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Dennis -The Family Circle of Discipline by Deke Cutter
This is Part II of my story Dennis Learns Discipline
When Dennis and his father returned home. His father told him to "head up to your room, change out of your school clothes and get going on your homework. Dennis opened is bedroom door and found his room transformed. Gone was the plush double bed, the "hang out" sofa, the huge chest, the shelves where he kept his games, his Xbox, his stuff, his TV was gone. Instead he had a single bed-a cot really, a simple 4 drawer chest, and a desk with a basic laptop computer on it. Dennis was trying to control his building sense of despair and rage. He pulled open his closet and found only "nerd clothes." In the chest were similar nerd undergarments, white socks and collared knit shirts and shorts lain insets. His mouth overtook his mind and he yelled "F**k this."
"DOWN HERE NOW!" came the command. Dennis flew down the stairs.
Tears streamed down his face as he blubbered out "Dad, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry."
"Take off that school shirt and trousers and you give me 25 pushups right now!" Dennis practically tore off his garments, leaving him in his underwear. He threw the garments onto the nearby sofa. "Fold those garments properly or you will be giving me 50." Dennis was now, nearly hysterical, and his father sensed it. "calm down, deep breaths, take this tissue, wipe your face." After a few moments, Dennis was more composed. Then, his father said, now, down and give me 25. Dennis struggled to do 1, as his father anticipated. When he could not push himself up for 16, his father said, "OK son, you may owe me 10. Now, let’s go upstairs to your room." Dennis was told to sit on his bed, his father sat on the hard wood desk chair. "It goes without saying, I will not tolerate that language. That kind of crudity over a minor inconvenience is for losers. Furthermore, you told me only a short time ago that you were prepared to accept your punishment. The "things" I have taken, like a reasonable amount of hair can be earned back in time. That is up to you, but each act of defiance and bad behavior will have consequences. Now put on those red Madras shorts and the red knit shirt, put on your white socks and Weejuns and come to the kitchen.
When he got to the kitchen, his stomach dropped. A Wahl home haircutting kit was sitting on the table. His father explained to Dennis that he dad planned to use it during the "bootcamp" phase of Dennis’s reorientation to save the hassle of frequent barber trips. "But, your language slipup tonight just brings your first home haircut forward. That top is going to have to come down from a 1.5 to a 1." And so, it did. When his father handed him a mirror, Dennis was shocked at the difference that he could see. His father forced him to eat some chicken soup for dinner then went up to his room and picked out his clothes for him and left him to his homework and his remorse. He kept looking in the mirror inside his closet door.
"I’m a bald geek. All I had to do was meet him half way and I cold have escaped with a short but less freakish cut. I have to work this out." So, Dennis "got with the program". He chose to run track in the Fall and try out for the baseball team in the spring. His father kept the discipline strict until Thanksgiving with weekly home high and tights. But, as Dennis’s behavior and academics improved, his father decided to reward him. Is old bed was returned. He was allowed limited gaming time, and on Christmas day his dad told him that, if he stayed on the straight and narrow, he could grow his hair out, only getting a professional trim if needed to maintain school regs.
The rest of the school year went well. The baseball team went to the State Championships and Dennis seemed to have really turned things around. But wen Dennis looked in a mirror, he saw a fake. He still wished to be the long haired free spirit. Next year, in college, the real Dennis would re-emerge!
It was Dennis’s graduation party. His father had insisted on having all the family. Dennis was the oldest of the cousins and his father directed him to spend his time with them. Dennis hated his 14-year-old cousin Roger whose hair was as long as Dennis’s was. The kid was a little brat whose mother thought he was an angel. Roger’s father, Uncle Dave was a real cool guy, but he was away on business, Roger was out of control. Roger had been busting Dennis about his hair all year, since "the big chop." Now, for the first time, the lank flat few inches that he bravely tried to style were finally looking less than tragic and the little pr*ck wouldn’t let up. Dennis kept his cool but decided to get back at his cousin. He looked around at all of his male cousins and said, there is something that all of us has done that you cold do bt you are too afraid to do."
"I’m not afraid of anything."
"So, you’ll do it?"
"OK, everybody, let’s go to the kitchen." When they got there, Dennis announced "all of us have had very short buzz cut. Now its your turn." As he expected, Roger dashed out of the room to the hoots and taunts of his cousins. Mission accomplished.
Moments later, as the cousins were drifting outside, Dennis’ father stormed angrily into the kitchen. "Dennis after all your progress, you tease your cousin and reduce him to tears. Your aunt is so upset that she has stormed out." You and I will be meeting on this later. There will be consequences." One thing Dennis had learned was grace under fire. He knew better than offering an explanation if he was not asked. He would wait out the party and see.
Dennis and his father remained gracious hosts for the reminder of the afternoon. When the last guests had gone and the caterers, Dennis went to his room, changed into his plainest shorts and tee shirt, wet his hair and combed it as conservatively as he could and went downstairs to meet is father’s wrath. "So much progress, Dennis, I am disappointed."
"It seems you’ve missed our old friend, Mr. Wahl since you were so anxious to introduce him to your cousin." Sit down, we are going to spend some quality time with Mr. Wahl and Mr. Gillette. A despondent Dennis sat and his father snapped the cape closed around his neck. Soon he felt the familiar, but unwelcome naked blade crawl inexorably up his neck, higher and higher. Again and again, he felt five and a half months of hard-earned growth stripped away. Sideburns-flicked off. Ears no longer surrounded. And then the small plastic blade, and the hair eating machine at his forehead on his hairline, pushing back. All too soon, the sides and back of his head were covered in shaving foam. And then, it was gone. But this time, no tears, only knowledge of his inner strength and self-control.
"I shall have to reconsider your college plans. It may be best for you to study online at home for a year. Or, perhaps, if you will join the school’s ROTC program for a year, that might be an acceptable solution. Yes, I shall contact the director tomorrow."
And so, Dennis’ plans to become a free spirit once again were foiled for another with his signed promise to join ROTC for a year (and his father’s special arrangement regarding Dennis’ haircuts remaining high and tight.) But there is a silver lining. The very next day Uncle Dave came knocking at their door. Dennis answered the door. Uncle Dave asked if Dennis’ dad was home. Dennis called him. The three men sat down and Uncle Dave apologized profusely. Dennis’ father looked perplexed. "My son is a little brat. Ask any of or nieces and nephews. Dennis had the patience of a saint all day. He finally fond a clever way to pt him in his place. Only the little monster went running to his mommy and lied about it. I assume I am looking at the consequences." Dennis, Roger is being transferred to your old school next term and my wife knows it’s the MMA next if she interferes. Now, give me ten minutes to get the boy to offer an apology in person.
Dennis’ father looked chagrined. He knew why Dennis had not defended himself. "Dennis, I should have asked for your side and I should have trusted you. I’ve now got you stuck in a year of ROTC."
"It is OK dad, after this, he said, rubbing his nearly bald head, I know that my free spirit lives inside me, whatever I look like on the outside. But, if you really want to make amends…with that the door bell rang.
A very red-faced Roger entered with his father. "He smirked when he looked at Dennis’s head and then said "Really sorry skin head, OK."
His father took him by the hair and said to Dennis’ father is your barber shop open? This one needs a cut, just like his cousin. With great angst, tears, squealing, and carry on, the haircut was completed and young Roger looked even more pathetic than Dennis ever thought he did. Dennis whispered in his father’s ear. His father whispered in Uncle Dave’s ear and Dave said to Roger "that haircut will be great for all the athletics you will be involved with at your new school. Drop down and give us 25 psh ps to demonstrate."
After Uncle Dave and the newly disciplined Roger left, Dennis and his father returned to the kitchen. Dennis picked up his thought, if you really wanted to make amends, you would sit down in this chair and let me give you a nice crewcut. I’ll go easy on you, a 4 on top with a three tapered down to a one on the sides and a little bumper in the front. But I expect you to keep it until I’m done with ROTC and my hair has grown back to where it was at my party. Dennis’s father had that very thick kind of straight hair that fit his head like a helmet, brush the top of his collar, swept back on the sides, just kissing the top of his ears. He would argue that his hair was not long and totally professional, but the top was a good 6 inches. As he sat in the dreaded chair, he became unexpectedly a bit excited and quickly caped himself up. But Dennis damped down his enthusiasm by stopping and giving him the mirror to see his progress. He now felt some of the loss of self-esteem that his son had felt. When the cropping was finished, Dennis even applied some wax to the front and said, "there you go ‘Sarge,’ doggone it, you even look good like this." Then with a with a smile and a wink he added, "now clean up this mess then drop down and see if YOU can give me 10 old man."
As Thanksgiving break came around, Dennis was looking forward to his first visit home. After Uncle Dave’s revelation, his Dad had got the high and tight restriction removed from Dennis ROTC requirement, but the ROTC Director decided that with Dennis’s past, his options would still be limited. Dennis surprised even himself by choosing a flat top. In its way, it was a bit iconoclastic, but he grew to like the way he stood out with it. And he found that quite a variety of his female classmates found him and his haircut intriguing. He was also looking forward to seeing Uncle Dave and Roger. Roger had made the Freshman soccer team and had excelled. Getting away from is mother’s permissive parenting and into a structured school setting had worked. Uncle Dave had finally been made a partner at work and was no longer travelling. He and Roger’s mother were separated, and Roger had begged to live with Dave. Dave, who had been an All-American soccer player in High School had volunteered to be Assistant Coach when the regular assistant went off on paternity leave. Dennis’s dad had become Roger’s regular barber and Uncle Dave helped dad with the back and neck on his hair. And this what Dennis walked in on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. A freshly shorn Roger, now looking toned and somehow, more mature, walked up to Dennis shook his hand and said, "I owe you a proper apology Dennis, I am truly sorry for having been such a brat for so long. Dennis accepted his apology and the pulled him in to a massive bear hug.
"Roger, I am so proud of you. You just keep up the good work, man. I always knew Uncle Dave had produced a good one." Roger was in tears, when Dennis let him go. At the same time, something odd was happening in the kitchen. Floppy haired Uncle Dave was now in the chair and caped up.
"Holy Cow Dad! You are really going through with it!"
"I told you knuckle heads if you won every game in October through the last game before the big Turkey Day Rivalry game, I would show up with a haircut that even Dr. Evans would love. So, what do you say, Senior (as every all the family called Dennis Senior, Dennis’ Dad), you think you can give me a reasonable facsimile of Dennis’ haircut?"
Senior replied "I don’t want to risk it, but I know just the man. Dennis, you know the place, no need for all of us to take up the waiting chairs, why don’t you do the honors." So Dennis and Uncle Dave went to that same strip mall barber shop where Dennis got his first high and tight. The shop, again was empty.
The barber stood and said, "say, I remember you, young fellow, I see you’ve kept your hair short, didn’t think you would, I have to say."
Dennis just smiled and said, "This is my uncle, he’s making a fresh start, give him a flat top just like mine."
"Well, that will be a big change for you mister, ever had one before?
"No sir, I’ve always kept my hair fairly long. But I made a promise to the boys I coach, and I’m hear to show them that real men keep their word."
And with that the barber happily went about his work. Uncle Dave, the cool uncle, with the floppy hair that had always covered his ears and been parted in the middle, with the cool sideburns was transformed. In 30 minutes he was Coach Dave with a flat top that showed off his chiseled features and fit his head perfectly. "You know ‘Coach’, its not really my place to say, but this is a perfect haircut for you and if you decide not to make this a "one off," I’ll give you a 50 percent discount for the next year."
Uncle Dave was too stunned by the radical change in his appearance to accept or outright reject the offer. He simply thanked the barber and paid him, leaving a big tip. All the way back to Dennis, he couldn’t stop rubbing his hands on the back and sides of his head.