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Roger's Endless Nightmare by Deke Cutter
This is Part Two of my story "Roger's Nightmare"
Roger had always seen himself as "the stud." He projected that aura and his hair had been a big part of it. Now he saw himself as a dud. He felt homely and thought that his good looks could no longer sustain him. He took a good deal of mostly good-natured ribbing at the office that first week. The guys didn’t really care and to the single women, he just slid off the radar. All the better for Roger’s home situation. He also found himself concentrating more on work and less on chasing skirts. At home he suddenly realized that there were two little people who loved their daddy regardless of how he looked, and he started to open his heart up to them. In many ways, Vivian was making their home life very normal. She made sure his nonwork wardrobe was composed of the kind of embarrassing "dad clothes" that fit his haircut and she sent him back to the barber every three weeks for a fresh skinning. Her plan was working. As she continued to work through her anger and mistrust, Roger too was left feeling discomfort and never knowing what was around the next corner.
With Memorial Day Weekend in sight, Vivian paid a visit to the barber. "Well hello little lady. Haven’t seen you since you brought that long-haired crybaby husband in for a real man’s haircut."
"How nice that you remember me! That haircut has really worked wonders on him. But with summer upon us, its time to get him a good short summer cut. You know how childish he gets about his hair, so this is going to be a short boy’s cut. I think maybe a nice tight buzz with say a inch up front cut like a half moon (she said using her hands across her own forehead) that he can keep waxed up. What do you think?
"A nice buzz with a short bumper. Perfect for him. But the way his hair grows, you’ll want him in every two weeks to keep that cleaned up."
"I’ll be sending him in this Saturday, then. We have a family barbecue and I want him looking his best. Make sure you send him home with one of those nice ‘butch combs’ and a stick of that butch wax too, please."
Roger was unaware of what his immediate future held. He had gradually adjusted to being "just another guy" in the office. He found that he was treated no differently by most people in terms of work and that he was no longer "in the game" with the women. It hurt, but he was learning a lesson. During this time, there had been a change in the management at work. His former boss was moved up to corporate. Coming in to replace him was Todd Wilmont, lawyer and MBA whose unlikely Reserve Duty call up had taken him out of the office for nearly two years. Todd had always been one of the other office studs and fashion plates. Because he was an officer, he had gotten away with a relaxed grooming standard in his Air Force unit. But, when he returned, having acquitted himself very well managing logistics first and later personnel at a large base in the Middle Eastern conflict zone, he had changed. Todd was sporting a tight crew cut. His suits were subdued, his shirts were white. When he and Roger met in the men’s room one day, he noted Roger’s new look approvingly. "I see you’ve recognized the benefits of a good short haircut too Roger," he said, rubbing his crewed top. "I like it. It tells me you’re more serious about your job."
Panicking, Roger did not want his new boss to think he was settling for this frightful look forever, he said, "well I can’t really take credit for it. My wife wanted me to try short hair. I must say, it does save me a lot of time in the morning." Wisely, he thought better of mentioning the loss of his looks and charisma.
Friday, Vivian prepared a dinner of all Roger’s favorites. She gave him some extra time with the children before they put them to sleep. Then she asked him to sit down in the living room. "Tonight, will be your last night sleeping apart from me. As you know your last set of tests came back clean. I am trusting that you have remained faithful she said staring directly into his eyes. But, this does not mean that your probation is over, Roger. I know my requirements have caused you some discomfort and embarrassment, but, they have also resulted in some growth in you as a person. However, you still cannot know the pain and sorrow in my heart. So, in preparation for your return to our bed, tomorrow, you will return to your barber. He will be giving you your summer haircut. You will be returning every two weeks until Labor Day when I will arrange your final probationary haircut. I will leave your outfit outside your door tonight."
Roger barely slept that night, excited at the prospect of being back with Vivian and showing her physically how much he loved her had become a priority for him (as had his own physical need for her which burned inside him). He was worried about what she had planned for him at the barbershop, though. But, he realized that his worry was a sign that deep down, he was still the same vane guy he always had been.
Waking up early, he showered, foregoing the Vitalis, dressed in a cringeworthy "matchy-matchy" pair of Bermuda shorts and shirt in an unfortunate shade of salmon with matching sox and sandals. He got the kids up and had them dressed and fed before Vivian came down. "I’ll be off then," was all he said.
Try as he did, he could not control his nerves as he stepped through the door of the shop. He was somewhat relieved to find that he was the only client. "So, the wife has cracked the whip again, I see. Well, don’t dawdle boy. I’ve got something special in store for you today!" Roger, red faced with shame, embarrassment and chagrin sat in the chair.
"I know you don’t think much of me, and all I’ll say is that whatever haircut my wife and you have chosen for me, I deserve it and I am going to try my best to take it like a man." If the barber were in any way moved by Roger’s statement, he did not show it. Instead, he caped him up, turned him away from the mirror and turned on the clippers. The first part of the haircut felt familiar to Roger, although his sense was that the clippers were moving higher up the sides and when the barer got to the back, definitely so. The barber then stood in front of Roger. Roger noticed that the clippers in the barber’s hand had a very small sized guard on them. Starting slightly behind his short bangs, the barber pushed the clippers straight back. Roger could feel the clippers along the top of his head as this was repeated until, he assumed, there was only stubble on top of his head. The barber then wet his bangs and brushed them up. He took a pair of barber sheers and worked on the bangs, seeming to trim from one side to the other. Stopping, staring, making small adjustments, stopping, until he was satisfied. Then he took some sweet smelling waxy substance that Roger was destined to become very familiar with and brushed it into the bangs. Next, he covered the lower half of Rogers head with warm shaving cream and gave him a nice set of white walls and a shaved neck that would have passed any military inspection. Then the barber spun the chair around to face the mirror.
"One buzz with a bumper, as your wife ordered. I take it you must have done the dirty on that fine-looking girl and you must have done while she was carrying your second young’un. For that, I gave you the white walls free of charge," the barber added with a smile.
Roger looked at himself in disbelief. "Thank you, sir. I mean no offense, but I couldn’t look worse and that is the kick in the butt I needed. I’ll be back in two weeks.
"Don’t forget your butch wax and your comb" the barber said as they walked to the ancient cash register. Roger got into his car and started to drive home. He stopped briefly in coffee shop and bought himself a cup of regular coffee. He got a table in the corner, took out his phone and opened the mirror app and stared. He was starting to understand what Vivian wanted him to know.
When he got home he went to her took her into his arms and said, "thank you, for giving me a second chance, thank you, for knowing how to reach my weakness." He let her go, rubbed his brutally shorn head and said, "I’ve worn the ‘short regular’ with embarrassment. I am going to wear this with humility. If I hold my head high and share in the jokes, it will only be to honor you and the chance you have given me." Vivian smiled. She knew he was finally on the right journey. And, he did get teased about "joining up," going from one extreme to the other, etc. He made light of it, urging other men to "get with the low maintenance program". Todd told him that he was glad to see him "being a good example."
And so, the summer went. Roger and Vivian resumed conjugal relations. Roger became used to looking like a soldier and while he thought less about his appearance, he was still happy to think that this journey would end and a new chapter for his family and his hair would begin on Labor Day
Because Labor Day was a Monday, Vivian told Roger that they would make their last visit to the barber together on Saturday morning. The children would spend Friday night with her parents, so they "could get this taken care of" Saturday morning.
Saturday morning, for the last time, Vivian laid out Roger’s clothes. They included a favorite shirt, trousers and his favorite designer Jordans. "Remember," she said, "this is an ending, and a fresh start." They arrived at the barber’s and found that there was a father and son ahead of them. The father was forcing a rather angry looking teen to get a haircut very much like the one Roger was given on his first visit.
When the haircut was complete, the father said, if you ever cheat on a test again, you’re getting a haircut like his (pointing at Roger), no offense pal, and you are keeping it!"
Roger, Vivian and the barber all laughed, as Roger coughed out "none taken."
Roger climber into the chair and was promptly caped up. "So, what’s it to be today."
Vivian said, well, today we are sort of starting over. When we came in here, almost a year ago, our marriage was almost over. Roger has given up a lot and we have worked very hard. I am still working on trust and forgiveness, but we are getting there. So, the final step for Roger today is for you to give him a good old baldy. After that, he can decide how long or short his hair should be."
The old barber went to work and in a mater of minutes Roger was peeled with a guardless clipper. He went around the ears and neckline with a straight razor and turned Roger around. Roger looked at himself and laughed. "That is one ugly mug," he said.
"But you my ugly mug," Vivian replied standing on her toes to try to kiss the top of his head.
When he got to work on Monday, Roger made light of his skin head saying, "that’s the last time I go to that barber, he messed my haircut up so much, all we could do was have him shave me bald so I could start all over again." By now, everyone was so used to Roger and his reject haircuts that they just accepted it and moved on.
About four months later, life was getting back to normal for Roger and Vivian and their two kids. Roger had truly become a better husband and a great dad. He was a lot less self-centered. Work was going well for him. His hair was growing back nicely, and he had about two inches all over now. He still wasn’t sure where he was going, in terms of length, but was thinking about maybe getting it styled a bit so he wasn’t looking too shaggy. Alas, fate intervened in the form of Todd. Roger had cleared it with Vivian that he would be staying late to finish a big report on an important project. At 6:15, as he was just shutting down his computer Todd stopped by and invited him down to his office. "What’s up boss?"
Todd said, "Roger, I think I’ve got the answer to your problems my friend. With that, he pointed Roger to a swiveling office chair that normally sat at a satellite touchdown work station. Roger sat down. Before he knew it, he was enveloped in a sheet. "I know how hard it is to find a good barber in this town. I had the same problem when I came back from deployment. Luckily for you, I had picked up some basic skills over there and as you can see I’ve gotten darn good at giving myself haircuts. So, I am not going to let you feel like you’re letting the side down since your wife likes it short and you and I both know how practical it is, I’m your new barber." With that, Todd turned on the clippers and started peeling the sides of Roger’s head of those four months of glorious growth. Once Roger saw the amount of hair falling, he knew he was doomed, so he sat meekly. When Todd was finished he had given Roger a crew cut exactly like his own. "Since I’m going to bringing you up here to the executive suite next month, I’ll be able to keep tabs on when you need a trim. You and I are going to be the role models for all the men in this office." And so, Roger’s nightmare would go on.