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The Intervention (House Rules II) by Deke Cutter
Please Read "House Rules," the first part of this story.
Gary and I went along with all of Frank’s "Nanny’s Rules." Gary taught me how to shine my shoes to perfection. Frank modified my clothing choices to meet his definition of "gentleman." We each did our inside and outside chores. Frank’s church was actually a very nice and welcoming community and I noticed that they took great care and concern of each other. I even found myself enjoying my volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity. But, Frank remained very tightly wound about our hair and general tidiness. It was my week to cut the grass. I put on an old pair of gym shorts and a concert tee shirt that had seen better days and put on my three-year-old Chucks. I didn’t even think of running a comb through the little bit of hair on my head at 8:30 AM. At 10:00 AM, I came into the house to find a fuming Frank. "Chuck, THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE!"
"Whoa buddy, did I start to early? Did I wake you up? Whatever it is, I didn’t mean to upset you. Please what is it that I did"
"You are dressed inappropriately. and your hair is uncombed."
"Frank, I did not realize that this would not meet the rules. I have dressed this way when I cut the grass at my folks’ home and back when Linda and I were together, and I worked on my car. As for my hair, its so short, it just didn’t seem to make much of a difference. But, if you will let me know what you think would be appropriate, I promise I shall make sure to wear the right clothes and to comb my hair."
Frank sputtered a bit, and still seemed unduly upset, but he seemed calmer. He then went over proper lawn care attire, including gloves and safety goggles. Frank was so wild eyed, though, that I thought I ought to try to smooth things over. It was only midway between our scheduled haircuts. So, I headed to the barbershop. Andy was alone in the shop when I arrived. He looked at me and said, "you here for a shave?" I told him no, that I wanted a bit of a cleanup. "Oh, don’t tell me he’s turned you into another haircut freak like him! Don’t get me wrong, we, barbers love those guys, but you seem pretty normal. I told him what happened, and he went to work. I left with a tighter fade and a tiny bit off the top.
When I got home, I went into the kitchen where Frank was making sure all the cabinets were organized. I said, "Frank, sorry to disturb you, but I wanted to make sure we were good." As Frank turned from the cabinet, I slowly turned around.
He looked at me and said, "we are very good."
I talked to Gary later who simply laughed and reminded me that "at least you kept a little hair." We both agreed, the intervention couldn’t come too soon.
The phone call to Frank came one Tuesday after he returned from the office. "Frank, its Dad. Come over to dinner this Thursday. This worried Frank a little bit. He kept his family (and that reality) very separate from his regimented life. He normally had Sunday lunch with his parents the Sunday after haircuts, why was dad moving things up, he wondered.
"Son, good to see you. I wish to heck we could get you over here more than once a month." Much to Frank’s discomfort, his dad gave him a big hug and his dad’s floppy long hair brushed against Franks bristly head almost making Frank pull away in disgust. Woody Fordyce’s hair wasn’t that long by normal standards. It fell over his ears and touched his collar. Like his high school baseball buddy Charlie, he had grown his hair long in college and never really gone short again.
Frank’s mother joined them at the table for a dinner of all of Frank’s favorite foods. Millie Fordyce broached the subject over dessert, homemade apple pie, Woody’s specialty, made from Nanny’s secret recipe. "Frankie, your dad and I spoke with your grandmother yesterday. She and daddy were reminiscing about his high school days and the big party she and Pops had for the High School baseball team at the end of the senior year. This year is their 30th reunion and Nanny and your dad want to have another party in the back yard at your house."
"Yep, son, Nanny’s even putting off her Spring trip to Paris to join us." Everybody is going to dress like we did back then. I know you always seem to find roommates that share your appreciation for very short hair, but, you fellows are going to have to let it grow until after the party in four months. Nobody had hair as short as you, and you boys are going to be at this party, well, at least two of you are. Guess what I just found out, your roommate Chuck is the son of my high school team mate Charlie! Small world, isn’t it?
As Woody and Millie told this story, Frank felt like a great black hole was opening and he was slowly sinking into it. His entire carefully constructed world was falling apart. "But dad, I must protest, I should have been consulted, we have a very disciplined household, this could upset routines."
"Now Frank, you know what my mother told you when she let you move into the house. She wanted you have a chance to live with people who were different from you and to give you the chance to loosen up and be less regimented. It sounds like these next four months are going to be a real opportunity for you to show your grandmother you’ve lived up to her expectations."
While Frank was at dinner with his parents, Gary and I were with my parents. Dad was absolutely giddy about the reunion idea and promised a big surprise for it. I figured he’d managed to get the one guy who had made it to "the Bigs" for a season to come, but dad wasn’t talking. Gary cooked for us. It turns out he makes a mean chicken vindaloo and he and dad, our family chef, had a blast in the kitchen. After dinner, my dad brought his laptop into the living room and told us to gather round. "We’re Skyping Woody’s mother. Don’t worry, she’s expecting our call." In a few moments a beautiful lady with long gray hair, soft clear skin and twinkling blue eyes greeted us.
"Charlie sweetheart, you are looking wonderful and Sandy dear, are you still working at the school and running your private practice."
"Ellen, you are amazing!" my mother said. "You haven’t met my son Chuck and his friend Gary. They live with your grandson Frank."
"Ah, that explains those dreadful short haircuts! I’ve become somewhat used to seeing short hair on men out here in the desert, but knowing my grandson, these are not weather related. Well, good news for you boys, you may resume "letting your freak flags fly" as we used to say." And as for the rest of these alleged "Nanny’s Rules," I am not a goat, I do not believe in arbitrary authoritarianism. All I ask is that you treat that old house as a home and love it like you’d love a good woman, or man, if that’s your persuasion. Now, I must run, I have a tennis date with a charming young doctor. He’s only 65. Good bye dears, I’ll see you at the party!" And she was gone.
My mother, the psychologist, said to Gary and me, "Frank is going to get the story of the party from his parents tonight. His dad will cook up a reason to turn off your haircuts. Now go easy on him and try to follow his lead. This is going to be very traumatic for him."
The next day was haircut Friday. We all met at the house. Frank told us that he had news. "My Nanny and my father have come to a rapprochement. She has agreed to allow my father to hold a party in our backyard in four months. This party is a high school reunion that Chuck’s father will be attending. I am guessing you may know this. As a result, I have Nanny’s permission to graciously suspend the house rules. We are only requested to maintain the house." That was it. Nanny’s rules, haircuts, dress code, fake family history, all gone.
I simply replied,"That’s cool, my dad did mention that he played baseball with your dad in high school." Gary simply gave a "thumbs up" and offered to cook a special dinner for the three of us on Monday night. Nothing more was said.
The next four months flew by. It was so great to have some hair back. It would still be a while before it was back to its former glory, but I liked the way I was looking. Gary’s almost black hair had gone through a terrible spikey growing out phase but was now starting to look real cool. The real surprise was Frank. His brown hair had gown out and looked like a longish businessman’s cut. The women in the office said he looked much more attractive. It was clear to me, though, that he was not happy. One day, he asked if we could go out for a beer after work. Frank had never asked this before. We went to a hotel bar where I had never been, and I doubt he had either. "Chuck, I think you know more about the whole situation with this party than you are letting on." I nodded my head slightly in the affirmative. "I’ve got to tell somebody, this long hair (he pointed to his head), its driving me crazy. I guess I’m getting used to you two, but don’t people think I Iook like a freak?"
"Frank, the people at work who notice or commented are the women and they all love your hair. In case you haven’t noticed, Gary and I have had more dates since we’ve been growing ours out too. Hair is just hair, man, but each of us has to feel comfortable wearing it the way we want to. In a couple of weeks, the party will be over, and you can decide for yourself. In fact, Gary and I have talked about it and if you want to find a couple of single guys who are in the Reserves or something to move in with you, we’ll move in with my folks until we can find another place"
"Oh no, please, you guys have to stay! I’m trying to get over all my crazy obsessions. I was going to tell you guys after the party. I’m seeing a therapist and everything. Its just the hair thing is hard for me."
"Buddy, let me tell you, the forced short hair thing was hard on us too. That brutal baldy you gave Gary when I moved in nearly broke him. He’d just started seeing a girl who dumped him when he showed up for work looking like that with no logical explanation."
"Oh my gosh, I never even thought of the consequences. You see, that is why I need you guys around." We left after finishing our beers. When we got home, Gary was in the living room watching the news. Frank asked him to turn it off. Frank then told Gary much of what he had just told me and apologized profusely to Gary for the baldy cut and to both of us for his entire "Nanny’s Rules" ruse. "I’ve never really had friends because of all my weird quirks. I kept people at arm’s length. But, I really like you guys and I hope you’ll forgive me and consider staying here as equals."
The day before the party, my parents and Franks asked the three of us to meet them at Woody’s house. When we arrived, they had an array of vintage clothes from dad and Woody’s high school era for us to pick outfits for the party. About an hour later and a whole bunch of laughs, we had our gear. Then my dad said, "you know boys, Woody and I are very grateful that your living together reignited our friendship. We know that Chuck and Gary had some "hair razing" experiences and that since Mrs. Fordyce changed the rules, Frank’s been forced, as she says to "let his freak flag fly."
Woody picked up the narrative. "So, we wanted to give you boys a surprise, since Charlie and I have been blessed with these beautiful manes of hair, we made an offer to our high school teammates when we invited them to the reunion. "If they pledged $10,000 to fill the gap in the school athletic budget to pay for new equipment and upgrade the field, we would get the same crew cuts we got senior year for Spring Baseball. Well, I guess a lot of our teammates must be jealous of us because they’ve raised almost $20,000 and we want you boys to come along and film our shearing, so we can show it at the party."
Five shaggy men entered Andy’s barbershop. The three familiar faces took waiting chairs, while the two dads, armed with Kodachrome snapshots, climbed into the barber chairs. Dad said to Woody, "this is how we did it 30 years ago, remember? In the chairs together?"
Andy, dad’s barber looked over at us and said, "well, if it ain’t the three stooges. My takings have been way down since you three went over to the dark side."
"Don’t worry Andy,’ Frank piped up, I’ll be back in the fold soon."
Woody explained what he and dad wanted, and they showed Andy and Jeff, the other barber the pictures. He also asked permission for us to video the haircuts. "Sure, old style crewcuts, Jeff and I both love those cuts. Not too extreme (he looked at Frank when he said that), but a nice neat style. Are you guys ready to lose so much hair?" They both assented and the shearing began.
Dad’s wavy hair was a lot like mine and it made me remember my first brutal shearing at Andy’s hands. But I noticed what he meant about "not too extreme." There was more of a light covering, somewhere between stubble and felt on the sides. On the top, dad’s hair kept those same waves as mine, but Woody seemed to cut the hair at a side angle and it laid to right with that slight bumper in the front. Damn if dad didn’t still look like a stallion!
Frank watched Woody’s thick hair fall and you could tell he yearned to be in that chair. Woody had the kind of straight hair that had to cut a bit tighter than Dad’s on the sides to give the top better definition. Unlike dad, Woody’s bumper was brushed up in the front, just like his picture. His sideburns were almost to the top of his ears, a fashion statement back in the day. It actually still suits him. As the two haircuts finished, Andy said, "there you go, two vintage crewcuts."
Woody said, "wait, there is one more thing, turn off the video for a minute". He and dad whispered to Andy and Jeff who pointed toward the back room. Dad then went out to his car and returned with a garment bag. "Video on," Woody said. He and Dad went into the back room of the shop and returned 10 minutes later in their high school baseball uniforms (or very good facsimiles). "Transformation complete they said, in unison, removing their hats and rubbing their shorn heads."
The reunion party was a big success. Frank’s grandmother was the queen. She made a big fuss over the three of us and especially Frank’s "gorgeous hair." She also played to the hilt her mock horror at Woody and Dad for once again "submitting to the man." About five other teammates showed up with crewcuts too, all saying that like Dad and Woody, they’d not had a short haircut since that Spring 30 years ago. The video of the shearing had everybody laughing and the biggest surprise was a check for $10,000 more from Frank’s grandmother. The baseball and softball programs were going to be in great shape.
Life became pretty normal for us after the party. Gary and I grew our hair back. Frank’s therapist really helped him. He even started getting less severe short haircuts. We thought perhaps his new social life may have had something to do with that too. Then one day, Frank came home with a devious smile on his face. Hey guys, I’ve been looking for a new volunteer project for us that can help a lot of people. Have you heard of Saint Baldrick’s?