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Rodney and the Twins by Manny

"You can come back at 4:00 p.m. to pick up your document packet," the clerk said as she handed Rodney a pick-up slip. "You will need to present photo-ID at that time."

While he was happy to get the service he urgently needed, Rodney's whole day would be shot. He'd already spent several hours driving to the county court house and waiting in line; now he had another two hours to kill before the documents would be ready.

Rodney decided to browse the shops on the main drag to kill some time. He also needed to get a bite to eat. As he was leaving the court house, he decided to ask one of the guards at the main entrance for a restaurant recommendation.

"Excuse me, sir," he said as he approached one of the security guards.

The fellow turned and Rodney was confronted with an extremely handsome young man with green eyes and an immaculate flattop. The sides were clipped close and the top stood high, plush and perfectly groomed. Despite the short length, the officer's brown hair was glossy and looked extremely healthy.

"Yes, can I help you?" the officer replied.

"Uh, ah," Rodney stammered momentarily before asking, "Is there a cafe or restaurant where I could get a bite to eat near here? Something you'd recommend -- a local establishment, perhaps?"

The friendly officer smiled broadly. "Sure can! My brother runs a BBQ place just around the corner. Go down Main and take the first left. It's called Paul's Pulled Pork. Best food in town. Across the street from the barber shop."

"Thank you very much. I love BBQ," Rodney stated. Then, he couldn't help but add on, "And, uh, would you recommend the barber shop? I'm needing a little trim." Rodney said, running his fingers through his dense dark mane that was styled in a longish business cut. He was still admiring the officer's amazing flattop trimmed.

"Sure thing. That's where I go. The barber there cut the best flattops in the county," the officer replied with a smile.

"I can see that. Your haircut is immaculate! I've always admired flattops....never had the courage to get one myself," Rodney replied wistfully. The fantasy of going flat never failed to create a stir within Rodney. His dark locks falling in clumps to a white cape....

"Why not?" the guard asked. "You've got the perfect hair for a flattop. Thick and full of body. Pop on over there after you eat and tell the barbers that Gene, the guard from the court house, recommended the place to you," he encouraged.

"I may have the perfect hair for one, but not exactly the right job," demurred Rodney. "Sure, if I were a cop or serviceman, I'd already be flat. Unfortunately, I'm a standard businessman who works in a suit and tie environment," Rodney replied, semi-apologetically.

"Oh, and there's some written grooming policy that says 'no flattops' in the office?!" the guard replied with a chuckle. "I would imagine not!"

"Well, you've got me there. Can't say there is, but...well, I just would'nt feel...." Rodney stammered awkwardly. Finally, he wrapped up his mumbling gibberish by calling out 'thanks' and leaving the court house.

Rodney enjoyed walking through the extensive grounds of the courthouse. The slight breeze rustled his thick brown hair and felt refreshing. As he walked, he reflected on the guard's comment -- 'oh, and there's some written grooming policy that says no flattops'? Of course, it wasn't written -- it was unwritten! Mainly, peer pressure. He couldn't just walk into work with a flattop. His colleagues would ridicule him and there would be no end to the quips and comments. Was it peer pressure or just fear of taking the plunge? Once his hair had been cut off, he would have to live with it....

Rodney could not stop thinking about the guard's flattop and his enthusiasm for it. Perhaps he could have the length taken down gradually! Shorter and shorter until he ended up with a plush flattop like Gene, the guard's. As he walked, Rodney made a snap decision -- he would take the first step today. He would visit the barber shop and ask for a taper! A short taper! One step away from the salon scissors cut he sported.

Rodney quickened his step. The excitement he felt confirmed his decision to make the transition from salon to barbershop....and the journey towards flattop would get off to an immediate start.

Rodney was torn between heading straight to the barber shop or getting a BBQ sandwich. In the end he decided to eat first, hopefully with some view of the clipper action across the street. He chose a nice table on the patio that gave a full view of the traditional barbershop.

The young man that showed him to the table looked very familiar -- the green eyes and handsome face, the height....he reminded Rodney of the guard at the courthouse. It must be Gene's brother, Paul! The huge difference, though, was the length of hair. Instead of an immaculate flattop, this fellow sported gorgeous shoulder length locks that were the same shade of brown.

"You're not Paul, are you?" Rodney asked.

"Sure am, the proud owner of this joint!" he replied. "Do I know you? Have you eaten here before?"

"No, but your brother recommended the place to me," Rodney replied. "In fact, he said I should eat here and then cross the street and let the barber there cut my hair. I was admiring his flattop...."

"Oh, my twin is so vain about his precious flattop. And he's constantly getting on my case about my hair!" Paul laughed, flicking his mane back away from his face. "Truth is, I'd probably have cut it all off long ago if he weren't so opinionated and pushy about it."

"You're twins?!" Rodney exclaimed.

"Identical, except for the hair," Paul replied. "We had matching bowl cuts when we were kids -- but by the time we left for college I was favoring longer hair and Roy was having his cut shorter. The flattop didn't happen, though, until he got that job as a security guard. I remember watching his transformation -- from your length to the flattop -- right across the street there. The barber scooped up his long bangs with a comb and then ran the clippers right over them. With the first swipe of the clippers, there was no going back! And, he's been flat ever since."

"I would love to get a flattop," Rodney confided, "but I've never had the nerve to go through with it. The flattop is very 'old school' and very 'edgy' at the same time. My office colleagues would never let me live it down, though...."

"And it's a haircut that requires a ton of maintenance. That's always been my problem. But Gene loves his regular trips to the barbershop to get tidied up. So, can I get you something to drink while you study the menu?" Paul asked. "How about a nice cool beer?"

"Sure -- some local craft beer. Pilsner, if you have it," Rodney said.

When Paul came back with the beer in one hand, he was holding his cell phone up to his ear with the other. "Hey, Bud, I see you're between clients. Come on over here for a few minutes. Someone needs your help."

Rodney paid scant attention to the call, but suddenly felt a jolt of panic when he saw the barber leave the shop and cross the street towards the BBQ joint. He was clad in white from head to toe -- dressed like an old geezer, but a young, well groomed man with hair shorn down into a high 'n tight.

When he saw the barber heading towards Paul, Rodney's little world went into total disarray.

"This fellow here wants you to cut his hair like my brother's," Paul announced, as he led the barber over to where Rodney was sitting.

Rodney's face turned red. Oh, my! What had he done?!

"He's a little worried though, afraid he won't have the nerve to go through with it," Paul explained.

"It's not like getting a tattoo," the barber laughed. "I mean, if you don't like it, in a few weeks it'll grow out. And, your hair is perfect for a flattop. Just like the Delaney twins! Right, Paul? When are you going to let me take you down? This mop is itching for a good shearing!" he said, playfully swatting at Paul's flowing mane.

"Hey, careful! I get lots of compliments about my hair!" Paul argued playfully. "In fact, just this morning, someone told me I'd make a great model for a shampoo commercial."

"But, your brother gets more compliments than you, I bet!" the barber replied. Then, without an invitation, the young barber sat down at Rodney's table and Paul followed suit.

"What's your name?" the barber asked.

"Rodney," he replied.

"I'm Graham. So what's the problem, Rodney?" the barber continued. "Where's this hesitation about going flat coming from?"

Rodney stammered nervously. "Uh, I don't know, I guess it's just a little extreme for me."

"Did you like Gene Delaney's flattop?"

"A lot," Rodney admitted.

"Okay, that settles it. Finish up the beer and head on over there. I'll oil up the clippers. You're getting that mange peeled off nice and tight. And bring Paul with you!" Graham instructed. "In fact, if Paul comes with you, you're both getting your flattops free of charge!"

With that, the barber left the patio and returned to the shop.

Paul pawed at his long hair. "I'm tempted.... I've been needing a good excuse to surrender all this to the clippers," he said, grasping his voluminous mane. "What do you say, Rodney? You and me both going for a new look? In fact, I'll up the ante a bit -- if you go for the flattop with me, the beer is free now. And, after we're both sporting flattops, the sandwich will be on me too."

The idea of watching Paul Delaney's shoulder-length shimmering brown hair taken down to a flattop excited Rodney. But the idea of watching his own business cut be stripped away by an eager barber excited (and terrified) him even more.

There was a long, awkward silence.

Finally, Rodney blurted out, "I'll do it! But you're first in the chair, Paul!" Rodney's heart raced with excitement hearing his decision even before he had time to really consider it carefully.

"Deal!" Paul exclaimed. "Let's shake on it!" he added, grabbing Rodney's hand, sealing their fate. Then, in almost a case of instant cold feet, Paul added, "OMG. This all came up rather quickly. And, I've got a lot more on the chopping block that you do, Rodney!" Paul pawed awkwardly at his long hair for a bit, like he was wavering. But, the doubts were squelched, and he affirmed his decision, "This is all coming off....now!"

But, Rodney was still trying to deal with his own case of cold feet. "You have a perfect idea of what you'll look like when you walk out of that shop there -- just like your twin brother, Gene! And you're the owner of this restaurant, so no one will dare mock you to your face," Rodney explained. "But, me....imagine me tomorrow morning, suit, tie and flattop, heading into the office!"

"You'll be the center of a lot of attention, I'm sure!" Paul laughed. "Hey, I'm going to go for a landing strip. Then I can tease my twin about his pretty boy flattop....that nice, plush pile he's so fond of! What about you?" Paul asked.

"Oh, the idea of a clippers grazing the top of my head and uncovering a small patch of scalp is so appealing," mused Rodney. "I mean, if I'm going to shock everyone, I might as well go all the way. To be honest, I've always fantasized about getting a horseshoe flattop!"

"Wow! That's some serious change, you're toying around with, fellow!" Paul exclaimed.

"Good grief, Paul, you're right! I just got carried away with myself. I'm not even sure I can go through with the flattop thing. Maybe after 3-4 beers, I could...." Rodney laughed.

"We shook on it, and you're going through with it, pal. Your pert little business cut is giving way to a sharp, marine-like flat! I'm heading over there now, before I get cold feet. When you finish this beer, I want your butt over there ready for the cape and clippers!"

Rodney watched Paul Delaney cross the street with this lush, long mane shimmering in the sun. He watched him grab the handle of the barber shop door, pull it open and stride in purposefully. He watched him take a seat in the chair by the window and the barber fasten the cape around his neck. Then he watched the fast-feed electric clippers begin to chew off the long, beautiful hair. He watched glistening shanks slip off Paul's head, landing briefly on the cape and then tumbling toward the floor.

Rodney marveled at how firmly and quickly Graham was in reducing the bulk of Paul's lengthy locks. The sides and back were taken down right to the scalp which dazzled in a white that rivaled the cape!

He would be next in the chair, Rodney reminded himself. He would be next to shed the old look and emerge with a sharp, short flattop! Rodney quickly downed his beer. It gave him what he needed to move his date with the clippers closer and stood to leave the patio. He would exchange one chair for another across the street.

Rodney ran his fingers through his dense, soft hair. Within minutes most of it would be on the floor of the barbershop. Only truncated tufts plied with a waxy product and standing erect would remain once Graham finished with him. His legs felt like jelly as he crossed the street.

Graham spotted him coming and flashed a huge grin. Then Paul turned to look as well and flashed him a thumbs up. Paul had a very excited look on his face, like he was glad he'd gone forward with his transformation from longhair to jarhead. The long hair had been reduced to a few irregular sprouts.

As he entered the shop, Rodney knew the time had come at last to turn the dreaming into action. Years of fantasizing and toying around with the idea of a flattop were coming to a head, so to speak.

He glanced down at the floor and saw a massive amount of beautiful brown hair strewn about the feet of the barber -- Paul's former flowing locks. Graham was just beginning to sculpt Paul's top and take it down flat.

"You made it, at last," the barber said as Rodney stepped into the shop. "I was watching you nursing your beer over there and got worried you might change your mind."

Rodney glanced at himself in the mirror. His business cut look fine -- normal -- just as it had for years. "Can't say that I might not still bolt!" Rodney joked, betraying an inkling of fear he still had.

"Shall I lock the door, to make sure you stay in here?" the barber laughed. "Or better yet -- why don't you hop up into the spare barber chair here next to us. Let's get you acclimated to the new environment before we start stripping away your tired business cut."

Rodney complied. The chair felt comfortable, even though emotionally he was on pins and needles.

To Rodney's surprise, Graham stopped working on Paul for a moment and pulled out a cape from the cabinet beneath the counter. He snapped it open and draped it around Rodney, fastening it snug at the neck. "There, one more impediment to leaving!" Graham announced. "I have yet to see a man whose been caped leave my chair. I'm going to really enjoy taking you down flat, Rodney. Have you thought about how far you're going? A pretty boy flat like Gene or more of a masculine one like Paul's requested -- skinned sides and landing strip?"

"He wants a horseshoe, Graham. He wants you to shoe him!" piped up Paul.

Rodney instantly turned red and began to stammer, "Oh, perhaps eventually, but not today, not a shoe...."

Graham's eyes blazed with delight. Rodney's deepest secret had been revealed and the barber would not tolerate a delay in bringing it to pass. Graham quickly picked up the clippers again. "I think Rodney really does want a shoe! It's written all over his face." Then the barber snapped on the clippers and moved toward the chair where Rodney sat. He would take away the business cut without delay. He would shoe the nervous Rodney!

"Maybe it's best for you NOT to watch, Rodney," he quipped as he swiveled the chair to face away from the mirror. Again, Rodney accepted the authoritative barber's decision submissively and silently, not objecting.

Graham calmly snagged the long forelock and deftly buzzed the whole mass off in one clipper over comb motion. Instantly, the cape was soiled.

"There! No turning back now," Graham chuckled. "Ready for your shoe? These balding clippers are...."

Rodney looked in petrified terror at the chattering teeth. His mouth felt dry. His tongue was glued down fast. He remained still and submissive. "I'm ready," he finally croaked. "Make it happen."

Graham was quick and efficient. He gripped Rodney's head and forced him to bow it low towards his chest.

"Sorry for interrupting your haircut, Paul, but I thought I should attend to Rodney's urge before it passed and we lost him," Graham said.

Then the divestiture of the business cut began in earnest.

"Totally understand. That's quite a radical makeover he's getting. Just think, tomorrow.....suit, tie and horseshoe! Carrying his little briefcase into the office with everyone whispering and snickering," Paul said, carrying on with delighted glee as he made poor Rodney squirm even more.

Graham was brutal in administering the shoe. In a few minutes, he stripped away about 97% of Rodney's business cut, leaving him looking a bit like a skinned rat! The 3-4 inch locks from the top of his head virtually covered his entire caped chest. Rodney stared down in stunned silence at the soiled cape. All he could think about was 'what will everyone say at the office' the next day.

"Aren't you going to lather him up and scrape him clean?" Paul asked from the next chair over.

"Oh, so Rodney needs the full treatment? Leave here with a nice, shiny head....except for this thin shoe-like perimeter? What do you say, big fella?" Graham asked as he swiveled the chair back towards the mirror.

Rodney was left aghast as he stared at his reflection. He was unrecognizable.

"Leave it like this or scrape you clean?" Graham asked. "If you don't like the shoe, we can go totally clean. Cueball!"

Rodney's stomach churned. 'Why not?' he asked himself. No hair at all....

"Go ahead, finish it off. Cueball," murmured Rodney under his breath.

Graham prepared some hot, moist towels and prepared Rodney's sensitive scalp for the razor.

"I'll let these towels prepare your head for the Mr. Clean look, Rodney, while I finish Paul's top," the barber chirped. He snapped on the clippers, "Now, let's see, where were we, Paul? No plush, pretty boy look like your twin's, correct?"

"That's right. I want a mean, aggressively short look. Clear the deck!" Paul instructed.

"One awesome landing strip, coming up," Graham announced as the clippers hit the tufts rising from the top of Paul's head, skinning the top. Then he worked the top down shorter and shorter until Paul was left with an extremely short, military-like flattop. "There you go, all finished, Mr. Paul! Quite a change from those girly length locks you waltzed in here with!"

After Graham removed the cape, Paul snapped a selfie of himself and texted it to his twin. "Look what your barber gave me just now!"

Paul got up from the chair and surveyed all the hair on the floor. "Look at that! Hard to believe I lived under all that for so long. Now, Mr. Rodney here, is ready, I believe. Scrape him clean, Graham!" Paul stated.

The barber was happy to massage a dollop of warm foam into Rodney's tender scalp. He was a master with the razor, shaving away the stubble and short-lived shoe.

Rodney watched the cueball emerge from the foam. He felt somewhat disappointed that the long-desired flattop would not be his reality. But, as a consolation, he took an instant liking to the denuded head. He felt manly and authoritative. He would leave the shop looking and feeling like a new man!

"I'm ready for a few beers and sandwiches, Paul!" he stated as he glanced down at the hair strewn floor of the barbershop. It had been a worthwhile exchange. The feel of his bald head was priceless....

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