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At Manny's - Benny, Kenny and Lenny by Manny

I watched the young father's losing battle to control his twin toddlers as they ran wildly through the hotel lobby. No sooner would he rein in one of the little tykes than the other would let out a blood curdling shriek and run away. Adding to his woes was another losing battle, keeping the thick, gleaming forelock of deep brown hair out of his face. The young father's magnificent mane of shiny hair hung in a retro-70's shag over his ears and to the base of his collar. He pawed at it between attempts to settle down the two tow-headed lads with their droopy bowlcuts. Exasperation was written all over his face, although he did not raise his voice with the boys. It was clear, he didn't know how to handle them, and he needed some help.

It was Manny to the rescue! I left the barber shop and walked over to where the trio was based. "You got quite a handful there!" I remarked cheerfully.

"Sorry, I know they're disturbing the tranquility of this place," the young father said apologetically. Just then one of the lads ran towards the revolving door at the front of the lobby.

"Benny! Get back here," the father gasped.

"Go after him!" I urged. "I'll stay here with this one. And your name, little guy, is....."

"Kenny!" the boy announced. Ah, that was cute -- Benny and Kenny.

"If you sit here quietly," I told him, "there's a big jar of candy on the counter over there in my shop. I'll get you a piece if your father allows."

Just then, the father returned with the other boy in tow. "Wow, you got him to sit quietly!" he remarked. "What's your magic?"

"I'm a barber -- lots of experience getting little boys to sit still. The promise of candy at the end does help," I said with a laugh. "Benny, can you sit as quietly as Kenny?" I asked.

In an instant, I had both boys behaving perfectly, much to the young father's astonishment.

"You are a genius!"the young father said, shaking his head in wonder.

"And you look like you need a break," I replied. "How about I take the boys off your hands for a half hour so that you can sneak over to the bar there and grab a beer. We'll make good use of the time and tidy up this hair of theirs in the barbershop. It's in the eyes, poor little fellows."

"You can handle them alone?" the father asked doubtfully.

"If I can't, I'll bring them straight to the bar and return them to you," I told him.

"Deal -- and if you can manage them alone, there will be an generous tip for you at the end. Half hour you say? I'll swing by the shop when I finish my beer. I'm Leonard, by the way."

"Let me guess!" I exclaimed. "You go by Lenny!"

"Right! And if that's your barbershop, I take it you're Manny," he replied.

"Any special instructions about their haircuts?" I asked.

"You're the professional, Manny!" came his quick reply. "See you in half an hour. I owe you one!" Dear Lenny was so quick to hand the lads off to me that he handed me a blank check. The set-up was perfect.

I watched his thick, lush mane of dark brown hair as he hustled to the bar. It was of a similar length and texture of my own. However, my chestnut-colored locks with fiery auburn highlights were considerably lighter in color. Yes, there would be a payback time....and I knew the currency dear Lenny's bill would come in!

"Let's go boys, we're going to have some fun in those big, big chairs there.....and see that jar of candy....if you're good...." They followed me as good as gold into the shop.

Amazingly the two boys were well behaved. "Now who will be first?" I asked. "The first to get a haircut and the first to reach his hand into the big jar and get a piece of candy?!"

Benny was first, and I helped him scramble up and take a seat on the board that lay across the arms of the chair to bring him to a better height. He was enveloped in the huge white cape. I combed through the thick, droopy bowlcut. It was an awful haircut to impose on a boy! The hair was thick and shiny like his father's. And long too. But not for long!

"Which of those haircuts up on that big picture there do you want, Benny?" I asked, pointing to chart of standard haircuts circa 1956 on my wall.

"That one!" he said, pointing randomly to the chart.

"Nice and short then?" I inquired as I combed his hair straight down. His bangs covered his eyes. Bowlcuts were for sissies. Butch cuts were for real boys! I snapped the clippers on....


As if on cue, half hour later, I saw the mane of lush brown hair walking from the bar to the barbershop. Dear Lenny was in for a surprise!

The tots were playing in the back room when he entered the shop. "Boys, your father is here!" I called out to them.

The two ran out sporting adorable butch cuts, and Lenny gasped, "What happened! Oh my goodness. Their mother is going to freak out!"

"Don't you like our new haircuts?" Kenny asked, tugging at his father's pant leg.

Lenny reached down and rubbed the bristles. "Oh my, what I'm I going to tell her?" he stammered in a panicky tone. "She absolutely loves their bowlcuts. I should've have told you that. I thought you'd give 'em trims."

"I'm so sorry, Lenny!" I replied with convincing contrition. "I wish you had. Instead I asked them to chose a haircut from that chart there. Benny asked for the butch and Kenny said he wanted one just like Benny. But, see how happy they are now? No hair in their face.... I have yet to see one little boy who doesn't look swell with a tight butch cut."

Lenny glanced into the mirror and got a quick peak at his own lengthy mane. Subconsciously he reached up and pushed his own long hair back from his face. Running his fingers through his hair was undoubtedly a stress-relieving technique he utilized.

Then I decided to turn the knife a bit more. "You'll have to explain to your wife that you dropped them off with me and then went to the bar to chill out. Blame me," I said.

"She would kill me! Drop them off with a total stranger who lets them choose a butch cut! No!! That cannot be the story!" Lenny said emphatically.

"Then, how about this one? You decided to make good use of your time while you were stuck with the baby-sitting job. You brought them to the shop and the three of you decided all to get butch cuts! A real father-son bonding experience....."

Lenny's eyes grew wide. He gulped nervously, "But that would mean...." He looked at this beautiful long hair in the mirror.

I took him gently by the arm and steered him towards the barber chair. "Yes, that would mean....."

Lenny froze in his tracks. "Oh, Manny! I've never had a butch cut before! In fact, I've never had a set of clippers taken to my hair -- the boys either before today."

"Don't worry, Dad. It's fun. That machine tickles!" Kenny cried out.

"Now, you boys go in the back room and play quietly. I need to give your father a long-overdue haircut," I said with a loving tone in my voice.

The tots disappeared and Lenny looked at me with dread and fear. "Why not give me just a little trim?" he asked.

I moved him forcefully to the chair and made him sit. Then I took out the cape and snapped it open. I cast it about him and pulled the cloth very tightly around his neck and fastened it with a huge metal clip.

Then I smoothed down his long, beautiful hair.

"Because you don't need 'just a little trim' Lenny. You need a real haircut." My tone oozed finality. I brushed his hair with great care. The longest locks were at least seven inches in length. The shag had been cut to perfection. And it was on the verge of extinction.

I reached for the clippers. I examined the blade -- a #2. It would make for a tidy butch!

I snapped the machine on and his eyes got wide. I brought the screaming teeth up past his eyes en route to the hairline at the forehead. Lenny's head moved back, away from the approaching machine instinctively.

"Benny and Kenny were perfect angels for me in the chair." I grabbed his hair at the back and wrenched his head securely. "If you don't cooperate, you won't get your candy at the end, Lenny!"

He whimpered as the clippers hit his lovely hair with the strength and determination of a category five hurricane. Torrents of his shimmering hair tumbled down the side of his head and slid from his shoulders down the cape to collect in his lap. The mow down was as intense to the opening boot camp scene from Tribes or Full Metal Jacket.

"I noticed your hair constantly in your eyes this morning as I watched you struggling with your boys. It's not going to bother you any more, once I'm done with your new baldy cut!" I announced.

Lenny sat quietly and submissively. His eyes were locked onto his transformation that played out in the huge mirror framed by neon lights.

Behind the poor semi-shorn fellow, I saw my own image -- the thick, hair that was my crowning glory -- resplendent in the mirror. The auburn highlights dazzled beneath the neon. My mind flashed back to that fateful day over a decade ago when my ex-companion Robert put an end to my hair much as I was doing to poor Lenny. Like Lenny, I was unwilling, and I endured it in a most awfully humiliating manner.

I watched Lenny fondle a shorn lock on his lap.

"Did you enjoy your beer?" I asked, breaking the silence. It was a veiled taunt. He'd given up his treasured mane for a few sips of fermented hops and water.

Lenny did not answer. He just watched mournfully as I swiveled the chair away from the mirror, to begin stripping the back clean.

The soft, clipped pelt on top felt wonderful as I nudged his head down into a deep bow, as if he were deep in penitential prayer. Then the clippers chewed their way easily up through the nape, sending the pampered shag to the floor. Lenny groaned softly as the clippers climbed tightly up the back. It was all coming off down to a short, clipped eighth of an inch.

I had just let Lenny sit up straight to examine him for the first time, completely clipped, when the boys burst into the shop from the back room. "Look, Benny! We have a real Daddy now!"

"No one on the playground will tease us again about having two Mommies!" the other replied.

Lenny's face got red with embarrassment. "When did that happen?" he stammered.

"Our friends say you look like a girl with long hair, Daddy!" Kenny squealed.

"They won't ever say that again!" I said as I ran my hand briskly over the pelt. Then I took the whisk to his head and came him a vigorous dusting to remove the stray snippets of hair.

Lenny smiled slightly. "That'll help explain these drastic haircuts to Irene, I hope. She won't argue with our decision to get butch cuts."

"Do you think Irene will like your butch, Lenny?" I asked, as I swiveled the chair back to face the mirror.

"Holy crap!" he exclaimed as his eyes bulged from their sockets. "Who is that?!"

"It's a fellow who used to have long, girlish hair -- one who was desperately in need of a barber who knew just what to do," I said with a smile as I unfastened the cape and carefully withdrew it so that the huge collection of cut hair did not cling to his clothes.

Lenny rubbed his head slightly. Then he looked at me with a comical, quizzical face. "I know someone just like that -- a man with long, girlish hair, desperately in need of a barber who knows just what to do!" Then he winked at me. "How much do I owe you for the three haircuts? Or perhaps you'll let me work off part of my debt? How about it Manny?" he said, patting the barber's chair and nudging me toward it. "Have a seat here! I'm a quick learner...."

I shifted nervously and then spotted my escape. "That lady out there looking around in the lobby? It wouldn't be Irene, would it?" I asked to distract Lenny from his line of conversation.

"Heck, it sure is! Okay boys -- here we go. We're really happy with our new butch cuts, aren't we?!" he said nervously, as if to encourage them with a rehearsed explanation.

As the trio headed to the door of the shop, I called Lenny back, "Oh, you forgot your candy, Lenny. Come choose from this big glass jar here!"

The boys ran out the door to their mother who was visibly shocked by their haircuts.

As Lenny reached his hand into the jar, he looked in the mirror. "This butch is kind of growing on me, Manny. And, I'm thinking you might look much better stripped of your mane, with just a hint of stubble left to rub...." Lenny handed me a $50 and strode out to show his wife the new manly father she was married to.

I watched her face light up in surprise as she rubbed his pelt and gave him a tender kiss on the cheek. They both laughed and hugged, and then the happy family walked toward the elevator.

I smiled to myself. One more act of kindness rendered to an unsuspecting, but very needy client. Then, I glanced in the mirror and grasped a shank of my thick, soft hair. What I wouldn't give right now for an unsolicited butch cut.... What if they huge pile of beautiful hair on the floor of the shop had fallen from my head? I went for the broom....one day, surely, it would happen.

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