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Phil's trip ends with a rough landing by Manny

Chapter 1 - Phil's Admires a Flattop

As Phil flipped through the airline magazine mindlessly, waiting for all the passengers to board, he glanced at his watch and figured they'd be closing the door at any moment. As he heard the expected announcement crackle over the PA system that the flight would be departing on time, Phil saw a tall handsome man sporting an immaculate flattop making his way down the aisle. His white teeth dazzled as he smiled apologetically, ensuring that his large carry-on didn't hurt any of the seated passengers. From his breathlessness, it was obvious he'd been running. However, every hair of his groomed head was uniformly erect and immaculately in place.

Phil was treated to an unimpeded few of the side and back of the perfectly sculpted haircut and head, as he watched the fellow take a seat just across the aisle and slightly in front of him.

Phil's secret weakness for flattops was totally camouflaged by his own flowing mane of magnificent honey-colored hair streaked with natural auburn highlights. It was full of body and cascaded to his shoulders, like those male models in the fancy clothing ads. Oh, to be shorn down like the fellow across the aisle! Phil imagined himself caped up in a traditional barbershop, head bent forward and a set of powerful electric hair clippers moving up through his pampered tresses. It was a fantasy he enjoyed indulging whenever he spotted a perfect flattop like the one on the handsome fellow across the aisle.

About 45 minutes after the plane reached cruising altitude, Phil noticed the young man unbuckling his belt and getting up, presumably to use the bathroom. As he passed, Phil spontaneously jumped up to follow. He was in luck! The lavatory was occupied with a short line. Phil stood only inches behind the marvelously shorn flattop, admiring the meticulous care some barber had put into the haircut.

Absentmindedly, he fondled his own hair -- the soft locks of his own mane were such a contrast to the shorn head in front of him with its crown plastered into place with butch wax! An "attractive nuisance" was how one of his colleagues had termed his trademark tresses. For years, Phil had been working up the courage to have it all chopped off, but he couldn't stand to execute his plan. His hair was his best feature, and every stylist that he'd had told him he was one of the few men that could pull off a good look with long hair.

The line to the loo moved more quickly than he anticipated, and before he knew it, the flattop had slid the door to the lavatory shut. A few minutes later, Phil heard the flush followed by water in the sink. Then he watched carefully as his object of interest emerged from the small closet-like bathroom.

Unplanned, Phil heard himself utter aloud, "I love your haircut!"

The fellow flashed a broad smile and replied, "Thanks, that's the second compliment I've gotten on my flattop today!" Without ceremony, the lad squeezed by to return to his seat. As he did, Phil detected a faint smell of witch hazel. The fellow must have come straight from the barbershop to the airport.

As Phil returned to his seat, he saw the fellow with the flattop looking back down the aisle, smiling at him. As he drew nearer, the fellow invited Phil to sit next to him.

"There's a nice window seat empty beside me here," the fellow noted cheerfully.

Phil felt a rush of pleasure. He was more than happy to accept the offer. As he eased past the fellow, he got a perfect view of the flattop from directly above. Every single hair was perfectly in place. The dense, plush pile was cut to a completely uniform height and graced his head like a royal diadem. Phil restrained his urge to run his hand over the velvetine bristles.

"Well, that was kind of you to invite me to sit with you!" Phil remarked.

Jake introduced himself, and the two chatted for a while. They seemed to have a lot in common. Phil's heart raced a bit as he steered the conversation back to his main interest, the stunning flattop Jake sported.

"So you mentioned that I was the second person to compliment you on your haircut -- who was the other?" Phil asked.

"Right as I was coming onboard -- the pilot, or perhaps it was the co-pilot. I can never tell one from the other. Stood there nice and tall in his uniform and cap saying hello to people. And to me he flashed a smile and said something like, 'you and your fantastic haircut, sir, are welcome aboard...even though you cut your arrival time pretty close'. Sometimes people assume I'm in the military and am back on leave from the war." Then Jake turned the focus to Phil's luxuriant mane, "But you must get compliments on your hair too. Not many guys can pull off that sexy longhair look without seeming, you know, uh, well effeminate."

Phil squirmed a bit. "Oh, I do...frequently get compliments -- but never from other guys. Just the ladies. There seem to be a whole gaggle of them out there that are just dying to ply their fingers through my long hair...."

"Yeah," laughed Jake, "you sort of look like those dreamy sex-pots on the cover of the romance novels you see in airport bookstores!"

The conversation lulled. Phil hoped Jake would say something, but he didn't.

Phil secretly ran his own fingers through his mane and finally worked up the nerve to move the conversation forward. "But, I've decided to cut it. The big chop! I've been considering my options....toyed with going very short. I guess that's why I noticed your flattop. It's, well, like the pilot said -- fantastic."

Jake turned to Phil and looked at him directly, eyeing the shimmering mane of caramel-colored hair with fiery auburn highlights that glistened in the strong sun streaming through the window. "My barber would have a heyday with you. You definitely should go flat!"

Phil shuddered. "Oh no," gasped Phil, who was suddenly jerked back to reality. "I don't think I could. I mean, not immediately. People will be fairly shocked that I've cut my long hair -- it's been like this for ages -- and if suddenly I showed up with a flattop, well....."

"Why not, Phil? Go ahead and make a splash! Have the whole lot cut off at once. You'll be stunning, emerging with a dramatic makeover," urged Jake.

"How long have you been flat?" Phil asked.

"Oh, about three years now?" Jake replied.

Phil continued his inquiry, "And did you go gradually shorter or did you opt for an extreme makeover?"

Jake blushed a bit. "You got me there! Here I'm urging you to shed that mane in one visit to the barbershop, but that wasn't something I had the nerve to do myself. To put it plainly, I understand your hesitation, Phil..... Took me several trips to the barber, going shorter each time. But, I got there....and stayed there!"

Jake rubbed his hand up the shorn back and savored the feeling.

"Tell me about your journey going flat, Jake!" Phil urged.

"Well, it started out in the parking lot of my apartment complex. I was cleaning out my car -- feeling hot and sticky. Hair was overgrown and sweaty....it was in a bit of a moptop style. Not nearly as long as yours, but full and floppy on top and thick over the ears and collar. Guy pulled up in the next space over and as he got out commented that I was inspiring him to clean out his own car too. I noticed his flattop, but didn't think too much of it. He came back and we started chatting. I was finishing up on my car and volunteered to vacuum his. It was blistering hot inside. I was complaining about the heat and how sweaty I felt. Hair was falling in my face and he said, quite simply, 'you need a haircut'. The penny dropped, and without thinking, I agreed....and casually added I would like it cut short for a change. He offered to take me to his barber, and I accepted -- in fact, I was the one who suggested going right after we finished cleaning his car. Wanted to keep the momentum going. So, within minutes, I found myself being driven to Todd's barber! I still had no intention of getting a flattop or anything so radical. Once I was in the chair all caped up and the barber asked me how I wanted it cut, Todd piped up and told him to give me a flattop, just like his!"

"Oh, my! That must have been scary!" Phil said.

"Fortunately, the barber laughed it off as joke. So, I told him that I wanted it cut short -- especially the bangs that were very heavy and hanging down to the tip of my nose. The old man, combed my hair forward and then chopped my bangs off about an inch from the hairline. Clumps of cut hair fell onto the cape and I got a wave of remorse and excitement all rolled up into one. Then he attacked what was left with the thinning shears. He basically did the same all over - lopped off the bulk of the length and then thinned the short locks that remained. The way he thrashed at my hair with those thinning shears was amazing! I ended up with a very short version of the style -- and about a third of the hair I had come into the shop with."

"So did Todd continue working on you to go shorter?" Phil asked.

"No, not at all. In fact, I didn't even see him for several months. Something about being in the barbershop got me hankering to go shorter -- all on my own. Less than two weeks later, I was back in the chair. I told the barber I wanted it 'tapered short around the ears' and pointed to the clippers. He got the message, and I came out looking and feeling quite shorn. He asked me how I liked the 'whitewalls'! That was the biggest adjustment for me and my friends -- some really laughed at me and ridiculed the schoolboy look. Even though I felt queasy about the short taper, I kept going every two weeks and had the barber cut it shorter each time. Third visit, I told him I wanted it tapered short all the way up to the crown and the top cut short. Left there with the bottom half of my head skinned and just enough hair on top to grasp between my fingers and the 'bangs' a tad longer. Finally, on the fourth visit, I gave the instruction -- the words poured out easily, 'give me a flattop, just like Todd's!' I felt so elated walking out of the shop with my sides buzzed down to stubble and the top cut ramrod straight. Todd really 'high fived me' when he saw me sporting the same haircut as his several days after I finally went flat."

"And you never grew it out after that?" Phil asked.

"Never!" he laughed.

Once again, the conversation lagged. Finally, Jake eyed Phil's locks mischievously. "Guess what? To quote Todd's sage insight, 'you need a haircut'! What do you say I take you straight from the airport to my barber."

Phil's heart pounded wildly. He had been extended an invitation and he desperately wanted to accept. But his treasured long hair.....there were still parts of him deep down that were reluctant to have it all shorn off.

"Well?" Jake insisted.

Phil took a deep breath and then finally blurted out, "Agreed!"

Jake smiled broadly. "There, that's being a sport! But, unlike me, your journey to flat is going to happen in just one sitting, understand?" said Jake with a firm tone.

Phil squirmed and dawdled, hesitating to reply. He looked up at the fantastic flat he'd admired. Why not, he asked himself? "Understood! And, you will be the one to tell the barber just how my hair should be cut," Phil stated, throwing all caution to the wind.

Jake reached up and grasped one of Phil's thick tresses, "Hmmmmm, can't wait to see this sexy Fabio-wannabe shorn down tight, tight, tight! All this clipped off to the scalp...."


Chapter 2 - Jake Snags the Pilot's Pomp

As Jake and Phil were de-planing, they reached the cockpit, just as the pilot himself was ready to get off. "So we meet again, Mr. Flattop!" the pilot said with a snappy salute.

"Turns out you weren't the only flat-fan onboard today, Mr. Captain. My seatmate, Phil here, liked my haircut so much, I'm taking him to my barber straight from the airport. These long tresses are minutes from being stripped off to a cleancut look."

"Well! A radical improvement, that's what it'll be. Where's your barber? Nearby?" the pilot asked as the trio emerged from the skywalk.

"Not too far, about five miles from here -- Santa Barbara Heights," said Jake.

The pilot pull off his cap, revealing a dense mane of wavy hair, swept back into a fairly elaborate pomp, with the sides and back neatly tapered around the ears and at the nape. "I like trying out new barbershops when I'm on the road. Is there room in the car for a third passenger? This thatch needs some attention," he commented casually as he ran his hand over the top of his wavy mane. "Is your barber good with the thinning shears?"

"You bet! And the clippers too. Phil here has a bargain with me. I'm taking him to my barber on the condition that he lets me determine the haircut," said Jake with a twinkle in his eye.

The pilot didn't respond immediately. Finally, he commented, "Well, Phil's a brave chap!"

"And you're not?!" Phil asked with a laugh.

The three walked in silence towards the baggage claim area.

Finally Jake spoke, addressing the pilot, "You know you've want one for a long time.... I could tell from the moment you greeted me on the plane."

The pilot's hand plunged through his abundant, wavy thatch of dark hair. "Ever since I was in 11th grade and had a crush on my chemistry teacher, an ex-marine who sported the most awesome flattop -- precision cut like yours, but shorter."

"So hop in my car. Come on, man! The chair, cape and clippers are waiting to put an end to that girly pomp you're hiding under your pilot's cap!" Jake said as he egged the pilot on.

"How about this -- all three of us will get haircuts," the pilot suggested. First me, with you instructing the barber. Then you, with me calling the shots...." the pilot added on

"....and Fabio here will be the grand finale!" exclaimed Jake. "Deal?!"

The two men shook hands on their bargain, "Paul's my name," remarked the pilot. "I'm really looking forward to this."


Chapter 3 - Paul Takes Charge

Paul dominated the conversation in the car, but Jake put up a good repartee. The only thing the two agreed about wholeheartedly was how much better Phil was going to look and feel after he been stripped of his prettyboy locks.

The shaggy lad fondled his hair and squirmed as he felt the softness that swirled about his neck. Before the day was over he'd be sporting a flattop! The thought churned through his head and left him feeling excited and nauseous.

"Will this be your first flattop, Paul?" the driver asked the pilot.

"When I've asked about getting one before, the barbers have discouraged me because my hair is so wavy," he explained.

"Meaning you're going to end up with one extremely short flattop today, friend!" laughed Jake. "Cut any hair short enough and it'll be straight!"

"If it turns out bad, I'll always have my cap to conceal the crisis until it grows out...." Phil said with a chuckle.

As they parked, Paul joked, "Now, Jake. I don't want any fussing or whining in there. You sit quietly, understand? Be a good boy and the barber will give you a lollipop to suck at the end of it."

"Be sure to set a good example for me, Paul. You're first under the cape," Jake shot back with a chuckle. Despite the kidding, there was an undertone of nervousness as the trio walked toward the shop.

It was a small place named Carlo's Barber Shop with just one barber. Carlo looked to be in his 70s and dressed in a traditional barber's tunic. As the trio approached, the man was alone in the shop, looking out the window, hoping for business.

As Jake opened the door, the barber greeted him, "Back already, Jake? I thought you just got a haircut last week before your trip."

"Yep, I'm back and I've brought two friends who are here for their first flattops! This distinguished gentleman's name is Paul -- he'll be your first project. And that shaggy lad's name is Phil."

"Okay, Mr. Paul - there's the seat," the barber said as he nodded to the big chair.

The old man's eye carefully examined his two new clients. Despite his calm exterior, one could sense that his 'barber juices' were flowing. Carlo loved nothing more than to plunge his fastfeed clippers into a virgin head of hair and watch copious sheaves fall to the cape in a dramatic fashion. He also liked putting an end to fussy business cuts and giving professional men a good scalping!

Paul shuffled a bit nervously, but then quickly hopped into the large, throne-like barber chair. He carefully studied his fussy pomp that swirled high above his forehead in a distinguished gentleman's style. His sides were neatly tapered around the ears and contributed to his very proper, trim, professional look. It was a look he'd sported for many years, but would shortly be on the chopping block.

Carlo caped him in a flash. He was not going to let that fussy business pomp get away! "Going for a bit of a change, are you, Paul?" the barber stated matter of fact. Then he tried unsuccessfully to pull a comb through the prominent forelock. Carlo picked up a spritzer and started dampening the wavy top.

"Jake said you could give me a flattop which was a bit of good news since my own barber has suggested my hair is too wavy," the pilot said.

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Carlo. Then he grasped the damp forelock between his two fingers right at the scalp and brought the heavy duty barber shears toward the captive tress. Like a pouncing puma, the heavy duty steel blades clamped shut on the securely held lock and sent a huge load of damp, dark hair to the cape. Five full inches of shorn waves splattered across the snowy, white cloth! Paul squirmed, and this egged Carlo on. "Sure, it might be a bit shorter than Jake's top, but I'm going to leave you flat as a board." With that, another crunch of the shears sent a second huge load of shorn hair to the cape. The quick chopping away at the top cleared away all remnants of the mass of waves that had graced Paul's head. In their place was a very uneven collection of jags and tufts. The pomp was past and the flattop was in its first phase of creation.

Carlo picked up a huge set of clippers. "Any special instructions about the sides? I can leave them a bit full or taken them down stubble, as you like...."

Paul was beginning to answer, "Please leave them a bit...."

When he was cut off by Jake who rose and pronounced, "Stubble! Clip him up tight all the way to the crown -- with a very short top, the sides should be even shorter."

Paul shifted nervously, "As Jake says, Carlo...." The idea of stubble strangely excited him. Paul had always hoped his regular barber would drive the clippers tightly up the back of his head and scalp him.

"Your former barber cuts a nice taper," Carlo noted as his clippers obliterated it in one quick drive up through the nape. Paul instinctively tried to dodge away from the shrieking machine, but Carlo was persistent. There was a shorn path straight up the back of his his! Jake shuddered a bit. Man was that short! Paul would be upset, for sure, Jake fretted.

Meanwhile, Phil's stomach churned mightily watching the makeover. He pawed nervously at his precious hair. He could still rush from the shop....although his luggage was trapped in Jake's car. Quietly, Phil asked Jake, "Since my hair isn't wavy, it won't have to be cut so short, will it?"

"Be patient, buddy! Your turn will come. All I can say is that when it's all said and done you'll be a happy camper....."

"That's not an expression I would use," Phil commented with a bitter laugh. "The only time a clippers was taken to my hair was at a summer camp when I was a teen. My counselor brought out a set of clippers on the first night and said that any of the fellows who didn't let him give them crewcuts were sissies. One by one, he shaved the boys heads. Tons of hair piled up at his feet as the bowlcuts and moptops succumbed to his unforgiving clippers. I tried to run out of the cabin, but all the baldies grabbed me and held me down and until I finally 'asked' him to shave my head. To my surprise, he refused and said I was a real sissy. I was shocked when he pulled a dress out of his footlocker and made me put it on. The guys all laughed and pointed at me. Finally, one boy took pity on me and took the clippers to my head. I watched my precious hair come off. Even though I joined the baldy look....everyone referred to me as 'the sissy' the whole time I was at camp."

"Oh, you poor thing," murmured Jake. "No one will call you a sissy after you've had the mange of yours clipped into a freshly cut flattop!"

Carlo finished buzzing Paul's sides to stubble and then turned a blowdryer on his hair, making it stand straight up. "Now for the critical work -- cutting it flat! You can either have it a tad longer and keep it straight with butch wax or I can take you down very short -- military style -- and leave the hair natural."

"Jake, what do you say?" asked the caped Paul.

He stammered, "You decide...."

"Hell, let's go super short -- give me the military look!" said Paul with a hint of excitement in his voice.

He reveled as he watched the barber plow through the erect hair, taking it off very short. Clip, clip, clip. Over and over and over. After the first bulk was cut flat, the subsequent drives with the clippers whittled off small bits of hair, taking it shorter and shorter each time. The fabulous pomp and fussy waves were a distant memory!

Finally, the haircut ended. As Carlo splashed witch hazel on the shaved neck, he admired his handiwork.

The very short flattop pumped Paul up to the max. He felt energized as the barber withdrew the cape. Paul emerged from the chair admiring his ultra-short flattop. The feel of stubble up the back was exhilarating. "OK, Jake! Hop up there. You're next!" Paul snapped.

Jake shuffled a bit and hesitated, "You know, Carlo was right....I just was here last week. My flatty's still in pretty good shape...."

"Don't even think of weaseling out, my friend!" Paul laughed. "You're going to get a special haircut today!"

Jake slowly moved to the chair. "I guess a deal is a deal." He slunk into the throne-like barber chair. Paul fondled the waxed top. "I don't like the feel of this product. Cape him up, Carlo! You're putting an end to the prettyboy flattop with its deep, plush pile. You're going to strip it down tight, tight, TIGHT....and do away with the butch wax."

The barber cast the cape and fastened it tightly, "Well, seems like all three of you are in for a new look!"

Paul got a very happy look on his face as he hovered about the caped and cowed Jake. Paul engaged Carlo to underscore that he was in charge of instructions about Jake's new look. "I'm a pilot, you know. Landing strips are my thing! And when I see one from the air, there are two things I want to observe -- that it's wide and that it's long! Go ahead, Carlo....carve out a strip up here on top that'll make it easy for a 747 to land on!"

In an instant, the balding clippers plowed through the plush flattop and skinned the top of Jake's stunned head! Carlo's first maneuver in the major makeover consisted of a shaved spot the width of the clippers going 80% of the distance between hairline and cowlick.

"AGH!" Jake gasped. "My top!!"

Paul laughed, "Say 'bye, bye' to your prettyboy flattop, Jakey! And remember what I told you about being a good boy in the chair and not squirming. If Carlo can't provide a lollipop for being a good boy, I'll arrange some candy for you after we leave here."

"What you do say I lather shaved the sides and back all the way to the crown?" suggested Carlo to Paul. "Given him a real leather-look, like he's been posted at Parris Island."

"Excellent! Yes, we need to toughen him up a bit, don't we, Carlo?" Paul laughed. Then he turned an eye to Phil who sat cowering in the waiting area. "And you, pretty, little Miss! Don't think you're going to get off easy here. In fact, I'm going to prep you for Carlo. Get in that other chair. You don't mind, do you, Carlo?"

"Sure, that'll be a help. Clear off that tangled mass down to about an inch, and I'll finish him up," said the barber, joining in with Paul's plan.

"Move it!" snapped Paul. "This military top you gave me, Carlo, has brought out the commanding officer -- or better yet, the drill sergeant -- in me!"

Phil hustled to the other chair and climbed in.

Paul fumbled with the cape and ended up fastening it so tight Phil could hardly breath. "Look at all this hair!" the amateur barber exclaimed as he grasped a copious amount between his hands and pulled the silken locks through slowly. "You could do a Breck-girl shampoo commercial!"

Paul enjoyed fawning over Phil's beautiful hair and mocking him for it. "My, my! You must spend hours on this each day!" Then he reached for a set of barber shears on the counter. He snapped it open and shut several times right in front of Phil's eyes. "Just a bit of a trim, Philly? Even up the tips?" Then he grasped a large shank of hair that included a liberal amount of Phil's forelock and hacked it off to under an inch in length.

"My hair!" gasped the miserable Phil.

Paul held it aloft like a hunting trophy. "You'll thank me when this is all over, you little sissy boy!" Then he chopped off another liberal chunk of the shimmering brown locks. Paul worked like a maniac hacking off all the long locks and dropping them dramatically one by one in front of Phil's disbelieving eyes.

In the other chair, Carlo was giving Jake a severe scalping. His dense, plush top was reduced to the bare minimum and lots of skin was exposed on the sides and top. Jake's stomach churned as he watched his beloved flattop be stripped down to virtually nothing. But, deep inside him, he was happy for the experience of being at the command and mercy of someone else who enjoyed watching him squirm in the chair. Paul seemed to be relishing his new look and the authoritarian streak it engendered in him.

"Well, what do you think?" the barber asked Paul, as he finished up on Jake's high 'n tight.

Without missing a beat, Paul snapped, "Not short enough! Show more skin."

Jake was aghast. He also most had no hair left. But he meekly bowed his head as the barber attacked the back again with the balding clippers.

"When I'm finished with you, sissy boy," Paul sneered at Phil, "our friend Jakey there will look like a hippy by comparison. Carlo, how are you at horseshoe flattops?!" Paul asked the barber triumphantly.

"A real ringer!" the old barber replied.

"Then I want both of these fellows SHOED!" the domineering pilot ordered.

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