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Father Ignatius Knows Best by Manny
This is Part 1 of a multi-part story.
"I don't blame young Jacob," Father Ignatius said as he leaned back in his leather chair behind the large mahogany desk in the headmaster's office of St. Philip's Academy. "Of course, I don't excuse any of Jacob's actions which have compelled me to expel him from this institution."
"And, that's exactly why I am here, Father," Mr. Kirk interjected, pleading his case.
As a prominent attorney, Mr. Kirk had a lot of experience in defending hopeless causes.
Looking every bit the attorney, in his tailored suit and executive hair style, Mr. Kirk began to argue semantics. "If you read the school handbook carefully, you will see that on page 27 the definition of what constitutes reason for expulsion...."
"This is not a court room, Mr. Kirk! There is no jury here. And the idea of blaming the handbook is outrageous! I wrote it myself." The Jesuit priest glared at the chastened Mr. Kirk.
Mr. Kirk quickly switched tactics. "It's just that Jake loves St. Philip's. It's really his home. My wife and I feel so strongly that his expulsion will cause irreparable harm in his social, emotion and spiritual development."
The priest raised one eyebrow. "Perhaps his spiritual development would improve if you and your family attended church regularly. When was the last time you were at mass, Mr. Kirk?"
"My wife is Catholic, but I was raised Unitarian," Mr. Kirk explained.
"Oh, my," the priest sighed, as if another piece of the puzzle regarding Jacob's delinquency had fallen into place.
"Please, one last chance," Mr. Kirk almost begged.
Father Ignatius pushed a piece of paper and pen across the desk, "In the past seven days, list the amount of time each day in which you spent in quality, one-on-one activities with your son."
Mr. Kirk stared at the sheet blankly. He made a few aborted attempts to write something down. Then, he switched back to his attack mode. "I am here trying to get my son from being expelled! Isn't that enough?! I hope you are not suggesting I am to blame...."
There was a pause.
The priest calmly said, "That is exactly what I suspect. So, where did your extra time go last week?"
"An overnight business trip to Chicago, stayed late working on a few important cases, golf with my buddies on Saturday, working out at the gym, a little me time to relax with my hobby, date night with my wife -- you must approve of that!" Mr. Kirk said, hoping to score a few points.
"But, young Jacob, left alone, scrolling the internet, scheming with his friends to do some dangerous TikTok challenge in the school lavatory, staring through that awful mop of hair that constantly hangs across his face, playing videogames online that are all about killing?"
"So, he's really out?" Mr. Kirk said, defeated, his head lowered.
Then, Mr. Kirk looked up, and in a moment of humility, and acknowledged, "You're right, Father Ignatius, I have failed my son. I really need to get my priorities in order."
The priest smiled. "Would you like some help in doing that? I'm willing to give Jacob one last chance. I've found that working with parents, especially fathers, is the best way to get troubled lads firmly onto the right path, the narrow Christian path, if you will."
"Oh, thank you, Father! He will be as good as gold. Well, let's say 'as good as silver' so that I don't over-promise!" Mr. Kirk gushed.
"I will lay out a schedule for your week. What I expect of you after you leave the office precisely at 5 p.m., as well as on the weekends. Just spending quality one-on-one time with Jacob will make a huge impact. I know that for a fact! All of those antics and negative attention-seeking behavior are cries for you to see him for who he is and what he needs: a loving, firm Father. Just like our Father in Heaven!"
Father Ignatius took back the paper and pen and began writing a few things down.
"Jane, my wife, will be so grateful for this. She told me not to come home if the decision to expel was upheld," Mr. Kirk commented lightly while the priest wrote.
"On this schedule, I'm including three times each week during which you and I will interact. Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 7-8 pm here in my office and Sundays when I see the whole family sitting together at mass in the front pew. So, get to church early!"
"What will happen during the Tuesday and Thursday sessions?" Mr. Kirk asked.
Father Ignatius turned around to the bookcase behind him and pulled a book off the shelf. Then he slid it across the desk to Mr. Kirk. "First, we'll review the catechism questions I've assigned to you. You'll recite them by heart and we'll discuss their meanings."
Mr. Kirk gulped. "A whole hour doing that?"
"No. After the catechism drill, we'll go over the time you spent with Jacob and how it went. What transpired? Shooting hoops in the driveway? A movie? Constructing a model airplane together? Help with his homework? Saying the rosary with him before bed? I hope I have a lot of things to praise you for," the priest intoned solemnly.
Mr. Kirk stared blankly, trying to imagine that sort of a day.
"But if I don't get a good report..." The tone of the priest's voice was edgy, ominous.
Father Ignatius opened a desk drawer and pulled out a wooden paddle. He laid it on the desk.
Mr. Kirk was dumbfounded! His eyes opened wide as saucers.
"Surely you are not suggesting...." Mr. Kirk gasped.
"I certainly am!" the priest said with a glimmer of glee in his voice. "Corporal punishment was phased out of St. Philip's decades ago. But, what happens between two consenting adults is another matter."
"You would spank me if I didn't spend enough time with my son?" Mr. Kirk asked with a shocked, horrified tone.
"I most certainly will! I will have no problem pulling down your pants, leaning you right over this desk, and delivering a few deserved smacks to your posterior. In fact, you won't be leaving here this evening until you've had some 'hands on' experience. Let's say, it's to atone or cover for you past neglect of your son," the priest snapped.
Mr. Kirk rose quickly. He would not submit to such humiliation at the hand of Father Ignatius! "This is unheard of in the 21st century! Where are we? In medieval Spain with the Inquisition in full force -- cradle of your abusive Jesuits?"
"Enough!" the priest snapped, rising from his chair, his tall frame well above Mr. Kirk's. His flowing black cossack gave him an even more imposing presence, like a dreadful judge reading out a very severe sentence.
"I'm escorting you out, Mr. Kirk. We will stop by Jacob's locker to retrieve his things. Have fun explaining this to your wife!" Father Ignatius fumed.
The mention of his wife was like a bucket of cold water over his head.
Mr. Kirk quickly resumed his supplicant role. "I'm so sorry, Father! I apologize for those awful remarks. Jesuits have done so much good...places like St. Philip's. No, if it's for Jacob, I will endure the spanking."
"Off with your jacket and tie. Lose these little trappings of power and authority! The penitent must be completely humble, contrite, and brokenhearted," Father Ignatius ordered. Mr. Kirk complied.
"Will it hurt?" Mr. Kirk whimpered.
"Enough to make a point, but not leave any lasting mark. I have some skill in that matter," the priest said in an almost bragging way. "Now drop your pants!"
As Mr. Kirk complied, Father Ignatius cleared his desktop. He felt so totally vulnerable, standing there with his pants around his ankles, sporting nothing but a pair of white briefs.
Father Ignatius guided the attorney into position and forcefully leaned him over the massive mahogany desk. "Arms and hands on top of the desk!" he snapped.
Then the priest's fingers plunged into Mr. Kirk's thick executive hairstyle. It was as if he was measuring the length of the copious locks as his fingers lingered in the silken mane. Mr. Kirk remained still and submissive
"Nice, thick, shiny hair runs in the family," Father Ignatius noted. "And your first father-son outing tomorrow morning will be to the barber shop. You two will leave sporting matching baldy cuts! All of this pretty hair, this pompous salon style is going to be buzzed off, down to the wood," the priest smirked. "Relaxing and then abolishing the hair code for boys here at St. Philip's did such damage."
"I can't...." Mr. Kirk stammered in his prostrate, penitent position.
"Silent!" the priest snapped as he pulled down Mr. Kirk's underpants.
Mr. Kirk suppressed an "ouch"!
"You'll become an engaged and caring father, won't you, Mr. Kirk?" the priest asked.
"Yes, Father Ignatius, I will do everything I can to make amends," Mr. Kirk replied.
The last smack with the paddle was the hardest and left two burning hot lines across both of Mr. Kirk's shapely cheeks.
"Oh, please," the cowed and contrite attorney pleaded.
With Mr. Kirk still laying over the desk, Father Ignatius turned his attention back to Mr. Kirk's lovely hair. He gloated as he caressed the pampered locks. "By the time you reach your car, the sting of the paddle will be a memory. But when my barber clips all this down to a tight butch tomorrow morning, you'll have a daily reminder in the mirror of you awful lapse and also of my expectations for you. Is that clear?"
"Yes, but..." Mr. Kirk tried to protest.
"But, nothing! And when I'm with you and Jacob in the barber shop, I want you setting a good example for your son. You'll be first in the chair. Submissive, cooperative, pleasant, respectful to the barber. No whining or pleading as this well-tended power helmet is stripped off, understood?"
"Understood," Mr. Kirk whimpered.
"I think you're beginning to understand my plan for you, as well as the positive impact it will make on Jacob. Now, pull up your pants and get dressed," Father Ignatius instructed.
Mr. Kirk felt relieved that the spanking was over -- especially once he was fully dressed again. Strangely, as he watched Father Ignatius, the priest seemed more like an ally than an adversary.
Father Ignatius finished writing the schedule out for Mr. Kirk to follow.
Saturday: you cook breakfast for the family and lead off in a blessing (everyone sitting around the table together), time in the backyard with Jacob helping him improve his golfing game, reviewing homework with Jacob, father-son lunch at McDonald's. 1:00 pm sharp - meet in front of Dave's Barber shop. Haircuts! Afternoon golfing with Jacob. Family Dinner. Evening free. Rosary and catechism recitation with Jacob. Lights out.
Mr. Kirk stared at the schedule. His hand nervously smoothed down his thick glossy chestnut-colored hair with lovely fiery auburn highlights. A butch cut at the barber shop! He would be the laughing stalk at the office. But he dared not complain. Maybe Father Ignatius was right....perhaps Jacob had been neglected. He stared at the paddle. And, perhaps the spanking was just what he needed.
"Thank you so much, Father Ignatius. We will be there tomorrow at 1 pm. Dave's Barber Shop -- over on West Walnut Street?"
"Exactly! Dave is a handsome young handsome barber who is quite aggressive with the clippers, and also a very active member in the parish. I am praying that he will one day join the ministry. Young Jacob will do much better in school without that shoulder-length mop! Hiding under all that hair, unable to see the smart board in the front of the class. Being mistaken for a girl in the boys' bathroom. Really!" the priest exclaimed.
"Thank you so much, Father Ignatius," Mr. Kirk said, breaking into a smile. "I'm not sure how Jacob is going to take it....the baldy cut....but having me get one too will certainly help him through the transformation."
Father Ignatius smiled. Yes, Mr. Kirk was making rapid progress.
"Well, you convinced me," the priest said. "Instead of a baldy, Jacob will receive a tidy short back 'n sides, with a side part and angled bangs. I would like to see it slicked into place with Brylcream, but I'm not sure that product is made any more."
"And me?" Mr. Kirk asked hopefully, hoping to be spared the humiliation of a baldy.
"A butch! #2 all over. You still have a lot to learn," the priest said firmly. "Including the first 10 pages in the catechism book by Tuesday. Your wife can help, I'm sure. She grew up in this parish, if I'm not mistaken. Mixed marriages...relaxed dress codes....sanctuaries stripped of the wonderful images of saints. That's when everything started falling apart..." Father Ignatius murmured, shaking his head regretfully.
He put his arm around Mr. Kirk and walked him out of his office and out of the school, all the way to his car. Mr. Kirk basked in the warmth of their proximity. Father Ignatius was growing on him as a father-figure, even though they were in approximately the same age demographic. Discipline coupled with care was such a wonderful combination Mr. Kirk thought.
"See you at 1 p.m. tomorrow. Dave's Barber Shop," Mr. Kirk chirped, in an almost upbeat mood, seemingly eager to please the priest.
"If you apply yourself, you may be ready to take your first communion by Easter," the priest replied, cheerfully.
Mr. Kirk held up the catechism book. "Got to work this into my daily schedule. You can be sure I will make it a priority!"
Precisely at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Father Ignatius arrived at Dave's Barber Shop just as Mr. Kirk and Jacob were getting out of their Cadillac sedan.
"Good to see you again, Father," Mr. Kirk said warmly, extending his hand. "I almost didn't recognize you without your cassock on!"
"Hello, Mr. Kirk, Jacob. I see you are ready for a round of golf — such nice shirts, is that the crest of your country club?" the priest asked.
Jacob seemed a bit sullen, avoiding the priest's gaze and nervously flicking his hair about.
"How was your morning, Jacob?" Father Ignatius asked.
Suddenly, the lad smiled, "Awesome! Dad made pancakes for everyone!! I couldn't wait to dive right in!"
"After your father said a quick prayer of thanks, I hope," Father Ignatius remarked, raising his brow to express a bit of concern and doubt.
"I tried," Mr. Kirk apologized, "But Jake was gulping the food down before I could even take a seat. Jane loved being served, though," Mr. Kirk said, trying to salvage the situation as best he could.
"So, time for haircuts!" Father Ignatius said, shifting gears. "You'll leave here looking like a young man, Jacob."
"And, I can't wait for my first baldy cut!" Mr. Kirk chimed in, still trying to recover from the prayer fiasco. "We'll both be leaving here light-headed, Jake. You'll appreciate short hair even more, once we're out on that hot golf course."
"But, we will rent a caddy and a golf cart!" Jacob blurted out.
"Are you asking or telling your father?" Father Ignatius remarked in a disapproving tone.
The priest led the way into the shop. He clapped his eyes on the handsome barber, looking like a Greek god in his tailored tunic and muscular arms bulging from the short sleeves. Dave’s military length regulation cut had just been tightened up.
"Father Ignatius!" the barber greeted his priest. "This isn't your usual day."
"I've brought two fellows from the parish who need your services as much as they need mine!" Father Ignatius said.
"Excuse me. So sorry," Barber Dave said. "I will just be two minutes in back -- haven't had a bite to eat all morning. Don't want to swoon when I'm addressing junior's hair, there. That's quite some length!"
"Take your time. And while you're in back, I'll get Mr. Kirk caped up and ready for you! And, don't worry, the generous tip he leaves will be all yours," the priest said in a joking tone.
Mr. Kirk took a seat in the barber chair, and Father Ignatius quite enjoyed fastening the tissue around his neck and securing the cape into place. Of course, he took the opportunity to fondle and caress Mr. Kirk’s glossy locks one last time before he was shorn down to a baldy cut.
Father Ignatius could not wait to see Mr. Kirk stripped of his plush executive coif or to feel the humbled attorney's clipped pelt after the transformation. He took a brush and began running it through Mr. Kirk's marvelous chestnut hair. "Such lovely auburn highlights," Father Ignatius murmured.
Mr. Kirk blushed at the priest's praise. "I do get quite a few compliments about my hair."
"Did you get a good golf session in your back yard this morning, some practice before you hit the links, Jacob?" Father Ignatius asked, turning to the lad.
"No, I played videogames this morning," Jacob mumbled, fiddling with his shoulder-length tresses.
Mr. Kirk's face turned crimson. He'd been caught, again! "I had a pre-scheduled business call -- a big case on the West Coast. It went on far longer than I expected."
"Remember that #2 butch?" Father Ignatius hissed in Mr. Kirk’s ear. "Well, it just got knocked down a notch shorter -- to a #1! I ought to have Dave take you to ZERO, down to the wood! You must not have read those instructions too carefully, about saying grace as a family and not having the kid dive in like a starved maniac!"
Just then, Dave emerged from the back. "Sorry about that! Nice job with the cape, Father. I should hire you on as my assistant!"
"So, what'll it be for you today, sir?" the barber asked Mr. Kirk. "Tidy things up, a bit of a trim, or something shorter?"
Mr. Kirk looked at Father Ignatius who held up one finger.
"My son and I are both ready for big changes. Give me a butch. A #1 all over," Mr. Kirk said firmly, carrying out the sentence himself of his punishment.
Barber Dave's eyes opened wide. "Woah! That will be a huge change! You've got very nice, thick hair. Are you sure you want to go that short all at once? Perhaps go shorter in stages!"
Mr. Kirk gulped. "What do you think, Father?"
This dawdling really ticked off Father Ignatius who jumped to his feet and strode over. "Actually, I think a #0 length would be the best. Let's go all the way -- take him down to the wood, Dave!"
Barber Dave stood frozen momentarily. "To the wood?" he asked Mr. Kirk.
Mr. Kirk gulped, "Yep, to the wood. Father knows best."
"Very well, to the wood." Barber Dave snapped on the clippers as he snagged Mr. Kirk’s forelock with a comb, lifting it up. In a flash, he brought the clippers up past Mr. Kirk’s fearful eyes and drove them straight into his glossy chestnut-colored hair.
Mr. Kirk clutched the arms of the chair underneath the cape as he watched the first beautiful lock fall. While he had been prepared to mourn the loss of his stylish mane, Mr. Kirk found himself suddenly relishing the brutal divestiture. His eyes were riveted in amazement as Barber Dave’s clippers chewed off his thick shiny hair right at the scalp.
Barber Dave pushed the clippers slowly but surely through the thick chestnut locks, sending them down to the white cape in sheaves. The bald strip left behind exhibited a faint trace of stubble. Mr. Kirk felt energized by his new visual, a starkly bald head, that was taking shape.
"Oh, that’s the perfect length for me," he murmured.
"You have such a nice hair," barber Dave noted. "But, it’s good to shake things up now and then. Bald can be very sexy on a virile man like you, Mr. Kirk."
The sexy barber had just called him sexy! He eyed the muscular Dave and wondered whether the barber and priest had something going on.
Dave finished shaving all the long hair off the top of Mr. Kirk’s head. Then he pushed his client’s head forward and came up thru the nape with his powerful clippers.
"What do you do for a living, Mr. Kirk?" the barber casually chatted. Mounds of the glossy chestnut-colored hair with fiery auburn highlights fell to the barber’s feet. A strip of virgin white scalp peppered with stubble took its place up the back of Mr. Kirk’s bowed head.
"I’m an attorney," Mr. Kirk replied staring down at the collection of hair that had accumulated in his lap.
"Quite a change you’ve asked for, hair-wise," the barber noted. "Attorneys usually have quite conservative haircuts."
"I’m really here to give moral support to my son, who desperately needs a haircut," Mr. Kirk replied.
"Will he be getting a baldy like you too?" Barber Dave asked.
"No, a short back and sides. Side part, angled bangs and slicked over," Mr. Kirk said firmly.
"I don’t know why parents let their boys grow their hair so long," Barber Dave commented, looking at Jacob. "Boys should look like boys, and girls should look like girls!"
Father Ignatius commented from the waiting area, "That’s exactly what I think! When I first met Jacob Kirk, I had the urge to hand him a little tartan skirt to wear to school!"
Barber Dave laughed uproariously at the thought, and poor Jacob blushed intensely.
Within minutes, all the length of been stripped off Mr. Kirk’s head. Barber Dave let him sit up and look at himself intently for the first time. He gently ran his hand over the stubble. "What do you think?"
Mr. Kirk gulped. He was bald! No hair at all to speak of! All his wonderful locks, strewn about the cape and at the barber’s feet.
"Wow, it’s all gone," he murmured.
"But, you have such a perfect head shape," the barber noted. "I think the bald look is perfect for you. Of course you had great hair…"
Barber Dave seized a huge fist full of cut hair from Mr. Kirk’s lap and displayed it. He had fun playfully taunting the newly balded client.
With some lather and a straight edge razor he cleaned Mr. Kirk’s neck and carved out some arches around his ears.
Then barber Dave announced, "The new you!" He held up a mirror to show the back of Mr. Kirk’s bald head.
Strangely, Mr. Kirk felt absolutely great about his makeover. "Looks great!" he chirped. The bald look suited him. He imagined walking into work on Monday, setting off a trail of gasps as he strutted down the hall with a shaved head.
Off came the cape.
Mr. Kirk was eager to feel his stubble. He took a seat next to Father Ignatius in the waiting area and whispered in his ear, "Thank you so much. I owe you!"
Father Ignatius reached over and ran his hand over Mr. Kirk’s head. He savored the feel of stubble against his fingertips and imagined that on Tuesday evening he would have plenty of opportunity to stroke the stubbled pate. Mr. Kirk, sitting submissively in the chair, reciting his catechism, while Father Ignatius rubbed his hands over the baldy he had imposed.
Both men were surprised to see Jacob trotting over to the barber chair, without even being told.
The lad took a seat, and announced, "Please cut my hair just like you cut my father’s!"
Mr. Kirk beamed with pride and glanced at Father Ignatius. How he admired the priest for so quickly turning around a deteriorating situation with Jake! For the first time, he noticed Father Ignatius was actually quite handsome.
Barber Dave cast the cape and secured it around the tissue padding. He pulled out Jacob's long locks before fastening the metal clip in place and brushing through the shoulder length locks. The barber commented that they were both the color and texture of his father’s.
Barber Dave looked at Mr. Kirk, as if needing some permission to start Jacob’s transformation from longhair to baldy.
"Just like my son requested!" Mr. Kirk announced.
While the lad’s long hair was shaved off, Father Ignatius began quizzing Mr. Kirk on the catechism. "What does the First Article of the Creed: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, teach us?"
Mr. Kirk flashed a very broad smile and replied confidently, "The First Article of the Creed teaches us that there is one God, and only one; that He is omnipotent and has created heaven and earth and all things contained in them, that is to say, the whole Universe."
"Oh, my! Mary, Joseph and Jesus! You’ve been studying!" the priest exclaimed, putting his arm around Mr. Kirk's shoulder and giving him a quick hug. "Bless you!"
Mr. Kirk smiled broadly. "I am trying as hard as I can to be a good father and to follow all the sound instruction you've given me, Father Ignatius. I do hope I’m ready for my first communion at Easter. Why don’t you come to the golf course with us after we finish here. Look at Jacob! I hardly recognize him without that awful long hair!!"
"I've never golfed in my life, Mr. Kirk!" the priest remarked.
"Then I will be your teacher, Father!" Mr. Kirk exclaimed, with a twinkle in his eye. "And please call me Rob!" He rubbed the bristled pate and smiled broadly. "What's best? The way this looks or the way this feels?"