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It's a deal. by CivilCutter


Allan Stevens ran a hand against his freshly shaved head.

It was seven in the morning, and the sun was already threatening to burn the world to a crisp, when he noticed a small, blue car pulling up on the construction site; it had to be the new kid, despite the fact that he wasn’t supposed to show up until eight.

An early bird, he thought; that was a good start in his book.

Allan worked as supervisor at the construction site he’d been assigned to just last week. In his mid-thirties, he was getting bored with the office-only parts of his job and frankly, he felt like he wasn’t putting his civil engineering degree to any good use, so he made a request to be put into the field as well. In seemingly no time, he was here " overseeing a construction of an overpass that connected two of the main roads which were split by an emerald-green lake.

The new kid was an engineering student who was looking for summer internships and ways to gain experience in field work before his last year at university. Making a quick recall of the info he’d been passed along, Allan remembered the following: his name was Joe Shepherd, aged twenty-five, and his grades placed him at the top of his class.

Joe seemed to have spotted him instantly. He stood next to his parked car for a moment, shielding his eyes from the sun with his hand " field experience was very much needed, Allan thought " all until he seemingly picked his mentor apart from the rest. For what it was worth, there were only three other guys roaming around at this hour, and none of them were holding blueprints in their hands.

He was walking over with his resume tucked into his hand, and Allan took it as a chance to get a first impression. He was nearly as tall as Allan himself, with toned arms peeking out of the black t-shirt that was tucked into his olive-green cargo pants. Based on the choice of pants alone, he’d be a good fit " the previous summer intern came in bell-bottom jeans.

What Allan didn’t like, though, was his floppy haircut. It was a good looking head of hair, for sure " black and shiny, it looked like Hugh Grant’s hairstyle in Notting Hill, which was alright for the city, but out here, it’d be a huge nuisance.

It was in the minute before Joe had stood in front of him that Allan decided his hair had to go.

"Allan Stevens," he said as a way of greeting, his hand put out in front of Joe.
"Welcome to the job."

Joe shook his hand firmly. "Thank you, sir. It’s great to be here."

He looked around, and Allan nearly chuckled at the long, floppy bangs. In the next five minutes, he’d been familiarized with the on-call sheet, the work schedule for the week and his assigned spot, as well as his sleeping corners; he’d be sharing a trailer with Allan.

After changing into his work gear, at exactly eight in the morning, Allan had welcomed him to the team with a pat on the back. The rest of the guys were already up and in motion, swarming around the site like bees; the mentor and protege were walking towards the construction site themselves when Allan handed Joe his very own yellow safety helmet, teasing him:
"Good luck wearing it with all that hair, though; you’ll be a sweaty mess after half an hour in the sun."

Joe chuckled. "I think I’ll handle it fine, sir; I trimmed it last month."


*

The first week on the job went smoothly; Joe found himself a good fit with the rest of the crew, as they all seemed to have a lot in common " all of them were here on a summer gig, making some extra cash before going back to university in the fall. They’d make bad jokes over lunchtime and when the work was over for the day, after eight or more hours of being grilled in the sun, they’d cool down next to the nearby lake with cold beer and even colder water.

The biggest and most noticeable difference between them was the length of their hair " they were all sporting shorter cuts than he himself was, ranging from crew cuts to straight up shaved heads like Allan’s. The difference resulted in his new nicknames at camp: pretty boy, Hollywood, James Dean, Dean Martin and all the like; he didn’t mind it, finding it even endearing to an extent.

What he did mind, though, was how right Allan had been; ever since his first day on the job, he’d had a severe case of helmet hair most of the time, meaning that it was all stuck to his head by the end of the work day and that he needed to wash it on a daily basis. The hair at his nape grew enough to start slightly curling, and it annoyed him whenever he’d accidentally yank at it.

It was unfortunate that the only day of the week when they had off work was Sunday " the day most barbershops were closed; he’d have to ask around to see how the rest of the guys keep their haircuts so fresh and neat despite it.


*

On Friday morning of his second week at the on-site internship, Joe was still rubbing at his eyes half-asleep " as one is when being up and on the rise at the ass crack of dawn " while Allan drank his morning coffee.

They were sitting at the small, round table in their shared trailer, whose inside was made mostly of old, brown wood; judging by the faded color and the chipped edges here and there, the thing must’ve been older than himself, but Joe still found it to be cozy, feeling more like a home than just a means of temporary housing.

He leaned his elbows against the red-checkered tablecloth that was spread around the table as Allan poured him a cup of coffee as well. They mostly didn’t talk much over breakfast " with one still half asleep and the other reading the newspaper on his phone along with his morning coffee, there wasn’t much conversation to be had.

After they were done eating, Joe offered to do the dishes. Having finished stacking them on the drying rack, he returned to the breakfast table where his mentor was still reading the fine print, grunting as he read the weather forecast.

"They say that it’ll be scorching hot next week," he said. "A record-high for July, apparently."

Joe absent-mindedly ran his hand through his hair. "Now I regret not getting a haircut even more," he pulled the hair at his temple, reaching nearly five centimeters in length. "I’ll be soaked every day."

Allan chuckled as he looked up from his newspaper. He ran a hand over his tidied-up head; with his head shaved clean, he won’t be sharing his protege’s issue. He gave him a look that said I told you so more proudly than words ever could; Joe merely shrugged, raking his fingers through his hair to somewhat set it in place.

Before returning to his paper, Allan offered: "I’d offer to give you a haircut," he nodded at his protege and his movie star hair, "but I only know how to cut hair with clippers, and your hair looks like it hasn’t seen them in a while, Hollywood."

Joe’s eyebrows shot into his hairline. "You know how to cut hair?" he was suddenly fully awake.

He nodded. "I cut my own every ten or so days. Why waste four hours of a free day on making a trip to the nearest barber and back when I could spend it at the lake instead?" he ran his hand over his head again, adding, "When it starts growing back, I just clip it myself."

Joe nodded; it was sound logic. Besides, he could sleep in for four hours on a Sunday instead of hauling ass to the nearest town " now, that was a convincing argument. He was tapping his fingers against the table, as he always does when nervous. "So, only clippers?"

Allan confirmed with a nod. "Clippers all around, yeah. It’s quicker than messing around with combs and scissors, and more practical, too. Most of the guys around here feel the same way about going to the barber’s while we’re out here, so I just cut their hair when they ask for it."

"How would you cut mine?" Joe asked. At Allan’s surprised face, he elaborated, "I don’t think I’ve ever had short hair, so I wouldn’t even know what to ask for."

Allan thought about it. Seeing as he sat across from Joe, and thus was close enough to reach him, he tentatively brought his hand near the head of slicked back, shiny black hair, giving the younger man a chance to back away; to his surprise, Joe leaned in closer.

He dug his hand into the hair at the side of his head, his fingers quickly getting lost in the sea of dark waves cascading down on one another, then moved further back. As he was plowing through it, Allan couldn’t stop thinking about just how soft his hair was; the best comparison that came to mind would be folds of silk.

Eventually, he got to the longest part " the top " and dug his hand into the bangs that fell right over his eyes if they weren’t held back in place by either some product or a helmet. To cut all of that hair off would be a dream come true; he could already see it piled up on his caped-up shoulders, lap and all over the floor.

"Short," he said at last. He’d pulled his hand back, then retreated to lean back in his chair and look at him. Joe’s inquisitive glance prompted him for more details, so he added:
"I’m thinking no guard at all on the sides and back, and a number two on the top, if not even shorter."

Joe scrunched his eyebrows as he ran his hand along the same path Allan did, the hair slipping between his fingers like blades of grass. "No guard " does that mean completely bald, like yours?"

Allan nodded, and Joe did too, for his apparent lack of words. Feeling like he might’ve scared him off, he added, "We could do longer, if that’s too drastic " maybe a number six on top and a three everywhere else; you’d look good in a short crewcut, too."

"If you’re up for it, I’ll gladly do it " it won’t take long, and we’ll do it right here in the kitchen: I’ll cape you up, plug in the clippers and get to work. What do you say?"

Joe nodded, leaning forward once more.
"Sunday morning, then?"

Allan nodded with a smile. "It’s a deal."

He reached to run his hand through Joe’s hair again, and the student let him. He was holding a chunky strand between his thumb and forefinger when he asked, "How will I be cutting it?"

Joe simply said, "However you want."


*


When Sunday morning came, Joe rose even earlier than usual.

He washed his face with cold water to snap out of the drowsiness after sleep, then plunged his hair under the tap as well. He could never, ever stomach getting a haircut if his hair was dirty " it felt disrespectful to the person cutting it. Alas, he felt pretty awake by the time he’d washed the shampoo out of his hair and patted it dry with a towel, now combing it through to break apart any accidental knots that formed in the process.

He let his hair air dry as he made breakfast and set the table; sometime around six, Allan rose too, greeting him with a smile and a nod. They ate in minimal conversation, as per usual, and Joe did the dishes once more as he watched Allan set up an impromptu barbershop in the kitchen.

Allan took the tablecloth off the table and spread it out on the floor; the rectangular shape and its red-checkered pattern looked like a carpet against the old, wooden floorboards. He set his own chair atop of it, positioning it near the wall which housed the socket and leaving enough space for himself to walk between the two.

Joe was wiping his last utensil dry as he watched Amir take out a bed sheet from a drawer, holding it in his left hand while carrying the box of his hair clippers and a small, hand-held mirror in his right. He let the bedsheet down on the bare table, placing the mirror right next to it and started opening the clipper box. The first thing he took out was the clippers themselves " their body was painted a light gray color, the blades metallic; their long, black cord was tightly wrapped around them. After taking out the long, black comb, he picked out the attachments next, placing them next to one another.

Joe noticed that there were six attachments in the entire box " the smallest presumably being a number one, the longest a six. His heart began beating faster as he put away the last utensil and turned to face Allan, who was leaning against the chair with one arm and holding the bedsheet with the other; the clippers were already plugged into the wall, their long cord still gently curled as it hung in the air between the wall and the table. His barber nodded, as if to summon him.

They hadn’t even discussed the haircut since Friday, when he’d told him to cut it however he wants; that might’ve been the wrong choice, seeing as the shortest he ever went was when a barber misunderstood him and swiped the clippers over the top at the back of his head, where cowlicks usually are, with one of the larger attachments. Now faced with the prospect of having most of his head shaved, he found himself unable to speak, so he simply nodded and sat down onto Allan’s chair.

No sooner was Allan shaking out the bedsheet, then tossing it over Joe’s head.
Here we go, he thought.

*

Allan looked at the scene in front of him.

To his right was the cord of the clippers, beginning at the wall and ending at the table to his left; at the table were the neatly arranged clipper attachments, a comb and the clippers themselves. In front of him, caped up in a white bedsheet, sat Joe with his black hair gleaming; it dried rather quickly in the summer air, now laying voluminously on his head.

He picked up the comb from the table and got to work. He thought it best to comb it through first; it was a lot of hair after all, and he didn’t want to pull at it with the clippers.

As he placed his left hand at the top of Joe’s head and began combing the hair through the side part. It slid between his fingers beautifully, springing right back into place as it passed through the comb. There was enough hair to peek from between his fingers as he placed them at the base of the neck, and it only grew longer from there " becoming long enough to count nearly five centimeters at the crown, same as it was on the sides. Soft and silky, it was gleaming in the morning light as he raked his comb through the long bangs and tugged at them with his fingers.

He brushed the back of his hand against the thick hair once more before he began his work with the clippers, enjoying how soft it was to the touch. After the comb had done its job, Allan put it back on the table and picked up the clippers. He turned them on with a switch and the silence of the early morning’s kitchen scene was quickly replaced with the humming of the clippers.

Allan began the haircut on the right temple. He pushed the clippers into the sea of hair and the humming turned into a whirring sound as hair began cascading down the bedsheet; the further he pushed them, the more hair fell, soon draping his shoulders in an aureole of smooth, black hair.


Satisfied with his job, he continued. Every new sweep of clippers through the black hair departed more and more of it to the sheet and tablecloth alike; he’d gently pushed Joe’s head to the left in order to go over the entire right side a few more times and to cut any and all renegade hairs that survived the first swipe.

As he finished the right, with Joe’s head returned to its usual position, Allan didn’t bother changing his own position to start working on the left side of the head; instead, he dug his hand into the hair on top to get it away from the left temple and again pushed his clippers right along the highest point.

The cord of the clippers dangled against Joe’s forehead, but neither of them seemed to pay much attention to it; the client sighed softly, making no objections. The black hair was raining onto the impromptu cape, rolling down its slope and right into Joe’s lap; there was a small pile of it already by the time he was finished with the left side, too.

By the time he got to the back of the head, he gently nudged Joe’s head down, placing his chin against his chest, never turning off his clippers. He plunged them into the neatly combed hair, pushing up and up until he’d reached the top; the clippers left behind a strip of pale white scalp in their wake " it was nearly comical how pale it was compared to the neck, shoulders and face. With every sweep, more and more hair was sent cascading into the pile that had grown three times its size in the last two minutes.

With the back done, too, he took a step back and looked at his work: the shaved sides and back fit Joe perfectly " while the long, movie star hair was nice and all, it was a shame to hide such a good bone structure under it. Allan felt his lips spread into a smile as he thought of forbidding him from growing his hair out as long as he worked under him.

He attached a number two guard onto his clippers and stepped back into his previous position. Running his fingers through Joe’s bangs one last time, he asked: "Ready for the best part?"

Seemingly speechless, Joe nodded, and Allan dove his clippers right back in.

He started the final stage of the haircut where he did the first swipe; his hair was the longest there, so it had to be the first to go. The sun was rising just in time; it illuminated the falling locks, making them seem ginger and golden as they fell from the top of his head to his lap, where they once more returned to black. The clippers left behind countless short, spiky hairs " when Allan had buzzed most of the hair off, he brushed his hand against the spikes and enjoyed the resulting sensation.

Before he finished off what was left of the long hair, Allan coiled the cord of the clippers around his forearm and stepped at Joe’s side; he embraced the back of his head with his hand, caressing his right side with his thumb, as he plunged his clippers back in. The last of his hair fell onto his blackened shoulders, leaving behind only stubble on the top.

The clippers had a different, less labored sound as he kept swiping them side to side, front to back all over the top of Joe’s head in order to give him the perfect buzz; when he was satisfied with it, he put on a number one, to ease the transition from the shaved sides to the stubble on top. The buzzed-off hair formed little, spiky clumps as it joined the rest of the hair that was scattered around his shoulders, the knot at the base of his neck, and his lap. He heaved a sigh as he finally turned the clippers off.

"There you go."
He patted Joe on the back as he reached for the mirror to give to his newest customer; it gave him a chance to see Joe’s reflection in the mirror " to see how his eyes went wide, his dark eyebrows rose high and his jaw dropped.

For a moment, he thought that it was regret that turned up on his face; that was then he saw the smile that began to take shape on it. Joe chuckled as he ran his hand over his buzzed head, letting out a string of holy s**t, dude, what the heck "

"Allan," he said as they locked eyes in the mirror, "You’re a genius. This is amazing."

He chuckled, thanking him with another pat on the back as Joe continued, "I don’t think I would’ve ever had the guts to ask for this myself, but holy s**t, I " I don’t regret it one bit."

"It’s a big change, for sure," Allan said, feeling a small outburst of a need for humility as he brushed the hair off his shoulders and back; the other guys didn’t praise him this much, and he’d hate to admit how much he loved it. He looked up, meeting Joe’s still-raised brows and sharp eyes in the mirror.

"It’s the best one I’ve made in a while."

Allan untied the knot of the cape, carefully collecting its ends into a bundle and tying it off. They’ll probably have to throw the whole thing out, he thought; it has enough hair to qualify as sasquatch hide, and the chances of ever getting all of them out are nonexistent.

Joe stood up, brushing his shoulders off before he went in for another round of washing his hair. He extended his hand to Allan, and the mentor took it. He thanked him twice, a third time on its way before Allan told him that he sounds like a parrot.

"Hey, if you’re up for it," Joe said, "I’d love for you to keep cutting my hair for as long as we work together."


"Are you sure about that?" Allan asked, winking as he said, "I might decide to go even shorter on you the next time."

"Do whatever you want," he shrugged. "I’d let you pick my haircut for the rest of my life. You saw what it looked like when I chose it myself; this, on the other hand…"

Allan chuckled. "Those are some big words."

"Truthful ones, though."

He nodded. "Alright. Whenever you want a cut, give me a heads-up and we’ll get to it. I have one condition, though."

"Spill it."

"I’ll cut the hair and you’ll clean up the shop," he looked around the small kitchen. "There’s enough hair to stuff pillows with."

Joe nodded, looking around before he chuckled. "It’s only fair. Anything else?"

Allan thought for a moment, then said: "You could cut my hair, too, if you’re up for it. It’s gonna be less messy than this, so there’s a plus already."

Joe’s answering smile was wide.
"It’s a deal."



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