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Predicament – Part IV by htflatnc

This is a continuation of Predicament Parts I (id=1864), II (id=1869), III (id=1876) and utilizes characters from Fathers, sons, friends and deals (id=1781), Pine Ridge Barber Shop Parts I (id=1836), II (id=1845) and III (id=1866). Special thanks to Kaleb McKinley for allowing me to use his characters.

Predicament – Part IV

Jim pulled his pickup truck up in front of Pine Ridge Barber Shop on Main Street. The passengers included Lennie, Jack and the man of the hour, Ryan. They were headed towards Ryan’s initiation into the rugby club. Virtually every member of the rugby team had played high school football. Many had also been wrestlers. All were athletic and fit. Ryan qualified on all three fronts and had made friends with the other members of the club – with the possible exception of Lennie – fitting easily in the general camaraderie of the group. The barber shop they were going to was Lennie’s aunt’s barber shop and arrangements had been made for Ryan to get an initiation hair cut. The initiation hair cut was reserved for the freshman initiate with the longest hair. He would soon have one of the shortest haircuts of all the club members. The club members would decide on the fate of his hair.

There was a banner in the window. The ferociously serious eyes and menacing visage of a wolf with snarling teeth in grey, white and blood red was draped from ceiling to floor in the front window which normally would have displayed everything happening in the shop to those on Main Street.

When the foursome entered the barber shop, there was a 30-something-year-old in the barber chair. Jeff had flattop comb and Oster 76 clippers beveling the skinned back and sides into the longish, plush, blond flattop up top. Jeff was cutting his second flattop of the day, this time a longish one. It was only the second flattop he had ever cut. He had spent the previous Saturday in the shop with running commentary as Lennie’s Aunt Bee crafted four flattops in a row and wielded a straight razor to the back and sides of three of them while the fourth had to settle for only an outline shave. Jeff was demonstrating to the woman who was standing to his side that he was an excellent student. This was altogether a good thing for Jeff and he had a strong incentive to show that. Jeff had seen Aunt Bee’s wrath directed at others and had no desire to see it directed at him.

Ryan entered first and went over and sat in the empty barber chair as Lennie had instructed him shortly before arriving at the shop. He noticed that there were about twenty people in the shop, almost all of whom were members of the rugby club. The shop was spacious with lots of room in the back and extra folding chairs had been brought in. There were four people Ryan did not know: The man in the chair getting the flattop was obviously a law enforcement official of some type. The woman standing to the side of Jeff watching intently and occasionally offering instructions was obviously Lennie’s Aunt Bee. There was a raven-haired beauty that Ryan deduced was Ava, Lennie’s twin sister. She appeared younger than Lennie, and she was certainly better looking. She was also dressed provocatively wearing short-shorts and a short-sleeved blouse that showed a great deal of her ample bosom. Ryan wasn’t sure what to make of her. And finally there was a man in his mid- to late-forties who seemed strangely out of place. He probably wasn’t a waiting customer as he had a freshly-cut, sharply-crafted flattop.

The others in the room were members of the rugby club, but the appearance of most of them had changed since the last time Ryan had seen them. Their faces were all clean shaven – even Lennie, the king of scruff – rather than the scruff he would usually see them with. And then it struck Ryan: their hair was shorter than last Saturday. The stranger he did not know had a flattop, the man in the chair had a flattop and now three of his team mates had flattops. Jason, the club President and team captain, was wearing a flattop and Ryan thought he was a natural for a flattop. He had the right head structure and the hair itself stood at full attention as though it needed no training and was its natural state. Ryan thought how good all those with flattops looked. Ryan turned sideways to look himself in the mirror and imagine how he would look with a flattop. He reached up and pushed his five-inch blond locks back off his forehead.

When Jim entered the shop, he went over and stood next to Jason. The two had been best of friends since high school. There was two years age difference between them, but they were as close as brothers. Jim reached up and ran his hand lightly over the top of Jason’s flattop and said "I’m glad to see it’s back. Bet your dad will too once he sees it."

"I talked to him this past weekend and told him that I would be getting one. He said he’d be coming up here this weekend both to see our match and to show Tim around campus," Jason said.

"I’ll have one as well by the time he gets here," Jim said. Jim then noticed what Ryan was doing, looking in the mirror, pushing his hair back and spoke to him, "Ryan, getting nervous?"

"A little. Trying to imagine what I’d look like with a flattop or no hair at all," Ryan said.

"Won’t be long now before all that girlie hair hits the deck," Jim laughed.

"Look who’s talking," Jason said. "Ryan, when I got to be good friends with Jim he had a girlie mop like you wouldn’t believe. Had to drag him kicking and screaming into the barber shop to get a flattop and knock some sense into his head."

"Hah! What are you talking about? Your dad and I had to convince you to get a flattop," Jim retorted.

"Well, however it happened, I’m glad it did. Don’t be nervous. Have you ever had a flattop before?" Jason asked.

"No," Ryan answered with his voice betraying nervousness for the first time.

Before Ryan could say anything else, there was a hushed silence in the room as the chatter came to an abrupt halt. The man getting the flattop was getting out of the chair, but that was not what caught everyone’s attention. Rather, there was this tall, stout woman tugging at the cheek of Lennie telling him "Don’t worry, sweet pea." She was assuring him that going under the razor would not be a bad thing. This scene was so strange and bizarre to the members of the rugby club that they didn’t quite know how to process what they were witnessing. That anyone would pinch and tug the cheek of Lennie seemed incredible. That Lennie would allow anyone to pinch and tug his cheek seemed incredible. That the woman’s hand was still attached after pinching and tugging Lennie’s cheek seemed incredible. That Lennie had any sort of doubt about anything seemed incredible. That Lennie would be nervous about having his head lathered and shaved when his hair was already buzzed down to the nub seemed incredible. And, oh, there was that sweet pea thing. Lennie – sweet pea?!?!? Poor sweet pea. It would be a long time before the other rugby team members would forgot that – or let Lennie forget.

Before anyone could fathom what all of this meant, Jason stepped in and said, "Fellow pack members," and this was followed by growling noises, "I’m glad you all could be here today for the initiation of two new rugby club members. The first new member is Jeff Caldwell, the man with the clippers. Many of you have already received haircuts from Jeff. His clippers and I became better acquainted just a short while ago," and Jason reached up and ran his hand up the back of his newly shorn flattop and dusted the top to growling and howls of excitement from the other club members.

Jason continued, "The other member is Ryan Murphy. Ryan is seriously fit and serious about keeping fit. He has not played rugby prior to this year, but played football and wrestled throughout high school – learning a skill set which he will use to good advantage. Ryan also has the honor of having the longest hair of all those seeking entry into our rugby club. Because of this, Ryan will have the honor of undergoing our tradition of marking if he chooses to be a member of our pack. Which do you prefer, Ryan, your long girly hair or becoming a member of the rugby club and allowing yourself to be marked?"

Without hesitation, Ryan said "Rugby." And this brought on a cacophony of howling from the other team members. There was such a scent of testosterone and such a sense of anticipation that Ryan could barely control himself and he felt himself getting bigger and bigger, harder and harder as he had never done before when having his hair cut. Jeff signaled Ryan to come and sit in the chair. He walked over slowly trying to hide his excitement, but to no avail. It was just too noticeable. His other soon-to-be-team mates could sense Ryan’s excitement because of his scent, but the visual clues were also there. None thought Ryan’s excitement was out of place. They had all experienced this. Jeff fastened the cape around Ryan and then waited as instructed. "Ryan, the members of the rugby team are going to decide the fate of your hair and how it will be cut – that will mark you. Do you accept this?" Jason asked.

"Yes I do. I trust you to make the right decision," Ryan said forthrightly. Jason explained that Ryan had two options: A shaved head or a flattop. He also explained the rules: the other team mates were to vote based on the case Lennie and Jack would make. The one losing his case, would receive the haircut he had tried to convince his team mates Ryan should receive.

Lennie went first making the case for Ryan to get a shaved head. He brought up Ryan’s defiance by not following the text messages and heeding the threats they contained. He said that in the end, Ryan should get his head shaved since he had lost twelve inches of hair. He said that he had to basically kidnap Ryan to get him to come to this meeting.

Ryan asked to speak in his own defense. While this was unusual, the request was granted. Ryan stated that the text messages were anonymous and he did not know they were coming from a club member. He also said that the messages disappeared from his phone after only a few seconds. As a rhetorical question, he asked how that was done. Without saying a word, most of the other team members turned towards the stranger with the flattop and then Ryan understood his presence. Ryan claimed that he would not have required kidnapping to come to this meeting. He said that he was coming to the meeting with Jim though he thought it would be on campus. He said that he did not know the meeting was for his initiation and his marking. He asked Jim if that was true and Jim agreed that it was true. Ryan said that he was not trying to defend his hair length, but defend his character since Lennie was attacking it and saying things that were either unknown to him at the time they occurred or were untrue. Ryan said he would of course agree to whatever decision the group made. It was an excellent defense and Lennie could tell he should not have attacked Ryan’s character, only the hair length. But it was too late.

Jack was the next to speak and said that after the defense Ryan had provided, was there any doubt that Ryan should get a flattop and Lennie should have his head shaved. Jack then turned the meeting back over to Jason.

"So are you ready to vote or should there be discussion?" Jason asked. "Vote" was heard from all around. And a show of hands was taken. It wasn’t even close. Ryan was to get a flattop and Lennie was to have his head shaved. Lennie went over and sat in the other barber chair.

Aunt Bee then intervened, telling Jeff she was cutting Ryan’s flattop and Jeff was to shave Lennie’s head. This was not the script that had been decided earlier, but Jeff was not going to argue with Aunt Bee. Her barber shop, her rules. She was not a woman to be crossed.

Quickly and efficiently, Aunt Bee put on a #1 blade on a second large pair of Oster 76s that was hanging from a peg, untangling the wires, came up behind Ryan and pushed the full head of copper blond hair forward so that the bangs were hanging loosely in front of his head. She then plowed the clippers up from the nape of his neck to about an inch and a half from his crown. Well over two inches of hair came crashing onto Ryan’s broad shoulders doing somersaults onto his lap.

Meanwhile, Jeff was using one hot towel followed by one type of treatment cream followed by another hot towel on Lennie’s head. Lennie had a slightly dark complexion, but the hot towels were making it a bright reddish color. Finally, Jeff picked up a stainless-steel bowl with pre-made shaving cream and a badger brush with a silver handle. Jeff swirled the brush around a few times and began applying the shaving cream that smelled of leather onto the back of Lennie’s head. Lennie had his eyes closed the entire time and seemed to be in a deep state of relaxation, which was remarkable since Lennie had always seemed to be in a permanent state of hyper-agitation. Jeff went over to the wooden stand and picked up a straight razor. Not a straight razor with ejectable blades, but an old-fashioned straight razor that would need to be stropped and occasionally honed. Jeff stropped the razor slowly as Aunt Bee had showed him giving it the same dramatic flair she had. With his left thumb, he stroked off the shaving cream from the back of Lennie’s head and neck and then gave the first pass of the razor.

Fifteen minutes after taking the first pass with the clippers, Ryan was sitting in the barber chair with the back and sides clipped very short – with a taper from 00000 to a #1 – tied into a side part with about half an inch left below the part and a full four to five inches of hair on top styled into a perfect pompadour with the front curving up like a soft ice cream cone. Aunt Bee had applied an ample amount of Suavecito to hold Ryan’s hair in place and look good. The hair shimmered. The barber turned Ryan around to face the mirror and gave him a hand mirror to look at her latest creation.

"How do you like it," the barber asked with a smirk on her face. There was a sigh emanating from Ava indicating that she thought he looked dreamy.

"I thought I was going to get a flattop," Ryan said.

"We’re getting there. I just wanted you to know how good you could have looked if you’d taken Lennie’s advice and gotten a haircut sooner." Ava audibly sighed once again.

Aunt Bee was already standing there with flattop comb and Oster 76 clippers in hand and she wheeled Ryan back around to face his audience who were witnessing the gradual transformation of their future rugby star.

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