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Michael Moves Up by Manny
"Did you hear Sanders announced he's retiring next year?"
The morsel of office gossip delighted Michael. It was his chance to move up the corporate ladder. He needed to groom himself to take the place of his boss. He also needed to make sure he had the support of the hierarchy, including the important endorsement of Mr. Stevens, the Division Chief. Periodically, Michael would discuss his career ambitions with Mr. Stevens, who would happily dispense nuggets of advice. General stuff like, diversify your skill set and build a network.
The list could vary slightly, but his last bit of advice was always the same...."and make sure you dress and look the part for the job you want to fill." Then he would eye Michael with a slight hint of disapproval -- the skinny suits, the thin ties and the mass of thick, wavy hair that resembled a lion's mane were not his idea of a corporate executive. "Do you want to be a male model, Michael, or do want a seat at the conference table?"
Michael would squirm a bit as he listened to the rhetorical question. Later, he would tell himself that when he had a good chance to move up the chain, he would shed his carefree locks and adopt more standard business attire.
Now that Sanders made it official, that he was leaving, Michael knew he needed to make good on his plan. The big chop! The idea basically frightened him -- but there was a hint of excitement knowing that the long dreaded event was relatively imminent. While he could go shorter in stages, he felt the best way to capture Mr. Stevens' attention and let him know his advice was being adopted was to leave work on Friday a longhair male model and walk in on Monday with a standard businessman's haircut -- just like most men on the management team sported. Michael would find a traditional barber shop and instruct the barber he wanted his hair "tapered short around the ears and parted on the side." The makeover would undoubtedly call for an extended session with the thinning shears!
Michael even toyed around with the idea of getting an extremely short business cut. When the barber concluded the haircut and held up the hand mirror for inspection, Michael would tell him to cut it shorter. He even practiced the exact phrase he would use, "Actually, I would like it cut shorter, sir, especially at the back -- tapered higher to the crown." He needed a very short barbered look so that the Division Chief would notice.
Of course, his new short haircut would not come near Mr. Stevens' length. Mr. Stevens was a retired army colonel who had never given up the very short military haircut when he joined the civilian ranks. The sides and back of his head were clipped down almost to the skin and the top barely long enough to grasp between the fingers. Basically, a crewcut!
After hearing about Sanders' retirement, Michael rushed to the nearest bathroom to get a good look at himself in the mirror. Could he ditch his beautiful long hair for a promotion? As he stood, observing himself, he knew full well that there was no guarantee a haircut would ensure a promotion. He might have his mane butchered and end up in his same job. He ran his fingers through his glistening brown hair. The thick, unruly waves had been his trademark forever. He had flaunted his unique locks in their abundance since high school.
How could he sacrifice them? They were like an old friend. No, he would not get barbered just yet. He would wait till closer to Sanders' actual departure. At this point, it was still office chatter. No official HR announcement or job posting.
The next day, Michael received an unexpected summons from Mr. Stevens. The Division Chief welcomed him warmly to the big executive office. "I know the news is already out on the grapevine," the boss began. "I mean the news about Mr. Sanders' retirement. I want to bring his replacement on before he goes, so there's a bit of a transfer of know-how...."
Michael smiled broadly. Mr. Stevens had brought him it to offer him the position! It occurred to Michael that he would get the job, no haircut required!
"It will certainly be a loss to the company, but I know you will find the right man to step into his big shoes," Michael replied confidently.
"Yes, and that's why I've asked you to see me, Michael. You will be the right person to...."
Michael struggled to contain his joy....
"....the right person to help ensure the fellow I'm bringing from our West Coast office for the job adjusts smoothly. Like a sponsor -- someone to show him around, answer his questions about where to live, maybe invite him out for a drink -- that sort of thing."
Michael was crest-fallen! He was being passed over for the promotion he'd dreamed about for years. He sat there silent, almost dumbfounded.
"Well, can I count on you?" Mr. Stevens asked cheerily. "The only thing he won't need your help with is where to find a good barber! I've already told him about Sam's, the place I go...."
The remark cut to the core! Was this Mr. Stevens' revenge -- for not heeding his career advice?
Michael struggled to pull himself together, "Of course, Mr. Stevens. I'd be happy to help, uh, this fellow....."
"Cody McClintock is his name. He arrives tomorrow," Mr. Stevens interjected.
"Yes, I'd be happy to help Cody feel welcomed," Michael concluded trying to disguise his disappointment.
Michael was busy at his desk when the door to his office swung open. He looked up to see an unfamiliar face who turned out to be Cody. "Mr. Stevens said I should ask for you when I arrived. I'm Cody McClintock."
Michael stood to shake his hand. He was captivated by Cody's intense green eyes that had a piercing gaze. Of course, he could not help but noticing Cody's tightly clipped hair. The perfectly shaped head was covered by a dense, bristly pelt....really, just overgrown stubble. He'd never seen anyone with a tight butch sporting business attire in a rather conservative office!
While Michael eyed the nicely clipped head, Cody sized up his sponsor's thick wavy mass of hair. They were on opposite ends of the hair spectrum.
The two fellows, despite their obvious differences, got on quite well. Cody was grateful for Michael's help in learning the ropes at the office and Michael enjoyed his company. He had a quick, playful wit -- not a mean bone in his body. And smart -- very smart! Michael had to admit that Mr. Stevens' choice to replace Sanders was the right one. He would not mind one bit working for Cody.
One day, Michael decided to research Cody's past in the company since he was to become his supervisor in a few months. A quick search of his name revealed something quite surprising. Photos of Cody just a year ago showed him looking very different -- long hair, to the base of his collar and covering his ear! Very nice, coiffed auburn hair!
He was staring at the picture on his screen when Cody walked in. "Is that really you?" Michael asked, pointing to the longhair.
"Sure is! What do you think of all that hair?" he laughed.
"What happened to it?" Michael asked.
"Shed for a good cause. Someone in the office spearheaded a campaign to raise money for cancer research. Various people said they'd sponsor me if I'd become a shavee. I really didn't want to do it, at first. But, then a few more people said they'd give some big bucks to see me shaved bald. I started warming to the idea. One day, on a whim, I told the organizer, 'Sign me up!' I knew I wouldn't have long hair for ever. I raised $1240 for cancer research. Long hair can be a real pain. You know what I mean?" Cody asked. "Matted on a windy day; tangles in the shower; flopping in your face at the worst time. I'm sure it's happened to you, Michael."
"I totally get it. In fact, I've been thinking about a short haircut for a while now. But, not sure the bald look is what I have in mind!" Michael exclaimed.
"Don't rule it out. I love it!" Cody rubbed his stubble pate momentarily. "Best feeling in the world. Matched only by the sensation of the clippers vibrating on the scalp. I mean when I sat in the chair under the big green cape, chilled after a few beers, I got such a rush when I sensed the clippers plunging into my hair. Then, feeling the shorn locks fall down past my face....it was so stimulating!"
"And you've kept it clipped ever since?" Michael asked.
"Sure thing. I mean, not down to the wood like happened for the fundraiser, but pretty tight. Every Saturday it's a #2 one all over. I have my own clippers and can do it myself. But, occasionally, I go to a barber shop."
"Ever have a mate do it?" Michael asked tentatively.
"You have experience handling hair clippers?" Cody asked.
"A bit," Michael replied, fudging the truth.
"Then, what about Saturday morning? Tighten up my butch and then I'll take you out to breakfast," Cody offered.
Michael couldn't wait for his date to play barber. What fun it would be to have his future boss, sitting shirtless in his kitchen, waiting to get clipped.
"So it's always been a #2?" Michael asked as he watched Cody pull off his tee-shirt. He had a nicely chiseled chest with a thick pelt of hair. "How about a #1 this morning -- I'd bet a shorter butch would look even better."
"That's coming from a guy who has enough hair on his head for Mr. Stevens, me and himself!" laughed Cody. "No, let's stick with a #2, moptop!"
Michael snapped on the clippers and forced Cody's head down. He felt powerful and in control.
"Where did you get experience cutting hair?" Cody asked as he complied with Michael's manipulations of his head.
Michael panicked -- he actually had no experience! His mind whirled quickly to make something up. "At camp, summer camp, when I was a counselor. We had a set of clippers. Counselors would shave each other's heads....and then the tykes would demand equal treatment. By the end of the session, almost all the guys would be sporting butch cuts."
"Everyone happy with the results?" Cody asked.
Michael decided to continue spinning the for their entertainment. "Usually. Except one notable exception. One year we had this Assistant Camp Director -- a grad student, ginger hair past his shoulders, often worn in a braid. The counselors strategized a surprise assault on the ginger tail. Jumped him one night as he was making his rounds through the cabins after dark. All of the counselors took part. We strapped him to a chair. Our intention was only to tease him and pretend we were going to cut his hair. But one of the guys got carried away and took his tail off! We were shocked when he held up the severed braid like a hunting trophy! All hell broke loose. The Assistant Director shouted and swore -- said he'd fire the fellow who took off his tail. We decided if we all shaved off some of his hair, he couldn't retaliate against us all and fire everyone -- the camp would have to close. So that's what we did. The guy was down to the wood when we finally unbuckled the straps and let him get up."
"Did you get in trouble?" Cody asked.
"Hardly! The next day, the Camp Director said we'd done his deputy a big favor and that he was better off without the long hair."
"So, what's the future of your long hair, Michael? You mentioned you've been thinking of getting a short haircut for a while now. Why's that?"
There was a long pause. Michael finished Cody's haircut in silence. Finally, snapped off the machine, set it on the kitchen table and pulled up a chair near Cody.
"Can I be honest with you?" he asked Cody. "I was really disappointed Mr. Stevens brought you from the West Coast to take Sanders' place. I wanted that job! I'm qualified for it. Stevens knows I want it. But, he's been open that he doesn't think I look the part of a member of the management team. So, I'd decided to finally cut my hair -- a standard businessman's cut like most of the others. Short back 'n sides. The news of Sanders' retirement caught me off guard. I didn't even have a chance to schedule an appointment at my salon. Next thing I knew, Stevens was asking me to be your sponsor and help you settle in here."
"You've done a great job in making me feel welcome, Michael!" Then Cody felt his clipped stubble. "The haircut you gave me feels great too, man! All those summer camp haircuts have paid off." Cody fumbled around for a while and picked some snippets of hair off his hairy chest. Then he asked, "So when are you getting the big chop?"
"No point now," Michael mumbled. "You're getting the job I want."
"That is, if I accept it," Cody replied.
Michael was puzzled -- accept it? He'd come all the way from the West Coast for it!!
"I've been missing California. No offense, but I'm not sure the mid-west is for me, Michael. I'm telling Mr. Stevens' on Monday that I'm not going to take the job."
"Oh, Cody! Are you sure? Think of your career!" Michael protested. "I was really looking forward to you leading our team. You're a smart, caring, talented guy."
"You're a gem too, Michael! How about a big bear hug?" The two stood and embraced for what seemed like an eternity. Their bonds had formed quickly and securely. "I'm going to miss you."
After a brief pause, Cody continued talking. "I'm going to tell Mr. Stevens, that of all his options on site, you are head and shoulders the best person to take Sanders' place." Then, Cody pulled away and cracked a grin, "If only you would get a decent....." he reached out quickly and grasped Michael by his thick wavy mane. "...a decent haircut!"
Michael shivered with fear and excitement as Cody ran his fingers through the dense brown mane. "What do you say about swapping places....me barber, you shavee! Let's take all this off," he said tenderly caressing Michael long, thick, wavy hair. "Oh, and what length did you say would look better on me? A #1 -- or perhaps that was all the way down to the wood? A #0!"
Cody began unbuttoning Michael's shirt, preparing him for the kitchen barber chair.
Michel's lips trembled. He wanted to submit to Cody's advance against his long hair -- but to have his head shaved bald?! That was never his plan.
Cody continued pressing his initiative, "Come on, now, let's not go wobbly. This is your chance to let the boss know he was right and you will make a sacrifice to please him." Cody's muscular arms manhandled Michael into a sitting position on the kitchen chair.
He snapped on the clippers and brandished them. "Boot camp time!" he exclaimed as he grasped the lionesque mane. "Ready to shed it?"
Michael took a deep breath. "Ready," he eked out. His heart raced, and suddenly Michael felt a rush of excitement. He was having his head shaved! He would walk into the office on Monday bald!!
Unexpectedly, Cody let out a huge laugh and snapped off the machine. "Fooled you!" Then he smoothed Michael's hair as best he could and stroked it tenderly. "I have no experience in barbering."
Michael felt like he was on an emotional rollercoaster.
Cody continued caressing Michael's hair. "I'm going to miss you when I go back to California."
"Then stay," Michael pleaded.
"Nope, I've already decided. But how about you come visit me there? We'll have a fun time on the beach, surfer dude! I bet you'd look really sexy with wet hair...emerging from the Pacific."
"This mop is coming off. I've already decided!" Michael said emphatically, running his fingers through his plush mane.
"Well, if you're sure about that....how about after breakfast, we run you by Sam's Barber Shop? It's the place Mr. Stevens recommended to me -- where he gets his hair cut. I say you would look fantastic with a crewcut, just like Mr. Stevens! Tell the old geezer barber you want to look just like the boss," Cody suggested.
Michael sat quietly, thinking about Cody's idea. It certainly was a good one. Getting shorn by a geezer in a traditional barber shop surprisingly appealed to him.
But then he looked up at Cody's beautiful, clipped head -- the shape not concealed by any hairstyle. He looked like a god with his wonderful furry chest.
That was the look for him too! Michael picked up the clippers and extended them to Cody. "No, I want YOU to be my barber, Cody. No experience required to give a guy a baldy cut. Take it all off. A #0 all over! I want to share in what it was like for you under that big green barber's cape when you shed your long hair!"
Cody snapped on the machine. The buzz of the clippers was deafening in the tension-filled kitchen. A firm hand shoved Michael's head forward, so that his chin nearly touched his chest.
Cody thrust the naked metal teeth into the mass of hair at Michael's nape. The shriek announced the beginning of the brutal divestiture. Cody pushed the clippers up the back of his head very slowly, with determined purpose. When the machine broke through the mass of hair at the crown, Cody pulled off an amazing shank of wavy brown hair. He dropped the severed mass into Michael's lap.
"No changing your mind now!" he chuckled.
The sight off the severed mass momentarily excited Michael. He was finally going through with it!
"I rather like being a barber," Cody commented.
Michael continued staring down at the mass of hair on his lap while Cody clipped more off the back of his head. What would he look like bald, he wondered?
Suddenly he felt the clippers moving down the center of his head, from cowlick to forehead. Within instants, an amazing curtain of hair fell down in front of his face.
"Timber!" Cody exclaimed.
Michael's lap was now brimming with his shorn mane. He grasped a handful of his silken locks. His hair would never be this long again. Suddenly, Michael felt numb. The excitement vanished. Unexpectedly, Michael found himself churning with remorse.
"How am I looking?" he asked Cody nervously.
"Like a marine recruit!" Cody replied. "Vulnerable, scared....oh, and sweet and innocent too."
"Did you ever feel any regrets when you were under the big green cape at the charity shave?" Michael asked.
"Nope! Not one bit...it was time to let it go, to send it all to the dust bin," Cody stated firmly.
The rest of the buzzing was administered in silence. Cody understood that Michael had regrets. Michael knew that he had to live with the consequences of his decision. There was no going back. He would have to embrace the baldy look, at least in the short term.
Finally the haircut ended.
Michael looked at the floor and was aghast at the amount of hair that encircled the chair! His hair!
He reached up and touched his stubble, gingerly, for the first time. He liked the feel! He ran his hand about and the stimulation was amazing. Michael burst into a smile. He felt liberated, free from encumbrances.
"Now how do I look?" he asked.
"Like a confident, self-assured leader!" Cody cooed as he rubbed the clipped pate.
Over the weekend, Michael continued bouncing back and forth emotionally between elation and anxiety. His first glance in the mirror had been a shock. His head looked so small without his lion's mane! But, like Cody's, it was nicely shaped. By Sunday, he was used to the baldy look -- perhaps the overnight growth helped. Michael's big issue was what others would say, especially at work!
Cody was his steady companion throughout the weekend, helping him stabilize emotionally and get ready for the office and all the comments. "Let's pick out a good outfit for you to wear tomorrow. Show me your business wardrobe."
Michael was a bit apologetic. "Uh, Mr. Stevens isn't a fan of my super skimpy skinny look, but that's mainly what I have."
"We look to be the same size, Michael. Why not try one of my suits -- standard, classic tailoring at its best."
Michael enjoyed the valet service Cody provided as he helped him get dressed in one of his own business suits. Michael was unrecognizable! And he looked the part of a bold, young executive with his buzzed head and expensive business wear.
The suit, of course, did not stop the gasps and double-takes when he entered the office on Monday. But, Michael strutted in, with his clipped head erect and Cody by his side for support.
"Your hair! What happened?" stammered Betty, his OMS.
"Had it all shaved off. Like it?" he replied.
"It's just so different.... But, yes, I like it! You look so authoritative," she murmured.
"Betty, can you schedule me an appointment with Mr. Stevens this morning?" Cody requested. "I have something important I need to tell him.
While Michael and Cody were having a cup of coffee in his office, Mr. Stevens popped his head in. "Cody, you needed to see me, Betty said."
Then he did a double take. He recognized Michael and was totally taken aback. "OMG, well who is this?!"
Cody piped up, "That fantastic looking fellow there is your new supervisor, sir. At least if I were making the decision, that would be my top choice. Michael is superior in every single way to every other team member."
"But, you're my pick, Cody," Mr. Stevens replied. "That's why you're here."
"I was really honored, sir, when you invited me to come. But, remember, this was just an exploratory trip. No commitment," Cody said. "After being here for several weeks, it's clear that California is where I need to be. But I've groomed a replacement...."
"....I can see that. What blade did you use?" Mr. Stevens asked.
"It's a #1, sir. I wanted him looking crisp and confident," replied Cody, beaming.
"Stand up, Michael, let me see how my new supervisor will look as he walks through the work place making sure his team is busy!"
Michael stood and assumed an authoritative pose.
"Very nice, very nice. I was always partial to the baldy cut. Baldy! Now that's a perfect nickname for you, behind closed doors, of course! How about pouring me a cup of coffee, Baldy?!" Mr. Stevens joked.
"Sure thing, boss!" Michael replied. "Once my barber goes back to California, I'm going to need a good shop to keep me clipped tight. Your crewcut is always no immaculately groomed. Any recommendation?"
"Sam's! We can go together -- after work on Fridays and then out for a beer. How about it?"
Cody interjected, "This week, the drinks will be on me -- my return to California and Baldy's promotion to the management team!"
"I can certainly drink to that!" laughed Mr. Stevens.