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Flat Out Caught by Deke Cutter

Richie knew he had this weird interest in short haircuts. Seeing a guy or a girl getting their hair buzzed got his "mini-me" downstairs all excited. It was almost like what the hot girls at school did to him, but sort of different too. Richie never had a really short clipper cut. Both of his parents had great and both he and his younger brother did too. His mom’s hair glowed like women in those TV ads and his dad’s lionlike mane was compared to that California governor. Richie kept his hair pretty long because that was all he had ever known. Everybody in the family went to this fancy upscale salon for their trims. Even when his little brother Casey finally got his wish for a "crewcut like some of the other guys" on his Little League team had, it was done by their stylist, and it looked like it. But the kid was so thrilled by it that Richie just laughed and rubbed his head. The hair grew back and Casey was back in the family mode of fashionable long hair by the time school started the next year.

As the high school’s Spring baseball season approached, Richie kept toying with the idea of getting a short haircut, maybe even a flat top like their First Baseman had last year. Wally looked so cool with that haircut and he had already told the guys he was getting it back when the season started. Richie was just trying to work up the courage.

Richie’s parents both worked at high powered jobs. His dad, Matthew, worked for what he called a ‘boutique law firm’ whose clients only accepted the best legal minds. His mom was in charge of product marketing for a major business solutions firm. Mom, Alison, travelled for business sometimes. He really admired his mother and the way she kept the family together, even with her tough work schedule. His dad was OK, but he was a little less involved in the quotidian tasks of daily family life. In fact, lately, Dad had seemed more distracted than usual. So, when a water main break got school dismissed early, Richie was surprised to see his father’s car in the driveway in the early afternoon. Mom was away and dad was supposedly preparing for a settlement conference. "Maybe he decided to work from home," thought Richie. "I’ll sneak in quietly so I don’t disturb him and just wait for him to take a break or get a phone call. He stepped quietly into the backdoor of the house and peaked around toward his dad’s home office. Surprisingly, the door was open, and the room was empty. Then Richie thought he heard some noises emanating from upstairs. "WTF?" Richie went to investigate. As he got to the top of the stairs, he could hear bedsprings squeaking and some low moans. "Did mom get home early? Are those two going at it for a little afternoon delight?"

He was about to turn and go back downstairs when he heard a female voice. "Oh my, oh my, oooh." And that was definitely not his mom’s voice. He took out his phone, snuck up to the bedroom door and was shocked to see a young Assistant District Attorney, named Heather, on top of his father and his dad moaning with pleasure. Richie rushed downstairs and got back in his car, with his head spinning. How could his dad do this to mom and him and little Casey? Suddenly, he had a crazy idea. He could arrange a punishment for his dad, and achieve his dream of a flat top haircut and maybe even save their family. He quietly backed out of the driveway and went to his father’s office.

The small firm’s founder was also Richie’s godfather and he and Casey always called him "Uncle Jack." In fact, with only one of their mom’s sisters living locally, Uncle Jack and his wife Aunt Maureen really were like family to them. Unlike his dad with his designer suits and expensive hairdo, Uncle Jack kept his thick blonde hair in one of those cuts where the sides were and back were clippered to a moderate taper, but the top was left on the longer side. Every couple of months, Uncle Jack would get a haircut, but his hair was fully grown into a sort of long business cut before his barber visits. "Hello Barbara," Richie greeted Jack’s secretary.

"Barb, is that Richie’s voice I hear," Jack called out. Mattis out for the afternoon, send him in here to see me."

"Hi Uncle Jack, school got let out early because of a water main break-no running water, no school, for sanitation reasons. I stopped by to say hello to dad and let him know I’d be home early. Thanks for the heads-up that he’s out."

"Speaking of ‘heads-up,’ Richie, that head of hair of yours is looking more and more like your dad’s as you get older."

"Funny you should mention my hair, Uncle Jack. Dad and I were just talking about it. I told him I am thinking of getting it all cut off, maybe even a flat top, for baseball season, since it’s my Senior year and all; doing something special. Dad surprised me by saying that he had always secretly wanted to try a short haircut and always admired flat tops, but he felt that it wouldn’t be professional for your client base."

"Well, isn’t your dad the dark horse." (Little do you know, thought Richie). Richie, our clients couldn’t care less about ‘the length of our hair, or the color of our skin,’ to quote one of my dad’s favorite songs, "Everything is Beautiful in its Own Way." As long as we win their cases or make sure they are making their money legally, they are happy. You tell Matt to go ahead and get that haircut."

Richie and Jack talked for a few minutes longer, but then Richie excused himself on the premise of ‘knowing how valuable Jack’s time was.’ In reality, he was itching to get his plan working. He got home and this time, went in calling "Dad, are you home, school closed early…." He heard his father yell, something that sounded like ‘just a minute’ and then the bedroom door slam.

A few minutes later, his father came stumbling down the steps, rubbing his eyes and claiming he had just awakened from a nap. Richie told his dad they needed to speak in his office and then called up the stairs, we’ll have the door closed in there for the next ten minutes." His father looked at him guiltily.

Once in his office with the door firmly closed, Richie looked at his father and said, "dad, with all due respect, what the aitch e double hockey sticks are you doing?" His father’s phone then pinged and Richie added, "look at the photos." As his father was looking at the photos, they heard the front door slam followed by a car door and the sound of a car pulling away. "Uber for the damsel’s rescue," Richie thought.

"Richard, I can explain, and you must delete those photos at once."

"No dad, there is no explaining this away. Do you love mom, me and Casey?"

"Of course, I do, this was just a stupid dalliance."

"Well dad, here is what is going to happen now, if you want to save our family and your marriage. "You stop messing with Heather as of now! Your both lucky I don’t call the Bar Association and report you both. Next, you and I are taking a little trip out together. I’ve called the elementary school and Casey’s pal Todd’s mother, she will pick both boys up and take them to her house until we are done with our errand. Now, come on out to my car."

"Richard Martin how dare you spe…"

"This is how I dare dad. That could have been Casey that got sent home early to find you and your floozy in the bed you share with our mother, your wife. And unless you plan on packing up and moving out right now, get in the car."

Still sputtering, his father got into the car. Richie then pulled out of their driveway and, as he drove, explained to his father that they were both going to a little barber shop Richie had found. You and I are going to be getting major haircuts, dad. I am getting a flat top for the coming baseball season, you are getting the same haircut, though probably a bit shorter and tighter. And yours if for as long as it takes for you to demonstrate your remorse and your loyalty to mom and us. It will be, at least a year."

"Now look son, you know I can’t do something that extreme for work, maybe we can stop and talk about…"

"Sorry dad, I’ve already told Uncle Jack that you and I discussed your desire to get a flat top and he is all in. After I came home to that "rutting fest," I went over to your office, pretending to come see you. Uncle Jack made a comment about how similar my hair was to yours and I spun him a bit of a tale. I guess I did inherit some sneakiness from you. Now, we’ll go in there and you will ask for a short flat top with a landing strip and you, sir, are going first. You will say nothing about my haircut. If you try any of your lawyer tricks, I will send these pictures to mom, Uncle Jack, and both sets of grandparents."

Richie pulled into a small strip mall where one shop displayed a twirling barber pole. The sign above the shop said "Village Barbers, established 1979. On the plate glass window were the words, Flat Top specialists and in smaller print, "military, police, and firefighters welcome." Richie and Matt entered a shop as basic as the salon they had both frequented was "frou-frou." The black and white tiles on the floor shined. There was old fashioned blonde wood paneling up to about 4 feet with a chair rail on the side where the waiting chairs were. The upper walls were white. Mirrors were on both walls so patrons could see their cuts into an infinity of reflections. The four chairs were all classic barber chairs, the four barbers ranged in age from late 20s to around 60. There was a young boy getting his haircut in the chair farthest to the back. Two barbers sat in the front two chairs. The middle chair was empty.

"Welcome gentlemen, I don’t believe we’ve had the pleasure of your custom before. Please come up and sit down. While we specialize in short haircuts, we are all trained and certified as master barbers, so we do all kinds of cuts."

Richie jumped right in and said, "oh that is O.K., my dad and I are both here for flat tops, he’s going for nice tight one, I’m getting more of classic boxy cut."

The barber in the first chair introduced himself as Gianni, grandson of the founder, son of the owner, Armando, who got up from the next chair and shook both new clients’ hands. "’Dad’, why don’t you sit in my chair, and ‘son’ take a seat there. My dad does a mean boxy flat, and I will get you just the tight cut you need," Gianni said. You could not have imagined more different demeanors in the two clients as they got ‘caped and taped.’ There was a sense of exuberance and (maybe) a bit of smugness in Richie. Matthew looked more like a man who just found out he owed the IRS a big penalty and who knew the IRS had caught him, ‘fair and square.’ Gianni wasted no time, placing a number 2 blade on his trusty clippers and went to work stripping away the thick padding of pampered hair from the back of Matt’s head. Matt looked straight ahead into the mirror on the wall above the waiting seats, but now the waiting was his waiting to see exactly how badly the scalping would be when the barber got to the sides of his head. Meanwhile, Richie babbled excitedly to the older barber, Armando, about how he was looking forward to the coming baseball season and how much cooler it would be to have so much of his hair gone. Armando smiled and reminisced about how, when he was a little kid, Giuseppe, his father would show him scrapbook pictures of great ball players like Roger Maris, Chris Mullens, and Earl Morrow, and how, he even remembered that year that Mike Piazza wore one.

"Yes sirree," said Armando, "you two fine gents are going to look very masculine and in control of your destinies with these flat tops." Meanwhile, Gianni had progressed to the sides of Matt’s head, exposing his somewhat elfin ears. His sideburns that he always maintained to just below the ear opening were gone completely. The shocked look on his face was made all the more comical by the contrast between the long hair left on top and vast areas of virgin white skin on the sides. Richie, in the other chair was experiencing a very different ‘problem,’ as his ‘Louisville Slugger’ came up to bat, below the cape, as more and more of his hair was sheared away. Armando was as good as his son had promised and Ricky’s sides and back were that little bit longer than his father’s drastic skinning. And Armando left the little tab of sideburn at the top of each ear.

The top, the creation of the deck, was now going to happen for both Richie and Matt. In Matt’s case, after Gianni had wet and blown his hair dry in an upright position, Gianni quickly went to work, clipper over comb, knocking inches of hair down, going from front to back over and over again. Matt’s eyes bulged as he saw his beloved locks cut down to an inch in length in the front and felt the clippers resting directly on his skull in the back. Armando, by comparison, had used some kind of liquid product, the bottle said ‘Reuzel’ or something, Richie noticed and then blew dried his hair back. Richie laughed at the comical look. "O.K. young man," Armando said, keep your head nice and straight and still, so we get this top flat and even. "Having tried not to watch his father’s deforestation, to avoid that bat of his going for a ‘grand slam,’ Richie did as he was told and was amazed at the precision of Armando’s work. As Armando continued, first with scissors, and then with clippers, he ‘free-handed,’ the perfect classic flat top, there was a visible, but not harsh landing strip, particularly as compared to his father’s more brutal military-looking one.

Both barbers finished the cuts with some precision razor work around the edges and the strategic application of butch wax to the finished products. Armando, a veteran of young and not-so-young clients needing a moment or two to ‘cool off,’ after such a major transformation, gave Richie a bit of a massage and took a moment to explain the application of wax to train a longer flat top to stay up. "With thick healthy hair like you both have, your hair should ‘learn’ quickly, but we recommend the wax for the first couple of weeks until you come back in."

The father and son had their capes removed and both stood. Richie was admiring his cut and gently rubbing his hand on his newly stubbly skin. He gently touched his father’s nearly hairless head and said to quietly, "I’d say this is just what you needed, dad." Each paid for his own cut with Richie promising they would be back soon to maintain the cuts, and probably sooner when his little brother saw them and wanted in on the new ‘family ‘do."

Driving home, Matt kept looking in the vanity mirror on the passenger side. "I look ridiculous, like I just got off highway patrol duty," he grumbled.

"Come on dad! Remember that old Jefferson Airplane song, "You’re Only Pretty As You Feel?" (That was before they became Starship, geez gramps and grammy had great music). You do not look ridiculous, you look different, and so do I. I chose the change, your actions are responsible for yours. You have much more important things to be worried about, like keeping our family together and stopping your disloyal and disgraceful behavior."

Matt looked over at his son, and realized that Richie was right. "How did you get so wise? I hate to admit it, but you are right. You caught me, you humbled me, and now, it is up to me."

As they pulled up at Todd’s house to pick up Casey, Richie just smiled and ran his hand lightly across the top of his father’s head. "We are both going to take some teasing tomorrow, but it is all part of the process."

Casey came running down the driveway, with a comical look coming over his face when he was close enough to see his father and brother looking completely different. "Cool! When can I get a haircut like yours, dad?"

"Well sport, how about we wait for mom to get home and get a load of me and your brother. If she doesn’t kill me for our haircuts, Richie will take you down to our new barber."

Casey was too young to have his own smart phone, but he asked his brother if he could take pictures of the new haircuts and print them out. When Casey took his brother’s phone to take a shot of father and son together, he cheekily, also sent one by messenger to his mother, with a quick text message that said, "my turn next, pls mom, lv KC"

As it was nearly dinner time, they ordered pizza and picked it up. The girl behind the counter went to Richie’s school but was a year behind him. They knew each other slightly. "Nice haircut Richie, makes you look more mature."

"Thanks, I got if for baseball season, but I really like the way it feels."

"Give me a call some time, Richie," she said scribbling her number on the pizza box, then blushing slightly.

As they arrived home, Matt’s phone rang. The caller ID said it was Alison. "Matt, what the heck have you and Richie done to your hair? Casey sent me a picture and I almost fainted when I opened it after my last meeting of the day."

"Ali, it’s sort of a long story. But Richie was getting a flat top for the baseball season, and for some reason, I thought I would get one too. It seemed like a good way to save some time in the mornings and after squash and tennis. I should have consulted you, first…"

"Will you let me get a word in," said Alison. "It is your hair and if it makes you happy, you know I am fine with it. We have both been so busy this past 18 months, that we haven’t been communicating well. I think you and I are due for a nice weekend away, without the boys. It will give me a chance to know the new short-haired version of you."

"Oh darling, that sounds great. And don’t be surprised if you have a third flat top in the house when you get home on Saturday."

And she did. Richie took Casey to the barbershop after school on Friday and Casey came home looking like his dad’s "mini-me."

Before Richie went off to college in late August, he had agreed with his dad that Matt could grow out his flat top to a classic one like Richie’s, and, of course, Casey followed suit. Matt was a reformed man, a better husband, father, and lawyer.

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