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It Felt Right This Time by Just_Me
"Yeah! She's finally gone!"
Dad grinned. "I thought she’d never stop telling us what to do. You’ll have to remember what she said, because I tuned out after the first five minutes."
I quipped. "You made it five minutes? Heck, I was gone after about thirty seconds."
We stopped talking, and relished the peace after the storm of Mom’s barrage of instructions. She had just left for Oklahoma to take care of an aunt who was about to have surgery, and Dad and I were looking forward to two weeks without her eagle eye watching everything thing we did. She never missed a detail on anything, and if she couldn’t take care of it herself, she was quick to "ask" one of us to do it for her.
Don’t get me wrong, Mom’s not a bitch. She’s as good as gold, and sweeter than candy. She just talks a lot--a WHOLE lot. Dad and I have mastered the fine, time-honored, masculine tradition of appearing to listen, and not hearing a word that’s said. In fact, we’d turned it into an art. We would just nod, and say, "Yes" or "No" and have no idea what we’re agreeing to.
Mom had left a long list of Do's and Don'ts on the table for us. Dad grinned as he wadded up the list and threw it in the trash. "That's what I think about that. We’re going to have fun, instead of checking things off a list."
We didn’t seem to know what to do. Finally Dad looked at me and said, "Well, son, it looks like it's just the two of us. What do you want to do first?"
It was my turn to grin. "Eat! What else?"
"Spoken like a true teenager. Your mom left enough food for an army. Let's go see what we can rustle up."
It was my sophomore year, and I was on spring break. Dad was taking a week's vacation so we could spend the time together--and I'm sure he had the ulterior motive of making sure I didn't get into trouble because I had too much time on my hands.
The first day we didn’t do a whole lot, just the normal chores that a farm demands, which consisted mainly of feeding ducks, chickens, turkeys, geese, goats, pigs, cows, horses and jack asses. Then the ones in pens had to be watered. As usual, we cracked jokes and picked on each other. After the chores were done, we wound up in the den watching TV. It was a good day, but nothing exciting.
The next morning Dad said, "I’ve been meaning to work on that old tractor, and I keep forgetting to. I think I’ll dig into it today."
"Sounds like somebody’s getting old and forgetful."
He laughed and said, "I may be old and forgetful, but I ain’t forgot how to tan your hide!"
I laughed. "I ain’t afeered of you. I can outrun an old man like you."
He playfully said, "Go ahead and run. I know how to catch you. I’ll stand in front of the fridge and catch you when you come in to fill up that endless gullet of yours."
"Hey, that’s cheating and it ain’t fair! You’re supposed to chase me, so I can leave you gasping for air somewhere, and then come empty the refrigerator."
After we quit laughing, he said, "Why don’t you clean up the kitchen and then come help me?"
I groaned when I looked at the kitchen. "I’ll be out there as soon as I clean up this kitchen, but be forewarned. It might take me a couple of hours to get this kitchen clean. My lord, how in the world did you manage to mess up every pot in the house making French toast, scrambling some eggs and frying some bacon?"
"Well, I did it so you wouldn’t get bored. Now get those dishes done!"
I thought I was making fun of Dad, but realized I sounded like Mom when I pointed toward the door and said, "Now, get out there and get that tractor done!"
Once I had the kitchen clean (or at least clean enough for my standards. I’m sure Mom would’ve thought there was still more to do.) I walked out to the tractor. "Hey, old man, you’re as bad when you’re working on the tractor as you are when you’re cooking. You’ve got parts and tools scattered everywhere. Whatcha need me to do?" I helped a little, but got bored pretty quickly. I said, "Come on Dad, we can finish this later. Let’s head into town. There’s a new movie out, and I’m dying to see it."
He said, "Son, let me get the tractor put back together and we'll go later."
For some reason that pissed me off. I wanted to smart off, but knew Dad wouldn't put up with it. I played the hurt feelings card. I’m sure I sounded like a spoiled brat when I said, "I guess I understand. The tractor’s more important than me. Maybe we can spend some time together later."
I started back to the house and ignored Dad when he said, "Son, that's not fair. We'll go later. I promise."
I moped around until Dad came in. He knocked on my door and stuck his head in. "Tractor's done. Let me shower and shave and we'll head into town." A big grin spread across his face. "Hot damn! I can forget about shaving. Your mother's not home and I won’t have to hear her bitching that my whiskers are scratching her. Hallelujah!"
He came back a little later. "Ready?"
"Sorry, Dad. I don't think I should go. I forgot I have a paper due the day I go back to school. I should probably write it, so I'm not dreading it all week."
"I'm proud of you, son. That's the right way to look at it. We can go to the movies tomorrow."
"Ok. If you want to, I'll go."
Dad looked a little confused but didn't say anything.
I was surly the next day, still nursing my grudge against Dad. I was as rude to him a few times. One time I thought I'd stepped over the line and was about to get it, and one time he said (in "that" tone of voice), "Watch it son!" I knew what he meant, and settled back into my pout.
Later that afternoon I was laying on the bed petting the dog. Honestly, I was petting the dog while feeling sorry for myself when Dad stuck his head in the door and said, "Wanna go with me to feed the cows?"
"No, sir. If you don't mind, I'll stay here."
He got some iron in his voice. "Do what you want. If you want to have a pity party and waste our precious time together, that's your option."
I thought, "Whoa, Chris. You'd better slow down. He's about had enough of your nonsense."
By then I was ready to quit being a moody teenager. As I’m prone to do, I started talking to myself. "Chris, you know he’s right, and you know he was right about fixing the tractor. Why in the world did you get so pissed off? Going to the movie a few hours later wouldn’t have hurt anything. There’s really no excuse for how you acted." I couldn't remember what had upset me so much.
Dad was almost out the door when I yelled, "Hey, Dad. Hang on. I'm coming. I've just gotta throw some boots on."
We started walking to the pasture as if nothing had happened, and soon we were acting like fools and clowning around. I threw a pine cone at Dad, and nailed him in the head. "Ow! That hurt, you little brat!"
The little imp on my shoulder showed up. "If you had some hair on your head, instead of that old-fashioned flattop, it wouldn’t have hurt as much!"
"Oh, you think so? Let’s find out." He threw one at me and hit me square in the back of the head.
He couldn’t have done it if he’d tried, but somehow that pine cone got stuck in my long hair. I yelled, "Look what you did!"
Dad’s little imp showed up. " I couldn’t have done it if you didn’t have so much hair on your head!" He reached in his pocket, and said, "I have my pocket knife. I’ll be happy to cut it out for you."
I knew he was teasing, but I worked harder to get the pine cone out of my hair. After I got it out, I threw it back at Dad, hitting him in the shoulder. Soon we soon were throwing pines cones like they were snowballs. We fought until one of the pine cones drew blood on Dad’s arm.
I took off to the pond yelling, "Last one in has no hair on his balls."
Dad yelled, "Son, that water is still cold!"
I didn’t answer. I started taking clothes off as I ran. Dad chased me. I hit the pier, pulled my boots off, stripped to my underwear and dove in. Holy crap, that water was cold! Going in the pond that day was NOT one of my brighter moves. I thought I was going to die of shock.
Dad had wisely stopped at the end of the pier. "Son, you’d better get out before you start turning blue."
My teeth were chattering, but I couldn’t admit Dad was right. "Come on in, Dad. It’s not that cold."
He shook his head. "My momma might’ve raised a fool, but it wasn’t me. That water’s still ice cold. Get your ass out of there before you freeze to death."
I tried to bait him into coming in. After all, misery loves company. "Cluck, cluck, cluck. Who’s a chicken? Cluck, cluck, cluck."
"Come on, son. According to your ‘last one in’ challenge, I don’t have any hair on my balls, but at least I don’t have blue balls. Yours are probably turning bluer by the second. Get out."
I thought, "He’s probably right. I imagine they’ve probably froze off by now." I got out.
We spent the rest of the day having fun, and it turned into a great evening. We wound up going to the movies. On the way home we acted like bigger fools than we had earlier. The movie had been terrible, and we had a blast making fun of the actors in the show.
Once I was in bed that night, I started thinking about how poorly I’d treated Dad. Then I started remembering other incidents in the recent past where I had been unreasonable and contrary. I got to feeling guilty and thought, "Chris, you're a dumbass. Dad didn't deserve that. You should apologize to him."
The idea of apologizing turned into the thought that I should do something to show him I was sorry, rather than just say it. Nothing I could think of felt right, and I got frustrated with myself because I couldn't figure out what to do.
The rest of our week was great, but I kept trying to figure out a way to show Dad I was really sorry for the way I’d acted. Before I knew what'd happened, Sunday had rolled around, and I still hadn’t figured out anything.
Dad and I fixed supper. After we finished eating, we sat at the table just talking. I was sad when I realized I was facing a return to "normal" life. I said, "Damnation, Dad. This week really flew by, and I've enjoyed it. I hate the thought of going back to school tomorrow."
"Great minds think alike--or in our case, I should say crazy minds think alike. I was sitting here thinking I didn't want to go back to work either. It's kinda depressing."
I started a round of what I call "Do You Remember" when I said, "Dad, seeing you with that beard reminds me of that time we were on vacation, and you hadn’t shaved for a few days. Do you remember when you got on the diving board and that little boy screamed bloody murder and started yelling, ‘Momma, it’s a bear! It’s a bear!’? I don’t guess I’ll ever forget that day. I almost died laughing." (Dad is an extremely hairy man, and he did sorta look like a bear without a shirt on.)
"Oh yeah, I remember that. His first shriek scared the bejesus out of me! I almost fell off the diving board."
It was Dad’s turn. "Do you remember that time you fell in the culvert and I had to rescue you? You scared me to death."
"I haven’t thought about that for a long time, but I remember it well. That was the first time I ever saw you cry. I couldn’t figure out why you were crying. I wasn’t scared. I knew you’d get me."
Dad closed his eyes, like he was experiencing it again. "I was scared spitless. If you ever scare me like that again, I’ll wring your neck!"
"I remember how wet your clothes were, and I thought watching your hat float away was fun."
"Oh, I had forgot about the hat. Damn it, that was the most expensive hat I've ever owned." He grinned, "I should take the price of that hat out of your allowance."
"I've got one, Dad. Do you remember when you got me that go-cart? You were standing on the back so you could be with me when I drove it the first time. You yelled, 'Slow down' and I thought you said, 'Turn around'. I was running the go-cart at full throttle when I did a hundred-and-eighty degree turn. You went flying through the air and did a perfect belly flop in the middle of the street!"
He laughed. "Oh, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that one. I’ll still be holding a grudge against you for that one when I’m on my deathbed." He smiled. "Damn! It hurt when I hit the ground. I had all the air knocked out of me, and I still feel short of breath when I think about it. I swear, I didn't think I was ever going to start breathing again. I was sore for a week. I should've had your hearing checked after that." He looked at his hands. "Not only did I belly flop, I went sliding down the street. That sliding peeled all the skin off my hands and chin."
Dad continued. "Speaking of peeled, do you remember that time I was cutting your hair and the dog ran in and jumped on my back? I fell forward and the clippers went directly into the back of your head."
"Ha ha! Oh yes, I remember that. You salvaged some of the hair on the top of my head, but there wasn't much you could do but take the sides and back all the way off. I had the shortest hair in the school district for months." "
Did I ever tell you I really liked the look and feel of the haircut? At least I did the first day. I was entranced with it, and spent the rest of the day looking in the mirror and feeling my head. I didn’t start hating it until the next day when I got to school and everyone started treating me like something worse than death had happened to me. The kids picked on me, and the teachers sympathized with me. I didn’t mind the teasing so much, but I hated the commiseration. The more sympathy I got, the more I hated the haircut. I’ll bet at least ten teachers said, ‘Don’t worry, Chris. It’ll grow back, and you’re strong. You can deal with it.’ Coach Green was the only one what had something good to say. It felt good when he said, ‘Richardson, I’m glad someone in this school has some good sense. You couldn’t look better’."
Dad said, "Remind me to thank Coach Green for that!"
"Seeing how everyone reacted, especially the sympathy, was what made me start thinking about letting my hair grow out. It took me a while to get the nerve to tell you I was going to let it grow out though."
Dad said, "Oh, that’s what it was. It makes sense, but I’d never connected the two. I wondered what made you go from seeming to enjoy having your hair cut, to wanting to be a damned hippy. Thanks for telling me. I think you know this, but it really wasn’t intentional."
"I know. I never blamed you."
Dad shook his head. "I have to tell you. I was really surprised when you first told me you wanted to let your hair grow out. I’d thought I was going to be of the very few lucky fathers who’d never have to face…" He paused like he didn’t know if he wanted to say it. Even though I knew what he was going to say, it still hurt when I heard, "I never thought I’d have to face a son who looked this." Then he pointed to my hair.
Shame overwhelmed me, and a tear formed in the corner of both eyes. Then the lights went on. I thought, "Hot damn! That's what I can do to show Dad I’m sorry. I’ll ask him give me a haircut. It’s been a long time since he’s cut my hair, and I know he’d enjoy it." It felt right and the idea took root. I started thinking.
Dad had cut my hair until I decided to let it grow out, and haircut time was always a special time for us. He was pretty good barber (He’d learned to cut hair by practicing on his three younger brothers. My uncles enjoyed telling stories about how bad he’d been at first). I was sad when I thought, "He always did a good job--well except the time that damn dog jumped on him. My actions ruined the closeness we felt during our father/son haircuts."
I felt my hair: it was a typical Seventies cut. It hung down to my nose and fell over my shoulders. Dad had never said anything, but I knew he didn't like it. He never asked me (or told me) to get a haircut, but he always invited me to go with him when he went to the barbershop to get his flattop tightened up. He obviously hoped that seeing others getting their hair cut would inspire me to hop in the chair. Just as obviously, his plan hadn’t worked.
I thought, "I miss him cutting my hair. We always had fun while he was cutting it. I really want that special time with him again--even if it is strange for a sixteen-year-old boy to want to spend time with his father." Another, more surprising thought popped into my head. "Dear god, I miss having short hair. I want it short again: little-boy-haircut-short. Short-back-and-sides-short. White-walls-short."
The idea of spending another morning with a blow dryer, brush and a can of hairspray suddenly seemed repugnant.
I don’t know where the ideas of having him cut my hair came from. I have even less idea of where the thought I wanted short hair again came from. There had been no build-up, no gradual thinking, "I might wanna cut my hair shorter." The ideas were just there, lodged firmly in my brain. There was no doubts though. I knew I wanted to do it. It felt like the right thing to do.
Dad had gone on to his next "Do You Remember," but I’d been thinking instead of listening to him. I interrupted him. "Dad, I have a great idea. Why don't you give me a haircut?"
"What? What made you think of that?"
"Well, we were talking about that messed up haircut you had to give me, and I realized I miss having you cut my hair."
"I'll be damned! I never thought I'd hear you say that. You know these newfangled hairdos are beyond me. I only know how to do old-fashioned cuts."
"That’s what I want. It just dawned on me that I miss having short hair, and I'm tired of messing with it! I want an old-fashioned haircut. Real short--like you used to do when I was a kid."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, sir. I'm positive. Over the ears. Peeled tight. Short--real short. Would you mind doing it now? I really want it."
He looked dazed--like he didn't know what to do. "Hell, I'd be glad to see the bottom of your ears. Seeing your hair over your ears may put me into cardiac arrest! What in the world brought this on?" He looked at me. "I don’t care what brought it on. I’m going to enjoy this. Can we get rid of that center part too?" He didn’t wait for an answer. "Your mother will probably kill me."
"I don’t care. Well, I do care if she kills you, but let's do it anyway."
A slow smile spread across his face. "I don’t care either! Seeing you looking like a human, instead of an abominable snowman will be worth it. Let’s do it! Where are the damned clippers? It's been so long since I've used them that I don't remember where they are."
"They're in the garage. I'll get them. You get the chair ready."
I came back in, and Dad still looked dazed. I smirked. It had been a long time since I’d put him in a situation that he didn’t know how to handle.
He had pulled a chair in the middle of the kitchen and put some books on it. I laughed. "Dad, I’m not a little boy any more. I don’t need books."
"Well, your old man ain’t as young as he used to be. Bending over is hard on the back. I wanted to raise you up and bit...and you’re probably right. Mentally, I went back to when you were a little boy."
He looked me up and down. "You ain’t so little any more. When the hell did you get so tall?"
I teased him. "I forced myself to grow a foot on my way to the garage--just to confound you."
He gave me an exaggerated, ferocious glare. "Why don’t you try something new. Try shutting your smart-assed mouth for a few minutes. Sit down here." His smile told me he was picking on me.
Dad had lit his pipe while I was in the garage, and I was glad. The smell of his pipe was a part of the haircut ritual in my mind.
He put the cape on me, and started combing my hair. For some inexplicable reason, we started laughing. We laughed until we were weak.
Finally the laughter subsided, and it started all over again when Dad said, "Is the damned dog outside? I don't wanna repeat history!"
Dad started combing my hair again, and I was enjoying the feel of it. Suddenly he stopped. He walked around in front of me, and brushed the hair out of my eyes. With that parental insight that I've always found so amazing, he asked, "Chris, are you absolutely certain this is what you want? You don't owe it to me, and you don't have to atone for any supposed sins. Sure, you've been a little moody lately, but I expect that. Becoming a man is hard. Don't do this if you don't want to."
"Yes, sir. I’m absolutely certain. It's what I want. I’ll admit that I’ve been trying to think of a way to show you how sorry I am for the way I’ve been acting, and at first having you cut my hair seemed like a good way to show you I’m sorry. Since then, it’s become more. I don't know why, but I really want a haircut--a really short haircut. Honestly Dad, I think this is more about me than it is about you. It feels right. Please."
He got a gleam in his eyes. "Ok. If it's what you want, I'll do it. Who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? I'll admit I've dreamed about getting this s**t off your head for a long time."
He walked behind me and picked up the clippers. "Last chance." He took a very pompous tone, and said, "If any person can show just cause why this man should not be parted from his hair, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.""
"Quit playing, and start cutting!"
He kept his pious tone going. "For as much as it has pleased Chris to take out of this world his long, hippy hair, we therefore commit the hair on his head to the floor of this kitchen. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
With that, he turned the clippers on. We both jumped sky high. They sounded like they were going to explode. Dad laughed. "I guess I should've oiled them before I put them up." He looked pensive. "When I put them up that last time I never dreamed it would be years before I used then again. I'm with you. I've missed our haircut time."
The clippers purred like a kitten after Dad oiled them. I realized the absence of that sound had left a hole in my life.
Dad put a guard on the clippers, lifted the hair off my neck with the comb and I heard the familiar sound of clippers being fed a diet of hair. After the first swipe, he turned the clippers off and picked the hair up off the floor. He dangled it in front of my face I thought, "Good grief! Was my hair really that long? What he cut off must be at least ten inches long."
I don’t think I’ve ever heard more passion in his voice than I did when he said, "My god. It feels good to see this crap off your head." He threw it back on the floor like it was something vile and disgusting. Once again he lifted the hair off my neck, slipped the clippers under the hair and made another trip up the back of my head. A few more times up my head, and I knew the length was gone from the back. It felt cooler and lighter, but it didn't feel right. I thought, "Chris, it's been too long since you've had a real haircut. You've just forgot what it feels like."
How much I was enjoying the process amazed me. Dad paused when I laughed. "What’s so funny?"
"I was just thinking. If someone had told me yesterday that I’d ask for white walls today, I would’ve said they’re crazy. I would’ve said they were crazier if they said I’d enjoy it--but here I am, absolutely enthralled with getting my hair whacked off."
"Son, I would’ve called for the men with straight jackets if someone had told me I’d be cutting your hair today."
I laughed again. "When I went with you to the barbershop yesterday, I had no thoughts of getting my hair cut. In fact, I sat there thinking it was stupid for you to be there. I didn't think you needed a haircut. The whole time we were there, I was thinking, ‘I wish he’d get rid of that stupid-looking flattop and let his hair grow out’."
"Boo-hoo! That hurt my feelings. I should be mean and give you a flattop, just to pay you back for that thought." He gave me a fake pouty look. "I’ll be nice this time and not give you a flattie." He glared. "That is, I won’t give you a flattie, unless you say something else mean to me, and hurt my feelings again. Say you’re sorry, son."
I couldn’t help but laugh. "Dad, I’m sorry for telling you that you have a stupid-looking haircut--even if it is true!"
He growled like a rabid wolf. I laughed more.
This was the type of banter I missed about Dad cutting my hair. I was already looking forward to the next haircut with Dad as my barber.
He moved to the side and said, "I hope I can find your head under this mess of hair."
I laughed. "I hope you can too. It's been a long time since anyone’s seen my ears."
"Speaking of ears, you'd better hope the clippers don't find an ear and cut it off."
"How short do you want your sideburns?" ( I had really long sideburns and they were my pride and joy. I think I liked them so much because I had been the first kid in my school who could grow sideburns.)
"No sideburns. Take ‘em all the way off."
Once again he slid the comb under my hair, lifted it up and slid the clippers under the hair. They sounded louder since they were right by ear.
He stopped cutting my hair and turned the clippers off. He sounded deadly serious. "Chris, I’m pissed at you, and you’re going to have to get a severe haircut for acting the fool."
"Huh? I don’t understand."
He snickered. "Well, I figured your friends are gonna give you a lot of flack about your haircut. Now, you can truthfully say, "My old man said he was pissed and that I had to get a short haircut."
I laughed. "Thanks, Dad. I really appreciate the thought, but I won’t make you play the bad guy. I’ll make you the hero. I’ll say we went camping and my hair caught on fire. Then I’ll brag how my hero father put the fire out before I was seriously hurt."
"Well, if you got your hair anywhere near a fire all that hairspray you use would light you up like a Christmas tree."
"Hot damn, son!"
"With all the money I’m going to be saving on hairspray, I can buy a new truck!"
"Umm, Dad, I hate to tell you, but I don’t use that much hairspray. Maybe you could be me a motorcycle instead."
He turned the clippers on, and finished up the side.
My mind whirled for a while. I said, "Dad, turn the clippers off."
It was his turn to say, "Huh?".
"I’ve been thinking. I know why I wanted you to cut my hair. I want to stand out in the crowd, I’m sick of blending in. I just didn’t realize it when I asked you."
"Well, a short haircut will make you stand out amongst the crowd you run around with. They’re all a bunch of hippies." He looked relieved, "Thanks for telling me. I don’t feel as guilty as I did when I thought you were cutting your hair to appease me."
"There’s still an element of that in it. I really do want to show you I’m sorry for how I’ve acted, as well as tell you."
"I know how you can show me."
"How’s that Dad?"
He laughed. "Stop acting like a damned fool!" Then he ruffled my hair, and started cutting again.
After he got the sides short, he bent my ear down and took the clippers around my ears, defining the arch.
Dad went to the other side, and did the same thing.
When the sides and back were done to his satisfaction, he took the scissors to the top. I thought, "All this hair falling looks like leaves falling on a windy fall day." Then I looked at the floor. "Great analogy, Chris. You've got a carpet of hair on the ground instead of a carpet of leaves, and it’s a mixture of brown, red and gold." (My hair was a light brown, but during the summer the sun bleached highlights of red and gold into it.)
Dad took the cape off. "Go look at this, and tell me what you think."
I was crushed when I looked in the mirror. Although it was a perfectly good haircut, it was nowhere near as short as I wanted it. I still had long sideburns. The only good thing I could say about it was that it was over the ears.
I tried to muster some enthusiasm on my way back to the kitchen. Dad took one look at my face and said, "Well, you’re about as thrilled as someone going to their own funeral. What's the matter?"
"Honestly, I thought you'd go shorter. It's a lot better than it was, but it's just a taper, and not even a short taper. I want some white walls like you used to do. I want to see some skin."
"Son, you made the decision to cut your hair on the spur of the moment, and I don't want you to regret it. Compared to all your friends, your hair is plenty short. I left it longer than you said, just to give you time to think about it."
"Aww, Dad. Come on, take it down for me."
"I'll tell you what, you sleep on it, and if you want it shorter in the morning I’ll really put these clippers to work and go a helluva lot shorter. Just remember you have to face your peers tomorrow, just like you did after the dog incident. I’m sure they’ll give you hell about it being this short, and will step up the torment if you go full white walls. I'm not trying to be mean, I just don't want you to do something impetuous tonight that you'll regret tomorrow. You might blame me, and I don't want that."
"Ok, Dad. I understand you’re just looking out for me, but get ready to do another cut in the morning--before school. I'm not changing my mind."
I started to go to bed, and stopped. "Dad, you'll really cut it like you used to? Serious white-walls? Don't get my hopes up if you won't."
"Have I ever lied to you? I've kept my word, whether I told you I’d take you somewhere or if I told you I'd beat your ass for doing something wrong." (Dad never beat me. When I was a kid he’d sometimes popped me on the butt a few times if I did something really bad, but it never came close to a beating.)
I hung my head, and pretended I was scared of him. "Yes, sir. You always kept your word about beating my ass. I’ve got the scars to prove it! Please don’t beat me no more. I’ll be good. I promise!"
He roared with laughter, and threw a dish towel at me. "You’re a lying dog. I should beat you for saying that!"
I grinned at him. "Don't tell anyone I said this, but I've probably got by with a lot of stuff I should've got my ass beat for."
I laughed, but Dad frowned. "I'm sure you have. I remember being a teenager, but please don't ever tell me the shenanigans you got by with. I'm not sure my heart would take it."
"I’ll keep my mouth shut until I’m thirty."
He chuckled. "Well, if what you did was too bad, I’ll probably still beat your ass, even if you are thirty."
I grinned. "I’m sure you would. Good night, Dad."
He stopped me. "I oughta beat your ass for leaving to clean up this mess." With his gift for hyperbole, he said, "There’s so much hair on this floor it’ll take me all night to clean it up. Go get some bushel baskets out of the barn. I’ll need them to collect all this hair in."
I ignored his wisecrack. "Oh, crap! You’re right, Dad. I’m sorry. Let me get the broom."
"Go on to bed, son. I think I’m going to gloat over every hair on this floor, and be proud of myself for putting it there. I might not sleep, because I want to sit here looking at all this dead hair on the floor."
He hugged me, "You don’t know how happy you’ve made me tonight. I’m thrilled to see you with hair this short, even if you change your mind about going shorter. Thank you, son. It really means the world to me."
I teared up, and had a hard time seeing how to get out of the kitchen.
I hardly slept that night. I’d feel my hair and think, "What the hell, Chris? What made you decide to do this?" My answer sounded stupid, even to me. "I don’t know why I want to, but I want to. It really feels important to me. It feels right."
Feeling the taper on my neck distracted me from nodding off. Between thinking and rubbing my head, it was impossible to sleep.
I got up a little after three and went into the den as quietly as I could--which in my case is not very quietly. I started going through old family pictures and finally found what I wanted. It was a picture of me on my first day at school. Dad had really peeled the sides of my head. I looked cute with my greased up hair, sharp part, white walls and Dennis the Menace rooster tail. I thought, "This is it. This is what I want."
As I looked at the old pictures, I tried to imagine what I'd look like after Dad cut my hair. I couldn't visualize it. The-almost-seventeen-year-old-me was so different from the-six-year-old-me that I couldn't make the transfer.
Even if I couldn’t imagine how I’d look, I knew I'd like it. I thought, "Who gives a flip about what it's going to look like. It'll be easier to manage." I perked up. "Maybe my new haircut will make me look like I'm in the army and I can get into a bar. I've heard some girls think men in uniforms are sexy. Maybe they'll like men in military haircuts and I can get lucky!"
I thought, "If I succeed at getting lucky in a bar I should probably add it to the 'Don't Tell Dad Until I'm Thirty' list."
I thought, "I wonder if I’ll ever be brave enough to tell Dad all the stuff I’ve done." I imagined us sitting on the back porch having a beer and saying, "Dad, remember when I told you I wouldn't tell you all the crazy stuff that I got by with until I was thirty? Well, I'm thirty now and it's time for me to come clean."
I started compiling a list of things I'd tell him about. "Hmm, I could tell him about sneaking Jill in the house while he and Mom were in town and how I scored in their bed." I thought again. "Maybe I shouldn't tell him about that. He might not find it funny."
Thinking about Jill made me wonder if my planned haircut would keep me from ever getting her in bed with me again. After all, it was the Seventies, and girls liked long hair on their men. I thought, "Screw it. If she won't have anything to do with me because of a haircut I don't need her." Then I wondered if I'd ever find someone who would have me, because I'd already decided that for the foreseeable future I would keep my hair short.
I went back to planning my 'Don't Tell Dad Until I'm Thirty' list. "Oh, what about that time I decided I wanted a little brother. How old was I then? Twelve? Thirteen? I know I was old enough to know what sex was. I’ll tell Dad how I snuck into their room with a straight pin and poked holes in his condoms, hoping Mom would get pregnant. He'd get a kick out of that."
"I’ve gotta tell him about the time I snuck out of the house and went to T. J.’s. I can imagine saying, ‘Hey Dad, a bunch of us snuck into the church where T. J.’s father preached. We got drunk in the church, and passed out on the pews. Can imagination what would've happened if T. J.'s hardcore father found out kids were drinking in his Pentecostal church? He would've preached us all straight into hell!’" I started remembering that night. "On second thought, maybe that's another one I shouldn't tell him, because I don't want to remember it. I thought my hangover would never go away."
Another idea hit me. "I should start keeping track of how many times I skip school. He’d crap in his pants if I said something like, 'I skipped school ninety-seven times and wrote my own notes. If Mom wrote a note for me I threw it away because I didn’t want the school comparing writing'."
"I’ll tell Dad where all the gas in his bass boat disappeared to that night. He’s still bitching about the crooks stealing his gas. He’ll have a fit when I tell him that I snuck out, and Brian and I spent the night going full-throttle over the lake." I shivered. "Dear god, that was stupid of us. We could've easily been killed."
My thoughts drifted back to my impending haircut.
I went to the kitchen and started getting things ready for my new cut. I was psyched! Dad had put the haircutting kit away, and I thought, "Uh-huh, Dad. You thought I’d come to my senses, and not got through with this. Well, you were wrong. You’re gonna keep your promise." I put a chair back in the center of the kitchen floor, and put the books back in it, just for fun. Then I got the haircutting kit out of the garage (again) and laid the comb and scissors out. I plugged the clippers in, but left all the attachments in the bag (I didn’t want Dad to see them, and be tempted to use them). I draped the cape over the chair and thought I had completed the setup, but something seemed wrong. I stepped back and realized what was missing. I went in the den and got one of Dad's pipes and set it by the clippers (to me, his pipe was as much a part of a haircut as the scissors.)
I looked at the picture of me as a little boy again. I thought, "I wish I had some Brylcreem. I want the slicked over look too." I knew I had thrown the Brylcreem away a few years before, but thought about Vaseline. I put some beside the comb.
I paced the floor, waiting for Dad to wake up. I didn’t want to go roust him out of bed because he’s sometimes grouchy when he first gets up, but I wanted him to come on. Finally thought, "Make some coffee. That'll drag his ass out of bed!" I opened his bedroom door so the smell of coffee could get in there.
Sure enough, not long after the coffee started brewing Dad stumbled out of the bedroom with sleepy eyes and a question mark on his face. "What the hell is going on? It's 4:45 in the morning!"
I grinned at him. "I’m impressed! The old man can still tell time when he’s sleepy."
Dad didn’t look impressed with my joke.
He looked around, and saw the haircutting stuff on the table. "Well, it looks like I'm going to be doing another haircut this morning. I’m not going to try to talk you out of it. I’ll give you the best short cut I can, but give me time to get some coffee in me, or you might look like the dog jumped on me again."
"I don't care if I do! Let's get going!"
"I care. I won't be able to function without some caffeine in me. Don’t speak to me again until I’m on my second cup of coffee."
I bounced around, waiting for him to drink his coffee. He fussed. "Boy, sit down! You're driving me crazy!" I sat but I couldn't be still. I started using the table as a drum. Dad glared at me, and I knew what it meant. I stopped playing the drums. Seconds later I was tapping my foot in rhythm. Another look from Dad. I got up and started pacing. He said, "You sure don't need any caffeine. You're bouncing like a damned ball." Then he sighed. "I haven't even got to drink a quarter of my coffee, but I guess I'm not going to get to drink it in peace. Get your ass in the chair."
I pulled the picture out and showed it to him. "This is what I want, Dad. Don't stop until it's that short!"
"Damn son, that's short. Are you sure?"
"If you're gonna go that short you might as well let me give you a flattop."
I thought a second. "No sir. I don't want to do a flat right now. Maybe this summer."
"You really think you'll keep it short that long?"
"Yes, sir. It's only about eight weeks, and we can do several cuts between now and then."
"Before we start thinking about the next cut, let's get this one done. Sit down."
He caped me up and I said, "By the way, Dad. This would’ve been more fun if you’d just scalped me last night, but I appreciate you looking out for me. I don’t give a damn what others think. This is what I want, just in case you’re having any doubts."
He didn’t answer. He picked up the clippers and turned them on and aimed for my head.
I stopped him. "Hold on, Dad."
"What? Wanting to back out?"
"Hell no! I just wanted to make sure you don't have a guard on those clippers."
He seemed to relish the thought. "No guard. One set of white walls coming up." He ran the clippers about halfway up my head. I smiled. It felt right this time.