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Tom Must Change Part II by Deke Cutter

This is Part II of "Tom Must Change" and it talks about Tom and his two friends.

Tom was back at Joe’s Barber Shop for his third haircut since his long locks had been shorn off after he and his girlfriend Lilly had been caught in her bed by her mother. His life had changed in many ways, mostly for the good. He was spending more time studying, he felt more focused, and he was coming to feel more comfortable in his own skin and his less stylish clothing choices. When he went back to Joe for his second haircut, the first being the big chop, his father didn’t go with him. He just gave him the money and sent him off. When his turn came, Joe had him up in the chair, no questions and the haircut was completed quickly. But, still with time to tell him a disturbing story that had him thinking about something he had said to Freddy and Nick. This time when the haircut was complete and he said, "thanks Joe," strangely enough, he meant it. He didn’t love the haircut, but he had come to understand that this was what he looked like now, and he was getting used to it. Now as Joe released him from the chair from his third clipping, Joe asked him if he was ready for Sunday night’s Youth Group Meeting at the church. Tom smiled and said that he was, and he was bringing another kid with him, Freddy Guerrero.

"Freddy is coming to Youth Group? How did you get him to come? Aurora will be happy.

I have been telling him about it. You know Freddy has always been more serious than me about his faith, but he never liked to put all his eggs in one basket. He felt like he needed to put things in categories. I said that I was learning a lot about myself, and the kids really were cool, and they looked at things differently. He asked me if he could come along this week.

If Tom had stayed ten minutes longer in the barber shop, he would have been present to witness an unintended consequence of his change of appearance. Tom’s circle of friends had been accepting of his new look and since his dating habits had changed, even the young women in his crowd were willing to accept him as he now looked. But high school is a jungle and there were many who enjoyed seeing a popular "stud" knocked off his pedestal. Comments were made both in Tom’s hearing and outside. "It’s time for another ‘dork cut’ for Morton," Richard Darnell joked with his buddies from the football team. Sanford Van Fleet, wealthy class valedictorian, who fancied himself a real playboy joked to his crowd that Tom Morton’s ridiculous haircut took him from a 9 to a 3, with gales of laughter from his acolytes.

Unfortunately, for both Richard and Sanford, both were overheard. Richard, by his coach and Sanford by the school’s no-nonsense principal. The fathers of both young men, the coach, and the principal were all friends who had grown up in the community. When the coach and the principal found that two "influencers" in the school were engaged in actions that went against the code of conduct all students signed, they called the fathers. Both fathers agreed that there was only one logical resolution to this, and it would be "seen to" on Saturday at Joe Rossi’s Barber Shop. Sanford and his father were the first to arrive on Saturday. "Sandy," Joe said to the father, "I haven’t seen you in here on a Saturday in years."

"Well Joe, my son, here, has got himself into a spot of bother at school making fun of the Morton boy’s haircut. You know the school has a strong code of conduct and so the principal has agreed that we can resolve this if he and another miscreant get the same haircut as the young fellow now sports."

Joe the barber was looking at Sanford Junior’s thick wavy blonde hair and was about to invite him into the chair, when Al Darnell and his quarterback son Richard entered the shop. Richard’s red face showed signs of an argument and his long brown hair was tied into a loose ponytail. His father pointed to one of the waiting chairs and barked "sit." Then Al turned to Joe and said, "I expect Sandy has told you why we’re here. When you finish with his kid, let’s get my ‘big talker’ taken care of."

Sanford maintained a defiant look as Joe began cutting away at his blonde locks. Turning to the waiting chairs and ostensibly speaking to the two fathers, he said, "Tom Morton has accepted that he must now wear the haircut you are having me give your sons today. We were all that age once and I can promise you that Tom has acted with great maturity in learning that who he is is much more about what is on the inside." Sanford was now looking very much like the comedian and actor, Jim Carry, in "Dumb and Dumber" and his defiance had given way to more of a look of chagrin. When the clippers made their first pass up the back of his head, chagrin made way for sorrow, followed by barely repressed tears when his sideburns were reduced, and the arches were carved. When the haircut was completed, his small but noticeably protruding ears were on display. He knew that his cruel remarks about Tom would soon come back to haunt him. He knew his father would be making him maintain this haircut as long as Tom did. And his father had informed him that because he seemed to have forgotten just how lucky he was to have all the material gifts that God had given him, his father had arranged for him to pick up some shifts bagging groceries after school two days a week and full-time this summer.

As Sanford and his father paid and left the shop, Al was shoving Richard toward Joe’s waiting chair. Richard started to open his mouth and his father exploded: "Not another word or I’ll have Joe shave you bald, eyebrows too! Tommy is doing something honorable. You and your numbskull buddies should be lauding him not making stupid comments. Now get your butt in that chair and let Joe do his job. Like Tom, you will learn how strong you really are as a person and whether you are ready to be a man. You are the one that made this about hair length. I could care less about how long your hair is. You look like an idiot with that ponytail but, I never said a word, because Grandpa told me about what he went through with his dad back in the day. I ‘let you’ be you. But you couldn’t give that privilege to Tom."

With that, once again, Joe took out his shears and went to work. The ponytail went first. With Joe’s rapid scissoring, Richard, the football hero was soon looking like another victim of an amateur bowl cut. His father looked at him and said, "oh looking like a real stud now, boy, what did you call this, a dork haircut?" Richard’s eyes welled up with tears, as Joe started work with his clippers. When Joe completed his work, all Richard needed was an old-style domed lunch box and workman’s uniform and he would have looked ready for a day at the factories that used to support the town’s economy. Joe hoped that both of these young men learned something positive from this experience.

When Tom got home from the barber shop, he was surprised to see both Freddy and Nick sitting in the living room with his parents. Tom had been grounded since the incident with Lilly and had only seen his two best friends at school or with advance permission. "Mom, dad, guys, what’s up?"

His father broke into a big smile, "don’t look so worried son, your mom and I thought you deserved a little treat since you have been doing so well for the last 9 weeks. So, we’re taking you up to your uncle Jake’s cabin for the day. We’ll be back in plenty of time for Youth Group tomorrow. Your mom’s got your stuff all packed. The three friends were soon all in the Morton SUV with Tom’s parents. The drive to the mountain resort was a pleasant one for all. The ‘cabin’ was really a lovely second home in a year-round resort community. Tom and his friends took their bags up the second-floor loft and then headed over to the heated indoor pool.

While they were having a good time swimming, diving, and dunking each other, Tom was looking for an opportunity to speak to his two buddies. They decided to take a break and were sitting at a pool side table when Tom said, "Guys, you know how I said you two would have to cut your hair if we all made the baseball team, well, I was wrong to say that and I want you to know I don’t want you to do that."

"What’s up pal, are your parents letting you off the hook," asked Nick?

"No," said Tom, "nothing like that. This," he said, "ruffling his own short hair, "is the price of my actions." I was wrong to bring you in, at the moment when you reached out to me. I know that the principal is making two jerks who have been mocking me get this haircut, and I kind of wish he wasn’t, but they broke the code of conduct and their parents agreed with him, so….Plus, Joe told me something today that really freaked me out. He said these two guys came into his shop over Thanksgiving and both had long hair. They asked him for buzzcuts. He was fine with that. They were about our age, and he figured they knew what they wanted. One of them goes to St. Ignatius, it turns out. Well, it turns out they are first cousins and their parents caught them making out in the St. Ignatius kid’s bedroom after they got their haircuts! I mean, that’s like almost incest!"

Freddy said, "Whoa, that is just wrong, there is nothing wrong with being gay, but getting intimate with your cousin in your parent’s house! I mean, I know some guys get turned on getting short haircuts, it’s no big deal. My pop explained it to me one time when I noticed a guy who was definitely straight, with a tent pole growing when he was getting a summer haircut down in Miami."

Nick looked a bit uncomfortable, but said, "true confession guys, the last time I went to sleep away camp, as junior counselor, three years ago, I had to cut my hair pretty short, I built a pretty decent tent pole myself when the barber used the clippers on me. That’s sort of why I’ve kept it long since then. But as far as the baseball thing goes, bro, I’ll let Freddy speak for himself, but I am cool with what you want. Let’s wait and see what’s up with the team. Now that you know my deep dark secret, maybe I’ll want to cut my hair in the spring anyway. This long hair is a pain in the butt."

"I have to agree with Nick on this," Freddie added. "Who knows, if we fly down to see family in Florida for Easter again this year, maybe I’ll come home with one of those sick "South Beach Fades and a nice short quiff."

Tom looked at his two best friends and said, "I guess we are stuck with each other guys. Who else would put up with us?" The guys went back into the pool for a final swim and then took showers. Both Nick and Freddie looked somewhat envious as Tom sat waiting for each of them to dry and style their hair, while Tom tried hard not to think back to how nice he used to look when he had hair to style.

They had all been somewhat surprised when Nick had asked if he could join them at mass on Sunday morning before they had breakfast. Tom’s father said, "of course Nick, it’s a small congregation at this time of year, but my brother tells me they are very welcoming." It was a charming multi-faith chapel where mass was held. The congregation was about 50 people plus a group of ten musicians and singers. The priest who presided was an older man, but full of life. He spoke about the importance of community and living out the values of the faith. He reminded the young people that the future of the church was theirs and that they would have to work hard to fix the problems they saw.

At breakfast and on the drive home, Nick could talk of little else but that morning’s mass. "The music was cool. That opening song about "What is this place -only a room the earth its floor." Man, that was so cool. And that final song about running the race and seeing God’s face, I really loved that. You know, it all made sense to me more than it has in a long time. Do you think Joe would mind if I came with you guys to the youth group tonight?"

Tom’s mom said, "Nicky you just check it out with your folks, I know Joe will be fine with it."

That evening, Tom was ecstatic to have his two best buds with him at youth group. They got there a bit early and as Tom’s mother predicted, Joe was very happy to see Freddie and Nick. He welcomed the boys and called them over to speak to them privately. Boys, he said, you may have heard that two fellows from your school received haircuts like Toms from me on Saturday. I know that Tom received a lot of support from you two after I cut his hair. Even though Richard and Sanford were punished for mocking Tom and violating the school code, Tom knows what tomorrow and this week will be like for them, do what you can to ease their way for them, please."

That night the youth group’s discussion was enhanced by the addition of the voices of Nick and Freddie. They had different experiences from the other kids and were willing to be open and share. Nick was particularly interested in asking Joe and the group about how they lived out the faith journey in their daily lives. Tom and Freddy wondered if Nick was turning a page in his life.

Richard and Sanford both were dreading their return to school on Monday with their new extremely short haircuts. Their fathers dropped each boy off in front of the school. The comments and teasing were more subtle than it had been for Tom because students now knew of the consequences of getting caught. But every smart aleck in the school knew the closed-circuit TV blind spots and the spots where you couldn’t be overheard. They took their fair share of abuse, except when Tom, Nick and Freddy were nearby to shut it down. The five of them only had one class together that day and it was physical education. As they changed into their gym clothes, Richard and Sanford came up to the other three who had their gym lockers together. "Why are you guys being so cool, asked Richard."

Tom replied, "because I’ve been there, it sucks, and it does nothing to help you. My buddies helped me get through those first days, so we decided to help you two. They’ll move on once they get used to seeing you like this."

Sanford said, "Well we were both dicks and I’m sorry that I made fun of you." Richard shook his head in agreement. Then the PE teacher yelled for them to get into the gym.

Two weeks later Nick called Freddy. "Hey man, this is going to sound crazy, but. I’m going to start getting my hair cut shorter. Not a big chop like Tommy’s, but I’m gradually going short so that by baseball season, I'll have it you know, kind of like a regular taper."

"What brought this on? Tommy is cool with us having long hair.?

"I know. It started with that mass up in the mountains. You know, I started really thinking about what is important and growing up. Plus, I’ve been watching how Tom has been changing and it’s all good. I like those kids in the youth group too. I keep thinking that I need to see what it would be like to just be me without being the hair guy."
"OK bruh, but if you are doing this and Tommy’s having his short hair, then you and I are in this experiment together. "Mami, is not going to like it, but I had warned her I’d probably cut it for baseball anyway, so…"

And so, after checking with Joe the barber that Tommy always kept his same haircut time, his two pals arranged to get to Joe’s a half hour later. Joe was just finishing up another customer, so they sat in the waiting chairs. Nick said, "Its 12 weeks until the season starts, so that will be four haircuts. I’m going to ask Joe how he wants to handle it to get me down to something like that, he said pointing to a side parted men’s tapered cut on one of the haircut charts Joe had posted." Before Freddy could answer, Joe was asking the boys who was next.

Nick got into the chair and explained his plan to Joe, who listened carefully. Joe suggested that this first cut be something more along the lines of a trim of his current style, taking about two inches of length off the side and back and just tidying the top a bit. "It will give you a chance to ease into it and the next one will be just before Christmas vacation, so we can do more then, and you can get used to it while you are out of school." Nick agreed. Joe sprayed Nick’s hair and went to work trimming away two inches off the back so that it barely touched his collar and just covered his ears. An inch and a half came off the top, with a bit less off his floppy forelock. When Joe finished combing his hair into place, Nick looked neater, but the haircut was not drastic. He thanked Joe and stepped down, almost disappointed that he did not look more changed.

"OK Joe, my turn, "Freddy said, "when you are ready, sir."

"Does your mother know about this? I will not have the wrath of Aurorita come down on me, Joe said with a smile."

"You know me and Mami well enough to know I would not be here if I had not told her sir. I am doing the same thing as Nick, so, this will be the first of four progressively shorter cuts for me. I know my hair is a little different from Nick’s so I will leave it to your discretion."

Joe said, "I may have to thin your hair just a little bit on top, rather than cut some length this time but I will cut the sides, about the same. Maybe I will use a razor a little to make the sides stay neat." He did just as he proposed, and Freddy was cleaned up and looking fresh in about 20 minutes. Because of his denser hair, the trim was more noticeable than Nick’s, but both young men had started on their journey. Tom expressed some surprise when he saw his pals later that Saturday. Tom’s continued progress on his own redemption process had been such that his folks allowed him more freedom to spend time with the two boys who all seemed to be improving.

"Haircuts guy, Tom asked?

Nick looked a bit sheepish. "Yeah, Freddie and I stopped by Joe’s and got ourselves trimmed."


"And, we are going to both beat your butt at GHOST, so let’s get over to the park while the hoop is available and we’ll talk about hair later," Freddie said.

90 sweaty minutes later, Tom had beaten both of his friends convincingly. "See, my old dad still has moves and we’ve been spending time shooting in the driveway. Now, let’s get cleaned up, I’ll be waiting for you since your hair is still too long to beat me in that competition either, Tom joked." As planned, the three met at Tom’s, 30 minutes later. Nick and Freddie’s haircut being a bit more noticeable after having been washed and dried. "OK guys, now, about these haircuts, spill."

Nick started to speak, but his eyes started to well up. His two best friends rushed to his side in the quiet of the basement recreation room. "Buddy, what’s wrong" both asked.

"These last months, since your whole thing happened, Tom, I have watched you and how you handled this has made me check myself. I was not happy with who I was becoming," tears were now dripping down Nick’s cheeks. "We three, we have always been tight and been there for each other. You two, though, you and Freddie always had a core that I didn’t. I don’t blame my dad for not being religious, because he has his own code, but I just decided that I was too cool for that. I would sit in church with my mom and think about girls and who my next conquest would be, sometimes, what outfit I would wear to make girls more impressed, how good my hair looked. Then you showed up with the haircut, dressed without all the fashion and your head held high. You just became a better you but remained you. Then we went up to the mountains and that old priest and the music-bam, it was like a lightning bolt. I need to change."

"OK, Nicky, you want to take a break, let me go get us some iced tea. My mom just made some."

Tom hugged his friend and ran upstairs. Freddie said, "why don’t you go throw some cold water on your face Nicky." As Nick got up from the sofa, Freddie gave him a tight brotherly hug.
When Tom came down with the iced tea and some chips and guacamole, Nick seemed to be a bit more composed. He took a deep drink of the iced tea. "Coming with you guys to the youth group has helped me realize that there was a better guy inside me that wanted to come out. That is what made me start thinking about this whole hair thing. I decided that it wouldn’t be right to just go in and get a copycat cut like yours. In a way, you worked too hard, and now those two knuckleheads have made it a punishment thing. So, I decided I will go short gradually with a goal of a regular short haircut by baseball season. I mentioned to Freddie that I was doing it and he said he was doing it with me."

Tom said, "Nick, I have never been prouder of you, and I thought that day had come, the day you guys ‘saved me’ at lunch time. You are really taking a much tougher road than me. For me, it was like "cold turkey," I had no real choice on how, when or where. One minute changed everything. All I had was my parents’ love, and you two. You are choosing. You are remaking yourself and whatever you want to call it, you are taking a whole different approach to relationships, and how and who you interact with. Changing your appearance, and if you decide how you dress, that will also test how you relate to the world. One thing I know, you and Freddie are two guys who can do this if you choose to. And know this, I am here for you guys, period."

Freddy said, "we three are a team. I am proud of both of you. My mother is good with this whole thing. My dad says he is proud of all of us. We have all of our folks backing us up, and Joe and our friends in the youth group. Nicky, I know that going to Reconciliation was hard for you and I am glad that you went to Father Steve over at St. Ignatius. He understands young guys and he really believes in redemption. What I want for you is to never let the institution of the church get in the way of the community. We three and our families will always be community and we build out from there. Never lose that."

Six weeks later, the three boys were at Joe’s barbershop. Nick and Freddie had just had their ears completely uncovered for the first time. Their hair was now much shorter on the top, only about three inches on top but the sides, while shorter, did not show skin or stubble. Sideburns were to middle ear. As Tom stepped into the chair for his usual skinning, he and Joe both beamed with reflected pride at the other two. Nick had continued to (what he called) clean up his act). His shorter haircuts had been fairly subtle, at first, but had been noticed. His less fashion-conscious dress was discussed by his diminishing circle of the "fast and loose" crowd. "What happened to Nicky?" "Nicky doesn’t seem so hot" "I hear he just hangs with the ‘Catholic Girls Who Start Much to Late’." When Tom would see Nick having a struggle he would go up to his friend, rub his hand through his own short hair and then push it down again, giving Nick a crooked smile. That and a quick prayer would often get Nick through the day.

Freddie, meanwhile, had a different problem, each haircut seemed to bring out his inherent good looks more and made him more popular with his female classmates. The following Monday, a discussion took place about this. "Ay, chicos," Freddie said, slipping again into a bit of his grandparent’s language of choice, this is crazy. Each time I cut my hair, the girls, especially the Latinas and the Italian girls seem to love it. Maria and I, we understand each other, and we share the same view on morals, but these girls, they just don’t stop." "Freddie," Nick said, you know what Tom and I have been through. It is really hard to step back, once you have gone through that door. I know you want to do the right thing for you man. Look, it’s just two weeks until we start the baseball season and 10 days until our baseball haircuts. Listen, if they get to aggressive, just tell them, "‘NO Maria is my girlfriend, and I am not interested in anybody else’. Just follow what you know is right for you".

While Nick was giving Freddy his pep talk, Tom had slipped into the ‘powder room’ off the Guerrero kitchen where the boys were once again having lunch, this time, without Aurora’s supervision, in another sign of Tom’s increasing success in regaining his parent’s trust. Tom took the short black comb out of his back pocket, wet his hair, parted it and combed it over so that it lay flat to the side. This gave him the somewhat comical ‘formal’ style that he never wore. He came out and stood in front of Freddie saying, "don’t worry my friend, when they see me like this, they won’t give you a second look." The three boys dissolved into laughter, proving once again that most crises could be helped by a dose of laughter. None of the boys realized that Tom had forgotten to comb his hair back down before the three friends returned to school that afternoon and with such short hair, few people noticed the difference since his hair had quickly dried and he was no longer a magnet of gossip as a "hot guy." When he got home that evening, however, his mother, of course, noticed.

"Oh, honey, did you have a picture taken today?"

"No mom, why?"

"Your hair, its parted to the side. It looks nice. I was just wondering."

"Tom took a quick look in the little mirror his mom kept on the windowsill above the sink and was surprised to see that his hair was still neatly parted but made him look like a young army cadet now that it was dry. "No, I wet it down and combed it over at lunch time when Freddy was "having a wobble" to cheer him up." He went on to explain the situation Freddie was facing. His mother was touched by how caring these three young men continued to approach each other’s issues.

The following Saturday morning, the three boys, having all made the high school baseball team, met at Joe’s Barber Shop. "O.K. let’s do this", said Nick, as he climbed into Joe’s chair. Joe asked him how he wanted his hair cut today. "Joe, I know what a skilled barber you are, and I feel bad asking you this, but what I want is a haircut that has a clean part, with the bangs short but angled so that the hair lays cleanly. I don’t want it to look faded, just a normal taper, with short sideburns. I don’t want anybody to look at my haircut as anything special."

Joe went to work. While the sides and back of Nick’s hair were much shorter than they had been, they were still quite full. He started, clipper over comb, taking the back down to a shorter flatter length. He did the same with the sides and then went to work creating a very traditional taper. He worked around the ears, defining a clean, but not extreme, outline. The sideburns were reduced to a very short tab at the top of each ear. Joe then wet the already short hair on top of Nick’s head, He only trimmed about a half to three quarters of an inch off the top, going from front to back. Then he combed the short bangs down and angled them as Nick had asked. Next, he turned and picked up his thinning shears and went to work reducing Nick’s still thick hair so that it lay more flatly across his head. He then combed the hair neatly, took his clippers and comb and blended the longer hair on top with the sides and back. He then applied some warm shaving cream to Nick’s hairline, around the ears and to below his shortened sideburns. He carefully cleaned everything up, wiped off the excess and washed his hands. He reached for a bottle of Vitalis, took a very small amount, and rubbed it into Nick’s hair. He then combed the hair into place, saying. "Nick, I wanted to see how a little old fashioned hair product would look on your hair. You don’t have to use it, if you condition your hair a few times a week." With that, he turned the chair around and showed Nick his new haircut. Nick looked in the mirror and smiled. He saw himself, nothing more and nothing less. Let others see what they would.

"Well boys?" Nick asked his to best friends this question.

Freddie asked, "Are you happy bro?

"You bet, Joe is a genius"

"Then we think you look ‘mahvelous’, my friend," Tom said.

"O.K., my turn", Freddie said. "First of all, don’t worry Joe, I’ve talked to both of the women in my life, my mami and Maria, and they both gave their approval. I want a short flat top Joe. It seems like the only kind of haircut that might turn off some of these crazy girls. Plus, as the catcher on the team, I think it looks cool to see a big old landing strip when I push back my mask and cap to go for a pop up."

"You boys are incredible, alright, Freddie, if that is what you want," Joe said with a smile. The shop was soon filled with the sound of Joe’s clippers cleaning off the sides and back of Freddie’s head.

Tom sat looking at Nick thinking that as plain as Nick looked, compared to his fashionable long-haired persona, Tom had never seen him look better. "Dude, you did it. You said you were going to do it and you did. It," Tom said in a quiet voice to Nick. Then he said in a voice that could be heard by their buddy in the big chair, "and now let’s make sure Joe doesn’t skimp on that landing strip."

As Tom and Nick looked over at Freddie, they could see that Joe had completed the removal of all but a light covering of stubble from the sides and back of his head. "Joe was now spraying the longer slightly wavy hair left on top. Then he took a brush and blow dryer and brushed all the hair until it stood straight up on top of Freddy’s hair. "This is very good Freddie," Joe said, "your hair is already standing up, that usually means it will take well to a flat top." Once Joe was satisfied, he took his flat top comb and his clippers and began running the clippers over the comb taking the hair down shorter and shorter. He left the front and the sides longer but soon, it felt to Freddie like the clippers were running directly on his scalp. Actually, they were. Joe liked a nice tight landing strip. Then, Joe freehanded the sides and the front, leaving Freddie with a perfect short flat top. The sides were buzzed down to a number one which, with Freddie’s dark hair, left a nice shadow on the sides. Joe was a believer that sideburns did not go with flattops, and so Freddie now had none. Joe applied shaving cream around the edges and cleaned up all the shaggies left behind. Freddie was enjoying this whole thing immensely. Next Joe washed his hands and dried them. He took a small amount of pungent smelling butch wax and applied it to the short hairs left on Freddie’s head and turned Freddie toward the mirror, showing him how to apply it.

"Wow," Freddie, cried out, I really look like a jock! Thanks Joe, I love it!"

Joe smiled and replied, "if you are going to keep this haircut, you are going to have to be disciplined, Freddie. Every two weeks would be best, but you can let it slide to three. Anymore than that and I’ll tell Aurora and Frank that I’m going to start shaving the sides and that landing strip bald, or else you are going to grow it out. Flat tops are too much work for you not to take them seriously."

"Got it boss," Freddie said cheekily.

"Alright, Tom," let’s get you up in the chair and get you cleaned up. It’s going to be nice to have a simple usual cut to do this morning."

Tom sat in the chair looking over at his two friends and thought about how lucky he was to have good friends and how good it was to have learned that what’s outside doesn’t make you who you are.

The Saturday before graduation, two years later, Joe opened his shop and waited for his first three customers to arrive. He thought back to all of the haircuts he had given these three over the last two years. He was glad he had the summer to still see them before they went their separate ways. Then the door of the shop opened. Freddie was the first in, he had maintained his flat top faithfully, much to Joe’s surprise. Today was to be his last flattop. Aurora had made him promise he would grow it out before he went away to college. Nick was next, still with his simple haircut and planning to become a lawyer working for the poor and needy. Then came Tom. He was going to college on a full academic scholarship and planned to become a psychologist, helping young adults who didn’t have the kind of support system he had. When his folks had told him his hair was his responsibility again, he chose to just have the top grow out slightly and he now wore combed over to the side, still coming in every three weeks. All three boys had become leaders in the church, the school, and the community.

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