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At Manny's - Martin Remembers by Manny
"Manny, when are you going to visit the barber yourself and get a decent haircut?!" Martin quipped as he emerged from the stall and saw me preening in the mirror, admiring my thick chestnut-colored mane with fiery auburn highlights that glistened in the bright lights of hotel lobby bathroom. "That long hair you sport can't be good for your business. I mean, it's counter-intuitive. Who would go to a barber who looks like he needs a haircut himself?!" His eyes twinkled with delight as he teased me. This was not the first time Martin had ragged me about my long, luxuriant hair.
I enjoyed watching the eye candy as Martin began washing his hands in the sink next to mine. He was by far the most handsome man on the hotel staff -- the business manager who was roughly my age, with manly good looks. He had a strong jaw, nose with character and crystal blue eyes. His well sculpted ears were framed by shiny hair that was worn very full and gave into prominent, thick sideburns almost down to the lobe.
Martin was a true blond whose hair conveyed a more mature, experienced feel because it was flecked hints of gray on top that gave way to more prominent swath of grey on the sides. The hair in back was very plush and lapped over his collar. I had always wanted to give Martin a nice sharp taper. Full, blocked backs were anathama to me. Oh, to have him in my chair, to lean his head forward and to bring the clippers up through the dense hair! I would taper Martin into a crisp, clean cut!
But here he was, chiding me about my mane....
"I don't mean to cast aspersions on your business talents, Mr. Business Manager, but last year my shop's profit was up 150% -- and that doesn't include the tips. If my hair were such an obstacle to business, as you think it is....well, how can you argue with hard numbers? with proven results?!" I demanded playfully.
"That probably comes from having jacked your prices up several times last year. I heard the poor bell hops talking about it -- haven't you've priced yourself out of their range. What was it -- $23 and then $26 -- for a simple man's haircut? I only pay $13 at Great Clips," Martin said.
"And you come out with that pathetic Great Clips look too. You get what you pay for, Martin," I said as I dried my hands and tossed my hair back.
"Speaking of haircuts...." Martin began.
My heart beat quickly.....was he finally going to visit my shop and submit to my clippers?!
"....there's a fellow coming in this morning, a new employee -- my new deputy actually. Very impressive resume and some good references from grad school and volunteer work. But his hair! Not sure if he knows the meaning of professional grooming. It's a mass of ginger curls -- like a huge bush on his head. Our first interview was by phone, so I had no idea he'd look like something out of the Braveheart movie. Anyways, I'm going to send him your way before we sign the work contract. I'm springing for the haircut and will settle up with you afterwards. His name is Walter, by the way. He should be coming to your shop in about an hour," Martin said.
"Any special instructions?" I asked.
"Give me my money's worth! And, certainly do not leave him with a mop like yours, Manny! Something that will go nicely in the business environment," Martin said.
I left the bathroom feeling elated. There was nothing I enjoyed more than stripping off a mass of ginger curls! Well, almost nothing.... If I had a choice between caping up Martin and caping up this new fellow, Walter, it would be an easy decision!
Martin had been on my radar screen ever since I started working at the hotel, back when his blond hair was a few hues lighter and totally free from any grey. He looked like a young Robert Redford! To have him under the cape, nervously looking at me as I snapped on the clippers....well, that would be a dream come true!
An hour later, I saw the tall, lanky fellow moving slowly toward my shop. There was no mistaking it -- a business suit topped off by a huge ginger bush of hair. It looked like he was sporting an upsidedown collandar full of orange pasta corkscrews! As he came closer, I could see nervousness etched into his piercing green eyes. Walter looked cute -- with freckles and an impish face.
The door opened awkwardly. "Hi, um, you're Manny, right? Martin Dempsey, the hotel business manager, said he'd spoken with you this morning." The lad seemed shy and nervous.
"Ah, yes! Take a seat," I instructed.
His trepidation was palpable. The tension and awkwardness screamed out, 'I don't want to do this!!' He stared at his bush in the mirror, like he was thinking how long they'd been good companions and how much they'd been through together....like, an era was coming to the end.
I snapped open the cape and fastened it around the fellow's slender neck. "Well, congratulations on your new job, Walter,"I said to break the ice.
"Thank you, sir," he answered respectfully.
I made a half hearted attempt with a comb through the curls. "Nervous?" I asked.
He blushed and grinned awkwardly, "Guess so. Haven't been in a real barber shop before."
"Martin told me how he wants your hair cut. I suppose you're all right with that," I said, bending the truth a bit.
"The benefit package was too good to pass up. If a haircut was the price to pay....well, it came as no surprise," Walter stated blankly. "I always knew this day would come."
I picked up a huge set of Oster clippers and examined the teeth. Yes, they were up to the job! "Martin is a nice guy. He can sometimes twist the knife a bit, but you'll get used to him."
I clamped my hand down on the bush of soft ginger curls for the first time and savored the moment before wrenching Walter's head forward. Then without ceremony, I brought the machine up through the mass of corkscrews and drove it tightly up the back of his head, pulling off the wad of shorn hair with my other hand as it emerged at the crown. I dropped the mass of ginger to the floor and watched it bounce slightly on the black and white tiles. The shorn swath was clipped down to a very tidy #3. The short strands were very uniform and cooperative. I was going to fashion the bush of hair into a very sleek ivy style haircut. Most hair clipped close with a little quiff to play with. I quickly stripped off another clump of curls.
"I feel like I'm joining the army," Walter said under the mass of hair with a chuckle. It was pure nerves -- not as if he found anything amusing.
"You'll find that short hair is a lot more practical," I assured my client. This time I ensured that the severed mass of ginger fell onto the cape in front so Walter could get a visual of his transformation.
"Wow! It's really coming off!" he gasped quietly and then sneaked his hand out from under the cape to fondled the shorn curls.
I continued the makeover at a quick clip, bringing the huge bush of hair off efficiently with the Osters. The top got taken down gradually using a clipper-over-comb technique. I finished the job in a prolonged session of blending with the thinning shears. All that remained of the former mass of hair was a rather generous forelock that curled up nicely into a natural quiff.
I was very, very pleased with the result. "There, Walter, now you're looking like a true professional. Assistant Business Manager extraordinaire!" I held up the mirror and showcased the back of his well sculpted head.
"Very neat and tidy," he said, smiling broadly. "I was really nervous about this haircut, but you did a great job, Manny! How much do I owe you?"
"Nothing for this haircut. But, if you want to keep this ivy nice and sharp in the future, I'll let you in on the same deal I give the bell hops -- half price haircuts," I offered.
Walter eyed the price list, "Meaning $13. That's a deal! I suppose Martin will want me to keep it short and conservative like this. But it's strange...." Walter struck a bit of a pensive pose. "Why didn't Martin have me get a similar length haircut to his....this is so much shorter! You did say he told you how short to cut it?"
I turned to conceal my blush. He'd trapped me in my tiny deception! But, I was a quick thinker. "Actually, Martin's really overdue for a haircut. He's been working so hard without an assistance during this personnel gap. You'll see his hair cut quite short, more like this, when he finally gets a minute to visit the barber shop."
Walter stuck out his hand to shake, "Oh, that explains it. And thanks so much, Manny!" Then he struck that pensive pose again. "There's just one thing that I was wondering about....you were extolling the virtues of short hair as being so practical, but your hair...." He gazed at my thick, long chestnut-colored locks that shimmered down to the base of my collar and over my ears.
"Ah, yes," I stammered, "Well, practical is one thing. So is working as a cog in a big company. Being self-employed and determining your own hair length is quite another thing!"
"Good point, sir! I'll have to remember that if I get an urge to grown my curls back some day!" Walter said with a grin as he moved toward the door. "Thanks again for the great haircut!"
I watched him walked confidently and with purpose across the lobby. The transformation had turned him from an insecure grad student to a poised manager. Even his suit looked crisper and better tailored with the closely clipped ivy league haircut.
I was just preparing to close up shop for the evening when I saw Martin scampering across the lobby. "Wait, Manny!" he called as I was ready to hit the light switch.
"How is your new assistant?" I asked.
"You are a master barber, Manny! I could not believe how that haircut you gave Walter totally changed that fellow. I mean, there was no doubt about his smarts and skills to do the business work of the hotel. But the haircut gave him a confidence and poise. And, he's actually a very handsome fellow. What a transformation!" Martin gushed.
I looked Martin straight in the eye and decided this was my golden opportunity. "Take a seat here, Martin. I want to do the same for you. Your hair's overgrown, to be honest -- especially in back, over the collar. We've worked in this same hotel for a long time. I did Walter a special service, and now I'll perform one for you."
Martin's eyes bulged. "Oh, Manny....you're out of my price range!"
"This one will be free. Walter's haircut too. Come on, hop up here," I urged, patting the big barber chair.
Martin looked at himself in the mirror, "Well, I am a bit overdue." He pushed his hair nervously to the side. "But, you're already to close up here and go home...."
"Take a seat, friend. And let me work my magic on your hair," I continued. And then I saddled up to him and almost physically corraled him to the chair.
Martin smiled nervously. "Well, if you insist, Manny," he finally said, as he climbed the metal footrest and eased into the soft red leather upholstry.
At last, Martin was in my chair! He shifted nervously and babbled on about some nonsense while I caped him up and secured the huge metal clip to fasten it in place. The thick blond hair with traces of gray was now at my disposal! I surveyed the shiny strands that spilled liberally down the sides and back of his head while brushing the full mane of thick hair. Then I slowly swiveled Martin away from the mirror. I could feel his blood pressure spike.
I picked up the the huge set of Osters and held it quite visibly in front of him. I knew Martin would not try to flee my barbershop at this point. I thoroughly enjoyed fanning his angst about just how short his hair might end up. His eyes grew large, but he remained silent.
I steadied my hand on top of his head and forcefully guided him to cock it to the side. He complied obediently. I decided that from the very first swipe of the clippers he would become accutely aware that his would be no trim. He too would be transformed, just like Walter! With a steady hand, I brought the hungry steel teeth right up through the thick sideburn, peeling it off. The machine continued tightly up the side right through the dense blond hair that Martin normally wore swept back in a distinguished style. The large clump of hair that was left on the teeth of the machine when it cleared the temple was flicked to land right on the cape.
As I took the clippers to him a second time, I commented casually, "This ought to take care of that gray that's been betraying your age, Martin. How old are you now -- 50 yet?" I asked facetiously.
"Fifty!" he sputtered. "I hit the big 4-0 not that long ago. You got to be pulling my leg, Manny!" he exclaimed.
I deposited another wad of his hair onto the cape and watched him try to study it out of the corner of his eye. I decided to allow him to more comfortably look at the two big chunks of cut hair that were now on the cape. So, I stepped back to the counter and allowed him some room to take in the beginning of his transformation -- as well as to taunt him a bit! That was my way.
"We must be near the same age bracket, Martin. But I don't have a hint of gray in my hair," I said as I turned toward the mirror and preened momentarily. My chestnut-colored mane was stunning. How wonderful it would look, one day, on the very cape I had draped around Martin! Perhaps, one day, I would find my own Manny who would have his way with me and my glorious hair....
"It'll happen to you one day. You'll be brushing your teeth or something and then you'll think 'what's that?!' and it'll turn out to be your first gray hair. You'll pluck it quickly....but the next day there will be another one -- and another and another. In no time the plucking will become a loosing battle," Martin said.
"Then you turn to the barber and have him give you a very short clipper haircut," I said, as I transitioned to the back and pushed Martin's head forward.
"Not too short, Manny," he pleaded. He sounded so vulnerable....
That just inflamed my passion. The first clip up the back was startling. The heavy plush hair at Martin's nape tumbled over my hand as it fell to the floor. I pushed the clippers higher and higher up the back. Martin's first clipper cut would be severe!
"Martin, I can assure you that you will be one happy camper when you leave this shop. I'm taking a good ten years off your appearance. Have you noticed how many very young men are sporting extremely short haircuts. Like Juan, that handsome bellhop. He asked for a butch last time -- a sixteenth of an inch all over -- and looks smashing with the five o'clock shadow look over his whole pate."
"That's not what you're doing to me, I hope," Martin panted.
I didn't respond. I would let him remain in panic mode for a while. It was pure pleasure, tormenting him.....
Then the light bulb turned on. Why not?! It would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I motioned for him to sit up and brought the clipper to his forehead. My hand trembled. This had not been, at all, my intention when I first caped him. I had never considered giving Martin a butch -- only a very short business taper. However, the total look of fear on his face fired me up.
With a slow, steady pace I ran the clippers straight back across the top of his head, from forehead to cowlick. Lovely, shiny blond hair fell to the cape in sheaves. Torrents came off. Martin was too stunned to react.
"That's exactly what you're getting, Martin. A butch. A nice tight butch," I said in a professional tone of voice.
The rest of the haircut transpired in total silence. I worked hard to ensure that my bulge under the tunic did not show. Martin's eyes were glassy and glazed over. His hands clenched tightly to the arm rests.
I clipped and clipped and clipped his pate. Over and over, taking it down to a nice, uniform pelt that bordered between soft and prickly. The cape was totally covered with his hair.
"There!" I proclaimed as I swiveled the chair around.
Martin was not prepared for the shock. He sputtered and stammered. He looked down at the cape, then the mirror.
I tenderly stroked the clipped, tidy pelt. "Well, what do you think? Certainly you look a lot younger." What I didn't mention was that he also looked a lot more vulnerable and timid without his power helmet of coiffed hair!
Finally he responded, "This was the haircut I would get from my uncle at the beginning of summer -- #2 butch cuts. All the cousins in a line in his garage....waiting their turn."
"And was it a happy time?" I asked.
"Yes! A lot of excitement afterwards -- we'd feel each other's buzzcuts and run around in the yard. And then we'd all come back for the grand finale. My my dad and uncle would give each other summer butch cuts. They'd flip a coin to see who would go first and receive the shorter cut. The loser would get a #1 all over and the winner would get a #3. We would cheer as the business cuts fell off. Both of them then had dense, thick hair like mine that they wore swept back into fancy pomps. The grown-ups loved the butch cuts as much as the boy cousins!"
As Martin talked, the nervousness and tension melted away. He relived a happy memory from his youth.
I filled the whisk with a good dollop of talcum and dusted his face and ears. "You're even more handsome with a butch," I said in a low, admiring tone near his ear as I unfastened the cape.
Martin stood awkwardly and felt his shorn head. "Oh, this really brings it back!" he commented wistfully. Then he fixed his gaze on me. "One day, you and I will flip for it. How about that, Manny? The winner gets a #3 all over and the loser gets a #1. How much do I owe you for the two haircuts today?"
"Hell, I should pay you! It was more than fun. Save it for you next visit. And, this evening there was only one winner -- you, and your #3 butch cut!"
As I watched Martin leave the shop and walk across the lobby feeling his butch, I felt as if I were really missing out on something. I turned to the mirror. Ah, that lovely, pampered long mane. Some day....but when? I now had a viable volunteer to do me the honors. I took a seat momentarily and imagined Martin fastening the cape around me. I would be still and submissive....and I would whimper as I watched my treasured hair succumb and fall to the cape.....