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Jeremy - Lost and Found by Manny

Jeremy realized he was totally lost. The GPS had led him to a small plaza on the outskirts of a small town. He was due for his job interview in fifteen minutes, but had no idea where he was. So he reviewed the address he'd written down, 1227 Overly -- which corresponded to a small barbershop in the middle of the plaza. The place had Darold's Barber Shop painted on the big plate glass window, but the shop was dark. The plaza seemed deserted. Just then his phone beeped and he saw a text message, "Sorry about the late notice, but some urgent business at the firm makes it necessary for us to reschedule your interview for 1 pm. See you then."

Jeremy breathed a little easier -- that gave him about three hours to figure out where the place was and get there.

Just then a car pulled up next to Jeremy's and an older gentleman got out. Jeremy rolled down his window and said, "Excuse, I'm looking for the McDowell Corporation, which I thought was located here at 1227 Overly."

"This is 1227 Overly Rd. But, there are a lot of variations on the address. Come inside and I can look it up for you in the yellow pages -- McDavid Corporation, you said?" the old man replied.

"McDowell," said Jeremy, gratefully. "Sorry to trouble you like this, put my cell phone is out of range here."

"You're in the countryside, young man. Those fancy phones don't stretch out this far," the old geezer said as he fumbled with the key to the barbershop.

Jeremy stepped into a time warp. He'd never been in a vintage barber shop before. The neon lights blinked on and the geezer disappeared into the back. Jeremy took a seat in the waiting area and looked around at all the curious items. How many sets of clippers did a barber need?! There must have been at least 8 dangling from the counter. And what was that blue jar with combs floating around inside?! Then Jeremy spied a chart illustrating a variety of extremely short haircuts that look like it had been printed in 1952. This is what barbershops were like when his father was getting haircuts as a boy!

He certainly was out of place with his thick mane of chocolate colored curls that almost doubled the size of his head. They were dense and shiny and soft. He eyed himself in the huge mirror, wondering what was taking the old barber so long. Jeremy was still torn whether he should have used a blow drier to get a more sophisticated look, with nice stylized waves instead of just shaking his hair out after the shower and letting the mass of curls dry naturally. The tamed look probably would have been better for the job interview, but his hair was too long at this point -- the waves would have covered the base of his collar and make him look like he was really in need of haircut. The tighter curls meant his hair hung to mid-collar -- but of course the whole collection of curls was more wild in general -- almost like an afro style form the seventies. Jeremy loved the casual, tussled look his collection of curls afforded. While he was uncertain whether the wild hair was the best choice for a job interview, Jeremy was certain that the new skinny suit he had bought just for the interview was perfect. It gave him a modern, edgy look. The extremely tailored cut accentuated his slender, tall frame.

Jeremy was winding a curl nervously around one of his fingers when the barber came out from the back -- clad in a pristine white tunic and holding an old-fashioned yellow pages phone directory. "What kind of company was that?" he asked.

"An advertising and marketing firm," Jeremy replied.

The old man turned the pages quite slowly, looking for the correct listing. Jeremy was anxious to rip it out of his hands, but stopped himself because that would be rude. Besides, he had a lot of time to kill.

"How come you don't know where it is? You first visit there, I take it," the barber stated.

"Yep, my first professional job interview," Jeremy replied.

The barber's eye widened as he looked skeptically at Jeremy's hair and clothes. He was going to say something, but held his tongue and kept flipping pages. "Here it is. The McDowell Corporation - 1227 Overly Parkway NE. That's on the other side of town -- about half hour from here," the barber said.

Jeremy stood and thanked the barber. "Sorry for putting you up to so much trouble, sir. You've been very kind."

As he turned to leave the shop, the barber step in his path blocking his exit from the shop, "What time is your interview? If you have a few minutes, I got a pot of coffee freshly brewed in back. That's why it took me so long. Don't move as quickly these days -- whole body moves slowly, except these hands which can cut and clip as quick as ever! They keep me going."

"Oh, I don't mean to be any trouble and outwear you hospitality," stated Jeremy, trying to ease his way out of the shop.

"Nonsense!" the barber exclaimed, turning toward the back room. "Cream and sugar or black?"

"Just sugar," Jeremy heard himself say. Why?! Oh well, he had time to kill and the old man was kind. He seemed rather lonely....no clients and eager to chatter.

Jeremy imagined the barber to be about the age his father might have been had he not passed when Jeremy was a toddler.

The barber returned with two mugs of coffee and seemed extremely happy to socialize. Jeremy ended up telling him all about his father -- that he'd run a small convenience store which his mother continued operating as a young widow. Jeremy recounted how he had put in his share of hours after school at the shop. Now he was the first college graduate of his family. It had taken him a while -- night school while working at the convenience store and other odd jobs. The convenience store was sold when his mom passed -- the neighborhood had turned rough and business was dwindling. Fortunately, she'd lived long enough to see Jeremy get his degree by age 29. But her wish was for her son to be settled with a real job.

The old man leaned over to Jeremy and tenderly touched his shoulder, "Can I give you some advice your father probably would've given you if he'd served you coffee this morning?"

Jeremy blinked a bit, "Sure....."

"You need to look your best at the interview -- those ill fitting clothes that are several sizes too small and that shaggy hair! Didn't you have time for a haircut?! If it was the money, I'll happily smarten you up for free. What do you say? Why not take a seat there!" he said indicating to the closest large barber chair.

Jeremy eyed the massive sculpted piece of shiny chrome and seasoned red leather. The barber certainly had been bold to criticize his clothes and hair, but, his intentions were in the right place. Jeremy paused a bit before responding, "You're right about the advice. Don't know about my father, what he'd have said, but my mother.....she never liked my curls like this -- so long and wild. How she spent time when I was in grade school brushing them into compliance with a strong-smelling pomade."

Jeremy reflected momentarily -- the old man was so right....he could just hear his mother's pleading voice. 'For heaven's sake, get a decent haircut before you go interview for that job!'

Jeremy cleared his voice a bit, as if to steady himself. "Could you give me just a bit of a trim? Maybe a bit of a shaping up?" Jeremy asked.

"Be delighted," the barber said, with a twinkle in his eye.

Jeremy felt very awkward as he stood and walked over to the chair. Why had he let himself get roped into this?! Although the chair was facing away from the mirror and very accessible, Jeremy eased into it rather awkwardly. Reality struck as soon as he hit the soft leather -- he would have been much happier slipping behind the wheel of his car and getting out of there. Now an old-fashioned geezer had him trapped as prey. His poor locks.....

From behind him, the old barber's hand caressed the mass of curls gently. The tender gesture sent a shiver down Jeremy's spine. If his father had been alive, maybe...... But that train of thought was interrupted by a cape flying through the air and the barber pulling it securely into place around Jeremy's neck. It felt a bit like a noose! And his beloved hair was set to confront the guillotine.

"Bet you're happy the machine of yours in the car led you to the wrong place," the barber said with a chuckle. "This haircut is on me! I loved that story about you helping your mom keep the store open. You're a good kid. My own boy was killed in action -- it was his third deployment to Iraq. Only had one son and now all that I have is a grave to visit on Sundays...."

The barber began snipping away gingerly at Jeremy's curls. He watched the quarter-sized loops fall to the cape.

The barber continued chatting, "My brother's hardware store downtown just closed. He died last month and didn't have anyone -- any kids -- to pass it on to. Been in our family for three generations. The property ended up with me, but I can't handle running it with this shop to operate as well. Can't be in two places at one time! It's in a historic brick building -- he lived on the second floor....a very nice two bedroom apartment over the shop. I'm thinking about moving into the apartment and selling the store to someone else. That, or find a partner to operate it."

The barber paused and stepped in front of Jeremy. "We haven't properly introduced ourselves. I'm Larry Darold."

"And I'm Jeremy Hopkins." As he reached out from under the cape to shake hands, a collection of clipped curls slid down the cape and fell to the floor.

Larry swiveled the chair around to face the mirror. The cape was still littered with cut curls on the shoulders, and the bulky 'fro-like mass of hair was largely in place. Larry took the duster and carefully whisked some stray hair from Jeremy's eyebrows.

"What do you say, Jeremy?" he asked with a big smile.

"Thank you! Looks and feels better. Would my father approve?" he asked with a chuckle.

Larry's face clouded over. "He most certainly would not -- nor your mother, I dare say! Our generation doesn't consider this a decent haircut," Larry said, softly fondling the curls. "It's more like controlled chaos!"

Jeremy's throat instantly got dry, like he was being choked or asphyxiated. He eyed the huge line of clippers that had remained untouched throughout the trim. Finally, he eeked out, "What kind of haircut would my father have approved of?"

Larry swiveled the chair around so the Jeremy could see the chart. "One of those! Although, personally, for me there's just one real solution for a man with curls like these.... Shall I show you?" The barber plied his fingers through the lush, silken locks and tenderly stroked Jeremy's hair, waiting for his reply.

After what seemed like an eternity, and in a barely audible voice, Jeremy whispered, "Yes, Larry. You're the expert. I trust your opinion on this...." He thought the pounding of his heart my drown out his daring, unexpected reply.

The barber grinned widely and turned the chair back towards the mirror.

Jeremy watched the barber's next steps very intently.....reaching for a large set of clippers and removing the plastic guard over the steel teeth to make way for a smaller size.

"Ready?" the barber asked, as he clamped one hand down on Jeremy's head and firmly cocked it to the side. There was no doubt the transformation would be dramatic!

"Yes," eeked Jeremy. He was as limp as a rag, save his hands which dug their nails into the leather arm rests in order to steady himself.

The barber clicked the machine on and it sprang to life with a soft, but threatening, buzzing sound. The barber held his fire for a bit, seeming to offer Jeremy a chance to call off the makeover.

Jeremy sat paralyzed and mute.

The first swipe of the clippers was firm and fast. Larry gouged off a mass of curls, running the machine up through the sideburn and temple of Jeremy's left side. A quick flick sent the tangled tuft to the floor. The transformation had begun!

"Are you all right there, Buddy?" the barber asked tenderly.

"Yep," was all Brian could muster.

"Hang on, then!" Larry said with a slight chuckle.

Without any warning, the second swipe of clippers revealed the barber's intention. The shearing would be brutal!! Larry drove the hungry machine across the top of Jeremy's head from forehead to crown, using his hand to pull off an enormous shank of hair. The barber held up the cut curls that clung together and announced, "There's enough wool here for a nice winter sweater!"

Jeremy freaked out all the brutality of the second swipe. "OMG -- it's like I'm in boot camp!"

"A tight butch is the only real solution for curls, Son," the barber said with a tinge of lament. Then he tackled the top a second time, doubling the size of the clipped strip.

Jeremy felt woozy. Never, ever in his whole life had he been clipped down to the wood!

Larry swung into high gear, manipulating Jeremy's head this way and that so that he could quickly remove the bulk of curls from the whole pate. The clip-down proceeded in silence and the cape became covered with a dense mat of shorn coils of shimmering chocolate-colored hair.

Jeremy's woozy feeling morphed into a light-headed giddiness when he saw himself for the first time totally clipped down to a short pelt of hair covering his scalp. He looked like a teen who had just received his summer shearing in the garage. He looked youthful and innocent, simple and sincere. A slight smile crept across his face.

Larry picked up on the reaction, "Looking a whole lot better, don't you agree, Jeremy?"

"I look like a different person -- but it feels really neat!" he replied.

Larry took a few moments to rub the clipped pate with a tenderness that made Jeremy feel warm inside.

"I love how that feels," Jeremy sighed.

"Touch it yourself," the barber urged.

And Jeremy complied. "Ah! Fantastic -- especially rubbing against the grain, up the back. What did you call this haircut?"

"A butch! Very simple -- single length all over. A no-nonsense cut. My son hated the butch -- became a bit of a rebel after he turned 14. He had this awful shag, in his face, over his collar. A Beatles mop-top. That is, until he joined the army. I was so happy to see him on his first break after he completed boot camp. Told me he'd wished he'd ditched the long hair much sooner....." the barber said wistfully.

Then, Larry switched gears, going into overdrive with the duster that he'd primed with talcum powder.

"That tickles," laughed Jeremy as his ears and face got a good dusting.

Larry carefully pulled off the cape and the mounds of shorn hair fell to his feet. He looked at Jeremy who was exploring his new haircut.

Finally, he looked away from the mirror, to the barber, and said, "Thanks! This is much better....."

"Jeremy," the barber interrupted, with a serious tone, "you said you got a degree in business administration. How would you like to be the general manager of a hardware store that's been on Main Street for nearly a hundred years? You'd have free hand in managing it and we'd split profits 50/50."

Jeremy broke out into a huge grin. "I'd love it!!" A real job....and a permanent connect to Larry Darold, someone he was already looking to as a father for affection and guidance. "But, I have one condition, Larry. That is, that you and I share the two bed-room apartment above the store. You're getting up in years and need some looking after, Pops! Can I call you that?!"

"I couldn't think of a greater honor. Agreed!" the barber replied, drawing Jeremy from a tight handshake into a tight embrace. "But....on the condition that those curls of yours don't sprout up here again, my boy!" he said, rubbing the tidy pelt with tenderness.

"Not a chance of that, Pop. I want you to keep my butch nice and tight!"

Larry released the embrace and held Jeremy back giving him the once over. "Hair is under control. Now, let's close up the shop and let me run you over to Sears to get a suit that fits properly. They have some very good polyester suits on sale. Very durable....and no nonsense."

Jeremy winced and swallow, "Whatever you say, Pops. Then you can run me by our new hardware store."

"And you get first dibs on the bedrooms!" said the kind, old barber.

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