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Cleaning Up by Dax

Walking away from the gym where he had been to collect his new membership card, John again reflected on his conversation with his new boss Mike when Mike had called to tell John he had the job. Soon after turning 35 John had woken up one morning with the realisation that he was in a stable but dead end job. His life in many ways seemed stagnant. Realising change was needed he resigned his job and after two months of fruitless interviews was delighted when Mike hired him to work with "Tomson Risk Management Group". Tomson's were known in the industry as a relatively new but dynamic firm and John realised he had secured a much sought after position.

Mike's comment during the 'you're hired' call that he was hiring John because he recognised potential despite the slightly sloppy appearance and dejected attitude had bothered John. At work he made extra effort to appear more confident and capable than he perhaps was feeling in a new job. Mike's comment on John' appearance still rankled though. John realised that he had put on a few extra pounds but he viewed himself as 'unexercised' rather than overweight. His clothes were well worn but always clean. At his old job none of the other staff members had been too bothered by appearance and 'comfortable' rather than 'smart' had been the clothing norm. John thought of himself as 'normal' looking. His hair, while not particularly short was definitely not long. Sandy, his stylist of 10 years trimmed it monthly with a tidy up around the ears and neck. In all, John thought of himself as nondescript rather than 'sloppy'.

About a week after starting at his new job, John realised where Mike's comment came from. Although he felt it unfair of Mike to describe him as sloppy John realised that his appearance was a contrast to his new colleagues. All the guys were obviously fit and from their conversations John learned that many of the guys were actively involved in a wide variety of sports. Many of them worked out at the gym where John had just signed up. John also realised that although few of his new colleagues were fashion victims, their clothing in comparison to his own was new and updated. It had also come as a surprise when he realised one morning early on that he had the longest hair. A few of the guys, like Mike, had gleaming shaved heads and many guys wore their hair in a variety of ultra short military styles. Even the few men who did not have super short haircuts wore comparatively short Ivy League's where clippers had obviously played a significant part in their haircut. John wasn't even sure if Sandy possessed a set of clippers. He knew that no clippers had been near his head since his last visit to a barbershop at the age of 12 after which John's father had allowed his mother to take him to her stylist.

Working in this new dynamic environment had proved to be a big motivation to John. Although he often thought of Mike's comment, his attitude to the words had changed. He wanted to become fit again and to look smart. Asking advice from his closest colleague Nate, John had been recommended to his new gym. Nate also asked John to come watch a few of the beach volley ball matches that the office team were competing in, suggesting that when John was more fit he might want to try out for the team. Nate went on to explain to John that short haircuts were not compulsory in the company, but that many of the guys had taken their cue from Mike, an ex Marine, and had opted for a head-shave or an ultra short cut at the barbershop. Although nothing specific was said, John realised that Nate was suggesting that he too wear a far shorter haircut.

Walking away from the gym John headed towards the shopping district to buy new gym and work clothes. A few blocks away from the gym John glanced up and saw a sharp looking man walking out of what, from the twirling red and white pole, obviously was a barbershop. A lot of skin was exposed on the back and sides of this man's head and the hair on top was cut to a short sharp bristle. The man turned and walked away from John, rubbing his shorn head in obvious delight. As he drew near John read "Mario's Men's Barber Shop" in clear white letters on the shop-front glass. Judging from the haircut this was surely the Mario some of the guys referred to when commenting on each other's fresh haircuts. Nate had also made specific mention to John that "Mario" was responsible for keeping his own flattop sharp looking.

John hesitated outside the door. A haircut had not been on this morning's agenda, in fact he had phoned just the day before to book an appointment with Sandy for the following Monday. John was even planning on asking Sandy to go shorter, maybe even enquiring if she owned clippers. Standing outside Mario's however John was seized by an urge to go in. At just that point Mario who had been sweeping up a large mound of hair glanced up and looked at John. "You look like you want a haircut" he commented to John and glanced towards his empty chair as a way of inviting John in.

John walked in. Mario, a fit looking elderly gentleman who sported a short salt and pepper crew cut, drew a cape off the back of the old chrome and black leather barber's chair. Shaking it out briskly, he indicated that John should take a seat. The worn leather seat immediately felt comfortable to John. Glancing in the mirror at the simple wooden benches lined up for waiting customers, the well thumbed piles of sporting magazines on a side table and the few faded prints of Italian cities adorning the walls made John realise he was in a truly old fashioned traditional barber shop. The shop's masculine simplicity felt right to John though, he felt none of the image fear he occasionally experienced at Sandy's women and men's hairdressers.

Mario again flicked out the well-worn pale blue cape behind John and then drew it around his neck. While securing the cape tightly he looked up and with a friendly smile said: "Name's Mario, can't say I have seen you in here before." "Actually, this is my first time in a barber shop in more than 20 years" John replied. "You probably want a significant change then" Mario guessed, "what can I do for you today?" "Well, walking in was a bit of a spur of the moment decision so maybe you can start with some advice" John replied. "I recently started working at Tomson Risk Managers, you know Mike Tomson's company, and I think you cut the hair of quite a few of my colleagues. I have the longest hair at work and I want to go short" John continued to his own surprise. "Mike and lots of the Tomson guys are regulars" Mario reassured John. "They sure seem to like short hair there. Are you thinking of going regular short or do you want to walk out of here feeling like you had just signed up with the Marines?" John looked at his reflection in the mirror before asking: "What would regular short be and what would Marine be?" "Well, regular short would be something like a short businessman's cut, I would take the back and sides quite close with the clippers, maybe even show just a little skin around the ears and neck. The top can be longer though, enough for a side parting and a fringe and trimmed with scissors" Mario replied. John made no comment but allowed Mario to continue: "Marine style means most or even all of the back and sides comes off. If you want I shave the hair clean down to the skin with a razor. I probably won't use scissors, not even on top. I would use clippers to take the top hair down to a short bristle or stubble. In other words almost all of this would land up on the floor."

John had decided against a short businessman's haircut during Mario's description when Mario had used the word "trim". With some trepidation he found himself telling Mario: "Take it off please, all off, something Marine short."

Without trying to dissuade or temper John's request, Mario swung the chair around to face the empty benches and then reached for one of the hair-clippers hanging from the counter behind John. He quickly adjusted and oiled the clipper blades before switching them on with a satisfying clack. Then reaching for a metal comb, which he picked up between the thumb and index finger of his left hand, he walked towards John where he used the remaining fingers of his left hand to position and hold John's head in an upright position. Mario immediately brought the humming clippers up to the skin below John's right sideburn and in one clean movement clipper shaved a strip of hair up to John's crown. He paused briefly and then pushed the clippers slightly over the top of John's head. "Special treat for you today buddy, I am giving you something short even by Marine standards, a 'Recon', there's not going to be much left when the back and sides have been razored and I'll clip the top right down for you. Real short!" "Sounds good to me," John chuckled a little nervously, "I am in your capable hands."

With this confirmation Mario began rapidly peeling the hair off above John's right ear. Repeated upwards strokes of the clippers soon left only naked skin on the right side of John's head. Stepping behind John Mario continued the process and within less than two minutes John had been relieved of all his hair bar for a strip covering the very top of his head. Mario switched off the clippers and returning them to their hook picked up a smaller pair, which made a higher pitch when switched on. Working a little more slowly Mario repeated this process and so doing reduced the clipped hair to an almost undetectable micro-stubble. Again replacing clippers Mario picked up a third set, the blades of which he dusted and oiled before switching the machine on. Now standing in front of John he held the teeth of his comb directly against the top front of John's head. In one smooth movement Mario ran the buzzing clipper blades over the teeth of the comb. This caused most of one half of John's fringe to fall in front of his eyes and land in his lap which already held a large heap of recently shorn hair. Moving the comb across John's forehead Mario again positioned the comb and clipped off the hair covering it. Repeating this process once more completely removed John's fringe. Now pulling the comb back into the hair and by running the buzzing clippers over the comb teeth Mario systematically removed all the hair on top of John's head. Once he had completed clipping the top Mario again started at the front and carefully retraced his movements, making sure every hair was clipped down to an even two or three millimetres.

Finally the clippers were silenced and returned to their hook. Mario took a clean towel out of the cupboard behind John and folding this lengthways, positioned the towel over John's right shoulder. Then filling his hand with a generous amount of hot foam from his electric dispenser, he returned to John and began massaging this foam briskly onto the back and sides of John's scalp. After wiping his hands on the base of the towel behind John Mario reached into his 'barbicide' jar and retrieved an old-fashioned cut throat razor. Into the front edge of this he inserted a modified clasp, which held a sharp new disposable blade. Holding the razor firmly in his right hand Mario stood beside John and using his left hand to firmly clasp the top of John's head Mario began scraping the razor blade down John's head. After carefully positioning the razor onto the top of John's head where the almost bare foamed scalp joined the very short bristle on top, Mario would scrape downwards and in one or two controlled movements would expose inch wide strips of gleaming skin. After each stroke Mario would wipe the razor blade across the towel leaving a collection of small clumps of white foam from which shaved stubble glistened. Working carefully yet fairly quickly Mario shaved John's back and sides within two minutes.

Momentarily putting his razor down Mario dispensed another smaller handful of hot foam for a double shave. Hearing footsteps at this point, both men looked towards the shop entrance. Mike walked in. After looking at John momentarily, as if trying to place his face, Mike grinned at the two men. "FANTASTIC haircut! Mike enthused to John, "I knew there was a strong decisive man lurking under that mop!" he chuckled. John could sense the positive affirmation in Mike's words and felt very encouraged by the enthusiastic response to his spontaneous decision. "Thanks Mike, it feels AWESOME!" John replied as Mario began scraping his head for a second time.

Mario took time to perfect the shaved edge and to make sure not a trace of stubble remained on the back and sides of John's head. Using a clean edge of the towel, which he dampened, Mario wiped John's head clear of the last traces of foam and stubble. He then poured a small amount of a masculine smelling astringent into his hands and used this to massage onto John's scalp. This anti-septic liquid burned slightly but left John feeling fresh and very clean. The shaved scalp tingled pleasantly as Mario removed the cape from John's shoulders. Collecting the ends of the cape, Mario flicked this onto the floor behind John. A surprisingly large mound of hair fell from the cape to join the pile already lying on the floor. Mario then handed John a small clean towel for John to rub briskly over his head.

At last a changed John stood up from the chair. He rubbed the very short bristle on top and the ultra smooth shaved back and sides, enjoying immensely the sensation this produced in his fingers. Turning around he stepped closer to the mirror to view the strong military looking face that smiled back at him. As Mike took his seat on the chair, John knew that his hair would now always be ultra short. "Maybe one day you will go for a complete shave?" Mike suggested. Looking again at his reflection in the mirror, Mike thought this was a distinct possibility.

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