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The Last Days of Elephant Trunk by Armando94


The Last Days of Elephant Trunk

It was like any other Saturday in the Spring at the Barbershop. Plenty of customers coming in and out of the place as well as the chairs. The older gentlemen arriving at the earliest time of 7:30, with fathers and young sons arriving an hour plus later for their joint appointments. Then you had young adult men coming in later on in the morning or the early afternoon, freshening themselves up for either work or a night out this weekend, wanting to look their extra best. It was like clockwork the regiment of boys and men that came in and out of the establishment on days like this. And for the most part, no fuss and no muss. Some looking to be as done as soon as possible, and those that harbored this as timed tradition either once a month or every other week.

But then there were those surprise visitors, the ones that not only the barbers knew were out of place from the usual line-up, but visibly gave off the impression that they did not belong, or this was their first time at this particular shop. Nothing ever wrong with a new crop or batch of established customers, whoever said no to something like that? But again, it was like taking a chance, both the customer and barber equally taking chances on a potential relationship being built in the ten minutes, fifteen, or thirty and plus minutes they sat their ass in the seat and had either all their wishes or worst nightmares come true. At the end of it all, it was really like a test. Would the barber meet the client’s expectations and hopes? Would the client meet the barber’s assumptions of how one acted and respected? Hell, did the client fit the bill with the other barbers of the shop?

There were seven barbers lined up against one long row across one side of the barbershop. A range of ages from barbers in their late thirties to those in their early sixties. And establishment of men from the community over different generations, all those who took pride in saying they worked at this particular shop. Everything was going as well as it could, each barber with a client around two in the afternoon, no one waiting around except if a father was waiting for his son’s cut to wrap up. When in walked a young man, most definitely early high school age, with what seemed to be quite a floppy overgrown look. Not the kind associated with surfers or skaters. Just a boy who carelessly let his hair grow out, over the ears, down his neck touching the collar should he ever even wear a damn polo on a Sunday. Middling height, he slinks over to the available chairs lined up against the opposite wall, the waiting area. Stupidly takes a seat in the second row, rather than the first when clearly there were many available and to be had. The barber in the second chair from the shop door narrowed his eyes at this teen, only briefly catching the boy’s attention for a moment. The barber, named Ron, in his early to mid forties, couldn’t understand what the matter was with this boy. Who in the world would do something like this, if you didn’t want to be here in the first place so obviously. Rob shook his head and continued on with his client, beveling out his flat ever more perfectly with harsh, fast swipes of clipper over comb from his sudden anger at that strange teenager.

"Careful up there now Rob," his client commented and laughed, "I know I’m only in once a month and all."

"At least you are good in that regard than many others," Rob mentioned, thinking of the stranger in the waiting area. Man, if he was the one that got stuck with the kid, was he gonna give him a mouthing off. Start soft and gently, ask what he wanted for the day, maybe convince him on something a little more clean, even severe. This kid was definitely a fresh fish in this pond, might as well catch and train him while you could…

"I’ll be done in just a minute son," one of the barbers a few chairs over said to the new customer. George, who was a little over sixty, called after him. The teenage boy shook his head slowly, not saying even an "Okay" or "Yessir". But he seemed content enough, perhaps the teenager was glad to be getting one of the old geezers that was a bit of a softy, rather than any of the others. Or perhaps this teenager wanted Donny (one over from Rob) to cut his hair, the youngest of the barbers who was only thirty-seven, and most young adult men and even teenagers wanted. His hair with the perfect coif in the front and back and sides he personally faded himself, such talent Rob had to give it to him. He was a good kid after all, bit of a potty-mouth however.

The teenager finally sat in George’s seat. Before George even clasped the cape around him, he said, "Haven’t seen you here before now, son. What’s your name?"

"J-J-John-n.-y"

"John? Or Johnny?" George eyed him through his Santa glasses.

The teenager shook his head, realizing the male establishment he was in. "Just John."

"Alright then, just John," George played along. "What can I do for ya today?"

The teenager swiftly and immediately took out his iPhone and showed the barber a photo he had prepared. A few sets of them actually, different sort of rockabilly looks, slicked back but cleaned up on the sides and back. And one distinct thing that totally caught George off guard, something he hadn’t seen in years. "Really?" The teenage boy nodded his head. "You know what they really call that: the Elephant trunk. Ever heard of that?" Again the boy just simply shook his head, this time in the negative affirmation. "Well, it calls for a bit of styling now, son. But I think with your hair," the barber started to feel up the long locks. "We can definitely make it work somehow."

John smiled as George got to work, fitting the stripped cape around him as well as the tissue wrap about his neck. George first took a spray bottle as well as a comb, began to wet down the teenager’s head and separate the top from the back and sides. The chestnut brown hair turned into a darker shade after how damp the barber had made it. Then George began with trimming off some of the loose ends of hair that wouldn’t be needed around the tail end sides and back. Which in turn allowed him to go in with the clipper and do the slightest-ever taper and trim, edging out the back and creating some sideburns. It was like John was becoming a whole new boy (finally) even though it was obvious to George and any other barber the boy was uncomfortable in a place like this. Sideburns that were leveled off at about halfway of his ears, cleaned up around the ears with enough an arch that wasn’t so sudden or stark and showed off his pale white skin. Then a square off in the back of the neck line with the faintest taper ever George had probably done. He knew this kid did not come in here for a short cut, that was certain as he could see John’s neck tense up anytime the barber came around to the back of him, his blind spot. But man did it at least look better, the removal of the bulk in the back, a nice transition of an inch in hair in back rather than the few it had only recently been showing off. Clean and clipper cut, but not overly barbered. But clean, that’s what this kid needed above all.

Finally, it was time to work on the top, the main event. George began sectioning off the hair this way…and then that…reassessing and readjusting for a few moments. He shook his head, even him knowing this would scare the s**t out of this John. He knew he wasn’t going to be taking any or much hair off the top. But he wasn’t quite sure about what they were working with. So George got out a blow dryer and began working it into John’s hair. His hair was more naturally straight than any hint of a wave, kink or curl. This was going to be difficult. The hair the boy had merely walked in with was in conclusion just unkempt. It didn’t really offer that much volume or body as it initially appeared to do. But George worked his magic with the blow dryer, applying some products in as well, seeing what they might do to help. Then more applications of heat to the point that he really was transforming this boy’s look…but not enough.

George stood back and eyed up his new client. The hair on top definitely looked better now, but it certainly also felt like it would fall flat at any second, or if the boy carelessly did not care for it and style it as he would need to. George had made as much progress as he could with bringing volume to this head, and then a lightbulb went off in his head. Something he had never had to do for anyone that asked for this in years past, but he always kept necessary if needed.

"Alright son, here’s what we are going to do," George stated. "Your hair likes to lay flat, and it’s a bit more thin and not even as long than I had first been impressed with. I’ve gotten it to stand up and curl as much as I can, and you are going to really need to treat this style with a lot of care. Can you promise me that?"

"Yes, yes s-sir," John nodded his head.

"Good," George nodded his head and then turned to his station, opening a bottom drawer cabinet where he lifted out a box that probably could use the dust blown off of it. He lifted off the top and revealed something that looked like…hair. At least to John it did, a neutral dark shade of hair that was on a long-spiral. One possibly the shape of a person’s head.

"This is some false hair, don’t worry, it is safe. What I am going to do is place it at the center of your head, with the one point head heading in the direction of your face," George placed it down in the space he had left for where the two sides of John’s hair would have met were they longer. "Now, I will take the blower again and style it so that your hair forms perfectly around this piece, and that the hair that is yours will cover up the false piece and form around it so it all stays in place. Then you will have the trunk look you wanted. Makes sense?"

The teenager just nodded his head, a bit of sense of relief across his face as George fitted the false piece a little bit better across his head. Then finding that sweet spot, and once again blow drying the hair around it, taking strands with his hands and comb to fit it all around. Before George knew it, it really was coming together. And now that he had a little bit of cheating help, he continued to tease and form the hair into waves. Thankfully the boy’s hair color matched close enough with the false piece. And with enough working around the hair, George would make it seem natural and no one would suspect a thing, so long as they didn’t know.

Finally, it was perfected, and George stood back from his work, one hand holding a tiny comb. "Well then, John, I hope you aren’t planning a Safari trip anytime soon. They might mistake ya out there."

This seemed to ease John a bit as he smiled and blushed, and then began to admire his hair, turning his head side to side as he looked into the mirror. He actually couldn’t believe it, George had pulled it off for him. Wow, this really did look like the old video he found on YouTube of a vintage Elephant trunk haircut, the one that had really inspired him to go for this haircut. Not the photos of rockers he found online that worked well enough. This was going to require a bit of work, but he would just need to be patient if this is what he wanted after all.

"Thank you, sir," John smiled up.

"My pleasure," George released the cape from him and then brushed him off.

The two of them walked up to the front to pay for John’s cut. As they walked by, John looked at all the different barbers and their clients. He hadn’t noticed one of the barbers was on the younger side, didn’t mean he wasn’t going to be as gentle as George turned out to be. Looked like he was giving a buddy a matching haircut to his own. And then the chair over was that barber that glared at John when he walked in earlier. Why did he look so familiar? Something in the face, it had to be…but John couldn’t put his finger on it. The barber looked at him briefly again but then turned around to face his client in the mirror.

"The wife and kids are good now, Dan?" Rob asked

"As always," Dan the police officer said. "You know what to do, right?"

"Oh I do," Rob said, as he whirred to life the clippers. John was secretly looking at his direction from the cash register. So Rob slowly turned his glance and gave him a devilish grin and wink, before racing the #1 guard across the center of Dan’s head. From the corner of his eye he could see John startle a bit, the shock of the shortness of bristle’s across the officer’s head. If only the kid knew his sides were going to be a zero attachment. That would surely awaken the kid, maybe even arouse him.

"That’ll be fifteen, son," George said to John. "Would you also like to buy some product while you are here? That’ll be a little extra though," John gave a nod of approval and George handed him some wax to go home with and his new price. John left him a decent enough tip, maybe not glorious, but a tip enough. "I expect to see you soon and maintaining that shape, son."

"Yes," was all John could muster. "Bye," he added, before he could look in the direction of the one strong-armed barber that was peeling hair off his client like his life depended on it.

-----

School came that Monday and John was eager for it to start for once. He had woken up early enough to give himself the time to groom his new mane. Of course he had spent a fair amount of time the day before perfecting and practicing it. His parents were quite shocked with the look, they said it was like he stepped into a time machine. His younger siblings just giggled and covered their faces. But John was happy with the look, and he was hopeful it would catch everyone’s attention…in a good way. He even picked out his nicest pair of jeans and a plain white t-shirt. Maybe it would give him a tough-guy look and he would stop being teased.

He sat down in homeroom and knew from the moment he walked into the doorway that a few boys and girls looked his way, struck by the change of appearance.

"What’s that on your head?" one of the mean girls asked.

John knew they were talking about him, even without using his name. He slowly turned around in his chair and said, "My hair," even though while that was 85% true, there was the one piece in the middle he wasn’t talking about. The real elephant in the room.

"Wow, nerd’s got a new look and a new attitude."

"Watch your tone, Miss Stevenson," their teacher called from her desk. She turned to the attention and shook her head in disbelief, "My, John, is that really you? What an interesting haircut you have."

John felt totally embarrassed now, and his face definitely showed it.

"Don’t take it the wrong way, I think it looks really nice on you," the teacher continued. "You rarely see young men groomed as such these days." Some of the other kids in the class then took an interest and started asking John about it. He even succumbed to referring it to an "elephant trunk" which made most of them laugh. But they all understood why it had that nickname.

So far so good, and when John got to second period and was next to one of the few girls he had a crush on, he felt even better.

"Hi John," Mel said. Her interest ever-so peaked.

"Hey," he cooly and casually said, not looking her way. She never, ever made an attempt in the past to notice he was ever next to her.

"Nice haircut," she offered. He didn’t budge, "it looks good on you, really."

He turned with a smile but allowed himself to note get too rosy in the cheeks. "Really?"

Mel smiled back, "Yeah," she cocked her head to the side, blinked her eyes thrice. "Its really cute, a mix of celebrity rocker with a sophisticated swinger of the sixties."

"Fifties, if you must know," he hoped that didn’t sound weird. "Its nickname is the elephant trunk cut."

"Really?" she giggled a bit. "Well, I guess I could see that. Say, what are you doing for lunch today? Its really nice weather out…"

"I don’t know," he tried playing it cool, sitting back in his seat, hoping his shirt wasn’t already halfway sweated through from anxiety. "What are you doing?"

She eyed him up and said, "Having lunch with you I think."

"Sounds good, I have space on my calendar," he joked.

She laughed back, "Ooh, busy guy, huh?"

"I’ll never tell my secret."

"Well, I’m looking forward to lunch, and you telling me about this haircut," she patted the top and it bounced so slightly, and John felt the false piece move a bit. He jumped a bit from his seat but then quickly relaxed again. "Oh, wow, that’s pretty stiff in there."

"Lots of product, Mel," John tried to laugh it off.

"Right," she said, as soon as their trig teacher was beginning the lesson.

What John didn’t realize were some of the boys over and behind from him and Mel looking at John’s new haircut. Robby and his buddies snickered and laughed, but kept it as quiet as they could. What a dork this kid was, and now with his new look, even more so. How on earth could anyone even think this haircut was cool? Robby and his buds felt up their freshly done crewcuts and buzzcuts. Robby had no interest in Mel, John could have her for all he cared. But Robby wanted something, something from John…

-----

They were behind a brick wall outside with a bit of shade and some bushes around them during lunch, and John had kept his best posture to not allow Mel to touch his hair too much. But she said she wanted to meet him here again after school let out. John had nowhere better to be and neither did Mel. But John knew where this was going, so he had to play it cool.

She had beat him to the spot, he having stopped to check up on his hair before arriving. He was afraid that the false piece and all his work from the morning were slowly going to fail him by day’s end everyday at school. He needed to practice better at it all, maybe tonight. Mel waved over to him, obvious she had put on some new shade of lip gloss even from ten feet away. "Thought you might have skipped town, stunner."

"Nope," John said. He had nothing smart or smooth to reply with. If anything, he was nervous out of his mind with what was possibly going to happen here and now.

He popped a squat next to her. "How was the rest of your day?"

"Aww, Johnny that’s so sweet of you," oh boy, the pet names were beginning. "It was good, nothing exciting. How about you?"

"Fine," was all he could say, an octave higher than usual. "Just fine."

"Hmm," she said, leaning a little closer. "Just fine?"

"Yeah," John said, near hyperventilation at this point, clammy as the sea.

"Well, let’s change fine," she traced a finger across his shirt and collarbone, "to better."

John just stared at her, bug-eyed. She instantly knew to play it safe and slow, it was going to be the long-haul for this one Mel realized. Not so in-tune as the other boys at this school. But maybe that was good for her. Her finger then went up and traced around the ear, outlining where the barber had arched his haircut. Then tracing back to where the taper was, sending a shiver up John’s spine. Holy smokes, what was this girl doing?

"Such nice hair," she sighed and brought their faces closed, but she didn’t kiss him. Both hands went up the sides and then fingers their way to the top.

John panicked, he knew what could happen next if she weaved any further, so he went for it and just planted one on her lips. She sat back stunned, but then that grin turned to a smile as she kissed him back. He hoped him pressuring his body against hers to the ground would force the girl to let go of his head, but she wouldn’t. He wanted to tell her to let go, but could you do that? She kept tangling her hair into his faux mess more and more, John trying to distract her with more kisses as she let out teenage moans. He had never done this before but he was trying everything in the non-existent book he could.

Then she let out a gasp, a small one, eyes fluttered open, and one hand fished further into his scalp.

"What’s wrong Melly," John tried the pet name game too. But then all of a sudden she sat back up, hand still on his head and she began to tug at the piece. "Please stop."

"John…what’s on your head? Or, is your hair all tied up in a roll of curlers?"

"No, no," he was done for now. "I can explain."

All of a sudden a commotion appeared from behind and picked John up from the ground, two bigger kids from his grade, and then he heard the voice of Robby from trig class. "What do we have here?" he slapped John on the back. John was in a complete panic now, things were already bad but now they were worst. "Why don’t you run along, Mel, nothing to see here."

"What do you want, Robby?" now Mel sounded irritated and like she would leave. Not what John wanted or needed right now.

"Unless you want to stay for the show," Robby winked at her, and she made no move, just rolled her eyes. He turned to John at that moment and said, "Nice haircut, nerd. Wouldn’t really call it a ‘cut’ though," his two cohorts laughed. "How’d you get it to stand up that well," he smoothed his own hand across his buzzed pelt. "Must be a lot of product in there, why would you ever want to do something like that," he began rubbing the back of his hand, making an audible enough sound for all five to hear. "You know my dad is a barber, I could probably guess what you have in your hair," Robby took both his hands now and felt through John’s sides, staring at him, eye to eye, massaging his hands through the sides, till he got to the top. "Hmm, nice waves, must have taken you a while to get them like this, your hair was always so brittle to me…oooh yeah, tons of work, must have woken up early to do this. That’s no fun. Me and the boys would never dream of that," he worked his hands further until he hit the prize of it all. "Oh, and what’s this here," he grinned and winked at John, and then suddenly with all his athletic force yanked the false piece from his head.

Robby held it out like a gold medal, and John’s upper body relaxed down as he gasped but couldn’t shout for it back. His hair separated now from where the piece had been, hanging off in two sections. Mel looked with wide eyes, and a hand over her mouth. "You see Mel," Robby began. "Nothing wrong with this at all. Some guys just need a little extra help--" but before he could continue, Mel was grabbing her bag and running off from the scene. John was so weak and in shock he didn’t even call after her. Robby turned around and grinned back at John who was still speechless. He mussed up his hair again and again, till the fake waves were a total mess now. "And I’m gonna give you a little extra help of my own, boy…"

-----

The car ride in Robby’s pick-up, John sat in the back seat with both other boys flanked on either side of him, keeping him more secure than a seatbelt. Robby was blasting some music, sports season being over for the athletes, he was enjoying his afternoons of freedom before finals and then summertime.

They eventually pulled into the back of a lot. It looked fairly familiar to John, but he still wasn’t sure. They might as well have put a pillow case over his head and drugged him for all he cared. Instead, the two body guards lifted him from the seat and once again dragged him from either side as Robby lead the pack in through a backdoor.

It hit John like a wrecking ball, once they walked through the little dark hallway and into the back of the shop, the barbershop, the same one he had been in only that Saturday. He was stunned to be back here. There were five barbers at work, except two empty stations, one of them being George’s. He wasn’t in sight here. And who would be taking a lunch break at 3:30 in the afternoon? Not that that would matter, he would only soon find out what he was in for.

"Hi dad," Robby politely called out.

Rob the barber turned to look at his son, nodded his head and smiled softly, a proud smile it was. He fistpumped his son and then they shook hands. He appeared to be touching up a client who probably regularly came in. "How was school?"

"Alright," Robby shrugged. "Dad, I’d like you to meet our new friend," he gestured his hands at John and the other two boys at this point had stepped a bit away as to seem casual than their tough behavior from before. "This is John."

John wanted to scream.

"Hello there, John," Rob acted casual. "How do you do, young man?"

"Fine, sir."

"You say, ‘I am doing well, sir’." Rob corrected him.

"I am doing well, s-sir," John reacted.

"Better, we’ll work on it the more you come over to our house," Rob said. "I’ll be with you next, John. Just finishing up with Mr. Ambrose first."

Not that John had to guess this or be shocked, he knew what was happening the moment he realized they were in this place. Its just…why did it have to be Rob?

Wait, it made sense. He did look familiar on Saturday, in the face. And the names now lined up…how could John have been so stupid? And Robby’s comment earlier before messing up his hair and finding out the truth?

Time flew and before he knew it Robby was guiding him from one of the front waiting chair’s into his father’s barber chair. "All the guys get their haircut by my dad."

"And if they can’t get it done here," Rob said as he began fastening the cape ever so tightly around John’s neck that he might choke, "I’ve got some clippers at home."

Noted to John: I’ve got some clippers at home. He didn’t say supplies or tools. He explicitly said clippers. John took as much of a gulp as he could with the tight cape around him, perhaps the gulp even choking him to his death. That would be an interesting write up in the local paper. Young high school boy dies of anxiety and choke attack in the barber chair. Barber gave him a free haircut anyways.

"So boys," Rob looked to the three others. "Any thoughts?"

Robby and his buddies looked at each other and nodded in agreement, letting the leader have a say. "Buzz him, dad."

"Fantastic," Rob sounded out. He took a pair of clippers and began to oil them up. He turned slightly to John and said, "Ever had a crewcut, son?"

"No, sir."

"A burr? Buzzcut even?"

"No, sir," John repeated.

"Well," Rob smiled and fired up the clippers. "They say there is a first for everything." And he walked behind the client, but leaving enough mirror space for the waiting area. "You boys will want to watch this, I’m sure."

"Thanks dad," Robby said, with the same evil grin his father possessed.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Rob took the clipper with the #3 guard and carefully purred it down the center of John’s hairline. Leaving the most noticeable strip due to the freshly buzzed patch as well as the hair that sat sagged off to the side from all of John’s pruning that morning. "Ain’t nothing like a fresh haircut to make you feel better now, John. Remember that."

"Yes sir," he obediently responded.

"Yes sir indeed," Rob silently chuckled to himself as he continued to strip the top off John’s head bit by bit, doing it ever so slowly for dramatic effect. The hair that John had grown out and wanted for styling purposes, all gone to waste now. As the first bit of flopped curled hair fell to the cape, John had to suck back any tears. There would be no need for crying, as Rob’s firm grip on this boy’s head grew tighter and tighter as the boy’s haircut did just the same. Tighter and tighter down it went, till the entirety of the top of his head was down to a number three. His brown hair looking more fair and blonde than ever before.

"Looks like you didn’t have a haircut too long ago, son," Rob commented. "So I think we need to take the sides and back down just a little bit," and this time, the barber secured the #2 attachment to the clippers and began to shave off the next sections of hair. He even brought the sideburns up a tad so they were less stylish and more uniform. John was hardly recognizing himself in the mirror at this point. Even if George the other barber walked in at this moment, he probably wouldn’t even recognize him. The three other boys had lost interest at this point, just staring at their phones. After the main pieces had been removed, the show was basically over. They knew what the end result would be, and were just waiting now.

After Rob edged out and cleaned up around John’s sides and backs with the small trimmer, he declared, "Alright then, John, good as new, and just in time for summer."

The cape whipped out of view and John remained in the seat. He stared back, his head looked perhaps bigger now with the buzzed look and the plain t-shirt and jeans. If anything, versus how his last haircut was attempting to be, John felt, or well looked…tougher.

His hands grazed up to the top, the short bristles made him want to jump out of the seat. They were perfectly fine-tuned, just like the sides, as he felt them up as well. He couldn’t believe what had happened. But it certainly had, and there was no going back at this point, unless he went shorter of which the barber probably gladly would shave him bald, razor and foam and all!

"Nice," Robby said as he came up behind John. "Nice work, dad."

"Anything for my son’s friends."

John finally stood up and looked at himself closer in the mirror. In the end, it didn’t look bad. But this wasn’t what he wanted, and John still felt like crying. He was going to be even more of a loser than he already was. "Just so you know," Rob came from behind and softly spoke "George over at the other seat doesn’t work on Mondays and Thursdays, if you ever try avoiding him. But my bet," Rob’s hand touched the top of John’s head, and began to stroke it. "He ain’t ever gonna recognize you again, son."

"Well," Rob stood back and said louder, "since it’s a first cut, its on the house, John. But can’t offer that all the time, now."

"Thank you sir," John nodded his head. He rejoined the other three from behind, staring at them with a blank expression. Waiting to see what they had planned next.

"Let’s go," Robby said and led John from the back to the same way the four of them had entered the shop.

The four of them stood out there, and the three bullies suddenly looked relaxed. Robby patted John and said, "It really does look good on you man," the two others agreed in unison. John didn’t know what to say, he just shrugged it off. "What are you doing right now, John?"

"Whatever you have in store for me I guess," he said to the ground.

Robby and the two others laughed. "Alright man, relax, we were just going to ask you if you wanted to play some ball with us at the park or something."

What? "What do you mean?"

Robby relaxed some more, "Look, man," he held John’s shoulder and stared at him. "I know what we did to you back at school and then with my dad was pretty rough. But its for your own good. We see you around school and your pretty lonely most the time. So we wanted to help you, even if it didn’t feel that way. So, as friends do, we are asking you to come hangout with us. What do you say?"

"Friends?" John was totally shocked, after everything that happened.

Robby held a hand out, and said, "Friends?" and his eyes actually seemed fairly sympathetic.

John didn’t know what to say, but the other two seemed to smile as well, all devil appearances gone. Maybe they weren’t as bad as John thought. He stuck his hand out and shook Robby’s back saying, "Friends, man."

"Attaboy," Robby smiled and brought him in for a real bro hug. "Well, real introductions now I guess. I’m Robby, that’s Cody, that’s Matty… so I guess that makes you…"

"Johnny," he offered up.

Robby slapped Johnny on the back, "One of us man." Then, Robby dipped into his pocket and flashed the false piece he stole from him earlier. "Your choice man."

Johnny shook his head. "Keep it, or ditch it. I’m not gonna need it anymore."

Robby passed it over to him, "I give you the honors, Johnny."

Johnny looked up at him, squinted from the sun, but then passively took it from his grasp, beating it against his palm like a baseball bat. He turned around and saw an open garbage can, and then all of a sudden with the strength he didn’t know he had, chucked it in for a slam dunk from six feet away. The other three boys hooted and hollered, and then they all piled into Robby’s pickup truck to go meet up with some others at the park.

Later that night, after all four of them going to Robby’s for some pizza dinner, Johnny made it back to his house. His parents shocked again to already see a new look for their son. Rob and Robby had dropped him off personally and explained the whole afternoon, how the boys had become fast friends and he was just hanging with the other guys. John’s parents weren’t going to make a fuss over this, they were happy to hear their son was being social for once. And unlike his last not-so intimidating haircut, his siblings actually sheltered away from their new tough-looking older brother.

Johnny felt his new haircut as he washed up and showered that night, getting rid of all the dirt and dust and sweat from the ball game, and surprisingly thankful he did not have to spend the evening washing out a bunch of goop and products from his head. He was a whole new kid now, and he was looking forward to summer.







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