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The Penalty for Failing the Third Grade by Ken


I was devastated. Mrs. Kling took me outside the classroom and told me I wouldn't be advancing to the fourth grade with all my friends. I stood there and cried. I asked why and she told me that I hadn't completed a single piece of work this year. I just wasn't ready to go on.

I was so upset and when I got off the bus, my mother was there on the front porch waiting for me.

I stood there, not wanting to up to the house. I thought she'd be mad. She was, but not as much as I thought.

"What did I tell you?" she asked. "I told you if you didn't start working, you'd be left behind. And now, you're going to fail the third grade."

"I'm sorry."

"Maybe, but we'll see. Let's go, time for your summer hair cut. I want to get it done before you father gets home. I called him at work and told him you'd failed the grade. He wasn't too please."

I nodded. "I'm sorry, I'll do better."

We only had one car and my father had it for work. The barbershop was only a mile away so we walked. It was warm and I was a bit sweaty when we got there. There were three barbers in the shop and two of them were busy, giving the young boys in the shop their summer haircuts. The one not working motioned for me to get up.

My mother went over and talked with him. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but it wasn't a long conversation.

The barber came over and put the cape around me. "Summer cut, huh?" he said.

I just nodded. My hair had gotten a bit long, since my parents usually let it go a bit before the short summer cut.

"It's gotten a bit longer than usual," he said.

I just shrugged.

"Well, we'll fix that up real quick."

At that, he took a pair of clippers off hook and turned them on. Usually my summer haircuts were done with scissors, it was cut short, but usually with scissors. He turned the chair so I could see in the mirror. He started at the top and ran the clipper right down the middle, replacing my long dark hair with just white skin. I couldn't believe what was happening. But saying anything was pointless, the damage was done. He made another pass and another pass. All across the top. The top was now bald. Then he changed clippers and cut the sides, short but not bald. Maybe they were a half inch, maybe a bit shorter. He kept trimming and trimming it until it was all cut short. But the top was bald.

After he placed a warm wet towel over my head, I asked him, "What are you doing?"

"It's called the George Jefferson. I've given a few to kids who aren't doing what they're told."

He placed a light amount of shaving cream over the top and with a razor, shaved it smooth. Then he trimmed the fringe a bit with scissors, wiped it all down with a dry towel and took the cape off. He held up a mirror so I could see my new hair style. I had a short fringe and was bald on top.

"Well, that's it for now."

I got off the chair and went to where my mother was standing. "So, we can keep the top shaved every day, no problem?" my mother asked.

"Yep. Just come here and we can trim the fringe."

My mother paid the barber and we left. We were half way home when I could finally reach my hand up and feel my head. The top was smooth, I couldn't feel any hair at all and then just the short fringe.

I started to cry. "My, why?"

"You're going to start doing your work. You have summer school and this is how you'll be going to summer school."

"All summer?" I gasped. It was summer and we lived in Florida. I could feel the sun beating on my bald head.

"No, all year. We'll just shave it every day, and you can go get a trim when you need it."

"But,"

"No buts. You're not the only person who's gotten this hair cut. Timmy has already gotten his done. And bunch of others."

"How long?"

"Well, at least until you start the fifth grade. So, you might want to get used to it."

It took a little while, but I did. The morning shavings in the bathroom, and going back for a trim. They let the sides grow a bit longer, the top was shaved smooth. I actually got used to being out with my fringe haircut.

The last hair cut before school started, I thought it was just going to be for another trim, but the barber used the razor and made my bald area longer and my fringe smaller. Now the bald spot wasn't just on the top, but now ran down the sides of my head. My fringe was maybe 2 and a half inches long. Fortunately, there wasn't a noticeable difference in the tan that I'd developed.

The fourth grade sucks for someone who's bald on top. There were jokes at first, but everyone got used to it. I never wore hats and sometimes got quite the burn on it. When I passed the fourth grade, I thought my parents would let me grow it back. But they didn't. I kept it all that summer and right through the fifth grade. Some people thought I was bald on top and that it wasn't shaved anymore. I never said anything either way.

So for three years, I kept my hair cut like that, but when I about to enter the sixth grade, my parents let me grow it back. But something happened.

It took a while. And it didn't grow back like it was before. It was thin, really, really thin. We asked the barber and he said that probably with all the sun I'd gotten on the scalp, it had affected the hair follicles. Made some of them not grow back. Whatever happened, I was visibly balding and in the sixth grade.

"Any thoughts," my mom asked.

"Yeah, probably the best solution is to take it all off. Would be better than what he has now."

Notice that no one asked me.

So I got up in the chair, he caped me, and proceeded to shave my head bald. The clippers took everything down to the scalp and then he shaved everything down to the skin.

I have to admit, it looked better than the thinning hair. We kept it that way, and my parents taught me how to shave it myself. Everyone got used to it pretty quick and I kind of got to like it, even though I didn't know how long I would keep it.

When I got out of the tenth grade and summer started, I let my hair grow back, or what hair I had. But the only hair that grew back was a fringe. The top was now bald, maybe the sun, who knows. But I had a small fringe. I thought about shaving it off before my junior year in high school, but decided against it. I was now bald on top and that was it.

The day after I graduated from high school, I bought a hair piece. It didn't quite match and you could tell it was a hair piece. The part above my forehead showed it clearly a toupee. It didn't lay down quite right and I had to take it off to get a hair cut. But that's okay, that's the penalty for not going all your work in the third grade.

I've never not completed a task since. I guess it paid off. Lessons learned.



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