get a job or ... by cleanshaven
Troy Martin sat there numb, unable to move, as if the cape snugly fastened around his neck was somehow holding him immobile. His eighteenth birthday had been Saturday, just three days ago. All was right with the world, or so he thought. He'd scraped his way through high school, passing, but barely. He knew there'd been no point in applying for college or to even a state university, his grades just weren't good enough. It had made no difference how his parents had cajoled him nor his dad threatening him. Although his dad had made the threat real when he'd taken the keys to the car he'd been given for his sixteenth birthday and taken it to a car consignment lot for sale. It had been more than just his grades though. It was that Troy only cared about doing what Troy wanted to do. He hadn't bothered to find a job, even part time flipping hamburgers or out mowing lawns to help pay for gas and the insurance. He'd blown that off. Back on his skateboard or riding his bike like he was fifteen again.
A week earlier when he'd finally pulled himself out of bed on Monday morning, the house was empty, his mom and dad gone to work he supposed. Although there was an eerie feeling to the atmosphere. He'd tried calling his best friend Jared, but there had been no answer. After a bowl of cereal, Troy had moved to the couch in the den and began playing one of his Playstation games. Absorbed, he'd not heard the car pull into the drive nor his dad come in through the kitchen. When Troy did notice, his dad just passed right by him on the way to the study he'd made out of the smaller bedroom. He picked up whatever he'd come for and in passing had said once more to deaf ears, "you really should be out getting a job.” When his dad came in later than usual that evening, and his mom hadn't returned home, his dad told him that mom had gone to grandma's. What he didn't tell Troy was that they were getting a divorce. The only thing that had held the ill fated marriage together had been Troy still in school. Now eighteen, he was old enough to take care of himself. Somehow Troy had missed all the palpable tension that had been in the house over the last six months.
Every day passed pretty much the same for Troy. Tuesday had begun pretty much as Monday. Troy crawled out of bed late, a bowl of cereal. He'd taken his bike over to Jared's only to find no one there. Jared didn't answer his cell phone either. Troy had returned home. It was going to be a long summer. He really should go out to look for a job. To some degree he'd been a bit surprised, with his mom not home that his dad hadn't rousted him out of bed early and made sure he was up before he'd left for work. About the time he had the thought of actually moving and getting his shower and dressed to go look for a job, his dad was coming in through the kitchen.
Just one look at his dad told him he was in for trouble. Troy hadn't showered or even combed his tousled hair after getting up. In no uncertain terms his dad told him to go get a shower and get cleaned up and to shave his face. Troy almost said something about how he'd been cultivating that mustache and beard, but the look on his dad's face told him it would be better to just go do what he was told.
After showering, Troy was standing in front of the mirror lathering over his face. He was just pissed enough that he shaved his sideburns off high in a diagonal cut that ended about where his ear joined his head leaving the sides feathered over he front of his ears. It looked rather stupid, but it was done. When he came out of the bathroom, Troy found a pair of jeans and a white tee shirt on his unmade bed. His dad came to the door and told him he was to wear shoes and socks as well as to tuck the tee shirt inside his jeans. The jeans were a good fit; he had never allowed him to wear low hung or baggy clothes, except in the summer when he wore his cargo shorts that were a loose fit. Troy didn't need a belt and didn't put one on. His dad said nothing as he looked him over he came out of his room. "That'll do,” his dad motioned him out the door to his waiting jeep that had the top off. "You have your drivers license and your social security card?” Troy nodded.
His dad spun the jeep out over the front lawn and down the driveway. It didn't take long for his over the collar damp hair to dry in the wind as his dad drove towards down town. The old downtown, not where the town had moved to, out towards the interstate. The old courthouse, post office and city hall were still there. Most of the old businesses were gone except for lawyers offices, the shops were now antiques and collectibles or boutiques. One men's store hung on, catering to government workers and lawyers who still wore suit and tie. There was a beauty shop salon that catered to women and men, and an old fashioned men's barbershop across the street from that.
The barbershop was as old as the town with the well worn fixtures from a bygone era: large black leather, worn to a soft brown, and chrome chairs, mirrors behind the barber chairs, and a row of padded chairs for customers to wait their turn in front of the barber chairs. The posters on the wall were from the early fifties, maybe even the forties. The barbershop was used by men who wanted a man's haircut, not a fussy salon cut; here was where most of the police, firemen and sheriff's deputies came. It was certainly a no nonsense place for a man to get a haircut.
By the time his dad pulled in front of the old barbershop and parked, Troy's brain knew what was coming. He swung out of the Jeep without a word and followed his dad to the door of the barbershop. There was no point whining or complaining, he was about to get a real haircut. His dad had pulled off his coat and laid it across the seat of the Jeep. The little bell tinkled as Troy opened the door and they entered.
The three barbers each had a customer and there were a couple of men waiting in the chairs. They took a seat to wait his turn. Troy sat nearest the door, as if he had the guts to bolt and escape; his dad sat down next to one of the waiting men he apparently knew, as they struck up a conversation. Troy was looking around the barbershop, it hadn't changed since he'd been brought here several years before. Since then, he'd gone, usually with his mom, until he was old enough to go by himself, to the unisex salon in the mall. Troy hardly noticed when the two waiting men leaned forward to get a better look at him and see them grin.
The first customer to be finished, paid, and headed towards the door. The barber, who was the youngest looking one of the three, returned to his chair looking to see who was next - the two men waiting motioned for Troy to go ahead - they weren't in any hurry (and they wanted to see the boy get sheared). Reluctantly Troy stood up and moved to the chair.
"Sit up straight,” the barber ordered him. Troy scooted back into the chair and sat up straight. He was soon caped and was waiting for the barber to ask how he wanted it cut so he could say "just give me a little trim.” The barber never got the question out before Troy's dad spoke up loud and clear, "Tom, give him a ‘butch', military close on the sides”. "Yes sir.”
Troy found himself stunned as Tom went right to work wasting no time. Tom combed Troy's hair out, draping it around his head and so that his bangs hung it down in front of his face where it came to the tip of his nose. Holding the hair out with his comb, Tom slipped his scissors up close to the hairline and shut them with a distinct ‘schink'. Tom dropped the severed bangs down into Troy's lap. Then all the way around Troy's head, the scissors made their way, dropping the lengths of hair all around the chair and onto the cape. Troy was anticipating the next scene and wasn't disappointed when Tom put away the scissors and picked up the clippers.
With a #3 guard over the blade he began right in front on top. Troy sat there rigid as Tom flipped the hair down the cape into his lap. He went over the top twice, Tom removed the guard and began on the left side of Troy's head. Those sideburns wouldn't have lasted at any rate. First one side then the other. The finishing touch took the back off. Already Troy could feel the breeze from the fan on his now seemingly bare scalp. But Tom wasn't finished. He added a #2 guard and went over the top again. The sides were already down to zero. Now there was just a quarter of an inch left on top and for sure, you were going to be able to see the skin. Tom set those clippers aside and brushed all the loose hair away. Troy still had not seen how short his hair was as Tom hadn't bothered to turn the chair around so he would face the mirror. After brushing him off, Tom picked up a new set of clippers that had six ought (000000) stamped on the blades. He began again, first going over the left side, the back, and then the right side. Troy could feel the warmth of the blade now on his skin. Tom used care rather than his comb to change the bare skin to a clean neat taper to the 1/4 inch hair on top.
Tom loosened the cape and removed the strip of tissue from Troy's neck, tucking a small towel into the tee shirt.
There really wasn't much for Tom to clean up around the edges, but Troy was getting the works and the edges were way up at the transition point. Troy still hadn't seen his new look, but he saw his dad with a grin on his face as he nodded his head. What Troy didn't see was that Tom had held up his straight razor. Warm lather was soon spread all around the sides all the way up to that supposed transition to the top. Tom stropped the razor and then pulling the skin taut, stripped away the shaving lather and the barely felt fine sandpaper feel left, right down to baby butt smooth. Slick. Tom was soon finished with the razor and set it aside. A warm damp towel soon cleaned any little bits of hair and lather that still clung to Troy's head.
Now Tom turned the chair around so Troy could see the damage. It took a moment for him to realize that the guy looking back at him with his ears showing was himself. Not bad looking, but what were his friends going to say when they saw the skinned head. Everyone was going to want to rub his head. Might as well be bald he thought. Tom turned the chair back to the front and carefully removed the folded down cape from Troy's lap so as not to get hair all over him. Then he lowered the chair and Troy stepped down. He felt light headed.
His dad was standing near and handed Tom a Twenty, saying he could keep the change. Troy kept turning his head to look in the big mirror and ran his hand over the smooth bare skin on the sides and the velvety feel of the 3/8 inch top.
Troy would probably remember that little bell tinkle as they opened the door and went out for a long time - but maybe not. They didn't go back to the Jeep, but headed across the town square towards the old U.S. Post Office building. As they were going up the steps it dawned on Troy where they were going. There were recruiting posters out front for each of the services. Troy had no clue that his dad had been planning this day for two weeks. Inside they caught the elevator that took them to the second floor. There was only one office that was shared on different days by the different services. This Tuesday there was a Marine Sergeant with his blue trousers with the red stripe and a short sleeved khaki shirt at the desk who quickly got to his feet. He grinned and told Mr. Martin "that sure is a fine haircut. This must be Troy.” He shook hands first with Troy's dad then with Troy. "Come have a seat,” he said to Troy and set him down in front of a computer. To Mr. Martin he said, "everything came back and it's good to go. Troy just has to take this test this morning, his background check came back fine. He'll need to be here at 0600 sharp in the morning to catch the van over to the induction center for a physical. Like I said last week, when he passes the physical they get right on the bus and head for Parris Island and boot camp.” "That's fine Sergeant. He'll be here at 0600 ready to go. He'll have a sports bag with another set of clean clothes and extra underwear just like you said. Nothing else. Troy can walk home when you are done with him here, it's not that far, or you can call my cell phone and I'll come pick him up.”
When his dad walked from the Sergeants office, the Sergeant turned to Troy and pulled up the ASVAB test. It wasn't timed and he should just answer those questions he knew the answer to. He could guess, but it wouldn't make much difference. If he had any questions, the sergeant would be right there at his desk taking care of paperwork. It wasn't a hard or long test and there really wasn't a score afterwards. The test was an aptitude test for determining what MOS the recruit might be qualified for. Mr. Martin had filled in all the blanks on the induction papers, Troy simply needed to sign them. And since he was eighteen - that was all that was needed. The papers were ready for his signature when he finished the test. The Sergeant made sure he understood that by signing those papers he was enlisting in the Marine Corps for a total of six years. Most inductees signed up for four years of active duty and two years of ‘inactive' reserve. Troy was still stunned over the whole morning and just signed without reading the contract which, for him, said 6 years of active duty and it was an open contract which meant that whatever MOS the ‘Corps gave him was fine.
When he was done, Troy told the Sergeant he'd walk home. Troy was still stunned at the experience. He kept reaching up and rubbing his shorn head. He'd shake his head and wonder every step of the way why his dad hadn't warned or threatened him with this, instead of just dropping it on him. He could have found a job - he was sure.
At home he went straight to the bathroom and stared at his reflection and reached up again to feel the softness of the short hair on top and the slick smooth sides. When the phone rang, he just let it ring. Right now he didn't want to see anyone.
His dad arrived home not long after Troy. He didn't rub it in but told him he should start cleaning out his room. Empty his closet into the large garbage bags he'd brought. That would go to the local charity thrift, along with all of his electronic toys. He could keep the lap top and his cell phone, but everything else in the room was history. His dad pulled out another pair of jeans and a couple of white tee shirts, two pair of socks to wear with his shoes. That went into a sports bag which he would take with him in the morning. When Troy was done with his room, it looked Spartan, bare. His dad made him lug all the stuff out to the Jeep or to the curb edge for trash pick up.
After delivering the 'good stuff' to the charity thrift, his dad took Troy to get something to eat. No, they weren't going through a drive through take out, it was a sit down restaurant with good food. And as if it was his last meal, Troy could have anything on the menu he wanted. Lobster or Filet Mignon or just a peanut butter sandwich.
His dad had Troy up the next morning at 0530 to take a shower, shave and get dressed. Troy was tempted to shave his whole head, but didn't. With the sports bag in hand, his dad drove him down to meet the recruiter and the van. It was then that he gave Troy the news that he and 'mom' were getting a divorce. He'd quit his job and was moving out west where he'd been offered a new job. The last thing he did was hand Troy five twenty dollar bills along with a small card for him to tuck into his wallet that had his cell phone number and his grandma's address where he could write to his mom. Troy got no hug, not even a handshake as his dad drove away leaving him to the Sergeant who was loading up the van with three other guys.