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A Coach Connor Special - part 2 by JB


A Coach Connor Special by JB

Part 2: The Three Coaches


The time : Friday afternoon, Sept. 1, 1978
The place: Northridge High School, football field

The Northridge Rangers varsity football team is concluding its practice
session. Head Coach Dan Connor calls the team over as assistant coaches
Henderson and Wahlenczek gather up stray equipment. Coach Connor,
"Good practice, guys. Very good. Saw a lot of improvement from a lot of
players today. Forslund, you caught nearly every one of Jeff's passes. Quite
an accomplishment considering he throws like a girl." "Daaad." Coach
Connor grins and raps his knuckles against his son's helmet while Jeff's
teammates snicker.
Of course, Jeff Connor doesn't throw like a girl. He's one of the best
quarterbacks the school has seen for many years, going all the way back to
the late '50s when his dad, the coach, quarterbacked for the team.
The coach continues, "Your throwing has been spot on, Jeff. And in that
last scrimmage, your decision to run the ball for the touchdown instead of
passing was a good move. Quick thinking, Son." His dad rarely compliments
his playing skills in front of the team. Jeff knows his dad respects his
abilities and he doesn't need to have it said. Still, it's nice to hear from time
to time. Jeff, "I thought you were gonna say I RUN like a girl, too." "Well,
you do. But I didn't want to embarrass ya in front of the team." Amidst the
guffaws and catcalls, Coach Connor raises his voice, "That's it for today,
guys. Hit the showers." The players noisily head for the locker room, walking
and jogging.
Assistant coach Chuck Henderson comes up alongside Coach Connor,
"Great team this year, Coach. Oughta be a good season. That son of yours is
somethin' else. Wish I had his talent when I was in school." Dan, "You and
me both, Henderson." Assistant coach Mike Wahlenczek joins the group as
they head for the locker room, "And he doesn't have a swelled head about it
either. I'da been struttin' like a rock star at that age." Dan, "Well, I try to
keep him down-to-earth by teasin' him all the time, but honestly, it isn't
really necessary. He's a pretty modest kid. Guess he was born with it, like
his football skills... Probably gets it from his mother."
As the coaches approach the school building, Dan thinks about the team
haircut idea he's been planning and mentally rehearses the speech he's
about to give.
Coach Connor enters the locker room and sets his plan into motion:
"Guys... Listen up..." He waits for the hubbub to die down, "Got an
announcement to make... First day of the school year is next Wednesday.
First game of the season is next Friday, week from today. I've got a good
feeling about the team this year. A lot of talented guys here. I think we
could go all the way and take the State Championship." The players whoop
and cheer. "For the last few weeks I've been thinkin' of ways to bring the
team together. To give us an advantage over the other teams." Jeff looks up
at his dad. He knows where this is heading. One of his teammates whispers
in Jeff's direction, "Is he gonna give us drugs or something?" "Haircuts", Dan
says. The guys: "What?" "What d'ya mean?" Dan, "Team haircuts." "Oh
man." "No way!" Coaches Henderson and Wahlenczek glance at each other
and give a I-didn't-know-about-this-either shrug. Dan, "Gotta get yer hair
cut like mine." Coach Connor has a regular medium haircut, slightly tapered
in back and above the ears with bangs about an inch above the eyebrows.
He continues, "Above the ears, off the collar, and outa yer eyes." "Aww,
c'mon." "You serious?" "We gotta get butched?" "Geez."
Dan, "Now, you know I respect you guys. All of you." He looks around the
room and makes eye contact to emphasize his words, "I wouldn't ask you to
do this without giving it a lot of thought. And I'm not gonna force any of you
to get your haircut. But I'm hoping you will, out of a sense of team spirit.
And you won't be going it alone, you know. Everyone'll be in the same boat.
Think of the psychological impact it'll have on the other teams. And on
yourselves. You'll be a cohesive, unified force to be reckoned with. And
besides, it's just a haircut. It'll grow back in no time." Erik Forslund nudges
Jeff's shoulder, "Did you know about this, Jeff?" "Yeah. Well...sort of. Dad
mentioned it about a week ago- kinda left it up in the air. I haven't heard
anything about it since. I thought he decided against it... Guess not."
Hearing the grumbling from his teammates, Jeff decides that if his dad's
plan is going to work, he should show some encouragement. The team looks
up to him. If he supports his dad's idea, it'll make it easier for the other
guys to support it as well, "It's not a bad idea though, is it. It'll bring the
team together, like we're all one big family. And I think he's right about the
effect it'll have on the other teams, it'll screw with their heads." Erik, "Yeah,
I guess."
Coach Connor, "Our next practice is Monday at noon. We're gonna have
the team photos taken for the yearbook, so I want you all lookin' real sharp
with your new haircuts." (More grumbling) "I've made arrangements with
Hank and Arley at Hank's Klipper-Kut barbershop, that's where I get my hair
cut. It's just a few blocks from here. They'll cut yer hair for free. Won't cost
you anything. Just tell 'em yer on the team and they'll take care of ya. You
can go to your regular barber if you like, but you'll have to pay for your
haircut. The Klipper-Kut is closed Sundays and Mondays so you have all day
tomorrow, Saturday, t'get the job done. Remember: above the ears, off the
collar, above the eyebrows. Just tell 'em you want it cut like mine. They'll
know what you mean. I'll see you all on Monday, men. Wanna see ya lookin'
real sharp." Amid the grousing and grumbling, Dan addresses the assistant
coaches, "Wahlenczek, Henderson, I'd like t'see you in my office for a
minute." Once inside, Dan shuts the door and takes his seat behind the
desk, "So, what do you two think of this idea?"
Chuck Henderson and Mike Wahlenczek are in their mid twenties, fresh
out of college with degrees in physical education. In addition to assisting
with the football team, they also teach several of the P.E. classes at
Northridge. Chuck Henderson wears his chestnut brown hair in a medium
layer cut, parted in the center and covering most of his ears. Mike
Wahlenczek has the surfer dude look, his blond, sun streaked, haystack hair
parted off center, spilling over his ears and collar.
Chuck, "Well, first of all, it would've been nice t'know about it a little
sooner, don't ya think?" Mike, "Yeah, man. We coulda given ya our 2 cents
worth. Hashed out the details." Dan, "Yeah, I know. Probably shoulda told
you guys about it earlier. Sorta been keeping it under wraps I guess. I did
bounce the idea off of Jeff last week. He wasn't too keen on it. Wasn't sure
the guys would go for it." Chuck, "Well, the part about bringin' the guys
together as a unit sounds good. This is already a good team, add that
psychological element into the mix and we could be unstoppable." Dan, "My
thoughts exactly, Henderson." Mike, "Well, it all hinges on whether the guys
show up for their haircuts, doesn't it? A couple of 'em, like Jeff, already have
kinda short hair. Won't be much of a change for them. But most of these
guys have never had their hair cut up above their ears, at least not since
they were little kids." Dan, "Well, like I said, I've been mulling this over for a
while now and I think if enough of the guys get their haircut, it'll act like a
tipping point. They'll convince the others to go along with it. Ya gotta
remember, these guys aren't timid little wallflowers, they're risk takers,
adventurers, or they wouldn't be on the team." Chuck, "And like ya said, it's
just a haircut. It's not like yer telling 'em they gotta shave their heads or
something."
Dan hesitates for a second... "Well, here's the thing... After I leave here
today I'm going over to the Klipper-Kut and get myself a good old fashioned
flattop haircut." Mike, "Oh man, you serious?" Chuck, "I think I see where
yer goin' with this: The guys'll go to the Klipper-Kut to get their free haircuts
tomorrow and they'll tell 'em to cut their hair like yours..." Mike, "And they'll
all end up with flattops! Man, oh man!" Dan, "We all will." "What?" "Yeah. I
want you two t'get yerself flattopped too, this afternoon if you can." Mike
reflexively reaches up and touches his blond bangs, "Geez Dan, I don't
know..." Dan, "Well, think about it: I'm gettin' a flattop, all the guys'll be
gettin' flattops. What d'ya think their opinion of you guys'll be if yer the only
two without a flattop? Remember, this is all for morale, for team spirit."
Mike, "Yeah. I see yer point. But a flattop...", he runs his hand through his
hair, "My fiancée will kill me." "How much d'ya wanna bet she likes it,
Wahlenczek." Chuck, "So Hank's, huh...today?" " Yeah. Well, you can get it
cut anywhere ya like, but they'll do it for free at Hank's." Mike, "This is fer
real, right? Yer not just pullin' some bogus joke on us?" "Wahlenczek, have
you ever known me t'be a joker?" "Well, there was that one time when you
put..." "Look. You can come with me to Hank's and I'll get my haircut first."
"Naw, that's O.K. I wanna go home an' shower an' eat something first."
Chuck, "Same here. (Heh) Boy, the you-know-what's gonna hit the fan when
these guys see themselves in the mirror for the first time."
That last comment catches Dan's attention. He hadn't thought about the
mirrors. The guys will see themselves from the start and put a halt to things
when they see too much hair coming off. No flattops. "Hmmm", he thinks,
"Gotta think of something. Quick."

After leaving the school, Dan heads over to Hank's for his haircut. Hank
and Arley are both busy with other customers, so Dan takes a seat in the
waiting area. Arley, "Hey Coach." "Hey yerself, Barber", Dan replies. Arley
smiles back, "We just cut yer hair last week. Must be here for yer team
haircut, that right?" "Yep. Oh- thanks for going along with this idea of mine,
Arley." "You bet." Hank, "Be with ya in a minute, Dan. Just finishing up
here."
Thinking about the 'mirror' problem, Dan looks around the shop hoping to
get some ideas. The Klipper-Kut is pretty much like any other traditional
barbershop: A countertop filled with barbering equipment along one wall
with a row of mirrors above that. Barber chairs in front of the counter.
Chairs lined up against the opposite wall in the waiting area with more
mirrors above that. Dan sees the customers in the barber chairs facing
toward him. As he thinks about it, that's the way it is in other barbershops
he's been in as well. Barbers usually face their customers away from the
countertop wall and toward the waiting area wall. Makes it easier for the
barber to get at his tools.
Hank finishes his customer's haircut and swivels the chair around to face
the countertop mirrors, "How's that look to ya, Roy?" "Just fine. As usual,
Hank."
Dan continues his thought: So the customer never sees the mirrors above
the counter till the end, after the haircut is finished. Maybe not even then-
Sometimes Hank and Arley don't swivel the chair around at all. That just
leaves the mirrors above the waiting area chairs... (thweeet) Hank gives a
little whistle to get Dan's attention. Dan looks over and sees Hank motioning
him into the barber chair. As he gets seated, Hank fastens the cape and
neck strip in place, "Looked like you were a hundred miles away there, Dan.
Somethin' on yer mind?" Dan hasn't said anything to Hank or Arley about
the 'tricky' part of his team haircut idea; The part about the team not
knowing they're going to be flattopped. He decided it would be best if the
two barbers were kept in the dark. If this haircut idea doesn't work out, Dan
will take the heat, not the barbers. "Oh, just going over some plays in my
head. First game of the season is a week from today." Dan can plainly see
himself in the mirrors on the opposite wall: Definitely gonna need t'get rid of
those mirrors, or cover 'em up, or...
Hank, "So, how am I cuttin' yer hair here? You never did say what these
team haircuts are gonna be... Taper cuts?" "Flattops. Good old fashioned,
squared up the sides flattops with landing strips big enough to land a Navy
jet on." Arley, "Hoo-eee. Gonna be, I say, it's gonna be like bein' at the
Marine base barbershop again, I'll tell ya what." Dan, "Yeah well, I figure
these haircuts have t'be something extreme, something people can't help
but notice. That way, the haircut becomes a part of the team's identity, part
of the uniform." Hank, "Oh, people will notice all right. A bunch o' guys
runnin' around with flattops in these long-haired days? Yep, they'll notice."
Hank lifts the rotary clippers from the rack in front of the counter, picks up a
flattopper comb and runs the comb through Dan's hair a few times, "So,
what kind o' flattop we talkin' here? Short, medium, long?" Dan, "I think a
regular medium flattop'll do the trick, Hank. Leave a bit of the sideburns
showing an' take the top down short enough for a good landing strip."
Hank, "Will do."
Hank starts up the clippers and runs them around Dan's ears and halfway
up the sides and back, cutting the hair to an eighth of an inch. Using the
flattopper comb, Hank lifts up the top hair and slides the clippers across,
leaving it about an inch and a quarter long. Dan sees the hair pile up on the
cape and thinks: "The guys'll see that too an' wonder what's goin' on. Well,
can't do anything about that. They know a bunch of their hair's gonna come
off. They'll be expectin' t'see a lot of it in their laps."
Arley has finished with his customer and is lounging in the barber chair,
"I'll tell ya what ,there musta been a whole lot o' grumblin' an' groaning
when the guys found out they were gonna get themselves flattopped." Dan
feels a sudden twinge of guilt as Arley explores this train of thought. Arley
continues, "I mean, sometimes I get strange looks from folks with this here
taper cut of mine. An' it's nuthin' compared to a flattop." Hank jumps in with
his best 'Arley' impersonation, "Arley, if yer, I say, If yer gettin' strange
looks from folks, it has nuthin' t'do with yer haircut, I'll tell ya what." They
all get a laugh out of that, even Arley.
Using the clippers, Hank tapers Dan's remaining side hair straight up to
the crown leaving it square and boxy looking. He sets the clippers aside,
takes a dab of Butch Wax and rubs it through Dan's hair. With a blow dryer,
a brush, and a little water, Hank gets Dan's hair standing straight up, ready
to be flattopped. He reaches over and gets the magnetic clippers from the
rack along with a flattopper comb. The clippers come on with a hum and
Hank proceeds to take the top down, guiding the clippers over the comb
again and again leaving the top of Dan's head flat, square, and level. Hank,
"That enough of a landing strip for ya?" Dan lowers his head and tilts it from
side to side, his untanned scalp clearly visible through the short bristles
down the center, "Looks just right." He reaches up and brushes his hand
across the top, "Above the ears: check. Off the collar: check. Above the
eyebrows: double check. Looks great, Hank. Now, that's what I call a team
haircut." Arley, "A Coach Connor Special."

At home, assistant coach Chuck Henderson changes into a T-shirt and
jeans after showering. As he blow dries and combs his hair, he stops and
looks at his reflection, contemplating the change he's about to undergo:
"Man, what am I in for?", He looks at his comb, "Prob'ly won't be needin'
this for a while." In the mirror, he tries to picture himself with a flattop...but
doesn't quite succeed. "Oh, well... It's just a haircut... Just a haircut...Just
a..." He grabs his keys and heads out the door.
As Chuck pulls in to the Klipper-Kut, Dan Connor is coming out the door of
the shop. Dan, "Hey, Henderson. How's it look?" Chuck's eyes lock onto the
Coach's fresh flattop, "Geez, gonna take some gettin' used to. Looks great
though." "Yeah. I might just keep it this way for a while." Dan runs his hand
across his landing strip as Chuck looks on in fascination, "Well get yerself in
there Henderson, the clippers are gettin' cold. Looks like you could use a
good haircut, anyhow", he grins, "Hey. Mind if I come in an' watch? I gotta
see this." "Sure. Knock yerself out."
The two of them enter the shop. Hank is sweeping hair off the floor while
Arley, still lounging, jumps out of the chair and shakes the barber cape with
a crisp snap. Dan, motioning at the empty barber chair with his chin, "Looks
like yer next, Henderson." Arley, "Hey Coach. Back for more? Not short
enough for ya?" "Naw. Hank gave me a great cut. I just wanna see
Henderson here get his ears lowered." Chuck gets into the chair as Arley
starts to cape him up. Arley, "Just a trim for ya today?" Chuck, "Naw. Cut it
like the Coach's hair, gimme a flattop", he snickers, "Geez. Can't believe I
just said that." Arley, "Another flattop, huh. You loose a bet?" Dan, "Chuck
here, is one of my assistant coaches", a twinkle come to Dan's eye, "He said
it'd be a big morale booster if the team saw all the coaches with matching
flattops, isn't that right, Henderson." Chuck replies by giving a sickly grin.
Arley, "Can't argue with that."
Arley revs up the rotary clippers to 'full speed ahead', "Takes guts, a
young long-haired guy like you, volunteering yerself for a flattop in this day
and age. "Yeah, well...", Chuck catches the glint in Dan's eye, "For the
team." Arley lifts Chuck's feathered brown hair up with the flattopper comb
and proceeds to lop off large hunks, leaving it about 1 1/4" long in some
places, 1" in others. "Ya got a thick head o' hair here. Gonna make a fine
lookin' flattop." In the mirror, Chuck sees his hair tumbling onto his
shoulders and into his lap. And he sees the chop-job that's left of his
remaining hair. Some of it lying down (barely), some of it standing upright,
some of it still flopping over the tops of his ears. Arley notices the worried
look on his face, "Don't worry, none. This is just the pre-cut. Need t'get rid
of a lot of this bulk so's I can see what I'm up against." After a few more
swipes, the clippers are switched off and Chuck is left with a choppy, goofy-
looking brush cut. Chuck, "Geez. This takes me back to when I was a kid.
Musta been about 1960/'61. My dad thought he could save some money
giving my brother an' me home haircuts. Didn't work out too good." Chuck
reaches up and lightly runs his hand over the uneven brush cut. Arley,
"What d'ya say Coach. Should I turn him loose like this? Be good for a few
laughs." Chuck grins as his face turns a bit red from embarrassment.
Arley, "Now, yer sure ya wanna go through with this? I can just even up
what's left here an' call it done." Dan, still with the glint in his eye says,
"Heck, no. No son of mine is goin' out in public with anything but a nice
sharp flattop." Chuck plays along, "Awww, Dad. None of the other kids have
flattops." They all get a good laugh at that.
The clippers begin whirring again and Arley positions them below Chuck's
sideburns. The big grin on Chuck's face abruptly disappears as the clippers
mow a path up the side of his head. Chuck, "Still can't believe I'm doin' this.
It's 1978, not '58." Dan, "That's the whole point, Henderson. These haircuts
will show the other teams we mean business. Not afraid of anything." The
whirring stops again as Arley finishes squaring up Chuck's sides and back.
He hangs the rotary clippers up on the rack and grabs a jar of Butch Wax,
rubs a small dab between his palms, and works it into the uneven hair atop
Chuck's head. Using a stiff bristle brush in one hand and a blow dryer in the
other, Arley brushes Chuck's hair upright over and over till it stands up
perfectly straight. Arley switches off the blow dryer and picks up the
flattopper comb along with a pair of magnetic 'buzzer' clippers. Dan, "Looks
like ya seen a ghost, Henderson." Chuck, focusing on his top that's about to
be flattened, gives a nervous little laugh. Arley holds the flattopper comb
level with the top of Chuck's head and slides it into his hair at the front, "So
how short d'ya want it up here, anyways?" Dan, "Make it bleed, Arley. I
want the astronauts t'see that landing strip from space." Chuck, "Aww,
c'mon, Dad", (more snickering), "Seriously though, don't get it TOO short,
O.K? I mean, I don't mind standin' out in a crowd, but I don't wanna look
like a freak or somethin'. Just cut it like his." He motions to Dan, grinning
across from him. Arley, "You got it, a Coach Connor Special." The clippers
come on with a 'snap' and begin to hum. With concentration, Arley lifts the
comb to the required height and slides the clippers through the hair sticking
up above the comb, leaving the front 7/8" long. He repositions the comb
behind the first cut and takes another swipe. A few beads of sweat break out
on Chuck's forehead. "Man, oh man", Chuck mutters. Dan, "Lookin' good,
Henderson." Chuck manages a weak smile as Arley continues to flatten his
deck. Soon, the choppy brush cut is gone, replaced with a flawless flat plane
no more than a quarter inch high at the center. Arley switches the clippers
off and steps aside, "So, how's that? Short enough for ya? I can go shorter if
ya like." Chuck, "No, that's...that's fine." Looking in the mirror, he moves his
head left and right, the landing strip flashing like a beacon under the
fluorescent lights. Dan, "Well, I don't know if the astronauts can see that
strip, but I sure can. Good work, Arley." The clippers are switched on again
as Arley evens up the sharp edges where the top meets the sides. After a
few more careful swipes here and there, Arley shuts off the clippers and
steps back, giving Chuck's flattop a final inspection, "Nice and sharp, if I do
say so myself. (And I do.)". Dan, "Sharp, smooth, and flat. What more could
you ask." Chuck, "Well, I could ask for a longer haircut, but that ain't
happenin', geez." He lightly runs his hand over the landing strip, "Does look
pretty good though. Like a rough, tough Marine." Arley, "Like me! Oh,
wait...I don't have a flattop no more", he grins. Dan, "Welcome to the
flattop club, Henderson. Got yerself a Coach Connor Special." Dan grabs a
couple of sticks of Krew Comb from a display case and tosses one to Chuck,
"Here, we're gonna need this t'keep our flats standing at attention." He
whips out his wallet to pay for the control sticks, "First cut's on me,
Henderson." Chuck, climbing out of the chair, "First cut?" Hank, sitting in the
other chair, "Yeah. You'll be needin' t'come in an' have that flat tightened up
every 2 weeks or so t'keep it lookin' sharp." Dan, "We'll be keepin' these
flattops till at least the end of the football season. Heck, I might just keep
mine year round." He reaches over and sweeps a finger up the side of
Chuck's head, "You too, Henderson. Looks good on you." Chuck, grinning,
"Gee Dad, yer the greatest!" Dan, "That's my boy." Chuckling, the coaches
head for the door. Arley, "Almost forgot..." He hands Chuck a lollipop,
"That's for bein' a good boy an' not squirmin' in the chair." They all laugh.
Chuck unwraps the sucker and tucks it into his cheek, "Gjee sthanks,
mishter!" (more laughter) Dan, "Hope you guys got a big jar of those.
Gonna be a lot of kids comin' in tomorrow gettin' their Coach Connor
Special", he runs his hand up and over his head for emphasis. Hank,
"Gotcha, guess we better sharpen up the blades on the ol' Osters. Gonna be
a lot o' hair hittin' the floor." Dan gives Arley a little salute as they head out
the door.
Chuck, standing next to his car, "So Hank and Arley here, they think the
guys know they're gonna end up with flattops when they ask to get their
haircut like yours, a Coach Connor Special." Dan, "Yep." "And the guys think
they're gettin' a regular, above the ears medium cut like yours, well, like
you used to have." "Yep" "Man, oh man. I'd really like t'be here tomorrow
t'see their faces when they get that first look in the mirror" "You and me
both, Henderson. But I think the glare from our landing strips would kinda
ruin the surprise, wouldn't it." Chuck (snickering), "Yeah. I guess ya could
say that." He brushes his hand across the top of his head, "Geez. When do
you get used to this, anyway?" "You don't. A flattop is forever, Henderson.
Once a flattopper, always a flattopper." They both laugh. Chuck, "Man, you
better be joking" (still brushing his head), "I don't wanna be stuck with this
the rest of my life." "We'll see, Henderson. We'll see." The grin abruptly
leaves Chuck's face and is replaced with a deer-in-the-headlights look, the
lollipop stick dangling from the corner of his mouth. Dan, opening his car
door, grins as he sees the change of expression on Chuck's face, "Anyway, I
contacted Derek Miller, the student photographer who'll be taking the team
photos on Monday. Told him the guys are gonna get team haircuts here
tomorrow. He jumped right on it. Said it'd make a great yearbook feature.
So we'll be seeing those first looks on the guys faces eventually. I think I'll
have prints made and put together a photo album. The guys would get a
kick outa that, seeing each other's reactions."
Chuck, "Y'know, this little trick of yours will either generate tons of team
spirit or the guys'll go around covering their heads in shame. We could win
the State Championship, or we could lose every game." Dan, "I've thought
about that, and I'm sure the guys will rise to the occasion when they see
that we're all in the same boat. Safety in numbers. I just hope we win that
first game or it could all head south." Chuck, "Got my fingers crossed." As
he opens his car door, he catches his reflection in the side mirror, "Man, I
don't think my dog is gonna recognize me." Dan chuckles as the two men
get in their cars and head home.
Back inside the shop, Arley is sweeping the floor, "Y'know Hank, we're
gonna be cuttin' a whole mess o' flattops tomorrow. I think we need t'speed
the process up some. Maybe use a #8 clipper guard for the boxing in. Only
take a few seconds t'give 'em an all-over 1" buzzcut, like they was recruits
at the Marine base, only longer. From there, turnin' it into a flattop would be
a snap, don't ya think?" "Not a bad idea. Sounds like a plan. Maybe skip the
Butch Wax too, unless it looks like it needs it. Hey Arley, you can head on
home if ya like. It's gettin' near closing time, I'll finish up here." Arley sets
the broom aside, "Don't need to tell me twice. I'm outa here. See ya
tomorrow, Hank." "See ya, Arley."

Assistant coach Mike Wahlenczek is in his kitchen eating leftover pizza and
talking on the phone to his fiancée, Sherri, the cord from the wall-mounted
phone stretching across the table. "So anyway, the coach told us, Chuck an'
me, that we need t'get flattops, too." (silence), "So, what d'you think about
that?" (more silence... then) "Oh my gawd, I think it's fantastic! I love guys
with short hair. I mean, I love your long blond hair too, Mikey, but
sometimes I picture you with shorter hair, like maybe up above your ears. I
thought about asking you to get it cut, but, well, it's your hair, and it does
look nice on you, and it was just a silly notion anyway, so I didn't mention
it."
Dang, Mike thought to himself. He was hoping Sherri would go ballistic
when he told her about the whole flattop thing; give him an excuse to not go
through with it. Mike, "Yeah but, what about the wedding? The photos?"
Sherri, feigning surprise and alarm, "Oh. My. Gawd. That's right, the
wedding!...Well, looks like I'll be stuck marrying the sexiest, most handsome
guy there, won't I. Honestly, you couldn't give me a better wedding gift,
Mikey."
So that's it then, Mike thinks, Guess I'll be gettin' a flattop after all,
"So...Just wanted t'make sure you were O.K. with it before I headed out."
"Mike, it's really sweet of you to check with me first, but honestly, I'm
thrilled about it. Come over afterwards. I want to see how it looks!"
Mike, " Sure...Keep an eye out for me. I'll be the blond guy with a flattop
haircut." (Sherri laughs)
They say their goodbyes and Mike hangs up the phone. He grabs his car
keys and heads for the front door, stopping in front of the mirror in the
entryway. He looks at the sun-bleached, feathered hair. Running his hand up
through his thick blond mane, Mike forcibly exhales and heads out the door.
Pulling up in front of Hank's, Mike gets out of his car and enters the shop.
The Klipper-Kut is a far cry from Mike's usual shop. Over there, the salon
walls are painted white, plants trail down from hanging baskets, and more
often than not, a lady barber cuts Mike's hair. Here at Hank's, the walls are
clad with knotty pine. Mounted deer antlers line the upper walls. Twangy
country music is coming from an ancient radio and the shop smells of Butch
Wax and clipper oil.
Hank, sweeping piles of hair off the floor, looks up, "Hello there. Looks like
yer next." Hank sets the broom aside, "You just barely made it in. Another
10 or 15 minutes and we woulda been closed." He lifts the pinstriped cape
off the arm of the barber chair.
Well, here goes, Mike thinks to himself. He exhales loudly and climbs into
the sturdy chair. He lifts his feet onto the heavy, chromed footrest and
places his arms on the chair's maroon colored leather upholstery. Hank
drapes the cape loosely around Mike's shoulders and lifts the hair up in back
as he wraps the paper strip around Mike's neck and tightly fastens the cape.
Mike can't help thinking he's like a trussed up animal, ready for slaughter.
Hank picks up a pair of scissors and a barber comb, "So, ya want me t'just
trim it up a bit for ya?" Naw, I'm an assistant coach down at the high school
and..." "Oh, here t'get yerself a flattop, huh? A Coach Connor Special." Mike
snickers, "Is that what they're callin' it? Yeah. Give me a Coach Connor
Special."
Hank puts the scissors and comb aside and grabs the rotary clippers from
the rack. As the loud whirring begins, Hank lifts up Mike's hair with a square
flattopper comb and takes large quick swipes with the clippers, one after
another removing most of the bulk. Hank, "Hey, I found some ears under
here." As the preliminary boxing-in is completed, the clippers are turned off
and Mike is left with a rough taper cut, 1 to 1 1/4 inches on the sides, a little
longer on top. The hair atop mike's head is already short enough to stand
up, while the bangs are struggling to lie down in front.
Mike, looking in the mirror, "Man, I haven't had my hair cut this short
since I was about 12 years old, back in the mid '60s. Dad didn't like how I
was growing my hair out longer. 'Beatle haircut' he called it. So he had the
barber give me a short cut, sorta like this." Mike pulls his arm out from
under the cape and motions up the side of his head and around the top,
"Less than an inch up here with my bangs cut at an angle. Guess that was to
keep me from combing my hair down straight on my forehead."
Hank, "Yep. That was a pretty typical cut back then. Even as late as
'68/'69 I was still givin' crew-cuts to a few high schoolers. Their dads were
cops or in the military, I think." Hank's thoughts return to the task at hand,
"So. How short am I goin' here; How short d'ya want it?" The question
catches Mike off guard. He just assumed all flattops were pretty much alike,
"Uhh, well, I don't know. It's a flattop, isn't it." Hank, "Well, I can leave it
kinda long and boxy like they wore back in the fifties. Or I can take it down
to the skin, Marine-style, or somewhere in between." Long sounds good to
Mike. Take less time to grow back. "Let's go with the long and boxy look."
"You got it." The clippers come on again and Hank squares up the sides and
back of Mike's hair leaving the sideburns and arch above the ears 1/4" long,
while the hair around the crown is about an inch. The rotary clippers are
turned off again. With a little water and Butch Wax, Hank uses the blow
dryer to get Mike's hair standing up stiff and straight. As the dryer is put
aside, Hank pumps the barber chair up a few times, bringing the top of
Mike's head to eye level [Ker-clunk, Ker-clunk]. He picks up the flattopper
comb and a pair of magnetic motor 'buzzer' clippers, "O.K, here comes the
point of no return. Don't make any sudden moves." The clippers start to
hum. Mike tenses up and holds his breath as Hank slides the comb into his
dark blond brush cut. The clippers buzz a path through the thick, stiff hair
above the comb, making a slight rustling sound as the hair is cut. Hank,
"Just like mowin' a wheat field." He makes another pass with the clippers.
Mike can feel his hair vibrate a little as the buzzer plows across the top of
his head. After a few more carefully aimed swipes, Mike's deck is leveled flat
and smooth. Mike, "Geez". Hank, "Quite a transformation, huh?" Mike lowers
his head to look at the slight landing strip under the half inch hair at the top
of his head. Hank works a boar bristle brush all around Mike's head, getting
his flattop to stand up to its full height. Hank, "So, how's it look?" Mike
lightly pats the top of his deck, "Wow!" A big grin creeps across his face, "I
think I could get used to this." He slowly sweeps his hand up the back of his
head, feeling every hair bend and spring back to attention. Hank, "Yes,
sir-ee. Flattop's a fine looking haircut. Gotta keep it trimmed though; it'll
start lookin' shaggy in a couple o' weeks. Especially up here", he flicks the
upper edge of Mike's hair with his finger, "After a while, this part here will
start ta stick out like a pair of wings." "Guess I'll be comin' in for regular
tune-ups then, huh." Mike tilts and turns his head to get a good look at
himself, "My hair's a lot darker now, almost brown." Hank, "Yeah, well all
that sun-bleached hair is gone now. Just the darker, unexposed part left. It'll
lighten back up over time." Mike looks down at all the blond hair in his lap
and lifts up a large clump, "I shoulda done this a long time ago."
Hank loosens the cape in back and uses a fine-toothed edger at the base
of Mike's neck, then moves to the sides to square up his sideburns. He picks
up a duster brush and whisks the loose hairs off Mike's face and behind his
ears and neck. Finally, Hank lifts and removes the cape, being careful so the
hair doesn't spill onto Mike's lap, "There ya go. One boxy flattop."
Mike, "(heh) I can't seem to stop runnin' my hands through it." "Yeah. You'll
get that a lot now. People wanting t'feel yer hair. One of the side effects of
havin' a flattop." Mike pulls out his wallet. Hank, "No, no: This one's on the
house." "Yeah, I know. Coach Connor already took care of it. Consider this
your tip." Mike hands a five over to Hank, "Best haircut of my life and it
didn't cost me anything. Can't beat that." Mike heads out the door, craning
his neck to catch a glimpse of himself in the window glass. Hank knows he's
gained another regular customer.
Mike parks his car in front of his fiancée's house and starts walking up the
driveway. Sherri, who has been watching at the window, comes rushing out
to meet him, "Oh my gawd! It looks even better than I imagined." She grabs
Mike by the side of his head with both hands and gives him a big kiss. She
pulls back a bit to get a better look at her blond Adonis, "Let me feel it,
Mikey." He tilts his head down to oblige. As Sherri strokes the soft bristles
atop his head, Mike recalls Hank's 'warning' about people wanting to feel his
flattop, "Looks great, doesn't it. I was a little anxious at first, when all the
hair was comin' off. But after I saw the finished cut, I thought: Wow, this is
one gnarly haircut." Sherri, "I'm so glad you did this." She continues gazing
at Mike's hair, "It's a lot darker now, isn't it." "Yeah, I know. It's almost like
I'm somebody else."
Sherri's neighbor, Mrs. Mortimer, has been watching from her front yard
while watering her geraniums with a garden hose. She's met Mike before,
but she doesn't recognize the 'new' Mike, "Why, shame on you Sherri
McKenzie. Here you are, carrying on with this young man and you're
supposed to be marrying Mike next month! Why, I have half a mind to...Oh,
it's you", she finishes meekly. "I didn't recognize you with the...", she points
at Mike's flattop, "...haircut."
Mike decides to have some fun with the situation, "Uhh...Gee. This is
kinda awkward. I didn't see you over there...I'm Mike's twin brother...Steve.
Guess our little secret is out now, huh." Sherri looks on in bemused horror.
Mike, "We better go inside." The two of them enter the house, leaving Mrs.
Mortimer in a befuddled state, her geraniums floating away.
Inside her home, Sherri confronts Mike, "You little monster", she says with
a laugh, "Now she's going to tell all the neighbors I'm cheating on you."
Mike, feeling inspired, "Hey. Maybe I could wear a long blond wig
sometimes, really mess with her head." "Stop it, Mike!" She's laughing
louder now, "This isn't like you at all." "Hey. Yer talkin' to Steve now,
remember? Flattop Steve can do all sorts of things that long-haired Mike
wouldn't dream of." "Well now, what sorts of things are we talking about
here, Flattop Steve?" she says flirtatiously.
Later on, a good time was had by all: Mike, Sherri, and Flattop Steve.





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