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Part 1 - Giles' Ginger Gets Stripped by Manny

He stood there holding the package clearly annoyed that the old man was not being cooperative, "Well, if you don't sign for it, I'm just going to make a note that I delivered it and no confirmation was possible."

The barber was becoming equally annoyed with the impertinent UPS delivery man. "This package is obviously not for me. I'm not Howard Jones and I didn't order anything from the C.P. Charles company."

"But the address is correct, and that's all that matters. Maybe Howard Jones is one of your customers...." said the twentysomething as he placed the small box down on one of the chairs in the waiting area and spun around in a huff to leave.

As he did so, a thick braid of ginger hair flew through the air towards the barber before resting in place with its full tuft at the end dangling snuggly in the middle of his shapely butt. "It's yours to do with as you please. Throw it away, for all I care," he snapped as he exited the barbershop. The fellow dashed toward his truck sending the chord of hair flailing about as he climbed into the cab.

Young people! the barber thought to himself. Rude, indulgent, young people! Of all the nerve storming in and berating him like that. And that hair! Old Al knew just what he'd do if he had that redhead under his cape. Cut him down to size with a 1950's flattop....and the boy undoubtedly would adopt a matching courteous, respectful 1950's demeanor.

Al took the box and placed it in the back room -- he'd have to deal with it later as he spied one of his regulars coming towards the shop. It was Jim, one of his geezer buddies, who got the few strands of hair he maintained trimmed regularly. It was more like a social call that would last for an hour or two instead of a real haircut.

"I almost got run over by a UPS truck on my way in here," the codger said as he pushed the door to the shop open.

"Longhair hippy at the wheel?" asked the barber.

"Flaming red hair," replied the geezer.

"Yep, he was in here delivering a packet that wasn't meant for me -- in a total huff and rude!" the barber said as he snapped the cape open, inviting Jim to take a seat.

About two hours later, the UPS truck pulled up again. The redhead approached the shop with a completely different attitude. "Uh, about that packet I delivered here this morning, there's been some mix up....." He seemed nervous as he tossed the heavy braid back behind him.

Al decided to play a little game with the fellow....teach him a bit of a lesson. "What packet?" he asked innocently.

"Look, I'm sorry about the way I acted this morning...." the delivery man stammered.

"How was that?" the barber asked with a tone of amusement in his voice.

The delivery man shuffled on his feet a bit. "Listen to me, sir. I apologized. Now give me the packet!" he stammered in a tone that was half-way between a plea and a command.

"You told me it was mine, and I could do with it as I pleased," Al replied.

"That packet contains very valuable merchandise and I need it back," he said, still half way between pleading and demanding. "I hadn't noticed a remark on the delivery sheet with a corrected address. The sender had notified us of the mistake. What's in that box is irreplaceable."

"Have a seat -- let's discuss things, uh, what's your name?" the barber asked.

"Giles," he replied as he began to take a seat in the waiting area, on the very chair where he'd left the package.

"Oh, I mean there!" the barber said with a smile on his face as he pointed to the large barbering chair atop the huge chrome base.

The delivery man froze in fear. His heavy braid flopped forward again and he fondled it nervously. "Why, I, uh....."

"You need to learn how to behave in a more professional manner and it starts with the image you project," the barber said sternly. Al pulled a set of shears out of his breast pocket and snapped them open and shut a few times.

"You're making this very hard. All I want is the box....not a haircut," Giles stammered. "My hair hasn't been cut since I started college about ten years ago. Not even for my graduation from grad school."

"You've got an advanced college degree and still work as a delivery boy?" the barber scoffed. "Probably no one would hire you with that flaming mane hanging down your back. Let's let out this braid to see what we're dealing with here. A set of shears could never get through this massive wad here at the nape."

The barber reached forward to grasp the braid; Giles stood frozen and compliant. Al felt the thickness of the woven plait and admired the sheen of the ginger-colored strands. With a snip of the scissors, the scrunchy that held the locks imprisoned in the plait fell away and old Al began the process of unbraiding the long tresses. "Oh my, this is quite the mane. Rather impractical, though, isn't it?"

"I'm used to it," Giles croaked meekly.

"Okay, big boy, up into the chair. It's a two-fer. Flattop and you get the packet back," said Al firmly.

Giles jumped back in a panic, "Flattop! No way! You are a crazy old coot!" He whirled around and a huge sail of billowing red hair swept across the barber's cheek before flowing down past the seat of his pants. It shimmered in the neon light of the barbershop as the young fellow grasped the door of the barbershop and fled.

Al felt a little bad about the whole thing. It had started as a joke....of course he meant to return the packet after having a little fun with the fellow and scaring him a bit. Al had no intention of keeping the box that wasn't his.

About twenty minutes later the barbershop phone rang. "Al, it's Giles again." He sounded very fearful and contrite. "Look, I'm really, really sorry about...."

"Giles, I'm sorry too," the barber said, interrupting, "I shouldn't have...."

But the delivery boy cut into the conversation, "Believe it or not, I understand what you're wanting me to learn....my father tried, as well."

"I never meant to keep a packet that wasn't mine," Al said apologetically.

"I want to learn the lesson. I treated my father with such disdain when he tried to send me on a guilt trip about paying all my school bills and asking me for only one thing -- a decent haircut so that I'd get a decent job. I need to...." the boy blubbered.

"Come by and pick up your packet," the barber instructed.

"You can hand it to me....only after you've taken your electric hair clippers to me." And with that Al heard a click and the phone went dead.

A few minutes later, the UPS truck pulled up and parked in front of the shop. Giles stepped out of the cabin and the wind whipped through his locks, lifting them like a flaming red pennant. He struggled to pull them back under control as he ambled slowly to the barber shop. Giles seemed composed as he pushed the door open.

"I'm here for something," Giles said nervously.

"I'll be right with you," Al replied as he went into the back room to get the packet.

When he came out he was half-surprised to see Giles sitting in the big barber's chair with his long red hair hanging down the back, past the base of the seat. "I'm here for a haircut," he explained nervously as he stared at himself blankly in the mirror.

"Your hair is very thick and wavy, I see," the barber comment as he fastened the white pin striped cape snuggly around the fellow's neck. "Any special instructions?" Al asked as he began to brush the shimmering ginger mane.

"I have an interview for a job in my field tomorrow -- at a national insurance company," GIles explained.

Silently, Al brought the shears to the nape, slid a blade under the heavy drape of hair and delivered the first chop. Giles winced as the crunching sound signaled the demise of the first heavy lock, which fell to the old barber's feet. A second CRUNCH quickly followed and then a third. The floor was quickly covered with the shorn ginger tresses. "How you doing, Buddy?" the barber asked tenderly as he examined the alabaster neck that the shears had left exposed.

"Keep cutting," Giles replied through a strained, stressed out voice. "A lot more has to come off before this is over."

Al continued with the shears, carefully cutting around the left ear. The heavy ropes of red hair fell onto the cape as the ear came into shape. "I'm going to turn you into a handsome, professional yet. A lad that looks manly, too!"

Giles' hand came out from under the cape and he grasp a handful of his shorn, wavy hair. "My father's going to be happy about this. Couldn't stand my 'girlie braid', as he called it."

Al moved to the other side and snipped off the remainder of the long locks. "Shall I leave it as long as possible, yet neat and presentable? Perhaps a medium taper or a short back and sides business cut?" The wavy red hair stuck out like Ronald McDonalds as it was free from the weight that kept it tamed. "You might need some pommade to slick it in place if we go with a sidepart."

"When you first saw me, what kind of a haircut did you think I should get?" asked Giles.

Al hesitated as he looked at the evidence of the damaged he'd inflicted on the boy's heavy braid of hair. "You wouldn't want what...."

"You said flattop, didn't you, earlier?" Giles insisted.

"Yes, but now that I see how wavy your hair is, it would have to be extremely short...." noted Al, reluctantly.

"Do it! I'll learn my lesson once and for all. Take me down military short, if need be," commanded Giles firmly.

Without another word, Al reached for the balding clippers. He handled the huge black machine momentarily in front of Giles' wide eyes and then snapped it on as he clamped one hand firmly atop the caped lad's head. In a flash, the powerful machine was driven up the side of Giles' head and the barber peeled off a huge clump of red hair. Virgin white scalp was uncovered in the wake of the clippers.

Giles' shifted nervously under the cape. "Sit still!" Al hissed, as he stripped away more ginger-colored hair.

"That's awefully short," GIles commented nervously.

The barber stopped what he was doing. "You haven't seen anything yet," he said with a laugh. Then he began spinning the chair away from the mirror. "Maybe this is better. No need to watch the transformation. Skinned sides and landing strip. You'll get an eyeful when you see the finished product -- you stripped down to virtually nothing on top!" Then Al shoved Giles' head forward so that his chin nearly touched his chest and applied the clippers to the nape. The barber quickly stripped off all the ginger locks from the sides and had them to the length of fine sand paper. On top remained a jumble of wavy red tufts....but not for long.

"Sit up straight, boy!" the barber commanded.

Giles complied meekly.

Al tackled the red thatch with gusto, seizing and cropping the long tufts down to under an inch in length. The crimson shower of clumps and snippets poured in front of Giles' eyes for several minutes. He stared blankly trying to make sense of the day's events. Al's haircut was a wake-up call. He would change his ways. Become more patient, more humble, more willing to make sacrifices and more considerate of others. And his morning hair-care routine and expense would change dramatically too. No long washing and combing-out chores, keeping the thick waves of ginger under control with huge dollops of expensive conditioners. The braid was his identity. Now, he'd have to make a new one.

Al swiveled the chair around and Giles' jaw dropped. He was unrecognizable! The severely shorn look -- the short bristles standing erect, the virgin white scalp. Al had given him a new image, and he would live with it.

"What do you say?" asked the barber, taking a whisk brush to the neck and ears.

"I'm speechless," answered Giles, as best he could.

"You look like a real man now! Maybe this haircut will help you act like a gentleman, as well." Al unfastened the cape and carefully withdrew it so that the shorn red locks would be deposited safely on the floor. "Look at all that hair! I don't think I've ever cut so much off one fellow in one sitting. How do you feel?"

Giles touched his shorn head eagerly. "Light-headed. Like a huge weight is gone. And I love the feel of stubble...."

Al smiled broadly and retrieved the box. "You were looking for this? Let me know how your job interview goes."

"For sure!" replied Giles. "And thanks for everything -- the box, the haircut, the life lesson I never learned in college or grad school. How much do I owe you for your services?" asked Giles.

"The haircut is free -- but be a good boy and sweep up that mess on the floor. The broom and dust pan are in the back. I see I've got a client coming in...."

Giles went about his chore with mixed feelings. His lovely ginger-colored hair was lifeless and worthless there on the floor. He'd miss all the attention it commanded. Now his nickname, Brady, would make no sense! His friends would have to start calling him Buzz or Flatty or Tops! As Giles swept up the shorn hair he listened to the cheerful banter between Al and his geezer client. Al was a gem....yes, he'd look forward to regular trips to this shop to get his top tightened up.

The following day, Giles came back to the shop. He entered with a worried look on his face.

"Hey, Buddy, what's the matter? Something wrong with the haircut? Perhaps I didn't cut it short enough?!" laughed Al.

"Shoot, I don't think it could get any shorter. I shocked all my friends when they saw me last night. No one could believe it was me! But I've got a dilemma, and the only person who can help me is you, Al. You've got good judgment," he said haltingly.

"Sure, I won't charge you for haircuts or advice, Buddy," the kindly barber replied.

"Well, I got the job! That's the good news. But here's my dilemma. After we had shaken hands and had signed the contract, on the way out my new boss said, 'I feel great providing employment to our veterans and those who remain on in the reserves, serving our country.' I didn't know what to say. He just assumed I was a vet or in the reserves."

"No wonder, with that crisp, fresh flattop you're sporting. Did you say anything that would give him that impression?" asked Al.

"Zilch and there's nothing on my resume either," Giles replied.

"Then call him up and clarify the matter. You can't live with this. He might wonder when you start growing out your hair...."

"Oh, that's not happening. I'm staying like this. I can't wait to get back in that chair, under that cape and receive my first follow-up haircut. The feel of the vibrating teeth on the shorn scalp is amazing. So, I should call him...."

"Yes, do it right now -- there's the phone. Call him!" the barber instructed.

Giles slowly dialed and cleared his throat nervously as he waited to be patched through by the secretary. "Yes, Mr. Miller, it's Giles Gerson. I wanted to clarify something about what you said to me on the way out, about hiring veterans. The fact is that I have never served in the military, and I hope to God that I didn't say anything that may have led you to believe that...."

Giles listened to his new boss for a few minutes and then broke into a smile. "Yes, sir. I like it very much too. I have an excellent barber if you need a recommendation. I'm so glad that's cleared up. Thank you for you time, and I'll see you tomorrow."

As he hung up the phone, Giles clapped a huge bear hug on Al. "You're like a father to me, Al. My own passed away last year. But, you're going to be a father that I listen to. Do you know what Mr. Miller said? He thanked me for my call and the integrity I showed in clarifying his misperception -- and said that was exactly the kind of employee he wanted on his staff. Oh, and he's wild about my flattop!"

The barber reached up and fondled the shorn sides and back. "Much better than a pony tail that hangs down to your ass! Now, do me proud with your new job and your new image! And, maybe you'll bring Mr. Miller with you to the shop one day...."

"You bet, Al!" replied Giles as felt felt his shorn head for the umpteenth time.

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