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The Difference in Numbers by Armando94


The Difference in Numbers

Bryce strolled through the glass double doors, the bell dinging off that someone had entered the establishment. He had taken the day off from work and was just going about his business of the planned errands and appointments he had in store: woke-up, went to the gym for a bit, grabbed some breakfast before heading home and showering, then going to the post office, the doctors, lunch with a friend, and now a haircut. Well, some would say it was a trim. It really wasn’t though, it was a haircut! It was just that Bryce really took good care of his blonde locks, styled in a very businessman-like way. Thankfully it didn’t give him the impression that he looked old or something, although thirty was just around the corner in the next year and a half. But life had been good to him, he graduated college, had a fairly decent job out of school, then got this transfer about two years ago down to Florida and had settled in to life her. And, most of all, his looks had sustained this whole time. Mostly because Bryce did not like change, he could handle it in other areas of his life, but not when it came to his looks.

You would then think that Bryce would take care and go to some expensive salon for his lovely locks. Nope, one thing from having moved around in his youth as well as adult life was that he rarely got attached to things like that, and he was rarely ever getting a major haircut. Just touch-ups and keeping everything in check. That’s why he frequented these stereotypical and chain clip-joint sort of shops. Even if they had bad reviews and he was always running the risk of walking out with a mishap, he had been fortunate not to. His directions for his appointments were quite simple and he was always serious and quite stern about them.

The ladies behind the front desk were all chatting with each other when he walked in. His presence though caught them off like the God Ares had arrived or something. Their attention had peaked with Bryce’s presence, a thing that usually occurred. "Hello ladies," he said with the slightest bow of his head.

"Trisha is working on someone right now, she should be done soon-ish," one of the other stylists said. Then suggested, "If you can’t wait, I can take you in my chair."

They were always trying to do this, not all of the stylists that worked here, but a fair amount always wanting to have the opportunity to touch Bryce’s heavenly hair. But he had become loyal to Trisha since he started coming to this place, "Nope, thank you though, if I’m already booked with her that’s fine."

Eventually Trisha came around with her client, a mother and young son who’d just had a haircut. When they were all finished, Trisha waved her hand over to Bryce to tell him he could follow her on back. She was around his age so they got along very well, talking about just about anything really. "How have you been, Bryce?"

"Not too bad, took the day off today. How are things by you?"

"They’re alright, can’t complain much either," Trisha said. "The usual for you?"

"You got it," he nodded his head as she floated a heather gray cape up in the air and covered Bryce in it, securing him real snug. Then the tissue neck wrap which felt oddly scratchy today, hopefully it wasn’t new and would cause an allergic reaction or something! But one thing was for sure, Trisha knew exactly how Bryce liked to keep his hair, or when he came in for a haircut. Two inches long on top, and one inch long on the sides and back. All scissor work really, with the clean-up of the clippers at the end to define around his ears and collar. So she began with wetting down his hair from the spray bottle, getting it nice and sopping wet. That felt pretty good actually, Bryce thought. It was the end of spring and summer was upon them, so the cool damp feeling on Bryce’s noggin was a bit of a relief. Then Trisha took a pair of scissors and a comb, first sectioning off and around his head where she would be cutting it shorter and other parts leaving some length. She sure knew how Bryce liked it and always made sure he was looking clean and fresh, but not severely "barbered". That was one thing that always gave Bryce a bit of the shakes, thinking of walking out of somewhere and everyone around you, whether they knew you or not, could tell that You Sir had a Real Haircut.

He’d experienced this only once in his life, when he was real young. It had been a pretty hot summer, the summer before high school actually, and it had been a pain all summer. He hadn’t considered getting his haircut short, always maintain the level of how he wore it even then. It was a couple weeks shy of school starting and his family had gone away ahead of Labor Day, and man was it hot out. It was completely unbearable actually, even Bryce’s dad had just about had it with the heat, no amount of lotion or wearing hats the whole time was helping out the beating sun all over them. About halfway into that vacation, his dad woke him up early in the morning and said they were going for a drive. They pulled into a strip mall about fifteen minutes away from the condo they were staying at and where Bryce’s mom and sisters were still asleep. In the strip mall, the only thing open at this hour was a barber shop. And that’s what it said attached to its name "barber shop", a place Bryce had never been in before. He didn’t think much of it, especially since his dad was with him, so it must not be a bad thing to be here.

The father and son duo walked in and most of the barbers were available, so Bryce’s dad took one chair and he the other next to him. The barbers caped them up in matching sheets. Bryce’s dad mentioned to the gentlemen that they were from out of town and here on a family vacation, and that they could really use some haircuts to help them "cool-off". The barbers servicing them said they were glad to help, the one Bryce had saying in particular, "We’ll give you a good summer cut, son." With that, the clippers were fired up, but Bryce was absolutely speechless. Even as a tyke he rarely spoke with whoever was cutting his hair, and in a situation with a stranger he felt even more paralyzed! So, the barber began to clip off the side of Bryce’s head with what was probably a #3 or #4 guard, which for anyone might seem normal, but not for Bryce. His eyes bugged out as he saw his hair falling down onto the pure white cape, his father’s barber doing just about the same. And when the barber came around back and attacked Bryce from behind, he really felt the clippers rip through him. It was a sensation like no other. The little tickles of clippers edging him out before this were no match to this man-handling work of the barber. Once the side and back had been totally cleared away, it was only the mop on top to handle. With that, the barber began to wet down Bryce’s hair, which felt normal. Until, he started to hack-away at the length, reducing off about three-quarters of the already existing hair from the top. Bryce now watched in agony as wet clumps thumped onto the cape. And what was worse was that that wasn’t the end, the barber then took some thinning shears and began to thin out the thick hair Bryce was still blessed with to this day. Bryce was just about to cry, but he held himself together as best he could. It wasn’t then until the barber was blow-drying his hair, standing it up in the front with a little coif and styling it all with some hairspray did Bryce realize the damage was really done. He was going into high school looking like he ought to be going into Kindergarten! His father had a similar haircut, albeit a little longer since he was a man and no kid.

The barber cleaned up around the edges of Bryce before releasing him from the chair. Once standing up and out Bryce’s hand reached for the back to feel his newly clipped path. The barber said, "It feels good doesn’t it son?" Bryce of course wanted to say No, but he just nodded his head and gave a weak grin. By the time they eventually left and were in the car, Bryce’s dad didn’t say anything. Maybe he realized his son was miserable. Except that misery was only worse because Bryce felt the heavy duty of the hairspray was forming the top of his head into a rock. He felt it in the car and everything was erect and unable to move. He felt like he wanted to die. Until, he went through a whole day of it, splashing around in the beach and pool with his short hair, then showering at night, rotating his hands through his short bristles. He thought for a hot second that maybe he could get used to it…but no, he couldn’t, he wouldn’t allow himself to. But it wasn’t all that bad, he thought as he looked at himself in the mirror. He actually genuinely smiled at himself in the mirror. No! No, don’t let this happen, the younger him kept saying, even as he felt he was starting to really like this look. A part of him kept saying this wasn’t him, or was that part really trying to ignore a part of Bryce that he was choosing to ignore?

In the present, Trisha had sectioned off all his wet hair and had begun the cut, trimming away to perfection the different sections so when they laid out flat and dry, it would all look perfectly sculpted. Enough subtle hints of wave and texture to give Bryce the volumes-look that he could from both his dense, thick roots, as well as the unique shine his hair color could give off. Little bits of hair flying off and onto the cape, then some larger ones, but not too big! The two of them got to talking about their summers, Trisha talked about her boyfriend and how they were hoping to go to Myrtle Beach in August. Bryce didn’t really have any major vacation plans, at some point he would visit his family during the summer, or they’d all meet up for a trip. He talked about work with her, he had a fairly basic job in marketing, nothing too shabby or too much to brag about. It paid the bills and he liked it, that’s what mattered. Trisha was really good at her job, she took care to check over sections to make sure she hadn’t missed a thing, making sure there was now outlying strand that hadn’t been tackled.

She graduated to cutting the sides down, still allowing them to have enough of a look that they had length to them and weren’t scissored down like they could have been sheared. Then she took out the blow dryer and began to work it and her hand across Bryce’s entire skull. This part felt really good, like a mini-massage. Once she had done all that, she triple checked his head for any hairs that might have still been missed before she applied some product into his hair, and combed everything into place. Now he really looked like the God Ares rather than when he first walked into this joint. And most of all, Bryce was feeling totally refreshed with the haircut he wanted. Then it was time to clean up around the ears and Bryce’s neckline with the edging clippers, defining the whole look before he was released from her chair. But first, she took a photo of his look from both sides, saying she would put it on her Instagram account. Bryce thought that was sweet, he had already been following her since he started coming to see her but never had the privilege of being a "celebrity" of Trisha’s. He smiled as the cape was taken away and he stood up to get a better inspection in the mirror. It really was a great cut! The kind he liked. They went up front to pay the cheap price, he to tip her, exchange pleasantries and say they would see each other next time.

-----

It was a couple days later when Trisha posted the photos of Bryce on her page, he had been tagged and immediately liked them back, commenting with a few emojis and a "Thanks!" as well, just trying to be a polite and nice guy. He hadn’t really paid attention all that much to her page in the past like he should have, so he just went ahead on his lunch break at work and began to like a bunch of her posts, until he realized that maybe he had liked too many and her notifications were probably going to be blowing up from this. But who cared, he was showing appreciation, right?

That was, until, later that night, when he was just casually binge-watching TV, he saw he got a DM request from an account he wasn’t familiar with. He decided to take a look and open it up:

"Dude- what do you think you’re doing?"

He didn’t recognize them still, but then saw that Trisha followed this guy.

"Sorry?" Bryce casually messaged back.

"Leave my girlfriend alone, you creep."

Oh boy, this was Trisha’s boyfriend. But why was he telling Bryce to leave her alone? Its not like he had put the moves on her or something, right?

"I don’t know what you’re talking about. She only cuts my hair."

"Just leave her alone, I know you like all her posts all the time."

Not true, Bryce thought, he only recently went on a liking-spree of Trisha’s page. And how on earth would this dude know? Did he creep on his girlfriend’s phone?

"What’s wrong with liking someone’s post? Doesn’t mean I like her, this isn’t elementary school man."

"Don’t tell me what this is or isn’t, I can see if with my own eyes. Just leave her alone."

"Nothing is happening man!" Bryce sent that message and got nothing back. He just shook his head and ignored the whole thing, thinking it was a complete blimp and that it would pass over at some point. Trisha would find out, as Bryce was sure her boyfriend would say something to her. She’d probably yell at him for his behavior, then apologize to Bryce the next time she had him in her chair. All would be well, whatever that would mean. Bryce couldn’t believe the audacity of this dude though, Bryce had done nothing wrong! He eventually went to bed, feeling in a bit of a funk, but eventually subsided and fell to sleep, spending the next day trying to forget everything that had transpired in his DMs. By the weekend, he had forgot about it for the most part and was able to relax and hang out with his friends from work.

-----

The summer had kicked into gear and super quick, Bryce couldn’t believe it. He had even tried running outside some mornings and nights but even then he was coming home dripping of sweat. Why, even when he went in and out of the office he had begun to feel like he was getting hot and bothered too! Just waiting to be in the cool atmosphere of air-conditioned buildings instead of the swampy sweaty outdoors. And it was only June!! He knew it was gonna be a scorcher this season.

It was the end of the week, Friday, a summer Friday to be exact, so they were all going to be able to get out of the office after one. Bryce wished he hadn’t had to come in, but they were preparing for a client meeting for early next week. So he would sacrifice one of his many days of flex working space and time to be in the office for the occasion with the rest of his team. When it was time to pack up and go (finally!) he walked out with a few of his colleagues, and they ended up spending nearly fifteen minutes outside in the parking lot chatting. Well, Bryce sort of stopped talking after the first five minutes, if even that long. He was starting to feel parched, and sweaty, the droplets were beading at his forehead and then slowly tricking down along the side frames of his face, hitting down onto his shirt. He didn’t want to run a hand across his face either, he’d feel even more embarrassed than the embarrassing sweat stains forming dark rings out of the light blue button down he had on. Why on earth had he gotten so dressed up if only to be in the office for a little over four hours?

In any case, when he got into his car, he blasted the A/C like never before, feeling it rush across his sopping face and head. No way he was going to go for a run this afternoon, maybe not even later tonight. He didn’t even know if he had the energy to go to the gym, or even head down to the beach. He stroked his hands through his hair, feeling it all around, the waves that had grown back out as usual. The softness from all the prancing and pruning he did to them nightly with all the different ritual he had for his hair care. Which day to shampoo, which day to condition, which day to exfoliate, the list went on and on. But right about now, his hair felt like it was frizzing out from all this heat and now that he had just rushed his hands through it all. Now he looked in the rearview mirror and it looked very unkempt. Bryce had been so preoccupied with work that he had almost forgotten to schedule his next haircut with Trisha. It hadn’t even crossed his mind, he possibly was a week overdue, maybe even two! Not that this was the first time he allowed it to happen. A little bit more time with some of the long-ish hair was never a bad thing. But he definitely needed a good trim and clean up around his neckline if the heat was to continue!

It was a Friday afternoon, so Bryce figured he would press his own luck and head on over to the usual clip-joint and see if Trisha had an opening. She might for all he knew, and it would be his lucky day. Woudn’t be the first time he’d gone in and she would be able to see him within a matter of moments or after her next appointment. So Bryce drove his car to the usual strip mall, feeling somewhat slightly cooled off from when he first got in. Of course the ten or so steps from the spot he parked in into the shop’s double door was still unbearably hot.

He entered the shop, the usual ding going off, no one was at the front desk, that was odd. Maybe one of the usual receptionists was on a lunch break or something, and all the other stylists were busy seeing to clients. He poked his head a bit to the left and right from where he stood, a few of the chairs were totally empty, maybe a bunch of the employees were out on lunch or picking something up to bring back? Or were they in the back of the shop? He didn’t spot Trisha, so that was a little off-putting, but then again it looked like a fair amount of the usual stylists were M.I.A. There were a couple other people waiting in the reception area, so Bryce slouched into a nearby seat and got comfy while he waited for someone to tell him when Trisha would be available next.

Bryce pulled out his phone and checked his text messages, some friends wanting to go out tonight to an outdoor patio bar for drinks and tappas. That sounded pretty fun, so Bryce said he would be down for it, and asked what time he should meet them. Then he scrolled through the usual, TikTok but that wasn’t really a thing to do here where the radio was playing over the intercom of the whole shop. Facebook didn’t have much new news since that morning. He then opened Instagram and began scrolling. Out of curiosity, he went to Trisha’s page, but he couldn’t find it in the search. That was awfully and ironically weird. He checked his followers list. She was no longer there. Okay, now he checked his following list, and still she was missing. Even if she had changed her name or handle or something, she would have still appeared right? Unless she went totally social media-less? But why? The account he followed wasn’t even her personal one, it was one specific for her hair work. Something was up…

One of the other customers in the waiting area got up as their client came to the front to collect them after sending their previous client on the way out after paying. Then a second person in a waiting chair got up from their seat as they saw their stylist appear up front to collect them as well, with one of the receptionists coming from the back with her. The receptionist, an woman probably in her fifties, said, "Do you have an appointment, young man?" directing it at Bryce.

He got up from his seat and two-stepped over, rushing his hands against his pants, and running a freehand through his hair. "Yeah—no, I don’t. I was wondering if Trisha had any openings today and if she could squeeze me in?"

"Trisha? Oh, I’m sorry, you didn’t hear?"

"Hear what?"

"She doesn’t cut here anymore, she got another job elsewhere, a more salon sort of place."

"When?!" Bryce tried to remain calm.

"Oh, I don’t know, maybe three or so weeks ago?"

Damnit, if only Bryce had his head out of the gutter he might have made an appointment in advance and find out that Trisha is gone, and now he didn’t have her social media account either! "Ah, I see," Bryce stated, sounding dejected.

"Are you still looking to get your haircut? I can put you with someone else."

Bryce sighed, "Uhh, I mean, if you have someone right now," he was beginning to lie. "I’m kind of in a hurry," he kept making excuses, "so I don’t want to bother, I can come back another time—"

"Don’t worry about it, let’s see," the women looked at the computer and said, "Okay, yes, I have an appointment for right now with Larry, is that alright?"

Larry? There was a guy that worked here? Well, then again, there were so many different chairs and stylists and barriers between each of them, it was hard for Bryce to ever know how many people were there at a time or even worked there. But he swore he had never seen a guy working here before as a stylist, but maybe he had just never paid attention?

Finally, Bryce figured because the woman had already given a suggestion, which meant she really wanted to fill it, he might as well take up the offer. He slightly grinned and said, "Yeah, sure why not. Thanks."

"Alright, and your name?"

"Bryce."

"Okay Bryce, thank you. I’ve put you in with Larry, let me go get him, I think he’s at his chair. Just hang on a moment here, I’ll be back."

Bryce patiently waited, tapping his foot, not knowing what he was getting himself into. Its just a haircut, he said, just a haircut. Then again, he never had to tell Trisha what he wanted, she just always knew. So he would just have to clear and simple with his instructions, and all would be fine, right?

He spotted the receptionist walking up to the front with an older gentlemen who was possibly in his mid to late sixties. Why was he even working, shouldn’t he be retired or something? He was dressed very professional though, like how a true barber would, the one time of reference Bryce had when he was fourteen, that and in movies/TV. He stared in their direction, swore he heard the receptionist say to Larry, "…says he’s in a hurry…". They eventually marched up to the front and the receptionist said, "Ah, Bryce, this is Larry, he’ll be taking care of you today."

"Nice to meet you, Bryce, my man," Larry tried to be friendly and stuck his hand out.

Bryce was polite and stuck his back out and shook in agreement, "Nice to meet you too."

"Good, now come on back, let’s start the show," Larry motioned for him to follow. "I know you’re in a bit of a hurry so we’ll make sure to have you in and out of the chair in no time and looking just as good as new."

"Thanks, thanks for seeing me on such short notice," Bryce offered up. Bryce was probably four inches taller than this Larry, but then again Bryce was a little over six foot.

"Not a problem," Larry said, "I had an opening, you needed a cutting, so we were a match made in hair heaven," he chuckled a little to himself and then motioned a hand at the chair in front of him, "come on, step into my office son."

Bryce obeyed and plopped himself down right away, just nodding his head as Larry got the cape out and draped it across Bryce’s body, then the tissue neck wrap. No turning back now, he was really going with it, giving someone else the chance to work their "magic" in his hair. Larry started to feel around Bryce’s gorgeous blonde locks and said, "You have a very nice head of hair on you, son."

"Thank you, sir."

"You should be proud of it, not many are this lucky."

"Thanks," Bryce blushed. Larry wasn’t so bad himself though for his expected age, yes it was salt and pepper and definitely more white on top, but he still had hair, albeit it was kept in a crisp and sharp edge look like he was in the police force rather than this job. "I do take care of it as best as I can."

"I can tell," Larry felt around some more, "you’ve got a great head shape too I bet, judging by your facial features. You really could pull off any style."

"Ah, didn’t know that," Bryce suddenly got the chills, and not from his sweating mess.

"Speaking of," Larry continued to softly pat the top of Bryce’s head, "what are we thinking of for your haircut today?"

Bryce took a deep breath in, just keep it real simple, no messing around, no hemming and hawing, just be straightforward about what he wanted. "Two on top, and one on the sides."

Larry looked shocked and said, "Really? That’s what you want?"

"Yes, that’s what I normally get," Bryce tried to not sound terse but couldn’t help himself.

"Is it?" Larry sounded even more confused. "I wouldn’t have guessed that."

Bryce was startled too, but then he thought, maybe this old man thinks I want one of those super stylized cuts, some crazy executive look rather than a boring look of two inches on top and one on the side. He decided to soften the mood by affirming Larry, "Well, I am a bit overdue I guess, I have forgotten to make an appointment in a little while."

"I’ll say," Larry nodded his head, still inspecting his new client’s head. "So that’s what you want?"

"Yes."

"You sure? #2 on top and #1 on the sides?"

"Yes, that’s what I said, right? Two on top and one on the sides and back? Isn’t it?"

"Okay, I’m just making sure son!"

"You sure you know how to cut hair?" Bryce decided to get snippy.

"Hey now, I’ve been cutting hair for even longer than you’ve probably been alive, sunny boy. I know what to do, don’t worry."

"Alright then," Bryce rolled his eyes a little as Larry stepped away to get his things out for the haircut. Bryce figured that would probably be the end of their conversations, so he just took out his phone from his pocked and briefly looked at it, seeing messages from his friends about the time and place for later, and a few other things they were all saying back and forth. His focus became on this which was not a good thing.

Larry was starting up the clippers, attaching the #2 blade, unbeknownst to the young man in his chair. Little did Bryce know he was being cut by no stylist today, but by a barber, and he was leaving the shop with one "barbered" look he always feared. Larry fired them up and came to stand behind his client, not even asking Bryce if he was having second thoughts, the boy’s head in the perfect position as he looked down at his phone. So, Larry seized this perfect position and proceeded with the haircut he thought Bryce had asked for. He placed the fast-feeding clippers at the center of Bryce’s forehead and peeled them all the way back, making extremely quick work out of the long locks that once stood in that path, making one full swipe towards the center and back, and right away going in for another swipe of the clippers from the front in the same direction, covering half the area he just did and a new batch of unshorn waves of blonde.

It wasn’t when the clippers were at Bryce’s forehead did he become alert. And you couldn’t even say it was once they first fed through his crowning glory, the hot and wet steel of the clippers running against Bryce’s hair like it was a lawn mower doing its weekly jobs. It was by the time it reached the center of Bryce’s head and he felt the full sensation and vibration from the clippers that he realized something was completely wrong. As the hair was pulled away, no, stripped away truly, nearly root and stem. Leaving a shorn and severe patch of now dirty blonde hair in its wake. As Bryce looked up in the mirror from his phone, he tried to get a look at the damage that was done. It was then when Larry brought the clippers around the front again and made a second swipe that Bryce could see in the mirror he looked like an understudy for Bozo the clown.

"Oh my god," Bryce uttered.

"Something wrong there, son?" Larry asked.

"What have you done?" Bryce couldn’t even shout, he couldn’t scream, or even cry.

"What do you mean? I’m cutting your hair like you asked?"

"This isn’t what I asked for," Bryce said in almost a whisper but he felt his face flushing red with embarrassment. What had he said wrong!? Damnit, he knew this would happen.

"Yes you did," the barber did not lose patience, he stayed calm. "You specifically said the numbers you wanted on the top and sides of your head, 2 and 1. Done."

"Clippers?"

Larry turned off his clippers at that moment and stepped to the side to look at Bryce face to face. "Did you or did you not say those two numbers two me? Twice even?"

"I said two on top and one on the sides…I didn’t mean clippers!"

"Well how on earth am I ever gonna get them down that short, son? That’s I guess what you get for having an overdue haircut, ain’t no way I can get them this short with scissors, we’d be here all night!"

"I said two on top, one on…" Bryce was looking down at his lap now, the real evidence from the damage, laid out like a crime screen. Some of his blonde tufts stripped in clumps and strands out in front of him. The hair he had taken such good care of all these years, that him and Larry had just moments before been talking and complimenting on. Gone, detached from him, detached from who he was. No, THERE was who he was! Cut off from his head, gone from existence, never to return for a long while. It was someone else sitting there in that chair now, a stranger he didn’t recognize, or really a stranger he was about to become.

"Yes, the #2 clippers on top," Larry pointed to the equipment in his hands. Then he had a realization as well. "Oh no, dear boy, you didn’t mean…two inches on top, did you?"

"And one inch on the sides and back," Bryce felt himself sink through the chair into the floor at that moment. Great, a miscommunication, and now this was the result. He was getting a baldy cut.

"Oh no, oh no, I should have asked more clearly son," Larry patted his client’s shoulder.

"I should have been more clear, and not so rude to you, sir. You were only doing your job," Bryce knew he couldn’t fight this battle, maybe there would be a free haircut out of this, but Larry couldn’t put the hair on the cape back on Bryce’s head. They both knew that.

"Oh, man, I’m so sorry son. Don’t even worry about paying for the haircut, its on the house, believe me, I feel horrible."

"Its fine," Bryce mustered to say, even if he didn’t feel it. His face still felt like it was red, and he could see it in the mirror, no sunburn for him yet, it was all embarrassment, or perhaps sadness. Oh goodness, what was everyone gonna say next time they saw him? Clearly the show had to go on, this haircut he meant. "I…I guess, you should just continue on with the haircut."

"I’m so sorry again," the barber was profusely apologetic now. "I’ll just stick with the #2, we won’t need to go any shorter now." And so, Larry flicked the clippers on solemnly again, and got behind Bryce as he continued to buzz him down. But Bryce did something that even shocked himself. He stared right into the mirror, and took it all in. He watched as the blonde hair fell from his head, down onto the cape and on the shop floor, like daisies in the spring field, or snowflakes in the winter. Softly and lifelessly floating to their destiny. Fate had it in store today for Bryce that he would walk into this shop today and walk out of here with much less hair than he usually did. The next swipe across the top of Bryce’s head, he took all the feelings in. The blades again the top of his head, screeching through his locks, Bryce feeling the sensation of those hairs becoming lifeless as they were cut down at a quarter of an inch across the top of his head. Leaving a buzzed path in their wake. He’d never had hair this short, never dreamed of having it this short. Always feared short hair! And here he was, getting a true summer cut that would keep him cool this summer, at least there was that he supposed. Larry continued to buzz it all down on top, more passes of the clipper, the sheer blonde lengths being replaced by nearly brunette bristles.

"Can I ask something?" Bryce said suddenly.

"Yes," Larry hesitantly looked in the mirror.

"Does it…" he hesitated, "will it look bad, ya think?"

Larry immediately shook his head, but was not BS’ing the young man in his chair. "Not at all, to be honest, I think you will look really great with a short look. Might be different from what you are used to, but believe me, I meant what I said earlier. You have a great face for any look, and judging by how your head is," the barber stroked the buzzed top, "I was right in that you have a great head shape to wear almost any cut."

"You think?"

"Go on, give it a rub," he teased Bryce.

Bryce figured why the heck not, and took his right hand from under the cape and gently rubbed the short bristles there on top…and then he smoothed the palm of his hand against it. Woah, this really was a new sensation, the one he had forgotten from a decade and a half ago. It felt really good, almost too nice if he was being honest. He couldn’t help himself, until he finally stopped. "Well, if you think it will look good, might as well go for the whole thing, maybe do that #1 guard on the side right?"

"You sure?"

Bryce shrugged his shoulders, the loose blonde tufts left on the cape flying down to the ground, goodbye forever now. "Might as well, I’m already here!" This made both barber and client laugh, and Larry continued on with buzzing the last bits of the top of Bryce’s head down to a #2. When it was time to move onto the #1, Larry went to his station to replace out the clippers. Bryce was feeling much better about his fate, so he struck up a friendly conversation with Larry, asking him how long he’d been working here. Turns out he had only been here about a few years, had been retired for a little while but was easily bored and wanted something to do, so might as well get paid for it. He had worked in true barber shops his whole career, having retired from one he had been at for thirty years, along with the owner and rest of the staff who were all men around his age. They all retired to different parts of Florida with their wives, and this was where Larry and his ended up. But he still had the urge to cut, so why not at one of these brand generic shops that he could just pass the time at, maybe not even have to work there all the time. Just something to do, and something he loved.

The barber then started in on the #1 clipper work from the back of Bryce’s head. From the moment it went from neckline through the occipital bone to the crown, Bryce’s jaw began to drop centimeter by centimeter. The memories of that ill-fated haircut from the past came to mind at this swift and deftly done move of Larry’s. The only difference was, whereas in the past Bryce was left in shock and pain, Bryce was now in surprise and pleasure. Even though he felt the barber continue to clear off the back of his heads with this even shorter attachment, Bryce felt him really getting away towards the skin. Man this was going to be short, he’d have hardly any hair left back there or on the sides. The cool heat the clippers gave off getting that close to Bryce’s skull was a complete thrill he didn’t realize he desired. They kept chatting about life in Florida and how Bryce came to be here and all. When Larry moved onto the side of Bryce’s head, now he was able to see just how short the #1 guard proved to be. As Larry’s guided his clippers all the way from the bottom to the top of the sides, pulling the clippers away as he got towards the top where the quarter inch buzz work had already been done. Wow, this was one short cut, wow everyone was going to be shocked. Bryce could feel cool air around his left side and back as the lack of hair allowed the central air to cool him off towards the skin and scalp. Then it was the right side attack and Bryce was starting to see the haircut really take shape now, and Larry wasn’t wrong! It didn’t look that bad on him! Whatever it meant he had a good head shape, Bryce was starting to understand it a little better. May have taken him to get to this point in the process, but he was there.

Then Larry was done with the sides and back, picked up a different set of clippers and a small comb, and began to clean up between the tops and that, blending it all together, as they continue their friendly banter. The clashing sound when clippers zipped across the comb sounded funny, and Bryce was curious to why it was necessary. But out of the corner of his eyes, he was pretty sure he saw a few fly-away hairs falling around him. Larry was making good work of this unplanned haircut, if anything, making sure the young man in the chair was walking out of here with a decent haircut, even if it wasn’t the one he walked in here anticipating getting. And Larry always felt that a new haircut always made you feel happy and healthy. The barber then brought the combs and clippers on top of Bryce’s head, triple checking his work to make sure everything across the top was evened out. Of course it was, he was truly a master at his craft Bryce had learned. But he must have managed to find a few he was unsatisfied with, so he nicked them to make the perfect and smooth transition all across the top of Bryce’s head, one swift motion and you would be able to tell every single short strand was in place.

Larry then took out the edging clippers and cleaned up around Bryce’s neckline and sideburns. This part felt incredibly different, as normally when Bryce had this done he still had a fair amount of hair around these regions. Now it was so short he couldn’t even tell what Larry needed to do at this point. But the barber perfectly edged and crisped out so that everything was in line and looked like it had been well taken care of. Then he used those same clippers to clean up around these regions so that Bryce’s neck and around his ears was totally bare. Bryce would later be able to feel that nakedness juxtaposed against the perfectly cut short bristles not too far off.

Finally, Larry took out a blow dryer and began to apply cool heat through Bryce’s head, the barber’s hand massaging through the young man’s scalp for good measure, and to get any loose strands hanging out off Bryce’s head. Then it was the brush down which tickled Bryce liked he was a little kid. It dawned on him too that no product or styling was necessary at the end of this haircut!

"Well, I know this isn’t what you asked for, Bryce, but I do hope you like it," Larry ripped the cape off of him. The moment Bryce stood up from the chair, he felt five inches taller, and suddenly more confident. Getting to inspect his new look closer in the mirror, raising both hands to either side of his head, grazing them all around up to the top as well, getting a feel for his new look for the next few weeks, or maybe months. This was definitely going to take a while to grow out. But maybe he should make the most of it, he probably was not going to be getting a haircut like this for a very long time, if ever again.

"I’m sorry for all the confusion, Larry," Bryce offered. "But you did a great job. May not be what I asked for, but I can’t deny you have a real talent."

"I appreciate that son," the barber beamed as he led Bryce away from the chair so he could go up to the front and check him out. No one else was up at the reception desk in that moment, so Larry was able to say, "Don’t worry about it again, no need to pay. This one is on the house."

Now Bryce felt a little bit bad, because the barber still did a very good job of a haircut, he deserved to be rewarded for his effort at least. So, Bryce decided the best option, he took out the twenty he would have used anyways to help pay for the haircut and said, "Keep it, you still earned a tip."

Larry couldn’t help himself but smile, and extended a hand out so both men could shake each others. "Take care of yourself now, Bryce."

"You too," Bryce nodded his head at Larry before heading out, entering the sunshine of the state with a new look and perhaps new outlook as well.

-----

The next few hours, surprisingly, Bryce couldn’t get enough of his new haircut. He went home right away and had a quick salad for lunch, but just couldn’t help looking at every mirror or reflection, of feeling up his buzzed hair. Something about it was making him sort of glad it happened. Not only was it giving him a temporary new look, it really was making him start to think of a lot of things in his life in general. He ended up grabbing a pair of swim trunks and went out to the beach for the afternoon, get some nice tanning in especially with his new look, lotioning himself more than ever so he didn’t burn to a crisp. And getting to splash around a bit in the ocean to cool off from the sun, but also feel the sensation of his short haircut under the water.

By the time it was evening and he was going to meet up with that group of friends, he only put on a simple t-shirt and jeans with sneakers, allowing his haircut to really be the star. No need to dress up fancy or something, they were going to be outdoors anyways. Even if he had work something nice, or a new pair of shoes or something, no one was going to ignore his new haircut. When he arrived, it threw everyone off as this stranger walked towards them, until they all realized who it was. Everyone was in absolute shock, couldn’t believe what happened, and Bryce found himself saying it was a "Happy accident" perhaps. The rest of the night carried on just as any normal one would, some of the other guys complimenting him saying it really suited him, this new look. "You think so?" "For real?" "Honestly?" he kept asking in all these variations. But these were all acting as little hints of encouragement. Maybe it really was all meant to happen to Bryce today.

Everyone in the office on Monday complimented it too, which was an even more of an "ego" boost to Bryce. Did everyone really think it looked that great? And was Bryce actually becoming okay with it all weekend long as he’d towel off after a shower or feel less weight or pressure as he worked out or went for a run? The no fuss no muss look that he never desired actually might be something he was considering keeping?

His family was going on a group vacation with each other in a few weeks time, meeting in South Carolina. He would drive up and meet all of them. He noticed that his once perfectly buzzed head was starting to grow out just a tad, not in a super bad and totally unkempt way, but it was out of line and not maintained. It would be almost a month now by the time he was on vacation from when he first had that happy accident of a haircut. So Bryce found himself looking at his week ahead, leaving for vacation that Saturday, another summer Friday at work the day before. So, he did the unthinkable, a few days in advance, and made a call ahead.

Friday afternoon after he was able to log off for the weekend (and thank goodness he got to work from home that day), he went back to the clip joint for another haircut, proudly walking in with a smile, just like the last time several others in the waiting area anticipating their stylist. Bryce found himself a seat, the receptionist spotting him saying, "Do you have an appointment, sir?"

Bryce flashed a grin at her, "Yes…with Larry."

"Oh, okay," she looked at the computer and then back at Bryce, "he should be ready for you, you can head on back to his chair."

"Thank you," Bryce said as he stood and strolled on back.

Larry was seated in his chair, reading a book, when Bryce said, "Hi there Larry."

The barber turned around, shocked to see the young man again. "Bryce? What are you doing here?"

"What most people do when they come here," Bryce tried to joke. "You didn’t see I made an appointment with you today?"

"I hadn’t even looked this morning," Larry was still surprised, "I hadn’t even thought to. Boy am I glad to see you again, didn’t think I ever would again."

"Well, I didn’t think I would like this haircut," Bryce rubbed his grown out buzz, "but a lot of people have complimented it, and it really has grown on me…y’know," he blushed.

"Really? I did tell you it would look great on you, son."

"You did, and you were right, which is why I’m back," Bryce announced, and then Larry stood up from the chair and escorted Bryce to have a seat as he caped and taped him up. "Same as last time, Larry."

"Same as last time," the barber murmured with a smile, excited to have a new client, and Bryce excited to have himself a barber. Never thinking he would ever say or want that, but here he was, getting his second summer crewcut. And, truthfully, Bryce felt like it wasn’t just going to be a summer thing. He had a real good feeling his trips to Larry would become a monthly thing all year long.




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