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Flattop John 2 (Part 1 of 4) by JB

>AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a continuation of my story: "Flattop John". Many of the characters
and situations are carried over from that story.

|||||||||| Flattop John 2 ||||||||||

----------- Part 1 -----------

_|||| Crewcut Carlos ||||//_

Nick Henderson, ex-Marine and owner of Nick's Barbershop was up and about before first light.
He has a small cabin situated on 6 acres of scrub brush and trees nestled amongst rolling hills
about 5 miles outside of town.

He went out to the chicken house, woke up the rooster, and poured cracked corn into the feed
trough. He chopped some firewood, changed the oil in his pickup, and when the sun finally came
up, he cleared some brush and cleaned his favorite hunting rifle.

He went inside, took a shower, threw on some clean clothes, scraped the stubble off his face,
brushed his flattop up to perfection, whittled off several chunks of venison for Jake, his German
Shepherd, and fixed himself a large plate of ham and eggs with toast and coffee (black).

Before getting into his truck and heading off to work, he admonished Jake to look after the place
while he was away. Jake looked at him with intelligent eyes and understood every word Nick
told him, sort of. Nick started up the pickup and headed down the dirt road in a cloud of dust.

By the time he arrived at his shop and turned over the OPEN sign in the window, the early
morning birds were still chirping and he already had a good 5 o'clock shadow darkening his face.

At the same moment that Nick was opening his shop, John Kovich, formerly Johnny Kovich,
was awakened by his clock radio: "...hot for the first week in June. Looks like 1979 is shaping up
to be a record breaker with the mercury expected to hit the 90 degree mark, so stay cool out
there. Continuing our top-40 countdown; moving up to the #3 spot, here's the Captain & Tennille
with 'Do That To Me One More Time'..." John reached over and slapped the radio into silence as
he climbed out of bed.

When he entered the bathroom, he stopped short with a shocked look on his face as he caught his
flattopped reflection in the mirror. Then, as he became more awake, he remembered the events of
the previous day and a big grin replaced the shocked expression.

After showering and toweling off, he stepped into some boxer shorts and stood in front of the
mirror, "Man, my hair is nearly dry already," he thought. He grabbed his comb off the counter,
one of those large-toothed long-handled jobs that he stuck in his back pocket when he was out
and about. He ran it through his flattop a few times with little or no effect, "Guess I need to get
one of those brushes Nick used on me yesterday." He bent his head down over the sink and got
his hair wet again. Using the comb and his blow dryer, he managed to get his flattop standing up
good and proper. He reached for the jar of Butch Wax, then set it back down, "I think I'll go with
the dry look today." He spent the next few seconds looking at his reflection; bending his head
down to admire his landing strip, turning his head left and right, rubbing his stubbly chin.
Yesterday morning at this time, he was still 'Johnny' with his long, layered, feathered-back hair,
parted in the middle, "Geez, I don't look anything like I used to...the flattop, the stubble,...even
my chest is hairier...OK maybe not, but I definitely look more manly...more like Nick." He
laughed at himself, "I could be Nick's little brother." He rubbed his chin, "Wonder if I should
keep the stubble...Naw, my boss wouldn't like that...but he'll love this haircut!" He grabbed his
Norelco and buzzed the scruff off his face, "That's better. Now I'm ready for the razzing I'm
gonna get at work."

A few minutes later he arrived at the Chevy lot where he worked. As he got out of his car, he
was thinking of ways to get some of the guys at work to pay a little visit to Nick's shop where,
with a bit of luck and Nick's hunting skills, he wouldn't be the only guy at the lot with a flattop.

At the same moment that John arrived at the car lot, Carlos Martinez was enjoying a hearty
breakfast of Froot Loops, leftover pizza, root beer, and some sort of authentic Mexican stew his
mom sent home with him last week when he visited his parents. He couldn't remember exactly
what his mom said was in the stew but he thought it was sweet potatoes, chili peppers, and
armadillo. Whatever it was, it was tasty.

Carlos put his dirty dishes in the sink, to mingle with the weeks worth already there. He sat down
to write a list of things he wanted to do before showing up for his shift at the 7-Eleven later that

- shop for Father's Day gift
- go to grocery store
- get latest Atari game cartridge
- haircut

His plan was to do everything on the list except the haircut, come home, then leave for work
about 45 minutes early so he could get his haircut at Nick's shop, next door to the 7-Eleven, and
go straight from there to work. Thinking about the haircut, Carlos walked over to the hall mirror.
His hair was parted slightly to one side, giving it a bit of flair compared to the center-parted
guys. It was long, even by his own standards; well below his ears and collar. He thought about
his co-worker, Sam, showing up yesterday looking like a Marine. And that guy, John, with his
flattop, just like Nick's, "Yes. Those gringos, they are definitely loco," he said to his reflection.

John was in the 'luxury car' lot, where they sold the Camaros, the Corvette Stingrays and the
Monte Carlos. He was tying red, white, and blue balloons to the cars and setting out starburst
pinwheels, gearing up for the month-long July 4th sale. He glanced up and saw Kyle Erickson
walking toward him wearing his usual fashionably-colored dress shirt and tie. Kyle was lord and
master of the luxury car lot. He was only a couple of years older than John but he'd been in
charge of the high-end lot for 3 years now and made sure everybody knew it. His sun-streaked,
dark blond wavy hair and mustache with sideburns down to his jawline, coupled with his
Hollywood good looks allowed Kyle to move up the ladder rather quickly.

Kyle strutted over, "Well what have we got here?"

"OK, here it comes," John thought, "Here come the flattop jokes."

Kyle continued, "Looks like Johnny had an accident with a weed whacker, (huh,huh,huh)."

John had to smile. Despite everything Kyle had going for him, he had a moronic laugh, which
some of the guys on the lot mimicked behind his back. "Hi, Kyle," he said flatly without looking
up, "Are you talking about my haircut?"

"Oh, is that what yer callin' it? Whatsa matter, did yer dad punish you for not mowin' the lawn?

"Just thought it was time for a change, that's all. Besides, it's a lot cooler without all that hair
hangin' in my eyes." John looked at Kyle, "I don't see how you can stand it, man. Your hair is
plastered to yer forehead from the sweat." A momentary frown crossed Kyle's face. John thought
he saw a bit of self-doubt there, and liked it. He was starting to get that 'thrill of the hunt' feeling
that Nick gets when he stalks his 'prey', and he liked that, too. He was determined to get Kyle
into Nick's shop. He didn't have to be subtle about it like Nick, he just had to get him there, "You
oughta get a trim Kyle. Y'know, to beat the heat. Go to Nick's Barbershop, that's where I got
mine cut."

"Yer crazy, man. I'm not gonna let some old codger whack my hair off."

"Nick's a young guy, not much older than you. And he does all styles of haircuts, long and
short...He'll cut yer hair any way you want," John told him truthfully. What he didn't tell Kyle
was that after Nick's Jedi mind-trick, he would likely want a really short haircut, and get it.

"Well I'm not in the market for a haircut, lot-boy," Kyle sneered, "So you just keep playin' with
yer balloons while I sell some cars."

As Kyle turned to walk away, John saw a troubled expression on his face and saw him wipe the
sweat from his forehead with his sleeve. John grinned, "Maybe. Just maybe."

A few minutes later, as John was tying the last of the balloons, he saw Mike Brewer
approaching. Mike had straight, dark brown hair; nearly identical to John's before he got it cut.
Mike dressed and acted like Kyle, or tried to- he couldn't quite pull off either one. A foot shorter
and a year younger, Mike wasn't the brightest guy on the lot. But Kyle was his hero and it was
Kyle who put in a word for him to get him assigned to the high-end lot. John wasn't sure why
Kyle did that; probably just to have a little puppy follow him around and idolize him.

"Hey Kovich," Mike began, "Have you seen Ky...Whoa! Dude, what happened to yer hair, man?
You look like some dork from the fifties (huh,huh,huh)." He had adopted Kyle's moronic laugh,
but it sounded more natural coming from Mike.

John shrugged his shoulders, "Just felt like it was time for a change. Been thinkin' about getting
a shorter cut for a while now. With the days gettin' hotter, this seemed like the right time."

"Yeah but, dude! That's a BIG change! Why didn't you just get it cut above yer ears or

John shrugged his shoulders again, "I sometimes wondered what it would be like to have a really
short haircut...haven't you?"

Mike got a confused, far away look in his eyes, "Yeah...I guess...I don't know."

John started to walk down the aisle, "Kyle went that way a few minutes ago." He decided to play
upon Mike's hero worship of Kyle, "Y'know Mike, maybe you should get a haircut, too. I think
Kyle might be gettin' a trim soon. I mentioned Nick's Barbershop to him. That's where I got my

As John walked away, Mike stood there a second, the rusty gears turning in his head, "Yeah,
man...Thanks...I'll think about it."

Later that afternoon, John's boss, Mr. Richard Stafford, "Big Dick", owner and manager of
Stafford Chevrolet/Jeep was making his daily rounds inspecting his lots. He could have someone
else do the 'walk-arounds' as he called them, but he liked to keep tabs on things himself.
Moderately conservative is a phrase that could be used to describe Mr. Stafford: his politics, his
religion, he's never seen in public without a suit and tie, and his steel-gray hair is worn in a
businessman's tapercut. He's also 100 pounds overweight, and on this hot June day he was
frequently wiping his forehead with his handkerchief as he made his rounds.

John was busy washing a Camaro when Mr. Stafford spotted his flattop haircut from down the
aisle. Intrigued, he walked over to John, "Kovich, isn't it?"

John looked up to see his boss, "Yes sir. Johnny, er, John Kovich."

Mr. Stafford looked up at John's flattop and motioned with his hand, "Have you, uh, have you
always had that haircut, John?"

"No sir, just got it cut yesterday!" John replied with a smile, "I heard it was gonna be hot today
and I just sorta got it cut on a whim I guess."

"Well that took some courage. I like that. Sets a good example. I like that, too...How long have
you worked here, John?"

"About a year and a half, sir."

"And you enjoy your job here?"

"Sure...all though, I'm hopin' to move up in the ranks, eventually."

Mr. Stafford thought for a bit, "It so happens we have an opening for a salesman over in the
pickup truck lot. Outdoorsmen, sportsmen, do-it-yourselfers; they want a salesperson they can
relate to. With your confident attitude, and that haircut, you'd fit the bill just fine. What do you

John beamed, "Wow. You bet, sir! I'd like that a lot!"

Mr. Stafford grinned his approval, "Of course, the pay will be much better, too."

"Thanks Mr. Stafford. Thanks a lot!"

"Call me Big Dick, John. All my friends and close associates call me Big Dick." It took a mighty
effort, but John managed to keep a straight face. His boss' nickname had been a long-standing
joke around the lot. His co-workers (and himself) snickering behind his boss' back. Mr. Stafford
however, was totally oblivious to the risque nature of his sobriquet.

With his new-found confidence, John decided enough was enough and that it was time to let Mr.
Stafford in on the joke, "Err, about that nickname, sir..."

John proceeded to clue his boss in on the anatomical innuendo of his name. His boss' face grew
more horrified by the second, "Good Lord!" he said, ".........Good Lord!" he repeated, "Well,
(hrumph)[cough] that won't do at all, will it?" He put his hand to his chin and thought for a bit,
"Well, my wife has had me on a diet for a few months now.......How about... Little Dick!" he said
with a proud grin.

John laughed out loud, then stifled himself when he saw the serious look on his boss' face,
"Sorry sir, I thought you were joking....Um, Little Dick sorta has the same problem as Big Dick
...only in reverse."

"Good Heavens!" he said, "I guess my brain just isn't wired to think like that."

John thought for a sec, "Well sir, how about Big Rick? It sounds about the same and it doesn't
have that...other meaning."

His boss mulled it over, "Hmm...Big Rick...Yes. Yes, I like the sound of that." Mr. Stafford
looked at John with respect, "You know, John, that took guts; to confront me about my, uh,
nickname. Thank you."

"Well, to tell you the truth sir, until today I don't think I would've had the confidence...must be
the haircut," he added with a grin.

"Indeed. It's a fine looking haircut. Um, where did you get it cut?..If you don't mind me asking."

"Not at all, sir. I got it cut at Nick's barbershop, about 2 miles fro..."

"Oh, Nick's! That explains it then. He cuts my hair too. Great guy, Nick. A real go-getter. We
met when he bought his pickup from my lot...That reminds me, I'll see you over at the truck lot
starting tomorrow, John."

"Yes sir, Big Rick. I'll be there!" John replied with a grin.

"Big Rick," Mr. Stafford mused, "Yes, I like that," he said as he continued with his walk-around.

Mr. Stafford rounded the corner and started up another aisle where he came upon Kyle and
Mike. He heard the last of a conversation the two were having: "...well if yer not going, then I'm
not either," Mike said. Kyle spotted Mr. Stafford first, "Hey, boss. Making yer rounds?"

"Yessiree. How's business going today, boys?"

Kyle shuffled his feet a bit, "Not too good. Been pretty slow...I think folks are waiting for the
4th-of-July-Sale prices to kick in."

Big Rick took his handkerchief out and mopped his forehead again, "No doubt, no doubt."

Mike, feeling left out, chimed in, "Hot enough for ya, Big Dick?" Mike used his boss' (now old)
nickname as often as he could, mainly just to let everyone else know that he was in on the joke.

Mr. Stafford blushed a bit, "(Hrumph) Yes...well, I've decided to go with a new nickname. Y'all
can call me Big Rick from now on...I'd appreciate it if you two passed the word along to the rest
of the staff."

Kyle sensed Mr. Stafford's awkwardness, "Sure thing, boss. Consider it done."

Big Rick brightened up to his usual self, "To answer your question, Brewer: Yes it is hot enough
for me. Too hot, in fact. I'm sweating like a pig." He suddenly realized that he compared himself
to a fat farm animal and glanced at the other two's faces for a reaction. He saw none, and so
brightened up again, "Kovich, John, over there in the other aisle has the right idea. Have you two
seen his haircut?"

"Yes sir, we have."

"Then you know what I'm talking about; a nice short haircut to beat the heat. Yes sir, a mighty
fine haircut, indeed." Kyle and Mike glanced at each other, not sure where this was heading. Big
Rick continued, "I think I'll stop at Nick's barbershop and get a little trim." He studied Kyle and
Mike's hair, "You two could use a trim as well...Oh, I'm not expecting you to get a flattop like
John, just a trim, you understand. Folks react better to a well-groomed salesperson...Go to Nick's
place, it's a couple miles down the road, next to the 7-Eleven. He'll take care of you." Big Rick
turned and continued down the aisle with his walk-around.

Mike waited till their boss was out of earshot, "Looks like we'll be getting those haircuts after

Kyle added, "And we'd better go to this guy 'Nick's barbershop if we want to keep on the boss'
good side."

Carlos parked his car behind the 7-Eleven in his usual spot and walked up the driveway that
separates the store from Nick's shop. As he rounded the corner to the front of the barbershop he
met a young redheaded guy coming out of the shop grinning and rubbing his butched head.
Carlos looked at the guy's bristly haircut, "Ay,ay,ay," he thought. With all the guys around him
getting short haircuts, Carlos was beginning to think he had entered the Twilight Zone or
something. He entered Nick's shop.

Nick had his back to the door, sweeping a large mound of red hair off the floor. Carlos had never
been in Nick's shop before, even though he saw Nick almost daily coming into the 7-Eleven for
cigarettes and such. Up until now, he got his hair 'styled' at the HairLoft salon closer to where he
lived. The old-timey, rustic feel of Nick's shop was a far cry from the ultra-modern decor of the
salon. Looking around, Carlos noted that all the guys in the old photos on the wall had flattops,
crewcuts, and other short haircuts. Many kinds of clippers hung on a wooden rack close to the
sturdy leather and chrome chair, like torture devices from the Spanish Inquisition. And of course,
there were the antlers mounted up near the ceiling. Carlos concluded it was a mistake to come
here and was about to leave when Nick looked up and saw him in the doorway, "Hey...Carlos!"
Nick immediately sensed Carlos' uncertainty and came up with a plan of action to put his
customer at ease, "...Wonderin' if you came to the right place, huh? Yer probably used to one of
those modern salons with their lady barbers and potted plants, right?"

"Something like that," Carlos replied.

Nick smiled and patted the back of the barber chair, "Well take a seat, my friend. I'll cut yer hair
exactly how you want it, I promise."

After their talk yesterday, John was dying to find out what kind of haircut Carlos ended up with.
So after work he stopped at the 7-Eleven on his way home like he did the day before. When he
went inside, Sam was behind the counter tending to a customer. John smiled as he saw that Sam
was wearing a khaki green military T-shirt to go with his boot camp butch haircut. As the
customer left, Sam turned to John and grinned, "I bet I know why you're here."

"You'd probably win that bet."

"...Carlos," they both said at the same time, and laughed.

John pointed at Sam's shirt, "I see you took my advice and got yerself one of those Army surplus

"Yeah, and you know what? People are respecting me more, calling me 'sir' and stuff. I think I
like it...How about you, how'd it go at work?"

John beamed, "Yer lookin' at Stafford Chevrolet's newest pickup truck salesman, my friend!
...and yeah, I got the expected haircut jokes from the jerkiest guys all right...I tried sending 'em to
Nick's for a 'little trim', we'll see," he grinned, "My boss loves the flattop; turns out Nick is his
barber, too. He was impressed enough to offer me a sales position, and the pay raise that goes
with it."

"Wow. All that from a haircut?"

"Well that, and my confident attitude...Come to think of it, the attitude is from the haircut, too.
So, yeah," John looked up at the clock on the wall, "Carlos is workin' today, right?"

"Yeah. He should be here any minute." Sam glanced out the drive-up window, "His car's
here...he must be in Nick's shop right now."

Carlos used his key to let himself into the 7-Eleven through the delivery entrance on the side of
the building. He walked through the employees-only area to where Sam was standing and gave
his usual greeting, "Hola amigo!" Sam and John swiveled their heads to see what kind of haircut
Carlos ended up with- what kind of trophy went up on Nick's wall. The grins fell from their faces
when they saw Carlos with his hair intact. Seeing their expressions, Carlos turned to look behind
him, to see what they were staring at, "What's wrong with you two? You look like a kid at the
circus whose balloon just popped."

The other two picked their chins up off the floor and composed themselves. Sam, "Well, you said
you were gonna get a haircut. We were just wondering what cut you ended up with, that's all.
Guess you didn't get it cut after all, huh?"

"I did get it cut. You can't tell? It's almost 2 inches shorter than it was."

"And you got it cut at Nick's?"

"Dios mio. YES, I got it cut at Nick's. I just came from his shop next door. Ay,ay,ay...What is
with all these questions, man?"

John spoke up, "Nothing really. We just thought you would get some sorta short
haircut...y'know, like us."

"Why would I do that? I'm not crazy like you gringos... Did I tell you your haircuts scare me?
No, no, no. I told you I would never get my hair cut short like that again...Now, is there anything
I should know before you leave? Is the Icee machine still working OK?"

"Yeah, it's working fine, for once." Sam looked at Carlos' haircut again, "Y'know, now that I
look at it, it's actually a pretty good haircut."

"Thanks...Now go. Like I said, your haircuts scare me," Carlos grinned. Sam and John waved to
Carlos and left the store.

Outside the 7-Eleven, John turned to Sam, "So what happened? Where's 'Crewcut Carlos'? Is
Nick losin' his touch?"

"I guess Carlos really, really doesn't want a short haircut...so, unlike us, he can't be swayed by
Nick's smooth-talk...he's immune."

"Hmm, s'pose so...bummer, I was really lookin' forward to seeing 'Crewcut Carlos'. I guess even
Nick misses the target every now and then."

As John and Sam were talking, another car drove up and a young Hispanic guy got out. He
looked over at the other two, "Nice haircuts," he said. His own hair was long and dark, like
Carlos'. John wasn't sure if he was being sarcastic or complimentary, "Thanks," he said anyway.
The guy went in the 7-Eleven as Sam and John said their see-you-laters.

Carlos looked up from behind the counter and grinned, "Heyyy, Miguelito! What brings my little
brother to this part of town? You must be slumming, no?"

Miguel (Miguelito) smiled back at his brother, "Yep, and it looks like I found one of the low-
lifes," he kidded. Unlike Carlos, Miguel had no trace of a Spanish accent. Being 2 years younger,
he's spent nearly all his life in the U.S.- American culture is the only one he's known.

Carlos leaned over and put his elbows on the counter top, "So, did you come here just to insult
me? Perhaps to brag about going to college and being smarter than me?" Miguel was taking a
few classes at the local community college. This was a source of endless teasing by both
brothers. It's not that Miguel was smarter than Carlos, he was just more ambitious.

Miguel grinned slyly and ran a hand through the bangs on his forehead, "Smarter, and I'm better
looking too." And he was. Miguel was 4 inches taller than his older brother and generally more
handsome. He continued, "When Mom and Dad had you, it was a test case. They saw what they
did wrong and gave me all the good genes," he grinned. Carlos rolled his eyes.

Miguel decided that was enough kidding for now and changed the subject, "I saw a couple of
guys in the parking lot just now, a Marine and a guy with a flattop. I think I recognized one of

"Yeah, the 'Marine' is Sam- the guy I work with. You've seen him once or twice before. He used
to have long hair then, like a normal person. And he's not a Marine, he just looks like one
(ay,ay,ay). The other guy I don't know too well, he came in yesterday with that flattop that Nick
gave him. He used to have long hair too." Carlos shook his head in bewilderment.

"Who's Nick?"

"He's the owner of the barbershop next door," Carlos gestured with his thumb, "I just came from
there a few minutes ago."

"Yeah, I noticed your hair's shorter than it was when we were at Mom and Dad's last week; not
bad." Miguel thought about their visit, "How'd you like that stew Mom sent home with us?"

"The armadillo stew? I'm still working on it."

"Armadillo!...psssh. That was rattlesnake, bro...but maybe you oughta ditch the rest of it. It must
be getting pretty ripe by now."

"Still tastes OK to me."

Miguel subtly shifted the conversation again, "Speaking of haircuts, have you come up with a
Father's Day gift for Dad yet? It's this Sunday you know."

Carlos looked exasperated, "Yes, I know. I spent 2 hours today looking for a gift...He doesn't
need a wallet...or a necktie, he hardly ever wears the ones he has..." Carlos narrowed his eyes
and looked suspiciously at his little brother, "But what does that have to do with haircuts?"

Miguel grinned, "Everything, big brother. It's the perfect gift for Dad."

Carlos sensed where this was going and started talking over his brother, "Oh no,no,no,no."
Miguel continued, "Think about it! When we were at their house last week, Dad kept going on
about how our hair was too long." "no,no,no,no" " How good we used to look with our butch
haircuts." "no,no,no. Ay Chihuahua! That is not going to happen. You are as loco as those two
gringos, mi hermano."

Miguel knew his brother was touchy about his hair and he would need time to come around to
the idea, "Well that's what I'm getting Dad, a butch haircut just like he used to give us. Father's
Day is still a few days away; think it over, bro. I'll wait until I hear from you. We can get our
haircuts together at the shop next door." As Carlos stewed and simmered, Miguel turned to
leave, "Like you said, he doesn't need another tie. The haircuts would make him happy. That's
what counts, right? Give me a call and we'll do it together. So I'll see you later, bro."

After Miguel left, Carlos was a nervous wreck for the rest of his shift, worrying whether to get a
haircut or not. He under-charged one customer, over-charged another. On his way home from
work, he accidentally ran a red light.

He tried playing video games to take his mind off the subject but he kept missing the ball or
crashing the car. At some point it occurred to him that he had already made up his mind, hours
earlier, to get his haircut with his brother. Like Miguel said, it was the perfect gift for their
father. He was just having a hard time overcoming his fear of being ridiculed, like he was back
in high school.

Carlos picked up the phone and called his brother, "You're a little bastardo, you know that don't
you?" At the other end, Miguel grinned, "I knew you'd come around, bro. You always do...How
about tomorrow morning, around 10:00? I have a class in the afternoon." Carlos squirmed at the
thought of actually committing to the haircut, "Ay,ay,ay," he mumbled, "OK, tomorrow morning
at Nick's...Are you sure Dad wouldn't just like a pair of socks?"

Early next morning, John was getting ready for work. He put on a dress shirt and slacks and went
into the bathroom to straighten his tie, "No pull-over shirt and jeans today," he thought, "I'm with
the sales staff now. Gotta look the part." He used a dab of Butch Wax to give his flattop that
well-groomed look.

At the same time, Carlos was still asleep, having a nightmare of himself being back in high
school with a butch haircut.

Nick had already been up for 4 hours and was standing in front of his shop smoking a Camel.

After John arrived at work, the assistant manager walked him through the ins and outs of his new
position as part of the sales staff. An hour later, he was roaming the aisles of the pickup truck lot
keeping an eye out for customers.

Mr. Stafford strolled by on his daily walk-around. As john walked up to meet him he noticed that
his boss' businessman's taper was cut higher and shorter than usual, with just enough left on top
to comb over.

Mr. Stafford smiled, "Well John, how's my new pickup salesman doing?"

"Rarin' to go, boss...No customers so far, though."

"Well, I'm sure it'll pick up soon." His face brightened, "I just made a joke didn't I...
'pick up' / 'pickup', get it?"

Big Rick was not known for his witty humor. John smiled at the lame attempt rather than the
joke itself. He pointed to his boss' haircut, "I see you've been to Nick's."

"Yes indeed. Glad you noticed. I had him take it shorter than usual...guess I was influenced by
your fine haircut, John...I don't think I'm ready for a flattop yet, though."

John smiled, "You'll get there, boss. Wait and see."

"You may be right about that," he studied John's attire, "You're looking mighty dapper this
morning. I like that...all though," he put his hand to his chin, "I wouldn't mind if you wore
something more...casual, more rustic. Flannel shirts and jeans, you know, workingman's clothes.
Customers looking at pickups will relate to that better, put 'em at ease. Just make sure you wear
your nametag so they'll know you're part of the staff." Big Rick gave John an encouraging smile
and continued with his walk-around.

John made a mental note: "Gotta get me some 'Nick clothes'."

As Mr. Stafford disappeared around the corner, Mike Brewer came walking by on his way to the
high-end lot. He had just come from Nick's shop and was sporting a nice tapercut, what Nick
would call a 'real' tapercut: clippered all the way up, with the side-parted top left long enough to
comb (barely). John had the same tapercut 2 days ago for about a minute until he told Nick to
flatten it.

John spotted Mike's haircut and knew that another trophy went up on Nick's wall, "Hey Mike,
nice haircut, man."

Mike looked a little sheepish, "You think so?" He ran his hand up the back of his head, "I
thought so too. Nick said it was the perfect haircut for me...but now I'm not so sure."

"It looks good on you. If Nick says it's the perfect cut for you then you can take that to the bank,
my friend. He knows his stuff...Bet it feels cooler doesn't it?"

"Yeah...I can feel the breeze going past my ears and up my neck...sorta tickles."

"Well I can guarantee the boss will like it"

Mike's face brightened and then got serious again, "Oh yeah, I'm supposed to pass the word
around- Mr. Stafford wants to be called Big Rick now, not Big Dick." He smirked at the end.

"I know. I was the one who suggested the new nickname to him. Didn't seem right having the
staff laughing behind his back."

"Oh." Mike had a confused look on his face. He was sensing new respect for John, and that
conflicted with his hero worship of Kyle.

"Don't worry about the haircut, Mike. If you think it looks good, then it doesn't matter what other
people say. Be proud of it."

"That's what Nick said." His face brightened again, "Thanks, man...See you around." He
continued on toward the high-end lot with a spring in his step.

Carlos had to force every bite of his breakfast down his throat. His stomach was tied in knots
worrying about the haircut he was going to get in a few minutes. Or maybe it was the
armadillo/rattlesnake stew.

On his way out the door, he paused in front of the hall mirror and ran his hand through his bangs,
"Ay caramba. I am as loco as those two gringos."

As Carlos pulled in to the parking lot in front of Nick's shop, he spotted his brother's car and
parked next to it. Miguel stepped out of his car, looked over at Carlos and grinned, "You ready
for this, bro?"

"Ay chihuahua! What do you think? No I am not ready...but let's get this over with so I can stop
worrying, ay,ay,ay."

Knowing full well how Carlos always over-thinks things, Miguel grinned at his brother as they
entered Nick's shop.

Nick was sitting in his barber chair reading the latest American Hunter magazine as the brothers
came through the door. He had a puzzled smile as he lifted himself the chair, "Carlos?!..Your
haircut need adjusting?"

"Hey Nick. No, the haircut is fine. I'm happy with it...This is my brother Miguel..."

Nick smiled, "Oh, so Miguel's here for a haircut. Gotcha."

Carlos looked pained to have to explain the situation, "Yes...well, that is...we thought..."

Miguel took over, "I thought...well, WE thought it would be a good Father's Day gift for our dad
if the two of us got haircuts like he used to give us when we were kids, you know, butch

Nick laughed, "Butched, huh? Now I know why Carlos is so tongue-tied. Yesterday when I was
cuttin' his hair he told me about how he wore a butch haircut well into high school, and that he
would never get it cut that way again," Nick looked from Carlos to Miguel, "You sure you two
are brothers?"

Miguel grinned and swept his hand from the top of his head to the top of Carlos' shorter head,
"Yeah. I'm the 'little' brother. Carlos is 2 years older than me."

Trying to ease Carlos' discomfort, Nick looked at Miguel and joked, "I reckon you inherited all
the 'good' genes in the family."

Carlos rolled his eyes, "Dios mio. Not this again."

Miguel laughed, "That's sort of a long-standing joke between us. I got the smarts and the good
looks, Carlos got...what was it you got again? I forget."

Nick laughed at Miguel's joke then slapped his hands together, "So. Who's gettin' butched first?"

Miguel could see that his brother was still a nervous wreck, "I'll go first," he said, and got into
the barber chair as Carlos took a seat across from him against the far wall.

As Nick prepped him for his haircut, Miguel looked around, "I like the looks of your shop, Nick.
It's what a traditional barbershop should look like."

Nick finished adjusting the cape around Miguel's neck, "Thanks. I think so, too...I don't think
Carlos cares for it much, though."

"It's the antlers," Carlos said, "and all the guys in the photos have flattops and butches and
crews, ay,ay,ay."

Nick grinned, "So. How short of a butch are we talkin' here?"

Miguel thought for a second, "Dad always used a 3/8'' butch comb when he gave us our cuts at
home, so better go with that. Shorter around the ears but still some sideburns showing, OK?"

"You got it: one standard issue medium butch comin' up."

Nick reached over and grabbed the rotary clippers with a #3 guard and took a comb from his
shirt pocket. Miguel exhaled audibly as Nick lifted his bangs up with the comb.

"Ah ha!" Carlos began, "You are just as worried as me about getting this haircut, mi hermano."

"No one in the whole wide world worries about ANYTHING as much as you do, bro...but yes, I
am a bit nervous. This is a big change...and I'm sure I'll get jokes about my haircut, but I'll just
tell them the truth: I got it to make my dad happy on Father's Day."

"Listen to your little brother, Carlos," Nick began, "He knows what he's talkin' about. He's got
the brains in the family, remember?" Nick grinned as he revved up the clippers.

Nick lifted Miguel's bangs again and slid the clippers into his front hairline, across the top and to
the rear of his head. Carlos leaned over to one side to get a better view of his brother. His hair
didn't look all that different; just wider-than-usual down the middle where Miguel kept it parted.
There was no scalp showing through the short hair, at least not from Carlos' vantage point. Nick
mowed another furrow next to the first, and another. In a few seconds the whole top of Miguel's
head had the texture of smooth black velvet. "Ay,ay,ay," Carlos muttered.

Miguel had a sort of transfixed, slack jawed look as he gazed at his reflection. Nick saw his deer-
in-the-headlights look, "Don't worry Miguel, it looks goofy now; short on top, long on the sides;
but in a minute or two I'll have it lookin' clean-cut and ship-shape." Nick placed the clippers at
the bottom of Miguel's sideburns and plowed up to the butched hair on top. He worked his way
around Miguel's head in rapid succession. Carlos saw the long hanks of black hair falling onto
his brother's shoulders and tumbling into his lap. He averted his eyes, looking up at the antlers

Nick switched to a pair of buzzer clippers with a #1 guard and went to work around Miguel's
ears and neck using an up-and-out motion to blend the two lengths together. He loosened the
cape and edged Miguel's neckline, sideburns and the arches over his ears.
"All done." Nick pronounced. From start to finish, the cut took only 5 minutes. Nick handed a
mirror to Miguel and swiveled the chair around, "How's it look?"

Miguel studied his butch from several different angles and brushed his hand back and forth
across the top, "Just like the ones Dad gave us," he grinned, "only better. He was never very
good around the ears...What do you think, bro?"

Carlos begrudgingly looked at his brother's haircut, "It makes your head look too small."

Nick lifted the cape from Miguel, letting the hair fall to the side, "I dunno, Carlos. I think it
makes him look more like a man, more macho." He shook the remaining clippings off the cape
and shoved the mounds of dark hair off to the side with his foot.

Miguel climbed out of the chair, "I'm with Nick. Es muy macho, no?"

"No it is not macho. It makes you look like a little kid."

"Well then, we'll be little kids together...It's your turn, bro...Or are you chickening out?"

Carlos exhaled, "Ay,ay,ay...No I am not chickening out." He walked over and plopped down into
the barber chair, "But your hair is too short, mi hermano. It would not look good on me." He
scanned the photos on the wall, "Maybe Nick could cut my hair like that guy- the one with the
long crewcut."

Nick walked over to the wall and pointed, "This one here?"

"Yes. That one is not so short. I think it would look better on me."

Nick looked at the photo, looked at Carlos, looked at the photo again, "You may be onto
somethin' here, Carlos. That crewcut has a better shape to it; slightly flat on top. Yeah, that
would be a good cut for you."

Miguel sat down in the chair Carlos had been sitting in, "I don't know, bro. The whole idea was
to get matching haircuts, like Dad gave us."

"Ay Caramba! This will be short enough, I tell you."

"Well, you know how Dad is, he likes things to be a certain way...Oh! I just remembered what
genes you inherited; you got Dad's stubbornness and Mom's fussiness," Miguel grinned. So did
Nick, but not Carlos.

Nick fastened the cape around Carlos and began adjusting the tissue strip, "So it's gonna be a
crewcut, right? About an inch long on top, a little longer in front?"

"Yes, that sounds good. And not too short on the sides, I don't want the skin to show through, not
much anyway, longer than Miguel's."

"Gotcha." Nick grabbed the rotary clippers and squirted a little oil on the blades. After
rummaging through a drawer, he came up with a 1'' attachment and snapped it over the clipper
head. Seeing Carlos' sullen expression, Nick figured he'd lighten the mood a bit: He looked over
and caught Miguel's eye, winked mischievously then looked back at Carlos, "All set...here we
go...time t'buzz off all this hair...one crewcut comin' up...yessiree, gonna stand it up real g..."

"Ay Chihuahua! Just do it! Ay,ay,ay!"

Miguel and Nick laughed. Inwardly, Carlos smiled too. But he wasn't about to let the others see

Carlos tensed up as the clippers started to whir and chatter. Nick used a comb to lift up the hair
at the base of Carlos' neck and positioned the clippers underneath. He let the lifted hair flop back
down and moved the clippers slowly up the back of Carlos' head, over the top and halfway to the
front. Lifting the hair again, Nick repositioned the clippers and made another pass, up and over.
Carlos was watching his reflection intently and so far he couldn't see any difference; all the
action was taking place in the rear.
After a few more passes, Nick began working on the sides of Carlos' head. Carlos squinted his
eyes as the whirring of the clippers became uncomfortably loud so close to his ears. He watched
as thick hunks of his dark hair began falling onto his shoulders, "Ay,ay,ay. Why did I let you talk
me into this, Miguelito? I liked the haircut Nick gave me yesterday."

Miguel smiled, "Would you have been happier giving Dad another useless tie instead?"

"Dios mio. Yes! That would have made me very happy!"

"But not Dad, right?"

Carlos groaned and conceded the point, "...no."

"Speak up, bro. I can't here you."

Carlos fumed, "I said NO. It would not make Dad happy." Miguel grinned.

Nick had to smile. He liked seeing the back-and-forth between the two brothers; Miguel sets a
trap and Carlos walks into it.

The clippers powered down and Nick swapped the 1'' attachment for one that was 3/4''. Carlos
took that time to study his cut so far: His long hair was still intact in front while everywhere else
it was clippered to a uniform 1'' length, standing up on top, poking over the tips of his ears.
The whirring started again and Nick quickly ran the 3/4'' clippers up the sides and back,
rounding them over near the crown but still leaving the top 1'' long. The shorter side-hair gave
the cut a more squared-off look.
Nick returned the rotary clippers to their hook and picked up a #2 and-a-half buzzer. With an
abrupt clack, they began to hum and Nick started working them around Carlos' ears and neck,
"I'm leaving yer hair more than twice as long as yer brother's around the ears here. It'll give it a
nice shape without being too short."

Using the same up-and-out motion with the clippers as he did with Miguel's hair, Nick tapered
and blended the shorter, lower sides with the 3/4'' hair higher up. He spent more time with this,
getting the transition smooth and even.

"OK now, time t'get this hair outa yer eyes."

Up until now, Carlos' bangs hung down on his forehead as usual. This had been sort of a security
blanket for him; mentally easing the transition from long hair to short. But now there would be
nothing to hide behind. Carlos squirmed.

Nick positioned himself in front of Carlos and lifted his bangs with a comb. He guided the
clippers through the hair above the comb leaving it an inch and a half long, more or less. Carlos
squirmed again as clumps of his hair tumbled past his eyes, off his nose and into his lap. One of
the clumps lodged itself on the end of his nose causing it to tickle. Nick took a few more passes
to remove the bulk and get it to a manageable length. The lighter load allowed Carlos' springy
hair to partially stand up in front like the rest.
He set the clippers aside and wetted Carlos' hair down. The blow dryer came on and Nick
brushed Carlos' hair fully upright.

Carlos wondered if his haircut was finished, "Is that it? Is it done?" "Not yet, bud...Almost
there." Carlos groaned.

Nick removed the attachment from the clippers and stepped to Carlos' side. As the clippers
clacked on again, he crouched down slightly to get at eye level with the top of Carlos' head. He
ran a comb through the front hair a few more times to make sure it was standing up straight.
Then, leaving the hair 1 1/4'' long at the front, Nick free-handed the clippers front to back,
blending it with the 1'' hair on top. A few more swipes and Carlos' crewcut had the desired
squared-off flatness at the front. Nick caught Carlos' expression, "Not yet."

Nick carefully guided the clippers across the top of Carlos' head, just skimming over the surface
of his hair, taking off about 1/16 of an inch, flattening the top to give Carlos' crewcut a better

Nick hung the clippers on the rack, "OK..." He grabbed hold of Carlos' hair jutting out over the
front, "I left it long enough here so you can play around with it." He shoved the hair over with
his hand, "You can sorta comb it off to the side." He lifted the hair up with a comb, "Add a little
wax to get it standin' up, flattop-style." He pressed the hair down onto Carlos' forehead with his
finger, "If you try really hard you might get it to lay down in front here." Nick studied Carlos'
thick, coarse hair, "...maybe not."

Nick stepped back to admire his handiwork. The top of Carlos' hair, near the back, reminded him
of a dark slow-moving river, picking up speed and angling slightly as it moved forward across
the top, then shooting out over the front like a waterfall spilling over a cliff. Of course, Nick
didn't say any of that artsy-fartsy stuff. What he actually said was: "Your furry head makes ya
look like a mean ol' grizzly bear."

He reached over and vigorously tousled Carlos' hair, pushing his head back and forth. Carlos
furrowed his brow and grinned painfully, "Ay,ay,ay. Stop doing that! You're messing it up!"

Nick laughed and brushed Carlos' hair back up to its former upright perfection, "There ya go;
good as new."

Nick loosened the cape to edge Carlos' neck, "Not much here to clean up after yesterday's cut."
After a few seconds of clipper work, he set the edger aside, grabbed the duster and brushed the
loose hair from Carlos' face, ears, and neck, "So Carlos, what d'ya think?"

Carlos examined his reflection thoughtfully. He reached up and pulled his 'bangs' down as far as
they would go, ran his hand through his hair and watched it spring back into place, he felt (and
heard) the stiff ends of the cut hair as he patted the top.

Miguel was watching his brother's reaction closely, "Hey, you didn't say 'ay,ay,ay', bro. Does
that mean you like your crewcut?"

After a few more seconds of examination, "...Maybe."

Miguel grinned, "That's about as close to a compliment as you're gonna get from him, Nick."

"I'll take it." Nick smiled as he removed the cape.

Carlos got out of the chair and walked over to the mirror on the far wall to get a close-up view.
Miguel joined him, "Well they're not matching haircuts, but I have to admit, that crewcut looks
good on you, bro."

"Yer brother's right, Carlos. You and that haircut were made for each other," Nick said, "That's
the haircut I would've suggested for you." He looked at the two brothers standing side by side,
"And you know what? With those haircuts, Carlos is an inch taller, and Miguel, you're an inch
shorter. Yer almost the same height now."

Carlos brightened up, "Ay chihuahua, you're right!"

Miguel grinned, "See? I told you this was a good idea."

Nick walked over and joined the two brothers. He swiped his hand across the top of Miguel's
butch, "Y'know, if I shaved yer head you'd be 3/8 inch closer in size."

The grin left Miguel's face, "Not gonna happen, dude." He saw Nick grinning and realized he'd
been had. He smiled sheepishly, "Ya got me."

Truth be told, Nick was only half kidding; he was always on the prowl for fresh prey, "Brothers
gettin' buzzcuts for their dad on Father's Day- that's a new one on me...Usually it's the other way
around- A dad dragging his long-haired sons in for a shearing...I'm sure yer dad will appreciate

Carlos reached up and patted the top of his crewcut, "He'd better...after all the trouble and worry
I went through," he cast an accusing eye at Miguel, "This was your idea. If he doesn't like it, it's
all your fault, little brother."

"Relax, bro. He'll like it. And yes, since it was my idea, I'll take all the credit."

Later that afternoon, John stopped by the 7-Eleven on his way home from work again. Without
really thinking about it, he sort of made a habit of it; to shoot the breeze with Sam or to have a
bull session with Nick at his shop.

John was at the checkout counter gabbing with Sam and crunching on a very dry oatmeal cookie
he had bought. Sam could see his friend struggling to get it down, "Just so you know, the frosted
oatmeal cookies are softer and taste better."

"Now you tell me," John replied spewing crumbs from his mouth, "So anyway, this guy I work
with, Mike, shows up sporting a really nice tapercut, clippered all the way up the sides. I
immediately know another trophy went up on Nick's wall, right? And it looks good on him,"
John thought for a bit, "...Nick seems to know what haircut would look best on us doesn't he?
Then he uses his Jedi mind-trick to get us to ask for it... I mean, I plan on keepin' this flattop.
How about you? You gonna keep yer boot camp butch?"

"Maybe. Not sure yet. It's a pretty extreme hairc..."

"Hola amigo!" Carlos walked up beside Sam.

"Hola Carlos," Sam replied flatly without bothering to look up.

"Whoa, Carlos!" John said, spewing more cookie crumbs, "Crewcut Carlos!" More crumbs went

Sam got a little grossed out by the shower of crumbs, "Geez dude! Say it, don't spray it." He
looked over at Carlos. His shocked expression quickly melted into a big grin, "Welcome to the
club, bro!"

Carlos was brushing crumbs from his crewcut hair, "What club? If you mean the crazy-gringos-
with-stupid-haircuts club, then yes, I guess I have joined your club..." He looked at John and
furrowed his brow, "And why did you call me Crewcut Carlos? Are you making fun of me
already? You, with your skunk-stripe haircut?"

John looked a little guilty, "No, no, no. I wasn't making fun of you...like you said, a guy with a
haircut like mine's got no business makin' fun of yours...It looks really good on you...I'm just
surprised you got a short haircut after you said you would never get one again...and 'Crewcut
Carlos' is just a silly nickname Sam and me came up with when we heard you were goin' to
Nick's for a haircut the other day...And here you are- with a crewcut." John ended by shrugging
his shoulders and grinning.

Carlos mellowed out a bit when he heard John's apology, "Well, just so you know, this haircut
wasn't my idea. I was talked into it."

John and Sam glanced at each other and thought the same thing, "Nick!"

Carlos continued, "Anything I should know before you go?"

Sam stepped around the counter to leave, "A burrito exploded in the microwave a couple of
minutes ago. I was getting ready to clean it up...but now that you're here..." He grinned.

"Ay chihuahua. Again?"

"Oh, you might wanna wipe the crumbs off the counter, too."

John gave a sheepish grin, "Sorry. Sam should'a warned me about those cookies...Anything else
you wanna tell me about 7-Eleven food?"

Sam and Carlos both replied, "Don't eat the hotdogs." They all laughed.

As John and Sam headed for the door, Miguel walked in, "Looks like I keep running into you

It took a second for John to recognize him with his butched haircut, "Oh, you're the guy we saw
in the parking lot yesterday," he grinned and echoed Miguel's compliment from the day before,
"Nice haircut."

Miguel grinned back and swiped his hand across his head.

"Heyyy Miguelito!" Carlos brightened up as he saw his brother in the doorway, "...Don't talk to
those gringos too much, their craziness will rub off on you."

"I'll take my chances, big brother."

Sam looked surprised, "Whoa. You two are brothers?...Guess we know who got the 'good genes'
in the family, huh?" He smirked.

Carlos sputtered, "Ay Caramba! It never ends! Now go! Go!" He dismissed them with his hand.

Miguel grinned at Sam, "That's kind of a sore spot with us...You guys go ahead and leave. I'll
calm him down."

The two of them glanced at Carlos again, "Go!" he repeated. They grinned and went out the

Outside, John looked over at Sam, "Wow. Nick's been busy. Both Carlos AND his brother gettin'
buzzed. Pretty soon there's not gonna be any more room left on his trophy wall."

"A two-fer. He must've bagged his limit today," Sam added.

"I'm gonna go see Nick for a minute. You wanna come?"

"Sure." They headed off toward the barbershop.

Miguel walked up to the counter, "Just got back from my afternoon class...wondering how you're
doing with the new haircut. Still freaked out?"

Carlos gave a shrug, "It's not as bad as I thought it would be...those two loco gringos like it. I
don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing."

Miguel grinned, "They seem OK to me, bro. Take it as a good thing." He shifted gears, "About
this Sunday, Mom called and said..."

"Mom called you? Why didn't she call me?"

Miguel sighed in exasperation and began again, "Mom called and said dinner would be around
2:00. I figured I'd swing by and pick you up since your place is along the way, OK? Around

"Yes. That sounds OK...I don't know why Mom would call you and not me."

Miguel ignored his brother's comment, "Mom already knows about our haircuts- I told her on the
phone. She's keeping it a secret from Dad so he'll be surprised when we show up."

"Ay,ay,ay. I have a bad feeling about this."

"Stop worrying, bro. Everything will be fine- you'll see."

- Continues on Part 2

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