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Liam's Surprise 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
Chapter 13 - First-Time Flattops

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Bill was on pins and needles, putting the finishing touches on Christmas Dinner.

"I'm never going to get all this to come out at the same time," he said in exasperation as he checked the oven and stove.

"Relax, Bill. It's dinner with family and friends, not the Queen of England!" Bud laughed, trying to lighten the mood in the kitchen.

"Well, when that arrogant Liam struts in here with my daughter on his arm, he'll be expecting Buckingham Palace. I just know it!" Bill replied ruefully.

"You need a glass of wine, buddy! Let me pour you one. And you know how I disapprove of spirited libations! Heavens, ever since you found out about hosting Liam this evening you've been griping and complaining and imaging all sorts of horrible things about him," Bud said.

"That prima donna with his prissy hair! Full of himself!" Bill scoffed.

"Natalie is a sensible girl. I can't imagine her with the conceited, plastic person you've concocted in your mind," Bud reasoned. He poured a generous glass of chardonnay. "Here, take a sip and let go of the anxiety!"

Bill complied and breathed deeply. "You're right, Bud. As always... I'm so glad you're in my life," Bill sighed.

"And I hope the two younger love birds go out for a romantic stroll in the evening so that the two older love birds can spend some quality time together in front of the fireplace...after we finish the dishes, that is!"

The doorbell rang. It was Ben and Vic. "Merry Christmas!" they exclaimed as they presented the host with a bottle of very expensive Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

"This will go great with the Beef Wellington!" Bill remarked, examining the bottle.

Before the door could shut, Natalie's voice rang out from the driveway, "Dad, we're here! Merry Christmas! Come meet my father, Liam."

It was the moment he dreaded. Bill stood shifting about nervously, his stomach in knots.

"Good evening, Reverend Battersea, it's such a pleasure to meet you," Liam said with warm smile and handshake. "Natalie's told me so much about you, I feel like I already know you! Oh, and the aroma... She praises your abilities in the kitchen!"

Bud interjected, "What about his abilities in the pulpit? I hope she's told you about his ministerial skills! Since Bill arrived in town, Bethlehem Church has given us some competition. Hello, Liam, I'm Bud Brown, the pastor at First Baptist."

"Oh, and let's not forget his skills as a barber!" Vic exclaimed. "How do you like my new flattop?! I've gotten nothing but praise for it. Even Lt. Charles commented on it yesterday when I ran into him at the Piggly Wiggle. Liam, I'm Vic and this Ben."

"Yep, he cuts my hair too!" Ben quipped, running his hand over his tight butch.

"Then I'll have to let him have a go at my mop!" Liam said. "I haven't had it cut in ages. It's grown wild during the pandemic. I look like a scarecrow!"

Bud gave Bill an eye. Certainly, Liam was no primping prima donna!

The warm chatter didn't leave anyone out. Such an evening -- a tasty meal, telling stories and jokes...and getting to know Liam.

"So, you're studying law. Corporate? Tax? Big job on Wall Street?" Bill asked.

"No, sir. I'm afraid my career is not going to have me or my family living high on the hog. I'm studying International Humanitarian Law. I want to help refugees fleeing conflict to find safety....protection, new homes," Liam said in a soft, pensive voice.

By the end of the evening, everyone was in love with Liam. Such a kind, witty, warm person.

As they were washing up in the kitchen, Bud commented, "You know what? Liam reminds me very much of you! A younger version....but the same caring, loving soul. Can there be a greater compliment to you? A living testament to what sort of a father you are to Natalie? She loves and respects you so much, she wants a husband who's just like you."

A tear streamed down Bill's face. "And I had imagined the worse. That he was conceited, a jerk.... You were right, I just didn't want her to grow up."

"You're not losing a daughter, Bill," Bud said.

"No, I'm gaining a son!" he laughed, finishing the familiar, corny quote.

-------

Several days later, Bud and Bill were on duty at Al's Barber Shop.

The door opened and in walked Liam. "I was driving by..." He stammered a bit and shifted on his feet awkwardly.

The two barbers stared, wondering what he was having a hard time saying. Both barbers felt sure he was there to ask for Natalie's hand in marriage. But, it was kind of an unconventional time and place.

Liam looked at himself in the mirror. "Well, I'm here for a flattop. And, I would like you to cut it, Rev. Battersea."

"Oh, Liam.... A flattop?! That would be a very drastic change. Are you sure?" Bill asked.

"I couldn't stop admiring Vic's at Christmas Dinner. I mean, I've never had short hair before....always rather long and floppy. But, I'm going to be making some big changes in my life soon. So, why not? Yes, I'm sure, a flattop!" Liam said, now more certain of himself.

Bill still hesitated. "I've only cut one in my whole life. Bud will be happy to take the clippers to you, I'm sure."

"I am going on break," Bud declared. "You heard him admire the flattop you gave Vic. I'll leave you and Liam here -- perhaps he wants to talk about those big changes he mentioned."

"Bud, please," Bill stammered. But, Bud just smiled and strolled out of the shop.

Liam took the bull by the horns and mounted the metal footrest of the big barber chair. "I've never been in a traditional barbershop before. It's kind of a cozy place. Do you like cutting men's hair?"

"Love it!" Bill said. "I started in seminary, giving haircuts to the fellows in my dorm."

He began brushing the thick, wavy locks that hung in a very nice manner, completely over his collar and ears. "You have great hair. It might be a bit of a shock to go from this to a flattop. Why not something like my length?"

Liam smiled weakly. "No, I don't want the corporate, executive look, Rev. Battersea."

Bill cast the cape. It was not his usual flourish. His hands felt clumsy and he had trouble fastening the clip. How could he ever cut a decent flattop?

"Please, call me Bill. Or Pastor Bill?" Bill urged. "Are you sure about the flattop?"

"Do you give all your clients such a hard time?" Liam joked. "Fire up those clippers there!" He pointed to the long line of clippers that hung from the bottom of the counter.

Bill selected his favorite set of Osters. Once he grasped the machine, he felt more confident. Yes, Liam was going to get his first flattop, and it would be perfect!

"Do you want to watch the transformation....or do you prefer the big reveal?" Bill asked.

"Barber's choice!" Liam replied.

"Then you will see it when it's done. I don't want to watch all the nervous facial expressions as this nice hair tumbles to the cape," Bill said, smoothing down Liam's copious tresses with his hands. Liam's hair was soft and thick, just like his own.

Bill started the transformation dramatically, snagging the massive forelock with a comb, lifting it up from the face and with one quick run of the clippers sending it to Liam's lap!

"Holy...mackerel! No backing out now," Liam gulped.

"There's a whole lot more to come off!" Bill laughed.

Another drive of the clippers up the side of Liam's head, through the sideburn and temple, sent a torrent of hair to the cape. Liam twitched nervously in the chair. Now he wasn't so sure that going for a flattop was the right decision. He should've listened to Rev. Battersea.

Trying to convince himself he was enjoying himself, Liam said, "This will be an experience I'll never forget."

Never were truer words spoken!

"I just hope you like the flattop!" Bill joked.

The next drive up the side of the head uncovered Liam's ear and sent a jolt through Bill's body. The ear!! It stuck out horribly from the head -- a big, Dumbo-like ear. OMG....skinned sides would only accentuate the clumsy, oversized projectile.

Bill's confidence was shaken, and his hand began to tremble. The flattop would NOT be a good look for Liam -- and would he be blamed?

Bill decided to snap off the machine to collect his thoughts and wits, as well as to regain his confidence. He was going to have to follow through with the haircut. Already too much had been clipped off to alter course.

"You mentioned some big changes, Liam. Are they going to affect Natalie?" Bill asked.

"Yes, sir. We would like to get married," Liam said nervously.

"But she's just a sophomore in college," Bill remarked, equally nervous.

"She wanted me to ask your permission before we announce our engagement," Liam said. Now his foot was tapping wildly. "If you say yes, we'll go shopping for an engagement ring in Raleigh this afternoon."

"You're a fine fellow, Liam. I'd be happy to have you for a son-in-law. But, I prefer that Natalie finish her degree before getting married," Bill said.

"I understand, sir," Liam replied submissively. "We'd like a long engagement in any event. And, we've already decided that we will wait until the wedding, you know, to consu-...."

Bill snapped on the machine and snagged another doomed lock with his comb. "I just hope she doesn't change her mind when she sees the flattop!" Bill quipped, eager to change he subject.

Then, he added, "Natalie couldn't stand my first flattop. Barber Al gave me a horseshoe right here in this very chair. It was so short! 98% of my hair ended up in that trashcan there.... I walked out of here with the thinnest rim of hair imaginable around the crown of my head."

Liam sat very still in the chair while Bill finished clipping off all the growth from the sides and back. Yep, both ears stuck out horribly! At least they were symmetrical.

As Bill began to shear off the length on top, Liam again engaged him in conversation. "Natalie is concerned about my education debt. I owe over $80,000 in student loans. Plus, I'm embarking on a career that is not financially rewarding."

"What's your plan?" Bill asked, chopping away at the lush locks on top. He watched six- and seven-inch tresses fall to the cape.

"I'm open to ideas," Liam said shyly.

"No plan....that's great. Two people in love....and no plan for the realities of life," Bill said with a tinge of sarcasm in his voice.

After a paused, he continued, "Well, let me think about it. You know, Jacob worked 14 years before Laban let his daughter Rachel marry him!"

"And, she was worth the wait," Liam replied with a grin. "But, 14 years is a little long, you'll agree."

"Now, I've got to concentrate on the hardest part of the cut. I want to make your first flattop perfect," Bill said.

He began to slowly flatten out the top. Using a comb, he guided the clippers. Slowly, evenly...again and again, leaving a very lush pelt on top. Perhaps a showy plush top would distract attention from the protruding ears.

"I'm going to leave the top longer than Vic's. I think it will suit you better, Liam," Bill said, still very worried about the lad's impending reaction to his new look.

Liam reached out from under the cape and grasped a handful of cut hair. "Strange to think this was all up there....and now....destined for the dustbin." His voice drifted wistfully.

Finally, the haircut came to an end.

"Ready for the big reveal?" Bill asked as he slowly swiveled the chair to face the mirror.

Liam gasped. His eyes bulged from his head in stunned surprise and shock. He was speechless. He gulped nervously.

"Well?" Bill asked. Liam's reaction was far worse than he anticipated.

Liam blinked rapidly. Finally, he sputtered, "My ears!"

"Let me show you the back," Bill said, holding up a mirror to try to steer the conversation in a different direction.

Liam reached out from under the cape again and felt the clipped nape. Then his hand explored the plush top. "I like the feel," he finally said.

"But, not the look? I agree. A flattop isn't the right haircut for you, Liam," Bill said apologetically.

He began to slowly unfasten the cape, carefully removing it so that the soft, cut hair fell to the floor.

"I should have listened to your caution, sir. How long for it to grow out?" Liam asked nervously.

"Oh, you should be fine in four or five months," Bill replied.

"Months?!" Liam stammered.

Just as Liam was emerging from the chair, Bud returned through the front door.

"Well, look at him!" Bud exclaimed. "Another great masterpiece, Bill! Nicely cut. It's just those...."

"Ears!" Liam exclaimed. "They stick out horribly. Never was much of an issue with longer hair. Natalie is going to kill me. When I was telling her how much I liked Vic's flattop she murmured something about a flattop being okay in a small North Carolina town, but not in New York City. She has no idea I'm here or that I decided to get one anyway."

"Tell her you did it for superior male bonding....to get on better with Rev. Battersea. Come on, Bill! Let's not be putting off that flattop until spring. Hop into the chair here and let me cape you up. You and Liam are both going home with flattops!" Bud exclaimed. "I can't wait to strip off your prissy executive coif."

Suddenly, Bud gripped Bill in a playful move and tussled this tidy executive coif. Bill loved the way Bud handled him -- so manly and assertive.

"If we both arrive home with flattops, what can she say?" Bill noted with a grin. He looked at himself in the mirror. His perfectly styled hair would be on the chopping block again! Today, the coif surrendered to Bud's clippers....and on New Year's Eve his lush chest pelt surrendered to Bud's razor! He felt giddy thinking about both divestitures.

Without delay, Bill was easing himself into Bud's chair. "I'm ready for you to peel me, Bud!"

"You mean, you'll get a flattop just to help me manage Natalie's reaction?" Liam asked incredulously.

"That's the kind of guy he is!" Bud proclaimed, casting the cape. "I can't tell you how many times he's gone radically short for a good cause. First time I saw him, he was on stage in front of hundreds of people having a very attractive mane shaved bald to raise awareness about early cancer detection."

Bud grabbed the Osters and snapped them on. "Ready?" he asked. "I'll leave you with a nice plush top like Liam's there. But, come spring...

"A shoe!" Bill Battersea exclaimed, eagerly anticipating lots of skin showing. "And Bethlehem is going to whoop First Baptist again in baseball!"





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