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Bill's Unwelcomed Welcome Gift by Manny

Bill was so grateful for all the help his pal had given him with his move that he determined not to ask Drew for any more favors or even to accept any help if Drew offered. Once they'd gotten all the furniture where he wanted it, that was it! To show his gratitude, Bill had invited Drew out to his favorite steak house and planned to let him order up (even though the transfer had stretched his finances).

As the two fellows struggled to move the large dresser up the stairs and through the narrow doorway, Drew joked, "The only thing that keeps me going is the thought of that huge, juicy steak dinner you're springing for, Bill! I hope your generosity will cover for a bottle of my favorite vintage cabernet sauvignon! Nothing like a nice glass of wine to warm up a person on these chilly autumn days."

Ugh! How much would that cost, Bill wondered.....?! As Bill struggled with the dresser, his thick blond forelock flopped down in his face obstructing much of his view. The dresser crashed into the doorhandle and pinched his thumb in the process. "Aw!" he shrieked momentarily as the pain throbbed. Conversation was quickly diverted from the steak dinner to the tricky navigation with the clunky furniture. Bill was glad that he didn't have to answer about the wine because the truth was he couldn't afford any $100 libation! Perhaps he could send Drew a subtle message that things were a bit tight with him and to go easy on ordering pricey food and drinks at the restaurant.

After the two had eased the dresser into place and Drew had arranged the mirror, Bill caught sight of his dishevel mop of wavy, blond hair. He was itching to brush it into place. He loved this thick tresses and wore them as long as he dared in his semi-formal office environment. The blond waves were accented by natural highlights that intensified in the summer. His hair was styled swept back into a distinguished looking mane that overlapped his ears and collar generously, like the locks of a male model. The top was kept thick and long and required a bit of ulta-hold hair spray to keep it in place. Perhaps he could send Drew a message about his finances with a question....

As he struggled to arrange his hair back into place, Bill commented, "Boy, I really need to get this cut before I start work on Monday. Drew, can you recommend someone who's good, but not expensive? The move really gobbled up more of my savings than I had calculated it would."

Drew wore his hair cropped short, in a no-nonsense, standard man's cut. Nothing longer than an inch or two on top and trimmed closely to the sides and back. "Well, the place I use only charges $12 for a haircut. Does that fit in your budget?"

"Twelve bucks!" Bill exclaimed. "Sure does." As he replied, though, he felt a bit of anxiety that the type of place Drew went to might be fairly limited in scope. At that price, it was probably just a barber shop! He quickly tacked on a qualifier, "But, the person who cuts your hair -- is she or he able to do a variety of styles? Or does the place cater to a fairly limited clientele?"

"My barber is a true professional -- over 25 years of experience. You tell him what you want and he'll do it. I guarantee it!" exclaimed Drew.

The endorsement made Bill extra nervous. How could he object to that sort of a reference? Bill decided to end the conversation about haircuts with a terse "thanks" and focus on something else. After all, he had accomplished his mission to send a message about his finances.

The two worked on for several more hours before things were as much in shape as possible. As Drew prepared to leave, he confirmed the time they'd meet at his place the following evening before heading to the steak house. Then he opened his wallet and pulled out a business card. Along the left side was an unmistakeable red and white striped barber's pole. Pete's Barber Shop ran the script along the top in a matching red and white script that was popular in the 1950's. "Here's the place I told you about. Can't go wrong with Pete, the only barber in the shop! He's old, but he's good. And it'll be my welcome gift -- not exactly a traditional house warming gift like a plant or bottle of wine, but a free haircut at Pete's is probably more useful to you by your own reckoning. I'll call Pete in the morning and say you'll swing by sometime during the day tomorrow if that's all right."

Bill fingered the card awkwardly. It was the most unwelcome "welcome gift" ever! Drew was smiling broadly, and Bill felt like he had no choice but to accept the token graciously. "Gee, uh, thanks Drew," he said trying to whip up some enthusiasm. "You've done so much to help me adjust here. I can't thank you enough."

"The steak dinner will be more than plenty," he noted. "And the bottle of wine will be my treat since finances are a bit tight for you right now. Okay?"

Bill smiled weakly. At least the message to go easy in not running up a big bill had gotten through....but now he was locked into a haircut at a barbershop worth $12. Well, maybe it wouldn't be so bad. And if Pete was as careful about following directions as Drew said...well, there wasn't much to worry about with "just a trim" or some such instruction.

Bill placed the card in his wallet and said, "Tell Pete I should come by around 4:00 p.m. for my 'house warming' free haircut. I'll head straight from there to your place." Bill ran his fingers through his thick mane of long, blond hair, pushing it back from his face as best as possible. "Then it'll be out to eat, my treat!"

"You'll like Pete!" was the last thing Drew said as he left Bill's new pad.

Bill was not so sure....in fact, the idea of going to a strange barber shop was sort of scary. The truth of the matter was that Bill hated having to find a whole new range of service provides -- from auto mechanics, to a/c servicemen to hair stylists. But nothing compared to the fear of possibly having his cherished hair butchered by a barber....how had he ever gotten himself into such a mess?! He'd never even been to a traditional barber in his whole life. If he could do it over, he would have just ponyed up for the expensive bottle of wine and foregone the delights of Pete's place.

The next day Bill kept himself busy, but the knowledge that at 4:00 p.m. a barber would be caping him up and taking a shears to his lovely hair kept him on pins and needles. Periodically he would look at the business card and try to imagine what Pete would look like -- well, with 25+ years of experience he was no young, cutting edge stylist! 'It probably will be fine'....was what Bill kept telling himself. But because the gnawing feeling continued, he realized he was just trying to convince himself of that.

With a lot of fear and trepidation Bill drove to the address on the business card. His stomach lurched a bit with nerves -- no surprise! -- as he got his first glimpse of Pete's. It was indeed a traditional looking shop (empty at that....another bad omen) and Pete was an old gray geezer, sitting around in the waiting area leafing through a newspaper.

Bill gently pushed the door open and the barber looked up. He was clad in a royal blue tunic with short sleeves that zipped up the front. "Come on in," the man instructed as he slowly rose from the chair. "You must be Drew's friend....new in town, I hear," said the barber.

"That would be me," Bill said with a bit of a nervous laugh that betrayed his uneasy estate. "Needing just a bit of a trim," he emphasized, staking out his ground well before he even got near the huge barber throne-like chair that was before him. Bill eyed it with a bit of interest and amusement....the fancy foot rest and enamel base were very artsy.....the big chair would make a nice accent piece in a men's den.

The barber motioned him to the chair, but Bill still felt a bit paralyzed. "Oh, that's such a beautiful chair!" he said without moving forward. "How old is it?"

"At least 50 years, and possibly up to 75," the barber answered. "Used to have a set of them -- inherited from my grandfather who ran this shop before me. Sold one to help afford a new pick-up truck. Go ahead and have a seat. Drew's told me to charge him for the haircut, so just relax and enjoy Drew's welcome treat."

Bill sat in the chair and savored the comfort for just a moment. Then he saw his thick mane of hair which looked very full and long and....really....well, quite overdue for a haircut. He sat still as Pete cast a large royal blue cape that matched his tunic around Bill's torso and fastened it snuggly at the neck. The white piping around the edge of the cape disappeared beneath a strip of institutional-strength tissue. Then the barber began combing the blond locks and smoothing them down with his hand. "Looks like it's been a while since your last haircut...." the barber noted.

Bill's tongue felt tied. The truth of the matter was that it had been about twice as long as he normally waited between visits to the salon. The move had thrown him off his grooming routine. "Well, in fact, it has been," he conceded reluctantly. As soon as the words left his mouth, Bill regretted being truthful like that.

"Then you'll be needing more than just a trim," the barber noted, drawing his statement to a logical conclusion.

Suddenly the cape felt very tight around his neck and Bill gulped nervously. "Yeah, I guess you'll need to take a bit more off than a normal trim," he said weakly.

"So how is your hair normally cut?" the barber asked lifting up the very long locks on top and looking a bit puzzled.

"Well, as you can see, I like it longer on top and shorter on the back and sides. You know, like tapered -- shorter back here," Bill explained as he reach for the plush locks that hung from his nape.

"Longer on top and tapered at the back," the barber said, as a bit of confirmation.

Bill nodded silently. Then the barber began swiveling the chair away from the mirror. Bill's heart beat more rapidly. What was he doing? The barber nudged his head forward, but Bill stiffened himself. He felt disoriented, like a pile of nerves. The barber pushed down a bit harder, "Hey, relax," then he released his grip and looked at Bill. "Is everything all right?" the barber asked in a kindly manner.

"Oh, yeah, sure," Bill answered quickly. "Sorry, I just have a bit of a stiff neck from moving that furniture with Drew," quickly making up an excuse on the spot.

"Oh, that explains it!" the barber said with a laugh. As he nudged Bill's head forward again, the caped client complied.

Bill heard a soft click followed by a low grade buzzzzzzzzz. And then, abruptly, he felt a cold vibrating piece of metal at his nape. Bill jolted and the barber moved the humming machine up through the nape and pulled it quickly away, gouging off a mass of blond hair.

"Hey!" gasped the caped client. "What are you doing?" he demanded.

Pete snapped off the machine. "Have you ever been to a barber shop before? What's the name...?"

"It's Bill. And the answer is no -- never! I normally go to a unisex salon," he answered readily.

"Well, that explains things. I wondered what kind of barber would allow this growth," the barber said a bit nervously. Then he pointed up to a chart on the wall above the waiting area. "See #3 up there....that's what barbers call a tapered haircut!"

Bill stared in shock at the vintage sketch of a youngish man sporting a very tidy "short back and sides" haircut. "Oh, no! That's a very short haircut. I just wanted a trim. Just like the tips taken off. Drew said you could do any haircut and were great at following instructions," he pouted.

"Well, I certainly could have scissored off the tips.....but you asked for a taper, and now we have this to contend with," he said holding up a hand mirror.

Bill's stomach lurched. Right in the center of the thick padding of hair that flowed down nicely in soft waves was a shorn swath -- a very rigid wedge-like path of hair rising up from the nape to about an inch and a half -- the very beginning of a traditional taper cut. "Oh, my!" was all he could say. Then he gained his composure a bit, "I think I'm going to forego the free haircut, Pete. I hope you don't mind." With that he began shifting as if he were ready to get up out of the chair.

"Listen, I'm really sorry about this. I feel so bad. Drew is such a good customer. I've been cutting his hair since he was a small lad," the barber stammered.

"Well, we're going out to dinner tonight. I'll just tell him that I decided in the end to forego the haircut," Bill stammered.

"But you can't leave here like this. Go to a restaurant with a chunk of your hair clipped out like this?" he asked, gently touching the newly exposed nape.

Bill shivered....the barber's touch sent a chill down his spine.....and it was a pleasant feeling, he determined! In fact, thinking back on that fateful split second, Bill recalled that coupled with the shock was a sense of excitement. In fact, his cock had swelled briefly as the clippers went up through the nape. It was such a weird, unexpected sensation.

"Let me see that again back there," he instructed as he pulled his hand out from under the cape and felt the clipped nape. Fondling the stubble in back also stimulated Bill, he discovered. He began sensing a bit of an urge to submit again to the clippers..... But what of his lovely blond locks?!

The barber held up the mirror. "What do you say I go ahead and even this all up in back, taking off as little as possible."

"And don't touch any other area -- not the sides or the top," said Bill flatly.

"It might look a bit awkward, just tapered in back, at the nape, and nothing off the sides or top," the barber explained.

"Do the back and then let's take it from there," replied Bill.

This time, as Pete nudge Bill's head forward, he complied willingly. In fact, he was eagerly anticipating the feel of the clippers again at his nape. Click, buzzzzzzz. Bill clenched the arms of the chair tightly. Ahhhhhhh, the clippers being plowed swiftly up through the nape felt exciting! The shriek of the doomed locks surrendering to the stern metal teeth, being gouged off and falling away, strangely stirred his cock again. He was glad the unexpected reaction was well concealed by the royal blue cape that covered him along with the beautiful antique barber chair. He anxiously awaited the next swipe of the clippers up through his sensitive nape.

Pete worked repeatedly on a very concentrated area near the nape doing as best he could. Over and over the clippers buzzed up through the plush blond hair, going a bit higher each time. All the while, Bill was in a total fog as to what was happening with his beloved sun-kissed locks. He stared down at the royal blue cape in a bit of a haze finding himself wanting the clippers to continue indefinitely chipping away at his plush locks.

Finally, Pete turned off the clippers and announced, "OK, this was the minimum to even things off, but it looks awkward," he said, holding up the hand mirror again.

Bill swallowed hard. The first thing to rivet his attention was the very sharp taper -- the dense hair was chiselled into the finest wedge which ended a bit above the natural hairline. The next thing he noticed was the large swath of white skin on the neck that had been shielded from the sun's light for as long as he could remember. Above both of these areas were mounds of wavy, uncut locks.

"What do you say? Should I blend this a little bit, between the cut and uncut part, for a smoother transition? There's too much of a contrast, and without taking off too much more, I think I could make things look somewhat decent," offered the barber.

"Would you use the clippers?" Bill asked.

"Well, that would be my prefered method, but I can also use the thinning shears and scissors if you want me to keep that machine from your head. One slip, and, like....whoa....you'd be like an army recruit!" laughed Pete.

"No, use the clippers. Actually, I quite like the way they felt vibrating on my scalp," chirped Bill.

Pete smiled broadly. "Hmmmm, I might make a barbershop convert out of you yet!" he said with a chuckle.

This time Bill needed no prompting. He quickly bowed his head and waited for the clippers. Pete was a mastercraftsman. Clip, clip, clip went the machine, pushing up higher and higher into uncut territory. Despite the purposeful drives, the barber was very gentle with Bill, lifting up the blond wavy locks and zipping the clippers across the comb so that small chunks fell away with each drive of the machine.

Finally his work in back was finished. "There! Now for your approval.....if I may," he said, holding up the mirror.

Bill smiled broadly. The back looked wonderful! Tapered close at the nape and gradually easing up into a beautiful head of wavy blond hair. There was also a gradual contrast in color, from the dark tips of the taper, getting lighter and lighter until the dazzling crown of sun drenched tresses topped off the masterpiece. "Oh! That looks fantastic, Pete!" Bill exclaimed with approval.

"So, will you let me have a go at tidying up the sides?" he asked.

"Of course!" answered Bill.

"Two options -- you decide. I can either shorten the sides a bit, thin them out, and then sweep them back for the classic movie star look of the 1940s with a bit of pommade.....or, I can give you a nice, short taper around the ears to match the back. Either will look great, I think."

Bill was a bit torn. Movie star sounded like fun....but then he was eager to feel the clippers again....around the sensitive ears. But a short taper?! Oh, it sounded a bit dangerous. What if Pete inflicted something extremely short? Starting a new job and all....he'd better play it safe. "Make me look like Cary Grant or Rock Hudson!"

Pete fished out a very queer looking set of scissors from his drawer -- like a combination comb and shears. He began tackling the thick waves that lapped liberally over Bills ears. The crunching sound was a bit peculiar as he snipped. Tufts of blond hair, like cotton candy, fell down onto the cape. Again, this snipping went on for what seemed like an eternity. Bill found himself wondering what it would have been like to feel the clippers around his ears.

Finally, Pete plied some pommade into the hair and the sides and swept it back with a brush. "Very classic, very gentlemanly," the barber said, approving of his own handiwork. Bill beamed. The haircut was turning out nicely! Then Pete focused his attention of the last portion of the original lionesque mane, "Now, the top. I'd like to take it down considerably -- cut off about three to four inches."

"What?" stammered Bill. That was a non-starter! "Why, I think it looks ideal just the way it is."

"Oh," said the barber, taken aback. He realized he'd pushed his new client a bit too far too fast. "I guess if this is the way you like it.....but it is quite heavy and long on top. Let me thin it out a bit, how's that?"

"Well, I'm pretty happy with this as it is...." argued Bill.

"Tell you what," suggested Pete. "Run along to your dinner with Drew. Sleep on it...and if you still want it just like this tomorrow, that's fine. If not, give me a call and you can come in at closing tomorrow -- I only work half days on Saturdays -- and I'll work a bit more on it." He grasped the forelock gently with his hand and said, "Up here, If I take the length down and thin it out, I can do away with those unruly waves..... Maybe even pommade the whole thing and sweep it straight back for a nice, tidy, slicked look."

Bill didn't like the idea at all. But he replied, "Okay, go ahead and get this cape off me. If I want a little more work done on this, I'll call you tomorrow. Otherwise, you did a fine job! And I really apologize for being such a baby when you first started on me. You probably think I'm a little too much of a sissy about my hair."

The barber began unfastening the huge metal clip that had secured the cape in place. "Nonsense!" said Pete. "I aim to please. The important thing is that you like it now, even though this taper isn't what you expected." With that, the barber ran his finger up the tight taper at the nape which set a chill down Bill's spine. Pete was such a kind, fatherly type barber!

Freed from the constriction of the cape, Bill was able to touch the tapered nape himself for the first time. "Ah, I love this feel!" he exclaimed.

"Then, my prediction is that tomorrow you'll be right back in that chair, under that cape, with that machine there giving you a nice crisp taper around the ears," he said with a flourish of his arm toward the barbering area.

Bill looked at himself in the mirror, "I think you're right. And....I think I'm going to have you lop an inch or two off the top too, like you suggested! But, I'm running late for dinner."

The barber grinned. "You know, one of the most exciting things that can happen with the clippers is to feel them slightly grazing the top of your head for the first time. I've been trying to talk your friend Drew into letting me give him a flattop for ages, ever since he was a teen. But he's stuck in a rut. You, on the other hand, have a smart, snappy new look."

The comment gave Bill an immediate panic attack. A few inches was one thing -- having his thick forelock slicked off at the scalp and looking like an army sergeant was quite another. He needed to get out while he still looked decent! "Well, Pete, thanks again," he said, feeling his nape for the umpteenth time.

"See you tomorrow," said the barber with a smile. Bill didn't know how to respond, so he just flashed a thumbs up and quickly left the shop.

As he drove over to Drew's, Bill reflected on his first visit to a traditional barber shop. He'd been dreading it, but it ended up being a surprisingly exciting experience. He fingered his nape as he maneuvered the car and explored the way the very short bristles gave way to long, soft waves of hair. He didn't mess with the pommaded sides, but they were not keepers. Bill knew that he would be back at the shop on Saturday to get the taper around the ears. Yes, even to get a very SHORT taper around the ears. He wanted it, there was no doubt about that. And Pete would become his regular barber....he loved that shop with its huge, antique chair and fatherly barber.

Bill felt confident about his new look as he prepared to knock on Drew's front door. He sort of liked the zany contrast between the sleek, groomed sides and back and the more unruly top. Sort of was a picture of himself -- a conservative job with a playboy-like private life.

As Drew opened the door, he exclaimed, "Whoa! Did you go to Pete's?"

It was hard for Bill to discern whether or not that was a compliment, or just a suprised reaction. "Yep, I really liked him. Best 'house warming' gift I ever got!"

"Turn around and let me see it in back," Drew instructed, and Bill complied. "Ah, now that's more like Pete's handiwork. Seems like you got half a haircut...never seen Pete leave a top so full and long like that."

Bill felt a little embarrassed. "Well, I told him to....I mean, when he started talking about a flattop....sort of made me a bit nervous."

"Did he try to push one on you too?!" asked Drew incredulously. "He's been bugging me for years."

"Well, now you understand why I was a bit nervous letting him tackle the top. Told him to just leave it as it was. But, he said I could go back tomorrow if I wasn't satisfied with it like this....and I think I will," Bill said, further solidifying his decision to return to Pete's.

"I should have mentioned that Pete is great at following instructions, but if he senses any ambiguity, he is not hesitant to make suggestions," offered Drew.

Bill cracked a sly smile, "So when are you going to go for it?"

"What?!" asked Drew with a puzzled tone.

"You'd look sharp with a nice tidy flattop, my friend. What are you waiting for? That drab haircut of yours needs some pepping up!" encouraged Bill.

"You think?" his buddy replied. "Actually, I've come close once or twice to saying 'go for it'! But then I quickly get cold feet. I don't want to stand out too much from the others, so I keep my non-descript, safe look. But you, Bill, on the other hand, with that flamboyant mane of wavy blond hair -- you obviously like standing out from the crowd! So a crisp, military-type flattop might be just the right haircut for you. Pete is excellent at them. I've seen him craft some very equisite looking ones on younger fellows. They leave his shop with tops that are really tall and waxed straight up to perfection. Sides skinned and the top long and plush...a two-inch pile...very trendy."

The description sort of jolted Bill -- excitement and fear rolled up together. Ask Pete to give him a flattop?! Just the idea made his cock swell. "Not sure I want to stand out at the new job, you know. Actually, I was thinking of having Pete whack off the waves and give me a very tidy, non-descript look like yours! Combed back with pommade. Maybe it's time for a change. You think I need to grow up a bit and get a more mature, serious look?"

"That'll be the day.... Hey, let's go to the restaurant, I'm starved!" Drew suggested, suddenly changing the subject.

Through dinner, it was hard for Bill to keep his mind from wandering back to his time at Pete's. For starters, their trendy waiter had a very unusual crop -- the sides and back were buzzed to the crown and then a massive amount of long shiney, healthy hair was piled on top -- basically a much more extreme version of the haircut he was sporting. As Bill observed it discreetly, he felt more and more attractive to the closely clipped part and less to the copious, long top. What would it be like to have Pete push the clippers straight up his back all the way to the crown?! The idea made him swell with excitement. Bill thought back to his time under the cape. The jolt of feeling the clippers push up through his dense mane at the nape for the first time...kept coming back to him. He wanted to feel it pushed higher up the back! He also recalled Pete's description of the clippers grazing the top scalp for the first time.....oh baby!

Despite the dinner chatter and pleasant time with Drew, Bill kept imagining himself back in the shop, instructing Pete to taper it short around the ears and up the sides -- an aggressive taper up to the crown. And the top....lop it off.....down to....oh, god!...a clipper grazing the top of his virgin head for the first time?! No way, he couldn't go that far! But he certainly wouldn't mind watching the barber scissor off huge wads -- three or four inches worth -- and enjoy seeing them fall quickly to the cape...yes! Definitely. In fact. He would get the traditional men's taper cut pictured on the chart....tapered close up the sides and the top cut down to a very short length and combed to the side. He would leave Pete's tomorrow with a severely "barbered" look! He would start his new job with a totally different look....a trendy hipster retro-1950's look!

All night long he tossed and turned in bed. He was eager to call Pete in the morning to arrange for his phase II haircut. But, he was also fearful that once he'd been shorn, he'd regret losing what had been his trademark and security blanket -- the mass of wavy thick blond locks. Once they'd been stripped off, it would be a long time before they grew back. Despite the trepidation, Bill knew there was only one real option for him -- go and place himself in Pete's hands....let him craft the new look with just a bit of encouragement to unleash the clippers on his pampered mane.

In the morning his first glance in the bathroom mirror was totally frightening. The waves were out of control! He looked like he'd stuck his finger in an electrical socket. Then he felt the back near the nape -- it was nice and tidy and all in place. That settled it -- ended any doubt he might have felt The clippers needed to apply a severe discipline to his unruly locks. He would call Pete at once to set up the appointment. There would be no backing out of things.

The phone only rang twice before the voice announced, "Pete's. Pete speaking."

"Hi, Pete. It's Bill, Drew's friend from yesterday. I just wanted to let you know I decided in favor of the taper around the ears -- you know, the short taper you suggested. What time should I swing by? You mentioned at the end of your Saturday half-day. Oh, ah, yep, I can be there at 12:30 p.m. No problem." He had locked himself in! Yes, the blond locks would fall to the cape....but how much, was the question!

Bill anxiously watched the clock throughout the morning. Instead of the dread he had sensed all day long on Friday, the story was completely different on Saturday. He couldn't wait for the time to pass! He eagerly awaited his private session with Pete. Oh, to ease into the chair again, to have the cape fastened tightly and then to utter the words -- "go ahead and unleash those clippers on me for a very tight, aggressive taper!" The top would undoubtedly be stripped of its glory in the process too.

Without the pommade, Bill was unable to achieve the same 1940's movie star look that he had left Pete's with the evening before. It looked like he had two distinct haircuts -- from the back, tidy and clipped into a nice taper and from the front a floppy nightmare by comparison.

Pete was at the big plate glass window watching for him as he strolled up exactly at 12:30. The closed sign was already in the door. "Hi Pete! Thanks so much for staying late for me."

"Saturday mornings are my busiest. I had clients all morning long without a break!" he said as he ushered him to the big chair.

"Oh, I don't want to cause any trouble for you, Pete," said Bill. "Are you sure this is all right?"

"Believe me, this will be pure pleasure," the barber replied, almost corralling him towards the big chair. "Yesterday, I sensed that you very much liked the feel of the clippers and would regret not getting the taper around your ears. That's why I offered a free follow-up session. Barbers tend to have a sixth sense about them -- know what their clients really want, even if they themselves aren't aware of it. I'm glad you're here," he said, carefully studying the unruly blond top. Pete cast the cape expertly, totally shrouding Bill and protecting him from the blitzkreig of falling blond locks that would soon ensue.

Instinctively, Bill bowed his head low in order to give the barber perfect access to the nape. He was eager to feel the chattering teeth ply their way up the back of his head.

But the barber, did not get straight to work. "I thought you were pleased with the way things were left back here," he said, lightly fingering the clipped nape. "That today we would work on the sides and top. But since you've got your head down like that, perhaps you want some adjustment in back too?"

Bill stammered, caught off guard, "Uh, oh, I, uh....well, since I came back, I thought you could taper it shorter in back as well."

"Tighter up the back? A more aggressive taper that's taken higher to the crown?" the barber asked.

Bill looked up. Oh, the words sounded deliciously menacing. "Yes, I want a very cleancut look for my new job, which starts Monday. You know the sketch on the chart up there?"

"A very short back and sides?" Pete took the clippers and very visibly began swapping the cutting blades. "Then this zero blade that I'm putting on here will take you down about as short as one can go -- a stubble that feels even more stimulating than this taper here," he said, again fondling the rigid wedge at Bill's nape.

Without another word, Pete clamped one hand atop Bill's head and cocked it to the side. With the other hand he took the clippers to the base of the caped man's sideburn and ran it tightly up the scalp to above the ear. In a smooth flow, he eased away from the scalp just a bit as the clippers climbed through the temple area and emerged, sending a large chunk of blond waves onto the royal blue cape. Bill stared down in numbed disbelief. The barber quickly stripped off a second swath, which was even larger than the first.

"Perhaps you'd like to watch in the mirror, this time," the barber said as he swiveled the chair around.

The contrast between the two sides was staggering -- on the left, he looked military and on the right he looked shaggy. The top was a mound of tempest-tossed blond waves. Bill stared hard to see just how short the aggressive taper would be. It looked like stubble at least half the way up, followed by the slimest wedge of a taper....

Just as Bill was comprehending how short his new 'do would be, Pete pushed his head down forcefully. He felt the determined clippers at his nape. Up, up, up they went...climbing over the occipital bone and up to the cowlick! Oh, it was heavenly -- yet a type of purgatory, as well, considering how radically short Pete was taking him. The barber worked on in silence, slowly clipping his way around to the other side as he peeled away 90% of the bulk of Bill's hair on the sides and back. When he let Bill sit up straight, the sides were stripped clean, contrasting starkly to the mounds of thick waves that ruled on top.

Bill quickly identified the transitional cut as the trendy style the waiter sported -- the stark contrast between the shorn and unshorn. "Hey, this is a very cutting edge style you've left me with, Pete. It's the rage with the trendy 'in' set! Stripped sides and hair on top mounded high...."

"That may be, but it's not the cut for you!" the barber announced with finality. "No, you need a tidy, cleancut look for your new job!" He grasped the thick forelock and combed it so that its full length was clearly visible -- a good 5-6 inches worth at the very front once the waves were stretched out. "What to keep and what to chop?" mulled the barber.

Bill sat there frozen. His throat was dry and constricted any attempt to reply. His mind raced. Finally, he eeked out, "You decide."

Pete's face lit up into a big smile. "Ah, barber's choice! You are definitely my kind of client, Bill!" He combed the whole massive shank forward so that it completely veiled Bill's line of vision. Then the comb gently lifted the thick veil of hair up a tiny bit from the scalp. There was a familiar click followed by a low volume buzz.

In a flash, Pete skillfully ran with clippers over the comb and the great mass of hair fell to the cape! The harsh light of the neon bulbs flooded his disbelieving eyes. There was just a tuft of dark blond hair left, protruding straight up. The forelock was gone!! Bill almost swooned.

Lift and buzz, lift and buzz, lift and buzz. Quickly, without comment, Pete cleared off almost the whole top of the blond waves. They filled up his lap like an overflowing collander of macaroni noodles.

Bill sat there shocked and speechless.

"Your lucky day, my boy. You will yet feel my clippers slightly grazing the top of your head as I carve out a nice, generous landing strip!" he proclaimed enthusiastically.

"Oh!" gasped Bill, realizing that he was destined for a flattop. Not a trendy, deep pile flattop like the hipster youth got, but a very severe old geezer look that the retired military sported! Despite this, he yearned to feel the clippers on top of him, peeling away the last remnants of his carefree, cocky blond waves. He wanted Pete to take him down as far he cared to strip him of his once beloved blond waves! "There's nothing like a severely shorn flattop to make a man feel like a man," Bill finally blurted out, finding his voice. "Show some skin!"

"We are so on the same wavelength!" the barber replied. "And once Drew sees you shorn down tight...."

"....he will go for the same look!" chirped Bill, totally energized by the thought of an impending, no-nonsense flattop. He stared into the lap full of wavy blond locks. Never again would they be allowed to sprout into that massive collection again. His new barber, old Pete, would make sure of that! Bill looked up at the barber and smiled, "This is the best house warming gift ever."

"Well, that may be, but once you step outside there in that cold winterish blast, you may feel some chilly breezes penetrating down through this newly exposed scalp, Bill. Especially right here...." he said as he unleashed the clippers down the center top of his head, creating a huge landing strip.

Bill shivered with delight. "Oh, that felt wonderful," he groaned with pleasure. "Make me look like the stern drill sergeant."

"Instead of that pansy pretty-boy look you pranced in here with! That's what I love about being a barber -- you can really do a fellow a world of good!"

"And you're right about barbers knowing best what their clients secretly desire...." smile Bill sweetly at his new barber. "Can I take you out for lunch some day?"

"I'm available today....just as soon as I lather up the sides and top to clean you up good, Colonel Bill!" said Pete with a wink.

Bill melted into nirvana as the old man dragged the straight edge razor, against the grain up the back of his head. "Clean as a whistle, please," he groaned. "The prissy hairdo is a thing of the forgotten past...."

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