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Oh Henry! by Deke Cutter

Henry walked into the nondescript barber shop and sat down to wait his turn. He saw two guys receive very short haircuts and then the barber turned to Henry and said: "I believe you are next sir." Henry got up and sat in the barber chair. The barber caped and taped him and began to comb through his thick wavy brown hair. The hair covered his ears and fell over his collar. "I must say sir, you have a well-cared for head of hair. Would you like me to trim it up a bit? I can do just about any style."

Henry’s faced reddened. "This is quite embarrassing. My boss got angry with me for being late again. He said he was going to give me a punishment that would also save me time in the morning and help me get to work on time. He told me to find a traditional barbershop, and ask for a punishment haircut, something short and easy to care for that won’t take me any time in the morning."

"Young man, was your tardiness a regular problem?"

"Yes sir, I always make up the time, but my boss is such a stickler."

"Where do you work?"

"I work for Sloan Engineering Services. Mr. Sloan says that punctuality is a virtue and shows that a person cares about their job and respects the rules. That is so old school."

"I happen to agree with Mr. Sloan and I think I know just the right haircut for you."

"Please sir, not too short. I don’t think short hair suits me."

"Does being employed suit you?"

"Oh yes sir, in fact, Mr. Sloan asked me the same thing today."

"Well then, I am going to cut your hair and its going to be very short and I will brook no complaining. When we are done, we will take a photo and send it to Mr. Sloan to see if we have his approval." With that, the barber spun the chair away from the mirror, picked up his clippers and went to work. He showed Henry no mercy pushing the machine up the back of his head all the way to the top of his head, the number 1 blade leaving very light stubble in its wake. Henry took a deep breath in through his nose but said nothing. The barber continued his brutal shearing of the back of Henry’s head letting the thick waves drop to floor. Next, he started work on the sides, cleaning them off and making sure to remove the sideburns to the top of Henry’s slightly protruding ears. He smiled to himself as he saw the transformation that he was making in the self-assured young man. He put down his clippers and combed the still thick long hair on top forward and proceeded to cut the bangs straight across, high above the eyebrows. He then took out his thinning shears and went to work on the bulk removing the waves. After several minutes of thrashing, the formerly thick wavy hair lay flat and lank. He then trimmed it all to a uniform short length. The barber then said, "I am now going to show you the haircut you would have received if you had not asked me not to go to short." He turned the chair to face the mirror.

Henry saw a homely looking young man with protruding ears and a short crop of straight hair on top surrounded by stubble. He looked like he was about to speak when the barber said: "not a word, just give me your phone." The barber proceeded to take shots of the haircut from all sides. Next, he turned the chair around and said, "now for your punishment haircut from me." Starting about an inch behind the hairline, with a number three blade, the barber took the remaining hair off the top of Henry’ head, leaving 3/8" behind. He then took scissors and comb and crafted a short bumper in the front, just about ½". Next Henry heard the whirring of a machine behind him and felt warm shaving cram spread all over the sides and back of his head. The barber told him to "stay very still." Scritch, scritch, scratch, the barber slowly shaved away the stubble. Then he wiped Henry’s head clean and went over it with a foil razor to make sure no spots were missed. "Now for the final touch-just a bit of wax to make the front stand up nicely. This will only take seconds and if you are running late, you can take your butch comb and wax with you to work. After applying the wax, he turned Henry around to see a young Marine staring back at him in the mirror. Henry’s eyes began to water. The barber was not without compassion. "Now son, I know this is a big shock to you, and its meant to be. The world of work, especially in an exacting field like you have chosen is not all "loosey goosey." Look at yourself and remember why you look like this. Sometimes a man simply needs to do what needs to be done. Had you come in here and simply requested a short, no-nonsense haircut. You would have left here, perhaps with an ivy league or even a short businessman’s cut. Had you simply told me that your boss wanted you shorn to help with your tardiness issue, you would have left with the first haircut. Do you understand?"

By now Henry had composed himself and said to the barber, "yes sir, I do."

"Well then let’s get those pictures taken and sent to Mr. Sloan."

The barber took some time composing a message and then sending each set of photos. He proved to be quite adept with the mobile phone. Moments later Henry’s phone rang. Mr. Sloan told Henry to put him on speaker. "Henry, I didn’t think you’d have the bottle to do this. Mr. Dominic (that was the barber’s name), that is an outstanding haircut, in fact they both are. I’d say if Henry can be in in on time and maintain this fine haircut (I’m guessing visits back to you every week) for two months, he can try the second cut for a while and then we’ll see how his timekeeping is."

Henry was never late again.

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