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Nick Loses His Locks to Find His Father by Manny
Nick approached the fellow who was emptying the waste can right outside the back door of the church and asked, "I was hoping to check for a baptismal record. Do you know who I should talk to?"
"If you're doing genealogy, you need to go to the archives downtown at the archdiocese," the fellow replied matter-of-fact.
"Not, actually, I was looking for a record of my own baptism. My mother told me I was baptized in this church," Nick replied.
"The priest can help you then. Actually, come on in with me. I was on my way to see him," the fellow said as he mopped his long curly bangs back from his face.
As they entered what looked like a vestry, Nick saw the middle-aged priest taking some thing out of a small box -- a piece of cloth, followed by a pair of scissors. He looked up and smiled. "So, ready for your haircut, Kyle?" he said as he pulled out a set of electric hair clippers. "Oh, I see you have a friend with you. Is he here for a haircut too?"
Nick tensed up a bit at the thought of a haircut. His shimmering dark hair was long and flowed past the base of his collar in back. Certainly not the type of hairstyle that would have any need of a barber clippers!
"No, this young man was hoping you could find a copy of his baptismal record," Kyle replied.
"You'd like a certificate of it, I assume?" the priest asked. "Need it for an upcoming marriage? I hope you're marrying in the church."
"Oh, no sir, I mean, Reverend Father. I was just wanting to know the particulars -- like who my godparents were, and, uh, well, also, if my father's name was on it," Nick replied.
"Well, we can take a look just after I finish up Kyle's haircut. Should only take a few minutes -- my signature crewcut. Clip you down nice and short for summer, right, Kyle? the kindly priest asked.
"That's what I want!" the lad replied as the priest caped him up. "Put an end to the curls for a few months!"
Nick watched with a bit of fascination as the priest took the clippers to Kyle's curls and began shearing him down very short at a quick clip. Mounds of curls fell to the cape, and Kyle seemed to be enjoying the shearing a lot.
As he cut Kyle's hair, the priest asked the visitor, "So, what's your name young man, and when were you born? I might have been the one who baptized you. I've been at St. Sebastian's my whole ministry. I love this place. Went to the seminary just down the street on the other side of Maple Avenue."
"Nicholas Worthington - born February 22, 1989," the moptop replied.
"Hmmmmm. I hadn't been ordained yet, but was helping out here as a seminary student," the priest commented as he lopped Kyle's long bangs off with a set of barber shears near the very top of his forehead. Then he took the clippers and went over the sides and back, taking it down another notch -- leaving a very closely clipped pelt with the top barely long enough to grasp between the fingers.
Kyle fiddled with the shorn curls that collected on his lap. "Feels better already!" he commented.
With that, the priest removed the cape and a fairly large collection of cut curls piled up near his feet. "If you can sweep this up, I'll take Nicholas to the office and check the sacramental records. Have a wonderful week, Kyle. And thanks for picking up the litter in the parking lot. That was so Christian of you....."
As they walked to the office, the priest thought to himself out loud, "Worthington, Worthington....I remember a very pretty woman named Patricia Worthington, a single girl, who was active with the college/careers group of young adults."
"Yes, that's my mother," Nick replied.
"And your last name is Worthington, like her's?" the priest asked in the form of a statement as he eyed the copious mane of thick glimmering locks on the boy. "What about your father, what was his name?"
Nick's face was solemn. "I don't know. That's why I'm here. I'm hoping you can help me. My mom passed last month from breast cancer. I begged her to tell me who he was, but she was very vague about the events around my birth. The only thing I was able to find out was that I'd been baptized here at St. Sebastian's."
The priest flipped through the huge book to the date in 1988. "Here you are!" he exclaimed as his finger ran down the page to the entry.
"The box where the father's name should be is blank," Nick said with an air of dejection. "Can you remember anything?!"
The priest continued eyeing the lad and his abundant mane, "Yes, there is a family resemblance. Your eyes and hair....."
"But my mother had green eyes and curly red hair!" said Nick. "Unless....you knew my father!"
"I can't be certain, but I have some very vivid memories. I suspected things at the time, but it was never discussed, much less confirmed. It was a bit of a scandal, her getting pregnant out of wedlock. Your father -- or should I say, the man who I think could be your father -- he was...." the priest's voice trailed into silence. "If you want, I can issue you a certificate with the facts that are recorded here in the sacramental register."
"What I want is to know the identity of my father!" exclaimed Nick, staring at the priest with his piercing blue eyes. His lovely dark hair flailed about, adding a dramatic flair to the theatrics. "Were you told something in confidence, in the confessional booth?"
"No, I wasn't a priest at the time -- still a seminary student. What I know, or what I think I know, is based on conjecture, and some personal experiences...." the priest said, with his look far away, as if deep in remembrances of past events. "I was just a year older then him -- he was a charming, extremely jovial, warm person....very magnetic personality....but a bit unstable....always flirting, erratic in his studies and work...then, one day he was gone."
"What else do you know of him?" asked Nick.
"The last time I saw him was in the vestry. He appeared unexpectedly and didn't seem his usual self. He hadn't been to church in months. He told me he had an important job interview, that he needed to get the job....that his future depended on it....not just his, but other people were depending on him to get it. Then he totally surprised me by asking me to cut his hair. His long beautiful hair, just like yours, Nick," the priest said as he reached up and caressed the silken strands tenderly. "He was very proud of his hair, so thick and gleaning...and sexy. Very protective of it too. To hear him asking me to cut it, to cut it short and tidy...well, it underscored how serious he was about getting the job."
"And you cut it?" Nick asked.
"Yes, I cut it. I cut it short. I cut it very, very short. I took the clippers to him and watched his long hair fall to my feet....." The priest was lost in thought and began rambling as he relived inflicting the dramatic makeover on the man who had toyed with his emotions, who had played with him....the innocent seminarian who had been wooed and succumbed and then abandoned by the handsome young man with the piercing blue eyes and flowing mane of shimmering dark hair!
Nick subconsciously grasped his own long, dark hair and fondled it nervously as the priest continued his story, lost in thought.
"At first, I didn't mean to do it. I meant to cut his hair as he'd asked, into a tidy businesscut. But I didn't have any experience in cutting long hair or in businesscuts either. The only haircuts I'd ever given were to seminarians like me -- and we had a strict dean who insisted that we all be shorn close with tight crewcuts, the type I gave Kyle a few minutes ago. There we were in the 1980's with the men sporting big puffy hair and long mullets and gorgeous locks like Benny's, but the dean had us looking like were were still in the 1950s. Benny sat quietly while I cape him up, although his long hair made it very difficult to put the big metal clip into place. I gathered a huge handful of the silky hair the hung from his nape so that I could apply the clippers to the neck. My hand trembled as I drove the clippers up through his dense hair, unable to judge or see what was happening because of the thick veil that concealed the machine. When the metal teeth broke through the surface and a huge shank of hair fell to the floor, I was startled to see how short and high I had clipped his hair. It was a very aggressive first swipe -- virtually to the scalp a third of the way up the back of his head before it formed a sharp taper. The lifeless locks on the floor paralyzed me with fear. After a few seconds, Benny spoke sharply to me, 'what's wrong, is something the matter?' I asked him what he meant about others depending on him to get the job," the priest said.
"And what did he say?" Nick asked, urging him to continue.
"That his dalliance with someone from the youth group had set off an irreversible series of events that resulted in two others needing his financial support. Then, I sort of snapped. Who did that jerk think he was?! I went to town with the clippers, mowing off his lovely hair --- drove the clippers up the back of his head to the crown, watching his pride fall to the floor. The long sexy bangs the hung in his face, I whacked off at the top of his forehead. I kept cutting and cutting and cutting his hair....shorter and shorter and shorter....almost in a blind emotional rage until he was shorn shorter than the geekiest seminarian. His beautiful hair littered the vestry floor and he was almost bald."
"So, what sent you into the rage was what he'd done to my mother -- that he got her pregnant out of wedlock? Benny -- that's my father's name, is it?" asked Nick, on the edge of his chair.
The priest's eyes misted up and he stopped looking at the boy. "No, I was upset about something else, something much more personal," the man said softly. "I hadn't yet taken my vows of celibacy and chastity...."
"My father and you?!" Nick gasped. "Lovers?!"
"Well, not exactly. I think he knew I was fond of him and he flirted with me as much as he did with everyone else, including the pretty ladies. I think he was insecure -- all the joking and playful pranks. He got laughs, attention and affection. I remember one Sunday in particular. I was helping the priest serve communion. As Benny knelt before me and I lifted the chalice to his lips, he fluttered his eyes and blinked vigorously several times before closing his eyes as he took a long swig of wine. Drawn on his two eyelids were big smiley faces! And then a huge veil of hair fell over both his eyes, like a final curtain at a stage play. I let out a laugh, I couldn't help it -- and boy, did the priest every glare at me and treated me to a long sermonette afterwards about holy communion and the importance of the mass!"
"So, you hadn't taken your vows yet. What happened between you and my father?" Nick insisted
"About three months before I whacked off all his beautiful hair, Benny had come to the church right as I was closing up and getting ready to head back to the seminary. He asked to stay in the basement because he'd just been abruptly evicted from his apartment. Something about the landlord being mad about violating the strict no co-habitation policy in the complex. I told him that only the priest could allow him to sleep in the church, but that the priest was at a retreat. So, Benny asked if he could stay with me just for one night. I explained that the seminary had a "no-overnight guests" policy, but he begged. Said something about 'opening the door to those in need' and tugged at my emotions. So, I sneaked him into my room through the emergency exit stairwell. I insisted on him sleeping in the bed, and I made a little pallet on the floor with some extra blankets for myself. We had just turned off the lights when a knock came at the door. It was one of the fellows from the hall who asked if I could give him a haircut on Saturday -- said the dean had told him be was looking shaggy and needed to get cleaned up before helping serve communion. Benny laughed at our ridiculously short haircuts and said if that was the price of becoming a priest, he would never pay it. Then, to my surprise, he insisted that we could both squeeze in the one single bed. I was scared to death and resisted for a while, but finally gave in. Benny fell right to sleep, and I lay there, inches from his beautiful long hair that glowed in the moonlight coming through a crack in the curtains. The smell of shampoo was intoxicating. After he was breathing heavily I fondled his hair and stroked it gently before falling asleep myself. The next thing I knew -- it must have been hours later -- our positions were reversed. Benny was stroking my shorn head and came at me from behind. After I realized what was happening, I let Benny....I let...I let him have his way with me. Even as he did it, he joked, murmuring, 'Father, forgive me for what I am about to do....' I was overwhelmed, on an emotional high, and for the next hour we lay together in a state of total contentment. Nothing mattered to me but Benny. I was ready to quit seminary. When the birds started chirping, he got up without a word. I thought he needed to use the toilet, but he dressed, brushed his long hair and pulled it into a ponytail, and left. Then he disappeared. Was gone for several months until he came to the church again, needing a haircut. And, I realized I had been just a one night stand...."
"What is his name. Benny what? I want to find my father!" stated Nick emphatically.
"The last time I saw him, he was standing, shorn -- amid a pile of his lovely hair on the floor of the vestry. I do have something I could give you. Something you could use to see if my theory is right." The priest went to a closet and pulled out a small box from a top shelf. In front of Nick, he opened the box. On top of an old photo of a young seminarian student posing with a handsome longhair lay a long lock of hair -- dark, approximately ten inches in length, and fastened by a blue ribbon. "I save this from that day. If a DNA test matches, I will tell you his full name," said the priest.
"Oh my! He looks like me. And this is the same color as my hair!" exclaimed Nick as he held the lock of shorn hair.
"And you wear it the same length -- long enough for a ponytail," said the priest. Then he reached over to Nick and stroked his long, lovely hair. "Would you like a haircut, young man?"
"Oh, I couldn't!" he gasped. "I'm quite proud of my hair and protective of it."
"Just like your father...." murmured the priest.
"Tell me his name!" insisted the lad.
"I don't want to falsely accuse anyone of fathering someone out of wedlock," replied the priest firmly.
"You know you're right, don't you? It wouldn't be a false accusation!" Nick argued.
"Yes, the puzzle pieces match perfectly. The timing, the looks, even your vain pride about your hair. Your mother was a saint, and she was abandoned by him as well. But he left a part of himself with her, a living continual reminder...." the priest said, eyeing the lad.
Nick hung his head, and his dense mane swirled forward, shimmering like a silken curtain of hair in front of his face. He stayed planted, like he wouldn't move until he got the information he had come for.
The priest remained silent, like he would not give into the insistent request.
Finally, Nick looked up and mopped back his dense mane of hair as he looked the priest in the eyes. "I would like you to give me a haircut, Father. And while you are cutting my hair, think about a young man with no mother, desperately in search of his father. Keep cutting until you open the door of your heart to those with emotional need who need answers and closure. Then, when you snap off the clippers, tell me my father's name. Do the right thing, tell me. I'll make any sacrifice to know."
Nick stood silently and walked from the room. The priest followed him closely as he headed back to the vestry. Kyle's shorn curls were resting in the top of the trash can and the room was tidy, but the box with the priest's barbering kit was still on the table.
Nick sat in the chair.
The priest cleared his voice, "I do want to do the right thing. But shouldn't your father's privacy, that he's asserted over the years, come into play? If he wanted to know you, he knew where to find you."
The reasoning fell on deaf ears. Nick reached for the cape, and clumsily tried to fasten it in place.
After a moment of hesitation, the priest took over and pulled the cape into place. He struggled with the lad's copious locks as he fastened the big metal clip. Then he began brushing the lovely, long hair. Over and over and over. "I can't do this again!" he suddenly exclaimed. "I took my vows and put your father behind me. His name was Bernard Flanaghan. I heard he'd gone out to Los Angeles. That's all I know."
A tear streamed down Nick's face. He sat, immobile. Then he reached from under the cape and reached for the clippers. "Here, use these. Cut my hair, just like you cut my father's the last time you saw him."
The priest's hand trembled. "It was in this very room. Using these very clippers." Then he grasped a handful of Nick's tresses at the nape and lift them to allow the clippers access. He snapped the machine on and brought the chattering teeth up through the mane of dark, lovely hair. Higher and higher he drove the clippers, all the way to the crown and watched with awe as an amazing amount of hair fell to his feet. "Oh, Benny!" he gasped as the hair cascaded to the floor.
Nick submissively bowed his head and waited for a second drive of the clippers. It didn't take long.
The priest was firm, but loving, as he clipped the fabulous growth of hair off at the scalp and watched the shimmering tresses fall to his feet. "I am going to take you down tight, all over," he said as he brought the clippers up through the heavy forelock. In a flash, the clippers went straight across the top of Nick's head taking it down to a uniform length of an eighth of an inch. Shorn hair accumulated with great speed on the cape.
"Oh, my hair," Nick sputtered, as it fell before his stunned eyes.
"You'll look sweet and innocent with a nice tight butch when you meet your father. I simply couldn't give you the same cut I gave him, and I don't know any others. I've always dreamed of learning how to cut flattops, but...for now, crewcuts and butch cuts are all I know."
"You should've experimented with me," sighed Nick.
"Too late now, Baldy!" the priest said with a laugh as he rubbed Nick's stubbled pate. "I think all your hair has been transferred from your head to the floor now."
Nick felt his shorn head for the first time. "This has been quite a day," he exclaimed. "And you've given me quite a haircut!"
Epilogue: Six months later, the priest was looking out his office window when he saw a car pull up. The young man who was driving approached the church. It was Nick! The butch cut was growing out and was at an awkward length.
"I found him!" he exclaimed as he exploded into the church office. "It was easier than I thought with a few website searches. I approached him right as he was arriving at his house and made him look at the DNA results that proved he was my father."
"How did Benny react?" the priest asked.
"He wanted to know how I got his DNA to conduct the test and prove paternity. I showed him the photo and the lock of hair you kept," said Nick, softly, not knowing how the priest would react. "And he smiled and said softly, 'that was quite a haircut I got that day'. Listen, my father is in the car. He wants to explain himself to you. What happened and everything. He understands you were angry. He said that what happened was....well, he wants to explain in person, if you'll let him."
"Anyone can approach this church. In fact, I was just getting ready to hear confessions at the back of the sanctuary. He knows were the confessional booth is," said the priest as he reached for his garment to prepare for the sacrament.
Several minutes later, through the lattice work of the booth, the priest watched the middle-aged man walk through the church to make his confession. He listened in silence as the man hung his head so that his long, floppy business cut of shiny dark hair that contained just a few gray strands fell forward and veiled his face. "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned." And then he went on, "When I was in my youth, I harmed two of the people who were pillars of this church. One was a young man, who I loved -- but whose love was forbidden to us by the church. I did not want to keep him from the service of this holy church. The other was a woman, who through confusion and fear, was abandoned by me -- even though I loved her too, but was not prepared to face the responsibilities of family and being the breadwinner. Oh, Father!"
"You loved me?" came the priest's voice from the confessional booth.
"Yes," replied Benny. "I wanted to spend my life with you. But, after that night in your room, I found out Patricia was pregnant....and then I didn't get the job. I fled in shame. My only comfort in those confusing months was to see the humiliatingly short haircut you inflicted on me in wrath. I accepted your anger because I loved you."
"And I loved you," replied the priest. Then after a few moments of silence, he added, "But I took my vows and will remain faithful to the Holy Mother Church. And, I forgive you. Go and make restitution. Your father needs a son."
Benny looked up and peered at the confessional booth. "Am I not to see you? I've come all the way from California. I want to see you. Come out of that box!"
The priest remained silent.
"And, I'm very much in need of a haircut. So is Nick. In fact, we were both thinking about getting flattops," said Benny with a smile as he ran his fingers through his longish, silken hair.
Still the priest was silent.
Finally, Benny got up from his knees and began walking back through the church to leave. As he neared the door, he suddenly heard, "Wait, Benny! You forgot where my barbershop is -- it's on the opposite side, in the vestry!" The priest ran through the church and Benny came towards him. The two embraced and wept. After some time had past, the priest leaned back and looked at Benny's hair. It was not quite as full or long as before, but it was still very overgrown and floppy. "Yes, I think a flattop will be perfect on you! But, I'm going to warn you. I have as much experience with flattops today as I had with standard businesscuts the last time you asked for a haircut."
Then the two heard Nick call out from the door, "Dad? Father? Is everything all right?"
"Yes, son. We were just on our way to the vestry. I thought we could both use haircuts while we're here," said Benny.
"Flattops?" Nick asked skeptically.
"You bet!" replied the priest. "Now which of you two shaggy fellows will be first?" Then he selected Benny. "You sir!" he said as he grasped the floppy forelock. "I can't wait to take my clippers to this! I'll leave your pride and joy quite erect!"
"You've proven to have that ability with me," Benny said with a chuckle. Then, his voice cracked a bit, "But, I've always been partial to my long hair, you know."
"Keep talking like that, and you'll end up with a high and tight, Benny!" laughed the barber priest.
"Do it!" encouraged Nick.
"And you'll get shoed, young man!" the priest said as he tussled father and son's shaggy locks simultaneously.