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Roy's Requirement and Reward by Manny

He threw two bills down on the table -- a ten dollar note and a five dollar note. "My advise, if you're serious about getting a job, is to get a decent haircut. There's a great barbershop two blocks up from here on the opposite side. The $15 will get you a professional-looking short-back-and-sides. I mean, who wants to hire someone who looks more like a 1990s era new age musician than an experienced office manager?"

As my friend walked away, I reluctantly took the bills and added them to my wallet. Even before his pointed suggestion, I had already been considering the big chop. I ran my fingers back through my thick, dark hair. The soft locks felt so wonderful as my fingers glided into the dense mane that fell past my shoulders. I loved my long hair, as well as my luxuriant mustache that covered the inch-wide space between my lip and nose with a glorious pelt of soft, shiny hair.

I had decided to give myself one last chance to get a job before visiting the barbershop. Thursday's interview was my best chance. It wasn't such a stuffy, high powered corporation as some of the others I'd interviewed at. But, I was stern with myself. Yes, I was determined -- if I heard the "I'm sorry, but....." line one more time, then it would be straight to the barbershop. No questions, no 'one more last chances'! I would tell the barber, 'I want my hair cut very short.' I would submit to the humiliating big chop quietly -- sit very still in the chair as the clippers were brought to my treasured hair. Yes, the barber would scalp me. My long hair falling to the cape.....it would be a fitting consequence for my miserable failure to join the ranks of the employed. I envisioned myself walking out of the barbershop, feeling the very short taper up the back of my head, mourning the loss of my long hair....well, it would be a suitable penance for being a slacker.

I stood up from the table in the coffee shop and decided I would check out the barbershop my friend had recommended. As I started walking up the street, I began imagining that it was Friday afternoon and I'd already failed my interview -- that I was on my way, in fact, to get my long hair whacked off by the barber. My hands felt clammy and my legs wobbly as I walked toward the barbershop. I pawed at my hair nervously. What would it be like to watch it fall to the cape? To emerge from the shop with a very barbered look and feel?

I saw the twirling barber pole from a block away! My heart beat quickly!

Why not get my haircut before the interview?! Why not enter the shop now and submit to the shearing? Get it over with with!

Then, my "best chance" interview would get even better, and I would be employed at last.

I crept along the sidewalk, arguing with myself. One last chance and then the chop. Or, the chop now for a better chance at the interview tomorrow?

The decision would be made on the spur of the moment, right as I was at the door of the shop. I would either walk on by, or my hand would grip the handle; I would turn inside and instruct the barber to cut it all off.

As I drew up to the shop window, I peered in and saw three old men dressed in matching white tunics, busy cutting men's hair. The one closest to the window had his client's head bowed low, with his chin almost to his chest, running the clippers up the back of his head tightly. It looked like a death grip! I couldn't go through with it.

I scurried quickly past the shop.

At first I felt relieved, like I had dodged a bullet. But, then, I began feeling disappointed -- even angry at myself. I loved and pampered my hair too much. It needed to be shorn. I needed to emerge from that very barbershop with a very barbered look!

I walked on aimlessly, without a destination, not knowing how to handle myself. Periodically, I would catch a glimpse of myself in a shop window. The long hair. It was begging to be chopped. And the mustache....no, not the mustache!! I couldn't.

Suddenly, I whirled around. I had a Damascene conversion experience -- an abrupt change in course. I began retracing my steps back to the barbershop. I would have my long hair cut, but the mustache would remain. It was a good compromise. "Give me a 'short back and sides' -- a 'very short back and sides'," I would tell the barber.

I quickened my pace hoping to get into the shop before I lost the will to go through with it. Then, I saw the twirling pole. I was almost there. My courage was still up.

As I walked up to the door and was about to reach for the handle, it swung open. Coming out of the shop was a middle-aged man with a totally shaved head. The scalp was white and he felt it nervously.

Instead of turning into the shop, as I'd intended, I began to follow him. I watched him attempt to see himself in each shop window as he ambled along. His hand could not stop exploring his stripped head -- the fine coat of stubble that remained -- as he walked.

He turned into the same coffee shop where I had met my friend earlier in the day. I turned him too and got in line right behind him. The smell of witch hazel was strong.

I decided to engage him in conversation as we waited to place our orders, "Did you just come out of that barbershop down the way? Al's, I think it's called."

"Yes," he replied, rather astonished, as he rubbed his scalp nervously. "Still getting used to this."

"Would you recommend the shop? I'm needing to get a decent haircut," I said.

"All the barbers are great. Salt of the earth. Very skilled," he replied.

"Not sure if skill is what's needed with your haircut," I said with a laugh. "More like, do they have the equipment to take you down so close to the scalp?!"

"Oh, this is not my usual look. In fact, I had no intention of anything remotely like this when I offered to be a part of the fund-raising effort at work," he explained. "I had this large handle-bar mustache I was very fond of -- my great pride. Huge and luxuriant. Very showy. I'd even competed in some facial hair contests with it. However, my partner wasn't that fond of it -- tickled too much when we were making out. I think he also felt I was a little too vain about it. So, when someone at work suggested that I put the 'stache onto the chopping block for a fund-raising event, I agreed. Spur of the moment decision."

The barista handed us our coffees and I said I wanted to hear the rest of the story....so we went to the very table where I'd been an hour earlier with my friend.

"The response was astounding. Within days, my mustache had raised $5000. And, by the time the campaign ended, it was worth over $10,000. I felt good about losing it for a good cause. When it came time to pay up let my treasured stache be cut off, the employees had me sit on a stool in front of our auditorium and caped me up with a traditional white barber's cape. The four largest contributors were brought up on the stage. The first would snip off the left handle bar, the second the right curl, and then the final two would lop off what remained on either side. The cheers were deafening as my first curl was snipped off. Each whack with the scissors raised the ante. The crowd was going wild. The last guy with the scissors asked me how it felt to be stripped of my big showy mustache. When the cheering died down, I made the mistake of quipping that 'since you raised twice as much as the goal we set, I should let you cut off my hair as well!'"

"I think I can guess what happened next!" I laughed.

"Yep, in a flash, he grabbed me by my wavy hair that and plunged the scissors right into it, right at the scalp! I knew better than to squirm. I protested vocally, but instantly heard that awful crunching sound and watched him fling a huge clump of my severed waves onto the cape. He called for volunteers to come up from the audience and play barber. The employees had a wonderful time hacking away at my hair. Oh, wait, I've got it all documented on my cell phone -- my friend emailed me the video clip he took of the whole divestiture!"

The fellow pulled out his phone and played the whole amateur barber scene for me. The look on his face when they started going after his hair was precious! Total shock and horror. But by the time the amateur hack job ended, he was quite enjoying himself, holding up clumps of cut hair and acting weepy. After the cutting stopped, there was a huge outburst of love and affection for the beloved boss who put his showy mustache on the line for a charity cause and then allowed himself to be totally humbled in an impromptu manner!

"Gee, you seem to be a perfect boss," I commented wistfully. "Wish I worked for someone like you who would go through with that. Actually, I wished I worked for anyone at all! That's why I need to cut my hair. I've been unemployed for months....and, I guess it's about time to shed this hair. Got a big interview tomorrow -- and I'm going straight from here to the barbershop to have this cut very short. People keep telling me I need to look more professional."

This led to my bald coffee partner asking me about my qualifications and what sort of job I was interested in.

"You want to work for a nice guy like me, why not? I'm hiring. And, I know what an unwanted radical haircut feels like. It sucks!" he joked.

"Hey, you don't look bad like that, although I admit it's a huge change. Not just the 'stache, but you had some really great hair too!" I commented.

"Okay, then I'm offering you a job! Mid-level manager. Starting salary $76,000 with full health benefits and pension plan. Yep, we still offer those!" he noted.

"Sure! That's amazing. Where do I sign?! And no grooming policy?" I asked incredibly.

"Nope! Bald like me or hair to the floor. Just as long as you do your job," he said with a cheerful voice. "So you really don't think this looks bad?" he asked earnestly, rubbing his bald head. "I just can't get used to it, no mustache and no hair. I hate the bald look and feel."

"If you could do it all over again, would you?" I asked.

"I can assure you I'd stay away from the whole thing.... Rather throw $10,000 into the charity pot myself. I feel so vulnerable now. Especially the shaved head," he confided.

"But to your employees, you're a hero. To me too!" I said, trying to encourage him.

"Sure, you can say that, sitting there comfortably with that lush long hair you love and that fantastic 'stache!" he exclaimed. "Has anyone ever told you that you look just like that new age pianist, Yanni?!"

I pawed nervously at my hair and felt my lovely mustache. My mouth dried up and my throat felt constricted, like no air was getting through.

"Would you....?" I began nervously. "Would it make a difference if...." I cleared my throat. "What I want to say is that, well, uh, let's you and me go straight to the barbershop from here. Have the old man take me down to the wood, just like you. The mustache too! Shaved off. And, tomorrow, there will be two of us showing up to work, feeling scared and vulnerable."

"You'd do that for me?" he gasped.

I just nodded 'yes'.

"Let's go then!" he exclaimed in an animated tone. "I want to see you bald, Buddy, just like me! We'll lean on each other tomorrow...."

He jumped up, eager to go. But, I dawdled.

His face fell. "Oh, you just said that....not expecting me to agree. I get it." I sat there, numb, feeling ashamed. He continued, "But, I don't go back on my word. Here's my business card. When you report to the office, tell them that you're the new hire in EMV's managerial team." He mumbled inaudibly as he turned away with a sad look on his face.

My hands trembled as I looked at the card. "Roy, please! I meant......" But, by then, he was gone.

Now, I'd really blown it! My wretched hair ruined it again for me. I wanted to be free of its hold on me. I wanted it all off -- every last bit of it. Even the stubble! I wanted the barber to shave me clean. I would show up for my new job with a total chromedome!

I stood, resolutely, and walked to the door. It would be straight to the barbershop for me! I would give the word with steely determination. "Shave it all off!" I walked out the door of the coffee shop and headed for the barbershop. Tears of anger welled up in me. Why had I let Roy down when he'd been so kind to me?

I marched right up to the glass door of the barber shop and pulled it open. A strange and scary world awaited for me. The two barbers who were working on clients looked up at me, and the third who was fiddling with the cash register also turned to see me in the door.

"Here for a haircut?" the barber at the cash register asked.

"Yes," I answered firmly, without an emotion in my voice.

"Then have a seat there -- the chair near the window. I'll be with you momentarily," the barber instructed.

I watched myself ease into the chair. I'd never been in a barbershop before. I was still upset with myself and totally convinced that my long, pampered hair needed to be dealt with harshly. I squirmed uneasily. I studied my glorious mustache in the mirror. It was my crown jewel.

I squirmed again and glared at myself. Then the decision was made. The mustache would come off to! My cock stirred. Yes, all my hair and the mustache would be shaved off. My heart beat rapidly. It was the treatment I needed.

The old man strolled up to me and grabbed a cape from the pile. He shook it open and began some banter about the weather. Then he turned to my hair. "So, what'll it be? Seems like you haven't been in a barber's chair for a while, young man."

I gripped the arm rests. It was the moment of truth. My voice was firm, "I want it all shaved off. Hair, mustache -- every bit of it."

I heard a slight murmur go through the shop. The old barber cast the cape about me as he smiled slightly. "That's a pretty drastic change for you," he said beginning to brush my hair after securing the cape with a huge metal clip. "Shaved off with the clippers to the 0000 length short enough? Or do you want me to go all the way with hot lather and a razor for a very smooth finish?"

"Lather, razor -- the works," I stated flatly. "I need a big change.

I eyed the line of clippers hanging from the formica-clad counter. Which one would the barber select? They all looked menacing.

To my surprise, he took the comb and shears out of the tunic's breast pocket and snag a thick lock. After pumping the shears open and shut momentarily he lopped off the first chunk of my hair. It fell with a flourish to the cape. The barber's hands moved in rapid motion, lifting and chopping away at my hair -- taking the cascading locks down to less than an inch in length on the sides. My right ear was quickly uncovered. Even though I was just minutes into my haircut, the cape was almost solidly covered with long chunks of my dark hair. There was no turning back!

"So, what's the big occasion?" the barber asked, as he took a pause from snipping away at my hair.

I cleared my throat. "New job," I said, offering up as little info as possible.

The barber resumed, this time, hacking away at the back. He was removing all the bulky length. "And they want you bald? Going to be a firefighter or something where the hair is a hazard to you?"

"Something like that," I replied, thinking that my long hair had been a hazard to my character in that it fostered arrogance and vanity. "Actually, I didn't have to get it all cut off. It's just something I decided to do."

The barber was working on the left side. Both ears were exposed. He combed back the long, uncut bangs. "You're looking might fine here with a short-back-and-sides, young man. Are you sure you want it all shaved off? Especially the mustache. Don't see many like that anymore," the barber noted with a tinge of sadness in his voice.

I squirmed in the chair. He was right! I looked dignified, yet a tad flamboyant, with the look currently in the mirror.

"No, I want everything shaved off," I said, overcoming my own hesitation.

"Very well, then," the barber snapped, reaching for the clippers.

I watched with dreaded fear (and anticipation!). The big black machine came towards my head. With a click, it roared to life. The barber clamped a firm hand atop my head and shoved it forward. My looked down at a lap full of cut hair. I deserved this punishment! Then I felt the clippers being driven up the back of my head -- very tight, very close.....taking everything off to the scalp.

"You'll find the baldy cut a lot more practical," the barber noted, as if trying to console me.

I didn't respond. I stayed cowed and submissive in the chair. I felt glad he was going to take off my 'stache and lather shave my head. And I hoped I looked ridiculous with no hair. Very awkward and vulnerable. Very self conscious with no hair. That's how I wanted to feel.

The barber manipulated my head around as he clipped away all the growth. Finally, I got a chance to glance up at the mirror. My stomach churned. Half of my hair was gone. Then the barber instructed me to sit up straight.

Then, he broke away from cutting my hair and joined in a conversation with the other geezers in the shop about the elections. "If you asked me, Donald Trump should get the cut this fellow I've got here has requested. Zippo hair. Shaved clean! Rubio too -- he should be ashamed of that combover he's got going."

Then he turned to me, "Your hair wasn't starting to thin, was it?"

"No -- nor go gray. It was thick and full and luxuriant...." my voice trailed off. I was using the past tense.

"Well, it's not anymore," the barber said, snapping on the clippers. With three quick drives over the top of my head, it was gone! My head was clipped bald, save the pelt of stubble that remained.

He turned off the clippers and reached for a much smaller set. Then the barber wrenched my head back. He was going towards my mustache with the edger!!

"No," I gasped. "I've changed my mind. Not the mustache!" My heart was beating wildly. That had been a close call.

The barber took his comb and ran it through the only hair remaining on my head a few minutes. It was thick and luxuriant. "Shall I at least clip it down a bit. It's quite over grown. A little clipper over comb action to reduce the bulk and length?" he asked.

"Okay," I conceded.

The snippets of black hair were like fireworks exploding from the edging clippers. He paused to survey his work, smiling with approval at how he'd trimmed my large 'stache.

"Uh," my voice felt dry and restricted. "Go ahead and shave the whole thing off. That's really what I....." my voice trailed. I didn't need to explain.

"Really? If you're sure," the barber said, striking a doubtful tone.

Then, in a flash the clippers decimated it! He stripped the whole thing from my lip. Now I looked BALD! I steadied my lip from quavering and betraying emotion or regrets.

The barber pulled off the cape, laden with cut hair and carefully shook it out, before replacing it around my neck. Then the barber reached for the lather. "You're going to enjoy this!" he said, as he began massing it into my scalp.

I longed to feel the razor taking away the remnants of my vanity. Scraping it away from my character. Shaving me down to a pure, bald state.

The first swipe of the razor across my scalp sent a chill down my spine. It felt wonderful! I eagerly awaited the next scraping movement. I closed my eyes, picturing myself with no hair. Walking into my new job -- saying hello to Roy -- totally stripped down to the bare, shiny scalp.

The barber was skillful with the razor. I opened my eyes. It was hard to tell where the snowy white lather ended and the snowy white scalp appeared.

Then the barber lathered up my 'stache. It was the only part that I truly lamented was gone. He scraped away the stubble and I saw a naked lip.

"You're looking quite different," noted the barber.

The reality sunk in. I looked unrecognizable! I leaned over and looked down at the floor. My trophy hair was being trampled on by an old codger barber. My luxurious mustache was gone. I was bald. The warm towel wiping away the lather, followed by the sting of witchhazel announced my transformation was complete. I was hairless.

As I left the shop, I recalled the scene of Roy first emerging with a bald head -- the inability to keep his hands off. I stumbled in disbelief down the sidewalk. The nippy breeze felt like daggers against my sensitive scalp.

I pulled out Roy's card and dialed his cell phone number. Ring, ring..... "Roy here," came the clipped voice.

"I did it, Roy. I'm bald -- just like you. Scraped clean. Long hair, mustache....everything." There was a hint of pride in my voice -- not puffed up, arrogant pride....but a satisfaction with myself that I'd done the right thing. I would stand with solidarity to Roy.

"You didn't! Just for me?" Roy gasped in muffled joy.

"I want to show you the new, hairless me," I said. "Can I buy you a drink?"

"Yes, I can't wait to see you! At Kelsen's bar, near the barbershop. Do you see where that is?" he asked.

"Yep, I'm standing right in front of it," I noted.

"I'll meet you in the ally, to the side of the building -- ten minutes. Can't wait!" Roy exclaimed.

The hoot of glee rang throughout the ally. "You did it!" In a flash, Roy's hands were all over my bald head. I pressed my lips against his.

"Feels strange with no mustache," I noted when we came up for breath.

"And you won't grow yours back -- or your hair either. I love the feel of this smooth scalp," he said as he caressed my sensitive skin.

"No, I promise not to. Neither of us will...." I murmured.

Roy cracked a grin. "Oh, yes, I will! Not you, though. I'll grow back my beautiful handlebar mustache and lovely wavy hair. I want you to see me at my best and to run your fingers through my soft wavy hair."

"But I'm to remain bald....?" I sniveled, feeling hurt.

"Yes, lather shaved each morning. Clean, clean...vulnerable looking just like now," Roy instructed. "In fact, I may shave you myself."

It was a just punishment for the way I'd treated Roy earlier. "I understand. Yes, I accept that," I murmured.

"And when my hair is thick and full and shiny and at its prime, and my mustache is stunning and ostentatious, then I will hand you a set of shears and say, 'go for it!' I will sit submissively while you begin cutting it off...taking me down to your level....then submit to the clippers....and finally allow you to shave me down to nothing. Just like you. And we'll both never sport head or facial hair again."

"I will enjoy that very much," I whispered as I pulled his bald head toward mine. For the moment, we were equals.

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