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Barber Jerry Saves the Lifeguard by Manny
John absolutely hated it when old Mr. Stimson would drop by the front desk to offer a suggestion or register a complaint. The codger disliked swimming laps immensely, but he had been told by his doctor that if he didn't get regular exercise his heart would give out on him any day. John wondered if Mr. Stimson was always grumpy or only on the day he swam his early morning laps.
"I don't have all day, John!" the geezer called out in an irritated tone. "Need to get my shop opened in half an hour. There are lots of fellows depending on me to have their hair cut to keep up their decent, tidy appearances."
"Yes, Mr. Stimson, how can I help you?" asked John, trying to sound pleasant.
"You want me to pay my monthly fee on time, don't you?" the codger grumped as he slapped his credit card down on the counter. "And don't forget to give me the senior rate. I'm 72 years old, you know!"
John began trying to get the worn credit card to work in the machine, which was having connectivity issues. "Sorry, I might have to try this in back if I can't get it to go through out here."
"This place has real problems, you know! Nothing seems to work. The employees are just as bad! I've seen a lot in my life time, but one thing I haven't seen until I started swimming here is young life guards with hair down over their eyes so that they can't see a thing! There's one young man up on that chair right now who may as well be blind! I got a cramp in my leg when I was swimming and thought I would drown. He was up on that chair, under all that hair, in another world!" Mr. Stimson cranked. "Do you know who I'm talking about? He's blond and has longer hair than my granddaughter!"
"Yes, that would be Brad Paisley. Not our most reliable employee, I'm afraid. But I will have a word with him about being more vigilant," John said apologetically. "And, I do think I need to take your card in back to process, Mr. Stimson. It'll be just a minute."
"Well, I don't have a minute and I can't wait. Have that boy run it down to me at my shop when you're done -- it's just two blocks from here, on Main Street -- Dick's Barber Shop. And I'll tidy up that mop of his for free as my public service. Wouldn't want a kid drowning because that slacker can't see properly."
"Are you sure you can't wait, it'll be just a....." John stammered, but Mr. Stimson was already heading out the door.
John glanced through the window and saw Brad sitting on the chair with the sun bouncing off his luxuriant mane of naturally streaked blond hair. Sure enough, the long, heavy forelock, that flowed down to his upper lip covered his eyes and much of his face. Brad had a natural eye shade to protect his huge green eyes from the relentless sun.
John imagined the grumpy barber dealing with a leg cramp right under Brad's nose, and how angry the old man must have been when the lifeguard didn't respond. Just then, John saw a toddler walking deeper and deeper in the water towards the swimming lanes. John hoped Brad would blow his whistle. But, he seemed to be asleep on the chair. Still!
John blasted out the door and shouted for Brad to take action. At the same time, the tot's mother jumped into the pool to preempt an emergency.
"Hey, you need to stay awake up on that chair, Brad!" John fumed as he returned inside. "When you rotate off the chair, come see me. I have a special assignment for you."
Half hour later, Brad ambled into John's office, "Sorry about what happened out there. I guess I just dozed off. That sun is draining, you know."
"Several of our patrons have complained about your lack of attention, Brad. This morning there were two incidents. The kids and the old man, Mr. Stimson, who got a leg cramp. He told me how upset he was by your lack of attentiveness."
"That old geezer! He's always complaining. Don't mind him," Brad replied non-chalantly.
"Brad, you need to take your job seriously," John said as he felt a sermonette coming on.
Brad rolled his eyes. That made something snap inside John. The guy might be in college, but he was totally immature. He needed to learn a lesson, John thought!
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to let you go," John stated blankly. "I don't like your attitude. You're not taking your job seriously."
That unexpected remark caught Brad's attention. "Whaaaat? You're not serious!" he whined. "Hey, you told me you had a special assignment for me, not that you were going to give me the axe!"
Well, firing poor Brad was a rather drastic measure John thought to himself. Then he surveyed the lifeguard's precious pampered mane that had caused all the problems to begin with. He knew how vain Brad was about his thick sunkissed tresses. Periodically, he would see Brad admiring his hair in the bathroom mirror and arranging it just so....
"Well, I suppose I could give you one last chance, but with a condition. When I saw you out on that chair, I couldn't tell you were asleep. All that hair in front of your eyes. To make sure that doesn't happen again, your hair needs to be cut." John smirked as he watched the non-chalant lifeguard react very negatively.
"Whoa....my locks are off limits, John," the sunbleached slacker exclaimed.
"Do you want a job?" John insisted. He enjoyed reeling in the girlish hair closer and closer to Mr. Stimson's shears.
"Obviously! I need to save up for the fall tuition," he retorted. Brad struggled to save his job from the chopping block. "Well, maybe my bangs can be trimmed...." Brad replied, wavering.
John did not take the bait. "The heat out there seems to be putting you to sleep, Brad. I think you could benefit from a more substantial cut," John said emphatically. "This isn't open for negotiations. You will get a full-fledged haircut, or you will get a new job!"
Brad look devastated. He stood speechless.
John continued, "I want you to take Mr. Stimson his credit card which he left behind when I couldn't get the terminal working this morning. He's the owner of Jerry's Barber Shop on Main Street. Do you know where that is?"
Brad nodded, apprehensively.
"He offered to give you a free haircut when he registered his complaint about you being asleep out there. I suggest you apologize sincerely for your lapse and then take him up on his offer. Be back by noon with a more tidy look and the job is still yours. If you don't agree, just pack up your things now. I won't be needing your services any longer. Two major incidents in one morning -- our most vulnerable clients! -- and you asleep on the chair. There's too much at stake. Liabilities, lawsuits -- you name it."
Brad stood frozen. He mopped his mane back nervously and stared at the credit card John was handing him. Let a grumpy old barber cut his hair?!
The nervous lad tried one last tactic. "Can't I just wait and have my hair trimmed on the weekend at the mall? I don't think I can get an appointment today."
"It's Jerry's or it's good-bye," said John as he enjoyed the scene of Brad squirming and vainly attempting to save his lush locks.
Slowly, Brad reached and took the barber's credit card from his boss. "I hope the geezer understands, it's just a trim," Brad said.
"He just may have used that term when he offered his shears up for some community service on those long bangs of yours. Just so we're clear, I want your bangs cut above the eyebrows!" snapped John.
Brad turned in a huff and marched out of the office. Flustered and humiliated, the lifeguard continued right out the front door of the rec center.
As Brad turned onto Main Street and saw the whirling red and white barber's pole, his heart beat more quickly. This was crazy! Let an old fashioned, grumpy barber get near his hair?! He ran his fingers through the silken locks and felt the heavy burden they placed on his head. One thing was for certain -- he could not get another lifeguarding job at this point in the summer. Since he really had no option, he began thinking about the upside to a haircut. The heat had been intense and the chlorine was damaging the tips of his hair. He probably would benefit from a good crop. But by a barber?!
Brad whipped out his cell phone and speed-dialed his salon. Maybe he could sneak a trim in at the mall and be back by the noon deadline. He was willing to take any available stylist over the geezer barber.
A quick conversation put an end to that option. By then, Brad was just one store away from the barbershop. He could see grumpy Jerry sitting in the big chair staring aimlessly out the huge plate glass window. The barber's eyes locked on him! The geezer looked stern, yet slightly satisfied that the longhair was approaching his shop.
Brad could no longer hide. His fate was sealed. He would reach his destination after all. Well, he could enter and say he was just there to return the credit card and forget the whole haircut thing....
Brad slowly pushed the door open and felt the cool air conditioning envelop him.
The barber rose from the chair and snapped, "I assume you're here to apologize, young man!"
Brad was taken off guard; he suddenly felt on the defensive and very vulnerable.
"Oh, I, uh, yes, well, I am very sorry about what happened this morning," he stammered.
"Very well! Take a seat there. We're going to make sure it doesn't happen again," Mr. Stimson said flatly and without emotion.
Brad froze in his tracks. He saw the line of clippers hanging from the bottom of the counter. Oh my! What instruments of torture those would be for his dear tresses.
"You haven't got all day, young man, and neither have I. Now take a seat!" the barber instructed.
Brad's mouth felt dry. He could not afford to lose his job. Despite the fear and trepidation that weighed him down, he stepped towards the huge barber chair and eased himself in slowly.
Mr. Stimson stared in disapproval at the long locks of blond hair. He cast the snowy white cape into place and struggled with the copious tresses as he fastened it securely with a big metal pin. Then he began yanking a comb through the dense mane.
"Just a trim, please," Brad suggested with a very thin, hesitant voice.
The barber picked up a set of shears and snapped them open and closed menacingly.
"I need to have the bangs trimmed above my eyebrows," the caped lad added.
Mr. Stimson combed all the long hair staight down so that the dense veil of hair covered much of his face. "This is the way your hair hung when you were up on that chair at the pool, young man, and I was almost drowning," the barber said.
Then, without another word the old geezer took his shears up to the very top of Brad's forehead and quickly thrust one blade under the heavy mane and delivered a chop!
"What?!" Brad exclaimed as he felt the shears right near the hairline.
The barber hacked the long bangs off very quickly and aggressively. Crunch, crunch, crunch! The shears cutting through heavy tresses made a disturbing sound.
"I said trim," Brad gasped, his voice failing. "Oh, my goodness...." The damage had been inflicted. He looked like a total baffoon with his bangs hacked off near the root. Brad's forehead was a ghostly white, contrasting starkly with his tanned cheeks and chin. As he came to terms with the massacre he had just watched in the mirror, Brad squirmed uncomfortably in the barber's chair.
"Sit still!" the barber commanded. "When I was a young father, the lifeguards all sported military style crewcuts," he said reaching from the clippers. "Our kids were safe in the pool under their watchful gazes. Those cleancut lifeguards were much more reliable than the slackers like you up on those tall chairs today!"
The barber snapped on the machine.
"No, please, sir," Brad begged. "I like my hair long...."
In a flash, Mr. Stimson was pushing the determined clippers back across the top of Brad's head, from forehead to crown. Shimmering sheaves of silken, glistening blond hair fell to the cape, resting on the shoulders and then sliding down the long trajectory to his lap.
Brad sat stunned, aghast as he watched what was happening to him. For an old man, Mr. Stimson still could impose a very firm grip. He thrust Brad's reluctantly compliant head from one side to another, peeling off every lock down to a quarter inch.
"These are the types of buzzcuts all boys and teens would get at the beginning of summer to help cope with the heat. They didn't live in air conditioned worlds back then, mind you. Last day of school and the lines would be long for summer crewcuts at the barbershop. Even a few fathers would have their business cuts buzzed off too for summer! That was father-son bonding at its best. That was all until those moptop Beatles changed things!" reminisced the barber as he took the clippers to Brad's nape. "The girly boys began prancing off, clutching their mommy's hands, to the beauty shop. What a pity! Boys with crewcuts seemed a lot more respectful of their elders than the out-of-control hippies of the 60s and 70s and slackers of today," Mr. Stimson continued as he waved the clippers in the air for emphasis when he wasn't employing them to clip Brad down tight.
Brad just watch in resignation as his beloved hair was mowed off at a single, uniform length. At this point there was nothing he could do besides take comfort that he wouldn't be fired. That had been a close call -- to think John had actually tried to fire him!
The barber switched off the big machine and swapped it out for a smaller one. The higher pitched hum shattered the silence as the barber cleaned Brad up around the ears and at the nape. "It's very white back here on the neck and nape where I cleared away all the over-growth. Make sure you use sunscreen on your neck when you get back to the pool, son," the barber said in a more friendly, caring manner. He rubbed the buzzcut tenderly.
FInally, the haircut was over. The barber held up a hand mirror to allow Brad to examine the back of his shorn head. What struck him most was that the cropped pelt of hair that covered his scalp was fairly dark brown. Not only had the clippers put an end to the length, but also to the summer blond and beautiful natural highlights. He looked like an army recruit instead of a surfer dude.
"You look like a boy, now!" the barber announced as he rubbed his hand across the stubbly bristles of Brad's buzzcut once again. Brad couldn't tell if that meant he looked more immature and innocent with the crewcut or if the demise of his gender-bending locks was at the root of the barber's comment. Or both meanings, perhaps? He did enjoy getting his buzz rubbed, however.
Mr. Stimson put a dash of talcum powder into the huge duster with the wooden handle. Then, in an explosion of sweet-smelling white smoke, he dusted his client's face, ears, neck and head in general.
It tickled and Brad chuckled.
"So, you like that, eh? Your new haircut too?" Mr. Stimson asked hopefully.
Brad took a long look at his shorn head. While he had been so adamant on preserving his long hair, he began to soften to the new look. "You know, it's growing on me!" he said in a surprisingly upbeat tone.
The barber finished removing the hair laden cape ever so carefully. As soon as he was free from the restrictive cloth, Brad felt his buzzcut for himself and smiled broadly. "This feels great!" he purred as he ran his hand over his whole shorn pate.
"Good! And, I'll tell you what. You keep an extra eye on me at the pool when I'm swimming and I'll keep your buzzcut tight all summer for free. Drop by here whenever you need your buzzcut tidied up, son!" the barber said cheerful.
"You bet!" Brad replied. "And if you see me looking at all shaggy, feel free to tell me to stop by, Jerry!"
"That's Mr. Stimson to you, young man!" the barber snapped playfully. "You young 'uns need to learn to respect your elders."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Stimson," Brad said with a quick salute.
Brad remembered the credit card John had asked him to deliver to the barber, but kept it in his pocket. He thought that his coniving boss might benefit from a taste of his own medicine. After all, Mt. Stimson's account of the professional fathers shedding their business cuts for summer might be resurrected with John under the cape!
"You'll be a much more attentive lifeguard without all that hair in your face, son!" the barber said as he gave Brad one last playful carress across his chocolate brown pelt.
Brad smiled and then said, "By the way, you can expect John to come down here in just a few minutes. He told me that if I got a short, maintenance-free haircut, he would get one exactly like it. I'm sure he'll be totally surprised to see me with this crewcut! I had told him the most he could expect me to get was a trim," Brad said with a convincing tone.
"Well, you can trust me, son, I won't let him go back on his word! I'll make very quick, short work of that stylized cut of his!" the barber promised. "He's very meticulous about his hair, I've noticed. Every strand in place -- nice side part, but too long and thick on top for my taste."
"Well, once you've given him a crewcut like mine, every hair will stay effortlessly in place!" Brad called out as he left the shop.
Brad strolled down the sidewalk laughing to himself. He loved the feel of his new crewcut and couldn't keep his hand from stroking the shorn nape. There was a spring in his step, and he felt like he wanted to do the best job he possibly could. No more slacking! No more suffering under that hot mane of hair. No more worrying about sun damage and split ends! And no more trying to act and look cool. From now on, he'd be a cleancut, respectful, dependable worker!
Once back at the pool, Brad tracked John down in the administrative area.
"How do you like the new me?!" he announced with a flourish as he poked his head inside John's office. "I had it all cut off to please you, John!"
"I don't believe my eyes!" the surprised manager exclaimed. "Wow! That's a pretty shocking makeover." After he'd absored the transformation, he added, "And it looks great on you." John noticed Brad big green eyes were much more prominent than before, and they sparkled.
"This feels absolutely terrific," the lifeguard said, stroking his buzzed pate. "Should've had this done at the beginning of summer."
Then he simulated a worried look and changed his tone. "Oh no! I forgot to give the barber his credit card! Damn. And it's my turn to go back to the outdoor stand."
"Give it to me, I'll run it over there now. How was his attitude?" John asked.
"Well, when I got there he was still pretty ticked off about your inability to provide him prompt service and about what happened in the pool. Grumbled about 'almost drowning' and said he was thinking about consulting a lawyer about all the 'pain and anguish' he suffered. But, when I asked for a crewcut, he cheered up a whole lot and we ended up actually on very friendly terms. In fact, he offered to give me free haircuts for the rest of the summer. I said I'd be in his shop like clock work to keep my buzz clipped short. I hope that was all right to accept," Brad said innocently.
"Sure. Anything to turn off talk about lawyers," John replied quickly.
"I think that's all past. By the way, he said he would be happy to give you a bit of a trim, as well. In fact, I think he might rather insist on it when you return his credit card," mentioned Brad casually.
John grimaced slightly. "Oh well, I guess I could use a trim," he said has he smoothed down his rich, chestnut locks. "Yikes, I haven't been in a traditional barbershop since I was twelve. I better get this card back to him right away -- before he goes grumpy on us again. You're in charge while I'm away, Brad. I'll be back in half hour."
Thirty minutes later, Brad spotted John walking down the sidewalk towards the pool. He'd been mowed down to a matching crewcut!!
John seemed to be in a daze, with a rather stunned look on his face. He could not keep his hand from touching his shorn head and rubbing it. His repeated actions made it seem like he was trying to verify that he'd in fact had his fussy business cut stripped off by Mr. Jerry Stimson! Brad chuckled at the site -- his boss had gotten his just desserts for making him get a haircut.
The whistle blew and Brad scrambled down from the chair. He needed to hear from John first hand what had happened! He burst into John's office and saw him sitting in the chair, still rather dazed. "You got a crewcut just like mine! Whoa! What a surprise!" Brad exclaimed. "I thought you were going for just a trim!"
"Well, the geezer had something else in mind," he said absent-mindedly, still feeling his clipped pate. "Everything happened so quickly." Then he turned to Brad with a rather pathetic, pleading look and asked, "So, how does it look?"
Brad thought momentarily before responding. Did he want to twist the knife or provide some comfort? That was a no-brainer!
Brad laughed aloud, "You look like you're 12 years old, John! Hardly the same person without your pricey, stylized coif! What possessed you? Turn around, let me see the back!"
Brad savored watching the humiliated boss slowly swivel his chair around and show off the rest of his unwanted makeover. "Boy he really tapered you tight up the back!" Brad laughed. "Those white ribbons of skin emphasize the brutal scalping the geezer inflicted on you."
"Oh, it's worse than I expected," muttered John. Then he toughened his tone and added, "Well, you surely lost a lot more hair than I did to old Mr. Stimson's clippers. At least I don't have a white forehead, Brad!"
"The difference is that I was happy to shed my mane and love the crewcut," commented Brad, reinventing history to make a point.
"Well, you didn't seem too happy when I gave you the haircut ultimatum. I thought you were going to weep," the pool manager snapped back. Then he continued in a more conciliatory tone, "But, I'm happy that you took things into your own hands, and I'm really happy that your attitude has changed for the better. I guess this was worth enduring for the change in your attitude, Buddy," John said as he felt his cropped head for yet another time.
"Hey, I like it that we got twin haircuts. What do you say, we go together for routine maintainence at Jerry's for the rest of the summer?" suggested Brad.
"You think? Actually, I might like that. I'm sort of getting used to this shorn feel! Although all I could think about on the walk back here was how long it would take to grow back my business style. Oh, did I tell you old Mr. Stimson did offer me the free cuts too for the rest of the summer when I was leaving?" asked John. "I'll tell you, I walked in there rather nervous about his lawsuit threat and left totally dazed by the surprise crewcut!"
"Well tell me how you went about deciding to ditch your Dapper Dan business cut?" goaded Brad.
"The decision was sort of made for me by Mr. Stimson. I walked in, thinking I would try to just deliver the card and leave quickly. But he wouldn't have that. He pointed at the chair and told me that he'd been happy to give the shaggy lifeguard a haircut and insisted on providing a free service to me too. So, I thought, the sooner I get this over the better and took a seat. I told him 'just a trim' and he laughed and commented that's what most of his clients asked for. I mentioned that you, though, had asked for a crewcut. He just smiled and in an instant had the clippers going straight across the top of my head and I watched in shock as huge clumps of my hair fell to the cape. I guess he thought I said I wanted the same haircut you had asked for.... Maybe the old man is partially deaf."
"I think you might be right, John," Brad replied while knowing full well his boss' buzzcut was the result of the trap he'd laid. Then he reached over to his boss' shorn head and stroked it lightly. "Didn't you like the tickle of the duster at the end?"
"Oh, and the puff of talcum! That was wonderful!" John added.
"John, maybe you and I can spend more time together this summer," Brad suggested in an ernest tone. "I'd like you to teach me how to be a good, conscientious pool manager like yourself. I think it's time I started growing up a bit and taking responsibility. You're such a conscientious boss -- a good role model."
John smiled broadly. "If you're happy for someone who looks 12-years old with a summer buzzcut to mentor you, then I'm your guy!" replied John. John suddenly grabbed Brad, subdued him with a tight arm lock and gave him a prolonged Dutch rub. "Now let's work on next month's scheduling...."