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The New Guy in School by Deke Cutter
This story starts in 10th grade when even good kids are likely to do stupid things in the name of being cool. Well, my two best friends and I were pretty good kids. You know, kind of jokers, but good students, into sports, not really trouble-makers, but we did tend to be boneheads at times. A new kid coming into our class was always a good chance for some mischief. This kid looked like he just came out of military school. He had a real skinned haircut, just a little bit of hair on top. We all had pretty normal medium length hair, like most guys did. I don’t know which of us started it, but we all were razzing him about his hair and being stand-offish with him and we made sure the other kids were sort of taking our lead. After the second day of this, our homeroom teacher saw what was happening and held the three of us after school. Well, the next day, we got the new kid (Tom) and were really going at him for "ratting us out." He just stood tall and said, "a real man would never do that, and real men wouldn’t accuse another without proof." Then he pushed us aside and walked away. Unfortunately for the three of us, the school principal observed this whole thing. We were called in to his office with our parents the next day.
Dr. Lester was a pretty fair guy, but he was not a pushover. He told our parents that our behavior was not acceptable, particularly when it made a new student feel unwelcome. "Thomas Albertson and his family were transferred here by the Navy. His father is on a special assignment and there are not enough military personnel here to warrant a school for the dependents. So, Tom and his sisters are here. The Admiral in charge the base here is a real old school sailor and Tom’s hair has to be kept very short to please him. Otherwise, the commander could make things tough for Tom’s father. I am very disappointed in you three for teasing anybody about their appearance." I heard you accuse him of ‘being a rat’ which was not so, I am suspending you for two days or until you return with a haircut as short as Tom’s. That’s going to be a crewcut or a flat top, either one with whitewalls." None of our parents objected, which surprised me a little. We each apologized to Dr. Lester and left.
My parents had come in separate cars and mom had to get right back to work. She gave me one of her best 1-minute lectures and left. So, dad told me to hop into his car. Five minutes later we were pulling into the parking lot of the barbershop. "Come on Jack, you heard what Doctor Lester said. Let’s get this haircut over with." The walk into the that shop felt like the longest walk I ever took.
The barber looked surprised to see us on a Wednesday morning. "Well John and Jack, I wasn’t expecting either of you so soon. What’s going on, a school raffle?"
"No Mike, Jack and a couple of his buddies got into a bit of a mess at school and part of making amends is getting a very short haircut. Hop up in the chair son."
"Well Jack," said Mike, the barber, "this is one for the books. You’ve always been a bit of a talker, but you don’t usually talk yourself into trouble."
"I did this time Mike and I feel like a jerk. Unless my dad has another idea, give me a real short crewcut with just a little bit up front and white walls on the side."
"You heard the boy Mike. That’s what the doctor ordered."
"Oh, I see what you did there, John, Doc. Lester…what the doctor ordered." Mike guffawed as he turned to choose his implements of destruction. I had been quiet since we let school and I was not happy about this haircut, but I did feel like a grade A jerk when old Lester explained the situation to us. Plus, I had been thinking about how freaking cool that kid Tom was when we surrounded him. I was going to take my medicine like a man, until those clippers made their first trip up the side of my head and I saw my beautiful wavy brown hair falling onto the cape. That’s when my eyes started to water.
Dad stood up and came over to the chair and looked me in the eye and said, "I was really disappointed in you and your two knucklehead pals, but son, right now I am proud of you. Your taking responsibility like a man and sometimes we men shed a few tears." I could see dad was kind of choked up and the whole time I was so distracted that Mike had about half my hair shaved off. I kind of got hold of myself and dad sat back down as Mike finished taking off the rest of the sides and back. Then starting just about an inch from the front he pealed the top of my head down to the same #2 as the sides. Then he wet the bangs that were let and trimmed them back until I just had a little tuft of hair up front, just about like Tom’s.
"OK, that’s the bulk off Jack. Now we’ll take the sides down with no guard and then we’ll see if you and dad want me to shave them all the way off." The second round of clipping actually felt kind of good. Mike was a good barber and he knew how to run the clippers so they didn’t hurt at all. When he finished, he turned me around to look in the big mirror. Because of my brown hair, you could still see some stubble. He turned me back to face dad. I looked at dad and we both shook our heads.
Dad said, "go ahead and lather him up." I heard the hot lather machine and felt Mike putting the hot lather all around the sides and back of my head.
"OK, Jack, be very still now. Mike took his time and slowly scraped away the shaving cream, leaving me with shining white walls. He wiped me off and put a little lotion on the shaved area. Then he opened up a tube of sweet-smelling waxy stuff. He said, "just a little butch wax for up front" and he had my little tuft standing up straight. I was a sight. Dad paid Mike and I thanked him for the haircut. As we were leaving, Dave and his mother pulled up, he took one look at me and turned white as a ghost. His mom rolled down her window and said "Barry’s dad just gave him a home haircut a lot like Jack’s. He offered to do Dave, but Dave wanted to come to Mike’s.
As we got in the car, dad said to me, "I’m going to work from home the rest of the day. Its good we got this out of the way early. Now you just have one more thing to do."
"What do you mean dad?"
"You are going over to the Albertson’s to apologize to Tom and to see what you missed at school. Oh boy, this day just kept getting better. I went up to my room and looked in the mirror above my chest of drawers. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The back and sides of my head felt so weird. The top of my head felt all bristly. It was kind of cool. But I looked like an underaged recruit. At least I knew Barry and Dave were going to look as scalped as me when we got back to school.
At 3:45 dad called me downstairs. "Let’s go Jack, oh by the way, I ran back down to Mike’s and got you this." (It was this weird little round brush.) "Mike says it will help you keep the front brushed up. Go ahead try it." Yep, it worked. Dad had called over to the Albertson’s and Tom’s mom had said she’d be glad to have us come over. The Albertsons lived pretty close to us. I could have ridden my bike over there. Dad told Mrs. Albertson that he was amazed that the house looked so put together.
"Oh, that’s military living 101, "she said. "They move us so much, we have it down to a science. Jack, why don’t you go downstairs to the rec. room. Tom’s down there. He’s the oldest so he got the bedroom down there. His sisters are upstairs with us. John, I’m just making some coffee. I hope you can stay for a while. Tom Senior should be home shortly, and I love for him to meet you."
I went down the stairs of the split-level house into the large empty recreation room. I was about to call out when I heard a toilet flush followed by water running in a sink. A door opened and Tom Albertson was standing there in his underpants. "Outstanding haircut Harrison," he said
Nice "fruit of the looms Albertson," I replied.
We both then started laughing. Tom said, "Let me get some clothes on."
He came out in jeans and a tee shirt. I said "Tom, I’m here to apologize for being a jerk. You deserve to want nothing to do with me and if you want to punch me feel free. You showed me what you’ve got when you walked away from us three idiots yesterday."
Tom said, "this is the sixth school I’vr been to and you guys are the biggest dickheads I have ever encountered. I don’t fight with dickheads who don’t know what they’re talking about or you wouldn’t be looking so pretty with that fancy new haircut. You want to tell me about it?" So, I did. "Yep, that’s what the principal told me. Just wanted to hear it from you. So how do like looking like a skinheaded, what else did you call me, ‘jarhead recruit.’?"
I’m hating life and not looking forward to the s**t we are going to take at school."
"Welcome to a little slice of my world. Dad’s last assignment, the guy in charge as pretty cool. I had a normal haircut like yours, I mean like yours used to be. But being in a military family, you learn to go with the flow. It helps, though, if you have friends who have your back. So, what do you say dickhead, now that we have matching haircuts, can we agree to have each other’s backs?"
And that was the beginning of a great friendship. My folks became friendly with the Albertsons too. Tom and I shared a lot of interests. In fact, the haircuts helped all four us bond together. Barry and Dave couldn’t believe it when we all ended up looking like Tom and none of looked too terrible. But we were all planning on growing on hair back. About a month after the haircuts, my hair was just starting to fill in on the sides and Tom had already got his second haircut. His dad took him to the barbershop on the base. Tom was really becoming my best friend and it bothered me that some people still made comments about his hair. I kept thinking about what he had said about having each other’s backs. I decided I’d talk to my dad. I asked him what he thought about me getting another crewcut, maybe not as severe as last time. "I thought you really hated that skinned look?"
"Well dad, Tom and I have become good buddies and I just think it’s a way to show him some support. You know, until he gets better known and stuff."
"It’s your hair Jack."
The next day after school, Tom and I were going to shoot some hoops in his yard. I told him I had an errand to run but, I’d be over afterwards. I went straight to Mike’s. Luckily, he wasn’t busy. I got up in the chair and asked for a ‘regular crewcut,’ not as severe as last time. "Are you in more trouble Jack?"
"No trouble Mike, I just decided I’m gonna be a crewcut guy for a while."
"You can’t kid a kidder Jack, what’s the story?" So, I told him. Mike, patted me on the shoulder and said, "you’re a good kid Jack, John and your mom should be proud." Next thing I knew, my newly grown inches of hair were being zipped away. This time, though, I felt really good about it. As Mike took my sides down to a respectable #2 and then trimmed the top down with a three on the back and a little longer up front. When he was done, scraping around the ears and neck, he turned me around and I thought, "dang, Jack, you can pull this off!"
I rode up Tom’s driveway and when I didn’t see him, I went around to the patio in the back. I knocked on the sliding door and Tom yelled "come on in." Tom was in his bedroom. He came out holding his Chuck Taylors. He took one look at me and dramatically dropped the sneakers. "Another outstanding haircut Harrison!"
"Got your back Albertson." Tom came over and gave my head a good rub.
"Then he said come on you dickhead. I’m gonna beat your butt in a little one on one action.
Tom and I became known as the buzz brothers before too long and I got used to my trips to Mike or a crewcut. But in late April, I went over to Tom’s one Saturday to find him very down. "What’s up man?"
"We’re moving again."
"It’s great for dad. He gets a promotion, and it sets him up for retirement down the road. At least we get to stay until school ends and there’s worse places to go than San Diego."
Barry, Dave and I did our best to make Tom’s last months with us memorable and I worked on them to go along with the plan I hatched. There was a big end of year dance for our class on the Friday before the last week of school. I finally got Barry and Dave (and their dates) to agree to my plan. The three of us met at Mike’s after school on Friday. Mike was ready for us. "OK boys, three skin heads coming up right?"
With that, Barry, whose thick dark curly hair was back to its original length reluctantly got into the chair. "Well," said Barry, "at least this time it will be a professional job." Mike made quick work of those curls and Barry was soon shorn down to a tight crewcut. Barry climbed out of the chair looking shocked. "Freakin’ Jack, if my dad decides this haircut is a ‘summer keeper’ you’ll be on our back stoop with me every Saturday." Dave was much less concerned. I had sort of known he would be. First, he was, hands down, the best-looking guy in our class (and he knew it) and he looked great with that first haircut.
"Come on Mike, make me look like a Marine again. Carol Anne (his steady girl) loves a man with a short cut." Mike took him at his word and had his skin shining in about 20 minutes. Next, it was my turn and I have to say I was sorry to see my "regular" crewcut go. But, knowing that Tom was leaving, I was pretty sure I’d be growing my hair out soon.
When we got to the dance that night, the six of us arrived together. I had told Tom that my date Cindy’s mom wanted to take her and me out to dinner so we would have to meet him there. So, we were all waiting in my mom’s SUV when Tom and Kelly, the girl he had been crushing on all year, arrived. I pulled up next to him and we all hopped out. The look on Tom’s face was priceless. But, being Tom, he immediately composed himself into stone and said: "Outstanding haircuts gentlemen, very appropriate for the lovely ladies who are allowing you to escort them this evening." But being Tom, he made the mistake of looking at me as he said the last word and both of us collapsed in laughter. Before the night was over Tom had thanked each of us for "the best gift you three dickheads" could have given me." I was going to miss my buddy Tom. Little did I know this would not be our last haircut adventure.