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Years and Shears Later (Part 1) by Armando94

Years and Shears Later (Part 1)


Ryan was your typical quiet, polite teenager. With sandy-colored hair that hung over his ears and low on his forehead, but not over his eyes. He never got into any trouble, probably kept his head down a bit too much hence the few friends he only had. But he made up for that because he was just genuinely nice. Never a cross word, even though it would be rare to get a word out of him, but when you did it wasn’t full of venom. He did his school work, wasn’t the best student but still tried, never had the chance of being an athlete yet didn’t let that hold him back much. He really didn’t have much direction going for him, and his parents were okay with that. They would simply tell friends of theirs and their extended family that Ryan would find his path one day. He didn’t need to know at sixteen what he would be doing at twenty-six, and thirty-six, and so on.

But Ryan himself did wish he had something he was working towards, rather than aimlessly getting through high school. He sat around with his few friends, at lunch or on the weekends when they’d play video games or attempt some kind of sport in one of their backyards, and they all seemed to have it figured out. One knew they wanted to go into lab research, the other an eye doctor, and the third a pharmacist. Ryan was lucky he could get through chemistry this year alone. He was lucky to have smart friends though, whenever he was stumped on work, and these three guys never made him feel bad that he wasn’t in the top ten of their graduating class like them. Just like his parents, they knew he would find his path someday. No matter what and where that would be.

One day at lunch, his friends couldn’t join him because they all had something for the science league to attend. This happened on occasion, when one or two of them had to go be a hardcore "nerd", but Ryan was never totally on his own. So, instead of going to the one table they usually occupied, he decided he’d take his lunch outside where smaller groups or pairs typically did, or anyone that wanted to be away from noise in case they had to study or work on something. As it was with everything, he passed by bodies and no one looked his way or gave him a wave, maybe in encouragement for him to join them. It didn’t bother Ryan because he’d grown so used to it. If the opposite happened, he might honestly have had a heart attack.

So today, he found himself on one set of the bleachers, emptied out his brown bagged lunch, and began to eat his sandwich, looking down at his cellphone occasionally, acting as if he were getting messages from someone. This peace and quiet, unfortunately, was interrupted when a group of motley boys he knew from a class or two suddenly appeared and cornered him in.

"Sup, Ryan," the leader, Noah, exclaimed and threw Ryan off guard. This made the four other boys laugh. "Uh-oh, did I scare the little baby boy?"

"No," Ryan casually responded, keeping his eyes downcast.

"Oh, okay, somebody’s having a bad day I guess," Noah taunted, then waited a beat. Noah was your typical bad boy, but also an athlete, so he gave off a complicated golden boy era even when he was far from it. People like him had it good for now, but nothing gold stays forever, everybody knows that. "Where the rest of your nerds?"

"They have a club meeting."

"Why aren’t you there?"

"I’m not in that club?" Ryan responded, as if it weren’t obvious.

"Alright Mr. Moody," Noah tucked his head back, eyeing him up. Ryan ignored Noah’s bizarre stare down, but he could tell his eyes were flickering here there and everywhere on Ryan. Eventually, he broke his own silence, with the snap of his chewing gum, and said, "Good catching up man," and then slapped Ryan on the back before him and his troops moved out.

Really weird that Noah decided to do that, but he was a bully like any other, so Ryan couldn’t be that surprised. Just looking for a target and Ryan was already an easy one, not made even simpler with his friends not around. He carried out the rest of his lunch in peace until the school bell rung and it was time for everyone to get back to class. Ryan took his time cleaning up after himself, throwing all his garbage out unlike several other students who left stray wrappers lying around. He was one of the last to enter into the building, going through one of the side entrances that was closer to his locker, where he grabbed his things, and then headed around the bend for one of the stairs.

No one else was in the alleyway and as he kept his head down, he felt something strange. Not physically, well, yes physically too. But also the physical being of him on the stairs, it just felt completely off, unlike normal. Ryan picked his head up, looked around, and then from above and behind him, saw Noah and his cronies’ waiting, the three sidekicks laughing their heads off about something Ryan couldn’t even imagine. Noah blew him a cheeky teasing kiss, and then said, "Watch where you’re going, Ryan, you don’t want to get stuck," and then him and his friends tore off to wherever.

Again, another weird moment and interaction, which Ryan tried to shrug off. He shook his head and kept moving, up the next set of stairs and then to his chemistry class for their lab today. The teacher had it all written on the board today what they would be doing. And after he’d gone over it, he sent them on their way. Ryan got up from his seat in the back of the class, and placed his notebooks and pen at his usual lab table with his regular assigned group. Then, after everyone else had grabbed their lab coats and goggles, he picked his up, wrapping himself in the stereotypical white cloak. As he made his way to the group table, setting himself up in his position, he then began to place the goggles on his head. Placing the plastic frames against his face, he then took the band from either side across the top of his head.

"Ow," he quietly moaned to himself. Usually, these goggles did irritate him, everyone else too, but this time, it hurt more as the elastic went across his hair and head. It was almost like it was tugging back, resisting. Ryan tried again and then let out another moan, catching his group’s attention. One of the girls asked if he was fine, which he deflected, as he struggled to get the band around the other side of his head. She kindly offered to help, which he surrendered to. As she came around from the back, she let out a gasp, which made Ryan’s eyes want to fall out as he said, "What?"

"Ryan," she said, "do you know…there’s gum all over your hair…". Thankfully, she didn’t say it too loud that it got everyone else’s attention. Ryan quickly got up from the table and looked in one of the room mirrors, trying to get a good look at what had happened, or the damage potentially done.

"Everything alright, Ryan?" his teacher came over at that point. "Oh, son, your…what happened, Ryan?"

He tried not to panic, but he felt like he sounded like he already was, as fast words came out, "I—I don’t know, I was just trying to put on my goggles and then I was struggling, and I—I have gum in my hair apparently, my group said."

His teacher, Mr. Watson, tried to soothe him and said, "Relax, Ryan, okay. Let me see," as he began to inspect, remaining silent for a while. Ryan didn’t hear anything, and he knew to be concerned.

"How bad?" Ryan then asked after what felt like forever.

"Uh," Mr. Watson said, "I don’t want to scare you. But it looks like with your tugging and pulling at it, it maybe made it worse. You’ve spread the gum out. Here," his teacher grabbed for a handheld mirror, so that Ryan could hold it up and reflect against the floor length one behind him, and get a better look.

Mr. Watson was right, there was no good way of putting it. It was like a mint green spiderweb had been made through his hair. Ryan felt through it too, and a lot of it was already getting down his roots. He knew he’d heard of tricks that ice cubes could help, but Ryan had a feeling he was beyond that at this point.

"Ryan, why don’t you take a pass on today’s lab, you can re-do it another time after class, okay? Don’t worry about it. I’m going to send you to the nurse, I’ll call them ahead." Ryan just nodded his head in defeat, and stripped out of his lab coat, and placing the goggles he never got on back onto the rack. He gathered his books from the lab table, not saying anything to his group, and then grabbed the rest of his things from his desk. He went up to the front to Mr. Watson, who was holding out a hall pass signed for him, and he said, "Everything is going to be fine, son. Don’t worry, everything will work out," even though the pained look on the middling aged man did not match those words at all.

When Ryan got to the nurse’s office, they’d already been warned of his coming. One of them took him over to one of the beds and attempted with the ice cube, but in some cases it actually made it worse. "How did you get gum stuck back there, honey?"

"I don’t know," even though he knew exactly how. Now Mr. Watson probably was mad at the other students and afraid the goggles had never been properly disinfected. But Ryan knew how, and who, this was caused by. But where was his proof? This sort of accusation definitely would be not taking lightly, especially when accusing someone like Noah who, even though everyone knew wasn’t the nicest, still had a reputation that you couldn’t tarnish. Someone like Ryan was collateral damage, worse than that really.

"Alright honey, I’m going to have to call home, we don’t want you to have to be here the rest of the day," and she rolled off in a chair and told one of the receptionist to call one of the numbers on the file. Ryan was then told to go get his belongings, which thankfully everyone was stuck in class, so he didn’t have to worry about anyone seeing him, especially his friends. And Noah too. Then he came back to the nurses’ office and they said he could wait here rather than in the main office. Eventually, half an hour later, his father showed up to the main office and they called from there for Ryan to report. He did hastily, thanking the nurses as he left. His dad was waiting for him and gave a quick nod of the head that they could leave, just as soon as Ryan signed his name out too confirming.

Once in the car, his dad asked, "Do you know how…" he looked over at his son now, the back of his head. He tapped his fingers against the hair and the now spread gum and muttered a, "Oh, buddy."

"I know how, I just don’t want to talk about it, because no one will believe me," Ryan said.

"You mean to say, someone did this to you?" his dad asked. Ryan nodded, and his dad let out a sigh. "Alright, alright… let’s get going."

Ryan didn’t know where they were going to "get going" to, he figured home. But he should have expected this, at least he was lucky one of the nurses or Mr. Watson himself didn’t do the honors for him. In a matter of ten minutes, they had pulled up to his and his father’s usual barber shop, an unfamiliar sight for Ryan in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. "I’m sorry buddy."

"Its okay, I understand," but Ryan felt a shiver go up his spine. This wasn’t going to get to be one of his regular every-other-month trims. If he was lucky, he would be walking out of that shop in the next half an hour or so with at least a few hairs remaining on his head.

The father and son duo shuffled inside to the barbershop where only a few of the men working had clients in their seats, the others cleaning up their stations after probably what was a busy block of time during the typical lunch hours. Their usual barber, Al, who was also the owner, waved to them both and said, "Good to see you gentlemen, surprised to see you too, though."

"Afternoon to you Al," Ryan’s father said, trying to sound upbeat. "Well, we weren’t planning on being here, as you can tell. But, seems we got stuck in a bit of a problem, no pun intended buddy," he said the last bit in gesture to Ryan, then patted him on the shoulder. "Think you can help us out Al?"

"Always happy to help, what kind of problem are we talking about?" Ryan nodded his head at that and walked over to his barber, not saying anything, and just showed him the back of his head so that Al could inspect. "Now how in the heck did that get back there?"

"Seems Ryan is still having…issues, with fellow classmates," his father said. "He didn’t realize it was there, and in class, putting on lab goggles, turned out to make it worse. Anything else, son?"

"No, that’s all," Ryan said in half-defeat.

"Well, let’s see what we can do about it. We certainly can do something, just don’t know if its what you’ll like, young man," Al patted him on the back and then escorted him directly into his vacant red leather chair. He grabbed the snow white barber cape that matched his barber tunic and covered Ryan in it like first snow fall, gently but completely. Then he secured it around his neck, but not too tight as to not scare the teen. Then adding the tissue wrap around his neck and clipping that on to the cape. Al fingered his hair through Ryan’s tresses. It really was nice hair, the sandy color offering both blonde and brown highlights, especially with the length it was. Well, the length it was for the moment, Al was sad to say it wouldn’t be like this much longer.

"So what do you think, Al," Ryan’s father asked, presiding by his son’s side.

"Well, it’s in there pretty good and throughout. We will be able to salvage some, but I’m sorry young man, your in for a big change. Its mostly through the back and crown, but does creep up towards the top of the head too," then Al passed a hand through Ryan’s bangs. "Luckily, the very front isn’t harmed, but, sorry, we might have to do something about it still. Keep everything even and uniformed."

"I’m sorry buddy, I hope you understand, you do, right?"

"Yeah dad," Ryan nodded his head, looking at the two men and himself through the mirror. "I trust you, Al, I know you won’t mess it up, more than it already is."

"Always a proper and polite young man, even at a time like this," Al said out loud. For the sake of the poor kid, he then turned the chair around, so he didn’t have to face the action entirely, sparing Ryan as the barber would be shearing him down like he were a sheep. Ryan’s father took a seat across in the waiting section in order to watch. And Al figured there was no time like the present, so, he picked up a pair of clippers, cleaned them off, and sorted through his clippers. He wasn’t so sure how long he could keep it, but he’d been at this job for fifty years, so he knew a thing or two about numbers and lengths. He attached the number two guard and then whirled it to life, the sound almost deafening in the shop even though others were having their haircut too.

Ryan sat in the chair, as tall as he could, as he felt the barber come from behind, at the back of his neck, and felt the heat of the clippers slowly purr and then roar as the blades chewed away at his boyish hair. He didn’t know how short Al was going, but he certainly felt it, not after the first swipe ended, but the second, and he could feel the back of his head being reduced down super short. Al continued to clear out the back of Ryan’s head, as he began to see from the corner of his eyes some of the loose strands falling down in defeat like soldiers in battle, surrendering to the tiled floor. Al continued over cross sections of the back, his man-hand occasionally placed between the still long of one side of the head, and then the short bristles of the back, as he inspected the beginning of his work. Eventually, Al had to move on to the side, beginning with the right. As he plowed the clippers through right above the ear, and the hair was cut loose, Ryan saw those strands too fall down and down on the pristine cap, which now was slowly becoming littered with his long hair. He’d worn his hair like this for three maybe even four years now. Not that it had ever been super short since maybe kindergarten, but this was going to be a dramatic change for both Ryan and everyone else in his life.

Al did the same on the left side, allowing Ryan’s ears to be shown and where he would have sideburns once more. Now the one side and back had been completely reduced down to a quarter of an inch, so when Al held Ryan in place to attack the left side, there wasn’t much space between the barber’s fingers and Ryans scalp. No space really, Ryan could feel the difference so severely, but he wasn’t going to let it get to him. This needed to happen after the damage done by Noah and his crew, but really just Noah. "If its any consolation, kid, you don’t look so bad so far," Al offered. "But, we’re only halfway there, so hopefully I don’t speak too soon." This made Ryan laugh, and for the first moment since the science classroom, he felt a bit of relief, and more than his usual basic pep talking through life. He actually felt like things were going to be okay. Maybe this was meant to happen. In a weird twist of fate, but still, fate none the less.

Eventually, Al had finished the left side, and began to take the clippers to the top of Ryan’s head, starting from the back once more, with a flat comb to help guide him. He buzzed the top of Ryan’s head all across the crown, and continued that motion from back to front, but not too far up the front. Even after it had seemed like he had covered it all on top, he still carefully went over the rest, again and again, making sure no hair was left behind, that everything was in uniform length. "Alright Ryan, we’re getting somewhere," Al stated, after turning off the clippers. Then he put them down at his station, and picked up a spray bottle and a couple pairs of scissors. He saturated the whole of Ryan’s head, from the short bristles to the flopping bangs in the front. His head was so wet, it really looked like the color of sand when under the water. After this part, Al combed the bangs down, dripping wet that they extended to Ryan’s eyes. Then, suddenly and swiftly, with one of the scissors, no hesitation, he chopped a fine line half way across Ryan’s forehead from the right to the left. As this happened, Ryan noticed clump after clump of dark hair collecting in his lap. Each making a jarring thud as they fell before his very eyes. It seemed Al didn’t think that was enough, as he took the bangs down even shorter, so much so, Ryan worried there wouldn’t be any left.

Next, Al produced another pair of scissors he had gathered, the thinning shears. With those, he hacked away at Ryan’s bangs, reducing them down as well, which at this point Ryan felt almost certain he wouldn’t have any bangs at all. Yet still, after this shearing, Al took out the blow dryer and began to dry off the whole of Ryan’s head and hair. He could feel the barber’s vigorous and tough rubbing across the short of his hair, then followed by him mussing up what was left of the bangs with a rounded comb, getting that hair to stick up a bit. Once the drying was done, barber picked up clipper and comb again, and began to blend and even out from the bits of hair to the rest of the bristles, and evening out the top transition. Again, Al wanted to make sure everything was in perfect order and precise, it was the least he could do for Ryan. And at this point, the barber was enjoying giving his client a bit of a transformation. Sometimes, kids didn’t realize it, it was just the thing they needed to feel confident.

Then, Al was taking to Ryan’s head another pair of clippers, as he edged out his hair line around the ears, and then leaving a nice smooth taper on the back neckline, unfamiliar to Ryan as he felt the barber slowly yet efficiently flick and flick over the back of his neck. It made him think of when he was a kid and he always found this edging out part of the haircut a bit ticklish. Next, Al was applying some product into the front of Ryan’s hair line, the bangs if you still want to call it, but really it was like a little flip that stood out from the rest of his buzzed head yet still felt uniform to the cut. Then using the blow dryer once more to help the front stay in place and stand erect. And finally, some last minute touches, cross checking over his work, making sure there wasn’t a stray hair standing out.

"Alright, Ryan, are you ready to see the new look."

"Yes, sir," Ryan said, but not in a dejected tone. At this point, with all the shearing and clipping that had been done, plus the amount of dry or wet hair that had collected on both floor and cape, Ryan was genuinely curious how much was still left up there, so much so that Al was able to add some kind of a gel product to the front.

The barber turned him around as Ryan kept his eyes wide open. And shockingly, he was pleased he did, as he was just as shockingly pleased to see what he had become, or been made into. He mouthed a "Woah" which got a cheeky grin out of his barber. His hair was really short! He honestly couldn’t remember the last time it had been cut this way, if ever honestly! And yeah, Ryan didn’t ask for this, just as he didn’t ask for Noah to have dropped gum on his head, but not to make anyone think he was weird, he sort of dug it. The whole look sort of complimented him, he was no longer hiding behind long hair. So what that he didn’t look like a lot of other boys who had the surfer or skater look, whether they did either sport or not. Ryan was always his own person, even if he didn’t know who that person was. But this felt like he was scratching the surface, if only a little.

"I know its not what you were thinking would happen to you today," Al said. "But, if I can have an opinion on this, I think it works on you, son. Really brings out your face and eyes. Maybe it isn’t what you are used to, and you don’t have to get used to it forever if you don’t want, but it isn’t such a bad look on you, Ryan."

"Thanks Al," Ryan nodded, and offered a half smile, not wanting to give the whole game away. Then the barber applied some sort of tonic to his hands, rubbed it all along Ryan’s sides and back and slowly up through his hair. Then a bit of hair spray at the front so it really, really stayed put. And finally, the dust off and powder down, and Ryan was released from the cape. Even though he was still wearing the same clothes and was the same kid as he walked in half an hour before, he felt completely changed, standing a little taller even, not slightly slouched over in order to avoid attention.

He stepped around from the barber chair and walked over to his dad, rubbing the back of his head, saying, "What do you think?"

His dad nodded his head in approval and said, "I like it, buddy, it looks good on you. Sorry it took some moron to make you cut your hair short, but it works on ya."

"Thanks," Ryan half smiled again. Then they paid and tipped Al, thanking him again, and were on their way. Ryan wanted to get started on his homework right away when the got home, but his dad said they should run a couple errands first. He was really killing time and trying to help Ryan feel normal about everything, still felt sorry this all had to happen. But the cut did really look good on his youngest son. Maybe it would grow on him, and grow on him that he’d want to keep it.

Once they made it home eventually, Ryan got going on his work but was in a more upbeat mood. This was good, his parents would be thrilled. His mom was already home, having left work early in order to be home for when his father and him got back from their errands. She too was pleasantly surprised with Ryan’s fresh cut, and said it looked good on him. As Ryan was upstairs in his room getting started on his schoolwork, his parents briefly discussed the problem of bullying. They hadn’t had this issue with their three elder sons, and they had thought these issues were a thing of the past.

"Maybe this moment will change him," his mother offered.

"Maybe, it might…he seems in a better mood since we left Al’s," his dad added.

They had dinner as a family like usual, just the three of them. His oldest brother was a junior in college on a baseball scholarship, while his twin brothers were in their freshman year at a merchant marine academy, not too far away but still a state away. But his parents had cherished that they had this time with their youngest, even if sometimes dinners were rather quite. Today, Ryan was a bit more animated, not rambunctious but still alive and alert. He also asked if it was okay he’d go over to his friends later on, after dinner, his homework was all done. His parents said okay, but it couldn’t be for too long, it was still a school night.

Before he left though, Ryan wandered into his oldest brother’s room, and started looking through his things, never really caring for it in the past. But now he was admiring his older brother’s sense of style, it was always stylish and in-time with now. He picked out a leather jacket from the closet, and made a mental note of other things, then bounced out of one room and into the next, the twins’. Here, he began to sort through their things, stealing a t-shirt from one, not knowing who’s it was, the twins usually shared things though so it didn’t matter. Sadly, Ryan wasn’t as tall, at least yet, as his three older brothers, so, the jeans and sneakers he wore would have to stay for now. He got changed in the bathroom into these couple new things, making sure after he switched on the shirt that he hadn’t messed up the front of his hair. It really had managed to stay in place, incredible, but Ryan wasn’t leaving it to chance.

He then marched down the stairs and announced that he was heading out on his bike. His mother looked over from the kitchen and said, "Isn’t that your brother’s jacket?"

"Yep," Ryan cheekily answered, grabbing it by the sleeves and tugging it close.

"It’s a little big…but not too big. It actually looks nice, sweetie."

"Thanks," Ryan smiled. "I’ll be back later."

"Be careful!" she called after her youngest.

Ryan only had to ride a few minutes away to his one friend’s, and usually he would wear a helmet, and really should, but the streets were quiet, and he was hesitant to mess up his front flip. It proved to be worth the risk as he was last to arrive while the others were sitting around playing video games. They paused and lept from their seats, surprised as anything at who this stranger was in their midst. They even all got a turn at rubbing the top of his buzzed head. But also, in their eyes, Ryan could tell they were hesitant, none of them would dare cutting their hair that short. So, he had to explain why it all happened. He didn’t tell them who he thought did it, but he said somehow it happened and now somehow he had this haircut. They also made comments about his clothes, and he thanked them, saying where he got them from. Ryan kept the black leather varsity-like jacket on as they played video games, even though his friends asked, twice, if he were too warm. He was fine, he was actually comfortable. It was getting colder outside this fall anyways.

The next morning going to school, Ryan was actually excited. He was ready to give more and more people a surprise. Of which, he most certainly did, from the moment he got to homeroom. He still wore his older brother’s jacket into school, but let it in his locker, shocking all the locker mates around him, who didn’t believe it was Ryan, and he just smiled back, smiled with his teeth which was rare for him, and he’d had a lot of orthodontic work so he might as well show it off! Under the coat he had one of the twin’s short sleeved button downs, ones you’d imagine a gas attendant wore in the throwback days. In each of his classes for the morning, fellow students kept looking his way, not saying anything, or some would compliment the look, or the casual from other guys, "You get a haircut man?"

"Uh, yeah."

"Nice, looks fresh," and then they’d turn around and carry on.

Lunch came and his friends didn’t have any club meetings, so they were back at their usual table. At this point, Ryan had completely forgotten about the day before. That was, until he was going to chemistry class, and he remembered what had happened. Still a little shell shocked from it all, he took a different route, in order to avoid Noah, as he knew that might set him off and make him forget how good everything had been going. In class, Mr. Watson spotted him right away and was stunned, saying he was sorry it had to happen but it looked really good on him. He asked Ryan if he wanted to do a make-up lab today, another science teacher would be watching while he had detention duty, but there were other chem students who needed to make up labs too before the quarter was over. Ryan said it should be fine, and so at the end of the day he gathered his coat and bag and went back to the science wing to get started on his make-up lab. He’d told his parents he was doing this and his mom said she would pick him up around 5 at the front of the school.

The lab itself wasn’t hard, but because he had to do it on his own, it did take a good long while, then he had to record everything about it. He still had a bit of time before his mom would come get him, and he was free to go whenever the other science teacher said. So, he figured he’d stop by and see Mr. Watson, thank him for letting him make up the lab so quick, and give him the work. Ryan cleaned up his work, put the things away, then put on his jacket and bag and headed down for the front of the school by the office, where everyone knew detention was held. The door was kept open, with Mr. Watson all the way at the front reading through papers, while maybe seven kids were sporadically spread out. Ryan marched up to the front and said, "Thanks again, Mr. Watson."

He shocked his teacher, who said, "Oh, Ryan, good to see you…glad it all worked out," he eyed up Ryan’s papers. "You didn’t have to bring it to me now."

"Its fine, I felt like it, wanted to say thanks again for letting me make it up on short notice," he then teased the back and crown of his head with a run.

"Very funny," Mr. Watson smiled, "Anytime though, hopefully you’ve got a ride home?"

"Yeah, my mom’s coming in like ten minutes."

"Nice, well, see you tomorrow then."

"See you, teach," he cheekily remarked, turning around to see all the kids with downcast faces on their desks.

One student suddenly looked up, and then did a double take, maybe even a triple take, at the kid walking out of the room, new looking kid, when he wasn’t new at all, other than his whole new look from less than twenty four hours now, both hair and clothes.

"Sup, Noah," Ryan said in response, feeling like he’d vindicated himself. Everyone was allowed a little sense of pitty pride, weren’t they?

And besides, Ryan was never going to turn into a bad boy. He wasn’t going to grow into an egotistical jerk. Far from it, the sticky situation Ryan found himself in only the day before truly did turn out to cause a huge shift in his life. No, he wasn’t suddenly a straight A student, or this insansely good athlete. No, what really happened was what had been there all along. Ryan had always been genuine, polite, and kind. Most people knew that and recognized it, but not enough. The change in his physical look and outlook in life made him bring forth these incredible and positive attributes. Now everyone recognized it, the friendly nature that was always suppressed came to the foreground, and more kids in school got to know him for the friendly kid he’d really been all along. The confidence boost he’d needed all this time. His parents even recognized it within those days and weeks that followed. It made them smile and sigh a sense of relief that their youngest had found himself, or slowly was at the very least. He was on the right path.

It was only three weeks later, when Ryan was home from school on a Friday, with not much to do, both his parents still not home from work. His friends had said they would go to the football game with him tonight, something he’d really had to crack them down on. A bunch of classmates had asked if he was going to go, some having bugged him the last couple times too after he’d become friendly with everyone, so he figured why not. But there were still a few hours till they needed to be there for the game, as he laid out his clothes on his bed, pretty much having worn any of his brothers’ clothes at any opportunity now. He took a look in the mirror, having done his best to keep his hair in check since that fateful day it was all chopped off. A few stray hairs and stragglers were sticking out the top, and the sides were starting to grow out too. Still bristle like, but now like when a tennis ball has been worn out.

Ryan quickly jotted a note down for his parents, hopped on his bike, and set on out for town. When he got to the barber shop, all the barbers were busy with clients, only a couple of guys in the waiting area too. Al noticed five minutes later that Ryan was there, and he nodded and winked at him. When he was done with that client, Ryan didn’t know if any of the other men waiting were also waiting for Al, until the barber spoke up, "Back so soon, are ya Ryan?" he whipped the cape against his chair and patted it with the other hand, Ryan taking it for a sign.

Ryan stood up from the waiting aread and marched over with a smile, surprising Al with a firm shake of the hand and said, "How are ya doing, Al?"

"Great, actually, thanks for asking," Al was surprised by his attitude. "Yourself, son?"

"I’m great too, thanks. Going to the football game later with some friends."

"Very nice," he adjusted the cape around Ryan to be secure. "I’m surprised you’re back so soon, Ryan. I take that as a good sign, that you like your new haircut?"

"I do," Ryan beamed back. "Its starting to grow out a bit, if you can tell. Was hoping you could fix me up?"

"Absolutely," the barber was enthusiastic, but still surprised.

"And actually, if you don’t mind," Ryan added, "can you keep me facing the mirror this time?"

"Of course," Al nodded in agreement. He got going right away with the clipper work, using the number two attachment to buzz around the back and sides or Ryan’s head before attacking the crown and top. Ryan saw little bits of hair flying off his head, not seeming like much, until he looked down at the cape and notice, there actually was a fair amount coming off! Barber and client then got into a friendly back and forth, like never before. Talking about school, Ryan asking Al about his work, Al asking after his brothers. All the while, Ryan was in awe of the haircut coming into formation, just as Al was impressed by how much this young man had changed in just over three weeks.

By the time he’d been cleaned up, gelled up, and sprayed down, Ryan was released from the chair and stood even taller than the last time, shaking Al’s hand to thank him. He went to pay and tip Al as they continued their chat. Al mentioned "If you want to keep your hair in order like that, I recommend every two to three weeks, son. That way it doesn’t get too out of shape. And if you can afford it."

"Thanks, well, I might need to pick up a job or something, or, well, I don’t think my parents will mind. They seemed to really like my new haircut," Ryan offered a smile., rubbing the back of his newly shorn head.

Al looked upon him and said, "You don’t play a sport, right?"

"No, sir."

"And you don’t have a job, or any other after school activities, do you?"

"No, I don’t sir," Ryan admitted.

Al thought this over for a few seconds, before offering, "Tell you what, why don’t you come down here after school on a Tuesday through Friday, and if you can be here on a Saturday for the whole day or part of it. Of course, if anything ever comes up, just let me know and you can miss. But maybe you ought to help around here, that’s if you wanted. Not only help with business and organization skills, and helping us clean up. But you’d also get some personal and conversational skills as well. Sound good to you?"

"Jeez, I just thought I was coming in for a haircut today, not a job," Ryan laughed. Then he took Al’s hand and said, "I’ll give it a shot, thanks Al. Do you want me to come tomorrow?"

"How about next week, sound good? We’ll fine tune all the details then."

"Sounds like a plan to me," and with that Ryan headed out from the barber shop, and just like the last time, with a whole new outlook and much more to look forward to. It was going to be a shock to his family and his friends, but he could use a hobby or two, and Al was offering after all. Sounded like a good opportunity to him, maybe help him figure out what he wanted in life.

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