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Life On The Content Farm by Andrew Johnson

Things were becoming quite strange in the Campbell household. After a vicious divorce, Landon and his little brother Brody were now under the sole custody of their father, Frank. Frank had always been a perfectly average man. He worked a simple office job, he had married his high school sweetheart. Perhaps unusually, he had never had to try to stay fit, and even now as he reached his mid 40s, his body was still trim as they come. However, time waged its war on his body in a different manner. By age 27, his hairline had receded drastically. Now 45, not a single hair grew on the top of his head. The back and sides of his head didn’t face this problem, but Frank made an effort to keep them trimmed and presentable. He was perfectly average, perfectly normal.

Or at least, he had been. After the divorce, Frank started to change. Every day, he would vlog the lives of his now slightly smaller family. Every night, he would edit and publish these videos to his YouTube page, FactsOfFatherhood. They would only get a few views each day, but nevertheless, he persisted. He began to take more and more time off work to devote himself to his newfound passion project, and to a lesser extent, his children.

His children had diverging reactions to these changes. Brody, just about to turn 10, was thrilled. All his life he’d been inundated with streamers, vloggers, gamers, and just about any other type of content creator he could be exposed to. Now to think, his formerly boring old dad was going to be rich and famous like his favorite YouTubers was the most exciting thing in the world to him. Landon, on the other hand, was decidedly less enthused. Between the strife at home and the stress of a new environment, Landon had dropped out of college during his first semester. He had wanted to return home to a sense of normalcy…and instead his father was running around shoving a camera in his face. It was not ideal.

Each morning Landon would walk downstairs to the breakfast table, and there Frank would be, filming Brody as he indulged in whatever picture perfect meal had been whipped up. Landon would do his best to try and go unnoticed, his eyes rarely peeking out from behind his long dark bangs. Despite his efforts, Frank would quickly turn the camera in his older son’s direction, and narrate to his not-quite-existent audience as Landon poured a bowl of cereal or buttered toast. When Brody was finished, Frank would drive him to school, getting more footage along the way, leaving Landon home for a few brief hours of respite, until his father and brother would return again after school had finished. The cycle continued everyday, and every night Frank would edit and publish. And still, no gold was struck, no viral hit achieved. Landon hoped and prayed that sooner rather the later, the lack of success would get to his father, and this whole endeavor would be left behind. He was glad his dad was keeping busy. He was glad his dad and brother were getting to spend quality time together. But he tired of the camera. It always seemed to be on him. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a real conversation with his dad and not an interview with FactsOfFatherhood. Soon, though, Landon knew, it would all simmer down, and things would finally, finally, be back to normal.

Things did not return to normal. In fact, things became much stranger.

Landon had been sitting on the couch, watching TV, when Brody and Frank returned home. It was a little later than usual, but Landon hadn’t thought anything of it. Each carried a plastic bag, and as they walked upstairs, they were both giggling. Landon decided to ignore whatever his family was cooking up. That was the moment his fate was sealed. About 20 minutes later, Frank came downstairs, camera ready as ever.
"Hey L-Man, want to see something cool?"
Landon prepared himself to fake a smile or a gasp of excitement at whatever his dad had planned. He may be sick of the bit, but he wasn’t a jerk.
"Sure Dad, I’d love to see something cool."
"Alright Brodes, come on down!" Like a rocket, Brody sped down the stairs. Landon didn’t need to fake a gasp. There his little brother stood. And he was bald. Landon had never really given much thought to his brother’s hair before, but it had always looked well kept, maybe sometimes styled with gel, and it had been the same dark brown that Landon’s was. And now it was gone. Then he noticed more. It wasn’t…all gone. Just the top. Then he came to the realization. He looked up at his father, and then back down at his brother. They now sported the same male-pattern-bald head. Landon’s expression must not have read as shocked as he intended it to be, because Frank and Brody were both smiling ear to ear.
"Isn’t great? And it was all his idea too!"Frank said, moving the camera quickly between his younger and older sons. Of course, that line was starting to blur with Brody’s new hairstyle.
"Yeah, I got the idea from this YouTuber! At meetups, he gives his fans ‘Old Man Haircuts’, and he has like, a billion subscribers so I thought it would be super cool for us to do it too!" Brody was so excited. Landon could tell he hadn’t quite processed the big picture here, that he would have to go to school looking like a fool, and for all his friends to point and laugh at him. Landon then picked up on part of what Brody had just said.

"Yeah, all of us! Dad doesn’t have to, ‘cause his is already good, but now you’re going to get the ‘Old Man Haircut’ too!"
"I think it’ll be really good for our branding Lan, a whole family with the distinct haircut, it’ll definitely help us stick out!" Landon couldn’t believe what he was hearing. They expected him to cut his hair…like that! Like an old man! He was 19, not 90!
"No. No, no, no. No way. I’m not doing that." Brody’s face fell a little.
"But, why not?"
"Because it looks ridiculous, and I’m tired of putting up with all these stupid schemes! We’re not going to be famous on YouTube. There’s no way in hell that shaving my head is going to change that. And even if it was going to, I still wouldn’t do it!" Landon hadn’t meant to lash out so aggressively, but he couldn’t hide his feelings any longer. Neither could Brody, who sped out the room as fast as he had entered it, bawling his eyes out.

"Wait, Brody, hold on!" Landon began to give chase, but Frank put a hand on his shoulder before he could move to follow.
"Let him be, he needs a minute."
"Dad, I’m sorry, but this is stupid."
"It wasn’t to him."
"Well he’s a kid! He doesn’t know any better! You should though!"
"I did what I thought would make my son happy."
"Well I’m not happy with this."
"I know that. I just thought it could be fun. Something to unite us. Your brother hasn’t had things easy, you know. He’s had to deal with everything you have, with fewer ways to understand it. But he still has fun. And he still smiles. I think he just wanted you to smile with him."

As Frank left to console Brody, Landon’s heart grew heavy. He hadn’t really thought about how Brody was feeling about everything that had happened. He had only been concerned with himself. Maybe he hadn’t given enough credit to his dad either. He had thought his dad had been going crazy, but maybe he had just been trying to keep things light for the most vulnerable member of the family. The member of the family Landon had just sent sobbing out of the room. With a heavy sigh, Landon made a decision. He went to go look for his family. He found them in the kitchen.
"I’ll do it."
"What do you mean Lan?" Frank asked, a smile starting to form on his lips.
"I want to have my hair cut like you guys." Brody’s eyes looked drier the minute his brother ended his sentence.
"I knew you would! I just knew it! Come on upstairs, everything is already set up!" And just like that, Landon was whisked upstairs. Before he knew it, a garbage bag with a hole cut into it had been draped around him as he sat down on a stool in the bathroom. Brody sat on the sink in front of Landon, blocking his view of the mirror. Frank fiddled with the new clippers he had bought for the occasion, trying on different guards. One camera sat on a tripod, and another sat in Brody’s hands, both waiting to capture every minute of Landon’s transformation.
"Your hair is a bit longer than Brody’s was, so I think I’ll have to cut it down a little bit before I can go about shaving it." Landon gulped as he listened to his father. This was a very strange thing he had agreed to do.
"Let’s start with this." Frank said as he attached a guard to the machine.

Landon hadn’t had a buzzcut since he was younger than Brody was now. His father was working quickly to remedy that. Starting with the back and sides, dark brown hair quickly fell onto the garbage bag as Frank reduced them to less than an inch long. The sideburns that had begun to grow on Landon’s face were quickly eliminated in order to match his father and brother. After having done a number on everything beside the top, Landon craned to look in the mirror, and thought the very overgrown undercut look suited him quite nicely. Maybe when the rest had grown back he would return to it. He could barely comprehend both his father and brother narrating the entire process, and could only meet their questions with grunts. Landon was dealing with more than a little shock. That would only be compounded as Frank returned to his work, tugging on Landon’s bangs, and decimating them with the clippers.
"Past the point of no return." Frank chuckled. Landon’s eyes bugged out. He was regretting this and it wasn’t even over yet. Massive pasty forehead now exposed, Frank continued to mow down the dark brown forest that had grown on Landon’s head over the course of the last six months. When he was finished, Landon was left with less than an inch all around his head. Frank gripped the top of his older son’s head like he was palming a basketball.
"You look just like you did when you were a kid!" Landon let out a feeble laugh in response. Maybe there was still some time to go back on this, Brody would certainly be okay with his brother just having gotten a massive haircut, hadn’t this been embarrassing enough! Before he could get a word out, Frank had already removed the guard from the clippers, and right before Landon was about to rescind, Frank let loose a shower of tiny hairs as he carved a stark white streak down the center of Landon’s head. Brody let out a mischievous giggle. Landon was at least glad he was enjoying this. Frank worked to create a perfect replica of Brody’s pattern-baldness, and soon, Landon looked about 40 years older. Thinking the transformation was complete, Landon’s jelly legs began to rise, before his father placed his hand atop his head and pushed him back down onto the stool.
"Where do you think you’re going? We’re not finished yet!"
Noticing that his father was wielding a Bic and a can of shaving cream, Landon resigned himself to his fate. He, Landon Campbell, would be as bald as they come. While Landon’s eyes glued themselves to the ground, Frank covered his son’s head in cream, and then shaved. Against the grain, then with the grain, not leaving a single follicle on the top of Landon’s head unshorn. Nearly satisfied with the job, Frank wiped Landon down with a wet washcloth, before pulling out the final touch. Frank polished his son’s newly minted Old Man Haircut off with some baby oil. Soon, Landon’s head gleamed in the light, and the work was finished.

Landon took in his new look. Obviously he looked ridiculous, and foolish, and like a total dolt. But hey, at least his brother was smiling again. His dad seemed proud of his choice. Maybe he could get through this. In two days he would shave the rest of his head and then wait for it to grow out. There are worse things in the world.
"Alright, who wants ice cream?" Landon turned ghostly pale. He wasn’t ready to debut this look to the world…but he didn’t seem to have much of a choice, and he was quickly ushered into the car. The whole ice cream parlor certainly took a gander at the trio of semi-bald guys ranging from 45 to 9. Landon didn’t fully return to consciousness until a girl he had graduated with ran into him outside the bathrooms. Her stare just about sent him over the edge, and he rushed back to his family’s table. Once the oldest and youngest Campbell’s had had their fill of reactions, the family headed home. Brody slept like a rock, exhausted from his very exciting day. Landon tossed and turned all night, and he couldn’t stop touching his head. Frank worked all through the night on the day’s vlog, and fell asleep the second he hit the post button. Thus ended the Campbell age of normalcy.

Landon woke up to a commotion throughout the house. As he opened his bedroom door, he moved to brush hair out of his eyes. His hand hit still air. He was still bald as a baby’s buttocks. With a sigh he went downstairs, and was met with his gleeful father cheering and yelling.
"It’s a hit! It’s a hit! We made it!"
Landon rubbed the sleepiness from his eyes and asked,
"Dad, what are you talking about?" Frank turned his phone towards Landon, and Landon’s face fell. The video his dad had posted last night, titled "The CampBalds!", had over 750,000 views, and hundreds of comments. His eyes began to widen as he read them. Strangers were talking about their argument, their heart to heart, and, of course, their hair. One commenter, named "FlattoperFinn" wrote "Cute kids, but that older one could’ve used a little discipline a long time ago! Glad you straightened him out!" Dozens were agreeing with him.
"I knew it would be good for branding! Everybody loves it, the whole thing!" Frank hardly noticed his son sinking into a chair.
"And that’s not all, the older videos are getting views too, the whole page is going viral!" Landon’s hand lifted to feel his bald crown.
"Your brother is so happy, I’m letting him skip school today so we can have another day of content-production together! And of course, now that we’ve found out it’s the secret ingredient, we’ll have to keep your heads shaved, but shaving cream is so cheap, we could keep you guys shaved for the rest of your lives!" Frank finally picked up on his son’s despondence.
"Oh, don’t worry about it kiddo, I was around your age when I started losing my hair anyways. You probably only had a couple years left. Trust me, you won’t even miss it!"

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