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Flattop John 2 (Part 3 of 4) by JB

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

------------- Part 3 -------------

_|||| Kyle's Transformation ||||_

As John continued on toward the pickup lot, he glanced back and saw Kyle looking in the side
mirror of a Corvette, running a hand through his golden locks. John grinned, "Won't be long
now," he thought, then chuckled as the double meaning occurred to him.

- Later that day:

Kyle hardly ever ventured to this part of town, with its sawmills and railroad yards. His Corvette
was used to traveling in more upscale areas; nightclubs and high-end boutiques. He left the
Chevy lot about 2 miles back and was looking for the turnout for Nick's Barbershop. Up ahead,
he spotted the 7-Eleven and slowed to make the turn. The barbershop was on the far side of the
parking lot. He pulled in and parked next to a police cruiser.

Kyle sat in his car thinking, "What am I doing here? I should just go to my regular salon, the
boss won't know the difference." Through the shop window he could see a guy getting his
haircut, "That must be the cop from the cop car...Geez, another flattop. What's with this part of
town, anyway?...I need something to drink." He got out and walked over to the 7-Eleven. As he
entered, he spotted Sam behind the counter with his boot camp butch and khaki T-shirt, "Man,"
he thought, "this guy's hair is even shorter than the others; must be in the military."

"What can I get for ya?" Sam asked.

"Yeah, I'd like a medium 7-Up...sir."

Sam smiled at the "sir" as he filled the cup, "Here you go. Anything else?"

"No thanks. Just the 7-Up." He gave a dollar to Sam and waited for his change. He looked closer
at Sam's haircut, "Hmm," he thought, "not a bad look for a Marine, I guess.

Sam handed Kyle his change, "Thanks for coming in."

Kyle lifted the cup as sort of a salute, "Thanks." He left the store feeling a little bewildered, "Too
many guys around here with short haircuts," he thought. He started off across the parking lot
again as he drank his pop. He saw the cop, still in uniform, get into his car and pull out. Kyle got
back into his car to finish his drink, still unsure what to do next. After a minute or two he finally
decided, "Hell, I'm already here. Might as well go in and get it over with. What's the worse that
can happen? A little too much off the sides?"

When Kyle entered the shop, Nick was sweeping the floor; the landing strip on his flattop
flashing like a warning beacon. Kyle looked at the wall with all the old photos showing guys
with short haircuts- red flags went up.

As Kyle scanned the photos, Nick looked up and saw him standing in the doorway. He quickly
sized up his prey. His thinking went like this: "Hmm...this has to be the guy John talked about,
tall blond guy, Kyle was it?...hair neatly combed...sideburns long and even...mustache
trimmed...good lookin' guy, strutting attitude...alpha male type... high opinion of himself...That's
the key- play to his ego, build 'im up...What's that look in his eyes? Disdain? Fear? Some of
both." Having completed his reconnaissance, he went into stalking mode, "Yes sir, what can I do
for ya?"

- Meanwhile, at the 7-Eleven:

Carlos arrived for work and greeted Sam, "Hola amigo!"

"Hey Carlos. Ready to take over?"

Carlos looked around the store, "Yeah...So where's your friend John? He's usually here talking to
you about crazy gringo stuff."

Sam shrugged, "Don't know. Maybe he had other things to do, you know, crazy gringo stuff."
Sam grinned.

Just then, John came into the store, "Hey guys. I wasn't sure I'd still catch you here Sam, I'm a
little late today. Sold my first pickup!"

Sam congratulated him, "Hey, out'a sight! Way to go, man."

"Mazel tov!" Carlos added. The other two stared at him, "What, you were expecting 'magnifico'
or something?...See, I can make jokes too." He grinned as Sam and John laughed.

"I know you can be funny, Carlos," John began, "Yer always ribbing me about my 'skunk-stripe'

"That wasn't a joke." Carlos deadpanned. They laughed again.

"And yer always calling us crazy gringos." Sam added.

"That wasn't a joke either." Carlos replied earnestly. More laughter. "No really, I wasn't joking!"
As Sam and John continued to laugh, Carlos threw his hands up in exasperation, "Ay Caramba!"
More laughter ensued.

- Back at Nick's shop:

Kyle hesitated in the doorway for a second, debating whether to stay or leave. Finally, his ego
decided for him, "I don't want this barber dude thinkin' I'm afraid of getting a haircut," he
thought. He strutted over to the barber chair and eased himself in, "Happened to be in the
neighborhood; thought I'd get a trim."

Nick, in stalking mode, began caping him up, "You sure? Doesn't seem like ya need a haircut;
that's a great look you got goin' there, my friend...My name's Nick by the way, like the sign says
out front."

"Hi. I'm Kyle, like the license plate says on the 'Vette out front." They both grinned. Kyle
continued, "Yeah, I like the look I've got goin' too. Just need a bit of a trim, is all. My boss
thinks it'll make a better impression on our customers."

Nick inserted the tissue around Kyle's neck and began fastening the cape, "Where abouts do you
work, Kyle?"

"At Stafford's Chevy lot, couple of miles from here. My boss says you cut his hair, too. He
recommended I come here for my trim...well, him and a guy I work with."

Nick smirked, "Thanks John," he thought.

- At the 7-Eleven:

"Oh! I almost forgot," John began, "Guess what? I just saw Kyle's car in front of Nick's shop
when I drove up. He must be in there getting 'Nicked' right now!"

"You sure it was his car?" Sam asked.

"Yeah. There aren't that many Corvettes around here...plus, the vanity license plate said
'KYLE-1'. So yeah, it's him."

Sam furrowed his brow, "Which one is he, now? Gumby?"

"No. Gumby is Mike; short guy, not too smart. Kyle's the tall blond guy with the attitude."

"Oh him...He was just in here a couple of minutes ago; bought some 7-Up...he called me 'sir'.
Guess the haircut is still working its magic." Sam grinned.

Carlos was listening to all this with his mouth half open, not following most of it, "Customers
call you 'sir'? Why?"

"It's the boot camp haircut...and this khaki T-shirt. They assume I'm in the military, so they call
me sir, well some of 'em. The idea, at first, was to scare away any would-be robbers coming into
the store. If they think I'm a rough/tough Marine they might do their business somewhere else."

Carlos shook his head in bewilderment.

"Man," John began. "I'd really like to be over there right now watching Nick do his thing on
Kyle...but I don't wanna spook the prey and ruin the hunt, y'know?...Wonder what haircut he'll
end up with...Hey!" He slapped his head, "I just remembered, I was going to go to Nick's to get
my flattop tuned-up today anyway. That's the perfect excuse to go over there right now...What
about you, Sam? You gonna keep that military butch or grow it out to something else? Either
way, you'd better have Nick clean up the edges, right? So, you comin' with me?"

"You bet! I want to see Nick in action, how he works his Jedi mind-trick. What about you,
Carlos? You coming?"

Carlos rolled his eyes in disbelief, "No thank you, I think I'll just stay here and MIND THE
STORE and WORK MY SHIFT, ay,ay,ay."

Sam looked sheepish, "Oh. Right...I forgot."

John headed for the door, "Come on, Sam. Let's get movin'. I bet the show's already started!"

They both made a mad dash toward the exit. "Hey, wait!" Carlos shouted, "Where did you get
that military T-shirt?"

Sam slowed to a halt, "At the Army surplus store down the road a ways, why?"

Carlos shrugged, "I like the idea of scaring robbers away. If it works for you, maybe it'll work
for me too...I might as well put this haircut to good use while I still have it."

Sam grinned, gave Carlos a thumbs up, and ran out the door with John in the lead.

Carlos smiled a little and shook his head again, "Crazy, crazy, gringos."

Halfway across the parking lot, John slowed to a walk with Sam right behind, "Hold up, Sam.
We can't go bursting in there like the place is on fire. We gotta take it slow and easy, like we
didn't know Kyle was there...Also, we better keep our mouths shut most of the time, just let Nick
do his thing. Think twice before we say anything and then think about it again. The last thing we
want is for Kyle to get spooked and leave with just a nicely-cut slight trim, right? Nick would
come down on us like a ton of bricks if we spoiled his hunt."

- At Nick's shop:

Nick hadn't made up his mind yet what the outcome of this particular hunt would be. He
removed a comb from his shirt pocket and began combing Kyle's hair to get a feel for the texture,
"Hmm," he thought, "a nice old-fashioned '50s flattop would go good with his dark blond
hair...the guy's got a strong, square jawline...deep-set eyes...rugged good looks...maybe a
crewcut...orrr..." He scanned the photos on the wall, his eyes gravitated to the Marine Corps
poster, "Yeah, that'll do...that'll do just fine...Now to get him thinkin' in that direction."

The shop door opened as John and Sam came sauntering in. Nick froze for a second. He'd always
been a lone wolf. He liked to do his hunting away from the pack, "What are these two up to..." he
thought, "this throws a monkey wrench into the works...2 monkey wrenches...oh well, go with
the flow, change tactics if necessary...maybe these two jokers can actually help with the
hunt...they sure as hell better not screw the pooch."

Kyle looked somewhat irritated as he saw the two enter the shop. He preferred to have the place
all to himself, away from the common folk, "Hey Kovich, what brings you here...and why now?"
Nick was wondering the same thing.

The two 'jokers' made their way to the row of chairs and sat down. John slumped down in a
relaxed position while Sam, being somewhat nervous, sat bolt-upright. He glanced over at John
and assumed a more natural position. John saw Nick looking skeptically at him, "Just stopped by
on my way home to get my flattop tuned up. It's been over a week since I had it cut...and I know
Nick doesn't like it when our haircuts start looking scruffy."

Nick smiled, "Good man. Yer right, I like my customers to look their best, not goin' around with
a grown-out crewcut pokin' over their ears." He was looking at Sam, who used to have an overly-
long crewcut before his current high & tight butch.

"Hey, I'm here aren't I?" Sam said, "I need to have a tune-up too." John picked up a magazine
and started to flip through the pages.

"Glad to hear it," Nick said as he picked up a pair of barber shears and directed his attention
back to Kyle, "So. You've got good looking hair Kyle, it seems a shame to cut any of it off...How
about I take, sayyy, a half inch off. That sound good to you?"

Kyle was unexpectedly impressed by Nick's consideration and attention to detail, "Gee," he
thought, "my regular barber doesn't compliment me on my hair the way this guy Nick does." To
Nick, he said: "Better make it an inch. I want my boss to see the difference. Just sorta tidy it up
so it looks more well-groomed, y'know?"

Nick began snipping the ends of Kyle's hair, "Good call, Kyle. I know yer boss is partial to
shorter hair on his employees; he likes you all to look clean-cut and presentable to yer

Kyle grinned, "Yeah, that sounds like Big Rick all right. He doesn't much care for long hair...or
facial hair for that matter; I know he'd like it better if I got rid of my sideburns and mustache."

Nick paused, then continued, "Oh, that'd be a darn shame. It'd ruin the look you've got goin',
y'know?...On the other hand, you've got a strong rugged jawline there, Kyle...a lot like the
Marine on the poster there; square-jawed and proud; why, you two could be twins...seems wrong
to cover it up with sideburns."

Kyle looked at the poster and thought, "Yeah. I can see the resemblance. And that clean-shaven
jaw does look impressive...what the heck." He reached up and stroked his sideburns and said,
"Y'know what? Go ahead and shorten 'em up to the middle of my ear, the boss'll like that."

Nick was in full stalking mode now, "You sure, man? I didn't talk ya into it, did I?" John had to
suppress a grin.

"Naw, yer right. I shouldn't cover up one of my best features."

Nick picked up the edger clippers, "Okie-doke. The customer is always right." He combed Kyle's
hair back behind his ears to get it out of the way. The clippers came on with a soft hum and Nick
placed them at the mid-point of Kyle's ear. He carved a narrow line across Kyle's sideburns and
moved to the other side and did the same, being careful to get the lines even. He then quickly
removed the sideburns below the line of demarcation. He combed Kyle's hair down, covering his
ears again, "Now then, how's that look to ya? I was reluctant to take yer sideburns off, Kyle, but
I gotta say, it does look good this way."

Kyle studied his newly revealed jawline and liked what he saw, "Yeah, not bad...Big Rick'll like
this...nice 'n' clean-cut, just the way he likes it. Just like the poster over there."

John decided to try his hand at Nick's game, "Yep, it's another good look for ya, Kyle. Only..."
He pointed at the poster, "Too bad about yer mustache though. It sorta ruins the whole clean-cut
look, doesn't it."

Kyle looked at the poster again and furrowed his brow, "...It does, doesn't it...Hell, if I'm gonna
change my look, I might as well go all the way. Take this sucker off, Nick."

Nick gave John a slight smile and a private wink, "Whoa," he said, sounding awfully concerned,
"Hold on there, Kyle. You sure? Taking off sideburns is one thing, but a mustache? It sits there
smack-dab in the middle of yer face. It's a lot more noticeable. Removin' it will leave yer face
bare, nothing to hide behind."

The last few words stuck in Kyle's head: "nothing to hide behind", he thought. He looked at the
poster, then at his reflection, "I'm sure, Nick. Kyle Erickson doesn't hide behind anything! Take
the 'stache off."

Nick began tilting the chair back in preparation for the mustachectomy, "Erickson, huh? You
must come from a long line of Viking ancestors, right Kyle?

"Yeah, on my father's side. My mom is from Swedish stock."

"Well that explains it then...Vikings were sort of the Marines of their time...tall and proud; well-
trained warriors. Yes sir, you've got a lot in common with yer Viking past, my friend...the blond
hair, yer rugged good looks- tall 'n' proud, just like a Viking warrior- just like a Marine."

"Wow," Sam thought, "So that's how Nick does it. Heck, if I didn't already look like a Marine,
I'd be asking for a high 'n' tight right about now...Geez."

At some point, John realized that the magazine he'd been flipping through was upside-down. He
casually rotated it while, at the same time, distracted attention away from the movement using
the art of misdirection in ways that would make a stage magician proud.

With all the ego stroking, Kyle was feeling pretty good about himself. He was the focus of
attention, which was always his preferred position. He was in control. He was calling the
shots...He had no idea that Nick had taken him gently by the hand and led him merrily down this
garden path. And of course, he had no idea that a wood chipper was waiting for him at the end of
this pleasant stroll.

The edger clippers started to hum again and Nick began making short strokes through Kyle's
mustache. After a few seconds, all that remained was a slight stubble. "That was weird," Kyle
said, "feelin' the clippers on my upper lip like that."

Nick hung the clippers on the rack, "Oh yeah? How long have you had that mustache, Kyle?"

"Years...I started growin' it, and the sideburns, when I was in high school, around 1970 I guess."

"Time for a change then, huh? Sounds like you were stuck in a rut." Nick turned to his work
counter and began heating a damp towel in the warmer, "Y'know what? While I have you in this
reclining position, how about I treat ya to a face shave; on the house...You ever had a barbershop
shave before, Kyle?"

"Can't say that I have."

"Well I think you'll enjoy it; soothing and relaxing. Besides, it bothers me to leave that stubble
on yer face, especially since yer goin' for the clean-cut look now." Nick removed the towel from
the warmer, "This is gonna feel pretty warm for a few seconds...the moist heat will soften yer
beard and condition yer skin." He wrapped the towel around Kyle's face, "Doin' OK? Not too hot
for ya?"

Kyle gave a thumbs up.

After a minute or two, Nick removed the towel and laid it across Kyle's chest, under his chin,
bib-like. The lather dispenser whirred for a few seconds and Nick came back with a palmful of
foam which he applied to Kyle's stubble.

During the lull in conversation, John asked Sam, "Did you decide if you wanna keep that Marine
Corps butch of yours?"

Sam felt confident enough now to try his hand at the Jedi mind-trick game, "I don't think so...I
like the way it looks and all, but it just doesn't fit my personality, y'know? I'm not an alpha male
type, it's just too extreme for me I guess...I don't have Viking blood in me like Kyle does."

Kyle lifted his head and looked at Sam, "You mean yer not a Marine? I thought you were when I
bought that 7-Up from you; the hair, the T-shirt..."

Sam shrugged, "It's amazing what a haircut can do to change a guys outlook. A couple of months
ago I had hair a lot like yours; down over my ears and collar. I talked Nick into giving me a
crewcut and, well, it just sort of led to this."

Nick almost burst out laughing at the notion that Sam talked HIM into giving him a crewcut. But
being the disciplined Marine that he is, he kept it under control. He was also impressed by Sam's
stalking ability, "Hmm, if he keeps this up he just might re-gain his head from the trophy wall,"
he thought.

Nick removed the straight razor from its protective case, "Lean yer head back again, Kyle. And
hold still...I don't wanna get blood all over my nice clean floor," he grinned.

Kyle wasn't sure how serious he was so he did as he was told and didn't move a muscle, even his
breathing was shallow.

Nick began scraping Kyle's stubble: first with the grain, to reduce razor burn, then against the
grain to make the shave as close as possible. After every couple of strokes he wiped the blade on
the towel under Kyle's neck, "No blood yet, Kyle. This must be yer lucky day." Kyle started to
grin, then froze, remembering Nick's admonishment to hold still.

After a few more strokes Nick set the razor aside and removed the foam covered towel from
Kyle's neck, "All done...smooth as a baby's butt." He applied some lotion to Kyle's face, "This'll
sting a bit, and the redness will go away soon...Other than that, how'd you like it, was it as

Nick returned the chair to its upright position as Kyle reached up and felt the rubbery
smoothness of his face, "Yeah. It was soothing and relaxing, like you said it would be. Thanks, I
never would'a asked for a shave like that on my own." He continued rubbing his skin, "Squeaky

Nick pointed at the U.S.M.C. poster again, "Just like Mister Marine there...you two are lookin'
more and more alike by the minute, my friend," he smirked.

Kyle chuckled briefly at the notion, then slipped into a thoughtful silence, which did not go
unnoticed by Nick.

During the shave, John had been analyzing Nick's reasons for doing it. He could think of two:
give Kyle the Royal Treatment to boost his ego even more (and make him even less aware of
what was actually happening) and second, to get him used to the idea of looking like the Marine
poster guy, which was clearly the direction Nick was going with this hunt.

Nick could sense that Kyle was very close to taking the big plunge and jumping off into the deep
end. Probably just one more little nudge would do it, "Now, where were we? Oh yeah, about an
inch off all-around this haystack, right Kyle?" He took the comb and shears and began trimming
Kyle's hair again. Nick looked up at his hunting buddy sitting across from him, "So John, you
ready to go shorter? Maybe take the sides closer and widen that landing strip; give folks
somethin' to look at?"

John knew right away that Nick wasn't making idle chit-chat. This was part of his stalking
routine. He thought it over for a second; the idea was to get Kyle feeling superior to those around
him, "Naw, I don't think so Nick. I'll just stick with this flattop, like you cut it the first time. I
don't think I have enough confidence yet to try something shorter. Like ya said a while back, it
takes a special kind of guy to pull off a really short haircut. He's gotta have a lot of self
confidence, and I'm just not there yet." John saw an opportunity to twist the dagger a little
deeper, "...I was kinda surprised to see Mike Brewer show up with that tapercut last week. The
guy's got a stronger personality than I thought, to get a haircut like that."

Kyle couldn't help but comment, "A strong personality? Brewer?"

"You said yerself, he doesn't follow you around much anymore. He's his own man now." John

There was a confused battle going on inside Kyle's head, "Hmph, that can't be right," he thought,
"Surely Kyle Erickson, Son of Viking Warriors has a stronger personality than a lapdog like
Mike Brewer or even a dweeb like Kovich."

With that, the moment had come; the launch sequence had been initiated; critical mass had been
achieved- Kyle had entered the adrenaline soaked miasma known as 'Haircut Fever'. That state of
mind when a guy becomes giddy and excited over the prospect of getting a shorter haircut than
he normally ever would have.

Nick could see it in Kyle's eyes and by the fidgeting of his fingers under the cape and the restless
tapping of his toes on the footrest of the chair. "The hard part is over," Nick thought, "making
Kyle feel at ease and trusting and in control of the situation; the rest would be easy-peasy. Just
keep building him up."

John also sensed the moment, having experienced it himself less than 2 weeks ago. He glanced at
Sam who also recognized the signs and knew the feeling as well. Sam shared a slight grin with
John- the main event was about to begin.

Kyle wasn't the kind of guy to second guess himself, once his mind was made up there was no
looking back, "Y'know what Nick? I think it's time to ditch the long hair. I've had it since high
school; time for a change. Let's go all the way with the clean-cut look...make me look like a
Marine, like the poster there."

Inwardly, Nick was shouting to the rooftops, "Yes! Direct hit!" Outwardly, he remained stoically
concerned about Kyle's well being, "Wow, what brought that on, Kyle? Maybe you should ease
into it with a nice, safe, tapercut. Or better yet, a short layer cut, just touching the tops of yer

Kyle wasn't in the mood to compromise, "Nope. I've been thinkin' about it the last several
minutes. A Viking warrior doesn't do anything half-way; it's all or nothing."

"Well, OK. If that's what you really want..." Nick managed to shoot a sly smirk in John and
Sam's direction, "Just to be clear, you want a high 'n' tight flattop, right? Yer sides and back
whitewalled up to the crown; yer top taken down flat with a big, broad landing strip runnin'
down the middle, like Mister Marine there?"

"Yep, just like his."

Nick grabbed the rotary clippers and snapped a 5/8 inch attachment over the blades, "So yer
goin' for the Full Marine experience, huh?" He gave a loud, "OORAH!" Which caught Kyle (and
John and Sam) off guard.

"Whoa, what was that?" Kyle asked.

"You mean the OORAH!" He yelled it again, "That's the Marine yell. When we're pumped up
and ready for action we yell OORAH to let the world know we mean business...OORAH!"

John and Sam returned the yell, "OORAH!" Followed by Nick again, "OORAH!" Then they all
joined in, including Kyle, "OORAH!"

Next door at the 7-Eleven, Carlos could hear the muffled cries, "Ay,ay,ay, where is all that
yelling coming from?" He stuck his head out the door and heard the yells drifting across the
parking lot from Nick's shop, "Ay Caramba. What are they doing over there?...More crazy
gringo stuff, no doubt."

As the clippers revved up to full speed, Nick grabbed Kyle's bangs with his free hand and
mowed a path down the center, "OORAH!" he shouted again. John and Sam were too
mesmerized to shout back but Kyle managed a weak "oorah." He wasn't having second thoughts,
not much anyway, but he too was entranced at the sight of his golden glory coming off and piling
up on the cape.

In less than 2 minutes, Kyle went from a long shaggy layercut to an all-over 5/8 inch butch.
The clippers wound down and Nick removed the attachment, "Startin' to look like a Marine
already, eh Kyle?"
With the absence of his mustache and sideburns, and now with the buzzcut, Kyle hardly
recognized himself. Nick snapped him out of his reverie, "Ready t'get whitewalled?"
Kyle retorted with a fairly convincing "Oorah!"

The clippers came on again and Nick positioned them at the front of Kyle's temple. He guided
them across the side of Kyle's head at the crown, leaving a bare path behind. He did the same on
the other side and connected the two rows in the rear, forming a single hairless band around
Kyle's head. Next came the quick removal of all the hair below the clear-cut area.

When Kyle saw all that bare skin it finally began to register with him just how major a
transformation he was undergoing, "Geez."
Nick heard the self doubt coming from Kyle and immediately began pumping him up again,
"How's my Viking warrior doin', ready to get yer top taken down flat AND BECOME A
MARINE?" Nick shouted the last part in his deep baritone voice.

Kyle felt compelled to respond in kind, "Yes sir!...Oorah!"

"OORAH!" Nick answered back. He rubbed a smidge of Butch Wax between his palms and
massaged it through Kyle's remaining 5/8 inch hair. After spritzing some water from a spray
bottle, Nick grabbed a brush and the blow dryer and got Kyle's hair standing up at attention like
a row of Marine recruits fresh off the bus.

At this stage of Kyle's transformation, John couldn't help but smirk; with his bare sides and short
tuft of hair on top, Kyle's head looked like a pencil eraser. John took a pencil out of his shirt
pocket and wiggled it back and forth, eraser-side up, till it caught Sam's attention. Then he
wiggled it toward Kyle a couple of times. After a second or two, Sam got the reference and a
lop-sided grin crept over his face.

Nick looked over at the two jokers, "Hey, John?" John stopped wiggling the pencil and put it
back in his pocket, looking like a school kid who just got caught goofing off in class. Nick
continued, "Bend yer head down a bit...a little more...yeah, like that. See that landing strip, Kyle?
Yer hair's gonna be a lot shorter on top, the strip a lot wider, and a lot more visible...Marine-
style. You ready for that?"

"OORAH!" He replied.

Nick swapped out his tools for a pair of buzzer clippers [CLACK, hummm] and placed the bare
blades directly on top of Kyle's head, "Easy now, no sudden movements or you'll end up with a
double mohawk." Kyle went rigid as Nick bent down level with the top of his head and guided
the clippers forward, leaving the hair longer as he moved toward the front.
As Nick pulled the clippers away, Kyle saw the bare strip going down the top of his head with
his hair in front about half an inch long. He could feel his heart thumping in his chest and he
could hear it pulsing in his ears. His thoughts synchronized with his heartbeat: "No self
doubt...Oorah...Viking warrior...Oorah...Don't look back...Oorah...Proud Marine...OORAH!" He
yelled the last oorah out loud and Nick yelled it back, "OORAH!" John and Sam returned it,

At the 7-Eleven, Carlos could again hear the yelling coming from next door, "Crazy, crazy,

Nick took a couple more careful swipes across the top of Kyle's head. His landing strip became
broader and more visible with each pass of the clippers. Soon, Kyle was left with a textbook
example of a half-inch high and tight flattop. Nick switched the clippers off, "So how's that look
to ya?"

Kyle was fully in the zone now. The guy looking back at him in the mirror was someone else
entirely; like Kyle's brain had been transplanted into the body of a Marine. He looked like a
Marine, he sounded like a Marine, and he thought like a Marine, or at least, Kyle's version of
how a Marine would think, "You sure it's short enough on top? I don't want it lookin' scruffy any
time soon."

Nick studied Kyle's flattop, "Sure, I can take it a little shorter. Not much though, or it won't look
flat anymore." He laid a finger across Kyle's front hairline, "I can angle the top down toward the
front here; leaving it about 3/8 of an inch, that'll give ya a more rugged, rough 'n' tough look. It'll
make yer landing strip even wider too. Folks'll be shading their eyes from the glare off yer head.
How's that sound?"

"Sounds like just what I want. Oorah!"

[CLACK, hummm] "Same warning as before- no sudden movements." Nick spent the next few
minutes carefully graduating Kyle's deck from 1/2 inch at the rear to 3/8 inch in front, giving the
top a noticeable forward slope and making the landing strip even more extreme.

Kyle was clearly enjoying his transformation now, looking like a stoically proud Marine one
minute and grinning ear to ear the next. He liked what he saw and molded his personality to suit
the new man looking back at him in the mirror.

The shop went silent as Nick switched the clippers off again, "Now then Kyle, short enough for
ya? If not, I've got a couple more tricks I can do."

"I'm all ears"

John snickered audibly. With his whitewalled high and tight sides, Kyle's ears stuck out like jug
handles. Kyle didn't seem to notice the snicker, but Nick did, and cast a cautionary look in John's

Nick hung the clippers on the rack and pointed at the U.S.M.C. poster, "You can't really see it in
the photo, but Mister Marine there is sporting what we call a horseshoe flattop." Nick placed his
hand at the back of Kyle's head and forced him to look down a bit, "See how yer hair looks like
an 'O'? With the landing strip going down the middle?" Kyle lifted his eyes to see his reflection.
"Well Mr. Marine's flattop is the same as yers Kyle except his landing strip goes all the way out
the back leaving his hair looking like a 'U', like a horseshoe." Nick slid his hand up the back of
Kyle's head and across the top, clipper-like, to indicate how he would cut the path, "The front
half of yer haircut would stay the same as it is now...the horseshoe flat is worn mostly by the
really gung-ho type of Marine...Interested?"

"Yes sir! OORAH!" A round of oorahs answered him back.

"OK then, one authentic Marine-style horseshoe flattop comin' right up"

[CLACK, hummm] Kyle still had his head tilted forward and could see and feel Nick press the
clippers up the back of his head, "Man", he thought, "I'm so pumped up I'm about to explode...
Viking warrior, proud Marine...there's the clippers comin' up over the top...proud Marine...
up...up...Geez...he's goin' all the way down the middle...I'm gonna end up with that double
mohawk he warned me about!...whew, he stopped just short of the front...Oorah!"

Nick made a few more passes up the back, widening the gap in the 'U' and giving Kyle's landing
strip a 'V' shape almost twice as wide at the rear than at the front. He switched the clippers off
and hung them on the rack to cool off, "How's that, Kyle? Ya like that Marine starin' back at'cha
in the mirror?"

"Sir, yes sir!"

"Well I've got one more card up my sleeve." He laid a towel around Kyle's shoulders, tucking it
in at the back of his neck. The lather dispenser whirred and Nick started dabbing warm foam on
all the bare parts of Kyle's head, including the landing strip. He used a safety razor to scrape
away the remaining stubble on his whitewalls, wiping the razor on the towel every couple of
strokes. Kyle's jaw went slack and his eyes got bigger as Nick pulled the razor all the way down
his landing strip, scraping away the last trace of hair down the center.

Nick laid the razor on the counter and gathered up the towel that was around Kyle's shoulders to
wipe away the remaining streaks of foam from his head, "How was that, buddy? Feel good?"

Kyle grinned, "Felt great! Looks great, too!" He pulled his hand out from under the cape and
carefully felt the bare strip running down the center of his head, "Man, that feels weird! Rubbery
skin where my hair used to be."

"Yep, yer follicles are so scared now that it'll be at least a week before they even think about
growin' any hair; you won't have'ta worry about lookin' scruffy for at least 2 weeks, soldier.

Kyle's grin became even bigger when Nick called him 'soldier', "OORAH!" he yelled, and they
all shouted it back.

Nick loosened the cape from Kyle's neck and removed the tissue strip. He ran the edger clippers
around the base of his neck and lifted the cape away, flipping its bushel of blond hair onto the
floor to mix with the bushel already there. He grabbed the duster brush and flicked the loose
hairs away.

Kyle started to get up but Nick eased him back down, "Whoa there, soldier. Gotta add the
finishing touch." He grabbed the jar of Butch Wax from the counter and lifted out a stiff glob to
rub between his palms.

Kyle's nose twitched, "That's the stuff I've been smellin' ever since I came into yer shop. What is
it, anyway?"

"Butch Wax, a soldier's best friend. This'll get yer hair standin' straight and proud, and keep it
that way." He massaged his sticky hands through Kyle's short fringe of hair- forward, backward,
and upward. He wiped his hands clean (sort of) and grabbed a boar-bristle brush and the blow
dryer. The dryer came on and Nick brushed Kyle's horseshoe till every hair, short as they were,
was standing tall and proud. He handed Kyle a mirror to get a closer look, "Well how about it,
Marine? Does it pass inspection?"

Kyle moved the mirror around, tilting it this way and that, getting a good look at the front, back,
sides, and top. For the first few seconds his mouth was half agape and his eyes were riveted in
amazement. Then his new Marine persona kicked in; his mouth closed shut and his chin jutted
out. He furrowed his brow and his eyes became steely, just like the Marine in the poster, "It
passes inspection, sir! OORAH!"

Nick took the mirror from Kyle as he climbed out of the chair. Kyle's transformation, the hunt,
took nearly an hour but seemed like much longer. Kyle reached back and took out his wallet.
Nick shook his head, "No charge, soldier. First horseshoe is on the house...besides, I enjoyed it
as much as you did," he said truthfully. Kyle reluctantly put his wallet back in his pocket. He
gazed at the mounds of his hair strewn all over the floor and looked at himself in the mirror on
the wall, saying farewell to the old Kyle and embracing the new, clean-cut Marine Kyle.

Nick sensed what was going through Kyle's mind, "Quite a transformation, eh buddy? You went
from a long-haired, wine-sipping hippy to a whitewalled, beer-chuggin' Marine. I think it's a
major improvement, myself."

"You can say that again. What was I thinkin' anyway; all that hair hangin' in my eyes, coverin'
my ears and collar?" He looked down at the blond carpet on the floor again, "And the sideburns
...and the mustache..." His voice sort of trailed off at the end, a little of the old Kyle had started
to creep back into his consciousness.

Nick quickly came to the rescue and got him all pumped up again, "Hey now, soldier. Yer not
goin' all limp on us are ya? Yer Viking ancestors are lookin' down from Valhalla, raising their
swords in salute...OORAH!"

"OORAH!" Kyle yelled in reply. He turned and headed for the door, stopping to catch another
glimpse of the Marine in the mirror.
As he reached for the door handle, Nick called out, "Yo! Marine!" As Kyle turned around, Nick
tossed the jar of Butch Wax through the air and Kyle caught it, "A little dab'll do ya," Nick said,
grinning. "Now don't go all scruffy on me, y'hear? I want you back in here once a week to scrape
the stubble off yer whitewalls and take yer deck down flat enough to land a jumbo jet on. Got
that, Marine?"

"Sir! Yes sir!"

Nick suddenly snapped to attention, raised his hand to his forehead and gave Kyle a crisp,
picture perfect example of a U.S.M.C. salute. Kyle wasn't sure what he was supposed to do; he
also stood at attention and returned the salute as best he could.

Nick concluded his salute with a sharp flick of his arm, "Now go out there and do us proud,

"OORAH!" Kyle swiveled around and proudly marched out the door.

Nick waited until Kyle was in his car before commenting on what had just transpired. He leaned
against the barber chair and faced John and Sam, "Well now. I do believe that was the best, most
satisfying hunt I've had since I started this little stalking game," he grinned.

John seemed awestruck by the extreme change they were able to pull off, "Wow. Kyle bought
himself a lifetime membership up on yer trophy wall, Nick."

"Sure did. Bagged myself an 8-point buck with that guy." Nick surveyed the antlers up near the
ceiling, "Gonna have'ta shift the trophies around though, Kyle's mounting plaque is twice as big
as the others." A devilish smirk spread across his face, "Turnin' Kyle into a Marine was even
more fun than givin' that little 8 year old brat I told you about his high 'n' tight flat."

Sam looked up at the trophy wall, "I think Kyle's going to be in Nickland from now on."

Nick had a puzzled grin, "Nickland?"

"Yeah. John came up with that one. Nickland is where our minds are after you've had a
successful hunt. We walk out of here grinning like idiots and rubbing what little stubble you left
on our heads. We're on cloud nine, thinking that our haircut is the coolest, most awesome
decision we ever made...and then, out in the bright sunlight, reality creeps in and we're not in
Nickland anymore, Toto. We look in the side-view mirror of our car and ask ourselves 'what the
hell just happened?'...That's Nickland."

Nick's grin became bigger, "That sounds like a mighty specific description, Sam. You wouldn't
be speakin' from personal experience, would you?"

"Damn straight." He brushed his hand across the velvety top of his high and tight butch and
continued down the back of his neck, "The thing is, we usually snap out of it real quick, being in
Nickland, I mean. It only took me a few seconds after I left your shop...but Kyle..." Sam looked
out the shop window to see Kyle still out front in his car.

John followed Sam's gaze, "There he is, sittin' an' grinnin'. Yep, Kyle's still in Nickland all

Nick joined the others in looking out the window, "Now watch...yep, there he goes, reachin' up
to take a test drive down that mile-long landing strip I gave him...hmm, yer right. He's not
snappin' out of it...maybe I overdid it, pumpin' him up, I mean."

John looked at the pile of blond hair surrounding the barber chair, "I think the old Kyle is gone
forever. The last of him is down there on the floor."

Nick grabbed the broom and began sweeping the last of Kyle off to the side, "All that's left is the
new Kyle, Kyle the Marine, GI Kyle...yeah, that'll be my nickname for him, GI Kyle...except,
he's not a real Marine. Oh, he looks the part all right- with that horseshoe flat, he could walk
through any Marine base in the country and not get a second look. But everything he knows
about the Marines he got from watchin' movies and TV shows."

John grinned, "Yeah. I saw him give you the 2-fingered Cub Scout salute."

Nick chuckled as he set the broom aside, "You noticed that too, huh?"

Sam looked thoughtful, "Gumby; GI Kyle- Do you have nicknames for all your customers,

"Pretty much...all the ones I've been successful at huntin' anyway...That 8 year old brat? He's
Hell Hound; all though he's gotten a lot better lately. I think the high 'n' tight flat did wonders for

"What about me?" John asked.

Nick hesitated and blushed a little, "...Well, yer...Nick Junior...You remind me of myself a few
years back. That's probably why I had you get that flattop. You angry?"

"Psshh. You kiddin'? The morning after you gave me this flattop I looked in the mirror and saw
you looking back at me...Yer not old enough to be my dad, so I guess that makes you my big
brother, or uncle...My boss, Mr. Stafford, even has me wearin' the same clothes as you: the jeans,
the flannel shirts, the hiking boots...Yeah, Nick Junior sounds about right."

"And me?" Sam asked.

Nick grinned, "That one was easy-peasy, yer Scruffy."

Sam contemplated that for a second, "Hmm...not bad...I kinda like it...What about you, Nick?
What's your nickname?"

"Me? I don't have one, I'm the guy who does the naming."

"Well, ya gotta have one," John said, "...Yer always stalkin' us; on the prowl...like Wile E.
Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons...yeah, maybe you should be Wiley."

"Hmm, I dunno...the coyote never catches that road runner. Me, on the other hand, I almost
always get my prey."

Sam grinned, "You watch Road Runner cartoons, Nick? Big, tough, deep voiced, flattopped, ex-
Marine Nick, watches cartoons?"

Nick tried mightily to appear un-embarrassed, "Yeah, well...I don't watch much TV; too busy.
I've got a place up in the hills outside of town. Don't get much reception there, just two stations,
and only when the weather conditions are right. Seems like every time I sit down to watch
somethin', it's either cartoons on one channel or some exercise program on the other. I don't need
the exercise- with all the chores, huntin', and hikin' I do, so I end up watchin' cartoons..."

John grinned, "Don't worry, Nick. Yer secret is safe with us...maybe...meep, meep!"

Kyle's Corvette rumbled to life and he roared out of the parking lot like it was his own personal

-Continues on Part 4

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