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Mr. Sig and Aidan, the Photographer by Manny
I was excited to get the gig photographing Registration Day activities at the Beecher Ward Military Academy, an elite reform school tucked away in a fairly close rural Georgia town. Lots of spoiled rich kids were sent there by parents who paid someone else to handle the little monsters they'd reared. Beecher Ward had money; the amount they were paying me for one day was more than I'd normally make in a month.
In the parking lot, I saw a lot of Mercedes, Lexus and Jaguars with well-heeled parents overseeing their sons' transition to military school. The youths were on parade in designer clothes, and many sported manes of flowing, well-coiffed locks. The new students moved slowly to the main building toting trendy suitcases. Among the crowd mingling outside the front door were a few youths looking totally different -- bald as a baby's butt, clothed in red silky shorts and a yellow tee-shirt emblazoned with the academy's crest. These were the "scrubs" who had already been processed through intake, and their shorn heads were shockingly short.
I reviewed the list of sites where I was to take photographs. Sure enough, "Barber Shop" was on the list. Responsible party was listed as "Robert Siggenthal". I quickly got to work snapping pictures at different places....the reception desk, the uniform store, the academic dean's office, etc....and then I spotted a long line of nervous lads, fidgeting as they stood in the hall, inching towards a scary destination -- the barber shop!
Occasionally a lad would come down the opposite way, feeling his bald head, as if trying to confirm that the old look was a thing of the past. He was now officially a "scrub" with his baldy haircut!
The boys in line who cat-called loudest were guys who arrived on campus with rather short haircuts. However, the pretty-boys with their floppy moptops huddled nervously, dreading their turn under the cape.
I walked down the hall, snapping a series of 'before' shots. And then I saw him for the first time -- Mr. Robert Siggenthal! As I peered into the scene of the haircut butchery, my gaze locked onto his twinkling, mischievous blue eyes.
"There's a line here, sir!" the barber said with a laugh. "No cutting to the front, no matter how desperate you are to shed that girly-boy look!" The lads laughed out loud, as if on cue. A lot of nervous energy was released by those closest to the heavy-duty, fast-feed electric clippers.
My face reddened involuntarily. The barber was certainly sassy!
As I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I saw my thick braid of ginger hair hanging down my back. It was fiery orange and shimmered, a testament that I was indeed a 'free spirit'. I was a freelance photographer, after all! I was quite devoted to my hair. It looked so shiny in the shop's neon glow.
I decided to play along with the playful (and handsome!) barber. "I'll wait, sir, for sure! I mean, the haircut you're giving these guys totally rocks! This long hair of mine is such a bother....." I grasped my braid and pulled it forward, measuring the thickness of the ginger chord with my fingers.
Then I began snapping away with my camera. The barber was standing amid a carpet-like covering of hair comprised of every shade and texture imaginable. Some poor ginger lad had shed quite a bit of hair recently! The barber was standing on locks that measured at least six inches. I got a few great snaps of his shoes, virtually covered with shorn hair.
To my shock, when the barber finished clipping the lad under the cape, he addressed me. "Okay, fellow, you're next. In the chair!"
I was flummoxed and began to stammer nervously, "Ha, ha, that's funny." I looked in the mirror and saw my beautiful ginger braid. Then my gaze shifted to the charismatic barber. I loved his playful, mischievous manner.
Suddenly, I was seized by a pit feeling in my stomach. I found myself wanting to take a seat!! I wanted to sit quietly and watch the barber shear me of my long hair. I wanted to feel awkward and vulnerable. I pictured myself being clipped by Mr. Sig and then slinking away, bald, nursing a feeling of regret while wondering what I'd gotten myself into.
The barber tapped the chair impatiently. "Come on, these fellows are all waiting. I don't have all day!"
I found myself struggling between coming to my senses and impulsively taking a seat in the huge, old-fashioned barber chair.
I cleared my throat nervously. "Cutting in line isn't right. I'll come back later, when it's my turn. Besides, I have a lot of other photos I need to take today," I added hastily.
"Okay, you're on for 4 pm! I'm Rob, by the way," he said as he extended his hand to shake mine.
I grasped it and felt the dominating crunch he imposed on it. Yes, I wanted to submit to Mr. Sig. I wanted to say goodbye to my free-wheeling, free-spirited ways. I wanted him to shave me bald like a lowly scrub!
"I'm Gilbert," I said shyly, avoiding his look. "I'll be back at 4 pm sharp." Then I scampered away. My heart beat wildly. Would I escape unshorn, or would I creep back and turn myself over to Mr. Sig and this hungry clippers? He would certainly enjoy relieving me of my treasured braid....
I loved shooting pictures of the newly balded lads exploring their denuded heads.
"Nice haircut!" I quipped to one miserable-looking creature.
"I'm getting mine cut at 4 pm.," I stated. The declaration that I was to undergo the big chop secretly thrilled me. "Did you like the barber?"
"He's a bully," the fellow whimpered. "I can't believe he'll be in charge of my hair the whole time I'm at this wretched place! The handbook says he's the only person authorized to cut hair on campus. I want to go to my normal salon....."
I laughed to myself, thinking of the lad showing up at his old salon with the baldy look!
As I was snapping photographs, the man who had contracted me to free lance caught up with me. Phil was middle-aged and stocky with a closely clipped salt-and-pepper taper. The three inches on top was parted on the side and combed into an immaculate businessman's look.
"Hey there, Aidan! Looks like you're getting a good variety of shots. Did you get over to the barbershop? That's always the series of photos that gets the most hits on our website. The families love to see the before, during and after shots of their sons!" Phil said.
"Sure did. He's quite the barber! Seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself, inflicting a lot of misery on those guys," I noted.
"Ah, it's good for them! Helps create character," he said.
"Should I let him have a go at my hair?" I asked in a joking tone of voice.
Phil let out a laugh. "Sure - if you like the 'scrub' baldly look. It would be a lot more practical that that girly-boy braid handing down your back."
"I've never had a short haircut before. In fact, I've never been in a barbershop or had a clippers taken to my hair before," I laughed.
"A real live, modern Sampson, eh? You know Rob Siggenthal is also the chaplain here. He's a master at getting wayward guys under control. Is that something you need?" he asked.
"Yep, I can be a slacker at times or even a bad ass! You know the reputation we red-heads have!" I laughed.
Phil surreptitious placed his hand on his own rear. "He's also in charge of discipline among the academy community. And, I'm not just talking about the students! He disciplined me once....." Phil confessed in a low voice.
"He did?" I gasped.
"Not sure what was worse -- the shearing or the spanking?!" Phil said with a nervous laugh.
What?! A grown man spanked?! I couldn't believe it. I wanted to find out more, but Phil strode away quickly, with an embarrassed look on his face, sorry he'd let that little tidbit slip.
The rest of the day, I was a nervous wreck, thinking about my 4 pm appointment with Mr. Robert Siggenthal, barber and disciplinarian extraordinaire. I was incredibly fearful, but enormously curious. It was like I was captive to his charismatic personality and delicious looks. I wanted to offer up my ginger braid to him.
The hall was devoid of people as I crept towards the barbershop. They new students had all been corralled out to the field for calisthenics and to run laps.
I edged quietly toward the door and watched the barber sweeping up huge mountains of cut hair. It was a perfect shot. I instinctively pulled out my camera and snapped a photo.
Mr. Sig turned with a startled look and locked his playful blue eyes on me. Then he glanced up at the clock. "It's 4:02. I said 4:00 pm sharp!" he scolded.
"I've been trying to work up my courage," I murmured.
"Step in here and close the door!" he snapped at me.
I obeyed. My heart pounded.
Mr. Sig began encircling me slowly. "Hmmm, a real pretty boy! Nice hair. Such vibrant color. A whole lot of it too."
"Shall I take a seat?" I asked in a quaking tone.
"No, you should not!" he barked. "You should walk behind that curtain there and strip down to your briefs!"
"But, I'm here for a haircut," I stammered.
"Oh, don't worry your little pretty boy face. You'll get one! But first you're getting something you need more -- now get back there and do as you're told!" he said with a steely tone.
I hustled behind the curtain. My fingers trembled as I unbutton my shirt. I felt very awkward standing there, in just my underpants, with my slacks down around my ankles.
Then I heard Mr. Sig pull the curtain open and stride in. I felt him grasp my braid and heard him snapping a pair of barber shears open and shut a few times. My body tensed up.
"Relax," he purred in my ear.
Then I felt the cold, steel blades slipping through my bundle of hair right above the scrunchy that held it into a tail. The shears crunched shut. The sound of scissors slicing through hair was jarring. Mr. Sig struggled repeatedly, seemingly exasperated by my incredibly thick hair. The braid put up a huge resistance, but finally it was severed.
Mr. Sig held it up in front of my eyes like a prized trophy. Two feet of lovely ginger hair! My stomach lurched at the site of it severed and dangling from Mr. Sig's greedy hand. Then he dropped it to the floor. I looked down to see it discarded and forlorn, which provoked Mr. Sig to snap, "Hold still!"
Unexpectedly, I was on the receiving end of a sharp smack on my rear end! SMACK! Mr. Sig's hand was strong, and the sting felt unexpectedly delicious!
In a flash, Mr. Sig hustled me over to a table, with me almost tripping as my feet were caught up in my slacks. He forced me down to bend over the table. I watched from the corner of my eye as he reached for the paddle that was nearby. THWACK! THWACK!! THWACK!!! Three sharp smacks in rapid succession that truly hurt.
"Next time I tell you 4 pm, what time will you show up?" he demanded.
"4 pm, sir!" I replied.
My cropped, unbound hair flopped aimlessly over my face. I lay still, awaiting Mr. Sig's next move.
Then I felt his hand tenderly begin to stroke my ginger hair. "You desperately need an experienced barber, Aidan," he purred.
"Yes, I want one just like you, sir," I replied. "One who is not timid with the clippers."
"You're beginning to act like a 'scrub' even before you look like one." Mr. Sig grasped the heavy lock that covered my face and took the shears down close to the scalp. CRUNCH! He lopped off a generous amount of my forelock and tossed it onto the table.
Just then his cell phone rang, and Mr. Sig answered it. I was left lying bent over the table table, afraid to move....staring at a huge shank of cut, fiery orange hair.
"Yes, Hon, I'll be home for dinner. Maybe a bit late," the barber's mundane chat began. "Yep, it's been a long day. You know how Registration Day goes. Lots of sniveling, whiny brats and all of us on our best behavior while the parents are still on campus. But there was this one insolent lad that I had to deal with right away. Mouthed off to me. Just had to nip his attitude in the bud. In fact, I still am tied up a with him....category five disciplinary procedure." Mr. Sig stared at me!
My heart beat wildly. Category 5! What did that mean?
"Yes, Hon, he's being responsive. Not to worry -- I'll have broken his impertinent, free-spirited, flip attitude by the time I leave here. Bye, now," he said before hanging up.
Then he addressed me, "Were you listening in on my private conversation?"
I panicked in fear, "No, sir!"
"Liar!" he bellowed and then wrenched my white Fruit of the Loom underpants down.
The smack of Mr. Sig's paddle to the bare skin of my back side resulted in an awful shriek.
"Yes, I listened in!" I confessed, dizzy with pain.
The barber landed another smack. "Now pull up your pants and get into the shop. We've got to get you looking like a scrub to change that rebellious, deceitful attitude of yours!"
"Yes, sir," I said, as I scrambled to comply. Never was I happier to get into a barber's chair and watch Mr. Sig wrestle the cape around my neck. It was so much better than being forced to lean over that table. My aching butt was safe from more 'stimulation'!
My hair was wildly arrayed and looked freakish. The chunk of missing bangs added to the chaos. The pain from the paddling of my rear throbbed, but I savored the sensation.
"There's nothing I like better than stripping the ginger off a fellow to help him make the transition to respectful, obedient manliness," Mr. Sig said, shifting to a gentler, more tender tone.
The clippers were quick in their duty. Reverting to his pattern for the day, Mr. Sig brought them up past my eyes, and plowed them straight down the center of the top my head. I watched a glorious show of my once-cherished hair falling to the cape, making the cloth drape explode from a pristine white to a brilliantly orange sunset-like canvas.
I was like putty in Mr. Sig's hands, allowing him to wrench my head this way and then that way. Reverse to what happened with the cape, my scalp turned from orange to white. The dazzling alabaster scalp that replaced the lush waves of ginger were bold and stark. I began morphing into a vulnerable-looking pea-head. I looked at the satisfied smirk on Mr. Sig's face as he clipped away the remnants of my hair. It was he who had turned me from a hip, care-free, free-lance photographer into a cowed and timid scrub! I was happy to succumb to his charms and receive his heavy-handed treatment.
When the haircut was all finished, and I looked like one of the lads earlier in the day who had been forced to traipse through Mr. Sig's domain, he demanded of me, "Now, what do you say, Aidan?"
Was it a trap? If I said the wrong thing, would he re-apply the paddle? I didn't think I could afford another go around behind the curtain.
"Thank you, sir! Thank you! This looks fantastic," I gushed.
Mr. Siggenthal smiled broadly and his eyes twinkled with delight. He seemed pleased with my reply and proud of his work with me.
"Now, what will you give me?" he asked.
I had no idea! Money? But my wallet was bare. I stood, looking at him with petrified fear.
"Come on, now," he said, opening his arms wide. "Don't be timid."
I smiled and move toward him and allowed him to embrace me warmly. Then, inspired by this welcomed bond, I boldly planted a kiss on his lips.
He stroked my bald head and cuddled me in his arms. Finally, he whispered, "You come back on Saturday at 7 p.m., and I'm going to take the lather and razor to you, Aidan. I'm going to take it all off -- the head, the chest, the pubes, the legs. You'll be smooth as silk! Now, be on your way. Remember, 7 p.m. sharp. Not 7:02!" He smiled at me with his handsome face flashing his perfect teeth.
"No, sir. I will be here exactly at 7:00 p.m." I promised. Then I slipped out of the barber shop and walked quickly down the hall.
As I was crossing the parking lot toward my car, I heard someone calling my name. I looked behind. It was Phil, struggling to catch up with me!
"Aidan! I almost didn't recognize you. I see you've been with Mr. Sig!" he said.
I blushed and hung my head timidly. I touched my bare scalp gingerly for the hundredth time since leaving the shop. "Yes, how do I look?" I asked sheepishly.
"Quite pathetic. Quite handsomely pathetic!" he said.
Then I blurted out, "He administered a category 5 disciplinary action!"
"Oh, my! He must really have been seized with you. Most new recruits only get up to a category 3 over a period of time! Do you need some company?" Phil asked tenderly, in almost a paternal manner.
I looked at his nicely clipped, immaculate taper, with the pert three inches on top neatly combed to the side. How might Phil react should he wake up and found himself as bald as me!!! I was no longer Sampson, but I could still be Delilah!
"Yes, Phil. Come to my place. We can share a bottle of wine and get to know each other better....." I eyed the pert business cut as we drove away from the campus. Yes, Phil would become my own little project as I learned Mr. Sig's trade.