Chapter 3 - Jack Mocks Colin's Cueball by Manny
The next morning I woke up realizing that I had no other option but to embrace the shoe. Just like I'd done with the crewcut, I would emphatically state it had been my decision and done for a specific reason. The shoe would boost my grit, determination and hard-as-nails reputation up to the next level.
I spent the whole drive to the office feeling my satiny-smooth scalp. The whole back of my head had been expertly shaved down to nothing and Scott had buffed the scalp so that it shone like a light-bulb. I fingered the thin shoe.
The remant of hair gave me a mean look and an even meaner outlook. And as soon as I got to work, I unleashed my intensified meaness on the first person who entered my office: Jack!
I couldn't help but feel jealous when he poked his head in the door and I caught a glimpse of his thick, beautiful lush mane of expertly coiffed dark locks. The were swept straight back and cascaded down in a very full, layered look, spilling liberally down to the bottom of his immaculate collar.
Jack's eyes bulged out of his head as he spotted my shoe. "Colin!" he exclaimed. But he caught himself quickly realizing there was no need to antagonize me needlessly. The fact was that Jack was totally dependent on me with regard to staying employed. It was like he didn't know what to say.
"That's my name, Jack!" I snapped back. "What is it? I'm busy."
"Listen, I need to talk to you...." he stammed.
"Go ahead, speak!" I insisted.
Jack ran his hand nervously back through his heavy mane. "The boss told me he gave you total oversight of our project with the military and that you're having me yanked. Do you realize what that means?"
"Sure. I don't have to put up with a pompous, wind bag who talks a lot and produces virtually nothing but resentment and back-biting. Any other dumb questions?" I said, as I looked up from my papers and glared at him.
"Colin, please. If I get pulled from this project, I effectively am going to lose my job!" he pleaded. "I'll do anything. Just don't knock me off the project."
I surpressed a smile. "If I give you a chance, you're going to have to work extra hard to prove yourself. I want 'yes sir' and have it done with no lip."
"Yes, sir! I'm so grateful, Colin," he panted.
"You'll be assigned as Leo Harvey's gopher," I stated.
"What? The intern? Take instructions from him?!" Jack gasped.
"Oh, you've already forgotten the response you promised to give! If it happens again, that'll be the end for you," I snapped.
"Yes, sir. I'll be happy to work for Leo," said Jack with a long face.
"Great. Start by swapping places with him. He's in a cubicle down in the service annex. It's more convenient for all the shredding you tasked him with doing. How many years of records are in that pile you assigned him to shred?" I asked with a slight chuckle. "But, take heart. You'll still get some visibility on the project. Your big task is going to be handing out things when I tell you to at the presentation next Friday. And, I want you to be on stand-by with a pitcher of water too. Make sure none of the military brass's water cups get less than half full."
"Yes, sir, I will," said Jack, biting his tongue.
I looked him in the eye and asked, "So, how do you like my horseshoe flattop? I thought the crewcut was a bit too long."
"That's one mean haircut," he answered obliquely.
"You're probably admiring it, wanting to know more about my barber and the kinds of haircuts that will be appropriate for those of us who will be in the meeting with the military brass this week," I said ominously.
"I don't have to be in the meeting, sir," Jack said hastily.
"No, but I said you will be there! Go find Leo and coordinate the office swap. You might not recognize him. He's already had his makeover. Look for the sharp crewcut!" I decided I'd let Jack's nerves eat away at him and nurture the hope that he might escape the barber's cape....
About an hour later Leo popped his head in. He looked so different without that mop of springing curls. "Hey, Boss, just to let you know I've been installed in Jack's old office and I have him shredding in the annex."
"How was his attitude?" I asked.
"Considering everything that's happened to him, he's behaving himself. For now, anyways," Leo replied.
"Your crewcut looks sharp on you, Leo. Have you gotten used to it yet?" I asked.
"Yep, I have. But, my girlfriend was in a huge funk about it." Then he smirked a bit and commented, "I'm a bit concerned with Jack doing all that shredding. Have you ever noticed how his long forelock dangles when he looks down. It could get caught in the shredding teeth!"
"Jack is totally your boy, Leo," I said. "If you feel he needs to visit a good barbershop, I can certainly recommend one."
"Excellent! I think I'll suggest to Jack that a flattop would be much more practical for his new job," laughed Leo. "I still have the card from Taylor's Barber Shop you gave me that I can pass on to him."
"Don't forget to specify shaved sides and landing strip. Wouldn't want him prancing out of the shop with a girly-boy flattop. Hell, if it were up to me, I'd have him shoed! You should have seen the way his eyes popped out of his head when he came in to talke with me this morning," I said with a laugh.
"With all due respect sir, I think we need to leave your look distinct with the shoe. I'll let Jack know he's got to get flattened out if he wants to stay on with our team," stated Leo and left the office with an energetic spring in his step.
About an hour later, Leo was back in my office, hopping mad. "That Jack! I knew his cooperative facade couldn't last. He had the nerve to tell me off."
"What happened?" I asked.
"So, I call him into my office and told him we needed to prepare for the meeting. After a few instructions, I let him know that he would not be in the meeting with the military brass looking like a shaggy sheepdog. He just sat there stony face with his hands clenched to the arms of the chair and then snarled at me, 'I am not cutting my hair. Period.' So I told him he was barred from the meeting and he said 'fine' and stormed out of there. I guess I just don't have the authority that you do, boss. You had such a determined way with me. Even though getting my curls cut off was the last thing in the world I wanted to do, you firmly guided me to the barbershop. And now look at me. Shorn!"
"Shorn, and happy to be shorn, I hope! Don't worry. I'll take care of that sniveling Jack. We have him by the short and curlies, and he'll submit to the clippers. I will make him!" I bragged. "Send him in to see me right now!"
Jack walked into my office with his head held high and looking defiant. His luxurious mane looked longer and fuller than ever. "I'm not cutting my hair, if that's what you want to see me about," he said curtly. "You might enjoy looking like a fool with that hideous horseshoe, but I'm not going along with it. Period. I love my long hair and no jerk is going to make it cut it. My long hair looks great. Everyone says so."
"Well, I beg to differ with you," I said, standing to at counter his defiant approach with similar body language.
With that, Jack whirled around, sending his beautiful locks flying and stormed out, "Good-bye, Jarhead. We have nothing else to talk about."
I immediately got on the horn with HR and said that I wanted Jack fired for insubordination. When they asked why, and I said it was a grooming issue, I got the bad news. That was no grounds for dismissal! There was no hair code for men in our company, other than 'clean and neat'. Certainly, that meticulously maintained mane of Jack's set the standard for cleanliness and neatness. It was always perfectly coiffed and combed -- to a preening, prissy perfection at that.
To add to my woes, something else quickly became painfully apparent later that day. Young Leo was not up to all the responsibilities of preparing for the meeting that was only two days away. I was spending more time helping him pull together his part than I wanted to, and began neglecting my own role in the meeting.
The preparation was in such shambles without Jack's input that I picked up the phone several times to call him. But, I couldn't go through with it. He was contentedly collecting a high salary to shred old documents and I was sweating bullets, worried sick about the meeting.
At 8 pm the night before the big event, Leo and I were crashing on the project. And then the young fellow disappeared form the office. I called him on his cell. "Just ran out to get a bite for us to eat and to buy a few supplies. I've got a big surprise for you!" he explained.
Leo was all laughs when he walked in with the bag of food and other purchases. After we ate, he pulled out a folder, "Hey, I got an email. There's a last minute change to the head of their delegation. That's what gave me the idea to pick up these supplies!"
Out of the Walgreens sack he pulled out a can of shaving cream and a razor. "Are you planning on spending the night here -- shaving in the morning?!" I inquired.
"No! Open the folder there -- see the bio of their new lead. More importantly, see the photo. General Donnelly sports a chrome dome! And so will you! Come on now. To the men's bathroom, boss. I'm taking you down clean all over! That shoe is history."
The thought terrified me. And excited me. Young Leo forcing my head down into the sink and scraping away my last remnant of hair..... I fondled my satin-smooth scalp where the barber had shaved me clean. It was scary, but I would go clean -- totally bald by choice! Yet, I would use this to see if I could encourage young Leo to be more authoritative.
"Oh, Leo! You're full of surprises. But, I can't imagine sporting a chromedome look! I'm no Yul Brenner," I said.
"Boss, you've come this far. And you can go all the way!" He held up the can of shaving cream and razor. "Or don't you trust me?" Young Leo looked so innocent and eager to please. My heart and feigned defiance melted.
"I think we can manage a 5-minute break. I never liked the shoe anyways. I'm putting my head in your hands and embracing the bold cueball look!"
Leo took his time and kept me bowing awkwardly in front of him with my head in the sink for quite a long period. "Don't squirm!" he would snap at the slightest indication I was uncomfortable. Over and over he scraped my head, removing all traces of hair. After a final rinse with warm water, he let me stand up straight. "Voila! What a cute cueball you sport!"
I stared at myself aghast in the mirror. "I look more like the old uncle on the Munsters than a business exec!" I gasped. My self confidence plunged and my stomach churned horribly thinking about the fiasco that would unfold before me in the morning. It was a harbinger of things to come....
The event was worse than even I imagined. Everything went wrong. Leo was no help, and I screwed up badly. The military brass made no effort to conceal their disappointment with our proposal. They asked no questions at the end and left immediately thereafter instead of lingering to chit chat as normal.
Jack stopped by to gloat that afternoon, "Thought you might be interested in knowing that I got a call from my contact at the Pentagon. He wondered why I wasn't there and said you sounded like a bumbling idiot in front of them. So much for your pathetic little attempt to somehow win favor by shaving your head. You look like a victim of radiation over-exposure! Ha, ha. Well, I'll be shredding in the annex if you need anything." Jack pranced out of my office with his glorious mane dancing in his wake.
I felt more miserable than ever. I was certainly not looking forward to our monthly corporate team meeting in the executive conference suite. The executive elite would all be assembled to review contracts gained and concluded and project our quarterly earning.
My boss started out the meeting with a grim announcement I had long dreaded, "We'll start with the bad news. The military informed us that we did not win the contract which we had been counting on, and thus our quarterly earning projects are slashed. We'll be operating in the red. This unhappy turn of events has caused me to re-consider our team leaders. I've decided that Jack Helm will re-assumed his previous role and also taking over the portfolio of his previous colleague....known to everyone behind his back as Mr. Egghead!" With that, there were peals of laughter, with all the executives looking at me and Jack leading the chorus of chuckles. "Jack has informed me that Mr. Egghead will be assigned shredding duties and will be located in one of the annex cubicles in case any of you are looking for him....."
As soon as the meeting ended, I hustled out from the room in total disgrace. I burst into my office and found none other than Jack sitting at my desk with his legs crossed and propped up on it. His head was cocked back and his thick locks of dark hair dangled in a most dreamy way. He ran his fingers through his hair and purred, "I was wondering if you might recommend a good barber, Mr. Egghead! My locks are in need of a bit of a trim....wouldn't you agree?" Then he bellowed in laughter and snapped, "Get your stuff and your crappy cueball out of my office, Colin! There's plenty of shredding that needs to be done in the annex. And take your lacky, Leo, with you!"