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Ed Executes an Extreme Makeover by Manny

I had finally bitten the bullet and worked the purchase of a new suit into my budget. I figured that with the salary increase my new promotion to the regional center would net me, I could afford it. So, I'd pulled out all the stops and opted for an upscale department store with a professional tailor to ensure that the new suit fit to a tee.

As I stood in the changing booth admiring the expensive outfit I'd selected, my attention was diverted from the suit to my mane of shimmering brown tresses that gleamed under the intense light. I'd always been quite vain about my thick, shiny hair that was coiffed into a very stylized look. The natural waves, enhanced by the layered cut, spilled down generously over my ears and past the base of my collar. Instinctively, I flicked my head ever so slightly so that the heavy forelock that was constantly on the verge of obliterating my line of sight retreated to just below the eyebrow.

The long locks contrasted a bit awkwardly with the conservative, dark navy, pin-striped suit. I had always done by best to assure myself I was among the few men who could pull off the "hip, but professional" look of long hair in a serious office environment. But, despite my best efforts, I had lingering doubts about that difficult combo. From time to time, I had toyed with the idea of having my hair cut into a style more appropriate for a white collar professional, but had never worked up the nerve to go through with it.

As a child, my mother had always fussed over my "pretty hair". She would ensure that her beautician gave me "a slight trim, just to even up the tips". She was all that stood between me and the wretched barber with the flattop that my father threatened to take me to periodically. Even though I felt a bit uneasy under the pale pink cape in the midst of all the lady folk jabbering on about bra support, menopause and nail polish, the beauty shop was a safe place. I loved to feell the beautician's brush being pulled through my silken strands as the warm jet of the blow dryer caressed my scalp.

A voice suddenly jerked me back into the present. "How does it look?" the salesman asked from beyond the curtain.

"Great! I'm going to take it," I responded.

"Excellent. Ed, the tailor, will be with you shortly to pin the hems on your pants and see if any other adjustments are needed," the salesman replied.

As I waited for Ed, my thoughts drifted back to the difficult relationship I had with my father. No denying, I was a Momma's boy -- and he certainly had driven me into her warm embrace. When I would mention casually that I'd like to spend more time with him, my father would blow me off with a sarcastic, "Oh, excellent! How about Saturday? I'll take you to the barbershop and have old Al give you a proper haircut, just like his! You can thumb through the Playboy magazines while he takes a clippers to that mange of yours." I'd stammer and "remember" another activity I was committed to for Saturday. Then my father would grab me by my tresses and turn the knife a bit, "Oh, too bad! Some other time then. You'll love the feeling of Al's clippers moving up tightly through this mop and then seeing yourself made over into a tough-looking boy with a flattop that any serviceman would be proud to sport!"

Well, that never happened, I made sure of it.... It had been years since both of my parents had passed, but the memory of them still influenced and haunted me.

The real irony was that, since those difficult childhood experiences with my father, I had secretly admired the flattop haircut -- especially the ones with a long, plush top that added a good inch-plus to a fellow's height. When I saw anyone with a flat, particularly in my age bracket, I would try to initiate a conversation. From time to time, I would even succeed in getting in a mention of the flattop, even if it was just a compliment....something like, "hey, nice haircut!"

One time I was seated next to someone on a plane with a fantastic flat and he was more than happy to regale me with a detailed account of his very first flattop. "Of course, I was extremely nervous and chickened out several times before I finally went through with it. I remember the barber snagging my long bangs with a comb and running the clippers right over the plastic teeth....watching the clump fall off..... He made sure there was no going back once he started my transformation. I thought, what have I done? Am I crazy? Sick feeling in my stomach. Took a while to get used to the new look....LOTS of ribbing by my friends! Must have looked at myself 50 times in the mirror that first day -- and twice as many times feeling the cut, just to ensure it wasn't some dream. Quickly grew it out, but missed the old flatty. After a few months, had it cut back again, extra short and have loved it ever since!"

That man was the only one -- apart from my father -- who had ever urged me to go flat. "You should try one!" he commented surveying my long locks. "Would be a lot easier and a lot cooler than caring for that mop of yours," he quipped, playfully.

My little stroll down memory lane suddenly was interrupted by the curtain being pulled open. "Uh, excuse me, mister," came an accented voice. Clear as day in the mirror's reflection was a young Hispanic man sporting the absolutely most perfect flattop I had every set eyes on!! The sides were shorn to the skin, but the top was dense and dark and totally erect. He had black, coarse hair that exhibited an almost bluish tint, it was so dark. His eyes smiled and his white teeth dazzled, framed in perfect olive skin. "I'm Eduardo, but everyone calls me Ed. Shall I pin you hems up?" he asked.

I turned to get a direct look at his luscious flattop and quickly assented to his request. As he stooped down to address the hem of my pants, I was treated to an unhampered view of the top. The fellow's mane was so dense, no scalp was visible. The hair was shorn to perfection -- like someone had used a carpenter's plane to ensure total uniformity. Ed's was a to-die-for flat! As he busied himself with the pins, I surveyed the transition in the back of his head - where the severe taper gave was to the plush top. I wanted to grasp his hair and finger every inch of it and feel the bristles which I imagined were like an expensive, soft paintbrush.

"Do you like your pants on the long side or shorter, so that the whole shoe shows?" he asked.

"Long!" I replied promptly. Then, spontaneously, I added, "Like my hair!"

The fellow looked up and smiled broadly. He hesitated a bit before replying, "But so long is not in style now...." There was a playful taunt in the tone of his voice that sent a shiver down my spine.

It was unclear to me whether he was talking about my hair or the pant length. I moved the conversation in the direction of my hair. "You're right, I'm thinking about cutting it short!" I grasped a thick shank of my silken hair and fondled it.

"As short as mine?" asked Ed playfully, as he ran his hand up the back from the shorn nape.

"Perhaps!" I replied with a slight chuckle to conceal my nervousness. "Who is your barber? That is one phenomenal flattop!"

Ed didn't reply right away. He turned his attention to my pants and began pinning them. "There, I am making the decision for you. Short! In style! Like my hair!" The pants were pinned up so that my shoes were almost fully visible. It wasn't my normal length. I thought they looked odd.

Ed stood so that he was directly behind me. He manually turned me around to face the mirrors; then he brought his arms through mine and examined the jacket to see how much leeway there was, to see if any alteration was needed. I felt his body press against mine gently and again suppressed shiver. "Uh, this jacket is too baggy; too much fabric," he cooed in my ear. "And the hair needs to be cut!"

I froze. What liberties he was taking!!

He continued. "Cut very, very short. Like mine!!" he purred. "By a traditional barber with a powerful heavy duty fast-feed clippers...."

I stood silent and still. Submissive.

"My brother's clippers will take care of this," he continued as he played with my hair, caressing it softly. "And all this on top will be left standing straight and shorn flat."

"Your brother is your barber?" I asked, imagining a muscular young Hispanic man, clad in white, caping me up in a traditional, ethnic shop.

"Yes! And he loves to get his hands on a virgin head of hair like this and scrape away the luxuriant growth. Radical transformations are free.....with the understanding that the recruits will become regular clients," he added.

Yielding to my desire to take the bait, I whirled around and faced Ed; we were in close company in the cramped dressing room. "If I knew for sure I would look as handsome as you with a flattop, I would left you take me to your brother's this minute....." I said, still torn between my soft, luxuriant mane and the cropped, rigid flat I had longed for my whole life.

Ed suddenly changed the whole conversation. "This suit is not right for you. Too bulky, too boring, too....like your hair. Needs to go! Needs to be stripped off. I am going to give you a total makeover. Undress! Everything off! I'm going to pull together an ensemble for you in the new "skinny" minimalist look."

"Take all my clothes off?" I stammered half-stunned.

"Yes, stupid!" he replied as he began unknotting my tie. "This is a changing room, after all. Men do it all day, every day, in here. Do you need help or can you take care of yourself?" he asked rhetorically. With that Ed turned around, exited and pulled the curtain shut.

I took off all my clothes, except my white Fruit of the Looms, and felt very self conscious. I stared at my shimmering locks -- the only adornment still left on me. The thought of Ed driving me towards a flattop was wreaking havoc with my body! I stood, undressed, for what seemed like an eternity. Then the curtain was whisked open and Ed stepped into the booth carrying an assortment of clothes and shoes. His eyes gave me the once over and smiled discreetly as he noticed my bulge. "Thinking about your date with the electric hair clippers? My brother's machine is huge and powerful. When it's pulsating and primed to go, there's no slowing it down. Your dense mane will fall in seconds to the clean white cape! You'll be a bristle-head in no time!"

Fortunately, Ed's attention turned to helping me in the shirt he had selected as there was no concealing my excitement about my date with the clippers. Ed dressed me in a very skimpy suit that barely closed in front, trimmed in narrow lapels. The pants, as he promised, bordered on flood waters. The shirt collar was cropped back to clearly display the thin tie's meager knot. A pair of expensive tan shoes lept out from beneath the pant hems that barely covered my ankles.

Once he was finished he turned me around slowly to face the three-way mirror. The ensemble was totally avant garde -- never had I seen anything like it in a the professional office environment. "Now, imagine your hair cut just like mine," urged Ed.

The thought sent a surge of excitement through me. "When can your brother put an end to this?" I panted as I fondled my hair.

"I get off work in two hours. Meet me outside the store's mall entrance on the second floor," he instructed.

Suddenly, I grabbed his shorn head and rubbed my hands over the plush top that felt more wonderful that a purse silk rug from Persia. It contrasted wonderfully with the stubble at the nape. "I'll be there!" I promised, with every intention of following through with my desire.

"Keep on the outfit. You can reimburse me later when we're at my brother's. When I'm finished with you, you'll be a new person." With that, Ed swept up my clothes and told me he'd return them to me when we met later on.

After he left the changing room, I glanced in the mirrors in time to see my heavy, long forelock fall past my eyes. It absolutely shimmered in the strong light of the enclosed area. My soft, lush wonderful hair. Did I really want it to be shorn off?! Did it matter? The wheels had been set in motion. As I left the men's clothing area, I saw Ed chatting with a salesman. He looked wonderful! The tailor gave me a slight nod and wave as I left. His wave, however, morphed into a pantonime of a a set of electric clippers moving up through the air. Oh! He seemed a bit overly eager to have me shorn.....

His pantomime sent a chill down my spine as I hustled away. All around, in the mirrored pillars of the department store, I saw reflections of my fantastic mane of hair. To think it would soon be on the chopping block. Oh! Could I go through with it? What would my mother say if she knew her baby's lovely locks had been brutally shorn down to the wood?

How quickly my spirit had flip-flopped from delightful anticipation of being caped up in a traditional barbershop by a heavy-handed Latino barber to sheer dread. My thick, flowing mane.....I could not acquiese to its brutal destruction! I thought about my mother's loving hand as she carefully brushed my locks out in the evening, and even the time she had persuaded me to allow her beautician to set my hair in rollers at the salon. Oh how the hens cackled and fussed over me as the gaggle led me from the chair, my head huge with big pink plastic curlers, to the oversized hood for drying. I awkwardly folded my leg like a proper lady as I sat, enjoying the warm air circulating through my abundant locks as they dried into lush curls. "Let me give him a perm!" the beautician had shrieked when she saw my smart, sassy curls. My mom fretted over the harm the harsh chemicals might inflict on her son's silken trophy locks. I was more afraid of how my father would react if I showed up with my hair permed into a copious collection of springing curls. I would end up in the barber's chair for sure!

As I stumbled around the mall for two hours, I agonized about my options -- the safest was just to go home and abandon my clothes. Close the chapter once and for all on my close call with the ultra-short haircut. But, I was torn between safeguarding my tresses and seeing Ed the Tailor again with his fabulous flattop. I would meet with him and explain my change of heart. Maybe toy a bit with him and say I needed more time to think about it.....set up another rendez-vouz. He'd probably take the bait and play cat-and-mouse with me, coaxing me to commit to the clippercut. Yes, that was a great plan!

When I walked to the spot he had indicated, Ed was already there. His flat was totally erect, and he smiled as I approached him. I needed to get it out at once, "I've changed my mind! I need more time to think about the flattop, Ed. When can we meet again?"

His smile melted quickly away into a cold, stony glare. He grasped me by the arm, wrenched me close and hissed in my ear, "You will come with me now, understand? I've thought about nothing for the last two hours than you, caped and cowed, watching in shock as your precious hair is stripped away by my brother. Vulnerable, fearful, eyes welling up with tears....the pretty boy getting stripped of his girlish good looks!"

"Wha-, what if I won't go?" I stammered, unclear of my ability or even my desire to say no. Wasn't Ed's reaction what I had wanted from my father all those years ago. To be dragged, forcibly shorn and humiliated in front of all the old geezers in the barbershop? I wanted to be manhandled and mocked; not mollycoddled and fawned over.

"See that security agent over there? Has it occured to you that you're wearing stolen clothes. One word from me to him and you're nothing more than a common shop-lifter....with the evidence still on the clothes your are wearing -- hanging from the jacket label inside.....the price tag and no sales receipt. Shall I call him over here, huh?" he demanded.

I blanched. Ed had set this whole thing up! He had laid a trap for me and I had fallen into it. The sick feeling, knowing the flattop was unavoidable, was strangely comforting.

Ed drove the point home with a mock dialogue, "'Yes, officer, this is the man I saw leaving the changing area without paying for the expensive clothes he was trying on....'" Ed wrenched my arm until it throbbed, then snarled in a threatening tone, "You'll be booked at the police station and then your face will be plastered on mugshots.com for shoplifting! How will that help your career? No, a flattop will be much better, don't you think?"

"Yes, Ed," I gulped in stunned recognition that I had no choice. My only consolation was that I would at last get that copious, plush tall flat I had secretly yearned for all my life.....

But even that consolation was jerked from me. Ed, as if reading my mind, said, "But it won't be a thick, luxuriant, deep-pile flat like mine, friend. Oh, no...... Your first-time experience is going to be quite dramatic....." He dragged me by my arm. "My brother's shop is just across the highway. You'll be caped and cowering in just a few minutes! You're going to get skinned ultra-tight....and you'll sit still and submissive for the shearing, understand?"

As he hustled me across the parking lot, I tried to slow the tempo down. Undercover of darkness, Ed was forceful with me. He grabbed my mane and pulled me along in the most painful way. "Once I have my brother take care of this, it won't be so easy to manhandle you," he hissed. "But, then, you'll be more cooperative. Oh, yes, once you've been shorn you'll be compliant about tightening up the cut. No lip from you when I say it's time to head back to the shop to have your top taken down another notch or two! You're going to end up with a landing strip that'll dwarf JFK's longest runway!"

Ed forced me up the steps of the elevated crosswalk that would take us to the other side of the broad avenue. The glowing light emanating from the barbershop was like a lighthouse, guiding me towards my destination by means of a harsh, demanding beacon. The shop was bathed in neon which reflected brightly off the matching white capes and tunics. The barber nearest the street was a hulking mass -- at least 200 pounds. Was that Ed's brother, I wondered?! His muscles bulged from the short sleeves of the professional barber's tunic. The aggressive fade haircut he sported added to his tough-guy persona. I so dearly wanted to be dragged in and caped up by his determined hands....but the thought of a scalped, minimalist flat was terrifying.

Unexpectedly, Ed's cellphone rang and he dropped his grip of my arm to retrieve his phone and answer the call. As he did, I seized the moment. In a flash, I broke free and sprinted down the steps of the overpass.

I had just gotten to the sidewalk when I heard Ed's irrate voice bellow, "I have your wallet, don't forget. It was in your pants at the store. I know where you live! All your credit cards are with me too...."

I stopped dead in my tracks. Frozen in fear.

"Now get yourself into the barbershop while I finish this call!" Ed ordered.

My heart sunk. He had me tethered tight! I looked at the shop. The husky barber standing behind the chair closest to the big window had finished and was unfastening the cape. He looked up and saw me staring at the shop. The family resemblance to Ed was unavoidable! He smiled at me. As if some powerful magnet was drawing me, I slowly headed to the door of Jose's Barber Shop. My heart pounded furiously. Judging from Jose's very aggressive fade that showed a lot of skin, his clippers were indeed powerful. I found myself longing to submit to the machine....to yield my copious mane to the stern steel teeth of the electric hair clippers.

Even if Ed weren't watching my every move, I knew Jose's barber's chair was the destination destiny had in store for me. My virgin locks would be stripped from me in that very shop! I walked slowly but steadily towards my rendezvous with a very no-nonsense barber. As I approached the door, I saw my big head of hair silhouetted in the glass. From inside, Jose had his eye on me. The payment from his previous client was safely deposited into the cash register and he stood awaiting my entrance to the shop.

As I walked in, Jose nodded tersely and pointed to the chair. I had a funny feeling that he knew about my interactions with his brother. I pawed at my hair nervously and eased into the huge, comfortable vinyl chair without saying a word. History had been made -- I was in a real barbershop for the first time in my life! After 28 years of dreaming, the time had finally come. A large white sail flew threw the air; Jose expertly fastened the cape around my neck. I had been strapped firmly into place by means of the cape and a huge metal clip! My sleek skinny suit was covered and now all that was visible was the shimmering proud mane of thick, wavy locks. Suddenly, I felt as if the barber had just clamped a restrictive straightjacket on me. I panicked as I saw the row of huge clippers hanging from the formica shelf under the mirrors and squirmed in the chair.

Jose shot me a disapproving look as he took a comb to the dense thatch and tried to yank it through my treasured locks. I cringed. He blankly said, "You have waited very long for this haircut, Mister." He yanked a bit more, unsuccessfully, and then softened his approached by smoothing down my plush locks with his hands. As his fingers lingered in my hair, it was clear that he was savoring the silken feel.

My mouth was dry, but I forced a response, "Yes, sir, my hair has grown very long. But you will be able to take care of that, I hope." I was still trying to feel him out to see if he knew that Ed had determined I would go flat. Inwardly, my heart ached for Jose to snag the thick long forelock and run his clippers over the plastic comb so that I could watch the whole mamouth forelock fall off with one quick drive.

"Of course, Mister. How would you like it cut?" he asked impatiently.

I yearned to blurt out "flattop" -- but could not force myself. What would people at the office say? I was petrified. I even hoped Ed would burst in on the scene and order me shorn....but then remembered his plan of having me skinned...and quickly decided to determine my own destiny.

After what seemed like an eternity, I said, "I need a short businessman's haircut, as I'm starting a new job."

I saw Jose's lip curl up ever so slightly into a smile. "Tapered short around the ears and up the back?" he asked.

"Yes, a crisp taper, short around the ears, but rather long on top," I replied, ashamed I didn't have the balls to demand a flattop.

With the same grip of iron that his brother had used on me, Jose grasped my head with one hand and cocked it firmly to the side. "Tapered to zero, then!" he pronouced. With his other hand, he snatched the clippers closest to him, snapped them on and brought the screaming teeth to the base of the thick sideburn that extended to the bottom of my earlobe.

The beating of my heart was deafening! I watched in amazement and horror as Jose ran the clippers up through the sideburn to the temple before easing into a very tight taper. A huge shank of glistening brown hair was flicked away as he pulled the clippers away from the scalp. The shorn lock fell with a mighty thud to the cape. I almost exploded!

"This is not too short?" the barber asked -- but the way he said it made it seem like a statement. I guess the shocked look on my face prompted him to explain that his idea of a short taper is more short than taper! The bottom half of my head had been clipped to the scalp.

"My hair must be cut very short for this new job, unfortunately," I replied, trying to sound calm.

That made him repeat his first drive of the clippers up the same shorn swath, this time higher and tighter up to the crown! Oh my, was I heading towards a fade like his?! "Remember, long on top!" I reminded him, sounding rather panicked.

Jose took another swipe with the clippers, this time clearing all the overgrowth that had hidden my rather large ear. It stuck out hideously! My stomach churned. I observed that massive wad of short, soft hair resting on my shoulder. Jose knocked it forward so that it slowly slip down the front of the cape and into my lap. "I should charge you for two haircuts!" the barber said playfully. "That's more hair there then most clients shed during a whole haircut. And I've yet to tackle some of the most serious overgrowth," he said as he playfully swatted at my doomed forelock.

Without another word he shoved my head straight down so that my chin almost touched my chest. I got a close-up look at the mound of shorn hair in my lap. There was so much there, and the haircut was only beginning! I was in a totally prostrate position, completely at Jose's mercy. THe long locks that dangled so precariously from my nape were now on his chopping block!

I kept waiting for the feel of the clippers at the nape. It seemed like ages. Forced into a penitent position with my head bowed, I felt totally helpess. Then Jose dropped a bomb. "I saw you on the overpass with my brother." My heart pounded furiously. Jose knew that I was to get a flattop!! "Did you meet him at Fields' men's department this afternoon?"

"Yes," I croaked meekly. I knew I could not hide from the truth.

"He told me you admired his haircut," Jose continued calmly, but firmly. I sat silently, not knowing what to say. My heart pounded nervously.

Then Jose unleashed the clippers at my nape. He drove the screaming machine tightly up the back of my head -- all the way to the crown! He repeated this several times in rapid succession. Even though I couldn't see what was happening, I knew that the entire back of my head was being divested of my long, stylized locks. My hands gripped the arms of the chair tightly, and I was glad the cape concealed the white knuckles. A cool draft on the suddenly exposed scalp sent a shiver down my spine.

After his furious blitz, Jose let me sit up. He pivoted to the other side of my head which contrasted severely with the clipped side. It was still adorned with a thick padding of wavy, chocolate-colored locks that covered my awkward ear. The muscular barber clamped his hand atop my head and wrenched it away from him, cocking it to the side. In a flash, the clippers obliterated my sideburn and stripped away the padding of hair. In successive, quick drives with the clippers, Jose evened out the two sides. They looked so barren compared to the top which still displayed a massive amount of silken, shiny hair.

Then Jose snagged my heavy forelock and lifted it up with his plastic comb ever so slightly to expose the dense hairline where forehead gave way to hair. He paused for a moment, the forelock snagged with the comb and the clippers poised nearby with teeth chattering. "Eduardo told me you admired his haircut so much that he was bringing you over here to get a flattop too."

My mouth felt like I had ingested a cup of glue. I was totally tongue tied.

"Is that true?" Jose demanded.

"Yes," I croaked meekly.

"But you asked for a businessman's taper instead," he insisted, suddenly bringing the eager clippers to a hair's breadth of the captive forelock.

Like a stuck record, I again eeked out the only word I could, "Yes."

"You think I don't cut a good flattop, then?" he demanded.

The words flowed quickly, "Oh, yes! Your brother's flattop is to die for! I could stare at it all day!"

"Then you shall have one too?" Again, the question as more like a statement.

My mouth was dry and uncooperative. Again, I eeked out the one word that could be released from my lips. In a hoarse, barely audible whisper I mouthed, "Yes."

Instantly, the clippers raced across the top of the plastic comb and the massive, heavy, long forelock fell before my astonished eyes to the cape! Swoooosh! Off it went without a hint of resistance. Jose looked triumphant, and I looked like I had just been run over by a run-away truck! My head looked naked without my lifelong security blanket. Jose was going to claim every lush lock and consign it to the cape.

"I don't know why you didn't just ask for the flattop, amigo, when we first got started," the barber said with a grin as he continued tackling the remaining thatch. Jose was an expert with the clippers-over-comb technique. Lift, buzzzzz. Lift, buzzzzzzz. Lift, buzzzzzz. He worked quickly, taking the uneven top down closer and closer to my scalp. "A man should have the haircut he wants, no? Maybe you prefer a fade like mine?" Jose suggested as he cleared off the last significant clump of hair.

I was quick to nip that idea in the bud, "Oh, no! All my life I've wanted a flattop! A thick, plush top like your brother's." As I watched my deep-pile top take shape, I became more and more excited. "It's just been that I've always been too afraid to get one."

Jose chuckled and grabbed a huge wad of shorn hair from my lap, "No wonder, you have very nice hair! Thick and shiny. You could be in a shampoo comercial. But, great hair makes for a great flattop too, right, amigo?" He slowly dropped the shorn clumps to the floor. "No more long showers needed to wash that girly hair or spending time with the blowdryer." Jose concentrated more carefully and evening up the rough flat into precise precision.

"Oh, I really like the way this is looking," I exclaimed, excited. "My whole life I've wanted a flattop just like this, but never had the nerve."

"Until you met my brother..... And, speaking of the devil...." Jose's voice trailed off as the barbershop door swung open.

The high I felt suddently plunged. Ed stood there with a stony face. He was not pleased!

Jose broke the silence, "So, bro, what do you say? Your new friend here and you are almost twins haircut-wise. Have I cut him the best flattop around?"

Ed walked over to inspect the newly carved top. His barber brother stood back while Ed slowly walk around the chair to inspect my new do. Silence reigned. Ed took my wallet out of his pocket and fished out my driver license. "Well, what do you think -- before?" he asked holding up the card. "Or, after?" he said, carefully fingering my brush-like top.

"After," I said, with a bit of a quiver in my voice.

"Of course you do. It lets us all see these big Dumbo ears of yours sticking straight out like two huge wings!"

I gulped. Had sort of forgotten that issue in my enthusiasm over the flattop.

"Oh, but I'm going to give you a third option," Ed said firmly. "Hand me the clippers, Jose," he instructed. "I'm going to tightened this up a bit and take our friend here down a few notches." From the tone of his brother's voice, Jose knew their was no arguing. He handed him the enormous set of Oster's he'd been using.

"But, Ed....." the barber whined, obviously not too happy that his masterpiece was going to be "improved" on.

"I like it the way it is," I protested.

"But, I did not like the way you tried to run away from me on the overpass. Bad boys need to be taught a lesson." Without another word, Ed snapped on the machine and brought the chattering teeth straight toward the front line of erect, shiny hair that sprung straight up form my forehead.

I gasped as I watched him plunge the clippers straight into the dense lawn of hair right at the scalp and plow the unforgiving teeth through the plush pile of hair across the top of my numbed head. He buzzed off a broad swath of my fabulous flat at skin length right down the top of my head. I was speechlees and felt sick to my stomach. "A recruit's discipline starts in the bootcamp barbershop, Dumbo!" Quickly Ed stripped away every remaining fragment of my once-glorious mane. Stubble! That's all he left. A scalp covered with dark stubble!! I felt totally humiliated. Ed was forceful as he manipulated my head around to ensure that every strand of hair was taken down to the wood. When I looked up, finally, all I could see was a 5 o'clock shadow where my voluminous mane had once proudly been displayed.

"There!" he said, finally clicking off the machine and rubbing the top of my head vigorously with the palm of his hand. "Quite a chance from the man who felt quite content with his girly hair in the dressing room of the department store. There I was on my knees pinning his hems and he was feeling quite arrogant in his new business suit. Now, he's much better. Cape and cowed and shorn bald!"

Ed pulled the cape off me and ordered me to stand. There, at my feet, were the remnants of my beloved mane. I didn't even have my dreamy flattop to offer some compensation. My shorn head with the huge ears, coupled with the avant garde outfit Ed had me wear, made me unrecognizable. No one would know me at the office tomorrow.... I gingerly touched my shorn head and felt the stubble. To think, that minutes before they had been lush, silken locks.....

Ed took out my wallet and handed his brother a $20 from it. "Maybe once our friend here has learned his lesson, we can allow him a flattop." Then he took out another $20 and put it in his own pocket. "That's for my part in your transformation." Finally, Ed handed me back my wallet. "The only thing I'm keeping is this driver license. Tomorrow you head down to the DMV and get a new one -- that baldy cut and big ears need to be entered into the police database as your new identity!"

I stumbled out into the evening air, feeling my shorn head and looking at the overpass. If only I hadn't ticked Ed off by trying to get out of the haircut, I'd be sporting the flattop of my dreams at this very moment....

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