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Cooties by Deke Cutter

Angus woke first, groggy, he opened his eyes and tried to move, he found himself restrained in a chair in a darkened room. He looked to his left and right and saw his two old friends Martin and Nicholas similarly restrained in what looked like some kind of fancy dentist chair or…were they old fashioned barber chairs? "Marty, Nick wake the f*ck up." Nick grunted and seemed to be waking up. "Marty," he said louder, "are you awake?"

Marty replied, "What is going on, where are we? Why are we tied up? Nick are you here?"

"Yeah," Nick moaned. "I’m here. What happened, we were waiting for the rest of the honored guests for the special dinner. We were all drinking those fancy beers and then I don’t remember anything."

The three young men had each returned to their hometown for their 10-year high school reunion. They had been best friends in high school and had acted the way extremely entitled young men did. They used their status to make sure everyone else knew that they were on top of the high school hierarchy. Their monied parents had made sure they each got into the best universities, the best internships, the best graduate schools, and the best jobs, in firms that owed their parents favors. Not being terribly self-aware, the three young men saw nothing ironic when they received invitations to a special dinner the night before the reunion for ‘select graduates who have distinguished themselves by their own actions.’ Each was like a puffed-up rooster when a limousine picked him up and took him to a very discreet looking townhouse in a nearby town. It didn’t even look like a restaurant. Their drivers assured them that this was a private club, and its members wished its existence to be kept extremely quiet. Only special non-members were invited. They were greeted by two beefy security guards who asked for all of them to surrender their communication devices, showing them an elaborate looking set of locked safes that each was given a key to. The guards explained that the members were so security conscious and publicity shy, that even they relinquished their own phones and media devices on entry. The young men, so gullible, agreed. They were then escorted into a reception room, where several young hostesses and bartenders were waiting to serve them. They each ordered a fancy Belgian beer and that is the last thing each remembered.

"Well, it looks like our special guests have woken up." The men looked around to the extent that their heads could turn but could not see anyone in the room.

"You better let us go. We are three important businessmen and people will be looking for us," said Angus.

"I doubt that" said the voice, "you see we sent messages from your phones saying that you three old friends had decided to have a "guys night out and were staying together at a secluded place you found on a private lake. Oh, and you each noted that there was no phone or internet reception."

"Who are you, what do want?" This was asked by Nick.

"Well, that takes us to the reason you three are in town, your class reunion. Do you remember all the dirty tricks you used to play on the nerdy kids? Let’s go back to your junior year when Angus came up with a very clever idea. You three had decided that your target was a classmate who you thought was getting a little too much attention for her academic achievements. Her parents did not have money and they lived in a small house on the wrong side of town. She was always dressed conservatively, but her clothes were always immaculate. Her dark wavy hair always shined. She was polite and never gave you boys any notice. All of this made you all-the-more interested on pranking her. Somehow, one of you managed to get some school letterhead stationery and envelopes. You concocted a letter to her parents telling them that there had been an infestation of head lice in the school and that their daughter was suspected of being one of the carriers. She would only be allowed to return to school if she either had her head shaved or if she completed a course of treatment with a certain shampoo. You assumed that her parents might be too poor to afford the shampoo and simply shave her head."

"But she didn’t shave her head, did she," exclaimed Nick.

"Shut up Nick," said Angus.

"No, she did not shave her head, because her parents were simply careful with their money, they lived modestly, but we were not poor. Her father read the letter. He said that he would go to the pharmacy and buy the shampoo and he called to his son, who had just come home from Middle School where he was in the eighth grade. After going to the pharmacy, the son walked out the door and turned right toward their car. His father grabbed his shoulder and said, ‘this way.’ He stopped two doors down at Dominic’s Barber Shop. The son did not get his shaggy deep brown hair that he wore brushed over to the side and fell below his ears and collar at Dominic’s, not since he convinced his parents to let him grow it out. His father told him that if anybody was responsible for giving his sister lice, it was him, her brother, and they were taking care of that problem now. His father was typically easy going, but he was old school. When he decided, his children obeyed. They entered the shop and Dom, the owner, invited the boy into his chair. The father told the barber he wanted his son shaved bald. Dom asked if the father was sure, and the father said yes.

The boy could not believe this was happening, he was a star soccer and basketball player, a budding lothario, and tomorrow he would go into school BALD! He heard the clippers click on and Dom gently pushed his head forward. The clippers moved up and up, he felt the vibrations and could feel the air blowing on the back of his head as the hair was cleared away. It only took the barber a few minutes to clipper shave him. Then came the hot towel. Dom turned back to the counter and turned on the hot foam machine. He covered the boy’s head with the cream. Then ‘skrit, skrit, skrit.’ Over and over again. When he finished, he turned the boy to face the mirror. The boy looked at a stranger. His pale scalp was shining, he felt that he looked ridiculous. He also felt embarrassed, and his eyes were red from trying to hold back his tears. Dom removed the cape, and the boy climbed down from the chair. When they returned home, the boy’s father handed the shampoo to his mother. The boy’s sister looked at him and started to cry, "oh my little brother, I am so sorry."

"His sister stayed home from school the next day, but their mother took the morning off from work, to go to speak to the principal. When she explained to the principal that she was very confused about the letter since no test was mentioned, but she had begun the treatment. "The principal looked at the mother with confusion and asked if he could see the letter. She showed it to him and, his anger was barely contained. "This letter is a fake, I did not send this. Please tell your daughter she is not suspended and tell her I am shocked that this prank has been played on her. The mother thought this was over and the girl went back to school, but your poison had already been spread. Whispers of ‘cooty-girl’ followed her. She learned an early lesson on who her real friends were, those who stood by her. But even though she was chosen for the National Honor Society, many members would shun her. The cruel nickname "Cootie" followed her. Luckily, she is a strong woman. She was accepted into an exceptionally good university on a full scholarship, and she is now a psychologist working with the victims of bullying."

"Your little prank had lasting consequences for her brother. He was, indeed, a laughingstock for that first week of school after the shave. Girls hated the scalped look. A month after his head shave, on a Saturday morning, his father said, "It is time for us to get our haircuts at Dom’s. Now that we are rid of that long hair, we are keeping it short." This began a monthly ritual of his father taking him to Dom’s for a Number 2 buzz cut. This lasted throughout high school. It took the boy a year to accept himself as a buzz head. But a quiet desire to avenge both his sister and him has grown ever since. Unfortunately for you, your drunken bragging at several parties over the years, allowed him to identify each of you and allowed him to hire me to plan this ‘special reunion event’ for you."

At that moment, the lights in the room in which the three conspirators were held came on. A masked man, dressed in a barber’s white coat stood behind Marty. "Marty, I understand that you are the only one of the three who has ever expressed any regret over this prank. You have stated that you would like to apologize to the girl, but you have never tried to reach her. In view of your stated regret, you will be receiving the least severe shearing. Barber, administer a number 2 buzz cut to Marty’s lovely curtains that are flopping down into his eyes. Marty looked straight ahead, acknowledged what was about to happen and said nothing. The barber picked up a pair of barber shears and began clipping off the long bangs and the long hair that covered Marty’s ears and collar. He then laid down the shears, picked up a pair of clippers, chose the appropriate guard and began removing the bulk of Marty’s remaining hair. Marty was left with a bristly head that made him look more like a workingman than a rich entitled brat.

"Now, on to Nick, you have continued to act as a spoiled child. You have shown no remorse and you even tried to make light of the girl’s situation earlier tonight. So, Nick, your lovely curls get removed with a no-guard clipper shave."

"You cannot do this to me, I will sue you. You will never get away with it."

"I beg to differ with you, Nick. How do you think your mother or any of your rich colleagues and clients would react if any of the young men and women who were on the staff at the townhouse were to whisper or shout suggestions of assault. Who knows what may or may not be on their cell phone cameras and who knows which of your contacts they may have downloaded. Now be a good boy and accept your haircut like the girl’s brother accepted almost 50 before he was out of his parents' house."

Nick sputtered a bit, but the barber moved in front of him, put the clippers to Nick’s forehead and, pressing hard pushed them back toward the crown of Nick’s head leaving behind a strip of white scalp. He continued this process all over Nick’s head. It was particularly gratifying to see Nick’s ears sticking out just enough to give him something of a jug headed look when the shave was completed.

"And now for our piece de resistance, the ‘man with the plan’ who stole the stationery and made the whole thing happen."

"Look," Angus said, "do you want money? How much? Cutting my hair would give you a moment of satisfaction but imagine what you could do with the money."

"You really don’t understand." This is about teaching you a lesson in humility, and you will have your lesson. Your golden surfer locks, so carefully tended, so expensively styled are going to be taken from you. Barber, shave him bald! The barber had grown to dislike this pompous young man, as he tried to barter to save his precious hair, so he happily took his clippers and went to work shaving off the long hair with gusto, almost bootcamp style, it happened so quickly. Then, rather than going directly to the straight razor, he went over the head carefully with an electric shaver. Finally, he placed a hot towel on the head, then spread the shaving cream and shaved it, not once but twice. Then, he took some oil and rubbed it all over the now perfectly hairless head so that it shone.

And now gentlemen, you will be returned to your hotels. You will attend all reunion events, without hats. If you do not, the consequences will be more severe than you can anticipate.

That night, three very chastened alumni were the subject of a great deal of discussion and some derision at the Alumni Reunion Dinner and Reception. Everyone wanted to speak with the psychologist who had appeared on "Ellen," MSNBC, and CNN. She had blossomed into an attractive charming and outgoing lady. Her husband, a handsome attorney at a top firm never left her side. They stayed for cocktails but had a plane to catch and could not stay. Just before dinner, a voice familiar to three in the room came over the DJ’s system. "Ladies and Gentlemen, three members of your class have righted a historic wrong that was committed against one of your classmates. I direct your attention to the screen above the DJ. A video began titled ‘Cooties.’ These three men have suffered from the burden of cooties for the last 11 years." Here they were shown pictures of the men as they appeared in their Yearbook pictures and as they appeared when they were sitting in the lounge of the townhouse the previous night. "To atone for the pain, they caused to one family 11 years ago, by spreading false rumors, they have agreed to one of the traditional cures for cooties or as its more commonly known, head lice infestations, they have had their heads shaved." Here pictures of each of the men in the barber chairs, with capes covering them, at the completion of their haircuts were shown. Laughter grew as jug headed Nick and shining bald Angus came on to the screen. "They’ve each also made pledges to ‘The Campaign to End Childhood Bullying." (This was shocking news to two of the three men. The suggestion had been made to Marty who readily agreed). While our esteemed classmate who started the campaign could not stay, her brother, is here to thank your three classmates. From the back of the room came a younger man with beautiful shoulder length deep brown hair who shook each man’s hand and rubbed each one’s head.

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