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First-Time Flattops 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
Chapter 9 - Vic's Visitation
Chapter 10 - New Barber Takes Charge
Chapter 11 - Barber Bud in the Chair
Chapter 12 - On Manbuns and Marriage

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"Hey, there, handsome," lanky Bud said as he greeted Bill with a tender kiss on the top of his head in the back room of Al's Barber Shop.

Bill was struggling with the buttons of his tunic, deep in thought.

"Hey, did you hear me?" Bud asked, a bit perturbed that Bill hadn't responded. "Is something wrong? Have you lined up two shaggy lads so that I can show you how to cut a flattop?"

"Haven't had time for that," Bill replied, still showing no spark of warmth or engagement. He turned around, "Can you help me with these buttons? Nothing is going right today!"

Bill let out a bit of an exaggerated gasp of joy, "Oh, this manly chest!" He stroked the soft, long pelt, something that usually made Bill smile. "When are you going to let me shave it? You're a dream come true!" Bud kissed Bill tenderly again, this time on the lips. "Our cozy love nest here is my favorite place. I'm glad Al is only coming in twice a week, and we have three full days to hang out together during the week."

Bill stood there, still hardly responding to the attention or affection. "Sorry, Bud. It's Natalie. She called me this morning saying she's bringing her boyfriend home at Christmas."

"That's great! You'll finally get to meet....uh, what's his name?" Bud asked.

"Liam -- such a silly, ridiculous name," Bill scoffed.

"What's wrong with Liam?! You're Bill -- short for William. Isn't Liam also a shortened version of William?" Bud noted.

"Oh, I hadn't thought of it that way," Bill said. "It's just that her bringing him home....well, I was looking forward to spending time just with Natalie. Doing all the things we like to do together. Watching our favorite videos, playing Settlers of Catan in the evening. I've missed my little girl since she went off to college. And, now, the two of them will be running around together. Going out to dinner, the movies, romantic walks through the lights in the park. And, I'll be at home cleaning up the kitchen."

"Hey, she's growing up!" Bud said, pulling Bill into an embrace. "And, you have me, remember? I'll help you with the dishes!"

Bill cracked the familiar shy smile. "Sorry, you're right. Thanks for playing the pastor role with me, Bud! And, I couldn't hope for a more loving, caring partner."

Bud began stroking and caressing Bill's thick, silken hair.

"Do you have a pic of this beau?" Bud asked.

"She texted me this one right after we talked. He's studying law -- another aspiring ambulance chaser, no doubt. They'll live in a McMansion and have a perfect, plastic life! Tell me what you think of him."

Bud examined the photo. "They make a cute couple. She looks so happy! He's very handsome."

"Too handsome!" Bill exclaimed. "He's probably full of himself, conceited...and look at that hair! You can't tell me a man with such carefully arranged locks isn't a little prima donna! That shaggy look with every strand perfectly arranged to look disheveled -- I hate that goofy look!"

"You know who he reminds me of in this photo? You! The first time I saw you sitting up on that stool in the school gym with your scouts at the fundraiser. That long, lush mane....such a sexy stud! And then watching the show of it all falling to the white cape. Mr. B shaving it off....so exciting to see you emerge bald and vulnerable, feeling your naked scalp in front of 600 people! Cringing! But, now look at you, with your tidy, ministerial executive coif. It's getting a little full in back and on the sides. How about some clipper action since we have a few minutes before the shop opens? A nice short taper?"

"I was thinking about letting it grow out through winter," Bill said. "I love to get a good spring shearing. Watch all the hair fall to the cape. Two- and three-inch clumps coming off. How about it? On the first day of spring, you cape me up and take me down ultra-short."

"Can I give you a flattop?" Bud asked.

"Landing strip and all!" Bill said, suddenly laughing and giddy at the thought of an annual spring shearing. "And speaking of flattops, I have one guy lined up for the demo you want to do -- Grant Tilson. The newlyweds return from honeymoon tomorrow. Perhaps we can have our first-time-flat lesson on Friday."

"Oh, Mr. Manbun, or Mr. Ex-Manbun! That was a great haircut you gave him for the wedding. I love a tight ivy," Bud said.

Then Bud's face turned a bit sour, "Hey, Grant told me they were thinking about attending Bethlehem Church instead of First Baptist! I thought you didn't poach!"

"You don't want the newlyweds going to separate churches, do you? It's up to them to decide," Bill said. "And, why do you insist on immersion when Becky's already been baptized?"

"She was sprinkled as a baby, not baptized! The word 'baptizo' in Greek means 'to immerse' or didn't they teach you that at your seminary?!" Bud huffed in a good nature banter.

The bell of the shop tinkled. "Can you take him?" Bill asked. "I'll see if I can confirm my second likely candidate for a first-time flat."

Bill dialed Vic.

"Hey, Vic. Bill here. You mentioned to me a while ago that you were getting a little tired of the Bo Duke look and the high maintenance hairstyle. I was wondering if you were interested in going shorter, a lot shorter. And, please feel free to say 'no' because this definitely is NOT for everyone. A flattop. For my apprenticeship, I need to learn how to cut a 'first-time flat'. Flattops have a bit of a cult following in these parts, especially for those who like the manly-macho, soldier-of-fortune look. But, there are plenty who can't stand them and quite a few for whom the flattop doesn't work -- wrong head shape or hair line or hair type."

"I'd love to help you, Bill, but there's Ben to deal with. He absolutely loves my hair longish and feathered in this retro-cut...." Vic stammered. "He's constantly telling me how good it looks and running his fingers through it."

"What if I talked to him, explained it was to help me get my professional license?" Bill asked.

"Sure - I think I could rock a flattop! One of the local cops has a flat that makes my juices flow," Vic said. "Ever since you chopped off my tail, I've been wanting to go shorter -- ultra-short, actually....but Ben!"

"I'll deal with him," Bill said. "If he agrees, can you come when the shop opens Friday morning?"

"Sure! Oh, by the way, that organization we mailed my braid to -- I got such a sweet letter. They said it broke a new record for length and weight! They were able to make one adult wig and two wigs for children out of it!" Vic exclaimed.

Bill immediately dialed Ben after his call with Vic.

"Mr. B! Long time, no talk! You and Vic have been hiding from me. And you slipped out after the service on Sunday without greeting me!" Rev. Bill Battersea scolded playfully. "A few things I wanted to ask you, an invitation and a favor. Christmas Night -- dinner at my place? It will be Natalie and her boyfriend Liam, you two, myself and Bud Brown. How does that sound? And, the request or favor is about your partner's hair. I'm needing to cut a first-time flattop. Vic is willing, but thinks you might not be too pleased about that...."

"Yes, and YES!!" Ben exclaimed. "Christmas dinner sounds wonderful. Let me know what we can bring. And I hope Vic arrives sporting the shortest, flattest, sharpest top in town on Christmas. It would be the best gift ever!"

"Well, that's great, but strange. He said you were in love with his shaggy hair and would be upset if he let me cut it short," Bill replied.

"Really? I can't stand it, actually! Always flopping around in his face...kind of ratty looking," Ben replied.

"Well, according to Vic, you're always praising it and playing with it," Bill said.

There was a bit of silence. "Well, I do do that, come to think of it. Perhaps to mask how much I dislike it. I thought he was super attached to it, so I kind of felt I should gush over it."

"He'll be sporting a sharp flattop when you get back from school on Friday," Bill said. "And, if you need any pastoral advice on honest communication within a relationship...."

"Save your sermon for Sunday, Rev. Battersea!" Ben squawked.

------

Friday morning, the two fellows were at Al's Barber Shop right on time. Vic was most anxious to shed his Dukes of Hazard look, and Grant desperate to bore people with photos of his honeymoon. "And here's one of me and Becky just about to...."

Bud put an end to Grant's gab quickly. "Grant, put that phone away and take a seat right here in my chair. Vic, Bill there is going to take a clippers to your haystack!"

Both Vic and Grant were squirming with excitement as they took their seats. My father-in-law -- who is now insisting I call him 'Dad' -- is so excited that I'm getting a flattop! I mean he was thrilled to see me at the altar shorn short when he entered the church with Becky on his arm. And, now a flattop! He told me to make sure it wasn't a prissy length flattop -- he wants lots of skin showing."

"That's what I want too!" Vic exclaimed. "Especially on top. Love those landing strips! You know that cop with a wicked landing strip?!"

"Of course, I do," Bud fumed. "I cut Lieutenant Charles' hair!"

After caping his client, Bill brushed through the long, thick, blond hair Vic sported.

"Bill, the first thing I want you to do is clear off most of that growth. Just so we start more or less with the same general length," Bud instructed.

"Like the sides and back to a #3 and the top....." Bill began.

"Whack it all off to an inch and a half," Bud said.

"Are you ready, pretty boy, to lose a lot of hair?" Bill asked, brandishing the clippers in front of Vic's face.

"To someone who gave up a mane that flowed down to my calves not that long ago....well, this is nothing!" Vic laughed. "Shave it off! Good riddance!"

The Oster purred to life. Bill pushed Vic's head down low and brought the clippers up through the bushy of silken blond hair. Mounds of it tumbled down the back of his chair to his feet.

"Being a barber is the best job in the world," Bill said as he watched the silken locks fall.

"I feel like I'm in boot camp," Vic murmured from his prostrate position.

"You're going to look like you joined the army when we finish with you, son!" Bud said from the side. "How are you adjusting to life here after fleeing California? What's with the people out there setting forest fires willy-nilly. That Hollywood set throwing burning cigarette butts out the car window? I mean....holy smokes! Listen to Smokey Bear, people....or has he been cancelled too by the PC crowd?"

Vic's cape was totally covered in blond by the time Bill switched off the clippers. "Now for the top. First the forelock!"

He combed the massive curtain of hair down over the eyes. SNIP, SNIP, SNIP. And it was on Vic's lap! Then he scissored off the remaining long hair on top. Lift, secure, SNIP. Lift, secure, SNIP. Lift, secure, SNIP!

"How am I looking?" Vic asked.

"Like your uncle grabbed you, dragged you into the garage, and started hacking away!" Bud laughed. "Okay, Bill, I think we're ready to begin our flattop lesson. Ready, friend? Grant, pretty soon there will be almost no more hair to comb at all! A far cry from that awful manbun! Crafting a flattop is not easy because we're creating a square shape on a round object and with the hair being so short any imperfection will show. Main reason barbers charge extra for flattops! Takes more skill and takes more time! So, it starts out fairly normal, fading the sides to the desired length. Since both of you are into lots of skin, let's given up zeros till midway up the head, got it, Bill?"

"Yep, so far, so good!" Bill said, as he started to skin the lower half of Vic's head. "By the way, Vic, what did you do with all your scrunchies and hair accessories?"

"I have a whole box of stuff -- ready to cart off to the Salvation Army. I'm not going back to long hair, ever!" he declared.

Bud returned to his instruction, "Now, blend the round of the head section into the top section using the clipper or scissor-over-comb technique, like this."

"Piece of cake," Bill said, quickly following Bud's lead.

"How's Mr. Jeremiah treating you, Grant?" Bill asked.

"'Dad' and I are getting on famously. I always think how things would have turned out so differently if I hadn't bothered you that night, Rev. Battersea. You really talked sense into me. And I did listen to the sermon at the wedding, by the way! Timed it too -- 32 minutes! Thanks again for not jumping in bed once you had your jammies on!" Grant said.

"Well, I enjoyed cutting your hair, but accidentally taking you down so short was due to shear exhaustion," Bill replied.

"I'm glad you did! Short hair is so much more practical," Grant said.

"Now, let's get the top standing erect. Very straight. Both of these fellows have dense, semi-coarse hair with a lot of body. So, just a blow dryer will do. It's if fine wispy stuff, work a little product into it," Bud instructed.

"Now comes the hardest part, so cut out the chatter, everyone! Using clipper-over-comb technique, Bill, create a center guide -- let's start leaving it plush and long, so you can get practice. And, make sure to always leave the front longer and angle slightly downward in the crown area. Got it?" Bud asked.

"I think so. Helps that Vic has such great hair. Oh, this nice plush top is my favorite!" Bill exclaimed after the first few swipes.

"But, we're taking them down, slowly but surely, closer and closer until the clippers graze the top of the head. Watch me, Bill," Bud said. "And.....we have a landing strip! A very slight one. Now, a second and third run with the clippers. Broader, longer....and there it is!" Bud exclaimed.

"How does it look?" Grant asked anxiously.

"Like the main runway at JFK!" Bud laughed. "Your new father-in-law will definitely approve."

"Vic? Ready for me to carve out a landing strip?" Bill asked.

"Can't wait!" he said, looking down at all the hair on his cape. "I can't believe Ben was cool about this...."

"Would it help you if I said that Ben wasn't really a fan of your retro-feathered cut? He just thought you were into it, so he acted like he liked it," Bill said.

"You're kidding me! All this time, each of us trying to please the other?" Vic stammered.

Bill proceeded to carve the strip. Vic sat still as a rod in the chair. Bill was pleased with his work.

"Are you fellows ready for the big reveal?" Bud asked. "Okay, turn 'em to face the mirror!"

There were big smiles on both faces. Lots of curiosity with both the eyes and hands.

"Fantastic!" said Vic.

"Flat-astic!" echoed Grant.

"I'm giving you an A+ on the haircut, Bill. Best apprentice I ever had. Only one too! It's because you put your heart and soul into barbering...." Bud said.

"Like I do with my pastoral ministry," Bill replied, thankful for the praise from Vic and his master barber. "Two wonderful careers!"




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