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A Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience? by Manny
As I looked up from trimming back my peonies, I caught sight of a thick glistening mane of blond coming down the sidewalk towards my house. It was a gorgeous head of hair that could only be described as a mop — like it had been allowed to grow freely for several years without so much as a trim. Certainly, he was a fellow who decided to forego haircuts during the pandemic and never returned to the barber shop once things semi-normalized.
He called out to me, "I’m looking for a cat. Black with white feet — Socks is the name because she looks like she’s wearing them."
"You must be far from home. I haven’t seen you in the neighborhood before," I said. There was no way I would forget seeing such a lush head of hair on a decent-looking fellow.
The man mopped the heavy forelock away from his eyes — he was actually older than I had imagined. Still blond at his age, mid-30s was my guess — he must have been very much a towheaded boy. Good German stock, or possibly Swedish. Heavy, dense, coarse but shiny hair — lots of it! A beer drinker to keep it so healthy and in perfect condition.
"I live on the other side of the highway. Not too far. I exhausted that part of the neighborhood and thought perhaps Socks had crossed via the pedestrian overpass. She stays away from time to time, but never his long. It’s been just over a week," he explained.
To continue engaging in conversation, I made up a bit of a story. "I thought I saw an unfamiliar cat this morning. Wasn’t paying too much attention. Didn’t recognize it, though. Could’ve been black, but maybe gray. A dark gray."
He continued a losing battle to keep the long hair out of his eyes.
"You might have more success finding the cat if you visit the barber first. How can you see anything with all that hair over your eyes?" I laughed.
"Ha! Good point! Just got used to it, I guess. If I'm not wearing a baseball cap, it really is a losing battle," he chuckled, using two hands to manage the forelock.
"You’re not the only guy with COVID-hair left uncut," I replied. "I still have my COVID-beard. But, once we were ordered back to work and barber shops re-opened, I was one of the first in the chair. Long hair is not for me. Plus, my office is more formal."
"I get lots of positive feedback about my hair, but truth be told, it’s a bit of a bother. Especially this!" he said, as he held up his forelock.
Abruptly, he changed the subject. "Can I give you a flyer with my phone number on it in case you see Socks? Just, give me a buzz…."
I thought to myself how much I would love to do exactly that! Take a clippers to that glorious thatch and watch it all fall to my feet…
Apart from his phone number and a picture of the missing cat was his name.
"Will do, Roddy," I said, imagining him in my kitchen, head bowed and the clippers stripping off his thick locks.
He walked on, and I watched as the back of his spectacular mane came into view. I good eight to ten inches of growth flowing down from his nape. To take the clippers to it….. How it shimmered as he walked, swaying back and forth!
By sheer coincidence, that very afternoon, a cat responding to Socks' description sauntered through my backyard.
I whipped out the flyer and quickly dialed Roddy. "Your cat! I think I just saw it. In fact, it's still in my yard."
"If you have a can of tuna -- open it up and set it near the house. I'm on my way over. If no tuna, a bowl of milk....." Roddy said as he dashed to his car.
By the time I found an old can of tuna at the back of my kitchen cupboard and located the can opener, a car was pulling into my drive.
To my utter shock, Roddy emerged from the car SHORN! His thick mane of long blond has was gone! Or at least most of it. He was sporting an extremely short taper -- around the ears and up the back. And his bangs -- snipped off quite short, near the top of his forehead!
"Is that you? What happened to your hair?" I laughed. "The cat is still milling around the back, near the bird bath. He's been eyeing the sparrows, ready to pounce at moment's notice."
Roddy went around to the back and I watched him through the kitchen window. Oh, the barber had inflicted an extremely tight taper on him -- super close, almost to the crown. His neck was the color of alabaster. White! What I would have given to watch the transformation...
Socks pounced and was having a delightful time with his prey. It appeared as if Roddy was going to let the cat have his fun with the captive sparrow, so I went out back, onto the deck.
"You didn't recognize me without the long hair?" he said with an amused tone, running his hand up the bristled back. "You're responsible for this, you know!"
"Me?!" I laughed.
"Yeah, telling me I wouldn't be able to find my cat unless I got a haircut. That comment sort of gave me the nudge I needed. I've been meaning to get the big chop for a while. So, I went straight to the barbershop after I ran out of flyers. Told the barber to shear it all off -- very, very short! Especially the bangs! Now I look like I've been drafted in the army!"
"Shoot, if I were responsible, I can tell you even more would've come off! You have a perfect head of hair for my favorite haircut, a flattop!" I exclaimed.
"OMG! More off than what the barber took? You should've seen the floor when I got up out of the chair. Actually, I snapped a photo of the carnage. Take a look!" Roddy said.
The photo showed an amazing carpet around almost the whole base of the chair. Lovely, golden hair strewn about in waves and clumps.
"So, are you happy with your haircut?" I asked.
"It's shockingly short. Still getting used to the new me. I can't keep my hand off the bristles. Actually, I've never had it cut this short before. I went from one extreme to another. I particularly like the feel in back. The stubble at the nape is so stimulating. It's just these short bangs, cut straight across the top of my forehead like this. I can't do anything with them. I feel like a second grader with 'little boy bangs'," he laughed. "I keep telling myself they'll grow out fast."
"Perhaps not," I countered. "Really, you should consider a flattop. You know what I'm talking about?"
"Of course, fellow at work has one. Super macho look. You think....?" he asked, fiddling with his little boy bangs.
"Think?" I replied. "Do I think a flattop would suit you? I sure do!"
"The barber did say I could come back if I got home and decided he didn't take enough off. 'No way!' I was thinking to myself as I left the shop. But...." Roddy seemed to be seriously considering the option.
"A flattop is the only way to be rid of the little boy bangs. Can I come with you?!" I asked impulsively. "Make sure the barber knows what sort of flattop to cut -- I'm thinking perhaps a real deep pile on top with beveled edges. You have amazing hair, and a longer top will show it off at its best."
Roddy blushed a bit, but did not try to contradict the compliment. "Thanks," he said quietly and looked at me in a slightly different way.
"Your daughter will be pleased you found her cat," I said, probing a bit about his personal life.
"Daughter? Nope, I'm single. Socks is my only daughter!" he laughed.
Almost on cue, the cat came over and dropped the dead sparrow at our feet. Then, Roddy leaned over and picked Socks up.
"Thanks for the gift, Socks. Recognize Daddy without all that awful long hair?" Roddy purred at his furry pet. "Now he's going to have the barber cut it even shorter!"
Roddy asked, "You want to come with me, really? How about I take you out to lunch -- a reward for finding Socks? Might be good to have some moral support when I first emerge from the chair with my new flattop. I know more than a few who won't forgive me for having the long locks whacked off."
"Tell me what it was like, your visit to the barber shop today," I asked as Roddy put Socks in a little carrying case and into the back seat.
"Like I said, I was already toying around with the idea of cutting it. I guess it was on the drive over to the shop that I thought about having all the length stripped off. Actually, it was a bit exciting, toying with myself. 'How short can you go?' I asked myself," Roddy explained. "I crossed paths with a man coming out of the shop. He was sporting a sort of a burr. I mean, like everything mowed off. That sort of yanked my chain. Not that short, I thought to myself. The shop was buzzing with activity. I had time to study this vintage chart of haircuts. So, as I was summoned to the chair, I pointed at the chart that looked straight out of the 1950s to a haircut labeled 'the forward brush cut'. It was super exciting to hear the barber say the words 'brush cut.' And when the barber first took the clippers to me, I almost jumped in the chair. A real jolt of excitement hearing the barber comment, 'no backing out now.' I assured him, I wanted everything cut very short, especially the bangs. So, right away, he combed them straight down and scissored them off! Right near the top of my forehead. Wow! Talk about hair piling up in my lap. It was like I was in the chair forever. Over and over he went with the clippers. More and more coming off -- at the end, just of trace of snippets with each swipe. My legs felt like jelly when I stood to leave afterwards. I just couldn't believe I had gone through with getting such a short haircut."
"And now you're heading back for a second round!" I exclaimed.
"Right after we drop Socks off," Roddy replied with undisguised excitement.
The excitement continued all the way back to the barbershop. He pushed the door open energetically and strode in.
"If you're looking for your hair, there it is!" the barber quipped pointing to a vast pile of blond hair swept up near the trash can.
"Can't believe all that was up here just this morning," Roddy laughed. "No, I'm back to contribute more to the pile. You said if it wasn't short enough...."
The barber smiled broadly, "Take a seat! You didn't seem that pleased with the length of those bangs."
"I don't want any bangs! I want a flattop!" Roddy exclaimed.
Then, I interjected, "A deep pile flat with beveled edges."
"One deep pile flattop with beveled edges, coming right up," the barber remarked as he fastened the cape around Roddy's neck.
The barber wet down Roddy's hair and then blasted it with a dryer to make it stand straight up.
"Ready?" the barber asked perfunctorily as he made the first move to flatten the top.
Small chunks of blond hair went everywhere. Roddy smiled as he watched his transformation begin.
I came close to the chair to take a few pictures. I peered at myself in the peer. My thick chestnut-colored locks looked perfect under the neon lighting that displayed the auburn highlights in their full glory. My copious forelock was my crown jewel. My youthful hair made me look so much younger than my 40something age.
Roddy saw me gazing at my own hair. "Considering a flattop for yourself?" he asked.
"Oh, no!" I instinctively replied, mortified at the thought of the barber taking off my forelock with one quick swipe of the clippers.
Instantly, however, I was totally erect. A massive baseball bat in my trousers to contend with. Of course, I had fantasized about getting a flattop before....but the idea was never verbalized.
Roddy grinned at me. "Why not? We could both walk out of here with flattops," he argued.
I ran my fingers through my hair nervously. "Well, I hadn't thought about it before, but since you mentioned it...." OMG! I was egging them on with no intention of going flat.
The other barber, who was between clients, piped up. "Come on, take a seat here. I'll take off that boring businesscut. But no girly-boy flattops from me. You'll get a proper landing strip with skinned sides and back."
He stood and pointed to the chair. I needed to stall for time to plot an escape. "I'd always thought a shoe might be the best cut for me...."
The barber snapped the cape across the seat to chase away stray snippets from his last client. "A shoe it will be! Over here!" he commanded.
I slunk towards the big chair, furtively glancing at my lush chestnut locks in the mirror.
"I cut my teeth as a military barber!" he exclaimed. "You won't be disappointed."
I collapsed into the chair, resigned. Might as well make the most of my makeover. "Good. I'm looking forward to a huge change."
He grasped me by my plush, pampered mane. "This mop is as good as gone!" He yanked it playfully, just enough to sort of hurt.
The cape was fastened suffocatingly tight. The barber brushed my forelock straight down. It extended to the tip of my nose. Suddenly, I wished that cat had never wandered into my yard! I was on the verge of losing most of my beloved chestnut-colored hair with fiery auburn highlights!
"Look at that!" the barber scoffed, pointing his shears at my copious forelock.
SNIP, SNIP, SNIP!!
Off it came, near the top of my forehead, landing almost intact on my lap. I watched on helplessly.
With the forelock gone, the dread I felt seemed to dissipate a bit.
"So, a shoe!" the barber exclaimed. "First time?"
"Yep, and I'm looking forward to it," I said, somewhat surprised about actually feeling that way.
The barber snapped on the clippers. It was a huge set of balding clippers.
"No more fussy businesscut with an overgrown forelock for you! Brushing it each morning, making sure every strand is in place before you prance off to work," he laughed as he plunged the machine into my chestnut-colored hair with fiery auburn highlights.
I gulped, and the constraint of the tight cape around my neck became more apparent than ever. "Change is good," I managed to say.
My head was thrust down and the clippers stripped away the hair from the back of my head.
When I finally was allowed to sit up again, Roddy's haircut was coming to an end.
"I love it!" I heard him exclaim.
"Let me see," I said.
He stood in front of me, so handsome and manly! He bowed his head slightly to show off his amazingly plush top -- it was so dense that no scalp showed.
"You're getting a proper flattop," the barber reminded me as he pushed the clippers down the top of my head and carved the shoe inset. "I'm going to finish you off properly, too, with a full lather shave. Not like your friend there. Oh, no! Your skinned scalp will glow like the sun when you leave my chair."
Mounds of my treasured hair piled into my lap and all over the cape.
"How's it looking?" I asked Roddy.
He hemmed and hawed a bit. "Uh, is anything going to be left? It looks like the barber is shaving you bald! CUEBALL!"
"Oh," I stammered. "Not sure I could take the no hair look. That's really for guys with thinning hair and early onset MPB."
Roddy came over and took a wad of my cut hair from the cape. "Love the color of your hair...." he murmured wistfully.
"Hair is a nuisance," the barber said. "Shaved bald is so practical. What do you say I scrape you clean, sir?"
I gulped. I had come this far. Why not? Every man should do it at least once in his life.
I gripped the arms of the chair. "Sure, give me a chromedome."
The barber flashed a huge grin. "I think you're going to be a regular here."
"I think I am too," I said, tacitly, as I watched the barber lather me up and scrape it all off. I was growing fond of the barber's commanding way.
He took some warm moist towels to my shaved head. It felt like heaven! Then he splashed witch hazel on my head, and I yelped in pain.
"Ouch!" I gasped.
"Love to do that -- put an abrupt end to the cozy feeling of the warm moist towel with a sudden sting of alcohol," he laughed. "What's your name, sir?"
"Carl," replied. "Chromedome Carl."
"I'm James. And I'm going to keep you smooth on top, just like this! Understood?" he said as he tenderly caressed my naked scalp.