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Kyle saves the day (revised) by P.J.


"Alright son, here we are. Good thing we're here first thing in the morning, doesn't look like he's busy yet."

"Grampa, I don't think I want to go in."

"What? Nonsense, son, Frank doesn't bite. You've been here many times before when you were younger."

"I know, I have vivid memories of being taken here by you and dad when I was younger, none of them good. That's why I don't think I want Frank to trim my hair."

"Son, we've talked about this. You've grown this heavy thick mane over the last couple of years, ever since graduating from high school. I've been able to keep it in check for you, granted. But I'm going to be traveling this whole summer so I think it's high time you and Frank got reacquainted, as adults. He's a barber, he cuts hair for a living. I told you, we'll talk to him. If he doesn't want to do as you ask, then you're free to leave O.K.? I think you should at least talk to him and give him a chance son. It's an hour's ride to the city and any other barbers."

"Well, I just want to go on record saying this isn't a good idea, and yes, I will walk out if he's still the grumpy curmudgeon he used to be. I remember how he used to jerk my head around while he was shaving me bald every year after school got out. He still has the rep for being Frank, the butcher barber at school too. God I hated those haircuts. I got to grow it out all year, when it finally started to look good, whamo!, #1 butch cut all over again. I had to wear a hat around till Thanksgiving for God's sake."

Grandpa smiled at me and laughed. "Yep, I remember those days. Your daddy still hates the fact that I talked him into letting me cut your hair when you got into high school."
I smiled at him affectionately "Yeah, that's when I finally learned I had wavy hair. I was able to have more than a butch cut. I know Frank’s going to give me s**t, and want to give me a butch again. He's not interested in anything but super short hair on us guys, the grumpy old goat."

"Well, I might have been cutting your hair for the last 6 years son, but I've known Frank, and been coming here, for the last 30 years. He can be a bit hardnosed, but I think he'll do want you want. Let's go in and have a talk at least, come on."

I slid out of the truck, and shuffled to the door, Grandpa was hot on my heals, to make sure I couldn't back out, no doubt. With the chime of the bell as I opened the door, the memories came flooding back.

All the tear filled, stomach churning, anxiety ridden times I'd been dragged here on the first Saturday after school got out. I was probably the only kid who didn't want school to end. I wasn't the only one dragged into the shop that day either, there was usually a queue of us, being dragged in, and strong armed, or cajoled by a mom or a dad to sit quietly and wait our turn. We were on a death march, and the barber chair was our electric chair. There were quiet pleas heard up and down the waiting room chairs for a stay of execution. Last minute negotiations of a summers worth of yard work for an inch left on the head. The pleas fell on deaf ears as evidenced by the teary eyed freshly shorn guys that were walking out as you walked in. YOU never wanted to make eye contact with them, it was the kiss of death. You knew exactly how they felt, and with growing dread knew you'd soon feel that way too.

I was snapped out of my reverie by Frank, smiling and greeting Grandpa and I with a friendly howdy. "So, Bob, Who's this you've brought with you today? This can't be your grandson Kyle under all that hair can it?" I immediately turned on my heel and made for the door. Grandpa had still been behind me and put up his hands to stop me. "Now Frank" Grandpa scolded. "Is that any way to talk to a potential customer? Do you greet all your new customers that way? I guess I know why you have the rep you have amongst the younger guys in this town."

"Well, Bob, really, just look at him, thick heavy bulk beyond shoulder length. In need a severe pruning for sure. I could give my trusty Oster 76's a good workout removing that thatch."
"Frank" Grandpa scolded again, a bit more firmly "I'm going to give you one more chance to be a gentleman and maybe give a listen to my grandson Kyle. Without further insulting him, or aren't you interested in doing business with him?"

Frank and I squared off, standing opposite one another, arms crossed defensively, Grandpa off to one side. I wasn't 10 years old anymore, and respect for your elders be damned, I wasn't taking his s**t. I think at the last minute Grandpa knew I was riled up. I smiled at Frank and said "Yes Frank, I thought I'd come in and see if my childhood memories of you and this place might have been clouded by my youth. Seems I was pretty clear headed though, you seem every bit as narrow minded and judgmental as I remember."

Grandpa raised his eye brows inquisitively, waiting for Franks reply. "Bob" Frank huffed indignantly "Are you going to let him talk to me like that?"

"Yes Frank, I am, I'll stop him when I think he's wrong, but so far I don't think he's said anything out of line."

"Sir" I said, addressing Frank "I'm not 10 years old, and I'm the one who would have been paying you my hard earned money for your services, not Gramps. It's a small wonder you have the reputation you have amongst us younger guys in this town. If you're going to treat me this way, without even finding out what I wanted you to do, I'll gladly drive an hour to the city and find a shop that will accommodate me. Good day sir!" With that I turned and started walking out. "Grandpa, I'll wait for you in the truck. You can leave now too and ride with me in to the city if you want, they're polite and accommodating in the shops there."

Grandpa stared at Frank and said "I think you just might have lost yourself at least two customers, if not a few more, when word gets around."

Grandpa turned to follow me, I glanced back and saw Franks staring, slack jawed at us. I heard Frank bark "Bob, Bob, wait just a minute, both of you."

I heard Grandpa stop, I kept walking. "Kyle, son" Frank said "wait just a minute, will you?"

I spun on my heals , arms crossed again, clearly frustrated and angry and stared at the old F%$K.

Frank started with "Now listen, I may have started this off a bit on the wrong foot here. Bob, much as I hate to admit it, especially to you, you might be right. I am getting a little tired of hearing whispered murmurs behind my back about how old fashioned I am, and how I only know how to skin em high.
Kyle, I do owe you an apology. I'm sorry for my disparaging remarks. I know from your grandfather here what a fine young man you are turning out to be. Suppose we start again, fresh, son, and see if we can get a little further. What say you eh?"

I was steaming mad now, and more than willing to play along and see how much rope he needed before he hung himself, again.
"Sure Frank, nice to see you again after all this time" I nodded, smiling like a Cheshire cat. Grandpa knew me well enough to know I was now thoroughly pissed. He also knew enough to stay back and not get caught in the cross fire.

"What can I do for you today Kyle?" Frank asked politely.
Fine, I thought, I'll play along. "Well Frank, Grandpa has been cutting my hair for the past 6 years. At his fine hands, and defensive posturing with my dad, I've been able to grow my hair out and into this fine lush mane you see here before you. Grandpa is going to be traveling for most of this summer though. He suggested that it might be a good idea to try and get reacquainted with you, should my hair need attention while he's gone. Grandpa knows I take great pride in my appearance and always make sure I'm neat and well trimmed. Instead of having him cut my hair, he suggested we pay you a visit. I'm sure he's also thinking ahead that it would be nice to have someone else I trust to cut my hair. I was pretty sure that what has happened here this morning, would happen, but I decided to humor Grandpa, and give you the benefit of the doubt. Grandpa spoke well of you. I'm pretty sure that was misplaced, based on your previous comments. I'm loving my long hair, for now, and you clearly are a hater. I'm acutely aware that you completely disapprove of my appearance and I'm sure would like to do nothing more than give me one of your famous #1 butch cuts. I can also assure you that ain't gonna happen. Here's what I was interested in finding out if you are willing to do. My hair is now well down on my shoulders, I realize my hair is long, even by my standards. I'd like to have it cut shorter, around chin length to start. When it's been shortened, I'd like to have a good look and see if I want it layered, maybe not, maybe a little, maybe a lot. I usually have a little discussion with my barber" I gave a hand wave in Grandpas direction "and see what he might think. I sometimes go with his advice, sometimes not. He doesn't have an ulterior motive to cut it short, by hook or by crook. He may not like my hair long either but he's always respected my wishes, and had my undying gratitude for it in return. I don't suppose you'd be interested in working with me like that would you?"

"Son, I'm a barber, cutting hair is my business. How you want your hair cut is your business. I believe I can take care of you, without an ulterior motive, as you put it. Your hair is a bit uncharacteristically long, to be sure. I can assure you that in addition to owning clippers which I seem to have acquired a very bad reputation for amongst the younger generation, I do also own shears, and I'm quite proficient at using them to cut hair to. Be it a little, or a lot, as is required by the customer. If you would care to have a seat here" he said, patting the ‘electric chair’ as I remembered it. "I will do my best to cut your hair exactly as you have indicated. I will show, and tell you, exactly what I intend to do, per your explicit instructions, step by step. Without judgment I might add."
I paused for a minute. I remembered one more tidbit from my traumatic past in this shop. "I would be willing to try this, once, for Grandpa’s sake Frank, ON one condition." Frank raised his eye brows in surprise. "What would that be son?" He inquired. I barked "I want this infernal chair spun around so I'm facing that big mirror and can watch your every move."

Frank smiled. "Leaving nothing to chance I see, are we son" he said. "No Frank, we are not" I replied "and Grandpa will no doubt have my back, so to speak, while you are cutting." Grandpa, piped in with "you betcha son, I got you covered."

"Alright Kyle, why don't you have a seat?" I gingerly sat down in the chair. Frank unfurled a fresh cape and surrounded me with it in a flourish, sterri strip in place, cape snapped, we were ready.
Frank picked up a brush, sprayed it with disinfectant spray, and started brushing out my mane. "Kyle" Frank said, as he brushed my hair straight down all around "despite the fact that you are a young MAN, this is an incredible head of hair, so healthy and thick. Also very well trimmed I might add" nodding at Grandpa. "Bob, I had no idea you could cut hair" Frank said.
"I will be honest with you too Kyle, taking my favorite Oster 76's to it, and shearing you down into a nice short back and sides, Princeton, or a crew cut would be truly amazing." He quickly added "BUT, I wouldn't do that to you son."

He picked up his shears and comb, asked where I preferred to part it, and proceeded to part it and section the top just as I requested. Now that I could see again, we discussed exactly how much I wanted cut. I made sure Frank understood completely. It would amount to almost 6 inches off in the front, rounding down in the back to almost 4 inches off. For me, I was losing a substantial amount of my mane. Frank slowly and judiciously snipped and cut his way around my head. A very substantial pile of locks growing in my lap as things progressed.

I heard the door chime. I thought, hmm, this would be the acid test. I was forcing Frank to do a long scissor cut on my long hair. So far we'd been the only ones in the shop, how would he react if a few of his regulars shuffled in. How much s**t would he, and possibly me, have to put up with. Would he crumble and become defensive? This should prove interesting.
Frank greeted the new customers and asked that they have a seat, he would be a few more minutes with me. I saw, as they walked to the waiting area seats, a high school aged boy and his dad. The kid had a lush thick emo style cut,a nice long honey blonde mane. A high schoolers dream style, to be sure. Suddenly I realized what day it was. Oh, my God, it was the first Saturday after school got out. OH, my, this could get very interesting indeed.

Frank and I had a bit of discussion about where and how much to layer. I reminded him that thinning scissors were strictly verboten despite his recommendation. He acquiesced, and very skillfully did exactly as I asked.

I was becoming very satisfied with how this was turning out. He unclipped my thick bangs, and let them flop down across my face I explained how I wanted them to be cut, we had a bit of back and forth. I reminded him that I was used to how I wanted, and expected, it to be cut. He proceeded to do it to my specifications, and then understood why once he brushed it out. Since I was facing the mirror, I'm sure the two new customers couldn't for sure discern my gender. They could however see that I still had a substantial amount of hair on the back of my head.

Almost on cue, I heard "Gee Frank, I didn't know that you'd started cutting women's hair too." This was from the asshole father that had walked in with his Emo son.

Grandpa chuckled. I wish I'd been able to see this exchange. Grandpa piped up with "I guess some of us are still living in the 50's huh Sir."

The father said "What? I don't understand?"

Grandpa said "It's O.K. for a guy to have something longer than a crew cut these days you know. And I have to say Frank here knows how to cut long hair as well as short. Isn't that right Frank?"

I held my breath, here it comes I thought.

"Now Mike" Frank said addressing the dad, turning my chair as he spoke, I was now facing the kid and his dad. "Granted, I don't get much call for longer cuts. Seems most younger guys don't think I'm capable of anything longer than a severe short back and sides. Now that think about it, most of that bad reputation with the younger guys has been the result of demanding old fashioned moms or dads."
I thought grandpa was going to bust, he was trying desperately to stifle a huge laugh, I could just tell. The dad came back with "I'm not sure I understand you Frank, how is it my fault that you have a bad rep?"

"This is your son, isn't it Mike?" Frank asked, nodding in the direction of the Emo haired kid.
"Yes, it is, why?" Mike replied.

Frank said "Well, schools out, so I'm willing to bet you've dragged him in here and are going to give me an order to have that handsome head of hair he's got down into some ridiculous crew cut, or butch, am I right? What happens is that the kid is going to hate me, not you, for shearing it all off and making him feel awful. When you're really the one being the bully."
I was shocked. This was almost too much to take in all at once. Mike's jaw dropped. The kid had a wow expression on his face. Grandpa was fit to bust, and Frank had a disgusted look on his face and was standing facing Mike with hands on hips.

"Kyle here" Frank pointed directly at me "used to be one of those poor guys. It's taken more than a small amount of coaxing to get him to understand that I can cut longer hair, I just don't get much of an opportunity, thanks to moms and dads like you."

Mike started to back pedal." Frank, what makes you think I want you to buzz my kid’s head? Just because school’s out. Maybe I want you to trim him up a bit for summer is all." I couldn't help myself, I burst out laughing, The kid’s expression was priceless. He was staring at the dad, open mouthed.

The kid sputtered out "Dad, really, can I just get a trim, instead of a buzz cut?" Ha, busted, I thought to myself. Frank raised his brows and said "riiiiight Mike, a trim, sure, that's what you were going to have me do, uh, huh."

The dad kept back pedaling "NO, seriously, Frank, when it's Kevin's turn, he'll tell you what he wants, isn't that right son?" The dad looked at the kid. The kid was looking at the dad like he was an alien that had just asked for directions to Mars. I was dying, this was just too perfect.

The dad said "it needs to be trimmed up Kevin, that's all, really." Wow, in that moment I realized that what had just happened this morning. I had saved at least one kid from a severe summer shearing.

Yes, I thought to myself, this has all been worth it.

Frank asked me if we were finished, spinning me to face the mirror again. He picked up the hand mirror and showed me the back. I was nodding my approval. He politely asked if I wanted any product in it, or hair spray, and I declined.

Frank said "Kyle your all set. And believe it or not it was my pleasure. Quite a refreshing change for both of us I hope." He unsnapped the cape and I noticed the huge pile of locks slide to the floor.
"Good grief, that's a lot of hair, son" the dad said. I smiled and said, "yes, yes it is, but I'm still leaving with a full head of hair, cut precisely how I like it, Sir.’ I gave Frank a genuine smile.
I stood up, and I think the dad realized I wasn't some 16 year old kid. As I turned to walked up front to pay, the kid caught my attention. He silently mouthed "thank you dude." I winked at him and gave him a quick thumbs up. Frank indicated to the kid that he could hop in the chair. As I walked away I heard the kid pipe up with "Dad, really, can I just have a trim, really?" The dad, Mike, said "yes Kevin, if that's what you want, sure."

Grandpa, Frank and I stood up at the cash register. Frank charges $15 for a cut. I got out $25 and handed it to Frank. "Thank you Frank, You've certainly earned it this morning." Frank put up his hands "Kyle, no, this time it's on the house. I have to tell you it really was more of a pleasure than an ordeal for me. I think from now on I need to pay attention to ALL my customers, not just the adults."
Frank looked over at Kevin, running his hands through his plush Emo style mane. "I think this next one's might be more pleasure than pain too this time around."

As we were walking out, another dad and son combo were walking in. The kid stared open mouthed at me, I ran my hand through my plush, perfectly cut fringe, flipping it back. I gave him a thumbs up too. Hopefully the pay it forward continues here today. Think of all the new customers Frank will have.

Grandpa looked at me and shook his head, smiling. "You had me worried there for a while, Kyle. It turned out fine though. Are you satisfied, he inquired?"

"Weeell, it's O.K., but he's not quite as good as my regular barber" I replied, turning to Gramps and smiling fondly.



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