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The Shy Guard by Armando94

(when I was younger, I actually tried making comics out of this. Or at least attempted to draw this character and the highlight of this story…enjoy)

Franklin was the furthest thing from your student athlete. In fact, he even dreaded gym class. Most kids loved gym class! That came second to their favorite subject, followed by lunch in first place. The only sort of sport, or physical exercise, he did find himself enjoying was swimming. Franklin liked to easily glide in the pool, whether doing labs or just relaxing in there, no one to bother him. But he also liked it, he figured, because he could technically hide. That was another thing about Franklin, he’d always been shy, and he couldn’t deny it. He constantly shrugged and shrunk away, even when someone was coming up to him all friendly. His family couldn’t make sense of it, and neither could he. Eventually, things got a bit better by the time he started high school, but still, he couldn’t shake it.

Not one for doing sports or many clubs in school, his parents suggested he find a part time job. On spring break, he went away with his family to the Bahamas. There, he spent every opportunity swimming or lounging in the resort’s pool. His parents encouraged him on the trip home that maybe lifeguarding would be something to consider. Franklin thought about this for the next week or two, and then asked his biology class lab partner, who was on the swim team, if they might know anything about lifeguard jobs.

"Oh, your in luck, if you’re interested," Dax smiled. "You know, there is a training through the Red Cross coming up next month. I’ll DM you the link about it."

And so Dax did, and Franklin showed it to his parents, and they offered to pay for it and he could pay them back once he started working. The training course came and went, Franklin passed both the swim and written tests, and he was ready to start work. Franklin enjoyed the start of his lifeguard job, everyone was friendly on the staff, even though he never knew who else was working on any given day, and it was only weekends to start until school let out.

School let out which meant more shifts and more money, but more people at the pool now. And it was a scorcher of a summer. Franklin made sure to lather himself in as much sunscreen as he possibly could. The one thing he did enjoy most about the job was the opportunity to hop into the pool whenever he wanted…when he wasn’t meant to be guarding, or at the beginning or end of a shift when people weren’t around. Franklin also liked that this gave him some time to get some laps in. He was slightly feeling a bit self conscious about his physique, based off most of his male coworkers. He’d even found, at home, a random set of 15 pound free weights, which he’d begun to use in the evening before bed, and morning when he woke up. This, combined with his swimming, and biking to work, Franklin was surprised how good it felt to workout. The bit of muscle peeking out of his shirts at work was a lot more real now, and some of his colleagues noticed There just was one thing that was bothering him.

His hair.

The moment Franklin hit the water, it was instant relief. His long hair that went down his forehead, slightly over the ears, and down his neck, felt cooler. But this didn’t last forever, whether he was on his bike for a shift, or when he sat in the chairs inspecting the pool. Even with an umbrella overhead, it still wasn’t enough. His thick chestnut hair that stood up every which way was truly becoming more than a nuisance. Too bad he wasn’t a beach lifeguard, because the long hair surfer boy look might have worked. But here, he was feeling that heat. Franklin looked out and around, while working, at all the different boys and men and their variations of summer cuts. It was obvious that those who didn’t start with one had definitely caved before or after the Fourth of July. Franklin wasn’t sure he was willing to embrace change. Sure, he’d embraced being a bit more social with his coworkers and this job. But a whole new look? Franklin didn’t get a Red Cross certification that stipulated a short haircut. Even his boss didn’t ask for that!

The pool club was having its annual club party on the last Friday of July, and they would be staying open later than normal. They even promised that any lifeguard covering those after hours would get overtime pay. Franklin thought, since he was new, he might not get first dibs. But luckily, he had no competition. Because he’d be working late into the night, they said he didn’t have to show up until sometime around 4. His parents said he could bike there and that he’d just need to call them when it was over. Ahead of the big event, one of the pool club members spoke to Franklin and his colleagues about the party, thanking them for helping out. He was in his late thirties, maybe early forties, and from his bulging biceps, Franklin knew he was an ex-marine. That, and his severely short haircut. Franklin didn’t know a whole lot about the marines or any branch of armed forces, but he didn’t think that they needed to have what was called the Induction cut forever. As Gary was going over things, Franklin couldn’t keep his eyes off every part of the guy. This Gary also exuded such coolness and confidence, but no arrogance. And that haircut…well, Franklin had to keep looking away at it. Looked like Gary came straight from the barber’s chair before arriving at the pool today.

"Its gonna be another great party, right Frank," Gary slapped Franklin on the back. "Thanks for helping us out."

The day of the pool party, Franklin enjoyed sleeping in. He took his breakfast out onto the back patio but quickly regretted it within five minutes. It was probably the hottest day of the summer yet. He looked at his phone and saw it was only going to continue to climb in temperature. Franklin felt his hair heavy on his head. Catching his reflection in the window behind him. It wasn’t just the case of bedhead that set his locks this way and that, to both sides and up, it was…bad hair.

Franklin also knew he’d be lying if he said he hadn’t stopped thinking about Gary’s super short haircut. Not that Franklin would ever dream of going that short…but would he at least go a lot shorter than the messy mop he’d been styling for so long? Taking another look in the window’s reflection, pawing a had at the mess itself. Franklin felt a vibrating sensation come over him, one of fear and possibly of curiosity. What if that vibration wasn’t just setting goosebumps all along his arms and legs? What if there was an equally, if not more powerful, vibration, cleared across his noggin? The thought of that suddenly got Franklin hot and bothered, and not just because the weather outside. It was a similar sensation he had woken up in the middle of the night with, one that usually was caused by the sight of a hot chick from school. But this was new. Franklin couldn’t get the thought out of his head, the more he looked at that reflection. His pathetic reflection, he started to admit. He’d been working on his physique all summer so far too, and he’d begun to see the improvements, and so had everyone else. Perhaps there was just one last thing he needed to do. Seal the deal, kiss it goodbye.

Franklin was set in motion. He sorted through his clothes and found a pair of basketball shorts that he always felt were rather long and baggy on him. He shimmied on a pair of boxers with them, and they helped keep them in place. Then he picked up a plain tee that might have been older than he remembered, judging by how his arms and biceps poked out. But this was good, actually great. The new outfit look was a simple adjustment, and one that would pair well with a new look. Yes, he was getting a new look today. Grazing his hand through his hairline to the back, the thought of that got him excited all over again like just before and in the middle of the night.

When he got downstairs, he thought about calling up the usual place he went for his "haircuts" to see if the lady who cuts his hair was available. But no, maybe this was the opportunity to go somewhere else. Besides, he’d have to bike himself anyways. With that realization dawning on him, Franklin realized he better get a move on then.

Soon enough, with the fast rate he was biking, Franklin was passing by one strip that had only been put up in the last five years that had a barbershop. Parking his bike in a rack, Franklin felt himself hesitate. Now that he was actually here, reality dawned on him. How willing was he to surrender his tresses to a barber he’d never met before? Probably see Franklin walk in with his mess of a head, dread having to give the teen "just a trim". But Franklin wasn’t here for that, he was here for something new, and certainly something short. Bring on the clippers! Oh, the thought of that got his little friend trying to stand at attention again.

With that, Franklin shook his head and walked away from his bike, pushed open the double glass doors to be greeted by the cool and nice A/C unit blasting. Some old school rock music was playing softly, but just enough so you could hear it even as the three barbers were at work. The space was painted a faint blue, with hardwood floors, and one wall decorated in large mirrors for each of the barber stations. It felt modern enough with a touch of old school, just like how the barbers were all on the younger side. One in his twenties, another in his thirties, and the third in his forties. They all wore old school barber tunics over a pair of khaki slacks but with some of the hottest new sneakers. The other thing that drew Franklin’s attention was how physically fit all the barbers seemed, especially the oldest one. Biceps bulging and busting from under that tight tunic top. Each of them was seeing a client, and only one other guy, who seemed college aged, was in the waiting area. Franklin was surprised, upon entrance, to have been greeted by all in the shop. A simple bro nod from all the men assembled and some "Hellos". The oldest barber said, "Have a seat, someone will be with you."

Before Franklin could completely relax, the same older barber was dusting off his client and showing him the back of his haircut with a handheld mirror. Then he checked him out and bid him goodbye. The barber looked at something on the counter before looking back up and meeting Franklin’s dazed gaze with his own steely gray eyes, saying, "Well boy, looks like that someone is gonna be me." The barber marched back over to his station, the first chair, and held a bear paw like hand out for Franklin, as if to say "Have a seat". Franklin stood up from the bench, feeling his legs shake. He gently sat himself down in the chair, just as the barber turned him around to the face the mirror. "I don’t think we’ve seen you here before. My name’s Oscar, owner and master barber," he held that same bear paw out again, except this time it was to shake Franklin’s hand.

Franklin stuck his arm out, now suddenly feeling like his workout regiments had been for nothing compared to this Greek god like figure. "No, first time here. Nice to m-meet you Oscar. My name i-is, F-frank—"

"Frank! No way!" The barber gleefully shook Franklin’s hand, his powerful grip nearly bringing Franklin down to the floor. "My baby brother’s name is Frank!"

"Oh! C-cool," Franklin shrugged and offered a small smile back.

"So, Frank," Oscar massaged his shoulders, digging deep into them that Franklin thought he might start to choke from the neck and pop his head off like a cherry pit out of the fruit. "First time here, and looks like maybe its been a while since your last cut. No shame in that though. Were you growing it out for a particular look?"

"Well, no, I wasn’t," Franklin felt slightly better at the barber’s kind optimism. "I mean, unless you consider just growing it out to grow it out, but with no good reason, as a particular look."

"I mean, it is a look," Oscar started to lift strands of hair in the mirror, accentuating just how long Franklin had let his hair go. "Best thing about this is we have a lot of real estate to work with. Its not like you came in here having buzzed your head only a month or two ago, and were looking for something that we can’t achieve at this point."

"Right," Franklin gulped, mostly at the word "buzzed".

Then Oscar took a comb and started to brush out Franklin’s hair. It felt so therapeutic, his gentle yet firm strokes from scalp out to the end of his strands. "Been having a good summer so far my friend? It’s a hot one out there today."

"Yeah, it really is," Franklin hesitated. "I’ve been a lifeguard this season, first time."

"No way! That’s really awesome," Oscar said. "Pool or beach?"

"Oh, just pool, but its fine. Plenty to do."

"I’m sure of that," Oscar had a wicked shine in his eyes suddenly. "Sure its great, getting to be out in the sun all day, by the pool, plenty of beautiful babes walking by."

"Oh, well, there are," Franklin felt embarrassed, "but, I haven’t talked to any of them."

"Why’s that, boy?"

"Well," Franklin sighed. "I’ve always been shy. Like really shy. I’m doing better, I think this summer has been good for me, with the job, and I’ve been working out a bit more. But, no, I haven’t attempted any of that, to be honest."

Oscar nodded his head, taking it all in. "I can tell you’ve been working out, bit of muscles going on there boy," the barber playfully picked up Franklin’s right arms and made him flex it in the mirror. "I thought this was a barbershop, not the gun show," which put Franklin at ease as he laughed at the two of them in the mirror. Oscar relaxed his grip and then said, "I can give you pointers, if you ever want. So you’ve got that going for you, and the sick summer job. You seem like a decent kid from what I can tell, no nastiness I’m sniffing."

"Well, gee, thanks Oscar," Franklin felt like blushing but held himself back.

"Anything else I’m missing?" Oscar kept his focus on their reflections in the mirror, his hands slowly sifting through either side of Franklin’s head. "Any particular reason you’re here today?"

It was like he’d been baiting Franklin all along, and it damn well worked. Now he’d been totally released and just let it all out. "Its so hot out there," Franklin exasperated. "I was outside this morning and it was already disgusting, I couldn’t believe it. And then I caught my reflection, and I just knew something had to change. Not just because of the heat, but maybe because I needed to change, or wanted to. I don’t know, maybe its crazy."

Oscar massaged Franklin’s neck and shoulders now. "Summer is the perfect time for a change." Then his fingers found their way back up Franklin’s skull, massaging there too. God, if he massaged it any better, Franklin swore he’d fall asleep right then and there in the chair. "Anything you had in mind, boy?"

"N-no, I don’t really. Sorry. Just…just short."

"Short?" Oscar’s eyes brightened. "We can do short…what are we talking though?"

"I…" Franklin stalled. "I don’t know, something good for summer and the job. Not bald though, like, something cool enough looking."

"Something that works for your face shape?" Oscar started to trace Franklin’s face. "Something that will work with your growing physique, and give you a whole new look, perhaps?"

The temptation was right there for the taking, and Franklin bit on it. "Yes. I think that’s it."

And the barber Cheshire cat smiled back, "Alright Frank, if you trust me."

Franklin didn’t say anything back, he just sat there as Oscar took the red pinstripe cape and covered him up. Securing the neck wrap right after, Franklin’s Adam’s apple throbbing and itching against it. He was more than secure, he was stuck, and there was no turning back. Staring at himself in the mirror, curious if that was sweat dripping down his face, not from the heat but out of fear. Before he had the time to decide what it was, Oscar was ready to get to work, brandishing a pair of dark brown clippers, that the clipper part was the shinniest silver Franklin had ever seen. Or perhaps, that was because the barber had just oiled it up and already had them running…

"Face forward, please Frank," Oscar commanded, which wasn’t necessary considering he gripped Franklin with the other hand on the other side of his head. Clippers in Oscar’s right hand, starting from Franklin’s right side, he started from the ear and plowed all the way up, sending a sheave of hair up and out into the air before falling down onto the cape and floor like dandelions. Franklin didn’t have time to react, but at the second swipe of the clippers, Franklin felt it all. The loud purr against his eardrum, as it raced up the side of his head. Crunching through long hairs and going over what had already been reduced down. Franklin couldn’t see much, how short the barber had decided. But he certainly felt it, and felt slightly lighter already. That and the A/C pumping out into the room he felt against his nearly bare sides.

"So its your first summer as a lifeguard, you said?" Oscar decided to strike up a conversation just as he was done, for the moment, with clippering up Franklin’s right side.

Franklin’s eyes nearly fell out of their sockets at the sight he briefly caught in the mirror. The sheer, no pun intended, difference from the left that was still long and full, versus the right that he couldn’t make out what was there. He slightly turned his head to get a quick look and instantly regretted it. His hair had been reduced to stubble! This was going to be one short cut. "Y-yes, my first summer. I got certified back in May."

Oscar placed his left hand on the top of Franklin’s head, and refocused him to face the mirror dead on again. Then the barber took the clippers and fed them right up the back of Franklin’s head this time, as he said, "Excellent. Red cross I take it?"

"Yes," Franklin managed to utter out, as another swipe of the clippers went up the back of his head. He felt this vibration more than on the side of his head, and he started to get that hot and bothered feeling again. Yet he was also relaxing with no regret into the clutches of the barber, what he’d been secretly hoping for all along, and Oscar was delivering on that and more. Another pass of the clippers up the back of his head, through the occipital bone again. Franklin felt his mouth hanging a jar, even when he wasn’t talking back to Oscar’s numerous questions about lifeguarding and school. He was more than enthralled with the makeover he was undergoing. Still scared of it all but exhilarated too. As Oscar made his way to the left side, clearing that off in no time as well, Franklin started to sit up more upright in his chair, taking in the transformation so far.

Once the sides and backs had been initially taken down to a #1, Oscar put the clippers to the side for a moment and began to spray down the top of Franklin’s head, combing his hair all the way back. There still was a whole lot still on top, but not for long. Oscar took a blow dryer and a brush and started to blow it all back and stand up. Franklin was really shown just how much hair he had. It looked sort of silly standing all up like that, versus the brutally shorn sides. But then, Oscar said, "Now hold still, boy, don’t want to move even an inch." Working from the back forwards, with the comb again and a different pair of clippers, Oscar made quick work of reducing Franklin’s hair down to no more than an inch in height, possibly less! Lock after lock of hair falling over his face, onto the cape, and then down onto the floor. It wasn’t until Oscar had finally come all the way forward, sheering away the forelock that had been made erect, that Franklin got a real good sense of what his new look would be. Stunned was an understatement. The nearly bare sides, and the super short cropped top stared back at him. The hair had been trained to stay upright, and Oscar went back over his work to make sure every detail was covered. Franklin was at a loss for words. He figured this had to be a crewcut of some kind. Like an old school one perhaps.

Once Oscar had the top so pristinely cut that there wasn’t a stray in sight, he blended that top with the sides and back, and then edged out the neckline and around the ears. Just when Franklin thought it was done, it was far from over. Oscar took out a little dish that looked like it had cream or putty in it. He put a dime size worth in his palm, showing it to Franklin, nodding his head saying, "Just about that much, boy," then rubbed his hands together. Suddenly, he was behind Franklin, and they were both looking at the mirror together. Oscar aggressively stroked his man hands through the short hairs on the top of Franklin’s head, massaging and muscling the product through them. Now Franklin felt like his neck was really about to snap off at the barber’s mercy. He thought his hair was the only thing that was erect, but it got even better with this product which smelled divine. Franklin tried his best to calm down below but he couldn’t help himself, regretting the basketball shorts. Oscar sat his head up, and detailed the styling a bit more, before applying a bit more heat from the blow dryer.

Finally, they were looking at each other in the mirror, Oscar holding a handheld mirror to also show Franklin the back of his head. Oh geez that was short! "Well Frank, I know it was a bit of a change. So thank you for putting your trust in me. But now, be honest, what do you think."

Franklin couldn’t help himself, even if it meant he burst down below by doing this. He took a free hand from under the cape, grazing it along the sides and back, feeling a bit like sandpaper. Then he let it float up to the top, that perfect top, nothing out of place, and now felt like it was hardening into a shell from the product. And most surprisingly of all, was what he blurted out next, "Oh my god, I think I love it."

"Do you really?" Oscar smiled from ear to ear. Then, he was brushing Franklin down, and releasing the cape. He held a hand out to get Franklin off the chair. "Feel a bit light headed, don’t we?"

Franklin smiled back and then went up to the front with him to pay and tip, and also get his own bit of pomade to use. Oscar suggested he come back in two to three weeks if he could help it. Franklin was making money now, and the price wasn’t too bad, plus he could bike here. Oscar said he could make an appointment online if he wanted, or just walk on in, they were here Tuesday through Saturday.

The bike ride home was amazing, Franklin felt a sudden breeze on this hot day pass over him. He’d really need to lather up with lotion around his head and face now, not just because of the haircut but because he’d want to show it off. Upon arrival for work, all his coworkers were stunned to see him. He got many compliments, and certainly a few looks from some of the teenage girls who were at the pool already. A little while after he got there, Gary and some others arrived to start setting things up. Gary enlisted Franklin to help him get some things out of his car, just the two of them. As they walked through the parking lot to it, Gary shamelessly passed a hand across the back of Franklin’s head and said, "I recognized you with that fresh cut, looks great dude!"

"Thanks, a bit impulsive but I don’t regret it," Franklin admitted.

"No, it looks fantastic, Frank, you ought to keep it," Gary popped open his trunk. "Sorry, do you go by Frank? Don’t mean to give you a nickname you didn’t ask for."

Franklin shook his head and blushed, thinking back to Oscar. "No, Frank is fine, I think I kinda like it actually." And so Frank he remained, and kept the haircut all through summer into the next school year as well.

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