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Dan Learns that 'Flats are Tops' by Manny

Coach Ken stared at his star player as Dan pulled on his long white socks with the blue stripes around the top. The soccer match would start in under half hour and the other players were already out on the pitch warming up. As Dan fastened the laces tightly on his cleats, his thick blond hair bounced and shimmered under the neon lights of the changing room.

The fact of the matter was the Coach Ken was jealous of his star player and captain of the team; Dan had everything that Ken had always longed for -- athletic skills, intelligence, charisma, a handsome face, muscular legs and a gorgeous mane of thick hair that he wore in a doopy bowl which covered his ears and collar and which frequently fell past his eyes. His was a dreamy, sexy look that all the girls on campus were wild about.

The soccer match was to be Dan's last game before he graduated from college. Commencement was the following evening. The soccer division title had already been won by the college, thanks to Dan's superb offensive skills, but Ken knew Dan was eager to score one last time before hanging up his well-worn cleats.

After lacing his shoes, Dan looked up and flashed his coach a big thumbs up. "Well, this is it! My last game, Coach Ken! I'm going to miss this place." He flicked his hair back, as was his custom when it was overgrown and in need of a good trim. The golden locks danced in the bath of neon beams.

Ken cleared his throat nervously. It was now or never -- his last chance to knock the stool out from under his star player who seemingly had it all. The coach felt a bit guilty because Dan was truly a nice guy. Had he been a cocky sort, Ken would have felt no compuction about putting his scheme for Dan into motion. Many "big men on campus" were arrogant and full of themselves, but not Dan. Nevertheless, Ken felt that although Dan was a nice guy, someone needed to cut him down to size a bit. It was hardly fair that some fellows got it all, while others had to struggle tooth and nail for their accomplishments. Ken had always envied the types like Dan when he was in college, but now he was in a position of authority.....and he intended to use it for his pleasure.

Ken cleared his throat again and said, "Uh, Dan. I know you're psyched up for this last game. But, uh, well, you'll be watching it from the bench....." There! He'd dropped his little bomblet!

Dan looked puzzled. The message hadn't quite sunk in. "I'm not injured, coach! It was Kip who twisted his ankle in the last game. I just need to get out there and warm up so that I'm ready for the coin toss."

"You seem to be forgetting something, Dan," said the coach calmly. "Remember at our last practice I mentioned that I didn't want you on the pitch with all that hair in your face."

Dan's leg twitched a bit nervously. "Ah, come on, Coach! I've been on this team for four years and this is my last game." He mopped back his hair nervously. "I just got to busy. That's all...." He paused, and a worried looked quickly spread across his face, "Uh, I hope you don't think I was just blowing you off!" he stammered apologetically.

"It wasn't just for the game.... You know, a coach's goal is to develop a whole person -- not just an athlete. Imagine trying to deal with all that hair and a graduation cap. With bobby pins and barrets holding it in place, you'll look like a girl under the gown -- they might have you prancing down the aisle in a white gown with the girls instead of a blue one with the fellows! You've got so much hair that it looks like you're wearing a football helmet!" said Ken disparagingly. He hated it that his own mousey brown hair was thinning a lot for a 35 year-old.

Dan's face fell. He realized that the coach meant business about him being benched during his last college game. Ken continued, "And when you leave here after graduation and start applying for jobs, who will want to hire someone who looks more like the lead singer for a tween throb, girly-boy band?"

"Look, I promise I'll get a haircut tomorrow. Just let me play this one last time," pleaded Dan, who stepped forward to put his arm around his dear coach in order to cajole him with an even more personal appeal. Dan couldn't figure out what had gotten into the old man. Sure, he knew that coach didn't like longhairs, but his 'do was trendy looking with its retro-shag moptop appeal.

"No can do, buddy," snapped the coach. "I know you're graduating, but you're not too old to learn a lesson about respect and responsibility. I said you couldn't play with hair in your face, and I intend to keep my word."

Dan realized the coach wasn't softening his position. To be benched! It was all too outrageous.... Dan swallowed his pride and begged, "Please, for me, don't ruin my college soccer career and have this be my last memory....benched! Why, I've played in every single game for four years."

Ken felt torn -- how could he be so mean? But, seeing Dan grovel also energized him. He loved exercising the upper hand. And the proposal he was about to put forth absolutely excited him. Ken turned toward his desk and opened the top drawer. "Maybe there's a solution, if you're willing." He pulled out a pair of huge scissors. "The important thing is to get that hair out of your eyes so you don't screw up in the split second you need to score."

"Have I ever done that before?" asked Dan earnestly, eying the silver set of shears. The soccer star was relieved there was a solution being proposed but felt very uncomfortable about coach giving him an amateur haircut in the locker room!

"No, and it won't happen today either. I won't let you ruin your record, Dan. If you want to play, you need to let me cut your bangs now. The clock is ticking," said Ken flatly.

"Uh," the soccer jock stammered.

"And then tomorrow, you need to let me take you to my barber to get a decent haircut so you'll look cleancut for graduation," he added on.

"Oh, no!" gasped Dan reflexively.

"Then get on out there....you'll do a fine job warming the bench, Mr. Captain." Ken strode past him towards the door.

"All right, go ahead. Have your way, Coach. I should've gotten a haircut before this. You're right....." he said, suddenly ending his resistance to the idea of a locker room trim and submitting meekly to the authoritative coach.

Ken's heart skipped a beat. Things were developing as he'd planned! "Over there to the sink then, Dan!" he ordered. The flustered soccer jock felt a bit humiliated as the coached grasped him by his silken locks and forced his head down into the sink. Ken pressed tightly behind the jock and made Dan keep his bowed head very low.

"Come on, don't make this difficult," Ken barked in an irritating voice as he yanked the blond mane down towards the spigot. "I need to wet this mop so I can snip these bangs off nice and tidy." As he forced the player's hair towards the cold stream of water, Ken fondled the silken hair at the nape lightly. He'd dreamed of this moment for many years and now he'd finally had the courage to put the plan into action.

Dan sputtered as the cold water showered down on his hair and face. Coach Ken kept him subdued under the streaming water flow longer than necessary. Then he jerked up the sopping mane of hair out of the sink. "Okay - now sit over there," he snapped and pointed to his desk chair.

Dan complied submissively, surveying his drenched soccer jersey. The dampened locks fell irritatingly down past his eyes. Dan sat compliantly while Ken yanked a comb through the thicket of tangled, wet hair. Dan flinched but stayed silent.

Ken's eyes gleamed brightly! Oh, what a harvest was set before him!! The wet locks pushed down past the tip of Dan's nose. The doomed fringe was dense and virtually blocked out some of the glare of the room's harsh neon lights.

Ken seized the shears. "Look at this mess of hair!" he exclaimed in a disapproving manner. He snapped the shears open and shut a few times as he counseled himself silently about just how short to take off his captive prey. Dan fidgeted him the chair attempting to speak, but catching himself and stifling the comment. Ken imagined it had probably been some sort of attempt to caution prudence. No, the proud soccer captain would be humbled!

WHACK! went the shears -- half way between the eye brows and hairline. A massive chunk fell into the petrified player's lap. CHOP, CHOP. More of the flowing mane was hacked off in a brutal, haphazzard manner. "There, now -- no timid trim or snippy-snip from ol' coach Ken!" the amateur barber cackled. Once the thick long bangs had been aggressively cropped, Ken dismissed his stunned player. "Okay, boy! Out there and score like you've never scored before! Make a few extra points for your ol' coach who cares about you more than you'll ever know!"

Dan smiled weakly, still feeling stunned by the last five minutes of unexpected purgatory. He stared briefly at the chunks of wet cut hair that fell to the floor as he stood and then pushed his wet hair back, away from his face, nervously. "You betcha, coach!" he cried as he recomposed himself and hustled out the door.

And, Dan did not disappoint! He scored his first goal on the very first play -- less than two minutes into the the game on a stolen ball coupled with a fast break forward! The crowds went wild! Dan raced past his bench and called out, "That was for you, Coach Ken!" and flashed his signature double thumbs up.

Ken beamed with pride -- and also secretly felt giddy to see Dan looking ridiculous (like Prince Valiant with the shorn off bangs half way up his forehead and the longish bob the hung towards his shoulders, contrasting awkwardly). Thoughout the whole game, Dan was at the very top of his game. Not only scoring frequently, but also setting his teammates up to score and share in the glory. The crowning game of Dan's career was one for the record books, with a 10-2 routing of their arch-rivals. Everyone was in total jubilation at the end of the match; Dan led the players in hoisting Coach Ken up on their shoulders and carting him past the wild fans in an improptu victory parade celebration.

After all the emotion was over and the fans had left the playing field, Ken returned to his office to finalize grades. It was hard for him to concentrate, though, with the recent memories of his grabbing Dan by his shimmering mane and thrusting it under the fawcet....then, cruelly hacking off the long, copious bangs his team captain was obviously so fond of.... There couldn't have been a better ending for the star player (and for his cruel and coniving coach!). Ken felt pleased with himself for mustering up the courage to tackle that golden mane he was so jealous of.

Just then, Ken heard his office door creaking open. "Excuse me...." cooed the soft, familiar voice. It was Dan! Ken whirled about. There he stood, all clean and dressed with an immaculately pressed polo shirt that revealed every ridge and contour of his finely toned, muscular torso. His silken blond hair was fluffy and long -- except for the bangs that were cruelly truncated and combed straight down in the most award manner. "Oh, Dan....come in," said Ken, almost embarrassed at seeing the strange haircut he'd inflicted on his star player.

"I hope I'm not disturbing....but I just wanted to say 'thank you' for letting me play. That was a thrilling game....the best of my whole career," said Dan.

"You're a spectacular player. I think you set a record scoring six goals in one game, Dan!" remarked the coach.

"Well, it's all thanks to you and your guidance, coaching and friendship. I'm going to miss this place...." Dan paused awkwardly, before adding softly, "....and you." Both men remained frozen and silent for a bit.

"And my amateur haircuts?!" Ken asked, trying to break up the sentimental, awkward tone with a wisecrack.

Dan fondled his truncated bangs. "Especially the haircuts!" he said as he walked over to a mirror that hung on the wall and took another look at himself. "Geez! This is really goofy....hey, but I deserved it. I should have paid attention to you." Dan cleared his throat a bit and paused before launching into a confession, "The fact was, I did blow you off, Coach, and I'm sorry. So sorry. I had remembered what you said about my hair getting too long, but just decided to ignore you. I had kind of decided to let my hair grow really long -- I mean past my shoulders! -- after I graduated. Several girls have told me they think ponytails on men are super sexy. Figured it might be my only chance before I locked into a sort of professional job where such a mane of hair was frowned on. That's why I've been looking so shaggy of late."

Ponytails on men! The idea disgusted Ken thoroughly. Sissy, not sexy!

Then Dan turned and smiled broadly at the coach, "Are you sure we have to wait till tomorrow for our trip to your barbershop?! You can't imagine how much ribbing I had to put up with in the shower room looking like this! And, I can't exactly show up for commencement with this botch job haircut."

Ken had forgotten all about the second part to his requirement to play in the soccer match. For some reason, he imagined that after the game was over, Dan would disappear. Without the threat of benching him, Ken couldn't impose the trip to the barbershop as he had with the brutal fringe-ectomy. And, had he been Dan, the last thing he'd have wanted was to entrust his floppy, pampered bowlcut into the hands of an old fashioned barber! But here was the lad, all eager to go without delay for stage two of his makeover from moptop to.....!

Ken stood to his feet quickly. "Come here," he said smilling.

Dan complied. He reached over quickly and tussled the lad's thick, golden hair -- then he clamped a bear hug around him. "I'm going to miss you too," he whispered in Dan's ear. Neither wanted to break the embrace. Finally, Ken said softly, "Well, if we're going to get you under the barber's cape today, we need to go now -- the shop will be closing soon. I've got to warn you, though -- it's not some fancy unisex salon! My barber's a real geezer -- the old-school, no-nonsense type! Old Ralph must be at least 70 years old."

Strangely, Dan seemed almost giddy in the car. "I've never been driven to a real barbershop before, Coach!"

"Oh, then you're in for a treat!" said the driver, eyeing the copious mane from the corner of his glance. He stopped at a light and faced his passenger. Then he reached into the blond mane at the nape and fondled it gently. "A new experience....a real barber with a huge set of electric hair clippers -- eager to tackle this." Ken fondled and smoothed down the thick padding of silken hair. "And, he won't take very kindly to this moptop of yours! Adjusting to a no-nonsense haircut might take a bit of getting used to, Dan...."

Dan swivelled his head and looked at the coach nervously. "Hey, easy now. Remember, the graduation ceremony is tomorrow! I want people to recognize me, you know!' he exclaimed, half-joking, half-serious.

"Once you're under the cape, with your chin pressed down to your chest and you're feeling the clippers being plowed straight up the back by Barber Ralph, you'll be on cloud 9!" the coach purred. He stepped on the gas the car surged ahead as the locks danced -- oblivious to the fact they were quickly approaching the end of their pampered existence. From their exalted position as Dan's crowning glory to the floor of old Ralph's barbershop! How the mighty locks would tumble and fall....stripped off and trampled under the soles of Ralph's uncaring, unforgiving shoes! Then dumped into a trash can...

"Your new look will be a little something to remember ol' Coach Ken by each morning as you gaze into your mirror. Instead of this huge helmet of hair you've been cultivating for as long as I've known you, you'll see Coach Ken's favorite haircut," noted the coach.

"If I'd known that you intended a radical 'big chop' for me we might not have won that game, Coach Ken. I'd probably have opted for the bench and kept my mod moptop," Dan said nervously. Then he pried a bit more, "So I'm going to walk down the aisle at graduation with a boring businessman's haircut, just like yours?"

"Oh, no. You'll have a very unique look -- a haircut I've only fantasized about for myself but never quite had the balls to get. And in a few years..." he pawed at his whispy, thinning locks "....it'll be a haircut that'll be off limits to me forever."

After a silent pause, Ken continued, "You know, for the last four years, I've watched that flowing mane of yours whipping down the field. Tons of blond hair flopping this way and that. In a way, your shimmering locks were a great marker -- easy to spot near the top of the goalie's area for the others to pass you the ball and you to score. And on those high passes that you headed in with precision, the thick padding of hair was a great asset. Oh, you looked like Thor or some Scandinavian god on the pitch....quite remarkable. But, all that preening about after the game, ensuring every lock was in place as you primped before facing your adoring fans -- well, I always found that a bit distasteful, Dan. I'd secretly watch you prance about in front of the mirror, admiring yourself. The fact is, you've always been quite in love with your carefully arranged moptop, haven't you? In a very self-absord, sissy-boy way!"

Dan swallowed. He fidgeted and hung his head. The golden tresses tumbled foreward. "Yes, you're right coach. You're probably the only one who has been able to see through my 'Mr. Nice Guy' persona and recognize the proud jerk I really am. I work so hard at projecting this friendly, humble, nice guy image. I actually detest the pompous self I know exists deep within me! When you grabbed me by the hair and yanked my head under the faucet, I realized you understood who I was -- the proud, selfish guy I really am. And as you chopped away my treasured bangs, I felt relieved that someone else knew the secret me. That brutal chop was liberating. My farce had been revealed and punished. I felt free -- it fueled my goal-scoring frenzy." Dan beamed, remembering his triumph on the pitch.

Then he continued, "And, to be truthful, what you've been saying about the barber...how he'll deal with me...it's a bit terrifying, but I can't wait to feel my head shoved down to my chest and passively endure the punishing metal teeth slicing this all off...my treaured hair falling to the cape right before my eyes. Oh, yes, that's the punishment I deserve! And you care about me as a person enough to ensure that it's properly administered."

Ken turned the corner and announced, "No one around like old Ralph to administer the punishment! There's the barbershop. I dare say, you'll walk out of there transformed! And, vastly improved by the discipline that only a set of fast-feed electric hair clippers plowing through a pretty boy's moptop can bring about!" He pulled into an empty space right in front of the hair cutting establishment.

Dan eyed the shop with an anxious look. "So, I'll emerge shorn and humbled?" Dan flipped down the visor and peered nervously in the mirror, one last time, watching the sunlight dance off his golden locks.

"Truly humble -- the same nice guy that everyone believes you to be, but one whose heart matches his demeanor....and whose hair...well, radically different than this!" he said grasping the copious locks and yanking them just enough to hurt a bit. "Okay, now, into the shop! And no whining or fidgeting when you're in the chair!! Is that understood?" Ken barked.

"Yes, sir!" Dan replied.

"Once my boy's been caped up nice and tight and I've given Ralph the instruction, you will sit submissively and cooperate with the barber!" Ken said as he grabbed Dan's arm and guided him towards the shop.

Dan felt nervous as Ken propelled him firmly forward toward his fate.

The duo barged into an empty establishment, save the old barber who sat off to the side reading a newspaper. The tinkling bell chained to the door announced he had another head or two to shear. Ralph looked up, satsified to see that at least one of the two fellows was in desperate need of his services. "Hello there, Ken," he said. "This isn't your normal day....in fact, you don't look at all ready for a haircut. Weren't you just here last Saturday?"

"I'm not here for a haircut, but Dan here -- a soccer player on my team -- definitely is. It's his big day tomorrow, graduation. And I've decided to make sure he starts out on his new journey in life with a decent haircut," the coach explained.

"That's fatherly of you, Ken." Ralph noted warmly and then glared at the youth's mop of hair. "Very well, take a seat there, young man" he snapped, pointing to the chair nearest the huge plate glass window.

Dan stood frozen, suddenly paralyzed by the reality that one of the large machines that dangled from the formica counter would be employed by the stern looking oldster to scalp him. He glanced nervously at his image in the huge mirror that covered the wall above the counter where the haircutting instruments were on display.

"He must not be hearing well with all that hair muffling what you say -- like a set of thick winter ear muffs!" the coach smirked. Then, he turned his attention fo the lad, "Dan, the barber told you to take a seat!" Ken snapped sharply. Apologetically, Ken explained, "Dan here has never been to a real barbershop before, Ralph."

"Well, it doesn't take a college graduate to figure it out," quipped the barber. "That's the chair -- now, sit down!"

Dan's face reddened; the ridicule moved him quickly to comply with the old man's instruction.

As Ralph cast the solid white, billowing cape about the lad's athletic neck, the grumpy barber noted, "This is the strangest haircut I've seen. What happened, did your forelock get caught in some heavy duty shredding machine?" The two older men laughed.

"No, Ralph. I had to chop off the mange myself -- in the locker room. Imagine it -- long and heavy and past his eys. Poor boy could hardly see straight. But, that was just a stop-gap measure for the game. I brought him to the best professional I know to finish the job." Ralph cracked a grin and basked in the praise.

Then he swiveled the chair to face away from the mirror. Ken loved watching the horrified face of his one-time confident soccer star. The barber tried to drag a comb through a heavy shank of hair but was frustrated by the density. "Don't bother with that," suggested Ken. "Those are what you need to deal with that thatch," he said, pointing to a large set of Oster clippers.

"So, what'll he get?" the barber asked the coach.

"To start his new life, my boy Dan here needs a level head. Are you catching my drift?" said the coach with a sly wink.

Ralph winked back and snapped the Osters to life. The large machine purred as its naked steel teeth chattered hungrily in front of Dan's petrified eyes. Then the barber clamped a heavy hand onto of the blond lad's head and shoved it down. "I certainly am!" he proclaimed as he drove the clippers with one firm but graceful swipe up through the nape and pulled off a mamoth hunk of shiny blond hair. The deft hand flicked the huge hairy wad like a clump of hay being flung by a pitchfork. Ken watched with satisfaction as the shorn, shimmering shank fell to Ralph's feet.

The result was amazing! Ken smiled as he surveyed the very tight taper Ralph had created in the midst of the flowing locks with that one movement. It was shorn down to zero about a quarter of the way up the nape and then sculpted into a perfect wedge with the longest part near the cowlick under a half inch in length. The contast with the uncut part was augmented by the virgin white skin at the nape and up the scalp where the hair had been reduced to stubble.

Ralph kept Dan's head firmly clamped down with his chin to his chest as he began to pontificate and rail against "today's youth". The hand that held the clippers waved wildly in the air as the old barber spewed out his favorite rant. The worthless, indolent, disrespectful, lazy, spoiled, arrogant youngsters. And their piercings and tattoos and drugs and horrible music. They needed discipline.

All the time, Dan sat still as a mouse, forced into the uncomfortable position with his head bowed low. Ken's hands gripped the arms of the chair under the cape until his knuckles matched the soft cloth that shrouded them. He zoned out in the middle of the barber's long sermon, asking himself why he'd ever submitted to the barbershop haircut.

A good 10 minutes later, the barber wound up his pet peeve, declaring, "In the good ole days, back in the 1950's when I first started cutting hair, there was none of this! Boys were cleancut and behaved!"

"So, take my boy Dan here, back to that vintage 1950's look, Ralph!" urged Ken, eager to see more of the thick glossy locks fall.

The grouchy barber complied, and a second swipe with the clippers was delivered. Ralph asked the coach, "Is this how you want his back?"

Ken marveled at the way the moptop had been stripped so effortlessly up the back of the subdued head. Even though the taper was extremely short, Ken decided to twist the knife a bit more into Dan's wounded psych. "I think you could taper it tighter -- stubble mid way up the back and blending into a quarter inch, perhaps, to the crown. But the top somewhat longer. I love to see a deep pile flattop on a handsome young man," murmured Ken.

From under the mass of blond hair that hovered above the pristine white cape, Dan squealed, "A flattop?! Oh.....coach....."

"Quiet, boy!" ordered the barber. "If you whine too much, you won't get a sucker out of that jar on the counter that's reserved for the obedient, good little tykes!"

Ken laughed. "I've always admired the flattop! And I can't wait to see Dan shorn -- his top as flat as a graduation cap!"

"Oh, yes, very thick hair like this is perfect for a long, copious top!" remarked the barber as he clipped Dan tighter and higher up the back towards a more scalped look.

"A young stud with a blond flattop is tops!" remarked Ken, looking at himself in the mirror and surpressing a bit of resentment that his whispy brown hair was not ideally suited for the flattop look he craved. A thin, mousy brown businesscut. Ugh!

The barber gave Dan some relief and released his grip a bit. As the jock started to sit up a bit, the barber grasped him by the head again and cocked it firmly to the side. "Off with the ear muff!" he proclaimed as the stripped the hair from the tip of his long sideburn tightly up through the temple.

Dan watched out of the corner of his eye in fear and amazement as the machine sailed up the side of his head. He saw blond clumps glide down in the wake of the clippers. When he was able to, he peaked down and saw the first huge clumps of shorn hair resting in his lap. The cape had been soiled!

Ralph quickly cleaned up both sides, flicking clump after clump of shiney blond hair into Dan's lap. Ken chuckled at the thought of Dan having to face his friends with a freshly clipped flattop!

"How's it looking, Coach?" asked Dan, finally able to overcome the queasy churning in his stomach and the dry throat that constrained him.

"Better than that mop you came in here with," the barber snapped, answering out of turn.

Then he snagged Dan's bangs with a comb, lifted them from his head and quickly ran the clippers across the plastic teeth. The clacking sound was followed by a mass of hair falling in front of Dan's eyes. The truncated stubs that were left stuck straight up from the scalp.

"Why not turn him around and face the mirror so that he can see how his makeover's coming along?" Ken suggested.

"No, I want to finish my work and show the final product. The problem with pretty boys is that they have a tendency to pout that 'it's too short' or whatever if they watch me work. That's why I face 'em away from the mirror. I'm a professional, and the barber knows best!" he said with an air of finality.

Lift and buzz, lift and buzz, lift and buzz. Ralph was quick as lightening as he tackled the overgrown top.

Then Ralph fell silent as he began the sensitive, all-important task of carving the flattop down the top of Dan's head. The caped lad squirmed uneasily. "Hold still!" the barber barked. "Or perhaps you want to end up with a landing strip....."

The mention of a landing strip caused a chill to run down Ken's back. While he loved flattops, his marked preference was for the deep pile ones with a very long, plush top. The military types with landing tops sort of terrified him. And horseshoes....well, they were the meanest of the mean. No -- pretty boy Dan would have a soft plush flattop, the type Ken wouldn't mind stroking and enjoying.

"What do you say, Ken? Should I give the boy here a landing strip?" the barber asked after he'd gotten the rough contour of the longish flattop cut."

Ken stood up and walked over to the chair. "I don't know." Then he took the liberty of stroking the soft pelt on top and moving his hand down toward the stubbled nape. The subdued boy sat submissively. "This length is more what I had in mind for Dan. Why not finish him off and then let Dan be the one to decide if he wants a more military-like look. A landing strip can be overly macho and too rugged for a pretty boy like Dan!" The two men laughed at the comment which called into question Dan's sexuality. The caped lad blushed with embarassment -- being a muscular sports jock, he'd always considered himself manly. But now, with the two men who were deciding his new look totally in control, he felt emasculated and sissy.

The final touches took almost as long as the first half of the haircut in which the bulk of the long hair was removed. Ralph was ever so careful to get everything just right and the top ramrod straight. Finally, his work was finished. The old geezer whirled the chair around with a flourish.

"There you are!" Ralph announced, with a satsified air of one who had taken a floppy moptop and shorn it down to clipped, rigid perfection.

Dan gasped in disbelief. "Oh, my! I can't believe this." His eyes shifted nervously from the haircut to the cape ladened with shorn hair. "My hair..." he said mournfully.

"It's just a matter of getting used to it," said Ken dismissively. "If I had hair like yours, Dan, this is exactly the cut I would get. Unfortunately, my hair's too thin and lacking in body for a proper flat," he sighed.

"Oh, no it's not!" pronounced the barber, almost pouncing on Ken's comment and taking both clients by surprise. "You want a flattop, Ken? I'll give you one -- right now!"

"Go for it, Coach!" the cape lad cried out. "We can sport twin flattops at graduation tomorrow!"

"But my hair's too whispy," Ken pouted.

Ralph pulled off Dan's cape carefully and dumped the vast amount of shorn hair to the floor. It looked like freshly mowed straw in small haystacks around the huge chrome base of the chair.

Dan bounded up from the chair -- free at last! His newfound freedom made him spring off the fancy metal footrest with a renew energy. Then he drew up close to the mirror and examined the details of his new flattop. He could not stop touching the stubbled back and fuzzy top. Both sensations pleased him immensely. As the shock wore off, he smiled warmly and then broadly. Never in a million years did he think he'd actual sport a 1950's flattop, much less like the way it looked on him!

Meanwhile, the barber was busy sweeping up the vestiges of his copious moptop from around the chair. It took four overflowing dustpans full of shorn hair to clear the floor. Ken watched with total fascination and excitment as he saw the confirmation of Dan's scalping being casually discarded by the authoritarian barber. He was so glad he had gambled on ensnaring the former moptop stud and dragging him down to Ralph's for a severe shearing!

But Ken's glee was suddenly terminated. "Ok, your turn in the chair, Ken," the barber ordered, snapping the cape to dislodge a shorn lock that had remained wedged in the cracks of the large throne-like chair.

Dan piled on. "You know, I really like this new look, Coach. And you will too. Now be a good boy and take a seat! Remember, you'll get a lollipop if you keep from whining!" Then the jock emitted a mean chuckle as he moved in close and physically herded Ken towards the chair.

"But what will my colleagues say...." protested Ken who was suddenly on the defensive and helplessly allowing himself to be corralled towards the barber chair.

"That you look extremely manly with a flattop. Cape him up, Ralph! Time to put an end to this mousy business cut!" Dan chirped as Ken sunk submissively into the soft vinyl padded seat. Anxiety was etched across his face as the barber happily snapped open a clean cape.

Ralph cast the cape and fastened it extra tight. Ken gulped, as if he was being asphixiated by the restrictive cape. Then the barber dropped a real bomb shell. "I should mention that since your hair is thinner, Ken, the flattop will have to be considerably shorter than Dan's there."

"What?!" stammered the caped coach.

"No whining, remember!" reminded the jock who did not attempt to hide how much he was enjoying the sudden reversal of fortunes. "Old Coach Ken who's been frozen in time with his little boring business cut ever since anyone can remember....." purred Dan, who began to carress the caped coach's whispy strands. "Yes, a very, very short flattop will give you a new image. Ralph, you mentioned a landing strip...." The caped man jolted. Oh, how the shorn jock enjoyed seeing his coach squirm!

"That's a given with thin hair like Ken's," the barber remarked flatly. Then he turned and flashed Dan a furtive wink. In an instant, he drove the clippers straight towards Ken's coif and pulled off a top hunk of brown hair that left a shaved patch the size of a dill pickle slice. He flicked the clippers so that the soft brown clump wafted down in front of Ken's disbelieving eyes onto the snowy white cape.

Dan piped in with another suggestion. "I've always been fascinated by war flicks that feature mean drill sergeants breaking in the new recruits."

Ralph picked up on the theme, "You mean the type with lather shaved heads except for a slight horseshoe of hair around the rim?"

"Exactly! They look so mean with those scary horseshoes," yelped Dan. "In fact, Coach here....."

A panic look spread across Ken's face, "Oh, please, not a...."

"Shoe him!" ordered Dan. "No one is going to mess around with Coach Ken or his horseshoe!"

In an instant, Ralph had the balding clippers taking off 95% of Ken's hair, with the stunned coach bowing quite lowly towards the cape for better access. He seemed to enjoy giving the second haircut even more than he had the first. All those years listening to Ken give his monthly instruction of "just a trim".....ended with one swipe of the clippers!

Ken gripped the arms of the chair and sat submissively, watching with a sick stomach as his brown hair slowly soiled the entire front of the cape. The old geezer was happy to clip him near bald in silence -- usually, Ken ran his mouth about every boring detail of the latest soccer game his team had played even though old Ralph had absolutely no interest in the subject.

"Will you lather shave him?" inquired Dan.

"You bet!" replied the barber. And he did so with gusto! Virtually the whole head was shaved clean, except for the thin horseshoe rim of hair. The warm towels made the fresh scalp feel supple and absolutely shiney.

At the end of his ordeal, Ken was too shaken to even react. Dan had to pay for both haircuts, as well as to lead him out to the car and assume the role as the driver. Poor Coach Ken sat totally frozen and silent. Enduring the humiliation of a near total headshave at the command of the cocky jock was devastating.

Dan's mirth withered away as he saw his coach unable to cope with the surprise of an unwanted horseshoe. "Hey, Coach," he said softly as he patted the man's leg, "If you want, I'll get a horseshoe too -- to match yours."

Ken looked up at him and was able to speak for the first time. "No, Dan, just promise me you'll keep that exact haircut you have now -- you're so handsome. I just wished I looked as good as you do now with that fantastic, deep-pile flattop"

"I will -- every two weeks, I'll visit Ralph's and have him tidy me up," said the driver. The two rode on for a bit in silence. "I was wondering, Coach....do you need a volunteer assistant coach next year?"

"Someone I can groom to be my successor?" the shoed man asked. "I'd love to have one....only if he's flattoped just like you, Dan!"

Dan stroked Ken's freshly shaved scalp which felt soft and silken. "Will you come with me every two weeks to Ralph's? Such a sweet, delicate shoe," he cooed as he traced his finger around the scant line of hair at the crown of Ken's head. "You look so good like this." Ken blushed as Dan continued speaking, "Perhaps we should take our wannabe soccer players down to Ralph's and have them shoed like this at the start of soccer camp next week? A new induction rite that'll become a cherished college tradition...."

Ken smiled weakily, "You bet! I heard we're to get an exchange student from Argentina who's interested in trying out for the team; the packet the International Students department sent me includes a photo of him in action on the field with a mass of dark black hair down to his shoulder blades!"

"Nothing Ralph's powerful balding clippers can't make short work of...." quipped Dan. "And, if you don't mind me saying this, I think you're very handsome and macho shoed like this, Ken.....can I call you that, Coach?"

"Once you've graduated and we're peers, you can do a lot more than call me Ken!" the coach said with a twinkle in his eye. "I'm glad you like the shoe -- it'll be a keeper, for your sake."

"Same here," replied Dan as he ran his hand across the soft, flat pile that sprang from the top of his head. "Once our whole soccer team's been shorn by Ralph, let's adopt the motto - 'our flats are tops'!" The two smiled on rode on in silence, content with each other's presence and feeling they were each the luckiest man alive.

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