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Rev. Battersea: Barber, Buddy or Both? by Manny

This is Chapter 3, and follows:
- Chapter 1: Jack Opts for Change, and
- Chapter 2: Mr. B or Mr. Baldy?


"Do you have a few minutes, Mr. B?" Jeremy asked as he poked his head into the art classroom. "Or is it Mr. Baldy now?!" The cocky co-captain of the tennis team laughed as he threw his head back, sending his lengthy raven tresses swishing about.

Mr. B looked up from his desk, not amused by the wisecrack regarding his new butch haircut, administered in the parsonage by Rev. Battersea.

"I hope you're not here to ask me for a favor since you seem to be making fun of my haircut, Jeremy," Mr. B said in a flat tone that conveyed his lack of amusement.

Jeremy realized his faux-pas and tried to recover. "Actually, I like it. So tidy and practical -- gives you quite a youthful look, sir!"

"Well, since you like it so much, I recommend you find a good barber and ask for a #1 all over," Mr. B suggested.

"Actually, I did come to ask you for a favor, sir," Jeremy confessed, quickly changing the subject. "To help with a community fundraiser that will promote cancer awareness. You see, my grandfather recently passed away from lung cancer."

"And now you want to help. How thoughtful of you," Mr. B said, a bit suspicious that there was more to the story. "How do I fit into your idea?"

"An art exposition and auction. Get a local artist to donate a painting or something and maybe sell some of the student work as well for the cause. I mean, those watercolors I did in the spring could bring in some money, I would imagine," Jeremy said.

"Jeremy, I gave you a C- simply for trying. No one is going to buy your watercolors!" Mr. B said, casting shade on the cocky tennis captain. "Have you lined up a donation from a big-name local artist like Sheldon Honeycutt?"

"I thought you could do that," Jeremy said. "I mean, being an artist yourself -- asking him, artist to artist, you know. And, then, you know, be in charge of the organizing and judging, etc."

"So, I line up the donation, organize the event, etc....and what's in it for you?" Mr. B asked.

"Get the badge I need for my promotion to Eagle Scout," Jeremy blurted out.

"Oh, I get it now." Mr. B rolled his eyes, "What I meant was, what part of the project will you be undertaking yourself?"

"Well, I could be the emcee at the auction. I am a natural leader and people do look up to me. Crack a few jokes...." Jeremy suggested.

"Like do I want to be called Mr. B or Mr. Baldy? That type?" Mr. B snapped. "Listen, Jeremy, I'm busy right now. Let me think about it. I might have a few ideas of my own."

He eyed the lush mane that cascaded down past Jeremy's shoulders in layers. A retro-shag at its best. Yes, he definitely would have a few ideas of his own!

"Let's talk some other time. In the meantime, you contact Sheldon Honeycutt. Tell him about your grandfather's cancer. That should make him cough up one of his masterpieces," Mr. B said without much enthusiasm.

Shortly after Jeremy left, Jack bounded into the art classroom.

"Tell me how it went!" he exclaimed.

"How what went? Reaction to this?!" Mr. B asked, rubbing his stubbled butch cut.

Jack beamed. "I had so much fun cutting your hair yesterday. I hope you let me be your permanent barber. Why keep spending money at Al's Barber Shop?"

"Well, I got a lot of ribbing from colleagues and students. Your friend Jeremy was just in here asking if he should call me Mr. B or Mr. Baldy?" the art teacher said with a not-too-pleased look on his face.

"Ooooops! I guess he heard it from me. I was telling everyone that's what Reverend Battersea said when I clipped you down to the wood," Jack confessed.

"Gee, Buddy, thanks," Mr. B replied glumly. "I hope that got a lot of laughs."

"Sorry, Mr. Bald-, uh, I mean, Mr. B!!" Jack gulped.

"I guess you're still basking in all the praise from being the hero on Saturday and winning the match for us," Mr. B said in a semi-snippy tone.

"Jeremy is so angry that he's been demoted to co-captain," Jack laughed.

"Well, I am so thrilled that lad got put in his place," Mr. B commented caustically. "He really rubs me the wrong way. He wanted me to organize a fundraiser to help his promotion to Eagle Scout. An art auction, to include his pathetic watercolors! The only thing of his that would raise any money is if we raffled a chance to shave off his pampered mane! I'd buy a whole book of raffle tickets myself!"

"That's a fantastic idea!" Jack exclaimed. "I think I can make it happen! Reverend Battersea is the new scout master. We have a meeting tonight to go over fundraising ideas and causes we'll donate the money to. Knowing how much the new minister likes to play barber, he's bound to favor it."

"Good luck, then, Jack," Mr. B said, indicating he needed to get back to the project he was working on.

"Would you mind very much, Mr. B, if I just....." Jack's hand reached tentatively toward the baldy cut his favorite teacher sported.

"Gave me a Dutch rub?" Mr. B asked with a shy grin. "Sure, go ahead."

Jack gave a quick, but thorough rub to the fresh stubble. Mr. B enjoyed the session, as well.

Mr. B commented, "I'm keeping the baldy cut, by the way. The streamlined morning routine without the hair care was so fast. And I think I do look younger -- and feel younger too!"

"Awesome!" Jack exclaimed. "Remember, if you want to save money, I can borrow Rev. Battersea's clippers."

"Bye, Jack. By the way, in private, if you want to call me 'Mr. Baldy' -- or just 'Baldy' -- I can live with that," Mr. B said.

"Bye, Baldy," Jack giggled. "No, I'll stick with Mr. B! I have too much respect for you, sir."

The next day, Jack was eager to tell Mr. B all about the scout meeting. "It's going to happen!! Jeremy's head shave! In fact, we're all getting head shaves, including Rev. Battersea!"

"What?!" Mr. B stammered in amazement. "I'm going to go broke buying raffle tickets! Tell me what happened."

Jack recounted the highlights: "So, we all put our ideas forward. Lots of standard stuff like bake sale, mowing lawns, car wash, etc. Then Jeremy told us about the art auction and cancer awareness. People liked that idea for being original, but it depended a lot on getting someone to donate nice art work. Finally, I suggested selling raffle tickets for head shaves. The ticket that is chosen wields the clippers -- or lets the shavee off the hook! Doubles the incentive to buy -- you and your friends buying tickets to protect your hair from the clippers and razor! Everyone else anxious to see Jeremy and the rest of us bald! All the guys started yammering about Jeremy's hair going for a premium; he got defensive and balking, which made support for the idea grow. Then, Rev. Battersea weighed in. Of course, I knew he would....but not for the reason I thought (his professed enjoyment of barbering). He told us about how his wife died of colon cancer when Natalie was just seven, how it devastated him....he lost his faith and left the ministry...Natalie was raised by her grandma for a few years....anyways, I had a big lump in my throat and more than one of the scouts was teary eyed. He's passionate about cancer awareness and early detection. He wants to raise a whole ton of money and said a few head shaves would bring in the most! When Rev. Battersea finished speaking, can you believe Jeremy declared emphatically, 'We're doing the head shaves -- all of us!'?"

"That is so wonderful!" Mr. B exclaimed. "So, the Reverend is putting his mane of glossy brown hair, his carefully styled executive coif, on the line? Good for him! I admire that man more every day!"

"My parents too were gushing about him after I told them what he's doing with the scout troop. Oh, and here's something else. I asked Natalie out on a date Friday night!! He mentioned she was having trouble fitting in at the new high school and, well, uh, she's a cute, cheerful gal."


(Two months later)

The number of raffle tickets that sold was astonishing! A princely sum would be announced on the night of the public shearings in the school gym.

Very early on, it was clear that Jeremy's locks were bringing in as much as all the other scouts combined. Coach was investing heavily to ensure the cocky co-captain's raven tresses fell to the floor. The only significant challenger in fundraising was Rev. Battersea. He had engaged his whole congregation in selling tickets for the worthy cause.

Mr. B approached him on the lawn after church as the fundraiser was wrapping up. The minister's lush mane of wavy brown hair glistened in the sun. During the two months raffle tickets were being sold, Rev. Battersea had let his hair grow. Now, it had quite a bit of length and cascaded over his ears and to the bottom of his collar. His thick forelock had even gotten too long and heavy to stay swept back.

"Got any raffle tickets for sale, Reverend?" Mr. B asked.

"Of course!" the minister replied, mopping his hair back from his face. "Only two more days to go! I'm going to be so happy to finally feel the clippers chewing all this off!" He ran his fingers through his abundant mane. "It's a bit of a bother at this length. Of course, I'm super nervous! Maybe one of these tickets will be drawn and you'll let me off the hook!"

"Don't kid yourself! If one of these tickets is drawn, you'll be going to bed bald on Tuesday night!" Mr. B laughed.

"Do you hope your ticket gets drawn in the first round or the second round?" Rev. Battersea asked.

Mr. B clarified the question. "The first round, when the hair is clipper shaved off? Or the second round, when the head is lather shaved with a razor? Um, uh, give me two tickets! I'd like to have the honor both times!" Mr. B exclaimed.

"In my youth, I received many a baldy-cuts like the one you sport, Mr. B, but never a total head shave," Rev. Battersea said, almost wistfully, hoping he would soon feel the razor being scraped across his sensitive scalp.

After Mr. B paid and received two more raffle tickets, he took the Reverend by the arm and pulled him close to whisper, "Jack told me how impacted everyone was about your personal story. They all admire you so much for making yourself vulnerable in front of them. And they were inspired by the way you worked through your tragedy and rebuilt yourself into a better, stronger, more compassionate person."

Rev. Battersea teared up a bit, "Thanks for saying that, Mr. B. I'm still on the journey, I still feel a void, at times, a loneliness in my life. But the community has been so welcoming. And Jack inviting Natalie out on a date!! She means everything to me now."

With that, the minister walked away, lost in thought, misty eyed.

Mr. B called out to him, "Oh, one more thing, I was wondering if you could tighten up my butch this afternoon. I'm beginning to feel like a hippie!"

Rev. Battersea turned, smiling again, "Sure! Come on over. And why don't you stay for the evening Bible study on Obadiah. Have you ever studied that book?"

"Never. I don't think that I've ever read it, even," Mr. B confessed.

"Oh, you'll be in for a treat. I did my dissertation at Divinity School on Obadiah. Even in darkness, there is hope!" Rev. Battersea said enthusiastically. Then he added, "I didn't realize it when I was in seminary, but God was preparing me for what I would go through. It's what helped me regain my footing, my faith, my focus: HOPE!"

Mr. B stood a bit in awe, now bordering on hero worship of Rev. Battersea. And how handsome he looked! His gorgeous hair! And, his inspirational story and example....

"Come at 4:30 pm for your butch and a beer. I can rustle up some supper and the Bible study starts at 7:00. We'll have an afternoon and evening together.

Several hours later, as Rev. Battersea fastened the cape around Mr. B's neck, he stroked the grown out pelt a bit. "No thinning, no gray. You're holding your own pretty well, Mr. B."

"Doesn't make much difference now that I'm having it mowed down to stubble," Mr. B replied. Then, he added, "You've got a great head of hair yourself. Especially since you've let it grow out, it's so shiny and full of body. It'll be quite a loss for you, I imagine, when it's all been stripped off."

Rev. Battersea snapped on the clippers and began peeling off Mr. B's pelt, slowly but authoritatively. Up, up, up the back his clippers climbed. Mr. B felt so relaxed, especially with Rev. Battersea's other hand resting on his shoulder, and periodically brushing some of the clipped tufts off the cape.

"The truth of the matter is, I will feel sad when I come home Tuesday night with a bald head, an empty house and a lonely bed. Natalie won't be here. The cheerleaders are having an overnight to prepare for the pep rally. The scout fundraising totals will be announced to the school and a check turned over to the Cancer Awareness Society," Rev. Battersea explained.

Mr. B pictured himself consoling Rev. Battersea. Perhaps the minister lying on the couch with his bald head in his guest's lap. Mr. B imagined himself stroking the smooth scalp tenderly as his new....what to call him?!...dozed off.

"Am I going to become your steady barber?" Rev. Battersea asked Mr. B as he put the finishing touches on the butch cut. "I simply love the way a #1 all over looks and feels!" Then the minister rubbed the freshly shorn scalp with both hands.

He withdrew the cape and Mr. B crossed his legs quickly to conceal any awkward bulge that might remain.

"I'll get the broom, and you can get a beer from the fridge. One for each of us, if you don't mind," the minister said.

Mr. B chugged his down quickly and reached for another. "Steady, friend! Or you'll soon have three nicknames to choose from: Mr. B, Mr. Baldy or Mr. Beer Belly!"

Both men laughed.

As Rev. Battersea took his first swig, Mr. B could not help but admire how handsome the minister was and how sexy his longish mane looked as it rippled in the kitchen's neon light.

Mr. B decided that if his raffle ticket was picked on Tuesday, the gorgeous mane would be safe!

Then, Mr. B admitted to himself that he'd fallen in love with a man who could not possibly return his affection; he nervously began sweeping up the tufts of his shorn hair.

"I'd like it if you called me Bill," Reverend Battersea said in a warm, tender voice.

"And, I'd like to exchange haircuts for painting lessons, if you're interested in watercolors, Bill. I think we're going to be buddies!" Mr. B replied, happy for his newly-found friendship.

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