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Denny Double-Crosses his Double-Date by Manny

"I'm going to let you in on a secret, Denny," my apartment-mate Aaron told me with a sparkle in his eye. "It's been developing for a while now, but....drum roll....I'm in love! Haven't breathed a word about it to anyone!"

I got a slightly sick feeling in my stomach. The way Aaron had been carrying on made it obvious. The only secret was that he and I had fallen in love with the same girl, at the same time! I remember the moment we were standing together at a cocktail party when she'd been introduced to us. The alluring eyes, the sexy red dress, the flirtatious conversation....

There was no way I was going to reveal my secret to Aaron -- that I too was in love with Rebecca!

He babbled on, "I'm wild about Rebecca Giles. Totally head over heels. I think she's interested in me, but I know I've got competition. Everyone seems to have been taken with her. And that's what makes things even more exciting. I love the chase! It's so much more fun than driving away desperate girls who are after me and my good looks. I need your help, Denny. You're chummy with Rebecca's roommate, Nichole. Find out for me what she's looking for in a man.... I'll do anything to win her heart! Why not set up a double date with them and us?"

Internally, I echoed all of Aaron's emotions. My sad reality was that Aaron had been dealt a much stronger suit in terms of looks. He was tall, handsome, athletic, muscular. Half the women I knew were wild about Aaron and his dreamy, movie star appeal. The long, thick, ginger-colored hair matched by the sparkling green eyes made him look like that Olympic snowboard medalist. Aaron's liability was that he knew he was good-looking and tended to cockiness. He spent about twice as much time in front of the mirror as I did each morning.

My assets were intellectual. I was witty, perceptive and shrewd. Sure, I'd do what he asked me to...but, I'd use the intel to my own advantage.

I did my best to conceal my plan from Aaron. "Wow! Rebecca Giles! I can totally understand why, Aaron. She's a knock-out! I know she and her roommate are planning to hang out at The Loft after work today. I might just run into them there....and overhear something that might be valuable in your pursuit. I'll see if they can have lunch with us tomorrow."

Later that day in the bar, I spotted the two women chatting, totally absorbed in conversation. I positioned myself to discretely listen in, concealed by a big plant. If they weren't saying anything of use, I'd asked to join them and probe them directly.

I was in luck! They were discussing guys. Nichole was waxing eloquent on what the ideal man looked like until Rebecca cut her off, "Sorry, but I'm not into either the very dark Latin look nor the very fair Scandinavian look. When I was a kid, I fell in love with the peanut butter boy -- you know, freckles and copper colored hair? And speaking of hair, my ideal man has long, beautiful hair! Want to run my fingers through it....totally sexy and hot!"

"No way!" retorted Nichole. "Longhaired men are sissies. Wouldn't want anyone I dated showing me up in the hair department. I want a manly look. Hey, when I see those military officers in the grocery store near our place, my heart pounds. Too bad, I don't aspire to be an army wife!"

"I would never date anyone that looked like a jarhead. You know, Aaron Staples is my ideal man. Oh, he's so dreamy. And I think he likes me too. I'm just waiting for him to take the next step and ask me out...." said Rebecca.

My mind spun into high gear. The intel of the conversation was timely and I realized I had but one option if I were to keep my own hopes of dating Rebecca alive. Dear Aaron would need to be shorn! That alluring mane of ginger-colored hair needed to end up on the floor of a bootcamp barbershop asap....

Back in the room, I delivered the "news" to Aaron. "It was totally serendipitous. When I started listening in, they were talking about guys -- what they were looking for in a man. It was a really superficial conversation though -- totally focused on looks! Maybe you won't be interested in dating someone with such shallow feelings...."

"Hell! Why not? I didn't tell you I was attracted to Rebecca's IQ, did I?!" laughed Aaron.

"Well, friend, I've got great news for you and some bad news too," I said, preparing him for a big decision. "How set are you on snagging her?"

"Totally! I always get what I want, and I'm determined to get Rebecca!" he said. "Hell, I'm used to girls throwing themselves at me. Why shouldn't she?"

"Well, you came up in their conversation. The good news is that, naturally, you have everything Rebecca's looking for...tall, strong, handsome, a few freckles and those lovely green eyes. She blabbered on about that for quite a while...."

"So far, so good. What's the bad news?" he asked skeptically.

"The length of your hair is a total turn off! Rebecca was crystal clear on that. She absolutely will not date any preening, sissified longhairs. In fact, she's been hanging out at the grocery store near their place to watch all the military men with their shorn heads. There's an officer, a dashing captain who sports an immaculate flattop, who totally turns her on."

As I spoke, I watched Aaron nervously fondle his thick silken tresses. "She said she wouldn't date me because of my long hair?!" he asked incredulously.

"Well, when Nichole suggested you as a potential steady, she laughed and quipped, 'not unless he visits the barbershop!' Then she went on and on about how she can't stand long hair on men! She seemed determined -- like it was non-negotiable. Plus, you've got competition from that army captain who's on her radar screen. I think she's going to orchestrate an encounter next time she sees him in the store."

"My hair is one of my best assets! You can't imagine how many times women have told me 'don't cut your hair -- it's so sexy' or 'I wish I had beautiful hair like that'. Why, it's never been cut short in my whole life....and certainly never anything approaching military short. Truth is, I've never been in a traditional barber shop!" he exclaimed. "I'm sure as hell my stylist won't know how to cut a flattop -- even if her life depended on it."

"So you're not into having a set of fast-feed electric clippers taken up the back of you head?" I asked, twisting the knife.

"No, not if I can help it!" Aaron stated emphatically.

Oh, the poor dear was in denial. I let the reality sink in a bit, then asked tentatively, "So, what's your game plan?"

Aaron buried his head in his hands and drove his fingers through his hair, as if to relieve the stress. Finally, he looked up at me and just stared blankly. I waited....

"My game plan is to...." he took a deep breath. "My plan is to....my plan is to....visit the barber? I mean, are there other options?" He seemed stymied.

"You wouldn't!" I exclaimed, using a bit of reverse psychology. "Your hair is part of your identity!"

"Oh, I would! Cut it all off.... It's only hair, you know. It'll grow back once I've her snagged," Aaron said bravely.

"Who knows, you might just like the barbershop scene and the ultra-short look and feel," I urged.

The brave face fell, "And I might hate it!"

Aaron jumped up and looked in the mirror at himself. All those morning hours spent drying and brushing his hair, the fawning stylists.....all that exchanged for the unforgiving clippers of an old geezer who'd delight in mowing the mane off!

"I think you've made the right choice, Buddy," I said, consoling him. "And like you pointed out, it's only hair. It can grow back."

"Oh yeah," he dead-panned, "I'll be my old self in two quick years."

"With Rebecca fondling your plush flattop, your old image will be quickly forgotten and a thing of the past! Now get some sleep. I'll go with you to the barber shop for some moral support in the morning. I'm texting Nichole to say we're inviting them for lunch tomorrow. Plan?" I asked hopefully.

"If you say so...." he replied wearily, dragging himself to his room.

The next morning, by the time I got up and went for coffee, Aaron was already in the kitchen. He was in his bathrobe and his hair was wet, like he'd just stepped out of the shower. The dark, damp locks fell down past his shoulders. If Rebecca could see him now....with his sexy, long wet hair.

"Couldn't sleep," Aaron grunted. "Finally got up and showered."

"Last time to deal with this long mop...." I said, fingering a wet lock of hair.

"Boy, aren't you eager to see me shorn," he said with an air of suspicion.

"Hey, don't be blaming the messenger. You asked me for a favor, and I did it. Can't help the outcome. So, maybe we ought to drop the who issue. Your hair is your concern, not mine!" I risked it, a bit, but was fairly certain Aaron's pursuit of Rebecca would lead him to the barber shop.

"Sorry. I'm a bit grumpy. It's just that I'll feel so awkward walking into a barber shop will all this hair looking totally out of place. Everyone staring at me, chuckling under their breath. Some old codger making remarks about me finally wanting to look like a man. I'll be the object of ridicule!"

I quickly engineered a plan. "You know, how bout this? I've always suspected I might have a secret talent for cutting hair. What do you say, we take off the bulk of this right now, right here and then head over to the barber shop?" I suggested. I snatched a few locks and pantomimed a pair of shears with my fingers.

Aaron furrowed his brow a bit and fondled his damp locks. "Have you ever cut anyone's hair before?" he asked skeptically.

"In college, I'd tidy up my roommate and sometimes I trimmed my own," I replied. I kept my fingers crossed that he'd take the bait and offer up a significant downpayment on his transformation.

"Go get the scissors, then," he replied with a deflated sense of resignation.

I was elated, but tried not to show my joy. As I came back in, Aaron handed me a cup of coffee. "Here, you need to get some caffeine in you before you start chopping away at this."

I took a few sips and then corraled him back onto the hard kitchen chair. I grasped a shank of damp hair that hung down the back of his head and lifted it a bit. My hand trembled a bit as I slipped the blade under the captive lock and firmly clamped the shears shut. The crunching sound of the wet hair being severed sounded like music to my ears. I pulled off nine inches of damp, auburn luster, leaving behind a one-inch patch of hair.

Aaron spoke softly, "You're such a good friend, Denny. This is really going the extra mile for me...."

I dropped the shorn hair. The cool wet lock felt wonderful as it landed atop my bare foot. "Anything for a friend...." I muttered, feeling a bit guilty for the first time.

I quickly seized another chunk of Aaron's beautiful hair and scissored it off to a similar length. He sat quiet and still, uncharacteristically submissive and solemn. The cocky, take charge Aaron had vanished! Snip, snip. More hair was cut. The flowing mane was slowly succumbing to my evil plot. He would lose his precious hair and would also lose his best chance at getting the love of his life.

Aaron turned his head to look at the floor and saw the pile of his shorn hair that had collected at my feet. "I cannot believe I'm letting you cut off my hair like this in the kitchen. This is insane!"

"Just keep thinking how irresistible you'll be to Rebecca," I advised as I took the first few whacks to uncover his left ear. Mounds of hair tumbled onto his bathrobe and fell into his lap.

"Too bad she couldn't have been wild about men with long hair. I wonder why she seemed to come on to me if she can't stand longhairs...." Aaron mused as I cleared the overgrowth and uncovered his other ear.

"Are you sure you weren't just imagining that?" I questioned. "I'm going to watch closely at lunch today to see if I feel any vibes from her to you. Hey, I did tell you that the girls confirmed? We're on for 1 o'clock at Panzio's."

"Great. How's my haircut coming along? It looks like you've already shorn a whole plattoon of recruits with those piles of hair on the floor." Aaron absent-mindedly kicked a wad of his limp, lifeless hair.

"There's plenty more than needs to come off. Here, let me tackle the bangs," I said as I combed the remaining long hair down straight in front of Aaron's eyes. It fell like a heavy veil all the way down past his chin!

I revved up my shears a few times. "Ready? Here goes!" I took the scissors to mid-way between his eyebrows and hair line. "Timber....." I called as masses of copper-colored hair fell down past his disbelieving eyes and piled up on his lap.

"Holy crap! I hope you know what you're doing, Denny," Aaron gasped.

"You're looking good. Like a nice respectable fellow..." I said, soothing his anxiety.

"Until the barber takes the clippers to me. Those hungry metal teeth clearing my scalp..." he noted ominously.

"Sounds like you're looking forward to it," I continued.

"Kind of," he said with a short laugh. "Funny, eh? I mean I'm scared s**tless, but sort of wondering and, you know, what you said about maybe I might just like....boy, am I ever babbling! Guess I'm nervous," Aaron conceded.

"When the barber spins you around and you see yourself with a flattop for the very first time. That'll be very exciting," I said enthusiastically.

I imagined Aaron, sitting caped in a barber's chair, with the bottom half of his head razor shaved exposing a lily white scalp and then a nice, tidy, copper-colored top. Then my mind shifted to Rebecca freaking out at the restaurant seeing her dreamy longhair shorn down tight! I surpressed a sadistic chuckle. It would be a two-fer. Aaron stripped of his arrogant upper-hand with Rebecca and then watching helplessly as she falls for me. I wondered if Aaron even realized that Rebecca had flirted as much with me as with him. Probably not, as he tended to be very self-focussed.

As I was deep in thought imagining my triumph and Aaron's downfall, he suggested, "Why don't we both get flattops?! You're looking a bit shaggy." The remark came out of the blue.

My heart skipped a beat. "I guess I hadn't told you," I answered nervously as I chopped away at the short bangs taking them even higher up the forehead, "I've been growing my hair out. Seems like we're bound to swap looks with you going short and me going long. But, your transformation is happening in a matter of minutes and mine will take months."

"Does that mean you're almost finished with my makeover?" Aaron asked impatiently. "I feel so lightheaded; did you leave anything at all up there?"

"My masterpiece is complete," I announced as I plied my fingers through the soft, inch-long tufts and tussled them. "It's one of those trendy sort of spikey/choppy looks. Go see for yourself!" I told him, surveying the final damage I'd inflicted on the dreamy mane. The kitchen floor was virtually carpeted with Aaron's shorn hair.

I heard an exclamation come from the bathroom, "Hey! You did a pretty good job. I mean, I look like I've had a professional haircut at a fashionable salon -- it's sort of sexy with a bit of a bed-head, bad-boy look."

Aaron came back into the kitchen beaming, "What do you think?"

I looked at him and conceded he looked good. Of course, he was the type of guy whose looks would save the day no matter the haircut. My only hope was Rebecca being repulsed by the severe scalping he would endure in the next phase of his transformation.

"I think I'd better shower and you'd better get dressed so we can get over to the barbershop. It's almost 11:00 and we're supposed to meet the girls at 1:00," I replied.

"Maybe this cut is short enough for Rebecca. I like the look and the feel of it too," Aaron said, wavering.

"You've come this far -- look at that sacrifice," I insisted, pointing at the floor. "No, play it safe. Go for the military look. Remember that dashing captain that Rebecca has her eye on," I reminded him, pulling out all the stops. "You should have heard her describing his precision flattop with every strand totally erect and perfectly placed. That choppy bed-head look will be a huge turn-off."

"Yeah, I guess you're right. Thanks for watching out for me, Buddy," Aaron said as he spontaneously pulled me in for a bear hug. His muscular arms crushed me. "You're a great barber, by the way! You should have told me about your secret talents before and I could've save hundreds of bucks, bad boy," he said, playfully smacking me on the butt.

"Well, I'll watch the barber closely and see if I can't pick up the skills needed to keep your flattop nice and tidy once he's carved it down tight. I can't wait to see what sort of landing strip he gives you," I said.

"Landing strip!" Aaron exclaimed in alarm.

Ooops, I realized I had put my foot in my mouth. "Hey, I gotta shower. We'll leave in half hour."

Aaron was definitely nervous as we drove to the barbershop I had identified online. It was close to the restaurant and there were several 5-star reviews that all spoke highly of the 79-year old Italian barber named Nick.

"He's almost 80 years old and still working? I mean, what if his hand shakes and I get totally scalped?!" asked Aaron with alarm.

"Oh, stop fussing. There wasn't a single negative comment about him online." I said, conveniently omitting several remarks that mentioned Nick cutting their hair a lot shorter than requested.

"I'm just glad I'm not walking in there with all that long hair. Kind of miss it though," Aaron said pulling down the visor to check himself out in the mirror. "But, I love this short, textured feel. How about, let's go straight to the restaurant and have a few beers while we wait to hook up with those hot chicks....forget this barbershop thing," Aaron suggested half-heartedly. I didn't reply. "I know, I know," he quickly added. "Drive on. Nick's clippers are waiting for me. I'm kind of excited, would you believe that? I mean, the clippers going straight up the back of my head. Should be a total trip. Rebecca will be bowled over by my makeover. Don't you think?"

"Couldn't agree more," I casually replied as I spotted the West End Barber Shop - Nick Caglione, proprietor. I drove by slowly. "Shop's empty. You'll be under Nick's cape in a few minutes, Aaron."

Aaron flung the car door open as soon as we stopped. "Come on! Gotta strike while the iron's hot!"

"So you're afraid of getting cold feet?" I laughed as I watched Aaron beeline toward the shop.

He turned around and smiled, "Boy you're smart!" Then he held the door open, so that I walked in first.

The old barber stood as we entered. Looking straight at me, he pointed to the chair, "Go ahead and have a seat."

I stammered a bit and Aaron jumped in, "Go on, Denny. The barber wants you to take a seat so he can tackle that thatch of yours and turn it into a tidy flattop."

"Flattop, eh?" the barber commented. "My specialty. And I love to give a fellow his very first one."

"Great!" I replied, seizing control, "That means my friend Aaron here will end up with a very short, even flattop! Like he's a dashing army captain!"

"Got lots of military coming here. I've cut thousands of flattops in my life. Okay, son, we got to get that bedhead of yours under control," the barber said, clearly wanting to get to work. "So, which one of you is first? You?" he pointed at Aaron.

Aaron laughed and took a seat. "Sure, I'll go first, and he'll be next!"

The old man took his time getting out a clean cape and carefully fastened it into place. Aaron looked at me nervously as the barber fiddled with the large metal clip that held the pin-striped cape in place.

Then, Nick slowly swiveled the large barber chair away from the mirror. Aaron's eyes were wide with alarm. The old man worked in silence. He snapped on the clippers and nudged Aaron's head forward. I watched with great excitement as the barber peeled the first swath of the shiny auburn locks off with the clippers. Aaron's hands moved nervously under the cape. The large piece of cloth could not conceal the sheer fear Aaron felt as the clipper moved higher and higher up the back. Despite the barber's firm determination to strip away the bed-head look, there was a gentleness to his approach with the caped client. He was grandfatherly, yet firm. The buzzing of the clippers was almost deafening as it shattered the silence of the shop. I watched clump after clump of hair falling away, but was disappointed to see a covering of auburn remain instead of the lily white scalp I prefered on the sides and back.

When the barber moved to flattening the top and had Aaron sit up straight, my friend asked me, "How's it looking?"

"You'll certainly give the army captain a run for his money!" I commented.

Then the barber spoke, "Usually with first-timers going flat, I leave it as long as possible on top. You've got great thick hair and can sport a fairly long pile. It'll need a bit of butch wax, though." The barber began shaping the plush top as he beviled the sides in a very refined, distinguished looking flat.

I found myself envious of how incredibly great Aaron looked with the plush flattop. Damn! I couldn't win. The guy could sport any style. I swung into action. "You're leaving it way too long, Nick. Take him down tight. I want the sides skinned as well."

The barber sort of ignored me, and swiveled the chair back to the mirror. Aaron's tense face broke into a bit of a smile which quickly grew into relieved acceptance, "This flattop rocks!" He cocked his head from side to side as he admired his new look.

I jumped to my feet and rushed to the chair. "But, Nick, is this the type of flattop the military officers tend to get?"

The geezer laughed. "Hell no! This is what I call a pretty-boy flat. You know the type of vain fellow who will spend 45 minutes in front of the mirror getting everything quite in place. It's as long as it can possibly be, so it requires frequent trips to the barbershop to have it tidied up."

"Hear that?! You're trying to ditch the pretty-boy image for Rebecca! RIght now you look like a copper-topped battery! No, Nick take the top down several notches. And give him a landing strip!" I instructed.

"That okay?" he asked Aaron with the clippers poised near the forehead as if the decison had already been made.

Aaron nodded his consent reluctantly. In an instant, the old barber plowed the screaming metal teeth through the lovely plush pile and bore down heavily on the top of poor Aaron's head as he scraped off the filet mignon of the deep pile. A landing strip almost two inches wide emerged with one drive of the clippers.

"Agh!" gasped Aaron in horror as he watched. His face twisted in anguish.

"Better face him away from the mirror," I suggested to the barber, who quickly agreed.

I watched in delight as the new set of clippers took everything off right at the skin. "A very short flat then. Skinned all the way up the sides and back?" Nick asked me. It was clear, the old barber acknowledged me as the one who would ultimately decide the fate of Aaron's hair.

"You bet!" I said, still hovering.

"If he wants a real touch military look, I can give him a horseshoe," the barber suggested.

"Perfect. Shoe him!" I squealed with glee.

Nick was merciless and made no effort to get Aaron's consent.

Poor Aaron cowered under the cape, helplessly enduring the final phase of his transformation. It seemed as if the old man was revved up too as his speed and firm manipulation of Aaron's head gathered steam. The more hair that was scraped away, the more aggressive the barber became. As the session neared its end, I gasped at how little of the long thick mane he'd started out with that morning in his bathrobe remained. Just a very fine shoe-shaped rim of hair on his divested crown. Knowing how vain he was about his beautiful long hair, the humiliating crop was deeply satisfying to me.

The final revealing of his new self was totally different than the first two for Aaron. As he came into view in the mirror with the ultra severe shoe, Aaron's face turned as white as the virgin scalp on the sides and top of his head. He looked at himself in the mirror in shock and remained speechless.

For the second time, I felt guilty about what I'd maneuvered.

"How about it, lad?" the barber asked, realizing that Aaron was totally decimated by the shoe that had been inflicted on him. He remained silent.

The barber began uncaping the shell-shocked client.

"That's one haircut...." was all I could say as Aaron stumbled out of the chair.

Nick saved Aaron the humiliation of showing him the totally shorn back that looked whiter than a cueball. I quickly paid and led Aaron from the shop. Fortunately, neither the barber nor Aaron made any mention of me being next in the chair for a matching horseshoe flattop!

We were within walking distance of the restaurant and Aaron stumbled along, still in a daze. I tried to cheer him up. "My guess is that Rebecca will charge towards you when she sees you and jump into your arms." Of course this was totally idle chatter because I knew that scenario certainly would not happen.

"I wish I had never met her," Aaron mumbled in disgust. "I can't believe I got shoed like that. I look like a freak, Denny!"

When we met up with the girls at the restaurant, the dynamic was predictable. Rebecca stared at Aaron in horror. She too was speechless. Fortunately, Nichole's babbling made it seem less notable.

"Aaron, what a fabulous haircut! Oh, it's so macho. Turn around, let me see," she panted.

Aaron smiled a bit sheepishly over her fawning attention, "Coming straight from the barbershop, so I'm still getting used to it."

"Total improvement," she gushed.

"Yeah, thought it was time to end the girly look. Long hair can be such a drag...." Aaron said with a bit of a swagger as we were ushered out onto the back patio while we waited for our table to be ready inside the restaurant.

As Rebecca and I trailed, she whispered in my ear, "I can't think of a more wretched haircut. I guess I had misjudged your apartment mate.... Pity he shaved off all his beautiful hair."

Nichole and Aaron went as far away from as possible, cuddling a bit together and giggling like teens in love.

I steered Rebecca to another part of the terrace and replied coyly, "I thought it was insane too. But, Aaron was determined.... The ironic thing is that I'm in the process of growing my hair out. It's in an awkward floppy phase right now."

"Oh, that'll pass soon enough," she said, quickly running her fingers through my shaggy mop. "How long were you thinking about letting it grow?"

"Past my shoulders?" I asked, hoping to meet her approval.

"Fantastic. You'd look so irresistable with hair down to the shoulder blades. I mean you're smart and funny and...."

I drew Rebecca into a deep kiss and sparks flew.

As we finally came up from breath, I concluded her thought, ".....and I don't look like a jarhead with some freaky shorn shoe look!"

[Sequel possible: For those of you who don't like happy endings, please suggest what might happen next!]

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