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Jumping To Conclusions by Deke Cutter

I heard the bell ring over the door of my barbershop. I looked up from my Kindle and saw two men enter. The younger and slightly taller man looked furious. The older man, who I recognized as a regular customer named Francis Richards, looked determined, his mouth set in a solid line. "Good afternoon Mr. Richards, I am surprised to see you back so soon."

"Good afternoon, Jim, no, we are not here for me today. You and your colleagues keep my hair closely cropped at my bi-weekly visits. We are here to have my son’s hair taken care of. I don’t believe you have ever met Francis Junior. He stopped frequenting this shop when he was in high school, and your predecessor was still here. As you can see, ‘Frank,’ as he likes to be known has worn his hair in a long and totally unacceptable style for far too long." Frank, whose hair was about 8 inches long and immaculately clean and styled, remained standing and silent as his father continued to rant. "Frank and I had made an agreement that if he made Dean’s List each semester, he would not have to cut his hair short. To his credit, he studied hard and did so. We also agreed that he would promptly repay any money provided to him by his parents for his education expenses, with the same proviso about his hair. We agreed that promptly was as soon as he had a job with a salary that allowed him to live independently. Again, it seemed that my son had, indeed, met the requirements. These events and payments all took place in a period that ended ten years ago when my son began to have success in his career. So, my son has flaunted his long hair in my presence for all these years. Then, yesterday, I arrived at my home early, after an appointment was cancelled. I was surprised to see my son’s car in the driveway of my home and assumed he might have taken his mother to lunch at the country club where we are all members. I walked toward the back of the house when I heard my son saying to my wife that he was sorry that he had forgotten about the $150.00 for the car repair. My wife reminded him that it happened around the Christmas holidays and the end of semester, and she had forgotten about it too. She has always been too soft on him so I was not surprised when she lowered her voice and said that this would be their little secret. I’m sure she was fluffing his hair as she said that. But I put an end to that little secret by coming around the house at that moment! So, my son owes me a haircut and I am here to collect."

"Jim," Frank finally spoke," my father has had his say and I will be giving him what he wants today. I am very successful in my field. I’m known for my mane. It is the only reason I have kept my hair in this same long style. I am sorry to bring my family’s drama into your business but be assured that I will have more to say after you have completed your work." With that, Frank, with some aplomb, sat down in my chair.

I got Frank caped up and turned to his father. OK Mr. Richards, how do you want me to cut your son’s hair?" I really felt badly about this. Frank’s hair was beautiful. It was combed back from his face and fell nearly to his shoulders. It was very healthy and had a good sheen to it.

Mr. Richards had a gleam in his eyes. He pulled me over toward the door of the shop and whispered. "I want it short. You taper it down from a two to a zero on the sides and back and those sideburns go. Cut them even with the top of his ears. Take the hairline up to the level of the bottom of his ears. Leave the top about a half inch uniformly and make it stand up like a brush. Use butch wax or whatever will make it stay up."

I walked over to the shelf behind my chair and picked up my clippers, adjusted the setting and chose the appropriate guard. Turned to Frank and said quietly, "I’m sorry sir, this is going to be very short." He just nodded, almost imperceptibly and I began running the clippers up the back of his head. Over and over again, the clippers cleared away more and more of his beautiful hair. The father sat with a look of satisfaction on his face. The son, sat stoically, resigned to his fate. I continued to the sides of his head, starting at the base of the sideburn and moving up. I saw the father glance and it seemed he was about to speak. Perhaps he thought I had forgotten his directions regarding the sideburns. I gave him a stern look and he remained silent. After I finished clipping the sides down to a grade 2, I explained to Frank that I would be fading out the sides and back. This took some time with the various clippers and various blades and guards. Frank’s hairline had to be raised about 3 inches to meet his father’s requirement that the back be at the level of the bottom of his ears. The fade had taken care of much of the remains of his sideburns. I explained to him that before I started on the top, I would be cleaning up the back and sides with a straight razor. I turned on the hot lather machine and then slowly spread lather around his ears, and his new hairline. Slowly and carefully, I scraped away the shaving cream. Since arches had not been directed, I was careful to be moderate in the way I cleaned the area around the ears. I felt very pleased with the quality of the job I was doing. I knew that Frank was not receiving this haircut by choice, and I wanted it to be as well crafted as it could be.

I could no longer put off the shearing of the hair on top of Frank’s head. "Frank, I am going to begin by cutting the bulk on top with my shears and comb." He thanked me. I started in the front and cut off all but an inch and continued to do this across the top of his head. Using my comb as a length guide, I then cut another half inch off. Finally, with a huge sigh, I put my very best half inch clipper guard on my very best clippers and went carefully over the top of his head, making sure all the hairs were a uniform length. Then I wet the hair and with a boar’s hairbrush brushed it all straight up. When It was all standing up, got my blow dryer and brushed it dry. Then, I took a thick clay product worked it into the hair and brushed the hair once more. The product gave the hair a bit of a shine and made the hair stand up in what was once known as an "en brosse" style. I turned the chair around to face the mirror and said, Frank, I know this is not what you wanted, but I must tell you that you are lucky to be a very handsome guy. My wife would still be swooning over you."

"Ha, Mr. Richards said, before Frank could answer. It is what I told him for years that he would look better with a man’s haircut instead of that silly long hair."

"With all due respect, sir, I replied, I did not say he looked better, just that he still looked handsome. He, like you is blessed with strong good features."

"Thank you, Jim," Frank said. And thank you for all the kindness and attention to detail you showed me during the haircut. You are a master barber. In a moment or two, I will tell you and my father a story about…" Before he could further, the barbershop door opened, and two attractive women entered. "Jim, let me introduce my mother Genevieve, and my wife Sandra." Sandra walked over to her husband and hugged him and ran her hands up and down the back and sides of his head and whispered something in his ear that made him smile.

His mother, a very attractive lady, turned to her husband and said in a voice that brooked no challenge or opposition. Francis Xavier Richards, you are a stubborn pig-headed man. God knows why I love you, but I do. I cannot believe you made your son go through with this. Frankie, please go on with your story, and let your father know what a mistake he has made. Looking at her husband she said, not a word."

So, Frank Jr. and I sat in the two barber chairs and the other three sat in the waiting chairs facing us. "It was my last year as an undergraduate and my best friend Tom was struggling financially. His father had been laid off from the plant and was having trouble finding another job. Tom received financial aid and had some scholarship money too. But, as far as any extras went, Tom had to struggle. He worked in the dining hall and made a little on the side. Tom wanted to go to law school but he needed money to get some work done on his car so he could make the three-hour drive for an interview and still ger back for his finals and then make it home for Christmas. I had mentioned it to my mother who really liked Tom and asked me to give him the money from her. She deposited it in my checkbook. I told her that Tom would want to pay her back when he could, and mom laughed and said that was silly and ‘whenever.’ Well, that interview made all the difference for Tom, and he did get into law school. "Looking directly at his father, Frank said, "and mom and I really forgot all about the money. Tom went to work as a public defender and was a very good one and never made much money. Then, he got an offer from a firm that needed his skills and he accepted. He invited me to lunch and handed me a check for mom. He was getting ready to fly out west for a trial and wanted me to get the money to mom as soon as possible. That is what my father overheard and went off half-cocked about."

"Why didn’t you say anything," his father demanded.

"Did you give either of us a chance to speak before shouting us down and accusing us of keeping secrets, then stomping off to your office and shouting the odds," Genevieve, responded to her husband. Frankie told me that this had been brewing for a long time and that he was ready to resolve it. I see what your hubris has cost him. Now it is your turn, unless you fancy sleeping on the couch for the near future. Jim, could you give your chair to your next customer?" So, once again, I became a player in this family drama. "I want him shaved slick bald. He has made fun of my brother’s bald head for years, now he can have a taste of his own medicine."

Frank Jr. smiled and said, "well dad, looks like turnabout is fair play." Since Mr. Richards’ hair was already short, the clipper shave didn’t take too long. Then I went over it with a foil razor before getting the hot towel out and going to work with the shaving cream and the straight razor. The whole operation took a half an hour, but when I finished, he had one shining bald head which his wife took great joy in slapping. As she did, the door of the shop opened again. Frank Jr. looked over and said, "Tom, what the heck are you doing here?"

"Sandy called my office to leave a message, thinking I was out of town, but the case settled out of court, so I was in, and I got to speak to her. She wasn’t kidding man; I almost didn’t recognize you and dang if you still aren’t a handsome devil with most of your hair gone. I must get a picture for Connie."

"How are Connie and the little ones," Sandra asked.

"Thriving, Tom replied. Oh Mrs. Richards, forgive me for not greeting you first. It is so good to see you again and I am so sorry it took so long to…"

"Don’t be silly Tom. You didn’t have to repay me at all, especially all those years you were doing "the Lord’s work."

Tom blushed. "Mr. Richards, sir, I didn’t recognize you." Frank Sr. blushed and his whole head turned red.

Tom ran his hand through own long wavy hair and looked at the two Richards men and then at me. "If you have time to give another haircut, sir, I’d appreciate it if you could fix me up with something as close to my best friend’s ‘new do’ as you can, sir. Frank and I have been through a lot together and his haircut, in a long and convoluted way, can be traced back to me. So, we may as well go through this together."

I told him to hop in the chair, over Frank Jr.’s protests. As I was caping him up, Mrs. Richards said something to her husband which led him to say in a voice we could all hear, "son, I apologize, I was completely in the wrong and I will never ever do anything like this to you again. Please forgive me for all embarrassment the haircuts cause you or Tom. I never say it, but I am very proud of the man you have become and the husband and father you are."

"Thank you, dad. I regret that it took this haircut to get you to say those things to me, but mom made sure I knew how you felt. Now you can do two things to close the book on this. Pay Jim for all three haircuts and leave him a ridiculously big tip and when you get home, go online and make a big contribution to Saint Baldrick’s Charity. They raise money to end childhood cancer by holding head shaving parties. Who knows, you might want to shave your noggin again. Mom, can you take Sandy and dad home, I want to wait for Tom." So, the other three Richards left after Mr. Richards paid me and did, indeed, leave me a very big tip!

Tom’s hair was not as long as Frank’s, but it was wavy. Once I had the sides faded, it was a bit trickier working with the hair on top. Tom’s hair wasn’t quite as dense as Frank’s so in the end we compromised with more of a laydown top with the front waxed up. It looked very good on him.

"What are the rest of those ambulance chasers at your firm going to think of this new look buddy," Frank joked.

The older partners will shake their heads the guys in the middle will love it, since most of them have short hair. The associates will freak out unless I tell them I don’t expect them to follow suit. These kids today. What about you. Will your clients freak out?"

"Being the boss and no doing as much residential real estate as I used to, it won’t be as bad as it was when I was ‘Frank Sanders, Your Mane Man for the Home of Your Dreams’. You know what, Sandy told me she liked the way the bristles felt and was looking forward to having some fun. What do you think Connie’s going to say?"

"She knew I was going to do it, so she will be ok. I think she will probably like the fact that my hair is neat for once."

Both men had me take pictures with their phones and I took some for myself, as well before they left. It was about a month later that Frank Jr. and Tom returned to my shop. "Hello Frank," I said. "It is great to see you and Tom again. Don’t tell me you here for another brush cut."

"You know Jim, my wife and I both had to admit, you did such a great job, and it is a very becoming cut for me. I didn’t have any intention of keeping my hair short, but fate, in the guise of my parents, intervened again. My mother was delighted with the idea of dad contributing to the Saint Baldrick’s Foundation. Over dinner, she suggested that he grow his hair until the next Saint Baldrick’s Day. My wife Sandy noted that that was only seven months away and suggested that it might be better to wait until the following St. Baldrick’s Day. Sandy had already decided that she was quite happy withy my short haircut and didn’t mind what I decided to do with my hair anyway. So, I made my father a deal. I told him we could either grow our hair out together and both auction our locks off in 19 months, or I would maintain this haircut until his Saint Baldrick’s shearing and then grow my hair out again. Either way, my hair length would be my decision from now on. The possibility of seeing me with a close-cropped haircut for over a year and a half was more than dad could hope for, so he took the latter offer. When I told my pal, here, about it, he insisted on going on this journey with me. So, you may be losing dad as a customer for a while, but you are gaining the two of us in his stead."

"Heck yeah," added Tom, "as I anticipated, my wife loves my neater look and I must admit, I don’t mind it at all. And my little guy wants a haircut like his dad’s so this Frank and I will be bringing our sons in for haircuts together some Saturdays."

And so, it went until that fateful Saint Baldrick’s Day 19 months later when I removed Mr. Sanders hair, as soft and silky as his son’s had been before he forced Frank Junior to cut it. The Sanders family, with the help of Frank and Tom’s businesses raised more than $10,000. Mr. Sanders got his short haircut back and Frank and Tom started their journeys back to longer hair.

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