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Milton Turns the Table on Albert by Manny

Milton was a little nervous as he brushed his hair getting himself ready to attend his 15th class reunion from high school. Even though he'd gotten the invitations regularly, it was the first one he had RSVPed to. While he'd always been mildly curious about what had happened to some of his classmates after graduation and what they looked like now, there was one name on the list of confirmations that had pushed him to attend: Albert Pasko. That name brought back many memories -- some good, some not so much.

Milton admired himself in the mirror and thought he looked pretty good for a 30something year old. In fact, he looked much better now than he had as a scrawny high school senior. Being a late bloomer and one of the youngest in his class, Milton had never caught anyone's attention. Furthermore, his strict father had kept him looking ridiculous with scalped haircuts and heavy plastic rimmed glasses. The year he graduated was 1982, but he looked like he was still caught in the 1950s!

College had changed everything. Apart from a growth spurt, his new roommate had been a fitness freak and had coached Milton on weights. He developed an excellent physique that he'd kept to that day. He ditched the glasses for a set of enhanced blue contact lenses and he let his hair grow....long! The soft brown waves were his crowning glory. And even at age 32, they were plush and shiney and full of body as he brushed and admired them in the mirror.

In fact, he almost looked as handsome as Albert Pasko had in high school -- the stud-like "big man on campus" whose blond mane of perfectly feathered hair and emerald green eyes got him easily elected as the homecoming king their big year. Matt recalled the classes where he'd sat right behind Albert, admiring his thick locks that lapped down liberally past the base of his collar. They were everything Milton desired for himself, but whose father had denied. "I won't have any girlish boys under my roof!" he snapped.

Yes, thanks to his stern father, Milton remained stuck with an old-fashioned schoolboy's short taper -- brutally scalped up the back by a butcher-barber friend of his father's. Oh, how he'd emerge feeling emasculated and insecure everytime his father would drop him off at the shop and watch him walk in to ensure that the severe haircut was administer. One he was securely caped up, his father would drive away. That meant that after the humiliation, Milton would have to walk the two miles home alone with everyone smirking and staring at his scalped haircut, including angled bangs that made him look like an 8-year old.

In contrast, Albert had his own convertible and zipped about like a playboy. He was everyone's envy -- especially Milton's -- as he zoomed out of the parking lot with his gorgous blond mane flowing in the wind.

Once on his long tredge home from the barbershop, Albert's car had slowed down and stopped. The driver looked at him with a mixture of sympathy and amusement. Milton thought he was being offered a ride, but as he reached for the door handle, Albert mocked him and said he'd only stopped to get a better view of the poor kid's new haircut! "Whose your barber?! I need to avoid him so I don't get that dorky look of yours!" he said with a laugh. Milton was left to trudge on home totally humiliated and embarrassed, eating the dust that the speeding convertible kicked up in his face. But instead of hating and despising Albert, Milton found himself craving more than ever the BMOC's approval and friendship.

Milton picked up the booklet that had been mailed to him by the 15th anniversary reunion organizing committee and flipped to the page with Albert's senior portrait on it. He looked every bit the king! His soft blond hair was perfectly feathered. Even though the photo was in black and white, Milton could still clearly envision the deep green eye color that sparkled from the page.

He glanced at himself again in the mirror. In just one hour, Albert would see the new and improved Milton. He was no longer the scalped, scrawny kid eating dust on the side of the road. Milton was a junior corporate executive and looked like an Zegna model to boot!

The hotel ballroom was a buzz of people. Small groups of people chatted and strutted around -- especially the girls, who tried to look like they hadn't aged a day since graduation. They were dressed in outfits that were hardly age appropriate and largely ill fitting -- most of them had put on weight from child birth and other factors. Beer bellies afflicted many of the fellows as well, particularly the former jocks. All the heavy drinking after games had taken its toll.

And then Milton spotted Albert Pasko sitting at a table by himself nursing a beer! If it had not been for those huge green eyes and the name tag, he would have been unrecognizable!! Fifty pounds overweight and bald -- like an old man with a severe case of male-pattern baldness. The little fringe around the sides was trimmed fairly close, but the gray clearly had taken a lead over the dark blond that remained as an endangered species.

"Albert Pasko!" Milton cried out. "It's been ages since we sat through Mr. Major's physics class together.... Are you still driving that convertible of yours? What was it, a muscle-car Mustang?"

Albert's eyes smiled a bit, being reminded of his glory days -- but the rest of his face, head and body showed very little animation or cheer. He did seemed pleased for company at the table. The two men fell into a long conversation that began with Albert telling Milton, "You look great! I would never have recognized you!" The last thought was not far from Milton's own mind. But, Albert looked awful!

After chatting about a variety of things, Milton could not help but bring the conversation around to the demise of Albert's beautiful mane. Although he felt very guilty about it, Milton felt a surge of triumph as he forced Albert to talk about what obviously was a painful chapter in his life. But, to be fair, had Albert cared at all about how Milton felt when he mocked him on the side of the road and sped away? No, he had not!

Furthermore, the most embarrassing moment of Milton's high school years came on school grounds -- and it had also been instigated by cocky Albert . It was just after Milton had gotten a burr cut as a punishment for mouthing off to his aunt. On that occasion, his father had marched him into the shop in person and instructed to the barber to take everything off -- a "butch" he had called it, "to make him learn his place." When Milton walked into school with his baldy look, Albert had shouted down the busy hall, "Look! Milton got run over by his father's lawn mower?" Everyone screamed with laughter.

But dear Albert wasn't displaying any cockiness at the reunion. With determination, Milton probed into the demise of the mane he had so much envied, "I remember sitting behind you in class, English literature, I think, and admiring your hair," Milton began. "It was always so nice and shiney and cut just the way I wanted my hair to be....but, now, it's....."

Albert squirmed a bit in his chair and unconsciously touched his bald pate, "I think losing my hair prematurely was the beginning of my big decline." He spoke without emotion. "I think I had just turned 21 when I noticed it was thinning a bit at the hairline. At first I was in denial, but would check it multiple times a day. Fortunately, the center-part style with the long floppy, feathered bangs disguised it at first. That's when I decided to let my hair grow long -- like down past my collar. You know, I'd always been quite proud and vain when it came to my hair."

"It was your crowning glory....I always thought you looked just like that heart throb, Sean Cassidy!" murmured Milton.

"You and all the girls at Central High! You know, I was dating Becky Swanson at graduation and things were moving along towards marriage. Remember her? Father was a corporate giant and they lived in a palace-type house. It was set that I would be taken on as a junior executive in their family company after the wedding. But, our relationship wasn't really that solid. She liked me because I was the BMOC and I liked....well, let's just say, my tastes were quite different. One afternoon her old man and I were talking, and he said that I should get a decent haircut before the engagement was officially announced in the newspaper. I sort of exploded and said he didn't 'own me' and I would be in charge of my own looks. He replied that I could be in charge of my own job and also foot the bill of the wedding.... And within a week the engagement was off."

"Wow, but you dodged the bullet. Nothing can beat running your own life and being yourself," said Milton sympathetically.

"But I didn't dodge the hair-loss bullet. The stress caused my hair to start coming out at an alarming rate. I'd wake up in the morning and count the strands on my pillow....until the wad of hair that came off during the night became too copious. My scalp started becoming visible near the part, and the inlets at my temple were actually quite large. Just casually, though, the only person that really noticed it was me."

"But you couldn't get it off your mind...." Milton noted.

"No, and that bothered me. I would tell myself, "it's just hair!" Why did I care so much?" Albert asked himself.

"Well, hair matters....it did to me when I looked ridiculous in high school without enough of it," said Milton softly.

"And look at you now! Your hair is absolutely gorgeous! Who would have thought it back then? Remember that time you got a burr haircut at the beginning of our junior year? Oh, how we mocked you behind your back!"

"And to my face too," said Milton sadly.

"And now I'm an ugly egg head!" replied Albert.

"Hey, no you're not! You're a neat guy. Hair really doesn't matter...." said Milton trying to sound upbeat.

"Well, that may be, but it was no comfort to me back in my moment of crisis. I started trying all sorts of concoctions to stem the hair loss or even reverse it! This was in the days before Rogaine. Finally, I ended up scraping together $1000 to pay a quack for what was supposed to be my best chance. He had lots of glossy literature with testimonials. It would start with a daily application of liquid vitamins and a hand massage. I couldn't tell much of a difference. A week into it, I started expressing my doubts about the treatment. Then came the punch line. The quack said the vitamin treatment would be more effective if I shaved my head and then he massaged the gel directly into the naked scalp. The hair strands were absorbing too much of the regenerating power and not enough was getting to the roots were it was needed. My hair was to my shoulders -- thick in back and thinning on top, but still overall, with a very cool trendy look. And the quack wanted me bald!"

"You know, you might find this strange, Albert, but I think your bald head looks sexy! The MPB is manly...." Milton said with a convincing tone.

"Oh, come on! You're just being nice. There you sit with that nice helmet of dense hair that you can brush and style each day. Look in my eye and tell me that you don't enjoy the show in front of your mirror each morning as your brush your locks and admire yourself!" he said with a biting edge of bitterness.

"So what did you tell the quack?" Milton said quickly, feeling too hypocritical to answer.

"I got home that night and sat for what much have been an hour in front of my mirror, brushing my hair and playing with it....and then pulling out clumps of hair from the brush. My mind was made up. I would submit to the head shave! That was such a long night, laying with my head on the pillow and the long silken hair brushing my face. I felt so lonely."

"I wish I could've been a comfort to you...." murmured Milton.

Albert eyed his friend's plush mane, "Oh, you still could be a comfort to me, you know...." Then he continued with his story, "The quack cackled when I told him that I would submit to the head shave. Told me I would look very sweet and innocent without my playboy hair. But instead of shaving me himself, he directed me to a barbershop nearby. I'd never been in one before in my life!"

"Was it the one near the high school?" asked Milton.

"The very one! With two old geezers who looked older than the huge vintage chairs and formica counter they worked from. Oh how the two chuckled when I walked in. The husky one told me the beauty salon was on the next block. The skinny one pointed to a chart and said those were the only cuts they gave. I told them I wanted all my hair shaved off, and the skinny guy pointed to the chair. I felt so humiliated sitting in the chair as he caped me up and mocked me, congratulating me for finally wanting to look like a man. What I wanted was to keep my long, luxuriant hair! And then he took the clippers to me and I watched helplessly as he stripped away the mane I'd always flaunted and pampered. All I could do was struggle to keep my composure as I fingered the cut chunks on the cape. I felt so humiliated!"

"That's exactly how I felt every time I was in that wretched barbershop as a vulnerable, scrawny high schooler. And then I would eye your plush, beautiful locks and feel worse," said Milton.

"Are you happy I'm bald now?" asked Albert flatly.

"I told you, I thought you looked sexy," he said defensively.

"No, just answer me. Are you glad I'm bald? That I lost my hair?!" he insisted.

Milton hung his head. "Yes...I was glad when I first saw you. I laughed to myself when I saw your egg head." Then he hastily added, "And that was wrong. But I couldn't help it."

"I would like to take a clippers to your head, Milton! See, I'm not ashamed to admit it. I'm jealous that you still have hair. Meanwhile, I'm bald and look like a 50-year old man." The two sat for a moment in the awkward silence after they admitted their secret thoughts to the other.

"We shouldn't have started talking about your hair. Obviously, you're upset." protested Milton. "Let's talk about happier times. Even though we weren't such good friends in high school, I've missed you."

"No, I want to tell you my whole story. It's a sort of therapy," he said, again gently patting and stroking his egg head. "I walked out of that barbershop feeling horrible. In fact, I felt so bad I didn't even go back to the quack. Having it all taken off in one swoop was better than death by a thousand cuts -- each morning examining the pillow case and surveying the decline of my once-proud mane strand by strand. I was reconciled to the fact i would be as bald as my Uncle Henry. It was in the genes. The quack was just a quack who ripped me off of $1000. But seeing myself shorn bald pushed me over the edge. I started over-eating and put on 50 pounds. I never got a professional job and worked in hamburger joints. I had to sell my convertible and started taking the bus. I'm a loser! I lost my hair and I lost my pride and I lost my future."

"That is nonsense!" snapped Milton. His fingers surreptiously inched up into the plush locks that tumbled down from his nape. They felt so gloriously soft and silken. His heart beat quickly as he looked on Alber with compassion. His MPB looked strangely sexy! "I am going to prove to you that losing your hair is not the end of the world....."

"How?" asked Albert.

Milton ran his fingers through his abundant mane, pushing back his heavy forelock. "This.....the clippers.....the old geezer barbers.....you're going to take me there and order this all stripped off!"

Albert smiled a bit. "You're a sweety," he said looking at the fellow he had tormented in high school but who was now trying to cheer him up. Then his smile spread widely across his whole face and his eyes sparkled like stars! "And I'm going to one-up your very kind offer! I'm staying at the hotel and have a set of clippers upstairs -- use them daily in place of a brush. I will be your barber and I'm going to laugh at you as I fashion my bedsheet into a huge white cape!! Let's go, Milty! Haircut time! Time to put your mane where your mouth is!!"

Immediately, Milton popped to his feet. "I'm game. Let's go! You're going to have a blast taking me down to the wood! Maybe you can craft an MPB look with shaving cream and a razor just like your's so we can be twins, Al!"

Albert laughed as he stood, "Come on, buddy!" He clapped his arm around Milton's shoulder and in the process fingered the dense helmet of hair. How it brought back memories....

Then, without warning, Albert completely reversed the momentum. "You're a brave one! A good man! But, let's go to the bar instead! That was really sweet of you to try to cheer me up, but I don't want to shave your head. It won't make me feel any better. In fact, this might sound corny, but hair really is just hair. It's cosmetic. I'm a loser, but it doesn't have to do with my hair loss."

Milton was caught off guard and sort of followed Albert along to the bar in a bit of a daze. He'd been psyched about having his precious hair stripped off -- bald! -- but then Albert shrugged off his incredible, self-sacrificing offer and moved on.... Instead of relief, Milton felt disappointed. The thought of clippers taking off his power helmet of hair had excited him....he had wanted to be humiliated once again by Albert....not treated kindly or with respect. He had wanted to watch helplessly as his precious locks fell to the floor.

At the bar, it was amazing how many of the "single again" girls saddled up to the duo and focused on Milton while ignoring the former stud, Albert. They oh'ed and ah'ed over his physique and youthful looks....and his wonderful mane of glossy hair. They knew he had a great job and could afford the best of everything. Albert quietly slipped away from the bar as the girls blabbed on and on. Milton saw him sneak out of the ballroom a few minutes later. It took Milton a good half hour to break away from his new fan club. By then, he was desperate to find Albert.

Milton made his way into the hotel lobby. As he ambled around the lobby, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Oh, his hair looked divine, shimmering under the lights of the crystal chandelier. The forelock that swooped to the side rested and his dark brow while the wonderful soft waves flowed over his ears and the plush mane at the back hung down and cupped under just above his shoulder. But Milton's mind was fixed on Albert -- bald, fat, sad Albert. He rushed over to the front desk. "I need to deliver something to Albert Pasko. Can you tell me his room number? He's here with the Central High reunion."

The smart looking desk clerk with a shorn head smiled politely. "Sorry, sir, we can't give out room numbers."

"Well, could you tell him that Milton Myers is waiting for him in the lobby?" The clerk agreed. "I'll put the call through." Milton listened on pins and needles as he heard the clerk deliver the message. He studied the college-aged desk clerk carefully -- his head was shorn down to stubble and he looked quite sexy. Very manly. Then he thought of his own mane which was total pretty boy by comparison. He wanted to be freed of it!

The clerk interrupted Milton's thoughts. "Mr. Pasko told me to let you know he's staying in Room 607 and is waiting for you. He said to let you know the machine you were asking about is plugged in and ready to go."

The message hit Milton like a ton of bricks. Oh my! What was he getting into? He strolled in a daze through the lobby and paused at the big mirror. His hair was a trophy -- a personal triumph. How could he let Albert shave him bald....give him that same butch haircut his father had inflicted on him so many years ago to "make him learn his place"?!

Two women from the reunion walked by chatting. Milton overheard one say, "....and that Albert Pasko! Did you see him?! Bald and over weight.... When I saw he was on the list to come and it said he was single, I thought...."

The chatter reminded him of why he too had come. Milton hustled to the elevator and hit the #6 button. All the way up he carressed his soft, long hair. He quickly scurried down the hallway in search of #607 before he had time to feel either of the cold feet he knew most certainly would be hiding in his dress shoes. He rapped quickly on the door and it swung open.

"Albert?" he said, poking his head in the softly lit room. He saw the clippers plugged in and setting on the credenza. Next to them lay a folded white top sheet and right beside the swivel desk chair was ready for him to be seated.

"The barbershop is open, Milton!" came the voice from behind the door.

Milton froze in place. To step through the threshold would seal the fate of his locks.

"Not as easy as you thought it would be, eh?" taunted Albert.

With that, Milton stepped in boldly. He was offering up his hair to cement his friendship....he was nervous, but it was a sacrifice he was prepared to make.

Albert closed the door and snapped on the light. "Why are you here, Milton?"

"When we were in high school, I desperately wanted you to notice me. I wanted to be best friends with the most popular boy on campus," he said earnestly.

"The one with the beautiful long blond hair that sped around in a convertible? The one that taunted the weaklings and mocked them behind their backs?" he asked grasping Milton by his long plush mane and dragging him to the makeshift barber chair. "To be bosom buddies with him?"

"Yes! The very one! The one who would humiliate me and ask if I'd gotten run over by my father's lawn mower when I felt so small and vulnerable...." he confessed as his friend wrapped the sheet around him to secure him as if it were a straightjacket.

Albert swiveled the desk chair toward the mirror which hung over the credenza and forced him to see himself with the white sheet wrapped around his neck and physically subdued. "You weren't made to be the success story. To be powerful and handsome. You were maybe to be submissive and vulnerable....to be on the receiving end of what others dished out to you!" Albert snapped.

"No, I don't think so. But that's the way I was raised....." Milton whimpered.

Then Albert plied his fingers through Milton's hair. "It's been years since I've done this. How I miss the feel of thick, soft, silken hair on a man! Do you know what a bald pate feels like? Do you know what it's like to feel stubble instead of silk? Here! Touch my pathetic ring of fringe and tell me that's what you want!" The domineering amateur barber leaned over and Milton wriggled his hand out from under the sheet to feel the soft skin atop Albert's denuded pate. Then he fondled the whispy fringe.

Albert snatched the clippers and snapped them on. He grabbed Milton's massive forelock and yanked it up to give the clippers access. He brought the screaming teeth right to the hairline. Milton looked on in total horror. Albert's hand stood frozen, ready strike with the vengeance of a king cobra. There was total silence, save for the unrelenting, loud buzzing of the clippers.

After what seemed like a frozen eternity, Milton commanded "Do it!" But, Albert did not budge. Then the caped, subdued lad begged, "Peel it all off, I beg you, please!"

Albert snapped off the machine. "No!"

Milton's face fell. He again felt puny and powerless.

Albert fondled the thick hair and stroked it quietly. Then he took care to smooth it down and arrange it neatly into place. "You'll have to earn your egg head, Milty. And help me in the process." He set down the machine and peeled off his shirt. A dense pelt of fur covered his once athletic chest. Beneath it, a huge stomach protruded. He patted his imaginary baby. "I didn't have any control over losing my hair, but I do have some control over this unwanted addition," he said patting his tummy. "You look muscular and in shape, Milton. Here's my plan.... You have three months to help me lose 50 pounds. And during that time, you'll let your beautiful hair keep growing, plusher and longer than you've ever worn it. If you succeed in helping me drop the beer belly, I'll gladly strip you of all this -- shave off every last strand down to the scalp. Barber's treat will be on me -- total chrome dome!"

The thought and plan energized Milton. He tore off the makeshift cape and stood up authoritatively. "You're on! The very day you've lost your 50th pound, you can give me a makeover -- any maker you wish. I'll be totally at your whim -- hair, clothes, body fur, whatever!" He spied a big bag of chips next to a half six-pack of beers. He snatched them and flung them into the trash. "Oh, you're in for a lot of pain and suffering in my fitness bootcamp, recruit Pasko! And after you've shaved me bald, I'm taking the razor to that hairy chest of yours!"

The two men embraced warmly. "Come on, let's go back to the party in the ballroom," Milton whispered. "I want everyone to see the great Albert Pasko again."

"No, Milty, the only person I'm interested in seeing is right here....let the real party begin!"

Fast forward by six weeks:

Milton was carefully laying out his suit for the big event that evening where he would be honored as IT entrepeneur of the year. "What do you think, Albert? Should I use a bold pattern tie with bright colors to contrast with the dark conservative suit, or should I play it safe with this sleek silver and navy pin-stripe one?" As he held up the two ties, he flicked back the huge forelock that now customarily hung down past his eyes. Milton had just finished the long process of blow-drying his mane, and it glistened in the bedroom light.

Albert, who was emerging from the bathroom, struggled to contain a smile. He survey the mounds of beautiful hair that cascaded down towards Milton's shoulders and his mind flashed back to the hotel scene where he held a screaming clippers to his buddy's heavy forelock. He reflected at how successful Milton was at everything he tackled. Albert had just stepped off the scale in the bathroom and the rubicon had been crossed. His total weight loss now reached 50.1 pounds! Poor little Milton had no idea what was in store for him that afternoon.... Oh, he'd make a splash at the big awards ceremony that evening, but no one would be looking at the tie!!

"Well, how many are going to be at the big to-do this evening, Milty?" Albert asked casually.

"A thousand! Plus the local news. Are you sure you don't want to come?" he asked.

"You know, actually I do. Is it to late to say yes? I've changed my mind. I want to be there to witness your big night in person! And I'm glad you asked for my opinion on what you should wear. But first, I want to show you something in the bathroom that's almost as exciting as your big IT techy award!"

Milton followed Albert into the bathroom and watched him step on the scale. "Gee, you're almost there, Milton. Just another pound to go!"

"That's what you think!" Albert began to slowly disrobe. "Oh, Mr. Milton is finally wrong, for once." Off came the shirt and trousers with the heavy belt buckle. With each step in his strip tease, the scale needle moved closer to the mark and then as he stood in the nude, the scale passed it. Standing on the small box with just his white Fruit of the Loom undies on, Milton pulled in his streamlined tummy and puffed out his furry chest triumphantly.

"You did it, Albert!" his friend exclaimed.

"No, Milton....we did it! All those nights in the gym and you constantly patroling the fridge and nixing all junk food. The only six pack you left me with was this line of muscles rippling right here!" he said, fingering his new physique.

Then Albert continued, "Remember back at the hotel that night, you mentioned something about this chest hair of mine....it was always a comfort to me, my hairy chest, when I started balding."

"I remember eyeing it with envy when we'd be changing after gym class back at Central High," cooed Milton. "That manly pelt with the big gold medallion hanging right in the middle of that well sculpted chest! What a contrast it was to my poor excuse of a chest! I could count the number of hairs on my caved in chest on one hand.....and constantly worried that you and the other tough guys would pin me down one day and pluck them out one by one with a tweezer," remissed Milton.

Albert brushed his thick pelt, "But hairy chests are passe now....and you have the naturally clean look that is so admired. And to make things worse, my chest hair is going gray, so when you shave me smooth, it'll be another welcome change." Then he eyed Milton's long pampered mane and cooed, "Let's not forget your promise either..... Yesterday in the gym you looked so uncomfortable keeping all of this out of your face." He gently caressed his buddy's hair and pushed it back from his face. "You know, I've thought about undertaking a new career for myself....become a barber. You've been after me to study for a steady career. I think I'd like to get a bit of practice to see if it's a good fit for me....cutting hair."

A look of horror clouded over Milton's face. "Oh, Albert....I hope you're not thinking....."

"Oh, I have been thinking a lot, Milton!! Waiting eagerly for this day. And I almost starved myself yesterday so that I could hit my mark just in time.....for your big night!! Oh, and I haven't just been thinking, Milton. I've been collecting things -- for your makeover! He rushed into the bedroom, pulled open a drawer, and took out a pair of thick black plastic framed glasses. "These are yours, from high school days. I found them when I was cleaning out a drawer to use. And these items, I picked up at the Salvation Army -- just for this day!" Albert held up a pair of polyster peg-leg dress pants and a short sleeved white button down shirt. There was a pair of white socks sticking out of a pair of clunky black wing-tip shoes. "Look, this is an outfit that will make your father proud when he sees you on the news tonight receiving your prize! Oh, and this plastic pocket liner that I'll fill up with pens to make you look like a super geek!"

Milton fell to his knees. "No, Albert! I beg you, please. Just one more evening, and then I will submit."

Albert laughed in scorn as he reached down and grabbed Milton by his hair and yanked him to his feet. "Not for all the tea in China....you will be my creation when you walk out onto the stage tonight!" With that he grabbed a pair of shears from the desk.

"No!!!!!" wailed Milton as Albert secured the heavy forelock with one hand and took the shears close to the hairline.

"Barbers have their prey at their mercy! Yes, it'll be a very good career for someone like me!" But, instead of crudely hacking off the "filet mignon" of Milton's pampered mane, Albert held off on his assault momentarily. "These bangs are oh so long and always in your eyes. I want you to see all your admirers when you receive your prize, Milty! You will look the part of a geeky IT tech instead of a confident junior executive!" Milton cowered as Albert fondled the luxuriant tresses before breaking away to fish something else out from his dresser.

Milton could only imagine what Albert had in store for him. The clothes and glasses he'd dug up were a clue that he would be humiliated as never before in front of a vast TV audience.

When Albert turned around again he was holding his set of heavy-duty, fast-feed electric hair clippers. Authoritatively, he herded Milton back into the bathroom and plugged them in. "The barber shop is open!" In his other hand he held a stool. "There will be no squirming in the chair -- do you hear?"

"Yes," Milton said submissively as he took a seat. He reminded himself that he'd been waiting for months to feel the clippers plowing through his long hair and watching it all fall away.

"I didn't tell you to sit down!" Albert barked. He yanked Milton by his hair and dragged him off the stool. "No, I'm first. The clippers are set to zero. My little pathetic rim of fringe is as good as done with. The chrome dome look will go well with my new, sleak body shape! OK, Milty -- take me down to the scalp...."

Milton reached for the machine with a bit of hesitation, but then gathered up some steam as he flicked the device on. The pulsating teeth vibrated in his hands and he assumed a dominant position as he began stripping Albert's fringe off. The whisps of hair collected on his white Fruit of the Loom undies. A few clumps got snagged in the dense pelt that covered Albert's chest. Milton Should put an end to his hairy chest once the head had been clipped clean Milton thought. As he clipped away, he looked up in the bathroom mirror and saw his locks shimmering in their full glory. So much hair! And Albert was totally bald -- like a cue ball!

"Now my chest!" Albert commanded.

Milton clipped a circle around his protruding nipples and then carefully took off the dense mat of fur. Albert was quite handsome again, all cleaned up. His green eyes glimmered. "You look like a real stud....a god-like hunk of a man!" murmured Milton in awe.

"And you look like a patsy! I can't wait to try my hand at barbering. But don't think you're going to end up with a manly chrome dome for your big night tonight..... Oh no! Do I ever have a surprise for you!" The warning took all the wind out of Milton's sails. His knees felt weak and his legs wobbled as he snapped off the clippers. His thoughts turned to the ridiculous outfit Albert had assembled for him.... And what would become of his hair, he wondered?

Albert stood and admired his clean physique in the mirror. "Yes, you've given me purpose and helped turn my life around, Milty." Then he pointed to the stool. "Sit!" he commanded. Milton complied submissvely. His heart beat wildly as Albert began brushing his beautiful flowing mane. "Everyone morning I watched jealously as you dried and styled your hair. When you would flaunt it, I would feel even worse about my little pathetic fringe -- sparse and graying.

"I didn't do it on purpose....try to stir up your jealousy. I promise," argued Milton.

But Albert blew off his protestations and combed the bangs straight down. Then he took the shears and started slowly snipping through the long, dense forelock mid-way between Milton's eyebrows and his hairline. He started well above the right brow and snipped straight across. Mounds of soft, gleaming locks fell to Milton's lap. He was beginning to look like a freakish clown. "Does this bring back memories, Milty? Sitting in the barber's chair getting a haircut you hated?"

"Yes," he whimpered, staring down in disbelief. His beautiful hair lay lifeless in his lap.

The amateur barber paused momentarily. "When I was a young tyke, my parents had an argument about my hair length. My mom was protective of my thick, long blond hair -- but my father complained I looked like a little girl. He wanted to give me a burr haircut like a lot of the other fellows I played with. I was torn between the two options -- hated looking like a girl but afraid of the baldy cut my father proposed."

Albert took a break from his story and opened the closet under the sink. He took out a medium size mixing bowl. "This was their solution!" He placed the bowl on Milton's head. "Did you ever imagine yourself, as a corporate executive, appearing on local TV sporting an authentic bi-level bowlcut?!" Albert let out a heinous cackle as he placed the bowl on Milton's head.

Dread overwhelmed Milton so that he sat frozen, speechless and numb. In the silence all that could be heard was the sound of the shears snipping through dense locks of hair as the scissors slowly began their trip around Milton's trapped head right below the rim of the mixing bowl. Snip. Snip. Snip. Mounds of silken, dry hair fell to his shoulders, lap and the bathroom floor. Milton could not even begin to imagine the humiliation Albert had in store for him.....

Once the outline of the bowlcut had been established, Albert returned the mixing bowl to its place and snapped on the clippers. He began clearing away all the growth beneath the dividing line between clipped and floppy. Milton shivered as the clippers chewed off the locks around his sensitive nape. "Stop squirming!" scolded Albert. He manhandled his poor, trapped prey in the harshest manner, pushing his head this way then that way.

Finally, he let Milton look up. The site was hideously hilarious....like Moe from the 3 Stooges! "What do you think, Milty?! Ready for kindergarten?!"

"My head and hair look like a mushroom cap!" he pouted.

"Go ahead - bounce your head around like you're running about the playground. When you prance out on stage tonight, just think what a splash you'll make! Now go into the room and put on your special outfit. I can't wait to see you with your old glasses.....and those polyster pants ought to really show off the white socks nicely."

Milton complied meekly, slowly taking off his expensive designer label clothes and putting on the Salvation Army rejects. Finally, he was done and he presented himself to Albert. The cruel fashion makeover director laughed at the site before him! "You had been asking my opinion on ties. Those nice trendy silk ties you showed me will never do! But look here -- a special clip-on bow tie! This is your lucky day!" squealed Albert with a mean delight. He took it upon himself to button up the top button of Milton's short-sleaved, white shirt and affix the small plaid bowtie.

"I wish I looked manly like you, Albert," said Milton softly. "Cueball and all."

"Of course you do!" he said fingering his smooth pate. "But aren't you very proud of your silken locks? You're luck to have a dense head of shiny, healthy hair at your age. Well, I admit, you do look very goofy. And I'm not sure your father would approve of such long hair on a boy."

Then Albert switched gears, "As much as I'd like to parade you out there tonight with a bi-level bowlcut, I think it's time for the professionals to take over! There are two very eager barbers near our old high school who will know just how to cut your hair for tonight! Now let's get moving. I can't wait to see all made over, just like in the good old days. Oh, and take off those contacts....I think these glasses will do you just fine -- the lenses certainly look think enough and the frames clunky enough! Look, I've got your high school picture from the reunion nametag with me to show the barbers just how your hair should be cut!"

With that he dragged Milton out to his car for the drive over the the same barber shop he'd gotten scalped at as a kid. It felt like old times -- Albert bullying and humiliating Milton -- and, strangely, it felt good to the subserviant partner. Milton felt fulfilled having Albert lord it over him and make him feel inadequate and vulnerable. He looked at the outdated outfit -- just like the one his father had made him wear to church back in high school. Would he have the courage to wear it out on the stage in front of the TV cameras to collect is award?

Just then the old barber shop came into view. Albert stopped the car in front of the door. "Good, I see at least one of the geezers is available. Are you looking foward to your haircut, Milty?"

"Anything is better than this bi-level bowlcut -- even the severe schoolboy cut I had in high school!" he responded.

Albert grasped this this silken mushroom cap of hair that Milton sported it and fondled it. "I wish I still had beautiful hair like this, Milton. I remember being the king of the hill back in high school with my way-in blond locks, parted in the middle and feathered back over the ears."

"Are you going to take my into the shop and instruct the barber?" asked Milton.

"Oh, shall I play the role of the the domineering father? Who makes sure the barber scalps you very high and tight up the back?! Thins out those floppy bangs and angles them at a 45 degree slant? Yes, I'd like that very much," replied Albert.

Milton's eyes brightened. "Why not me ask for just a trim and then you step in and demand a brutal scalping?" suggested Milton.

"You're a real sweety! That sounds like fun. You go on in and get the ball rolling, and I'll barge in a few minutes from now and light a fire under that barber to give you a humiliatingly short crop," Albert said with a laugh.

Milton eagerly entered the barbershop. He froze momentarily as he saw the image of himself with the goofy bi-level bowlcut in the mirror and the dorky bowtie. Anything had to be better than that!

The barber eyed him suspiciously and asked, "Can I help you with something young man?"

"Yes, I need to get my bowlcut trimmed a bit," he said flipping his thick wedge of shiny hair about as he plopped into the chair.

The barber fastened a cape about him and commented, "I didn't realize bowlcuts were back in style for grown men." He yanked a comb through the dense thatch and began trimming the bangs to well above the mid-way point of the forehead. Then he went to work on the back and sides. "Shall I give you a bit of an undercut?" he asked. "That way the bowlcut will taper a little better and not flair out so awkwardly, like you were one of the Three Stooges!"

"Yes, but only if you take off very little. I just want a very slight trim!" said Milton. "I have an important date tonight, and I want to look my best."

The barber worked meticulously all around the bowl of hair, carefully using his clippers to administer an undercut by taking the shorn swath higher up the sides of Milton's head. Then he took the thinning shears to the bangs and began reducing the bulk significantly. Being in his old barbershop brought back a lot of memories....the hated high school haircuts that left him looking like a dork in the sea of grovvy looking cats.

Milton started to get nervous, though, as the barber finished trimming up his bowlcut and there was no sign of Albert. A bit of panick struck him. Perhaps Albert had changed his mind and would make him receive his prize on TV with that goofy bowlcut!! Just the idea, sent a shiver down his spine. His humiliation would be more dreadfully awful.

"Well?" asked the barber as he started using his duster to remove stray strands from Milton's face. "Is this what you wanted?"

In his mind, Milton screamed out "no!" but he just start frozen and silent.

Before he could answer, the door flew open and Albert stormed in. "I hope you are not thinking this haircut is at an end!!" be barked out to both the men in the shop. "Milton! You know your precious bowlcut is a non-starter! Now will you tell the barber or should I how your hair must be cut for this evening?!" But the question was rhetorical. Albert pulled out the high school photo on the name badge from the reunion. "Just like this -- only shorter! Scalped! The severe schoolboy look will help you remember your place, young man!"

The barber was more than happy to whip out his clippers again and begin stripping away the bowl of hair. "Ah, those were the days, back in the 60's when fathers still dictated the haircuts for their sons....even the 17 and 18 year olds sat silently and submissively. What a treat it was during the transitional years to long hippy-hair when the few were still required to get barbershop schoolboy cuts. And I was strip it off extra short just like I'm doing now....."

"And I definitely want his bangs angled severely, is that understood?" instructed Albert.

"Goes without saying, sir!" the barber replied without address or discussing the issue with the caped, cowed Milton.

Once the cut was over, Milton emerged from the old shop with the most drastic, scalped looking haircut. A blob of pomade was necessary to keep it slicked to the side. As he examined his new haircut in the mirror, Milton's mind drifted back with the image of himself in the bathroom mirror with the glistening long soft locks. The two men hardly looked related! Then he stared at Albert's macho chrome dome look. He admired the way his buddy had been able to reverse his decline by shedding weight and asserting dominance over him.

Albert felt as if he were being stared at. "What are you looking at?" he demanded.

"How macho you look! And thinking how humiliated I'm going to feel tonight receiving my prize with the oversized check in front of all those people," replied Milton whistfully.

"You were a good boy in the barbershop, Milty. Takes some guts to turn the clock back to when you were the runt who felt insecure and nothing next to BMOC Albert! What are you going to do with your prize money?"

Milton smiled as he said, "Buy you a convertible, just like the one you drove in high school!"

"You're so sweet!" the driver replied. "I won't have to worry about my feathered hairdo getting all mussed up with this cueball look."

The two laughed and Milton asked permission to stroke the silken, soft pate.

Then Albert continued. "Nor will you! When we get home, I'm taking you down just like me. All the way..... And, I've changed my mind about your outfit. The suit you picked out will be perfect, and I say the tie with the bold colors will accent it perfectly. I want to be proud of you up on that stage getting your prize....!"

"Oh, Albert! I'm so happy! And I can't wait to feel your forceful hand taking the clippers to me...."

"And the lather and the razor and the warm water taking your down to silken skin......just like mine!"

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