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Peter: Punished, then Praised by Patrick by Manny (recovered)

Peter: Punished, then Praised by Patrick

By Lox

As soon as Peter slammed down the phone he regretted giving in so quickly to his temper during his dispute with Patrick. Even though he had more than a leg to stand on in the argument itself, Peter knew he should have handled the quarrel in a more reasonable way. Patrick, after all, had been his bosom buddy since almost the first day he moved to Charlotte. He`d been so helpful in getting Peter settled and meeting people. What worried Peter most was that Patrick had given him several hints he was tired of the sudden and violent flare-ups. Patrick was a calm, steady guy -- so opposite in temperament from the fiery Peter. "You need to take some anger management classes, Pete...." was the advice Patrick had given two-weeks earlier when Peter had flown off the handle about some trivial issue. "If not, well, you might find your circle of friends shrinking quickly here in these parts....I`m speaking for others, and certainly for myself."

Of course, the temper issue wasn`t something new to Peter. All his life he`d struggled with it, been chastised for it, gloried in it, and suffered for it. At times he was determined to change his ways, and at other times he felt adamant that a temper was part of his nature and if people couldn`t deal with it that was their problem.

But, at that moment, his only concern was Patrick. Peter quickly re-dialed his number to apologize. He wasn`t going to make any excuses...just say he was wrong to have shouted....and that it really wasn`t important to him whether they should go to the ballgame or fishing (even though he hated fishing -- so hot and boring!). The phone rang and rang before switching into voice mail. Peter tried Patrick`s cell phone. No answer either. Obviously, the caller ID was enabling Patrick to send a clear message -- "I don`t want to talk to you, Peter, you dick head."

The beep signaled Peter`s opportunity to leave a message. "Look, Pat, I`m really sorry. Fishing is fine for Sunday. Let me know what time you`ll be swinging by in the morning. Not too early, I hope.... Oh, sorry, I meant to say any time you want -- even 4:30 a.m. I`ll be ready. Promise. Oh, and....well, I....you know....uh...sorry I flew off the handle again. Last time. Promise. Give me a buzz."

For the next several hours Peter bounced around his apartment stewing....mainly feeling remorseful...but also a bit angry at Patrick for not returning his call. He`d always rushed to show forgiveness in the past. Peter started worrying that perhaps Patrick had had it with him. For the umpeenth time he checked the answering machine, just to be sure he hadn`t missed a call somehow. His heart sank as he saw the glowing red "0" indicating there were no messages for him.

Peter look up from the phone and stared at himself directly in the mirror above the credenza. "You big jerk!" he mouthed to himself while staring at the distraught face in the mirror. "Are you going to spend your whole life trying to patch up and hold on to friendships? You need to discipline yourself. Period. Exercise self control. Your parents weren`t able to reign you in...neither were the folks at the military academy you got shipped off to for your senior year in high school. Can you do it yourself?"

Peter thought back on that dreadful day when his father announced he was being sent to Hargrave Military Academy. That came a week after he`d called his mother a bitch and thought that all had been forgiven with the teary apology he offered her. The apology came after hearing her bawl for hours in her room. Peter knew he deserved the punishment and acquiesced through the whole enrollment process. Even as they drove onto campus for the big reception day, Peter felt sort of glad that something drastic was happening to him. It was a perfect chance to turn over a new leaf. He was determined....

But, that determination proved very short lived. In fact, it evaporated before the end of the very first day. After delivering his things to his room and saying good-bye to the folks (yes, mom was teary again, but not the anguished sobs from earlier in the summer), he was handed a check-list. Item #6 screamed out at him -- Military haircut (barber shop, basement).

Peter had always been very vain about his thick, auburn-copper locks that covered his head in abundant waves and loopy, loose curls. He wore it long and loved to toss his mane about because his hair matched his wild, out-of-control nature. He soon found out that the dreadful line outside the barbershop door was purgatory, and the barbershop itself was hell!

Every time someone walked out rubbing his cue-ball head, Peter felt sick. Most of the other guys in line had fairly short hair already -- he`d only seen a handful of others like himself on campus who were doomed to receive a radical makeover. Just as he finally made it to the door and saw the piles of shorn hair on the floor for the first time, a group wielding cameras and microphones hurried towards the shop. Oh no, it was the local television station reporting on R-Day and they were pointing at him. "Film the guy with the big hair getting shorn -- that`ll make a great opening segment to our piece."

The reporters chatted up to the head barber - a vicious looking old man wearing a traditional white tunic that matched the capes. "I`m an expert at this, after 25 years of shearing shaggy locks here at Hargrave. OK, Curly Sue, hustle your bony butt over here. These clippers are hungry for a thick head of hair," he barked at Peter.

Peter`s panic simmered with anger as he strode over to the chair. He lectured himself, "Take it like a man...you`ll look like a real sissy on the news tonight if you get teary eyed over losing your precious locks. Remember, this whole thing is a punishment -- and you deserve it."

Peter clenched his jaw firmly shut and obeyed the barber`s orders. The old man enjoyed playing the part of like a stern martinet in front of the cameras, "Sit still, Sissy-boy!" It was like an assembly line. Cape fastened tight, clippers snapped on....but instead of having his head shoved forward like he`d seen happening to all the guys in front of him, Peter felt the barber grab him by the hair above the nape and jerk his head back. Then, the old man plunged a huge set of clippers right into the hairline at the forehead and drove the chattering steel teeth firmly back, sending mounds of the precious auburn hair onto Peter`s shoulders and lap. Very quickly the cape became laden with shorn hair. The television camera rolled as the flash bulbs from the still cameras popped furiously. "We take these wild brats and turn them into gentleman," pronounced the barber as he clicked off the machine minutes later and dusted Peter`s bald head with a hand whisk.

It took every ounce of self-control Peter had in him to not flip the barber off when the cape was finally removed. Like all the other newbies, Peter instinctively reached up to feel his denuded scalp once he was out of the chair. What a sensation, feeling the stubble! His sheepish grin turned sour when one of the kids still in line called out, "Hope it feels better than it looks, Baldy!" Peter`s only consolation was that the brat wore glasses, unlike him, and would end up with a bald head and huge plastic frames to appear geeky twice-over.

The most embarrassing moment of Peter`s life came the next day. A huge photo of him grimacing in the chair as his cherished hair fell in the wake of the clippers had those infamous words emblazoned in the caption area below. "We take these wild brats and turn them into gentleman!" The barber had a very smug look on his face, which contrasted dramatically with Peter`s grimace.

Over the year, time proved the barber wrong -- at least in Peter`s case. Peter repeatedly got grounded and he was lucky to ever graduate. Essentially he was still a brat. Patrick certainly wouldn`t consider him any sort of gentleman.

Peter studied himself in the mirror. His beautiful, lush mane of hair glistened. As soon as he graduated from the academy and gone on to college, Peter let it grow much longer than he`d ever worn it. He pampered the copper-toned tresses with the best conditioners and shampoos. The occasional salon trim was another extravagant expense he allowed himself.

Abruptly, Peter looked down at the brightly shining red "0" that reminded him Patrick hadn`t returned his call. He reached for the phone to call again, but stopped before the call went through. Patrick must call him, damn it!

Most of the night Peter tossed and turned, unable to sleep. He woke up feeling very low and deflated. Staggering into the bathroom to wash his face, Peter`s attention again focused on his huge head of wild hair. It was a mess and needed to be cut. Not trimmed. Cut! Then the idea hit him hard. It needed to be cut by a barber! Not a salon stylist, but an honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned barber. As he splashed cold water on his face, his heartbeat surged. Looking up again at the wild, tangled mane, he told himself, "Since you keep acting like a dick head, you`ll start looking like one -- today! Oh, and get a load of this. Your hair won`t just be cut by a crotchety old barber, it`ll be shorn down to the wood...just like on reception day at Hargrave. That`ll teach you a lesson. And you`ll keep the cue-ball cut until you`ve learned it for good."

Peter was amazed at how energized he felt by his decision to pursue a sort of self-punishment against his treasured hair. He hopped into the shower and used an extra dollop of conditioner as he lathered up the luxuriant mane for the last time. Bald! Could he possibly go through with it? The lovely wet ringlets that framed his face and dangled past his eyes were doomed. Too bad he didn`t live near Hargrave so he could look up the old man barber to have him do the job.

That was the next item on the agenda. Identify a traditional barbershop where the locks would be quickly consigned to a dustbin. It was a sort of a game Peter decided to play with himself -- like a treasure hunt to find the perfect place to get shorn down to the wood. The shop needed to be traditional (white capes, plate glass window, neon, oversized chairs, with a whirling poll in front), and the barbers needed to be dressed in matching white tunic and elderly (no barberettes either!). Peter did an internet search for barbershops in his town to begin his quest for the perfect barbershop. It was the first concrete step towards his punishment haircut.

The extra vigorous washing had given him a real puffy, big-hair look. There would be a real mound of hair on the floor of whatever shop he picked, that was for sure, Peter noted to himself as he glanced in the mirror on his way out the door!

As he approached the very first barbershop on his "treasure hunt" map, Peter`s heart began to pulsate. The whirling red-and-white striped poll was there and so was the large plate glass window with `Charlie`s Barber Shop` painted on it. Clearly on display in the window was a boy, caped in an immense white cloth with his head forced down towards his chest and an elderly barber plying the clippers straight up the back of his head. Peter`s heart skipped a beat. This was it! All the criteria seemed to be fulfilled. He tried to calm his twittering nerves as he parked the car and took one last look at the "old Peter" in the rear-view mirror. He slowly smoothed his hair down a bit and fondled his prized curls one last time. Then he braced himself and threw the car door open. As he walked towards the old shop, Peter practiced the instructions he`d give the barber: "Take it all off -- bald! -- to the wood."

Peter pushed the door open....The barber`s eyes widened slightly as he greeted Peter and invited him to take a seat in the waiting area. Besides the boy in the chair, the only other person in the room was a middle aged businessman-looking type fellow reading a news magazine. The boy`s haircut was nearing an end and it was evident that he`d come in quite the moptop and was leaving quite the cleancut lad. For one, there was a pretty heavy collection of his hair on the cape and floor. For two, there were some broad swathes of virgin white skin around his ears and neck. The barber slicked the short hair on top to the side as best he could and then took off the cape. "Here`s your lolly-pop for being a good boy," said the elderly barber as he admired his handiwork on the boy`s closely cropped head.

"OK, Mr. Stewart, your turn," the barber continued, as he dusted the chair before his next client took a seat. "Shall I cut it shorter than usual, like you had me do Jimmy?" he asked, obviously anxious tackle the full head of hair in front of him.

"No thanks, Charlie, just the usual trim," came the expressionless answer before Mr. Stewart buried his attention once again in the news magazine. It was quite a boring cut to watch, but Peter`s heart beat quickly knowing he was within minutes of his first return to a barber`s chair ten years after his induction-type butch cut at Hargrave. The other dynamic that heightened Peter`s nervousness was the barber`s attitude -- he`d been heavy-handed with the kid and eager to shear down the dad. Plus, he kept stealing glances at Peter`s huge head of hair. Oh well, it would all be coming off anyway, Peter told himself, so why fret? Just enjoy the ride....

When Peter`s turn came, he suddenly realized the barber did NOT meet all his requirements to administer the ultimate mow-down. He wasn`t sporting a tunic that matched the cape! Quickly, Peter decided to make this just a first-step in his self-punishment. He would give a rather vague instruction to the barber and see what he ended up with.

"First time here?" the barber asked as he fastened the cape around Peter`s neck. The big metal clip insured that the mophead would not be beating a quick retreat from the overly-eager barber.

"Yeah, with his economy, I decided I needed to find a more economical place to get my hair cut," answered Peter. He had been surprised to see that a regular haircut would only cost him $12. Gee, at that price, he could go at least three times for less than he paid his stylist.

"Seems like you`d just given up getting it cut at all for a long while. I`ll be sure to take off enough to ensure good value for money..." Boy, was he primed to go! The barber tried to yank a comb through the mass of hair and Peter cringed a bit. "Any special instructions?"

"Oh, just sort of a medium cut..." Peter was pleased with the degree of vagueness he`d come up with.

The barber smiled, obviously happy that the instructions were not too specific. He picked up a pair of shears and snagged the first clump of curls that fell over Peter`s ear. Chop, chop, chop. Instantly, huge clumps rained down, soiling the pristine white cape. The barber sheared away the old growth aggressively uncovering the ear before beginning a sort of tapering pattern up the side of his head. He may have been an old man, but boy could those fingers fly. The energized barber methodically moved from side to back to the other side, removing copious amount of hair. Then he tackled the bangs, first combing and holding the wild ringlets straight down so that Peter`s eyes were fully veiled and then shearing them off midway up the forehead! When the truncated curls recoiled, Peter`s huge white forehead gleamed like a beacon. This was just the beginning of a severe cropping administered to the lush growth on top of Peter`s head. The "sort of medium cut" was turning out meaning that no hair on his head was longer than an inch and a half. The overall appearance was a "short back and sides". Peter could hardly recognize himself...so tame looking.

Then the barber picked up a set of clippers. Peter gripped the arms of the chair. He thought that his haircut was nearing the end....but it looked like it was just beginning to shift into a higher gear! "There now, I`m just going to clean up a bit around your ears, here," the barber said calmly, obviously noticing Peter`s panicked expression. He carefully folded down an ear and brought the vibrating machine slowly around, peeling away hair to reveal a very pronounced arch of white skin. Then he moved to the other side and carved away an even more exaggerated arch. Back and forth the barber went trying to even up the arches until he finally called it quits after exposing a half-inch frame around each ear. Then the clippers tackled the neck; the barber buzzed off all the copper-colored hair below an imaginary line extended from earlobe to earlobe.

Then the barber applied warm lather to all the newly exposed areas around the ears and neck. He carefully shaved away any residual strands and finished off his work with a warm towel and witch-hazel. Peter loved the sharp stinging sensation and felt intoxicated by the smell, so characteristic of a traditional barbershop. But, as the barber held up a mirror to display his work Peter realized that these finishing touches with the clippers made him look like an absolute eye-sore, almost like a botched amateur kitchen or dorm haircut. The clipper grand finale took him from a ho-hum short-back-and-sides haircut to something that looked tremendously geeky. His only consolation was that Charlie`s handiwork would be short-lived. He quickly paid and left the shop, feeling extremely lightheaded…and anxious to begin round two of his mane reduction.

At the next stop on his treasure hunt, the barber could start with the clippers and....perhaps end up administering an induction cut... Or, why not extend the odyssey to a three-phase peel down and have barber #2 administer a very short crop -- like one from the poster of traditional styles that hung near the door of Charlie`s shop? Peter had eyed the poster carefully as he paused near the door pretending to count his change and put it in his wallet. What an array of choices! Should he try a flattop?! Yes!! Yesterday, that would have been an unimaginable choice for him. But, today, why not?! The flattop would be a clear wake-up call that he needed to get his attitude under control.

Peter headed towards the second shop on his map, practicing his instruction to the next barber. "I`d like a flattop, please. Yes, I`m quite sure of it. I`ve always wanted one, and now, well, it`s up to you...."

The second shop proved to be a dud -- no whirling barber`s pole and bright maroon capes. Peter drove by without stopping, even though he was anxious to get rid of those exaggerated arches around his ears. Occasionally he would run his hand over this head and marvel at how short it had been cut -- instead of feeling soft, his hair seemed a bit bristly so short. Peter estimated that old barber Charlie had whacked off about two thirds of his hair. He wished he`d taken a better look at how much had piled up on the floor, but he`d been too busy studying the haircut chart on the wall as he left.

Shop number three looked promising as he coasted slowly past it. Oak Park Barber Shop -- established 1952. Now that was a good indicator! Peter parked and entered the shop. Ah, three men in matching tunics -- two elderly and one much younger who sported an extremely close crop. Sides and back shaved to the scalp and just a hint of hair on top. Perhaps a very close crewcut? Peter noted that the capes were pin-striped and the barbers wore matching navy tunics that coordinated with the stripe. Oak Park was by far a busier place, bustling with business on that Saturday morning. The three chairs were occupied and half of the waiting room was also claimed. With his conservative haircut, Peter hardly attracted any attention from the barbers or the other clients. Secretly he hoped to get the young barber. After all, this would not be the final phase, and so the "old, crotchety barber" requirement could be overlooked.

None of the on-going cuts were that exciting, and it was hard to tell from those in front who were actually waiting for haircuts and who were just hangers-on. Peter noticed that regular haircuts were $15, but that flattops were $16. Maybe he should save a buck and go for something else. The extreme crewcut was very tempting.

Unexpectedly, several of the men in the waiting area left with their sons. The booming "Next!" meant it was Peter`s turn in the chair. And, the barber beckoning him was the young barber who identified himself as Tom. Peter felt delighted that his luck placed him under Tom`s tutelage. "Looks like you just got a haircut," commented the barber as he fastened the pinstriped cape around Peter`s neck. The virgin white arches and forehead were dead giveaways.

Peter tried to mask a blush as he reached from under the cape to scratch his forehead. Just tell the truth he advised himself. "Well, as a matter of fact, I just did. And I hate it. That`s why I`m trying a new shop."

"What happened here?" the barber asked pointing to the arch around the ear in a sort of mock amazement. "Did you squirm at the wrong moment?" The young barber was certainly amusing himself in some sort of cruel way.

"No! The old barber just couldn`t get the two sides even...and he kept trying until I ended up like this! Anyway, I was hoping to get you, Tom, since a younger guy probably has better eye-sight. Can you fix it?" asked Peter.

The barber looked a bit skeptical. "An awful lot is going to have to come off..."

"I was thinking about a flattop..."

"Oh, so you don`t mind losing most of this," said the barber as his interest perked up and he patted down the puffy, bristles. "To be honest, with your type hair, it would be really hard to maintain in a flattop -- and it would have to be extremely short."

"What about the way yours is cut....those smooth sides...?" asked Peter hopefully.

"You`re on! You`ll get them both, young man -- my smooth sides and your flat top. It`s called a horseshoe. Lather-shaved sides, back and top center strip -- with just a hint of a flat rim along here," he said as he traced his finger in a u-shape around Peter`s head. "Say bye-bye to about 90% of this fluff." There was no waiting for agreement. Without another word “Take Charge Tom” seized the clippers and thrust them straight up the back of Peter`s head. He wasted no time peeling away the copper-colored fluff. Quickly the cape was covered with Peter`s shorn hair. However, the climax came when Tom brought the clippers up through the cowlick and straight down the top of Peter`s head until he pulled them up slightly right at the fringe. Mounds of hair tumbled down past his startled eyes. The young barber worked amazingly fast in clipping away virtually everything. Except for a slight rim of fringe, Peter was bald as a cueball.

And Peter absolutely hated the look. He almost longed to have the exaggerated arches back. Having to keep the horseshoe flat would be real torture. It looked far worse and more radical than the induction cut he got from the Hargrave barber.

But Tom didn`t ask Peter at all what he thought about his new look. He applied a brimming handful of warm lather to Peter`s head, spreading it all around and massaging it into the scalp. Peter`s mind was taken away from his hideous look as his tense body relaxed with the impromptu scalp massage. Ah, he could stay all day like that, with the handsome Tom rubbing his denuded scalp... Then came the exhilarating sensation of the razor scraping away the stubble from his tender, sensitive skin. Two areas really caused him to almost groan aloud -- the nape and the top of his head. "You know what, Tom, while you`re up there....just peel it all off...ever last hair. I`ve decided on the egg-head look." Tom complied without any complaining and scraped away his carefully crafted horseshoe. He enjoyed seeing his client so seemingly satisfied and in his total care.
Tom leaned the chair back to rinse off all the remaining lather. Peter`s bald head gleamed! Tom carefully wrapped it in a towel before bringing his client to a sitting position and whirling him around to face the mirror for the unveiling of the new Tom. He pulled back the towel and pronounced, "The new you!" Peter cracked a grin and then broke into a smile. "Do you like it?" asked the barber hopefully.

"It`s radical! Wow!!" Peter was almost in shock. Stunned to think that his hair was now actually shorter than when he`d been inducted into the military academy by the Hargrave geezer. "I look like a different person..."

"Of course, but do you like the new streamlined you? Hey, anything was better than those horrid arches and botched job in back you came in here with!" he said defensively.

"Yes, I like it!" Peter concluded. So much for the `punishment` concept in the haircut. Peter actually found himself liking the new, edgy him. His old curls and waves seemed quaint compared to this "in your face" crop.

In the car on the way home Peter couldn`t keep his hands off his own head or resist the urge to look at himself in the mirror every time he stopped at a light. What if at the military academy he`d embraced the induction cut instead of chaffing because of it? Oh, the `what if`s` of history....

When he arrived home, there was a light flashing on his answering machine -- one message! Would it be... Pat? "OK, it`s 5:00 a.m. tomorrow and I don`t want any lip from you. We`re going to have fun, even if we don`t catch many fish. Hey, and don`t forget the sunscreen. It`s going to be a scorcher out on the lake....See you, Pat."

The next morning proved to be almost a comic scene. It was still dark when Peter hopped into Patrick`s car wearing a fishing hat that concealed much of his head. (Peter had gone out and bought it Saturday afternoon, fearing that his virgin scalp would fry on the lake.) As they were driving down the road, Patrick commented, "Hey, I like your new hat!"

"Thanks," replied Peter. "Do you like my new haircut?" he asked as he pulled off the hat.

Patrick shrieked and slammed on the brakes momentarily. "What the hell?! Pete - your hair! Wha....What?"

"Do you like the new me?"

"I`m in too much shock. Your treasured curls...what happened to them?" Patrick insisted.

"Did I ever tell you about getting sent to a military academy for my senior year?" Peter asked, changing into a more solemn tone. "It was a punishment for hurting the person I cared most deeply about. The induction haircut was the biggest blow of the whole experience. Anyway, after we hung up on Friday, I was pretty upset at myself. I don`t want to lose your friendship. I needed a wake-up call."

"And this is it?" Patrick asked as he reached over and stroked the bald pate. "Oh, smooth like a baby`s butt."

"It`s going to be a daily reminder when I look at myself in the morning each day to cool it and not turn off the friends I care so much about."

"Well, that`s great news. And I`m going to make sure you stick with it, even if I have to lather up your head myself each day and keep you slick,” said Patrick, almost anticipating the fun it would be to keep up Peter’s cueball.

"I could take you to the barbershop where I got my head shaved and have these pretty blond tresses of yours stripped away...be twins, like, you know,” teased Peter as he pawed at Patrick’s honey-colored locks.

"Ah, no thank you, Pete. I`ll keep my hair and I`ll keep you bald. Every time that anger flashes or you shout about something, out`ll come the can of shaving cream and a Mach-3 razor blade, okay, Baldy?! Now put that hat back on -- you look ridiculous, and I don`t want you frightening the fish away." Patrick let out a good natured laugh, and Peter joined in hesitatingly. He hoped Patrick was kidding, but started missing his old curly self....

The End

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