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Down and out in Albany, Part III by Vegard

Part III

The next day found Danny back on the train, this time headed back to New York.
He felt like s**t. Mike, Taylor, Andy and he had "celebrated" that Danny was going to move in to the loft over the garage, by drinking the beer he and Mike had bought after the visit to Barber Bob´s. It had been a lot of fun, but he had a mean hangover today, that he was nursing with a couple of cans of coke. Thankful, this time, that the trainride was long. He wasn´t really looking forward to seeing Mary-Ann either, and he was really apprehensive about seeing Paul, who would probably be around.

Sneaking a ride on the subway, from old habit, he made his way to the apartment in Queens and knocking first, he entered before anyone came to the door.
Ben and Sue, the couple who´d lived "next door" to Mary-Ann and him, were at the table eating what appeared to be a very late breakfast.
"Is Mary-Ann in?" Danny asked, after nodding a brief hello.
"Oh, hi Danny!" They looked pleased to see him, but Sue grew serious and said, "Mary-Ann left with Paul and Steve a couple of weeks ago. They moved to Brooklyn."
Gone. Daniel remained by the door. Stumped.
"How is she?" he finally asked.
The couple glanced at each other, and Ben looked back at Daniel.
"We don´t know really. But we think, not so good."
Danny nodded, and Sue continued,
"We think Paul is bad for her!"
It was Ben´s time to nod, "Yeah. He controls her, but we don´t know anything really."
"No. But she doesn´t seem happy. You know?" Sue added.
"Do you know where she lives?"
"Sorry, no, but we´ll ask when we see her again! They still have some stuff here." Ben nodded towards a couple of cardboard boxes by the door.
Danny thanked them, and asked them to give her a note with the numbers to the Reilly´s and to ask her to call.
They promised, and he headed back. He was eager to leave the city of New York behind him again, and greatly saddened by the news of his sister.
Sitting on the train back, his sadness mixed with anger. Teaming up with that a**hole, what had she expected?

Back at the Reilly´s though, he saw something that made him forget his sister for a bit. John Reilly came out to welcome him, with a bit of a sheepish smile on his face. He was sporting a brand new flattop!
"Lookin´good Mr. Reilly!" Danny grinned.
"You think?" Reilly laughed.
"Yeah! What´s Missis Reilly say?"
"She loves it! I had to come out now, just to stop her rubbing it." He laughed good naturedely.
"How did it go with your sister?" Reilly added.
Danny grew serious, "I don´t know really. But, apparently, not so good."
He explained about meeting Sue and Ben, told him what they had said, and that he hoped Mary-Ann would contact him.
John Reilly studied Danny without saying anything, and Danny felt bad. The look from Mister Reilly showed only to clearly that he felt Danny should have taken better care of his sister in the first place.
Danny was glad he didn´t say it though, because he thought he would probably start arguing with him if he had.
Although he felt sad that his sister was with that piece of s**t, he really didn´t think that it was his fault.

The last few weeks of the summer went by too quickly. With working at the auto-shop, and fixing up the loft, the days flew by.

It was suddenly time for Daniel´s first day in High School.
He was angry. What a waiste! When he could have been working in Mr. Reilly´s shop and get some meaningful work done.
He sighed, and shouldered his pack before heading out to get a lift there with Mike, who seemed to look forward to going back to school again.

Arriving there, Mike was greeted by all his friends. All of whom made fun of his hair in a good natured way. They hadn´t been back to the barber shop, but even Mike´s hair still looked really short compared to, well, everyone really.
And Danny hadn´t really felt like getting "cleaned up" either, just before starting school. He felt he stuck out enough as it was. It was still plenty short around the back and sides though, having only grown back to about an quarter of an inch.
Mike introduced Danny to them, and Danny felt very grateful for it.
It would definitely make his time there a lot better than if he hadn´t known anybody.

They had the first class together, but Danny was to take shop, and Mike, Taylor and Andy were headed off to English Literature, so they split up after the first class.
Feeling alone, and apprehensive Danny entered the classroom.

A boy who looked a bit older, watched Danny as he walked in, grinned and nodded. Danny nodded back. The older kid had even shorter hair than Danny, and sported a cut so short one could see the scalp through the top, and shaved smooth on the back and sides.
"Hey" Danny said, grinning. "Fresh haircut?" he asked.
"Yeah!" the other boy ran his hand over his head, "My Dad made me get it yesterday."
"Made you? Why?"
Lowering his voice the other kid almost whispered, "Caught me smokin. How bout you?"
"By my very own choice. I´m Danny by the way." Reaching his hand forward.
Looking slightly impressed, the other boy shook it and said, "Bill"

Bill was really relieved there was another one here with short hair, even if it wasn´t as short as his own. He´d felt like a real idiot coming to school that morning, with all the other kids gawking. At least, it felt that way.
He´d got back from visiting his aunt and cousins in Boston three days ago, and his oldest cousin had given him some weed to take home.
Smoking it in his room, with the window wide open to let the smell out, he hadn´t thought about the smell being carried to the garage where his dad smelled it as soon as he stepped out of his car, coming from work.

Bill pictured himself as quite the rebell. But it was hard to be a rebell in his house, as his father was a cop. And Alvarez senior was a good cop to, and a man who lived by the motto that, all men are equal in the eyes of the law, including his own son.
He knew though, that reporting a little baggie of weed to the police was futile, and desided to implement the punishment himself.
How to punish a 17-year-old though, so the punishment would actually stick? What was dear to a teenager these days?
His hair!

His dad had nearly crashed the door in, and Bill had almost wet himself from the shock of seeing him barge in like that. Fury etched in his face.
"In the car, now!"
Without a word Bill had shot out of bed, and headed downstairs, past his Mom, and in to the car. His Mom a picture of bewilderment as father and son marched past.

Bill had never been that scared of his dad before. Sure, he´d yelled at him, and they´d had their fights. But he couldn´t remember ever seeing him as angry as this.
Not a word was said until they pulled up in front of the barbershop his dad and many of his colleagues used.
"Get out!" Alvarez almost barked at his son. And he obeyed, following his Dad meekly in to the shop.
The two barbers as well as a few others, waiting their turn, greeted Alvarez and his son. At a nod from his Dad, Bill sat down to wait his turn.
Man, was he scared. He sat as ordered, but he was on full flight mode really, and he suddenly became aware of the muscles in his thighs almost vibrating from being so tense.
Watching as the guys ahead of him got their cuts his fear only increased. The last two years he´d gone to the salon down at the mall, and only scissors were used. These two barbers seemed to rely almost solely on clippers, and the results were appaling!
Old geezers, in Bill´s mind, getting almost completely stripped of what little hair they had. And, he, with his great looking, shoulder length, brown hair destined for? For what?
Whatever was in stall for him, it couldn´t be good.

Staring at a middle aged guy in police uniform getting stripped around his ears he heard his name being called.
"William! You´re up!" his Dad and the other barber were looking at him.
Shaking badly, he got up and walked over to the empty chair, where he was caped up.
"So, how is it to be?" the barber asked him, in a friendly voice.
Eyes still glaring in anger, his Dad commanded, "Number six on top, tapered to zero on the back and sides!"

Bill swallowed. He had a rough idea about what this meant, and watched wide eyed as the barber put a guard on a monster of a clipper.
Placing his left hand forcefully on his head, he began running the clippers up Bill´s right sideburn, and up, all the way to his crown. The next pass was made from behind the ear, and Bill watched in shock at his long locks cascading down and falling in his lap.
Running the clippers around the ear, the next was the top of his head.
This was happening, and Bill could feel his eyes watering up, blurring his vision. He blinked furiously, forcing himself to stop crying. As his vision cleared, he looked at himself in the mirror. His hair was now ¾ of an inch all over, and he looked horrible. He stared in disbelief at his reflection as the last of the long hair dropped from behind his left ear.

The barber removed the guard, and ran it across the side of his head, and the back, shaving his back and sides to the skin.
He then began running it upwards, tilting it out a good inch above his ear beginning work on the taper from the zero to the six.
In the almost complete state of shock he was in, Bill somehow still managed to register that this barber really knew his way around a head with a comb and a pair of clippers.

Not once did he use any scissors. And Bill´s fear gave way to a feeling of dejected defeat, as he succumbed to the dull buzz of the machine. Looking in his lap he saw short hair falling on top of the long tresses that were already there.
His once shiny mane, now a dull lusterless brown in his lap.

The cape was removed, and the barber brought out a straight razor to clean up the little hairs at the nape of his neck, and around the ears, and Bill could now study himself and the finished result both visually and with his hand.
His head looked so small! And his nose and ears disproportionately large compared to the rest of his head. Running his hand up the back of his head, from the nape, it ran from sandpapery stubble to longer, softer bristle where it tapered out. The top of his head looked, and felt like, a brush.

He had to blink again, to clear his vision, and swallowed hard.
"That´s you, all done!" the barber stated, and Bill´s Dad thanked him as he payed for the cut.
Alvarez Senior was in a better mood as they drove back, but they still didn´t speak. And as they came home, Bill headed straight to his room, and didn´t come down until his dad had gone out to see his buddies down at the bar.

He told Danny a brief version of this, carefully omitting the part where he almost cried in the chair as his hair was shorn.

The two boys found they liked each other, and worked well together.
Danny told Bill a little bit about how he´d ended up there, but not a whole lot. He did tell him though. that he had his own little place above Mike Reilly´s Dad´s garage.
"What are you doing after school?"Bill asked, intrigued by Danny´s little private "apartment".
"Football tryouts." Danny said dejectedly.
"Yeah. I kind of agreed to it when I got enrolled here."
"Kind of agreed to?"
"Yeah." Danny looked at Bill, wondering where he was going with this.
"Kind of?", Bill shrugged, ""Kind of" doesn´t mean that you´ve made a promise now does it?"
Danny´s eyebrows contracted, "I guess, but it´s what´s expected of me."
Bill looked like he wanted to laugh, but thought better of it. Instead he said, "Do you always do what´s expected of you?"
Thinking about it for a few seconds, Danny looked at him and said, "No, but I reckon some people have the right to expect something of me. Especially when they´ve given me a job and a place to stay."
Bill didn´t have a comeback. He almost always did, but not now.
Seeing Bill looking lost for words, Danny added, "Why don´t you come to?"
"Are you serious?"
"Yeah! Come on, we can try out together!"
Bill thought about it. His Dad would love it if he got on the football team. And that was one really good reason he had not to do it. But apart from not wanting to please his father, he couldn´t really think of a good reason not to try.
Seeing the doubt on Bill´s face Danny grinned and said, "I don´t want to either, but I hear it´s a great way to get girls!"
Hanging out with Mike, Taylor and Andy for the past weeks he´d heard, almost non-stop, about all the girls they´d been with. And although he suspected a lot of it to be made up, he didn´t doubt that football-players were popular. And he really looked forward to finding out.
Rubbing the stubble at the back of his head, Bill said, "I´ll probably need something to attract them now won´t I? Now that I´ve lost my cool."
"Eh!" Danny spat in contempt. He thought of his sister and her "cool" boyfriend, Paul, and his long hippie hair. How in the world could that pass as "cool"?

The try-outs for football later that day went above expectation. There were tests for speed, strength and reflexes, and they were tested on the field against the old members, and Danny "aced" it. He was fast, tall and strong, and just what Coach Bradshaw was looking for in a player.
Bill did well to, and Coach was especially pleased to have two "Clean cut young men join the team" as he put it. This made the two boys really self-concious, and left them feeling a bit like idiots, but Bradshaw didn´t notice.

The team was dismissed and sent to the showers, and the talk went easily between the boys. There´s something about pummeling each other on the field that breaks the ice really well between people, and there was some frank curiosity towards the new members.

Especially for Danny, who wasn´t just new on the team. He was new at the school, and from the south.
"What´s up with the Army-haircut dude?" a senior asked.
"Just lookin´ like a man, and not a boy. That´s all." Danny shrugged.
The quarter-back, Kyle, laughed at his comment.
"You always have it this short Danny?"
Danny smiled, "This is almost the longest I´ve ever had."
"What?" several of the boys reacted.
"Yeah. It´s hot where I come from and cut real short is the best haircut for it".
"I´d never do that!" a guy named Benny stated.
"´Coarse you wouldn´t." Danny said.
"What do you mean by that?" Kyle asked.
"Ain´t no way you Yanks would have the guts for it is all" Danny said calmly, and began looking in his bag for his change of underwear.
"Have the guts for what exactly?" Kyle looked intrigued.
"To shave your heads."
"Shave? Like all off?"
"Yeah. Not completely to the skin you know, but close." Danny added.
Mike laughed. Recognizing the "bait". Kyle didn´t have an answer.
Finally he mumbled, "Karen would never go for it!"
"Who´s Karen?" Bill asked, "Your girlfriend?"
"Does she decide how you have your hair?"
Kyle looked affronted, but laughed it off with the others.

"I´ll bet Coach would love it though, if we did shave our heads!" Mike laughed, "It would make him think he was back in the Marines you know?"
"Oorah!" a couple of the others chimed in.
Kyle laughed again, "You guys are nuts!"

To be continued

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