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DAD! (Part 14 of 15) by JB

"Shut up, Henderson."

- Two weeks later -

"Don't forget your lunch, Scott." His mom says. Scott grabs the aluminum lunchpail and tucks it under his arm as he heads out the door. His dad is waiting for him in his pickup.

This being a "teacher's workshop" day, there is no school. On these no-school days Scott goes with his dad to his construction site to earn a little spending money, "After today I should have enough to buy those new tires for my car... with a little left over," he thinks to himself.

As he climbs into the passenger side of the pickup, his dad looks over at him and smiles, "With yer flannel shirt, work boots, lunchpail, and that awesome flattop you look just like the guys on my work crew," he says, making small talk.

"Yeah, I guess." Scott mumbles. He's been rather quiet and unresponsive toward his parents ever since the 'haircut incident' two weeks earlier. In that time, his flattop has grown out some. From having a freakishly large and obvious landing strip with whitewalls on the sides, to a more normal-looking flattop; if such a thing is possible in 1978.

His dad is a little concerned, "Hmm," he thinks, "It's been two weeks and Scott's still giving us the silent treatment." Then he does something that he rarely does; he apologizes. He doesn't do it very well; it doesn't come naturally to him, "Look Scott, I'm sorry about the haircut thing. I didn't think it would be that big of a deal."

Scott is reluctant to discuss the matter again, he knows it will probably end in another shouting match, "It's not just the haircut! Yeah, it looks stupid, and I hate it, and I get teased about it. But I can deal with that... I don't like it, but I can deal with it."

"Well then what's the problem?!" His dad asks, exasperated.

Scott sighs, "It's YOU, okay?... YOU'RE the problem!... On a whim, you just turn my life upside-down without even thinking how I might feel about it! I'm like a puppet or something, that you can just pull my strings and make me do whatever you want, whether I like it or not! I don't get any say in the matter... And it's not just about the flattop; you do this sort of thing all the time... I don't see how I'm supposed to trust you and Mom anymore... I don't see how I'm supposed to respect you anymore!... And that makes me really sad." He looks away so his dad doesn't see the tears in his eyes.

But his dad does see the tears in his son's eyes, and hears it in his voice, "Whoa," he thinks, "The situation is more serious than I thought. I figured all I had to do was say I'm sorry and that would be the end of it." He starts the pickup's engine and pulls out of the driveway. Steve continues his soul searching, "This isn't like Scott to get all worked up over something." Steve Kramer's ability to empathize with others is rudimentary, at best, "Clearly, I goofed up this time," he thinks, "But why is this different than all the other times?... Why is Scott taking this haircut thing so seriously?" The drive to the construction site passes in stony silence as Steve mulls things over.

The pickup goes through a gate in the chain link fence which surrounds the work site. Parking the truck off to one side, the two of them climb out. Steve looks over at his son, "Okay, so you know the drill, right? Head over to the storage hut there and grab yerself a safety vest and a hard hat."

"Yeah, I know," Scott says, "Where do you want me to start?" Both of them are making an effort to put their recent argument behind them.

Steve looks around, "That stack of two-by-fours needs to be moved to the other side of the work site, where that framing is being done over there... Think you can handle that?" Steve knows his son can handle the task, he's just making small talk again in an attempt to get things back to normal between them.

"Yeah, no problem," Scott replies emotionlessly as he walks over to the storage hut. Moving the stack of lumber is menial work but Scott doesn't mind. He can do the task on his own, and he doesn't feel like talking to anyone anyway.

The morning passes uneventfully as Scott trudges back and forth carrying two-by-fours from one place to another amid the raucous activity of the construction site.

Around noon, someone yells, "LUNCH!... BREAK FOR LUNCH!" And the hammering and sawing and machinery slowly comes to a halt. Some of the guys get in their vehicles and leave the job site to eat at nearby restaurants. Others, like Scott, go to retrieve their lunchpails.

Scott tucks his hard hat under one arm and carries his lunchpail with the other as he looks for a place to sit and eat.

"Hey! Over here!" Someone shouts. Scott turns and sees one of the workers sitting on the stack of lumber that he just spent all morning relocating, his hard hat and open lunchpail at his side, "Got a nice booth by the window here." The guy grins at his own joke and taps the lumber as an invitation for Scott to join him, "Great view, and away from all the kitchen noise. Kinda hard to get a waiter when you need one though."

Scott still doesn't feel like having company, but it would be very rude to ignore him. Plus, he's drawn to the guy's friendliness and corny humor. He goes over and sits next to him, "You must be the guy my dad mentioned; the one who just got out of the Marines," Scott says.

"Yeah. How'd you know?"

Scott points at the guy's head, "The crewcut," he says.

The guy smiles, "And you must be Scott, the bossman's son."

"Yeah. How'd you know?"

The guy points, "The flattop!"

They both chuckle at their shared distinguishing feature.

"I'm Tom, by the way," the guy says, "Most folks call me Tommy." They casually shake hands.

"I guess you already know my name," Scott says.

"Yep," Tommy replies, "Yer dad mentioned you a couple of times; about you gettin' a flattop and all." Tommy swipes his hand through the fluff of his three-quarter inch crewcut, "I figure I still have at least a month before I can get this to lay down again."

"Me too," Scott says. Then, after a short pause, "Wait... You mean you don't like havin' a crewcut?"

"Heck no! You mean you don't like havin' that gnarly flattop?"

"Heck no!" They both laugh again.

Scott's dad walks by, checking the progress on the work site, "What are you two chuckling about?" he asks, smiling.

"Our haircuts," Scott says, grinning.

"We hate 'em," Tommy adds. They laugh some more.

"Hmm," Steve thinks, "That's the first time I've seen Scott laugh since he got his flattop. I knew he'd start acting like his old self again, sooner or later... Looks like Tommy is having a good influence on him." He smiles, and says, "It's great to see you two hittin' it off so well... Come see me after lunch, Scott. I've got another chore lined up for you."

Scott grins, "You got it, bossman," he says to his dad, copying Tommy's choice of words. Steve silently lifts an eyebrow in mild surprise and continues with his walk around the site. Even Scott is caught off-guard by his newfound sense of lightheartedness. It's like his body needed some sort of release, some sort of antidote, for the two weeks of being sullen and mopey. It took someone like Tommy, with his amiable out-going personality to make Scott feel good about himself again. Tommy is like an older brother, someone to joke around with.

"What kinda sandwich ya got in yer lunchpail?" Tommy asks, out of the blue.

"Leftover meatloaf with ketchup," Scott replies.

"Well that beats my baloney and cheese with mustard... Ya wanna trade half of yours for half of mine?"

Scott shrugs, "Sure." He knows that Tommy is getting the better deal, but that's okay.

Tommy takes a bite of the meatloaf sandwich, "I didn't always have a crewcut, y'know," he says, getting back to their haircut discussion, "When I was your age (I graduated in '72) I wore my hair long; mostly covering my ears, like we all did. And for most of my time in the Marines I kept my hair about two inches long on top, combed down over my forehead. Really short on the sides though, even shorter than yours is now. Apparently, the USMC doesn't like it when guys have hair on the sides of their heads," he smirks.

Scott interrupts, "Wait... So if your hair was long enough to lay down, and you don't like yer hair short, then why'd you get a crewcut?"

"Yeah, I was gettin' to that part... See, the night before my discharge from the Corps a few of my Marine buddies gave me a little goin' away present, something to remember them by. They held me down and buzzed my head with a pair of clippers, gave me an induction cut... You know what an induction haircut is?"

"Not really," Scott replies. He's never heard the term before.

"Well, that's the haircut they give new recruits on the first day of bootcamp. Basically, yer clipped bald, just a little stubble left behind. My buddies thought it would be great fun if I returned to civilian life with a buzzed head. I didn't struggle too hard though; I knew they were up to somethin'. Anyway, that was about a month and a half ago. It's grown out some since then, slowly but surely." He presses his furry crewcut down in front, "Still have a ways to go before it lays down again."

"It doesn't look too bad though," Scott says, "I thought it would be kinda scruffy lookin' by now, y'know, touchin' yer ears and stuff."

"Oh, it's definitely gettin' to that awkward stage; too long to stand up, too short to lay down. It was startin' to poke over the tops of my ears, like you said. But about a week ago I went in and had the barber trim it up around my ears and neck to keep it lookin' presentable. I had him leave the top as-is though. I guess I'll just have to put up with it lookin' scruffy on top till it's all long enough to lay down."

"That's a pretty good idea, keeping it trimmed around the ears so it doesn't look so scraggly," Scott says thoughtfully.

"What about you?" Tommy asks, "Why'd you get yerself a flattop if you hate it so much? When I was in school there's no way any of us guys woulda gotten a flattop, or any kind of short haircut, unless we were forced to... Is that what happened to you? Did yer dad make you get that haircut?"

Scott sighs and hesitates, not sure how much of the story to tell Tommy. He just met him after all, "It's sort of a long story."

"Well I've got time. I'm just sittin' here eatin' yer meatloaf sandwich, which is pretty good, by the way."

Scott decides to give Tommy a shortened version of the story, leaving out most of his dad's lies, "Dad didn't force me to get a flattop, but he was always tellin' me to get a haircut, sayin' it was always too long."

"Yeah, I know how that goes," Tommy says, "My dad was always tellin' me the same thing. He said if I didn't get it cut that he would take the clippers to my head himself and clip me bald... So what did I do? I joined the frickin' Marines... and they clipped me bald. Go figure," he smirks.

Scott smiles weakly and continues with the story, "A couple of weeks ago, Dad was hintin' around that his birthday was coming up. So I decided to get a shorter haircut for his birthday present, since that's what he seemed to be hinting about."

"So you got yerself a flattop? Man, that's harsh."

"No, I told the barber to give me a tapercut, just slightly above my ears. Sorta like my dad's, only longer. This was before my dad got his flattop."

"Well that doesn't sound too bad... So what happened?"

Scott chooses his words carefully, so as not to delve into his dad's lying scheme too deeply, "I didn't know it, but Dad called the barber and convinced him that the haircut I really wanted was a flattop, that I was too chicken to ask for it. So the barber went ahead and gave me this frickin' flattop without me knowin' about it, believing that it was what I really wanted."

"Whoa... That's kind of a dirty rotten trick yer dad played on ya, huh?"

"Yeah, it was," Scott says, stone-faced.

Tommy can sense the anger coming from Scott, "Hmm," he thinks, "Looks like there was some sort of family squabble between Scott and his dad... I should probably steer clear of it." He takes another bite of his sandwich, "So," he says, "You got this flattop two weeks ago? It still looks like you just came straight from the barbershop. That musta been one gnarly landing strip ya had there! Still is, for that matter. The barber must've buzzed ya down to the bone on top! And he gave you a nice set of whitewalls too, by the looks of it. Yep, that's some flattop ya got there, Scott! Some of the flattops that my Marine buddies sport aren't even as short as yours."

Scott is in the doldrums again; he stares dismally out into space, "Man, if a Marine tells ya yer hair is short, it must be REALLY short."

Tommy chuckles, "[Heh!] Yeah, I suppose that would be a good indicator, huh? But don't let it get ya down, Scott. Seems we're both growin' our hair out together, right? And in no time at all we'll be lookin' like regular guys again!" Grinning, he reaches over and tousles Scotts hair, knowing that it would annoy him, "Don't ya just hate it when somebody does that to yer hair?"

"Yeah!" he says, grinning. He runs his hand through his hair to straighten it out, not that it looks any different. Tommy's little pep talk has pulled Scott out of his sullen mood and restored his lightheartedness once again.

Tommy glances over at Scott's lunchpail, "Now then. What have ya got for dessert?"

(To Be Continued)

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