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Down and out in Albany, Part V by Vegard

Part V

Bill was on bike to, and the two boys pedaled off together, heading back to Bob´s.
"It would be totally awesome if all the guys get shaved!" Bill said.
Danny agreed, "I don´t think they all will though," he said, adding, "I think Kyle is goin´ for it. And Tyler, deffinately!" Tyler had been back to rub his head twice after they got back in the locker room. Danny was getting tired of all the good-natured rubbing, but could put up with it a bit more. If many of the others got buzzed to, he was sure his head would be left more alone.

Bob Grant looked up, from giving a man, in his forties, a business cut, to see Danny coming back again, with another high-school kid.
"Danny!" he exclaimed.
"This is the kid I told you about!" he explained to the customer in the chair, who smiled and nodded.
"Hope you don´t mind Danny, but we were talking about kids today, and how things have changed from when we grew up. And I mentioned that I had at least one young customer who isn´t long haired."
"And maybe today, I have one more?" he added.
Danny introduced Bill to Bob Grant, and the boys were told to wait.
After the previous client was done, Bob looked expectantly at the boys, and said, "What can I do for you today young Bill?"
Bill got up, grinning, and said, "Same as you did for Danny earlier today!"
Bob laughed and caped Bill up, "Is this a new fashion? Or has it become a team thing?"
"It may be a team thing," Danny told him, "We´ll see tomorrow."
He then left it to Bill to do the talking from the chair, and watched in a bit of fascination as his buddy went through the same shearing he´d had himself earlier.
Rubbing his head, for the umpteenth time, he thought about how cool it was that he wouldn´t be alone about it. No matter how many went along with it tomorrow, at least they were two.

Bill had really thick brown hair, and Bob used the number one guard, knowing he´d leave good, visible stubble when he was done. Firing up the Osters he plowed through from the boy´s forehead, leaving a greyish, white stripe from the middle of his brow to the crown of his head.
"Stay still now!" he had to instruct as Bill started laughing at the "reverse Mohawk" he´d just received, and the boy quited, and sat stock still. He was still grinning though, as Bob administered pass, after pass across his head, reducing the brown inch-and-a-half brush to short brissle.
"Do you want it shaved short, or smooth on the sides and back?" Bob asked.
Bill contemplated it for maybe a full second before answering, "Smooth!", and Barber Bob took the guard off the clippers to begin denuding his back and sides completely.
Shaving clean below a line about two inches above Bill´s ears, and around his head, he then used the clippers to create a taper to the number one buzz on top of his head, before applying lather to the shaved skin.
Bob was meticulous as he used the straight razor to his back and sides, before applying another coat of lather and repeating the prosess. This time against the grain.
Satisfied with the result he wiped Bill´s head clean from leftover foam, and uncaped him.
"God damn!" Bill exclaimed as he was let to feel his head. Bob stood with a curious smile, watching as Danny stood up to feel it to.
"I don´t know what´s up with you boys and this shaving," he said. "Have they put something in the water, up at the school?"
"I don´t know Mister Grant!" Bill laughed, "But I know one thing! I´d never have had the guts for this if Danny hadn´t done it first!"

As Mike came home, he walked in to the kitchen, where he found both his parents, and his sister, in conversation by the table. It appeared they were talking about Danny, and Mary-Ann. The Reilly´s talked quite a lot about that, and Mike thought it was getting a bit old. After all, the conversation, and the situation, wasn´t actually going anywhere.
"Whassup?" he asked.
"Worrying about Daniel," his Mom sighed. "He must have been back here during school-hours today, wasn´t he?" She had realized after Danny had left again, that the lights had been off in the morning, but had gotten switched back on a few hours later.
"Yeah, I guess." Mike shrugged,"He left school at first resess."
"Do you know why?" John asked, beginning to feel annoyed, at what he thought was a bit of a smirk on his son´s face.
Mike nodded, and had problems containing a smile. Suddenly grinning wide, he said, "Danny had his head shaved!"
"What?" The three others almost chorused, with shocked looks on their faces.
"He didn´t!" Mary exclaimed.
"He did!" Mike said, still grinning. "He came to practice, tore his hat off, and we all just gawped you know? Shaved almost to the bone!"
John and Mary looked at each other, worry edged in their faces. They were both worried this was a reaction of sorts, to his talking to his sister yesterday, but didn´t want to discuss this with the kids present. Wanting to respect Daniel´s privacy, as well as helping him.

John Reilly came out to greet him as Danny rode in on his bike.
"Could you come in here a minute Danny?"
"Sure Mister Reilly!" Danny was puzzled. Entering the house, and seeing the concern on Mary and John´s faces he suddenly felt scared.
"Is it Mary-Ann?" he said, "Has something happened to her?"
"What?" Mary was bewildered, "Oh, no. At least not that we know of."
"Take your coat off, and come inside!" John said.
Danny obliged, taking his hat off as well, and wondering what this was all about.
"Danny," Mary searched for words, "Has this," she indicated his head, "Has this got something to do with you talking to Mary-Ann yesterday?"
"No Missis Reilly!" Danny exclaimed. But thinking for a few seconds, he said, "Well, yeah. It does, sort of."
Seeing the concern in Mary´s face, he smiled at her, "Not in a bad way though."
"It´s just… Thinkin´ about her, I realized, there´s nothing I can do about it. Not until she calls again. And she will!" he added with certainty. "And when she does, I´ll be ready to go help."
"And this?" Danny rubbed his own head, "I just felt like it. You know?"
Still seeing doubt on their faces he smiled, still elated from everything that had happened that day. "I used to always have it like this! Back home."

"I´m thinking about doing it to!" Mike chimed in.
"What?" his parents turned their attention to him.
"Why on earth do you want to do that?" his mother asked, but before Mike could answer his father exclaimed, "No, you´re not!" with a determination, that made them all stare at him.
John´s face had gone a darker colour, and with an angry voice he said, "Back in Ireland when I was a boy, only really poor kids had shaved heads." Glancing up, "No offence meant Danny. It´s just, well, I´m just not used to people shaving their heads voluntarily." He took a deep breath, "And I don´t want my son looking like a lice-infested poor kid!"

Danny was stunned. As were the others. Bernie looked from Danny to her parents. Her Mom stared at her husband in disbelief, before suddenly leaving the room. The tension in the room was so thick one could have cut it with a knife.
Coming back in, Mary was carrying a picture frame, and she placed the picture in front of John. It was the picture from the mantle, of their son Cormac in full marine uniform.
He had the white hat of the dress uniform on, but under the hat his hair was shaved completely to the skin. There wasn´t even stubble showing.
"Does this look like a lice-infested kid?" she demanded.
Reilly almost squirmed.
"John! You apoligise to Danny! Right now!"
Touching the picture gently with the tips of his fingers John looked up at Danny. "I´m sorry son. I didn´t mean what I said."
Danny didn´t reply. He thought Mister Reilly had meant it, and wouldn´t aknowledge an apology that was, well, just bulls**t really.
And grateful though he was to Missis Reilly for trying to help, the picture of Cormac wasn´t the same at all. He was probably sporting a real neat military haircut under the hat.

John Reilly was watching him, but as soon as Danny looked up, he looked away.
"I´ll be over at Charlies´," he muttered and headed for the door. They heard his car being started, and him driving off.
No one said anything, as they all still stood in the kitchen.
"Missis Reilly?" Danny asked.
"Yes?" she smiled at him.
"Could I use the phone and try and get in contact with my brother?"
"I want to see if he´s got news of my parents" Danny looked down.
A soft expression on her face, she said "Off course Daniel. Take the phone in the study!"

Bernadette, Bernie, for short was almost exactly a year older than her younger brother. It wasn´t much of a difference really, but she had always felt quite a bit older than him.
Sitting in the living room, she studied Danny sitting bent over the phone book in the study through the open door. His brow furrowed as he concentrated.
He looked so cool with the shaved head! She´d never told anyone, but Bernie really didn´t like the "hip" hairstyles of the day, for guys. And for some reason, she couldn´t understand, or explain, she had always liked guys with short hair. And it didn´t come much shorter than what Danny had now.
He was a likable guy to. And tall, and studying him closer, he was actually quite handsome. He looked older as well with the shaved head.
She suddenly realized she was staring at him, and quickly looked away. Only to look back a moment later. He was scratching the stubble on his head, looking bewildered.
As he looked up, he noticed her looking at him, and she quickly looked away, back at the TV.

Danny smiled.
"Bernie?" he said, and she looked at him again.
"Can you help me out?"
She pulled a chair up to the desk beside him
Her hair brushed his shoulder, and he fought back an urge to touch it.
"See, there´s the number you need to call!" she pointed at a directory number in the book, looking up, only to see him studying her. It was his turn to look away. She smiled to herself, really pleased he might be interested as well.

They got a hold of the operator, and asked for the number to Barry Thompson in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The operator informed them, there were two Barry´s and one Barney, in a serious voice, and resited the numbers, which Danny wrote down.
After they´d hung up Bernie giggled, "So," she said, "A guy goes into a bar, and sais, "I´ll have two Barry´s and a Barney!"" and at this she cracked up, and Danny laughed with her.
"Didn´t he want a Bernie?" he said. It was corny, but they both laughed at this as well. Their laughter stopped, and they looked at each other, without saying anything.
She was beautiful! With her blue eyes and chestnut hair, she was drop dead gorgeous!
Danny suddenly wondered why he hadn´t seen her like this before.
He´d liked Bernadette from the first time he met her, but she was Mike´s older sister, and seemed to look at them as, well not little kids exactly, but certainly not as kids she could consider hanging out with. There had been a deffinate distance between them.
But not now. She was acting different today, and different in a good way.
Danny felt almost giddy. Thoughts of actually calling his brother was forgotten.

As he went to bed that night he had a lot of confused thoughts in his head.
Bernadette. With her thick, wavy hair, and gorgeous eyes. One of his best friends´ sister.
That smile she´d given him when she helped him out.
She´d been staring at him tonight, and it wasn´t because she thought he looked poor and lice infested.
And then he thought of her Dad, whom he´d thought was a real friend.
He´d been kind to him, but he realized now it must be more out of pity than any form of respect. And that hurt a lot more than he liked to admit. Thinking about it, him and his brothers always having had their heads shaved was because they were poor. There was no denying it, but they weren´t the only ones. The Davis´ and the Thornton´s did the same. As did several others.
Rubbing his head for at least the fiftieth time that day, he began feeling angry. There was no shame in being poor!
If John Reilly could only see him as white trash, so be it. He began feeling contempt for him, if that was how he saw people.
He sighed. If only Mister Reilly hadn´t been Bernie´s Dad though. He really wanted to ask Bernie out, but what would happen to his relationship to the Reilly´s then?

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