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Three Brothers and A Father Part I by Just_Me
This is the first story I’ve written in over a year, and it may sound slightly familiar. Sean Barnet recently posted a story called Dad gets a Haircut, and it was the inspiration for this story. I loved the story, and as I read it, I began to wonder how the brothers interacted--and to think of other scenarios that could’ve happened (Admittedly, this story is unlikely, but it could’ve happened.) I wanted to focus on the boys’ relationships and reactions, so I took the story in a different direction than Sean had. In addition, I realize there are elements in here of other stories I’ve posted, but hopefully I’ve been able to present them in a fresh way.
(Sean, thanks for helping me break my writer’s block).
I want to tell ya’ll a story about something that happened in my family.
Before I get started, let me say that my older brother, Kevin, tells a version of this story, but it doesn’t match much of what the other three who were involved in this story remember. We often joke that Kevin’s story is about 50% fantasy, 25% outright lies and 25% true.
I pick on Kevin all the time, telling him he changed the story because it was the first time in his life that he wasn’t the golden boy. You see, he’d always been the best at everything, and a leader in everything he did. My brother and I have always struggled to live up to the standards he set. He had almost perfect grades, excelled in sports, was always the most popular person in his class, etc...and he was definitely the leader among us boys--at least until this incident happened.
Anyway, it was 1976, and I was fourteen. The first Saturday morning of January Dad left without saying where he was going. It really irked me that he didn’t ask if I wanted to go with him. I guess I was spoiled, because he normally took one of us boys (or all of us) when he went somewhere on Saturday mornings.
A little while later I heard Dad come home, and went running to the kitchen to see where he’d been (Yes, I’ve always been the nosy type). I got there just in time to hear him say, "What do you think, Theresa?"
I rounded the corner, and stopped dead in my tracks. The man standing there sounded like my father, but he sure didn’t look like Dad. The man talking to Mom had a short haircut--a really short haircut. It was much shorter than Dad’s hair had ever been. Seeing him was a shock! My first thought was, "Thank God I didn’t go with him this morning, or I might’ve wound up with a weird looking haircut like his!"
I was completely disgusted with the way he looked, but couldn’t stop looking at him. The feathered hair that had covered his ears and gone down to his shoulders was gone, and his ears looked huge. There was no hair hanging off his collar. To make matters worse, the hair around his ears and on the back of his head was nothing more than bristles, and white scalp showed through his dark hair. His long, thick sideburns had been cut off at the top of his ears, leaving a long white stripe on both sides of his face. The hair on the top of his head still seemed to be fairly long, but it had an old-fashioned greasy look, instead of the modern dry look I was used to. In addition, his hair was parted on the side, instead of the middle. His hair looked weird!
To make matters worse, most of his once great moustache was gone, and he looked repulsive to me without it. You see, Dad had always had this great biker ‘stache that he was really proud of. He often bragged about being the first person he knew to grow such a ‘stache. (I couldn’t wait to grow up, so I could have one just like it. Multiple times a day I would look to see if my moustache was starting to grow, and counted every hair as they slowly came in.) There was just a small pyramid of hair right above his lips left of Dad’s incredible, droopy, horseshoe-shaped moustache.
I wondered if I would’ve recognized him if I had seen him on the street. He didn’t look like my father at all.
After looking at Dad for a minute I thought, "Well, at least it’s not a short back and sides."
I knew what a short back and side looked like because the year before Matthew Carter, a boy I went to school with, had been forced to get one. He had skipped school, and his father found out about it. Mr. Carter forced his son into a barbershop the next morning for a severe haircut and then literally dragged his son into school.
I remember Matthew’s screams of outrage. He was so angry, and I thought his anger was justified. Even if he’d been wrong to skip school, he didn’t deserve to be humiliated like that. I had really felt sorry for him though. People started making fun of the severe haircut as soon as he was dragged into the building...and they not only made fun of his haircut, they made fun of him. Someone yelled, "Hey, dumbass, you’d still have your hair if you hadn’t been stupid enough to get caught. Only real losers get caught for skipping."
Someone else yelled, "Hey, someone turn out the lights. Matthew’s head has enough shine for us to see by."
I also heard, "Hey, Matthew. Why did your dad bring you to school? He should’ve dropped you off at the old folks home. You’d fit in there, and you’ll never fit in here with that stupid-looking haircut."
He endured taunts, sloppy salutes as if he was in the military, head rubs and a lot of viciousness that morning. One person even said, "Hey Matthew, I’d die before I’d be seen in public like that. Why don’t you do us all a favor and kill yourself, so we won’t have to see your ugly head?" Even one of the teachers joined in, saying, "Did you get in a fight with a lawn mower, Matthew?". I was reminded of a bunch of vicious hyenas gnawing on a downed antelope.
Anyway, Matthew disappeared at lunch, and everyone just assumed he was skipping school again. Later in the day they found him in the bathroom. He had stolen a screwdriver from a handyman and gouged out a vein in his wrist. Rumor had it that he put his wrist in the nasty toilet water, and they guessed it was to make certain his blood didn’t clot. They found him too late. He was dead.
Back to my story. I couldn’t help but stare at Dad, even though he had always taught us to NEVER stare. He was pretty easy going, but he had a strong sense of right and wrong, and wasn’t afraid to give us a hard time for not behaving properly. I thought for a second, and then figured out how to ask him what caused him to make such an immense change.
"Wow, Dad! That’s a pretty radical haircut. What happened? Every time someone at school gets a short haircut they say their father made them get it cut, they lost a bet, got gum in their hair or the barber made a mistake. Did something like that happen to you?"
I breathed a sigh of relief when Dad laughed. He ran his hand up the back of his neck, and I was surprised that it made a sound. "No, son. No parents’ orders. No gum. No mistakes. No bets." He laughed again. "I guess I’m too old to say your grandfather made me get a haircut, but I might decide to use one of those stories." He paused. "You know I start a new job Monday. Well, Mr. Rizzo is my new boss and he’s kinda old-fashioned. He likes short hair. One of the conditions of me getting the job was that I had to have a ‘decent’ haircut. Mr. Rizzo recommended a barber, and I foolishly went there this morning. I told the barber I wanted a haircut that would please Mr. Rizzo. The old coot of a barber said I wouldn’t like a haircut that would make Mr. Rizzo happy, but that he’d give something short enough that Mr. Rizzo would be satisfied." He pointed at his head, and gave a rueful smile. "Evidently this is what it takes to satisfy him."
That information shocked me. "Can a boss really make you get a haircut? That doesn’t seem right!"
"Son, as long as he pays me, he can pretty much dictate how I look and act at work."
"That stinks! I think you should be able to wear your hair like you want to!"
"I can’t say I disagree with you, but the only way around it is to find another job, and he’s paying me a lot more than anyone else would. I’ll deal with the short hair." He grimaced. "Heck, maybe I’ll even learn to like it." After a short pause he said, "I might learn to like it, but I think the devil will go ice skating before that happens."
He ran his hand up his neck again, and laughed. "Well, at least I’ll like it on Fridays, when I go to the bank and cash my check."
Mom came over, and ran her hand up his neck, like Dad had just done--and once again I was amazed that it made a sound. She made a strange moaning sound. "Wow! I like it. That feels good!" She stepped back and looked at dad. "I think it looks good on you too. It makes your pretty eyes really show up."
A look I didn’t understand passed over Dad’s face, right before Mom planted a long kiss on Dad. As she was walking away, she said, "I’m not sure about the moustache though. I’ll tell you what I think about that tonight."
My brothers, Kevin and Brent came into the kitchen about then. They didn’t say anything, but the looks on their faces asked lots of questions. They stared at Dad, and Dad stared back.
Dad broke the silence. "Obviously you’ve noticed my haircut. What do you think?"
Kevin spoke up. "It’s gnarly, dude." Then he looked at me, "Hey, Chad. Let’s go outside." We fell down laughing as soon as we were out of Dad’s eyesight.
"Did you see Dad? My god, he looks like an old man. I won’t be going anywhere with him any time soon!"
"Nah. He looks like he’s in the army. Do we have to salute him now?"
"You’re right. He looks just like that picture of Grandpa when he was in the army. Grandma will think she’s seeing a ghost when she sees Dad!"
"I can’t believe Dad got his hair cut like that willingly! I’ll never cut my hair just for a stupid job, much less put that shiny stuff on my hair!"
Kevin (who thought he knew everything) said, "That shiny stuff is probably Brylcreem. Old geezers seem to like it."
"I don’t care what it is, it looks stupid to me!"
By Sunday afternoon, I was kinda used to seeing Dad with his short hair. It didn’t seem as strange, and I was actually beginning to like it. Let me rephrase that, it didn’t seem strange except when Mom walked by him. They’d never been particularly "touchy, feely". They didn’t touch much, except when Mom kissed Dad bye. Now it seemed she was always running her fingers up the back of my father's head.
Things settled down, and I rarely even thought about Dad’s haircut...until he came home a few weeks later with another haircut. I thought he had lost his mind.
"Hey, Dad. Did your boss make you get another haircut?"
"No, son. Surprisingly enough, I got it on my own--well--maybe with a little help from your mother. This morning she complained because my hair didn’t feel ‘bristly’. I looked in the mirror, and realized I looked a little shaggy. I didn’t like the way I looked, so I stopped by the barber shop on my way home."
He ran his hand up his neck, and I heard the raspy sound again. Something about that sound made me feel strange--and for the first time I wondered what I would look like with short hair, and what it would be like to hear that sound.
He looked at me, "Honestly, I thought I’d never go to a barbershop again after that last cut. I’ve even thought about trying to find another job, so I could grow my hair back out." He laughed.
"Let me tell you, seeing myself after my last haircut was a real surprise, but I think I’m learning to like it. Being different from everyone else is nice."
For days after that I couldn’t get the phrase "Being different from everyone else is nice" out of my head. It was like a broken record, just playing over and over in my head. I even heard it in my dreams. Then I started having the same dream, over and over, about going to the barbershop. I’d never been to a barber before, but I knew what they looked like because of the barbershop on The Andy Griffith Show.
In my dream, I would be walking by a barbershop, glance in the window, where I would see smoke coming out of that long footrest on the barber chair. Somehow the footrest started moving, and growing...finally turning into something that looked like a dragon. The footrest dragon would burst out of the shop in a cloud of smoke and trip me with its long tongue as I was walking by. My heart always started racing when the dragon grabbed my coat in its teeth. Then it would slowly drag me into the shop (slithering like a snake) and place me in the chair. The barber would say, "What’ll it be today?"
I would answer, "Being different from everyone else is nice."
I always woke up at that point.
Dad getting his haircut every two weeks became the norm, and I didn’t think about it much any more. It was just the way things were--except on the days I had my barbershop dream. Eventually the dream changed, and Dad and I would come out of the shop with a matching haircut.
I started mentally criticizing men I’d pass who had long hair. I’d often think, "He’d look so much better if he’d get a haircut like Dad’s". Soon I started looking for men with shorter hair. Sometimes days, or even weeks, would pass without me seeing anything shorter than what I now know is a businessman’s cut. It was frustrating. The few times I saw someone with a flattop made me think I’d hit the jackpot, and it was really hard not to stare. I always wondered what the hair felt like on top, where it was so flat.
Sometime in early March I noticed Dad missed his trip to the barbershop, and it really started bothering me. He just looked so shabby. One night he was watching TV with me, and I couldn’t watch the show. I kept looking at the fuzz that was growing on his neck, and the hair that was beginning to touch his ear. I wondered if he was letting his hair grow again. Finally I couldn’t stand it any more. "I have a question, Dad."
He looked up. "What’s going on, son?"
"It’s Wednesday, and you were supposed to get a haircut on Saturday. Are you letting it grow out again?"
"I didn’t realize you knew I was on a schedule, but to answer your question, I’ve thought about it. I just haven’t decided yet. Why did you ask? Do you want me to keep it short?"
I got embarrassed then. Dad said, "It’s OK. You can say whatever you’re thinking."
"Um...I don’t know. I guess you look strange to me. I’m not used to you having long hair any more."
"Would it bother you if I let it grow out some?"
"Um...maybe. You just don’t look like Dad any more." Then I blurted out. "I like having a Dad who’s willing to be different!"
He laughed. "Out of the mouth of babes, huh?" Then he laughed again. "I never imagined my boys would be urging me back into the barber shop, especially after the way you stared when I first got my hair cut." He thought for a second. "I guess you’re right. Long hair is no longer the look for me. I’ll get it cut as soon as I can."
I breathed a sigh of relief. I was glad to know I was going to be getting "my" father back.