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Accidental Haircuts by Deke Cutter

Gerald had delayed this visit for as long as he could. Visiting his aunt and uncle out on the far side of nowhere was not something he wanted to do. Even though he loved and respected them, He had worked so hard to distance himself from the fields and farms that he had been raised on, first by his parents, and after they were killed in a car accident, by Uncle Ned and Aunt Lucy. His acting career had finally taken off and he had just completed a supporting role in a big film. His agent promised him that the studio was looking for a "star vehicle" for him. He knew he might not have the time to make this trip in a few months if his big break came through. His aunt and uncle were such decent salt-of-the-earth people and he wanted to show them his love and respect. So here he was turning off the paved road onto the dirt and gravel road to the farmhouse, dust billowing around him on the unpaved road. He’ stopped at the turnoff and looked in the car’s vanity mirror. His dark brown hair, perfectly styled, fell over his ears, and lay gently on his collar. His ¾ part was straight and his hair fell nicely to each side of it. He knew his aunt would be waiting as he arrived at the house to see "her special boy." He hoped he could keep the condescension out of his voice and from his face when he dealt with these good, but simple people. He didn’t even see or hear the pickup truck barreling down the road toward the rear of his rental car.

Gerald awakened, not knowing where he was. The lights were muted, and he felt like he was in some kind of fog. "Oh look, Ned, our special boy is back with us." His aunt’s sweet voice let him know he was safe, at least. "Gerry, you are in the Smithville Clinic. Your car was hit from behind. Thank goodness you were wearing your seatbelt and your airbag deployed. Your right arm is broken and your left tibia bone in your leg."

"Aunt Lucy, Uncle Ned, I was coming to see you for a quick visit. Why does my head feel so cold? When can I get out of this place?"

His uncle, on the other side of the bed spoke. "Well son, the good news is that we’ll be able to take you home real soon, to the farm. We ordered a hospital bed with the traction ‘doodads’ so we can get you out of here. Your aunt didn’t mention that cut to your scalp. I guess you had the visor down when you were hit and your head banged into that little mirror. They had to remove a couple pieces of glass from the cut. They had to shave the hair around the cuts and I gave the nurse permission to go ahead and give you a nice summer baldy like you used to get as a boy. With an arm and a leg in casts for 6 weeks, and you in traction for, at least a week, you wouldn’t be able to wash that mop you had. This way Aunt Lucy and the visiting nurses can give you sponge baths and keep your noggin clean."

Gerald’s brain was still in a fog from the pain meds he had been given, but he thought his uncle said that his head had been shaved. With one arm in a cast and the other tethered to several tubes, he couldn’t even raise his hand to touch his head. But, his hair, his perfect hair. It had helped him get roles in commercials and TV shows. This accident he was in had just become a bigger disaster. "Aunt Lucy do you have a mirror so I can see what I look like?"

"Oh don’t worry honey, that beautiful face of yours is fine."

"But my hair, Aunt Lucy."

Lucy looked over at Ned and said, "poor dear, must still be confused by all the pain medication." Then she looked a Gerald and said, you don’t need to worry about your hair for a while, honey. Uncle Ned took care of that for you. It won’t look messy or unkempt for some time." With that she gently rubbed her hand on the back and side of his head, avoiding the very small area where the stitches were. Gerald felt the shocking sensation of his aunt’s hand against his scalp, a barely noticeable feel of stubble, though the surgical clippers seemed to have cut almost everything off. Tears came to Gerald’s eyes as, exhausted, he fell asleep. He dreamed of his childhood and Uncle Ned taking him into town when school ended to get him his summer baldy haircut. He remembered how Uncle Ned would rub his freshly shorn head and tell him how good he looked. And it felt so good.

Gerald awoke to sunshine in the windows. He was alone in the room until a nurse arrived to check his vital signs. She was a matronly lady who appeared to be around 50. Gerald asked her if she might have a mirror so that he could see the damage to his head. She thought he meant the stitches, so she obliged, returning shortly with a small mirror. "Don’t worry dear, I wiped it with a disposable sterile cloth she said as she angled it to show him his stitches. She then moved it, at Gerald’s request so he could see the rest of his head.

"Oh no!" Staring back at Gerald was a "beat up" version of his geeky teen aged self.

"Its not so bad sweety. The scars will be tiny and won’t even show when your hair grows out a little."

Gerald realized this nurse had no idea who he was IRL. She might know his aunt and uncle as local farmers, but "she doesn’t know about me as a Hollywood star," he thought. He needed to call his agent and let him know what was going on. He asked, as politely as he could, "do you know if my phone survived the crash? I need to make a call about work."

"Why yes, it’s right here, all charged and ready," said the nurse whose name tag said her name was Betty Tanner.

When Nurse Tanner had left the room, Gerald pressed the speed dial for his agent, Jonny Stein.

"Gerald, my dude, how goes the drive down memory’s farm track?"

"Not well Jonny," said Gerald. He then went on to explain the accident, his condition, but could not bring himself to talk about his unwanted haircut.

"We can spin some great publicity out of your accident, you know, like Jeremy did after that terrible snowplow accident. I’ll come out with a photographer but get me some pictures of the car and of you so I can get the ball rolling."

"Umm, I’ll see what I can do about those pictures. Can’t you just use some of my recent headshots rather than pictures of me looking less-than my best."

"Trust me, the sympathy you’ll get is worth it."

Gerald’s next visitor was Dr. Nguyen, the man who had led the surgery to repair his battered body. "Mr. Johnson, you are looking much better today. How is your pain?" The Doctor’s accent indicated that he had was a native of the American South. His hair was cut in what Gerald considered a brutally short style. "I hope you weren’t too surprised with your ‘GI haircut’. I’m in the National Guard and that’s the kind of haircut many of the younger fellows in my unit show up with for our summer training."

The doctor’s disarming "bedside manner," caught Gerald off guard. "Well, the haircut was a shock, to tell you the truth. It’s not what I would have chosen, but my uncle was probably thinking about all the baldy cuts I had in the summers when I was growing up. I’m not in too much pain, thanks to the drugs, I guess. And, by the way, I’m an actor and there was already a Gerald Johnson in the Actors Guild, so I had to shorten the family name, professionally from Johnson to Johns. (he thought to himself, "and I didn’t want to be too easily traced back to this place.")

"I can have your name changed in the records. But you might want to keep it as Johnson to keep a bit of privacy. I thought you looked familiar; I saw that movie you were in. You have a great future ahead. By the time you’re able to be out and about, it should have grown in some, assuming you don’t keep it short. Actually, with the limitations of your injuries, it may be a blessing in disguise to have one personal hygiene task less to worry about. Your uncle said that you were used to buzz cuts when you grew up. I take it, you spent many years with them."

Gerald generally "Kept himself to himself" when it came to his private life. This doctor, though, seemed kind. "Yes, my aunt and uncle took me in when my folks died. They are my second set of parents. I lucked out on getting a second pair as good as the first."

"They certainly acted like worried parents when we contacted them. Once your hair was cut, your uncle who had been so strong, looked at you and wept. He said, ‘Lucy, our Gerry looks just like he did when he first came to us." Gerald suddenly remembered an event from the weeks before his parents’ fatal car accident. It was a hot summer day, and his dad took him to the barbershop. His dad told the barber to cut it short for this heat. The barber had buzzed him down tight. So, his uncle was right. Gerald was touched deeply by the memory and it explained his dream to him.

Jonny Stein arrived in the small town closest to the farm. With his fancy suit and his hair tied in a sleek combed back ponytail, he looked completely out of place. He thought he recognized Gerald’s uncle turning into one of the shopfronts down the main street. The aunt and uncle (wasn’t it Ed, no Ned) had come to the premiere of Gerald’s film. Gerald clearly loved them, but seemed very nervous that they might be misunderstood or mocked. Jonny had made sure that they looked like a million bucks for the premiere. He quickly parked his rental car and rushed down the street. He counted the storefronts, turning into the one he believed Ned Johnson had gone into. To his surprise, he was standing in a traditional barbershop and Ned Johnson was sitting in one of the barber chairs. "Ned Johnson? Gerald’s uncle?"

Before Ned could answer, "Now hold on a minute, young feller. This is my shop, and I don’t cotton to strangers interrupting my work. You sit yourself down in this chair," said the barber, as he pointed to chair next to his. Before he knew what was happening, Jonny found himself caped up in the next chair. "Now if two customers want to have a bit of jawboning while they get their haircuts, that is fine. Ned, do you want to talk to this city slicker?"

"Well, sure, this is Gerry’s agent. He took real good care of Lucy and me when we went to see our Gery when his movie was released in Hollywood. Since Jonny is a friend of my Gerry’s then he will want to make Gerry feel comfortable. Let me repay Jonny for getting us all gussied up for that movie opening. Why don’t you let Barney, there, give Jonny the same haircut I’m getting so Gerry will be double happy when we both walk in to see him.

"Look, Gerald asked me to come here to see him. I like my hair just the way it is, and I had no intentions of cutting it in some small town chop shop." He said this as Ned’s regular businessman’s cut was being shorn down to zero. (Oh crap, he thought, did I say that last part out loud?)

Ned and the two barbers looked at Jonny like he had grown a second head. "Small town chop shop, huh. Said the barber working on Ned. What kind of ill-mannered jerk are you?"
"Now look, with that kind of attitude, Jonny, I can’t have you going anywhere near my boy," added Ned. He is in a delicate state."

Jonny, realizing his mistake and knowing what kind of trouble he’d be in if he lost the agency, one of its biggest up and coming clients, quickly changed his approach. "Look, I apologize for my bad choice of words. It’s been a long day and I’ve been worried about Gerald. The fact is, I’ve always admired his haircut, so please, I am sure your colleague is a fine barber. Please cut my hair like Gerald’s."

"Well, now you’re talking." Barney immediately went to work. He chose his sharpest shears and cut off the ponytail with one loud crunch. Before Jonny could react, the barber had switched to clippers with no guard and cut the first strip of hair from Jonny’s forehead all the way back.

Jonny’s eyes bulged as he saw the damage. Trying to contain his temper, he asked, "isn’t this a lot shorter than Gerald’s hair?"

Ned, now nearly completely clipper shaved himself gave a short laugh. "No, son, you and I are both walking out of here with the same haircut Gerry got in the hospital after his accident, a good summer Baldy. Gery’s aunt got him to tell her he felt a little embarrassed by his new look, so I came in to get the same cut to cheer him up. When we both show up "bald as coots," I know it will make him happy." By this point, the barber had cleaned off the top of Jonny’s head and was removing his sideburns. Jonny saw that the point of no return had been reached and sat there in stunned silence.

With his "scalping" done, Ned stood and looked in the mirror, rubbing his shorn pate. "Thanks Wally, I have to say, this feels a lot cooler." Wally’s assistant had turned to the counter behind the chairs to prepare the shaving cream. Ned took the opportunity to rub the clipper shaved head of Jonny. "Son, I’d say that ‘baldy’ is a winning look for you. Makes ya look young and athletic."

Jonny was trying hard not to cry looking at himself in the mirror. The warmth of the shaving cream soothed him a bit, but the ‘skrit, skrit, skrit" of the blade against his skin set his teeth on edge. After the barber wiped off the excess shaving cream, he poured some lotion into his hands and rubbed it all over Jonny’s head. Some sunscreen for you," the barber said.

As Jonny rose from the barber chair, Ned pulled him into a bear hug. "Jonny boy, thank you for sacrificing your hair. When my boy sees the two of us, it will make him so happy. You know, if you ever get tired of this "agent stuff," you could fit right in here in our farming community." Jonny was freaking out. How would he explain this when he got back to LA? But his thoughts were interrupted when Ned said, "you just follow me out to the farm."

Jonny did as he was asked and followed Uncle Ned out to the farm. "Oh Ned," Aunt Lucy exclaimed, "why you look 20 years younger honey. And is that Jonny Stein? Why Jonny, you are a good friend to our boy! Now come on, let’s go see what Gerry thinks of you two."

It was Gerald’s first day at the farm. He had been quite exhausted by the move from the hospital but was happy to be back in his old room in the farmhouse. Luckily, the house was large and all on one level. The bedrooms were in a separate end of the house from the main part of the house. He was just wakening from a brief nap when Uncle Ned knocked on the door. His first thought was how typically thoughtful of his Aunt and Uncle to give him the sense of privacy of closing his door when he was resting, even though he was still completely dependent on them. "Come on in Uncle Ned." His uncle stepped into the room. "UNCLE NED, you shaved your head! Aw, you didn’t have to do that. I’m getting used to the ‘baldy’ and I have to admit, you were right. It is better under these circumstances."

"Aw heck, son," you looked so good, Aunt Lucy insisted I get my haircut like yours. And it looks like "baldies" are becoming popular again, get in here boy. Don’t be shy."

Jonny stepped in, and Gerald got this huge smile on his face. "Jonny, what have you done. Get over here man, give me a hug! Jonny suddenly felt very bashful but crossed the room and carefully hugged Gerald.

"Uncle Ned told me about your new look, and I felt like I couldn’t let you be the only ‘fashionista,’ Jonny joked. Gerald and Jonny were soon left alone to ‘talk business.’ "On the way out from town, I got a call from the studio. Mitch (Gerald recognized the name of the studio head) said to tell you that he was wishing you a full recovery and to keep him posted. He told me that, as long as his face is OK, this won’t stop him, even if takes a year." This news really let Gerald relax.

The next morning, Jonny awoke to the smell of breakfast cooking. The Johnsons had cancelled his hotel reservation and insisted he stay with them. When he got to the kitchen, after a quick shower, noting how much time he saved by not having to ‘do his hair,’ he noticed that Ned and Lucy weren’t as upbeat as usual. "Folks, is Gerald, OK?"

"Oh Gerry is fine," Aunt Lucy said. "It’s just that our farmhand, Luke, has had a family emergency and had to head up North for a few weeks. It is so hard to get help these days."

Jonny couldn’t believe the words were coming out of his mouth as he said, "listen, I don’t know the first thing about farming, but I have weeks of vacation coming to me and I can keep on top of things on the internet. Thank goodness Gerald made sure you have a good connection out here."

Ned responded with a smile and "son, this will be hard work and, you may end up with some callouses on those nice soft hands. But I know having a friend here will help Gerry and I sure do need the help." After breakfast, Lucy drove Jonny into town and soon had him outfitted with overalls, genes, white tee shirts, and work gloves and shoes. His new wardrobe was topped of by a ball cap with the feedstore’s logo on it. Jony Hollywood now looked like Farmer John. Jonny stopped into Gerry’s room and gave Gerry his laugh of the day. The next few days, Jonny came in from work so tired that he was barely able to stay awake at the dinner table. He was shocked at the end of the week, to find Gerry in a wheelchair sitting in the living room drinking coffee when he and Ned came in from the fields. "H*lls bells," said Jonny, "you’re looking chipper"

Gerald smiled, "Uncle Ned is really turning you into a farm boy, Jonny, you are starting to talk like one of the locals."

Ned put an arm on Jonny’s shoulder and said, "this fellow is not afraid of hard work, I’ll tell you that."

"Shucks, Ned, no need to gush!" (Jonny didn’t even think twice about how unlike himself that sounded."

Even Saturday’s are workdays at the farm, but Ned and Jonny finished up at lunch time and were surprised to find Doctor Nguyen and Wally the barber both in the kitchen with Lucy and a freshly shorn Gerald. Who beamed at his uncle and said, "Doc Nguten took the stitches out and said it was OK for me to get a fresh scalping. You sure were right about this haircut, Uncle Ned. I’m coming to love it."

While Gerry was talking, Dr. Nguyen was helping Lucy spread newspaper on the floor and move a wooden kitchen chair on top of the papers. "Since Wally has his clippers with him, he’s kindly agreed to clean me up before I head off for my summer National Guard duty. Let’s cut the sides tight and make the top short, a real tight Army style crew cut, Wally." With his hair already short, it didn’t take Wally long to clean up the doctor to his satisfaction. "Well within Army regs, Wally, great job," said the doctor.

"While my clippers are warm, do either of you fellows want a bit of a cleanup? Jonny, dang if your hair doesn’t grow fast."

Without a second thought, Jonny said, "Heck yeah, Wally, how about you tighten these sides back up, I think the top can go for another week or two." And before anybody could say more, Farm Bob Jonny was sporting a neat high and tight. Ned just settled for a little ‘edging,’ as he called it.

Gerald continued to improve, and it was clear that he would make a full recovery once his casts were off and he could start physical therapy. But Jonny had to return to work after another two weeks on the farm. With the return of Ned’s farm hand, Jonny felt that he could finally leave. He was leaving with new muscles and a new outlook. On his way back to the Interstate, he made a stop at Wally’s and got his now shaggy top cut back to a crisp looking Ivy, with shaved sides. "They’re not going to recognize me when I get back to work," he joked.

After several months of regular Baldy cuts, Gerald started the arduous process of growing his hair out. Uncle Ned was going back to his tried-and-true businessman’s cut, "at least until next year’s summer heat,’ he joked.

A year later, Gerald was back. Jonny remained a convert to short simple haircuts. Gerald noticed with some glee that some of the most junior male staff had adopted similar cuts. He soon understood why. when Jonny gave him the news. "When I got back here, I started writing down my memories of all that happened when I went out to see you. I showed it to Katelyn. She and I started seeing each other. She said I didn’t seem as shallow as the other guys in ‘the industry.’ Anyway, she is a screenwriter and we worked to turn the story into a screenplay. I want you to review it and make sure you like it, but I’ve got studio backing for this be greenlighted. This will be your big breakthrough role. Then, looking at Gerald’s restored thatch of thick dark hair, he added, "of course that hair will have to go after the accident scene."

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