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Carson and Chris: Who's the Leader? by Manny (recovered)
Carson and Chris: Who's the Leader?
Chris walked quickly to his car. The meeting had gone just as he expected it would -- in fact, just as it had every single month since the history teachers of the two high schools began their planning sessions for a joint spring trip to Europe. It had been Chris` idea for the juniors to tour the World War battle fields. Chris` agitation as he fumbled with the keys to unlock the car door had nothing to do with the content of what was discussed at the meeting. In fact, from the start, teachers from both schools were in agreement on the big issues, and with each subsequent meeting the details fell progressively into place.
What made Chris` head spin as he fumbled with the ignition was what always caused a rollercoaster ride of mixed feelings sitting across the table from the St. Francis Xavier coordinator, Carson Newell, each meeting. Carson was a dynamic, intelligent, engaging stud who coached basketball on the side. His blue eyes sparkled as he held court, both at the conference table and on the ball field. But, what mesmerized Chris the most was Carson`s fantastically sculpted flattop. The thick pile of auburn hair was shorn as flat as a board on top and scraped to the skin on the sides and back. Chris had to continually remind himself during the meetings to stop staring at Carson`s hair and interact with all the teachers on the other side of the table.
As Carson was his direct counterpart, it was only natural that during the breaks and the chit chat afterwards Chris and he would iron out details or engage in good-natured banter. Carson was such a schmoozer, but he seemed to genuinely like Chris.
During the many months that these planning sessions had been taking place, Chris found himself dealing with two puzzling issues relating to Carson. The first was his desire to engage Carson in a direct conversation about his haircut -- how long he`d sported a flattop, why he chose that style, and most importantly how it felt the first time he got one. The last item related to the second main issue. Chris found himself yearning to go flat himself.
The radical nature of that festering urge would be patently obvious to anyone who knew Chris or had ever seen him. He was on the opposite end of the spectrum from Carson Newell. For his entire life, Chris had cultivated a huge, thick mane of glossy caramel-streaked blond hair -- always to the limit length-wise of what was appropriate for someone in his position. As a boy he`d sported a very long, thick bowl cut (lapping past the eyes just barely and completely covering the ears and collar in back). His mother so adored that precious bowlcut. In high school, he`d grown out the bowl into a long layered cut which extended in college to just past his shoulders. As a teacher, of course, the hair had been cut back considerably, but it was still very long -- especially on top -- brushed back and falling beautifully in gentle waves past his ears and collar.
Chris had always been rather proud of -- really, quite vain about -- his pretty hair. He fondled it and ran his hands through it methodically. Always had, always would.....well, always would as long it was there, of course, to stroke and fondle.
The fact was that ever since he first laid eyes on Carson, he started having his doubts that he`d be forever a longhair. He couldn`t believe someone Carson`s age, who obviously had a very strong hairline, would have such a radically short haircut. A flattop! He thought those had been consigned to the 1950s. But Carson was proof that a modern man could pull one off and stand head-and-shoulders above the rest, distinguished by his bold, ultra-short look.
Periodically Chris would try to imagine what he himself would look like with a flattop, pulling all his hair back in front of a mirror. One time he even tried to photoshop a picture. It was not a flattering look, at all.
But Chris` obsession was not fueled by how handsome he might look with a flatty. He knew he`d never look like Carson Newell. This crazy desire to get scalped was fueled by what the experience would undoubtedly feel like. Him, in an old fashioned barbershop, asking for a flattop? And the old barber, administering a severe clipping to him! All his pretty hair falling onto the white cape. Chris was horrified -- and thrilled! -- by the thought of it. His whole life had been spent cultivating and protecting his long hair, resisting comments from any that he was very much in need of a “man’s” haircut.
Since meeting Carson, however, he felt like he really wanted to shed the hair -- virtually all of it. Watch it fall onto the cape and be swept into a trash bin. Leave the shop feeling scalped and scared of how people would react. Certainly, Carson would approve of his new look. He`d tell Carson that he`d been his inspiration.
Chris glanced into the rearview mirror as he cranked up the engine and was strangely comforted seeing that his coif was still intact. Such lovely tresses -- women would die for those natural highlights. He smoothed it back and plunged his fingers through the plush locks at his nape. But suddenly, the thought of an electric hair clipper plowing up right there in the opposite direction jerked him back into the world of "cut, cut, cut" it all off. Cut it like Carson, his one mind told himself. Pamper it with an expensive conditioner, eeked out a weakened opposing view.
As Chris drove home, he made up his mind. The next time he was having a tete-a-tete with Carson, he would ask him about his haircut. Why not invite him out for a drink after the next meeting? Perfect idea....
And he did. As their May meeting was ending, Chris popped the question. "How about I invite you out for a drink or two, since we`ve finished our planning for the trip and we`ll be wheels up before the end of the month?"
"Swell," answered Carson with a twinkle in his eye. "You pick up the first two and I`ll take over the tab from there...."
Chris was having a blast with Carson while keeping in mind the real reason for the invitation. He decided that right after they ordered their third drink, he`d pop the question. As the cocktail waitress sashayed away, he blurted out the pick-up line he`d rehearsed so many times the night before, "I really like your haircut, Carson. How long have you had a flattop?" There! He said it. The cat was out of the bag.
Carson took up the bait. "Oh, you like it, do you?" he replied as he placed his hand gently across the top.
There was a long dramatic pause while Carson studied Chris’ face. “Oh great,” thought Chris, “he’s picked up on the fact that it was more than a casual inquiry…. “
"My barber is the best. Couldn`t get it flatter with a carpentry tool... You know, I always suspect you were taking sneak peeks at my haircut when you thought I wasn’t noticing…" Carson grinned and then looked Chris directly in the eye and issued him a totally unexpected challenge. "I accepted your invitation for a drink, today. Now it’s my turn to make you an invitation. How about I invite you to join me at the barbershop on Saturday?! You are sooo in need of a real haircut."
Chris was totally unprepared for this direct, aggressive response. "I think you misunderstood me. The flattop looks great on you. On me, I`d be a total nerd, I think."
Carson didn`t relent. "No you wouldn`t. You`d look like ...."
"Wait," interrupted Chris. “Before talking about me, let`s hear your story first. I asked how long you`d worn a flattop! I`m thinking about getting one myself, but let me hear your experience first." Chris surprised himself with the public admission. Too many beers?! Maybe it was just what he needed
“There’s not much to tell, Chris. I’ve worn my hair short my whole life. Went to a Catholic elementary school that had a very strict dress code – we all had the traditional “short back and sides” in the 1970’s when everyone else was into shaggy locks. Then I went to a military academy for high school and got shorn down even shorter – followed by ROTC in college and four years in the military. I’ve worn it flat ever since I got out of bootcamp and absolutely love it Nothing beats a Saturday morning trip to the barbershop for me. And, now, please tell me that on Saturday you’ll be there with me – in the next chair over, head bowed while the barber drives a huge set of clippers up, up, up through these silken girly tresses!” And with that, Carson leaned over and ran his fingers through Chris’ pretty hair. “Oh Chris, you’ll look so handsome once you’ve been shorn down flat. Say you’ll come!”
Chris needed no encouragement at all. “Do we have to wait until Saturday? Take me there right now, Carson, and tell the barber just exactly how you want my hair cut.”
“Landing strip, whitewalls….you’ll look like one of the invading troops when you step foot on the beaches of Normandy, my dear friend Chris! Let’s go….the clippers are waiting for you!” With that the two men called for the check and headed out of the bar in a huge rush. Chris’ heart beat rapidly as Carson drove him to the barbershop.
It was just as he imagined it would be when they pulled in front of it. Huge plate glass window revealed a Norman Rockwell-type scene with several throne-like barber chairs and a pair of elderly barbers dressed in matching white tunics. The scene was dominated by neon, chrome and starchy white fabric. Chris was in a daze as Carson led him into Al’s Barbershop.
The shop was a busy place. In fact, Carson and Chris had to sit apart from each other in the waiting area. Chris’ heart was beating furiously. The capes, clippers, neon lights, barbicide holders, thinning shears, matching tunics with name tags….it seemed like it was out of a vintage movie set. One of the barbers with a salt and pepper crewcut – according to his embroidered tag his name was Bud -- occasionally looked at Chris. Chris gulped, feeling like he was an exotic species of prey and the barber his determined hunter. Was there any turning back? Carson, meanwhile, enjoyed watching his friend fidget and shift nervously. From time to time he’d motion to Chris informing him of how many were in front of him yet until the “Next!” was for him.
And it came exactly from Bud, the sixty-something barber with the crewcut. “Next!! This seat’s been waiting for you, young fellow.” Chris stood up and walked nervously towards the chair under the determined gaze of the anxious barber. Carson moved quickly forward, as well, eager to cut off the exit path and corral Chris into the chair.
The barber lost no time in fastening the strip of tissue followed by a gleaming white cape around Chris’ neck. The die had been cast. His pretty boy hair was virtually history. “In fact, it’s been waiting for you almost all year, young man – I believe Chris is your name.”
“You’re right, Bud,” said Carson. “This is Chris, the fellow I’ve been telling you about whose been working up courage to go flat – probably from the first day he clapped eyes on me.”
Chris was speechless. “What?!” His face reddened. To imagine that Carson knew all along – maybe before he even knew himself that he secretly yearned to be shorn by a traditional barber.
“Don’t be embarrassed, Chris,” Carson cooed reassuringly. “I think it was sweet how it all came to a head today.” He fondled the carmel-colored locks, and then addressed the barber, “Speaking of heads, Bud, make this one here as flat as mine.”
That was the last thing Chris heard before Bud’s strong hand clamped down on his spinning head. He was pinned into a subservient position, with his chin inches away from his chest. The clippers sprung to life and Chris nearly exploded as he felt the cold chattering teeth pressing firmly against his sensitive nape. Bud was a pro at quickly clearing away the long locks. “This takes me back many years to bootcamp 1972, and boy did those longhairs squirm….just like your friend here, Carson. Ah, poor baby’s going to miss his pretty hair, so he thinks?”
“For sure, but he’s going to have something so much better take its place, right, my friend?” so Carson reassuringly, once again.
Chris managed a smile as the barber gathered up the voluminous forelock and sliced it off half inch from the scalp. The severed chunk landed dramatically in Chris’ lap. Carson reached down and picked up the glossy chunk. “A souvenir, perhaps?”
“For you or for me?” asked Chris, suddenly with a surge of fortitude.
Bud laughed and smirked at Carson, “He got you on that one, buddy! You have been overly eager for this historic day, true?” Carson’s face reddened and dropped the severed lock to the floor where it joined the mound that had collected under Bud’s feet. Then, Carson slunk back to the waiting area and took a seat.
Now Chris felt more in command of the situation. The barber was beginning to flatten the top down. “Carson’s flattop is pretty long, don’t you think, Bud?”
“Yeah,” said the barber looking at the chastened Carson. “I tell him he’s got a girlie flat – too much of a pile. I’ve been wanting to give him a nice landing strip for a good long time now but he always suggests his hair is too nice to be cut so short.”
“Oh, does he?” smirked Chris. “Well, I want a real man’s flattop. Cut mine the way you’ve always wanted to shear down sissy Carson there. Maybe when he sees a manly flattop he’ll reconsider his own girlie look.” The barber needed no encouragement. Chris trembled as the clippers plowed across the top of his head. But, the real shock came after the mega-wide strip was finished. Bud applied lather around the complete sides and back of his head and shaved away all traces of the beautiful carmel colored hair! He looked positively military.
“Carson, this is how the truly brave soldiers had me cut their hair before shipping off to the front,” Bud said as he spun Chris around to directly face him. “Just a hint around this horseshoe pattern right here…” The barber traced a u-shaped path from temple-to-temple through the only hint of hair that remained on Chris’ stunned head.
All Carson could say was, “You’re unrecognizable, Chris.”
Chris climbed out the of chair triumphantly. “Well, I feel great! OK, sissy boy. Get in the chair. Bud, give him a horseshoe and make us twin soldier heroes! After all, we’re going to tour the historic European battlefield together in less than two weeks.”
Bud snapped the towel across the leather seat of the huge barber chair. “Hustle, Carsey, my dear. I can’t wait to plunge my clippers straight through your treasured tresses.” Chris thought it ironic that the pile of a flattop could be described as “tresses” but it was evident that Carson had cherished the deep pile on top of his head as much as Chris had be fond of his own flowing locks.
This time it was Chris who stepped forward to block the exit from the shop. Once Carson was under the cape, Chris stroked the top of his plush flattop. “Take all this off, Bud!”
“Coming in for a crash landing….” Bud hollered as the clippers plowed right into the dense field of hair. The gleaming white scalp showed through profusely. Bud administered the highest, tightest flattop to Carson that he’d ever given any living soul. Carson struggled to disguise his anguish.
It was such a touching moment when Chris praised the new “manly” Carson as he rose in a wobbly stupor from the chair. “What a great start to a memorable trip….” Chris declared as he put his arm around Carson’s shoulder and led him to the car.
Carson rallied his spirits as he felt true friendship and empathy flowing from Chris…. “Hey, what you say we bring all the boys down here for flattops before the trip, so they can get the authentic feel the young privates had as they prepared to ship off….’over there, send the ….” The two men sang like drunken sailors as they got in the car to drive back to the bar for another few rounds of beer. Ah, superior male bonding at its best!