me and looked at Jonno and slowly made his way to the chair.
Now there are two things I’ve learned about Jonno in our brief acquaintance. First, he is a loyal and trusting friend. When I let him give me the brush cut, I qualified for that loyalty and trust. So, when I called and asked him for a favor that would involve him staying late and doing this double haircut deal on a young guy who worked for us who Dad had high hopes for, he agreed. He even said, "Big Frank will be thrilled if you leave him with some "short hairs" when he comes home and I’ll be happy for the new clients." The second thing about Jonno is his creativity. The man is a genius with his tools and with choosing the right cut. I realized it that Saturday morning before my second haircut when I looked at how well cut my hair was after my shower. He’d also proudly shown me some pictures of his work on his phone. I could set this guy up in LA and make him a star.
But back to Bill. Johnno caped him up and stood in front of him and said, OK Bill, are you sure you are ready for this?"
The tension of the day finally got too much for Bill, I guess. He gulped, shook his head affirmatively and squeaked out, "do it."
Jonno started combing through his hair. He said, "I’m going to do something a little different than I did with Frankie, Bill. His first haircut from me was something we knew was still too long for Big Frank’s liking. So, I’m going to give you a short haircut that you can try if the butch doesn’t grow on you. It will be very fresh, your lady will love it, and I think Big Frank will appreciate it too. By the way, I think its great that you and Frankie are going to use your butch cut to tell people ‘a new look, a new name’. No more long hair-no more Billy. Great idea guys." With that Jonno snagged Bill’s forelock, said "this has got to go" and snipped it off about mid-forehead.
What happened next was totally unexpected. Bill let out a huge sob and started bawling. Huge tears were rolling down his face. Jonno looked stricken, "hey man, its OK, its only hair, I’ll grow ba…"
I got up and handed Bill my clean hankie (thanks Mom, ‘Francis, every gentleman should carry one for emergencies’). "No Jonno, its not the haircut, I need and deserve it. Its you, Frank, ‘Big Frank’, as you call him, all the help Frank’s family has given me, you being willing to do this for the sake of Big Frank. I finally get it. I could have blown everything today and the Lucases pulled me through again. A while back, my mom told me that some day I would learn how close we were to disaster after my dad’s death, until we were blessed with kindness asking only for kindness in return." He got out of the chair and embraced me. I’ve got to say, I was pretty misty too. I saw Jonno making a big deal of checking his equipment as I got Bill back in the chair.
"OK, where was I?" asked the barber. With that, Jonno began creating a taper around the bottom of Bill’s head. The clippers were taking his hair down to a plush velvet. Then he went up higher leaving the hair a bit longer, perhaps a half inch. Next, he doubled down on the lower half, creating a clean tight taper that really looked very good with Bill’s dark hair. This left Bill with hair no longer than a half inch at the part, a tapered back, short bangs, and long locks on top. Jonno went to work, clipper over comb, to clear away the bulk, leaving no more than two inches on top. He switched to scissors and comb for blending and lightening of bulk on the bangs. The last cruel cut of this first haircut, of course, were the remains of Bill’s sideburns. Without even consulting, Jonno took them slightly above the middle of Bill’s ears. He wet Bill’s hair with a spray bottle and applied some pomade. Combed it into place, giving him a short quaff in front and a very fashionable looking taper cut. He turned Bill to face the mirror. "Well man, this is a short hair cut that fits your features, what do you think?"
"Bill turned to the left, turned to the right, tilted his head forward and seemed mesmerized by the combed ridges across his hair. He asked for Jonno to show him the back. A huge smile crossed his face. "About a year before the economy started to fall apart, my dad, decided that he was going to ditch his long hair. It was part of the whole expansion of his business, looking forward, etc. I look exactly like my dad did with that first short haircut. Man, I love it. I could deffo., I mean definitively, live with this. But unfortunately, we’ve got more work to do, so let’s go."
Jonno turned the chair back around and said, first thing we’ll do is lean you back and wash the product out of your hair and dry it good so the clippers can do their work."
"Man, that was quick, it usually, I guess I mean, used to, take me three or four times as long to wash and dry my hair," said Bill.
"You ain’t seen nothing yet," I laughed rubbing my head.
Jonno put the Number 4 guard on the clippers and went to work on Bill’s hair. Starting on the sides and moving all the way up, he was stripping away whatever was left on the sides and back. Bill was a quick learner, Jonno didn’t have to push his head or hold it too often. Once the sides were clear, Jonno stood in front of Bill and said, now for the best part for me and pushed the clippers straight back from the hairline to the back. He repeated this action four times until the bulk was gone and then ran the clippers all over his head making sure he had not missed a spot. He quickly switched to his trimmers, removed the remains of Bill’s shorter sideburns and paused. "Now for the part you missed in your first cut. I think Frankie likes it the best. He took a handful of hot lather and smoothed it around Bill’s ears and neck and neatly cleaned it away. He dusted some talc on Bill and took a towel to wipe away any small hairs, then turned him around to the mirror.
"Holy crap! OK, I see the difference Frank!"
"You can pull off the look, though," I said, honestly.
"But it makes me look sort of, I don’t know tough?"
"More like a Bill, than a Billy?" I add.
"Hey Frankie, how bout you let him grow the top out like yours, that way your dad will still have a brush cut to enjoy for a while after you go home, Jonno suggests. Bill looks at me hopefully.
You know what Jonno, you haven’t steered me wrong yet. Let’s turn this man into my brush cut buddy. Who knows, he may end up not being last LHE customer to come your way.