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Vic's Visitation by Manny


A continuing story. Previous chapters include:

Chapter 1 - Jack Opts for Change
Chapter 2 - Mr. B or Mr. Baldy
Chapter 3 - Rev. Battersea: Barber, Buddy or Both
Chapter 4 - Jeremy's Raven Locks Raise Funds
Chapter 5 - Coach’s MPB Fringe Falls Amid the Fun
Chapter 6 - Erik Gets to Know and Look Like the Locals
Chapter 7 - Rev. Battersea Makes the Cap Fit
Chapter 8 - Edward's Executive Coif and Career Ends

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NOTE: This is a long story. If all you want is the haircut....skip to after the ---- break in the story.

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"If you don't want to come with me, that's fine!" Rev. Battersea said with an exasperated tone that almost reached the level of snapping at Mr. B.

Rev. Battersea unfastened the cape, and snippets of Mr. B's hair fluttered to the kitchen floor.

"If people want to know about the church and its activities, they can go on the website," Mr. B insisted, not relenting in his objection. "Knocking on the door uninvited, visitation...this isn't Mayberry in 1960! Even girl scouts stopped the door-to-door approach. Imagine two grown men on your porch...you have no idea who they are or what they want. We could get shot!"

"I never had you down as a drama queen," Rev. Battersea quipped, rolling his eyes. "People are feeling isolated with the pandemic. They want community, they want connection. The fellow I want to visit moved here from California. He's single and teleworking, according to the Shelly Daniels, the realtor who sold the house. We can introduce ourselves, offer friendship, invite him to church. If you don't have 15 minutes, that's fine! I'll go alone. But I would prefer someone accompanying me."

Mr. B got a resigned look on his face. "I'll do it for you...." he said, despite still thinking it was a bad idea. Then he felt his freshly clipped butch, which never ceased to put a smile on his face.

Minutes later the pair was on the front porch of the house, knocking. The door opened cautiously. The sight of a young man clad only in shorts -- no shirt or shoes, and with a blond mane that flowed unbound down to his calves -- took them by surprise. Such long hair! A faint smell of weed wafted from the living room where a joint could still be seen smoldering in the ash tray.

"Hello, I'm Rev. Battersea from the Bethlehem Church just around the corner. And this is Ben Bartholomew, an art teacher at the high school. We just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood," the minister said.

"Thank you, but I'm not interested. Gave up on the big fairy tale in the sky when I was about 14," the fellow said as he began to close the door.

"But, did you give up on friendship and community?" Rev. Battersea asked quickly.

The remark caused the fellow to pause. Their eyes made a quick connect, a bit of a spark. The longhair stood there momentarily. "You caught me at a bad time," he said, indicating his lack of proper attire to receive guests.

Then, he added, "I hope that didn't sound too rude....about the fairy tale in the sky."

"I've heard a lot worse," Rev. Battersea laughed.

"Okay, give me your one-minute shark tank pitch," the longhaired said, almost as a dare, still holding them at bay on the porch.

"You're new in town. It's a small town. Car license says California. That's far away. People are friendly here. Church is a place where people gather and connect. In good times, it's a place to share joy. In hard times, it's a group to call on if you need a helping hand. We want to reflect God's love in being good neighbors -- whether you come to church or not!" Rev. Battersea said.

"Uh, you still have 12 seconds, Reverend," the longhaired man dead-panned. "I'm Vic, by the way."

"I'm Bill," the Reverend replied. "Now, I'd like to hear your one-minute rebuttal."

"Here at the door, or inside?" Vic asked, indicating the pair could come into his home. "Sorry, the place is in disarray. Oh, don't call the cops on that," he said, pointing at the ash tray, "it's for medicinal purposes."

"What ails you?" Rev. Battersea asked.

"Life," Vic replied, conveying a dark humor.

Then he turned his attention to Mr. B, "So you're an art teacher, Ben. You don't look like one with your baldy cut and button-down shirt collar. Where I come from, artsy types are free spirits, who look more like me."

Mr. B was sort of taken aback by the remark and blushed, not knowing what to say. He stammered and rubbed his freshly clipped stubble, "Uh, it's just more practical, then, uh, say, uh, hair your length. I've never seen a man -- or woman! -- with such long hair!"

"And the good Reverend here would want it cut to a nice pert business length before I took a seat in one of his hard pews to hear all about sin and judgment and hell," Vic bantered on. He enjoyed making an ass of himself. "But since the Reverend is here, let me pose a theological question. Was Jesus gay? I mean, him with his beloved John reclining on his breast....."

"Sex is the lens our culture imposes on us. Everything is sexualized. Even churches -- either railing against homosexuality or marching with the rainbow banner raised high as LGBTQI+ missionaries. But the gospel is not about sex, it's about love," Rev. Battersea replied in a calm, steady voice.

The three sat in a bit of an awkward silence as the mood shifted from playful banter with an edge to a more serious discussion.

Vic told his story: "I grew up in the church. It was actually a wonderful place during my childhood. Loved Sunday school -- singing, the stories, the crafts. The best part of summer was the week of Vacation Bible School. At Christmas, I always hoped I'd get to be Joseph or a wiseman....but inevitably ended up as a shepherd. It was truly that community you were pitching in your one-minute plug on the porch. But, then I started going through puberty....and started realizing that I didn't fit into that church mold. In fact, that the person I was -- who I really was deep inside -- was thought to be and publicly derided as evil. Sinful. The realization of that huge disconnect was a shock. I began loathing the place. Finally, at 16, my parents said I didn't have to go any more. And that was it for me. The fairy tale came to an end."

"I'm sorry about that, Vic. It makes me feel so sad, your experience. I can only imagine the heartbreak and anger you felt. I hope you are living 'happily ever after' now. When fairy tales end, reality sets in," Rev. Battersea said.

"I wish I could say that I am, but I'm not, really. Particularly now," Vic said, his eyes downcast.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Rev. Battersea asked softly.

"Talking won't help my problem. I should say problems. I was super stressed out in San Francisco. Lots of complications in my personal life, professional life....the pandemic and then financial mess. All these people moving away, a modern-day exodus....and I thought, why not me too? Move away. I was teleworking and the company said I could do it from anywhere. I wanted to get away from the scene as far as possible -- geographically and even demographically. That's how I ended up in small-town Carolina," Vic explained.

He paused, the continued, "When the stress hit its peak -- I was trying to wrap up things there and purchase this place remotely, sight unseen, and organize the move -- I spotted blood in my stool. At first some traces. And then copious amounts. A brownish red that the doctor was very concerned about. Sorry if this is TMI. You came to tell me about the programs of your church, and I'm talking about blood in my stool!"

"I didn't come to talk about programs at the church! I came, we came, to offer friendship, support, a welcome," Rev. Battersea insisted.

"I do have an immediate need for help, actually," Vic said. "My doctor in San Francisco scheduled a colonoscopy for me here. My brother was going to drive down from Philly to take me in the morning, but he called today saying he'd just been diagnosed with COVID. I checked with the hospital, and they insist that someone be with me to check me in and check me out. I don't want to put the colonoscopy off and reschedule."

"I could go with you, if you like," Rev. Battersea said.

Vic's face lit up. "I'd appreciate that....like you were saying, community is important, and we take it for granted. But, when there is a need...."

"Too bad you can't have a virtual colonoscopy!" Mr. B exclaimed.

Vic's attention turned to Mr. B. "Oh, a sense of humor! And, since I'm in the 'requesting help' mode, Ben, with your artistic fingers....could I ask you to put my hair into a braid? That used to be my partner's favorite task....and I don't want all this fluff hanging off the gurney as I'm rolled away to have the tube shoved up my asshole. Imagine it getting caught in the wheels, and then suddenly I'm on the floor of the facility!" Vic joked as he pawed at his long hair, exhibiting the length and fullness of it for Mr. B's appreciation.

"Sure," stammered Mr. B. "I can braid hair." A flutter of loving glances were exchanged between the two men.

"Be right back with a brush and scrunchy," Vic said.

Mr. B's legs felt a bit like putty as he stood behind the dining room chair brushing out the amazing mane of hair. Over and over, he ran the brush, getting lost in his own imagination. His fingers worked slowly and meticulously as they worked their way through the locks, weaving them into a massive plait.

"You seem to be enjoying your task, Ben," Vic said. "What do you think of my long hair, Reverend? Is it sinful?"

"No, it's amazing!" Rev. Battersea replied instantly.

"Should I have it all chopped off to fit in with the local scene? It's been attracting a few prolonged stares," Vic said.

Then his playful tone shifted dramatically. "The truth is, I'm afraid. Colonoscopy, cancer, chemotherapy.....and chromedome! That's why I'm considering the big chop."

"Please don't rush ahead down a dark, unhelpful path, Vic," Rev. Battersea counseled.

Mr. B finished arranging Vic's long locks into a Rapunzelesque braid.

"Would you like me to go with you to receive the colonoscopy results? Maybe we could pray about your concerns, right here, right now," Rev. Battersea suggested.

"I'd really like you to be there with me, Bill," Vic said in a low, sincere voice. "But save your fairy tale conversation with Santa in the Sky."

He paused, again, and added, "I'm sorry. What I mean is, feel free to pray about it....but in your place, not here with me."

Then, Vic changed the conversation. "My gaydar locked right onto you, Ben, out on the porch. That little buzzcut didn't fool me. I might add, with the way you braided my hair....fingers lingering in my locks, no doubt at all. Now, with the Reverend, there was only a slight instant when the indicator flickered. Sorry to say, no realistic field there. And, it's a shame. So handsome, such a nice sculpted body. But that chest hair popping out of your dress shirt. This isn't the 1970s, Mr. Mark Spitz. I could take you to have it waxed. You know, return the favor for you coming with me to the hospital."

Mr. B broke into Vic's soliloquy. "You're right about me, Vic. And, I feel totally comfortable in the congregation at Bethlehem. Not all churches are like the one you grew up in. But, I'm glad you treasure your childhood. I was raised in foster care. It was horrible. Passed around like an unwanted pet that had been rescued from the animal shelter but 'didn't work out' and given to someone else. There was one Christian family where I stayed for six months. It was the only love and stability I had growing up."

The emotional atmosphere in the living room seemed extremely charged. Rev. Battersea decided to wrap up the visit. "You invited us in for a minute, and we stayed 30. What time do you want me to pick you up in the morning?"

"I hate to say this....6:30. It's an ungodly hour, I know," Vic said.

The two were escorted to the door. Vic took Mr. B's hand tenderly. "Thanks for telling me about your childhood. I find vulnerability such an attractive thing in a person, especially a close friend or partner. Maybe I will visit the church some Sunday if we can sit together. Or perhaps you and I could go out for dinner on Friday night?"

"If you need help unpacking or setting up your house, remember I've got a queer eye," Mr. B laughed.

"And I have two of them!" replied Vic. "And they like what they see."

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The next morning, Rev. Battersea took Vic to the hospital. He was a little surprised when the doctor came out to give him a 'read out' of the findings in that he was not a relative.

"I'll email his doctor a full report. The bad news is that it's serious. The good news is that it's an early detection. One surgery might be all it takes. Possibly radiation afterwards. Chemo if he wants to be extra sure. Of course, we need to have a biopsy done before an actual cancer diagnosis can be made," the doctor rattled off mechanically.

Vic was way too groggy when they left the hospital to process that sort of information, so Rev. Battersea didn't even try. He canceled his activities for the day. He needed to be with Vic.

"Here, have some coffee, Vic," Rev. Battersea said as he put down a cup near the sofa. "I need to tell you what the doctor who performed the colonoscopy relayed to me."

Vic blinked blankly as he received the news.

"Just when I thought my life couldn't get worse! Cancer? Chemo!" Vic sputtered.

Without any permission or request, Rev. Battersea murmured a simple, heartfelt prayer.

Vic mouthed an 'amen' as it concluded. "Thanks, Rev. But 'grace to endure'?! I mean, couldn't you have just stopped with 'healing mercies'?"

"Life isn't always what we want or expect," Rev. Battersea said. "I'm actually praying that the biopsy comes back with an upbeat prognosis. I do hope that Santa in the Sky is listening!"

"I've been thinking about something," Vic said as he fondled his thick, long blond braid. "This is coming off! Maybe I just need to feel in control of something. I sure as hell don't want clumps coming out with chemo."

"Have it made into a wig for yourself?" Rev. Battersea inquired.

"Nope, but I would like to donate it to some sort of a charitable organization for that purpose. No, for me, it's just going to be the end of long hair. I've been into transitions, of late. Why not? Actually, having it chopped off has been an enduring fantasy for as long as I can remember. I'm sure every longhair dreams and frets about the big chop -- the shearing off of the pampered, treasured mane at some point."

"If you're serious about that, Vic, I'd like to ask a favor," said Rev. Battersea. "Let me cut your hair. I'm actually an amateur barber. Got all the equipment. Helped pay for seminary giving the fellows haircuts."

"Are you good?" Vic asked.

"Not to brag, but yes. And, I enjoy the longer stylized cuts. I mean, buzzing Ben's head takes no skill," Rev. Battersea said.

"But, if I need chemo, that's what I'd want -- shaved bald," Vic argued.

"Okay, if that's needed. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Instead, let me take off the tail today and give you a nice retro-shaggy style. Dustin Hoffman in 'All the Presidents Men' -- absolutely love his hair! Or Ben Affleck in 'Argo' -- gorgeous mane. Or John Schneider in 'The Dukes of Hazard' -- one of my favorites growing up."

"Bo Duke! Yes! Fantastic! Here I am in a small North Carolina town. I'd love to channel Bo and his feathered mane," Vic exclaimed.

"Let me hop into the General Lee and get my barbering kit. I'll be back in 15 minutes," Rev. Battersea said with a laugh.

Vic was anxiously waiting for Rev. Battersea on the front porch when he returned. His gorgeous long tail shimmered in the sunlight as it brushed his thigh. He nervously fondled it with both hands.

"Got my things," Rev. Battersea said, holding up the barbering kit. "I'm ready to take off that tail you're holding so possessively. That is, if you haven't changed your mind about the haircut."

"I was just thinking how snarky I was to you last night when you knocked on the front door. Thanks for not walking away. I just don't know how I could have managed today's developments alone. Oh, I decided I'm going to church on Sunday. But you never did answer my theological question," Vic remarked.

"Was Jesus gay?" Rev. Battersea asked. "Come on, let's go on in and take care of this tail!"

Sitting on his kitchen chair, Vic's braid dangled down past the seat, just inches from the floor. It was a wonderful, thick plait of hair that was incredibly bulky near the base.

Rev. Battersea laid out his plan. "I'm going to take the tail off an inch or two from the nape. It's quite thick, so I'm going to use a set of clippers to sever it. We'll set the braid aside to mail in as a donation and then take you over to the sink to wet your hair down for the scissors cut. You have gorgeous hair and I want to leave it full and lush. Is that all right?" As he spoke, Rev. Battersea pulled the blond mass through his cupped hand, feeling it's silken texture.

"Bill, you could hogtie me and shave me bald! Whatever you want to do with me and my hair is totally fine with me," Vic said in a breathy voice. "And, by the way, my gaydar began registering when you started playing with my braid."

Rev. Battersea snapped the clippers on quickly brought it just below the nape. The metal teeth began the task of chewing through the massive collection of hair. It was not a quick operation. Deeper and deeper the cut went, like a lumberjack bringing down a majestic sequoia. Finally, Rev. Battersea lifted away the severed plait.

"It's off," he announced, holding the swinging mass of hair aloft.

Vic instinctively felt the small stump that stuck out from the scrunchy. "OMG -- at least ten years of uninterrupted growth, maybe eleven or twelve. At an end!"

"Let's go to the sink," Rev. Battersea said, putting his arm around Vic's shoulder, shepherding him over.

He pulled off the scrunchy as the tap ran, warming up. Vic ran his fingers through his hair that now flowed freely to shoulder length and tossed it about, a bit.

"I like the way you are close to me, Bill. I feel safe with you," Vic said.

Rev. Battersea leaned him gently over and guided his hair under the water. He stood directly behind him, leaning over him to help get all the hair wet. Vic's gaydar went wild.

"The reason your gaydar is erratic, Vic, is because I feel very conflicted on the matter. I don't really want to go into it, at least not today. But, to answer your question directly, no, I don't think Jesus was gay. I think he was a loving, warm, charismatic person who lived in a society where men could be intimate and demonstrative with each other. I wish we could show affection like that today without creating a fuss. And, I don't think Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene either! He didn't come into the world for the pleasures of sex. But, you won't hear any sermons on this matter in church. I'm so glad you said you would join us Sunday. Give us -- the corporate us -- a try!"

Rev. Battersea turned off the water and wrapped a towel around Vic's sopping mane. Then he added, "And, give Ben Bartholomew a try. Mr. B is a real gem. If you are looking for a solid, caring, loving, trustworthy partner, I can't think of a better person."

"I will greet him with a holy kiss when I pick him up for our date on Friday!" Vic said, which made the minister smile.

"He'd like that," Rev. Battersea said.

"I think he's handsome! By the way, thanks for sharing your thoughts about Jesus' sexuality. Who really knows? But, you're right about too much focus on sex, and not enough on love. I think I'm going to like being part of your congregation," Vic said in a way that neither the minister nor he himself could tell if it was sincere or a joke.

"Time to cape you up and start transforming you into the most handsome blond in Hazard County!" Rev. Battersea chirped. The large royal blue cape with white piping was secured into place and the wet locks combed out.

Rev. Battersea seized the forelock, combed it straight up, secured it between two fingers and snipped off 12 inches. The wet mass fell to the cape in a dramatic display.

As Vic watched copious amounts of his hair be scissored off and collect on the cape, he couldn't believe all that had transpired in less than 24-hours. His brother coming down with COVID, his own cancer pre-diagnosis, a new romantic interest, a promise to go to church(!), his long tail cut off, and now an almost total stranger cutting his hair like Bo Duke's in his kitchen. But he felt like he'd known Bill Battersea his whole life.

Rev. Battersea kept shearing away a lot of length, leaving the hair on top about five inches and on the sides and back down to about three inches. He feathered the sides and layered the back. Vic's new crown jewel was the showy forelock which had been left quite bulky and long.

Rev. Battersea enjoyed every moment spent cutting Vic's hair. He thought back to his time in seminary, giving haircuts in the dorm laundry room -- the handsome fellows with no shirt on, watching damp cut locks fall onto their laps. Back then, clippers were only to clean up the neck....or sometimes to repair the damage after a student tried to cut his own hair.

"Do you have a blow dryer?" Rev. Battersea asked.

"Yep, in a box somewhere, waiting to be unpacked. Maybe it's the one in the dining room labeled MISC," Vic said.

Rev. Battersea came back brandishing the high voltage dryer. He removed the cape and shook the cut locks to the floor. It was like a vast blond throw rug encircling the chair.

Then, he blasted the hair with warm air, styling it with a brush into the iconic look sported by the blond heart throb on the Dukes of Hazard. Rev. Battersea felt so proud to lead Vic into the bathroom to show off his new look in the mirror.

"I love it!" Vic pronounced. "You weren't kidding when you admitted to being a good hairstylist."

"Well, when I first cut my teeth, this was the 'must have' look! Although, the seminary required a shorter, tidier look. I'm very good with fades, as well. Tapered short around the ears and up the back. Everything but a flattop -- I don't trust myself to cut one," Rev. Battersea admitted.

"Maybe one day I'll let you try on me!" Vic joked. "I feel so different without that long heavy hair. I feel better, actually!"

Just then Vic's cell phone rang. "It's my doctor. Can I put you on with him? I'm not sure I want to hear anything right now."

"This is Vic, Dr. Morrisey. If you don't mind, I'd like my pastor, Bill Battersea, to hear what you have to say and relay the news to me. I've been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster," Vic said quickly and then handed Rev. Battersea the phone.

Rev. Battersea listened carefully. His attentive face morphed into a smile....followed by a thumbs up. "Thanks for that terrific news, Dr. Morrisey! I will tell Vic."

Rev. Battersea clamped an enormous bear hug around Vic and kissed him tenderly on the cheek. "Praise the Lord, for He is merciful!"

"What? Tell me!" Vic urged.

"It's not cancer! It's an ulcerated pre-cancerous polyp. He's going to schedule a day surgery. A small section of the colon will be removed and patched. Minimal recovery period. No radiation, no chemo!" Rev Battersea exulted in telling the news.

"My new Bo Duke look is safe!" Vic laughed. Then the two men hugged again. Vic clung on tightly as he felt the tension totally recede.

"Let's go out to dinner, Vic. My treat!" Rev. Battersea said, trying to gently move on from the embrace.

As they left the house, Rev. Battersea added a post-script to their theological discussion. "Growing up, did you know that hymn, 'Jesus Lover of my Soul'?"

Vic's eyes sparkled. "One of my favorites! 'Let me to Thy bosom fly. While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high. Hide me, oh my Savior, hide. Till the storm of life is past...'."




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