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Joe Downs' Homecoming by Manny


**** Storyline inspired by Linus, who also provided some narrative




"So, we're all agreed," Mr. Dalton, the scoutmaster, said to confirm the troop's decision. "We're sponsoring Joe Downs' return to the community after six years in Vietnam."

Most of the lads nodded their earnest approval of the group community project.

"He's seen a lot during that time -- atrocities, things he might not want to remember. And, he'll find our community quite changed too. I've read that returning vets can find it hard to fit back in. Nightmares, disillusioned, a sense of restlessness and hopelessness. Are you really up to it, guys?"

"Don't be so dramatic, Mr. Dalton," Jerry quipped flippantly. He flicked his long blond locks away from his face to reveal a skeptical smirk. "My cousin came back from Vietnam three years ago, got a job at the bank, used the GI bill to buy a house cheap...piece of cake. The vets get lots of perks."

"Jerry, I have no problem calling your father to explain why you're not scout material. And to think, last time we chatted, he was wondering if you'd make Eagle Scout!" Mr. Dalton remarked curtly. "I should recommend he consider the girl scouts for you. That hair! I have a mind to take a pair of scissors to it myself!"

The idle threat sent a wave of chuckles through the troop.

The fact was that most of the scouts admired Jerry Jarvis and his thick, long blond hair. It was way past the base of his collar in back, completely over his ears and the forelock came down to his chin. They referred to him as 'surfer dude' and many took their cues from him.

"My father told me Joe Downs is going to re-open the old barber shop on Main Street when he gets back. Yesterday, the bank attorney prepared a bill of sale for it," one of the lads remarked.

"Is that so?" Mr. Dalton commented. "I’m glad to hear that! Archie Daniels, the old barber, passed away unexpectedly in 1965. Some sort of legal limbo ensued. Well, I'm glad it's been resolved. Joe will have a new career, and Main Street will get a bit of revitalizing. Downtown is almost a ghost town these days with business relocating out to the suburban plazas. See, fellows, that's an example of what I meant about our community changing. Joe probably doesn't even realize people hardly go downtown at all now. There will be no line at the front door of his shop when he switches the sign to 'open' on his first day."

Instantly, ideas began to percolate in Mr. Dalton's mind.

He looked at the troop. Six of the ten definitely could benefit from proper haircuts. Only the preacher's kid and the Crowley twins were clean cut with nice sharp tapers up the back.

His own son, Melvin, towed the line he had established at home -- hair off the collar, ears and brows. But it was full and thick and not at all as short as it should be. The forelock in particular only passed inspection when it was neatly combed to the side. But, as it grew long and got bulky, the forelock would slip down into Mel's eyes. Then, Mr. Dalton would snap -- a red line had been breached! Mr. Dalton could hear himself shriek, Haircut on Saturday, Mel! No discussion. It's in your eyes, for Pete's sake! Soon, Mel could get a proper haircut at Joe Downs' new barbershop...some much needed thinning action on the forelock.

"So, guys, let's have some ideas. How can we help Joe feel welcome back in his community?" Mr. Dalton asked the assembled scouts.

A few of the goody-two-shoes called out old standbys.

"Wash his car," said one of the twins.

"Mow his grass," said the other one.

"Leave a few joints on his kitchen table," Jerry piped in, affecting a very serious and pensive tone, mocking the Crowley twins.

"That does it!" Mr. Dalton said, raising his voice and smacking his hand on the table. "Meeting over! And don't think I won't be having a word with your father, Jerry!"

The boys filed out, some concerned, but most suppressing giggles.

Mr. Dalton took out his address book and dialed the Jarvis home. "Ah, I see. Could you give him a message, Mrs. Jarvis. Tomorrow evening, a meeting at my place, for the boy scouts’ fathers. We’re planning a community event, a troop project to help welcome our returning Vietnam vet, Joe Downs. 7 p.m. It won’t be a success without parental support. And, just so that you’re aware, I am on the verge of excluding your son from the troop. His attitude is corrosive. And his hair….. I thought one of the girl scouts had shown up this evening! If your husband could arrive 15 minutes early, I would like to lay out a few conditions if young Jerry is to remain in the troop."

The next evening, Mr. Jarvis arrived promptly at 6:45. He was very sympathetic to whatever it was Mr. Dalton was going to say about Jerry.

"Before anything is said, I want you to know that my wife and I support you completely, Judge Dalton. Whatever you stipulate, we agree to. We’re so concerned about Jerry ourselves. We feel him slipping away from us…." Mr. Jarvis murmured apologetically.

"His idea to provide Joe Downs with marijuana just pushed me over the edge. Really! Mind altering drugs and addiction are NO laughing matter! Not to mention, it's illegal. I send hoodlums to jail for trafficking in that illicit substance," Mr. Dalton pontificated.

"I totally agree. Jerry crossed a line, and he must be curbed. He will not be getting his driver license next week, for starters!" Mr. Jarvis huffed.

"Here’s what I want from you. Your vocal, enthusiastic support for the community project that the scouts are going to sponsor. The boys don’t know the details yet, because it won’t be a success unless the fathers support it and join in themselves," Mr. Dalton explained.

"You have my support! 100%! Just tell me the plan," Mr. Jarvis replied.

Mr. Dalton eyed the oversized mutton-chop sideburns that Mr. Jarvis sported and the thick shag that lapped to the middle of his collar. Just his earlobes poked out from the floppy mane. Not a surfer-dude like his son, but still with one foot in the 1970s and the other poised to leave the 1960s….

"Joe Downs is re-opening the old City Barbers downtown — Archie Daniels’ former place. The scouts are going to blanket the town with advertisements. Posters, handouts, blurbs on the local radio station, you name it! ‘Help the vets, and help revitalize our downtown!’ And, then, here’s really where I need your support….on opening day. We are all there….scouts and their fathers….a long line down the block. Reporters, TV cameramen….one after the other, waiting to take a seat in Joe’s chair. And, first in line, I hope, will be Jerry," Mr. Dalton exclaimed. "I can guarantee it will be the lead on the local news with his photo splashed across the front page of the local section of the newspaper the next day. His long hair being clipped off short! Cameras flashing, the TV studios recording...but you need to make it happen. Understood? Or, he's off the troop."

Mr. Jarvis was left sputtering. "Uh, well, I did say that you would have my 100% support. And, I suppose, as his father, I can tell you that Jerry will in fact be at the head of the line."

Then, Mr. Jarvis pawed nervously at his own mod locks.

Mr. Dalton smiled and confirmed what poor Mr. Jarvis suspected, "Yes, that’s right, you too! Second in the chair! And I want to hear you clearly say for the cameras as they roll, ‘cut my hair, just like yours, Joe!’ Understood?" Mr. Dalton asked rhetorically.

"Even if it’s a short military cut?" Mr. Jarvis whined.

"Especially if it’s a short military cut!" Mr. Daniels exclaimed. "I myself am thinking that Mel and I will be getting military-length cuts to show solidarity with Joe Downs!"

"Well, if a respected judge can get a crewcut, I guess I can, as well," laughed Mr. Jarvis, a bit nervously. "You know, Jerry…his attitude started souring when we let him grow his hair long. I suppose that was a mistake. My wife said we shouldn’t make a fuss about it, that he would get tired of long hair. But….please tell me he did not joke about supplying free pot to Joe Downs!"

"He most certainly did. Now, I see the other men are beginning to arrive. Remember…." Mr. Dalton said.

"I will be your number one cheerleader. Over half the men here are my masonic brothers. Oops, I meant to say, I see them down at the lodge from time to time. I can pretty much guarantee that there will be a long line out in front of Joe’s Barber Shop on opening day. And, I’m almost looking forward to a crewcut…." Mr. Jarvis said, suddenly shifting how he felt about having his longish hair cut short by Joe.

---------------------

The big day finally arrived. There was a lot of commotion in front of the old City Barbers. A new sign, announcing "Veterans Barber Shop" was gleaming with nicely painted red and white barber poles on either side.

Apart from the sign, the shop was much as Archie Daniels had left it the day he locked up, never to return. All his tools and equipment remained on the counter and in the drawers. He had turned off the lights and drawn the blinds, not dreaming his hours were numbered or that the shop would remain closed for a decade. Old Archie also never imagined that traditional shops like his would fall out of favor as long hair on men began to take hold of the county.

Joe Downs, all dressed in traditional barber whites, was being interviewed by the press. His high 'n tight was testament to the fact he had recently left Vietnam with the end of hostilities.

The young barber stood amid the three vintage Koken chairs which remained positioned in front of their original mirrors and cabinet stations. "When I entered the shop last week, this green and white tile linoleum floor was covered with a fairly thick layer of dust. The whole shop needed a good cleaning, the chairs required some greasing up, and several neon light bulbs needed to be replaced. But other than a few simple things like that, the shop was in fantastic shape, ready for me."

"This place seems frozen in time," the reporter noted.

"I'm glad!" exclaimed Joe. "I used to get my hair cut by Archie right in this chair before Uncle Sam sent me off to fight the Viet Cong. I found the old cotton capes he used neatly folded in a cabinet; the shears were still sharp as the day they stopped cutting the hair of our men and boys in 1965."

"You've made a few changes in here," the reporter noted.

"The price list there needed a slight adjustment... I decided to swap out some of the artwork -- those fishing and hunting scenes Archie had hanging above the chairs in the waiting area -- for some more patriotic imagery. That tattered American flag was carried by some of my fallen comrades in one of the last campaigns of the war. I don't want them forgotten -- that's why I named the shop Veterans. Those framed posters from each branch of the military flanking either side of the flag are to remind all of us that we're living in the home of the brave!"

The reporter made a few notes. Then he pointed to Jerry Jarvis, standing nervously at the front of the line. "Styles have gotten longer since you left us, Joe."

"Well, I'm glad I'm back to put things to right. In my opinion, that teen is a perfect example of how a fellow should NOT look," Joe said in the firm tone of a true believer.

Then his eyes locked onto the Beatles' moptop the young reporter was sporting and delivered the same withering assessment without uttering a single word.

"It's 10:00 a.m. Ready to officially open the shop?" the TV cameraman asked.

Joe beamed broadly as the sign on the door was reversed from 'closed' to 'open'. The congregated group, so large that the police had cordoned the street at both ends of the block, cheered.

The reporter thrust the microphone towards Jerry. "Looks like it's been a while since you've been to the barber shop!"

Jerry grimaced a bit before breaking into a shy smile. "All the fellows from Scout Troop #186 are getting haircuts today. And our fathers too."

"Do you do modern styles like his, Joe?" the reporter asked, pointing at Mr. Jarvis.

"There are beauty shops for men who want to look like that. Hell, I've been a marine barber for six years! The haircuts I give are on a chart in the shop, left over from Archie Daniels' time. These great guys and their dads have agreed to let me show off the full range on that chart: from induction to executive. And they're going in order, shortest first! Jerry here is being a real sport about it because he's agreed to kick this day off with an induction cut," Joe announced. "That's what I call leadership. Someone who can see beyond himself and his own interests. That's the sort of character this country needs to rebuild. Oh, and his father is next with a classic butch!"

"That is amazing!" the reporter noted, staring at Jerry's locks. "All that hair on the linoleum floor? It'll be just like bootcamp. Tell me why you're going along with this."

"Well," Jerry said a bit nervously as the TV camera whirled, "My dad and I had a long chat about things, one night. I wasn't taking life as seriously as I should, I think. Really saying and doing dumb stuff. Acting like a jerk. There was also some talk about whether I was going to be getting a driver license...."

Jerry glanced over at this father who gave him a jocular 'stern' look.

"My cousin told me about opportunities with a military career, and I thought about it for myself," Jerry explained. "The whole troop wanted to support Joe -- especially after I told them I was going to let him give me a marine haircut. I mean we busted our butts with the advertisements. And, this long hair is really a pain in the...."

"Rear end!" Mr. Jarvis interjected.

"So, let's shave it off!" Joe announced, grasping a shank playfully.

The crowd broke into another cheer, especially Mrs. Jarvis who joked, "I'll get my blow dryer back!" The ladies around her all cackled on cue.

As Joe caped up Jerry, the reporter interviewed Mr. Jarvis. "So, a classic butch....what's that?"

"A short, uniform length -- all over....with the clippers," Mr. Jarvis replied.

"Like a buzzcut?" the reporter asked.

"Yep, the shag is going to get mowed off!" Mr. Jarvis said, running his fingers through his trendy mane.

The reporter continued down the line. "And, you? What's your name and what haircut are you getting?"

"Melvin Dalton. I'm getting a crewcut," he said nervously.

"No more floppy forelock in your face, I take it! You'll be able to see the chalkboard again," the reporter laughed. "And your father, what's in store for him?"

"A flattop!" Mr. Dalton announced. "That'll be just a bit longer than Joe's own high 'n tight."

"You're the troop leader, right, Judge Dalton? Why didn't you pull rank to get the last haircut? Keep that posh executive cut you've got -- a dignified look when you're presiding over the court on the bench? I mean, a judge with a flattop?! I can't remember when was the last time I saw one of those dated haircuts," the reporter commented.

"If I had pulled rank, I would be #1 one in the chair. I really admire our boys in uniform!" Mr. Dalton said.

"Speaking of...the induction cut is about to start. Let me head on in to get a good view," the reporter said with true excitement in his voice.

Jerry sat ramrod straight in the chair, cloaked in solid white. His blond locks completely covered the white strip of tissue around his neck, as well as the huge metal clip that secured the cape in place. The surfer-dude look, with the sun drenched locks resting on his shoulders looked so out of place in the traditional barber shop.

"Ready, recruit? One induction cut coming up!" Joe announced as he lifted the long bangs with a plastic comb that had a wider end with spaced teeth and a shorter end with very narrow gage teeth.

"Yep, fire up the clippers!" Jerry replied as he twitched with nervous excitement.

Instantly, the huge set of Osters plowed through the blond thatch. Massive sheaves of shimmering blond hair tumbled to the cape. The surfer-dude look was quickly going to be a thing of the past, thanks to barber Joe.

Jerry gulped a bit as he watched the carnage. His Adam's apple bobbed about fearfully as the locks continued to tumble with the second and third drives across the top of his head.

"How you holding up, buddy?" Joe asked his first ever paying client.

"Feeling like one of the few, the proud...."

"...the Marines!" Joe exclaimed.

The induction cut was carried out like a German blitzkrieg. "I have a lot of fellows out there needing to be shorn, so I'm going rather quickly," Joe explained to the cameraman who was zooming in on the mound of hair that had begun collecting at his feet.

Jerry was very cooperative in the chair, bowing his head as Joe required to finish taking off all the mange.

At the end of the transformation, Joe held up a mirror so that Jerry had a complete view of his new look.

"Like your new shorn head?" he asked, playfully rubbing the faint stubble on top.

"Might take some getting used to," Jerry gulped, somewhat stunned.

The reporter nudged Mr. Jarvis, "OK, pops! Your turn. That trendy look you've sprouted is going to get added to the pile on the floor!"

The green and white linoleum was fairly covered with cut hair in sections near the enamel base of the big Koken chair. Jerry's mane had been transformed from an object of envy and admiration to one of disdain and uselessness. At the end of the day, all the shorn locks would be swept up and discarded.

Mr. Jarvis hammed it up a bit for the reporters as he climbed onto the fancy metal footrest of the chair. "Well, this will end my wife's push for me to get a man perm..."

"Heaven help us!" Joe winced at the thought of a man sitting in a ladies' salon with his hair rolled around brightly colored perm rods.

The barber was quick with the tissue, cape and metal clip as he prepped Mr. Jarvis.

"Get one last look at the shag! You have three choices with regard to the sandpaper grade up on top. Fine, medium or coarse -- meaning a #1, #2 or #3 blade. What will it be?" Joe asked.

"I'm a middle of the road type -- give me a #2 all over," Mr. Jarvis said, beginning to show some true enthusiasm for his barbershop makeover. He squirmed in the chair with a bit of excitement as Barber Joe snapped the #2 blade on to the Osters.

Then it was click, lift, thrust, drive....and watch the first mass fall to the green and white linoleum floor. It was remarkable how similar in color Mr. Jarvis' hair was to his son's. Just a shade or two darker, a sandy blond.

Mr. Jarvis got even more excited looking at the shorn path down the middle of his head. He couldn't wait to feel the stubble when it was all over.

Joe picked up on his client's vibes and asked, "Sure you don't prefer a #1? It will be no trouble to swap out the blade. I want my clients happy when they leave the shop."

"Nah, there are a lot of guys anxious to have a turn in your chair. Let's stay on course for a #2 butch!" Mr. Jarvis replied cheerfully.

Joe put the clippers back to work, mowing off the overgrown thatch. He looked forward to the haircut's grand finale -- shaving off the ostentatious muttonchop sideburns.

As he sent more of Mr. Jarvis' hair to the cape and floor, the barber asked, "What in the world possessed you to let yourself get so shaggy?"

"Uh, I guess, I thought it would help me connect better to my younger clients -- you know, come across as modern, forward-focused...." Mr. Jarvis explained.

"Well, with the butch, you'll connect with veterans of all ages! Chat up your clients in this very shop as you wait for your turn under my cape. And when you walk out of here, you'll come across as a sensible, practical, no-bulls**t sort of a guy," Joe countered.

Then, Joe reached for the edgers. Those sideburns would soon be history!

"Get the next shaggy lamb ready. The cape is coming off momentarily," the cameraman called to the fellows waiting outside.

Poor Melvin stumbled through the door, virtually pushed by his father, who was right on his heels.

"Okay if I come in to watch?" Mr. Dalton asked. "I brought my new polaroid camera to record the event!"

Mel was one of the least enthusiastic of the whole troop about getting shorn. However, since his father was the troop leader, he knew he had no choice. Trying to stall or derail the initiative was not an option. Jerry going along with the idea gave it unstoppable momentum. When Mel consented, however, he thought the worst that could happen was to end up with a very barbered look -- tapered short around the ears and up the back like the Crowley twins. Unfortunately, his father had signed him up for a crewcut! His only consolation was that his father would come out of the chair looking even more ridiculous with a flattop. He hoped Barber Joe would go crazy and shoe his father! Mr. Dalton's plush executive look was carefully brushed each morning, with a few final glances in the mirror before heading to the courthouse, to ensure every hair was in place. The coif would be destroyed by Joe's clippers!

Mel's eyes were wide as saucers as he saw the large pile of cut blond hair at the barber's feet. Soon, his own chestnut mane would be added to the pile.

With resignation he mounted the fancy metal footrest. As he turned to see where he was sitting, the forelock slipped and fell right across his eyes. The shimmering hair that he was so fond of...so carefully combed to the side at home, but always in his face when his parents weren't around...suddenly veiled him.

"Let me get the cape on him, sir, and then you can snap a before shot," Barber Joe said to Mr. Dalton.

Mel felt like he was in a straitjacket -- confined and uncomfortable. Joe had fastened it super tight around the neck, and Mel struggle to breathe easily. Perhaps it was sheer nervousness.

Joe combed the bangs straight down. The full truth was revealed and on display. Hair totally covering the eyes. He could hear his father's total disapproval with some audible tsks.

"Would you like to do the honors, sir? I'm mighty grateful to you for coming up with this splendid idea and even agreeing to be one of the participants yourself," Joe said.

Mel heard some commotion and the shears snapping viciously. His father was going to deliver the big chop to his treasured fringe!

Then he felt the blade slipping under the mass of hair. SNIP! A chunk fell and the neon light of the barbershop streamed in. SNIP, SNIP!! More of his glossy hair piled in his lap. Finally, the last SNIP!

Mel looked up and saw a ridiculously short fringe. His father was grinning from ear-to-ear, still holding the barber shears in his hand.

"Excellent job, Judge Dalton!" Joe said. "I'll be looking for another barber or two to join the shop if business takes off."

Joe's forceful hand bent Mel's head down, as if he were bowed in prayer. In a flash, the clippers began a tight drive up the back, through the nape, all the way to the crown. Mel could feel a padding of hair being peeled off and imagined it landing atop the Jarvis' sandy blond locks.

"Wow, that's mighty short in back," Mr. Dalton commented nervously.

"Yours will be the same length, so I hope you like it," Joe said quickly.

Mr. Dalton's hand reached nervously to feel the thickness of his executive coif. The soft waves of hair would be stripped away soon enough.

"There will be a bit of length on top for Mel, but for you sir...how do you feel about landing strips?" Joe asked, suspecting a not-so-positive reaction.

"Oh, my! A flattop is already going to be a bit hard to adjust to. But a landing strip, Joe?!" Mr. Dalton stammered nervously.

"Don't worry. I'll leave it nice and plush on top," Joe said, a bit as a thank-you for being the organizer and brain behind his warm welcome home and fantastic start to a new career.

Joe turned to focus solely on his client. With skilled clipper-over-comb technique, the barber started removing much of the length on top of Mel's head. The cape gradually turned from solid white to almost solid chestnut. Mel was glad that he hadn't been penciled in for the "induction" cut. At least with the crewcut, a hint of his fiery auburn highlights could still be seen.

When the haircut was done and the little hand mirror showed off the back, Mel's mouth was dry as a bone. He could not even muster up the ability to say "looks good," so he just nodded. It wasn't a nod of approval, just an acknowledgement that he had been transformed by Joe. The cape came off and Mel found out that the little tuft left in front was barely long enough to pinch between his fingers. He hoped his hair would grow back quickly and stayed quiet so as not to be thought a crybaby.

Next was Mr. Dalton's turn in the chair. "A very nice executive cut, Judge Dalton," Joe said as he brushed the thick mane into place, carefully smoothing it with his hands. "Perhaps a bit bulky on the sides and back -- nothing some action with the thinning shears couldn't resolve." He fashioned the pomp a bit more ostentatiously. There was quite a bit of length and a lot of bulk in the quiff. "It seems like you took a cue from your son in cultivating a long, pampered forelock."

Then, the barber combed Mr. Dalton's fringe straight down. It was every bit as long as Mel's had been!

"Where's the son? Let him know I need a bit of help with his father's forelock!" Joe chuckled.

"Is that necessary?" Mr. Dalton asked nervously. He was being set up for a humiliating first chop.

Once the cape was on, however, all the authority belonged to the barber. Even the exalted judge's petitions could be ignored or dismissed.

"Ah, here he is," Joe said as Mel came back into the shop with Jerry. "I thought you would do me the honors with this bothersome lock!"

Mel was happy to wield the shears. As had happened to him, the snipping started very high up on his father's forehead. SNIP! SNIP, SNIP!! SNIP! In short order, the mighty forelock was in the lap, atop the white cape.

"I can have a father/son barber team working alongside me," Joe laughed. "Good job, Mel. That is quite an even line across the top of the forehead. Fortunately, there's enough length left for a relatively plush flattop."

"What about me?" asked Jerry. "Can I have a go at Mr. Dalton's helmet hair? Mel told me his father wouldn't go swimming with us in the lake, because he didn't want his 'pretty boy' hairstyle messed up!"

With that revelation, Mr. Dalton struggled to contain a blush so hot his newly revealed forehead began to sweat.

"How about I let you run the clippers up the back of his head, Jerry," the barber offered.

Jerry was thrilled to inflict the humiliation. "Sit still in the chair! No squirming, Mr. Dalton! I might take on ear of if you don't cooperate."

Jerry forced the troop leader's head down and then ran the clippers right up the back. Poor Mr. Dalton had to endure it and act like he was enjoying it, act like he was willing contributing to the festive atmosphere.

Joe picked up where Jerry left off. The judge was treated with the same quick efficiency as the three who had come before him. Joe was a master with the clippers and fearless in speed cutting. Within moment the plush sides and back were gone -- not quite down to the skin, but close.

Just then the TV reporter showed up and began a segment for the evening news. "....now in the chair is Judge Jerome Dalton, leader of the civic-minded boy scouts who promoted this event. I see, Judge Dalton has given more than just his ideas and time! He's giving up his nice hairstyle too! What's going on here, Joe?"

"The flattop is my signature cut. Perhaps it takes the most skill of any of the haircuts on that chart there. I know flattops are out of fashion, but every self-respecting barber should be able to cut a decent flat," Joe said as he began lopping off the length from the top of Mr. Dalton's head.

"Judge Dalton, have you always wanted a flattop? It's 1975, you know!" the reporter teased.

"Anyone who asks me about it will hear that Joe Downs is back from the war, a military hero and a great barber! I'll be a walking billboard for Veterans Barber Shop!" Mr. Dalton said with conviction as he smiled for the camera.

------------

As the event was drawing to a close after quite a day in which Joe had shorn nearly 30 heads without much of a break, he asked Mr. Dalton to get a broom from the back. "Just sweep up all the hair to the side over there by that wall. I can dispose of it later."

"This almost looks like a bootcamp barber shop," Mr. Dalton said, referring to the floor.

He examined his new plush flattop in the mirror for the umpteenth time before heading into the back to get the broom. It looked better than he thought it would. Actually, not bad at all. And the plush pelt on top actually showcased how dense and healthy his hair was -- something a man his age felt good about.

In back, he came across Mr. Jarvis examining his baldy cut in a small mirror on the wall.

"Getting used to your new look?" Mr. Dalton joke.

"It's growing on me, if you'll excuse the pun," Mr. Jarvis replied. "Actually, jokes aside, it really is. And, I couldn't be more thrilled to be rid of Jerry's mop!"

"I couldn't believe he volunteered for that," Mr. Dalton replied.

Mr. Jarvis got a bit of a queasy look. "Uh, I have a bit of a confession to make. Rather you hear it straight from me, instead of your son." He shifted nervously on his feet. "I might have suggested something to Jerry that wasn't exactly, technically correct."

"Involving me?" Mr. Dalton asked.

"Um, yes. I told him you could, because of your position, have him prosecuted about the plan to provide Joe Downs with pot as a welcome gift...he was so worried about jail time." Mr. Jarvis said sheepishly. "Obviously, not true. But it worked...."

Mr. Dalton came up behind Mr. Jarvis, placed both hands on his shoulders, leaned in close, and whispered, "I won't tell a soul...just as long as you keep the baldy cut. Stay shorn down to the wood like this, and your secret is safe with me!"

Mr. Dalton was having a bit of fun rubbing his friend's clipped pelt, taunting him about needing to keep the butch, when Joe burst into the room.

"Oh, I hope I wasn't disturbing anything private!" he stammered, taken aback by what seemed an intimate moment.

Both men felt embarrassed. Obviously the barber jumped to a wrong conclusion. They were family men, after all!!

"Robby, the newspaper reporter who's been here all day, the one with that Beatles' moptop, asked me to cut his hair! Barber's choice!! We have to stay open just a bit longer. And, after the haircut, he's taking me out for some drinks to celebrate," Joe babbled like an infatuated high schooler.

"And what will the barber choose?" Mr. Dalton asked.

"A horseshoe! We're going to need a snow shovel to sweep up all the hair once I've sent his Beatles look to the floor!" Joe could hardly contain his glee.

"And here's some more good news for you, Joe," Mr. Jarvis announced. "Judge Dalton and I will be regulars at Veterans. I'm keeping the butch, and he's keeping the flattop!"

"Fantastic! Next haircut is on me, understood?" Joe exclaimed.

Mr. Dalton had been cornered! His executive coif, a relic of history. He couldn't back out of making Joe Downs' homecoming perfect. Having the town leaders and their sons become Joe's regular patrons would ensure the success of Veterans Barber Shop.

Then the barber added, "Oh, Mr. Jarvis, I'll be taking you down a notch -- you'll like the #1 butch even more. And, for you, Mr. Dalton, a landing strip on top with a lather shaved back and sides! You'll be one mean-looking judge who commands fear and respect!"



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