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DAD! (Part 2 of 15) by JB

"Remember, I have a birthday comin' up."

"Yeah... you already said that," Scott replies. He has a puzzled frown as he goes out the door.

Scott pulls into one of the three parking spaces in front of Jack's Barbershop. One of the spaces is already taken. As he gets out of his car, he stands and looks at the fifties-era shop. To the right of the entrance a lighted barber pole spins red, white, and blue. To the left, a large window has "Jack's Barbershop" written in big, blocky red letters outlined in white. Under that is an old, faded Butch Wax advertising plaque; a relic from the year the shop opened in 1957. Scott reads the sign: "'MEN ~ Get your Butch, Crewcut, or Flattop Here!'... Great. That sounds promising," he says sarcastically. He presses the door latch down and goes into the barbershop.

As he enters, he takes a quick glance around. Everything looks the same as he remembers it from five years ago: Jack's workstation and barber chair on the left with all his clipper attachments, combs, and bottles of whatever sitting on the countertop; numerous types of clippers hang from a wooden rack fastened to the edge of the counter. Above that, a wall of mirrors with a bank of fluorescent light fixtures near the ceiling. On the right, the waiting area with its motley collection of well-used chairs dating from the fifties. An old wooden hat rack stands between the chairs, as does a small table scattered with car, sports, and hunting magazines. The waiting area wall is covered with framed photos from the 1950s to the mid '60s of local high school sports teams and individual players. Nearly all of the guys in the photos have bristly flattop, crewcut, or butch haircuts.

He is greeted by one of his school buddies sitting in the waiting area, "Hey Scott. Gonna get yer ears lowered too, huh?"

"Hey Dave. Yeah, gonna get my yearbook photo taken in a week or so; figured I should look my best."

"Same here."

The customer in Jack's barber chair also replies, "Me too."

Scott looks over and sees another one of his friends from school sitting in the chair, "Oh, hey Randy. Yer here too, huh?"

"Yep. Looks like we all got the same idea at the same time."

Jack always has his chair facing the waiting area as he cuts a customer's hair; a typical practice in most barbershops as it allows the barber easy access to his tools and keeps the clipper cords out of the way.

Jack looks up from his work and notices Scott standing in the doorway, "Hey! Long time, no see. Decided to give me another try, huh Scott? Well, sit yerself down and I'll get to ya in a couple o' minutes; soon as I finish up on yer friend here."

Scott removes his down vest and hangs it on the hat rack. He takes a seat next to Dave and looks over at him, "Aren't you up next? I thought you were gettin' a haircut, too?"

"Already done, bro. I'm just waitin' for Randy, he's my ride home." He runs his hand up through his thick dark bangs and across the top of his head, "Pretty decent cut, huh?"

Scott looks at his buddy's hair, "Wow. Way cool. Just as good, or better, than the salon I usually go to... and it costs less than half as much."

"Tell me about it, man. I used to go to those fancy salons, too. Sure, they look nice and new and all, with plants hangin' everywhere. And usually you get an awesome-looking lady barber, which ain't bad either. But bro, sometimes ya gotta let yer wallet do yer thinkin', y'know?"

"Yeah. I'm savin' up for new tires on my car."

"Well, there ya go. Why spend a fortune on a haircut, when Jack here will do the job for a lot less, and just as good."

Scott looks at Randy again, still getting trimmed, "Your haircut looks pretty rad, too... At first, I wasn't too stoked about comin' here after gettin' my haircut at a salon the last few years. But now I see there was nothin' to worry about; I should'a been comin' here all along."

Jack smiles, knowing that Scott is going to be another regular customer, like his dad. Just as he's about to finish up with Randy, the shop phone rings, "Don't go anywhere, Son. I still need to use the edger at the base of yer neck."

Jack goes to answer the wall-mounted phone, about ten feet away, "Jack's Barbershop," he says in a casual but business-like manner.

Scott's dad is on the other end, putting the last, and most crucial part of his scheme into action, "Hey Jack, this is Steve Kramer. How's yer day goin' so far?"

"Can't complain, I guess... You need to make an appointment?"

"Nah, I'm good for another couple of weeks."

To Scott and his friends, it sounds like someone is scheduling a time for their haircut, so they stop paying attention to the call and start in on some guy-talk: cars, girls, and sports- in that order.

Steve continues, "Say, is my son Scott there yet?"

"Yep, he's here. Just sat down in the waiting area. I'm finishing up on one of his buddies, then it's his turn in the chair... That's quite a head of hair yer son's got there; real thick, too."

"Yeah, isn't it?"

Steve Kramer is a man who gets things done. He's controlling and detail oriented and not too particular about how a job gets done, just that it gets done. These are desirable traits for a construction foreman- not so desirable for a dad. If telling a lie will achieve his goal, then Steve Kramer is not above telling a lie or two... or ten.

"The thing is," Steve begins his string of lies, "Scott's lookin' to get most of that thick hair clippered off. Y'see, it's been six months since his last haircut and..."

"Six months!" Jack interrupts. He looks over to where Scott is sitting and talking with his buddies, "His hair looks about five inches long now. Let's see... six months; that's around three inches of growth. So his hair must've been pretty short after his last cut, about two inches long, or less."

"Yep. He got himself a tapercut like me, but his sides were a little longer than mine. He'd always liked my haircut and said that he wanted one like that too, but he was worried what his friends would say. After a lot of coaxing on my part he finally went through with it. He really liked the cut but, sure enough, he got a lot ribbing from his schoolmates, so he grew it back out to that mop he has now."

"That's too bad. A guy should be able to wear whatever haircut he likes."

"Ain't that the truth. So anyway, he was lookin' at some old photos of himself the other day and really liked the way his hair looked then; all squared up and leveled off- y'know, a flattop. He especially liked the big landing strip down the center; he said that was the best part. Says he misses those old haircuts and wishes he could get it cut like that again."

"Uh-huh. Sounds good to me," Jack says.

"Sure does. So I told him to just get it cut the way he wanted instead of havin' all that hair hangin' in his eyes. But he's sorta gun shy now after the teasing he got from his tapercut six months ago. Scott doesn't wanna look like a 'dork', as he put it. He's afraid of what his school buddies will say. I told him to be a man and not to worry about the other guys."

"Sounds like good advice. So what's the problem?"

"Well, I'm pretty sure I have him convinced to go ahead with it and get himself a flattop; he seems to be gaining confidence in himself... I even saw him stick one of his old photos into the inside pocket of his vest as he went out the door a few minutes ago. I guess he's plannin' on showing you the picture so you can give him the same type of flattop he had then."

"Yeah, a photo helps a lot. Takes most of the guesswork out of it. You just try to copy the haircut that's in the picture."

"Right. I think it's the photo where he's sportin' a flattop that you cut when he was a kid. He's always sayin' how that's his favorite photo of himself. The boy really likes his flattops!"

"Well, it sounds like a done-deal to me. I'll just give him an old-fashioned flattop with an extra wide landing strip."

"Yeah, that'd be great. Except, he still might chicken out, y'know? He might decide to not show you the photo and just get a regular trim instead... I really hope he has the confidence to go with the flattop. I'm sure it would boost his self-image a lot... Say, if he does back out, maybe you could go ahead and give Scott his flattop anyway?"

Jack looks puzzled, "I'm not sure what you mean."

"I know Scott really wants a flattop- he talks about it all the time. Even if he tells you he only wants a trim, I'm sure he'd grin ear-to-ear if he ended up bein' squared-up and leveled off with a big ol' landing strip instead."

"Hmm, so he thinks he's gettin' a regular trim but walks out sportin' a flattop. Is that what yer saying?"

"Yeah. That's it exactly! Only, you'd have to be kinda sneaky about it, y'know? If he notices he's gettin' taken down flat he'll probably call a halt to it, and that means no boost in his self-confidence."

"Ah, so this is a character building thing, then."

"Exactly! He's countin' on this flattop to make a man out of him. But, umm... I'm not sure how yer gonna give Scott a flattop without him noticing... Maybe talk him into getting something shorter than a regular trim, maybe another tapercut. That way he might not notice just how short yer takin' him."

Jack rubs his chin, "Yeah, I suppose that could work. Maybe distract him so he's not paying close attention to his haircut... It's a good thing I don't have any mirrors on my waiting area wall or this thing would never get off the ground."

"Ha! Yer way ahead of me, Jack. Sounds like you have this planned out better than I do!... Of course, I hope he has the courage to just show you the photo, then none of this sneakiness will be necessary... But if he doesn't show it to you, maybe you can make up some excuse to walk over to the waiting area, reach into his vest and take a peek at that photo he brought with him. That way you'll have a road map for the type of haircut he's shootin' for. Uh, he did remove his vest, right?"

"Yep, it's hangin' on the hat rack... Now, yer sure he wants to be taken down flat, right? 'Cuz I'd hate to give him a haircut he doesn't want. A flattop's not like a tapercut where you can part it left, right, center, or not at all; comb it up or comb it down. There's all sorts of ways to change the appearance of a tapercut. But with a flattop, once his deck is taken down, there's no turnin' back. His only option is to let it grow out. He'll be stuck with that haircut for the rest of the month and the month after that. Hell, with his thick hair it'll be at least three months or more before the hair on his landing strip will be long enough to lay down."

Steve Kramer grins at the thought of his son's hair being too short to lay down for several months, "Don't worry Jack, I'm sure Scott wants this flattop just like I'm sure he wanted his tapercut six months ago; Scout's honor."

"Well okay then. One way or another, whether he asks for it or not, he'll be walkin' outa here sportin' a flattop with a landing strip so big and flat they'll be able to land a jumbo jet on it with room to spare!"

"[Ha, ha!] That's the ticket! Sounds exactly like what he's been hopin' for. And I'll sure be lookin' forward to seein' Scott level-headed and clean-cut for a change!" That last part is the only truthful thing Steve Kramer said during the entire phone call.

Jack wraps up the conversation, "So that's it then; sounds like we got ourselves a plan. I should be gettin' back to work now. The kid in the chair is probably wonderin' what happened to me."

"Yeah, okay Jack, I won't keep you any longer... In a couple of weeks I'll be in to get my tapercut sharpened up, so I'll see ya then."

They say their goodbyes and Jack hangs up the phone, "Okay, let's get you finished up," he says to Randy, still in the chair, "And Scott? Yer up next."

Steve Kramer grins as he hangs up the phone, and thinks: "Well Son, this is yer lucky day. Looks like I won't be naggin' you about yer long hair for at least three or four months, hell, maybe even six months. That oughta make you happy... I know it makes ME happy!"

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