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It's only for summer by Manny

Mike strode up to me with his familiar toothy-white smile, muscle rippling and every bit the athlete that made him such a great coach to the Little Leaguers. His outgoing personality and quick camaraderie with kids and parents alike explained why he was among the best-loved people in the community. Shortly after we moved to Dalton, just a few months before, Mike immediately befriended our family and made sure my boy Henry got a place on the Little League team. It was at a Saturday morning practice that Mike engaged me in the most unexpected manner.

“So, Mr. H., you’re spending your Saturday morning watching the little fellows, are you?” he said while grasping my hand and shaking it vigorously. “Soon you’re going find out how hot a Carolina summer can get. Heat wave is supposed to hit us about mid-week – I heard it this morning on the news.”

“I sure appreciate your work with the boys,” I replied. “But, I have to admit the heat is not something I’m looking forward to…”

“Oh, you’ll get used to it all right. Just learn to ignore it – or make some adjustments here and there,” he chirped in his upbeat manner. After a pause, he grin broadened and his eyes twinkled as he added, “Start with all that pretty boy hair – I can recommend a good barbershop where they are not timid with the clippers, my friend!” Then to emphasize his point, he ran his hand across the tips of the ramrod flattop that he sported – which was always immaculately groomed. “Now this is one cool style that would suit you perfectly, Mr. H. It’s like I tell the boys – don’t be afraid to try something new! And if you show up here next Saturday morning with the hair hanging in your eyes and over your ears like that, I might just have a mind to drive you into town myself after practice to make sure that thatch of yours gets some much needed attention from a real barber.” And without another word, but still flashing the big smile, Mike whirled away and rounded up the boys to start practice. As he walked away, the sanguine man ran his hand right up the back of his clipped head – shorn so short that you could even see some scalp through his hair where it was cut the shortest – and turned to flash me one last smile. “You won’t be sorry,” he called out.

I sat there sort of stunned – not insulted by his reference to my “thatch”, because it was all done in good nature -- but that he had addressed me so personally and playfully. I spent the rest of the morning unable to concentrate on the kids, but observing the precision flattop, admiring how good it looked on Mike, and wondering if he really might try to drive me over to his barbershop after practice next Saturday. How would I react if he did?!

Throughout the practice, I got the distinct feeling that Mike occasionally would sneak looks my way. Now that Mike made a deal about it, I felt self-conscious about my longish hair. (The truth was, I’m ashamed to admit, that I was quite vain about my locks and cultivated them carefully.) Perhaps I just hadn’t combed them well enough, since I was in a hurry that morning and reasoned that I was just going out to watch the kids practice ball. Mike certainly looked fantastic in his flattop, I thought to myself. I had never had my hair cut in a barbershop -- certainly never had clippers near the “thatch” either!

Mid-way through the practice it dawned on me that I had spent almost all the time watching Mike…thinking about his promise/threat to take me to the barbershop…and the possibility of getting a flattop just like his. My wife would die – although she had occasionally pointed out of late that my hair was getting long and I could use a trim. What about my kids? How would they react if Mike drove me home, and I got out of the car sporting a flattop just like his? The image of me stepping out of Mike’s car with a flattop sent shivers up my spine! A ton of hair would hit the cape before that ever became a reality….

As I was day-dreaming about these hilarious scenarios, I heard a familiar baritone bellow out, “Come join us out here, Mr. H., with this batting exercise!” I felt honored to be selected from the group of fathers by Mike, and so I hustled out to the pitcher’s mound. “Way to move, Mr. H! Way to move!” he called to me. I was quite proud of my pitching too, during the exercise that took up the last half of the practice. “Way to pitch, Mr. H! Way to pitch!” would come Mike’s encouraging words from time to time.

At the end of practice, Mike walked over to me after the boys had scattered and put his arm playfully around me. “I was impressed,” he said as we walked over to the parking lot. “You’ve played a lot of ball in your time, haven’t you?” I smiled modestly and admitted I’d been on the team in high school and also college (not mentioning that I spent most of my time on the bench in college). “I hope you come up next week to help out again, Mr. H.”

“Call me Hank,” I interjected.

“And for all your efforts, Hank, yes I am going to do it for you!” he said with a playful grin.

“Do what?” I asked, half knowing what he meant since he was staring at my “thatch”. My heart pounded fast and furious, waiting for the expected reply.

“Drive you straight to the barbershop after practice and have Joe make short work of this,” he said, flailing his hand into my hair and tussling it so that it fell irritatingly into my face. “Here, Hank. Feel this if you want to know just how short a good haircut should be,” he said as he guided my hand to his nape and ran it up the back of his head. The trimmed velvety feel unleashed a wave of goose bumps. For a second I truly wished he was serious about taking me to the barbershop! I was ready to be driven over then and there!

But Mike abruptly pulled away and strode to his car. “Next week, then! And we’ll bring little Henry with us. Boys with bowl cuts look like sissies!”

Something didn’t hit me right about the last development. What was it? That his mother would object? She thought his towhead looked adorable in that long, droopy bowl cut. No, it was that I wanted the barbershop experience….yes, that was it, to be just Mike and me. But why? As we drove away from the diamond I got to thinking about Mike and his flattop. What would I do? How could a serious businessman show up to work with a flattop?!

The week seemed like it dragged on for ever. Mike and flattops were constantly on my mind. Finally, Saturday morning I was up extra-early, feeling charged with excitement. I spent more time than normal with my hair, drying it and brushing it so that it looked as groomed as possible. Wow, it was long! I had been putting off finding a new stylist ever since moving to Dalton. My old one did my hair so perfectly, I knew it would be difficult to find someone to match her expertise in Dalton. I thought about the last time I had had her cut my hair before the move, telling Trixie – “Cut it a little shorter than usual since I’ll be busy when we first get to Dalton.” I remember the way she slowly combed my long bangs forward and the wet locks dangled down to the tip of my nose. Usually, she would trim them to the mid eye length so that they would hang nice and full when brushed to the side. But this time, Trixie’s shears moved gently up to just above my eyebrow and the first tentative snip sent a huge clump of wet hair falling to my caped lap. I cringed under the cape and grasped the handles of the chair firmly as I so the chunks of wet hair hit the cape. It had been ages since my bangs had been cut so short….

But now, here they were, hanging well past my eyes again and needing to be cropped. Mike’s barber, I was sure, would relish lopping them off…certainly without Trixie’s trepidation of cutting too much off.

“Uh, honey,” I called out to my wife in the bedroom, “I’m sending Henry home with the Stentons today. Mike said he could recommend a place to get my hair cut and is going to show me how to get there after practice.”

“Oh, that’s nice of him. Your hair’s gotten rather long. What a great guy Mike is. Henry loves Little League and it’s really helped him make friends,” she answered back.

I picked up a hand mirror to get a better look at my hair. The thick locks spilled down to the base of my collar. What a difference the glossy tresses were compared to Mike’s shorn back. Did I really want to go through with this barbershop thing? A flattop for me was virtually out of the question, I decided. I had purposely studied the hair scene in the office, and while lots of guys had very short tapers, none had a flattop.

My heart beat quickly as I drove Henry to the baseball diamond. My eyes scanned the crowd in the parking lot, looking for Mike. There he was! Tall, tanned, handsome and, oh, that flattop – it made him look so manly! Really, it wasn’t as short as I remembered. There was actually quite a nice plush pile of hair on top of his head. Could it be that I was beginning to consider the possibility of a flattop after all?! Mike saw me and waved from afar, smiling as always.

As soon as he could, Mike came up to me. “I’ve been thinking about something all week and wanted to ask you before practice starts.” Oh my, he was going to talk about the barber giving me a flattop! But he surprised me once again…. “Would you officially be our assistant Little League coach? I’d love to have you working at my side all season. It’ll mean committing your time, but there are some benefits,” he said with a wink, “if you know what I mean!” I could scarcely think of anything else besides immediately agreeing – no idea of what benefits he was referring to, but I didn’t care. So, as practice started, Mike announced that I would be the assistant coach. I felt so proud standing next to him….

Strangely, though, there was no reference to or mention of my hair during the whole practice. Had Mike forgotten? Had I been in turmoil all week over a joke?! I tried not be conspicuous as I discretely admired his flattop. Taking the plunge and losing almost all my hair at once would be virtually impossible for me. But, I did want him to drive me to the barbershop and hustle me into the chair for a real haircut – and yes, I was ready to go short. How would I feel to be at the mercy of a barber brandishing a big set of electric clippers? Hopefully, Mike would take over giving the instructions, just like I was “little Henry” being brought in by his exasperated father who was absolutely fed up with the girlie hair his sissy son refused to cut! My excitement level soared at the thought.

But this would all be for naught, unless Mike made good on his promise to do just that – haul me over to the shop for a good cropping. After practice, I quickly delivered Henry to the Stentons and tracked Mike down gathering up the equipment. “So you thought you’d leave me with all the hard work!” he said, feigning a mean voice that that was completely unconvincing because of the accompanying laugh. “Come on, be a good boy and help me with the bases. Scurry around and gather them up.” I wanted to impress Mike with my stamina and speed, so I zipped around the diamond, doing the chore he tasked me with. My locks bounced and flailed about and I arrived back with my hair falling in my eyes and me struggling to see as I tried to mash the bases into the nylon sack.

Then I felt Mike’s hand grasp the abundant locks that collected at my nape and give them a gentle tug. “You haven’t forgotten our appointment with the barber today, I hope.” My heart beat quickly. I almost felt giddy with the confirmation that he still intended to drive me over to what I imagined would be a very traditional shop. Momentarily Mike fondled my plush mane, then abruptly demanded, “Where’s little Henry?”

“Uh, his mother wasn’t keen on him getting a short barbershop haircut…” I stammered.

“Bowlcuts are for sissies,” Mike snapped. “Did ‘Mom’ give you permission to get these tresses shorn or does she want her ‘boy toy’ husband to keep the pretty look?” he added sarcastically. It was the first time I sensed an edge in Mike’s tone – usually he was so jovial…. The harsh tone sent chills up my spine. Being hauled to the barbershop was scary enough, but by a mad “dad” – that was truly frightening.

I struggled to gain composure. “Not at all. I’ve been looking forward to this haircut all week. Believe me.” My words rang hollow. “ This heat….” I added quickly.

Mike scowl slowly gave way to a smile. “So we are going! I was wondering whether a haircut for you would be in the cards today. I need to get my flat re-cut anyway, so let’s throw these things in the car and make tracks!” It was great to have the upbeat, cheerful Mike back after that threatening interlude.

And, it felt wonderful being driven by Mike over to Jim’s Barbershop – a very potent mixture of fear and excitement that taxed my pulse. The closer we got, though, the more the fear started gaining the upper hand. “Mike, I think I shouldn’t overdo it today, with the haircut, I mean. As much as I admire that flattop of yours, I really don’t think it’s the right style for me.”

“Style?! You get ‘styles’ at salons. It’s not the right ‘cut’ for you, you think? Really? I’ve been thinking all week how great we’ll look – you know, coach and assistant coach – sporting the same haircut. Maybe we can get matching shorts and tee-shirts too.” Mike sounded serious. This was no joke.

“But, I’m worried that I’d stick out too much in the office with a flattop. I checked around this week – no one sports such short hair,” I whined. Oh my, didn’t little boys always dread being driven to the barbershop by father’s who were determined to get rid of the shaggy look?

“And how long have you been prancing around with those girlie locks?” he demanded to know. “I would bet you anything, no one’s hair is that long – not here in Dalton, in a respectable office. Did that worry you?”

Touche. I gulped, just like a nervous teen trying, but failing, to convince a stern father. Thinking about it, I had to agree with Mike. No one wore long hair. “I guess I hadn’t thought about it,” I said meekly.

“Well, I had,” he said, switching to a more relaxed and friendly tone. “I’m taking you to get a decent haircut because I’m your friend. I hope you don’t think I just want to badger you.” Mike reached over and patted my arm. Then he stroked my hair a bit and patted it gently. “Don’t worry, Hank. The barber can give you a traditional businessman’s cut. That’ll be perfect for your office scene.” He reached over again and stroked my thick mane. Then, he gathered up a huge handful like he did earlier in the day and lightly tugged at it. “But don’t think all this is gonna survive Jim’s clippers. Oh no. You’re gonna get clipped up the back here with a spiffy and short, traditional businessman’s cut – administered with a pair of electric hair clippers -- not some long layered scissors job by a stylist!”

I smiled at him as if to thank him for his concern and signal my agreement to his suggestion. And just then we pulled up in front of Jim’s – and it was just as I imagined, a small, old-fashioned shop with three chairs and two barbers. Both men, outfitted in matching white barber smocks, were busy cutting hair as Mike pushed the glass door open and we stepped into a 1950’s time warp. “Hello, gentleman, I’d like to introduce you to my new friend, Hank, who as you can plainly see is desperately in need of your assistance!”

The two barbers, the two clients getting their hair cut, and the fellow in the chair waiting against the wall all took a break from what they were doing to greet us – to give me a good once over – and to make us feel welcome. I felt so self-conscious….but soon knew that Jim’s was exactly the place I wanted to be at that moment. Sitting next to Mike, of course, in the waiting area. After giving up inflicting a flattop on me, he started coming across less as a harsh father and more as a protective older brother.

The two barbers finished their current clients nearly at the same time. The fellow in line before us and Mike took the newly vacant chairs. Mike got Barber Jim and the other guy got Barber Cal. “Fix me up nice and purdy, Jim, cause Hank over there might decide he wants a flattop himself if he likes what he sees.”

“Really?” asked Jim, wavering between believing Mike and dismissing it as another one of his jokes. Jim eyed me as if waiting for a confirmation or denial.

I stammered, a bit, “Uh, well, I don’t….”

“I’m pulling your leg, there, Jim. Hank is a respectable businessman, and he needs a nice taper to match.”

“Well, that he will get from me as soon as I’m done with you,” said Jim.

“Or me!” injected Cal, obviously anxious to have a stab at my locks. Both barbers seemed in a bit of a hurry and that made me feel uneasy. I felt like hunted prey!

I didn’t enjoy watching Mike get his haircut as much as I thought I would. For one, I was too nervous worrying about my own turn under the big white cape that was drawing closer with each swipe of the clippers and snip of the scissors. Second, I had liked Mike’s flattop just the way it was – a deep, thick pile that was now being mowed off quite short on top and absolutely scalped around the sides and back. A lot of talk about the heat wave had prompted Mike to tell Jim to take him “down tight” today. Cal meanwhile, was proving to be equally heavy-handed on his poor soul. With the two barbers and Mike all gung-ho to throw caution to the wind, I felt doomed. And what would my wife say? She had no idea I had any intention of getting really shorn.

Well, Jim exercised the privilege of shop ownership and called me to take a seat even though he and Cal finished up on their last helpless clients neck-and-neck. As I sank into the deep red leather seats, I watched Mike examine his very short, short flattop in the mirror. “Wow, this landing strip could accommodate a 747, Jim!”

“You told me you wanted it extra tight, right?” replied the barber as he fastened the cape around my neck. “There you go, Hank! Now who’s going to give me the specifics on how much of this is going to stay. No flattop, right?”

Mike stepped right in, like a determined father. His poor kid was finally in the clutches of the barber, and Dad was determined to make the visit as long-lasting as possible. “Tapered tight, Jim. Give Hank a standard ‘short back and sides’. Taper it to a #1 and rather high. On top, just long enough to comb to the side. This heat is killing him.” I thought I saw Mike wink at me.

The instructions sounded like a foreign language to me, but I quickly understood their meaning. Jim picked up a large set of clippers, clamped one big hand atop my head and pressed it down so that my chin nearly touched my chest. I felt faint. Then I felt the machine’s steel teeth hit my nape. The clippers slowly began a firm ascent up the back up my head. I imagined mounds of my glossy hair falling away. Finally, half way up the back of my head the clippers eased away and I heard Jim ask Mike, “This high enough for you?” I couldn’t be certain, but I thought I heard a faint chuckle.

Jim repeated the process several times on the back of my head before shifting his grip and ****ing my head up and to the side. I saw a few huge piles of shorn hair resting precariously on my shoulders during the brief transition from back to side. My heart skipped a beat. I might not be getting a flattop, but lots of hair was coming off as a result of the ‘short back and sides’ Mike had instructed. Then Jim brought the clippers to the base of my sideburn and I watched half in fascination, half in horror as the clippers ploughed up to my temple before easing slightly away from my head. This time the bulk of the hair fell to the cape in plain view! I couldn’t resist the urge to look down into my lap….but the barber’s grip kept me from seeing the huge collection that was piling up on the cape until he’d finished clearing the left side of my head from nearly all the hair that had once hung there. What really surprised me was how fast he moved with the clippers. Zip, zip, zip and years of growth were gone. The site of half a shorn head was truly mind-boggling. I felt like Dr. Jeckell and Mr. Hyde simultaneously. Once side clipped rigid and the other long, soft and shaggy.

But Jim was not slow in evening up the sides. My head was forcefully shifted to lean in the opposite direction and then the clippers attacked the remaining shag. Waves of soft, shimmering hair fell away and a whitish scalp was left in the clipper’s wake. Mike watched on with great interest as the barber mowed off my long hair. As if sensing my panic at being shorn so thoroughly, Mike offered a comforting, “The ‘short’ part’s done now, Hank, and the top will be left longer. You’re looking great!”

I gulped. “That’s good because I didn’t expect it to be this short,” I eeked out through my shortness of breath and pounding pulse. The barber began wetting down the top of my head where the long hair remained. Then he combed the remaining bangs straight down. They fell past my eyes. Like Trixie several months earlier, Jim raised the shears to above my eyebrow and firmly snipped off a generous chunk. Then, unexpectedly, the shears were ****ed to a 45 degree angle and the snipping continued up towards my left temple! The cut bangs falling away were progressively longer and the part the remained plastered to my forehead shorter and shorter – little stubs was all the shears left hanging in the upper corner!

Then the barber tackled the hair on the top of my head. Lift, chop. Lift, chop. The wet hair falling onto the cape made a peculiar sound, like a muffled timpani. After removing about half the length, Jim picked up a pair of thinning shears. Over and over the shears crunched and then Jim combed away the longish strands that had been selected for the dustbin. After what seemed like hours of scissors action, the barber stopped. By then the bulk was thoroughly gone on top.

He cleaned up the back and sides with a razor and then applied some terrible smelling pomade to the hair. Comb, comb, comb. Ramrod straight part on the side and slicked perfectly over! I sat there staring at an image of a typical schoolboy from the 1950’s! I looked perfectly hideous, but Mike beamed with satisfaction. The barber lifted a mirror to show me the back of my head which was almost completely divested of hair. My white scalp glared at me in the mirror. “Scalped” was a charitable to describe the way my hair looked, sitting there in that old fashioned barbershop.

My only consolation was the happiness Mike derived from his roll in getting me “tidied up” although I was sure that no businessmen I worked with looked quite like the 1950’s schoolboy style that was inflicted on me by Jim. Despite the trauma of it all, especially the end result, the trip to the barbershop felt more like a rollercoaster experience at an amusement park.

Mike seemed so happy as he put his arm around my shoulder and ushered me out of the shop. On the way out, I was able to sneak a final look at all my glossy hair that remained on the barbershop floor. Wow – piles of it – and very, very long chunks adorned the chrome base of the old fashioned chair. It had been a sacrifice I was willing to make in exchange for superior male bonding at its best. “I’m only sorry Little Henry was here to get the same cut, Hank. I know when your wife sees you looking like this, her defense of his sorry bowlcut will fade away!” I wasn’t so sure that either my wife or Henry would be wild about the new geeky me. “Let’s get a beer to celebrate – your new position as my assistant and your new sharp look!” Mike offered triumphantly.

The next two hours of pleasure in the local tavern more than made up for the hideous schoolboy haircut I now sported. But as Mike began to wind up the “celebration” I started getting nervous about facing the music alone back home.

As Mike paid the bill, I darted to the bathroom to get a quick look at the “new me”. I got the shock of my life seeing the 1950’s schoolboy, hair slicked to the side with pomade, and closely shorn sides that made my ears look isolated. It was a lot worse than what the two hours of drinking beer had led me to imagine. And, it hardly seemed fair that Mike looked macho with his flattop, even pared down as it was, and that I looked completely geeky.

As I stood paralyzed at the mirror, the door swung open and Mike burst in, breaking my fearful trance. “Oh, admiring your new look, are you?” I couldn’t tell if he was serious or joking.

I glanced at him. “It’s not nearly as hot as yours,” I said wistfully.

“Flattops are fantastic! That’s what I’ve been telling you all along. Why not push the envelope, Hank, and start a new trend at your office? Remember what I first told you about this being one cool style and not being afraid to try something new?”

“Will you take me back to Jim’s?” I asked impulsively.

“Now, we’re talking! Hop in the car,” instructed Mike with enthusiasm. He babbled on the whole way there.

When we finally pulled up in front of the shop, I broke into a cold sweat. I looked at Mike. He had practically no hair left on his head. I, on the other hand, still had enough on top to comb around. Jim’s clippers would be all over me if I let Mike have his way. “Well, I suppose the flattop will be…..” but then paused. I didn’t know what to say. “But, I’d like to leave it longish, sort of the way you looked this morning before you had Jim take you down tight.”

“Why?!” responded Mike in an almost exasperated tone. “I thought the object was for us to have the same haircut – for the boys’ team. I want you clipped nice and tight right up the back with a big landing strip on top, just like mine. Now come on, don’t dawdle,” he said switching back into his role as irritated father. “I see Cal’s chair is empty. He’ll be more than happy to give you short flattop.”

With that, his car door (and mine) swung open and we walked towards the shop. I worked up my courage to throw all caution to the wind. The fact was that I loathed the schoolboy look and admired the flattop. And why not please Mike and solidify our new friendship. Mike threw the door open. “Well, Cal, you’re going to have a shot at Hank here just like you wanted. He’s decided that a flattop is the look for him!”

“Welcome back, Hank! And, so you know you made the right decision, I won’t charge him for this, being that you’re new to the shop and all. But, I gotta admit I’d have preferred to administer step one in his makeover. I’d have pared you down real short the first time around, but I won’t hold that against you. Come on, Hank, hop up into the chair here,” he said patting the vinyl cushion on the old fashioned chair. “You’re in for a real treat.”

I meekly took a seat and Mike flashed a huge smile. “We want to leave here looking like twins, Cal,” he instructed.

The cape was fastened tightly in place for the second time that day. There was no turning back. This was a huge event in my life. Suddenly, I didn’t care about the reaction at the home or the office. I felt like I was exactly where I wanted to be getting exactly what I wanted (or almost – still wished Mike’s flattop hadn’t been stripped down quite so bare – but I was totally into the flattop style by now). I willingly bowed my head as the clippers sprang to life. Cal had a firm grip. I imagined he’d shorn many a head shorter-than-requested during his day. How many fellows rushed out of the shop nearly in tears when he’d finished ripping off their lids?!

Cal was a lot firmer with the clippers and my head was locked into a position where my chin virtually touched my chest. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the huge pile of my shorn hair which had been swept into a mound, but still in the dustpan near the trash can. It looked so glossy and beautiful. Suddenly my world caved in. I was enveloped with fear and a feeling of impending doom. My bravado about getting a skinned flattop collapsed like a house of cards. My stomach went into knots and my mind drift back to Trixie’s soothing massage as my tresses were doused with tepid water at the salon’s washing station. The roar of the clippers near my nears contrasted starkly. Mike kept encouraging Cal to take me down tighter and mentioned the landing strip for that imaginary 747. I felt almost nauseous and in a haze.

Then there was silence, followed by soothing, warm foam being massaged into my scalp. A straight edge razor passed before my eyes. Mike’s flashing white toothy smile came into focus. “Hank, you’re looking great. Real sharp!” I had a hard time believing that. What would my wife say? And the office?! I wish I’d never met Mike….or even moved to Dalton.

Cal finally pronounced the haircut over and he slowly spun the chair around to face the mirror. I had been transformed into something unrecognizable – like a military man, with huge ears that stuck out. There was a shaved swath down the middle of the crown of my head – the “landing strip” no doubt. Cal asked me how I liked it and I mumbled something about a “good cut for summer”. Then my eyes focused again on my beautiful shorn tresses in the dustpan. The regret cut off any more attempt at polite conversation. Mike led me out of the shop, without saying another word.

He must have sensed my total shock and regret. “Hey, I think it looks good – we’re twins, remember?” I sat in the passenger seat of the car feeling numb. Mike ran his hand up the back of my head and then brushed it along the flat top. “Maybe a little too short. It’ll look better in a few weeks.” Weeks?! It sunk in that this terrible haircut was going to be with me for a long while. “Whatever you think, it’s better than that pretty boy look. And better for the heat too….” None of his words were any consolation. All I wanted was my thick, glossy mane back.

Mike gave up on any attempt at upbeat dialogue. We drove towards home in silence. My stomach was in total knots as we pulled up in front of the house. What would be the reaction? The kids playing in the front yard ran over to the car as the doors swung open. Then little Henry let out a yelp, “Dad got a FLATTOP – just like coach Mike’s!!” His voice sounded full of admiration.

Then, one of the neighbor rug-rats started shouting out excitedly, “Boy did he ever get SCALPED!” with a tone of meanness in his remark.

There was a mixture of shock and admiration from the kids. “I want a flattop too!” demanded little Henry. Mike gave me a slight “I told you so” look. My dread and fear receded a bit.

“Your daddy will take you with him to the barbershop next time he gets a haircut, right Hank?” said Mike in his resumed upbeat manner.

But, before I could answer, there was a shriek of horror that came from the direction of the front stoop. “Hank, that looks AWFUL!” shouted the lady of the house.

The rug-rats started all sorts of taunts – “Dumbo ears!” “He got run over by a lawn mower!”

My wife hustled over and continued berating me. “What got into you? Oh, it’s a fine look for Mike, really manly, but on you it looks dorky….”

“Honey,” I said breaking into her invectives, “it’s only for summer.” Never truer words were spoken…

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