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Bennett Bails from the Corporate World by Manny
Chapter 1 - Shedding the trappings of power
Bennett felt like a huge burden had been lifted from his shoulders as he drove away from the thrift store's donation center. Forty lovely suits and jackets -- a collection that he'd amassed over his 25 years as a corporate executive -- unloaded in one fell swoop. Then there were the bags and bags of dress shirts, most of them monogrammed, silk ties by the hundreds, and the box full of expensive cuff links. Bennett felt a tinge of guilt, considering the tens of thousands of dollars he'd spent on his wardrobe over the years. All of his power outfits....reduced to a bit of change in benefit of the Salvation Army. But, the deed was done; there was no turning back. Now his closets were sparse and more appropriate for the simplified lifestyle of early retirement.
There was only one more thing to do to complete his downsizing. Bennett's palms felt sweaty as he gripped the steering wheel and glanced into the rear view mirror. The thick shock of shimmering silvery blond hair, swept back into a full, carefully groomed pompadour....it was next on his list of things to dispose of. Yes, the coif would be dispatched to the barber's cape. All of it! Bennett's heart raced as he thought of himself emerging from the barbershop....shorn....down to the wood. A butch! He was determined to go through with it, and the thought of telling the barber to take it all off....his power coif....excited and terrified him. How would it feel to walk out of the store with just stubble? He had no idea....but, he was certain that he would know full well within the hour.
Bennett sped through the streets en route to his next destination. Would the shop be full and he'd have to wait? Or would the barber point to a chair as he entered and tell him to take a seat right away? At the traffic light, Bennett gently fingered his plush mane. His hair felt wonderfully silken. He considered how his coif gave him a very distinguished look -- like a patrician or an aristocrat.
The idea of having it all clipped off had intruded on his thoughts for over a year, ever since he first filled out the forms for early retirement. He was in his mid-50s and looked young for his age. Work was wearing him down and Bennett calculated he had already saved up way more than he would ever need in his life. Why continue with the grind? He had opted for change -- dramatic change....and he was eager to forego his groomed, executive look.
Bennett thought back to the Saturday when he sat at his dining room table going through all the retirement paperwork. As he poured over the information, the heavy forelock that was the backbone of his much-admired pomp fell down in front of his eyes. Without a good dollop of mousse, his hair had the tendency to flop down into a more sexy, playboy type hairdo -- which generally comprised his relaxed, weekend look.
Bennett mopped the forelock back, running his fingers through his hair as was his routine when it wasn't pomaded into the executive pomp, and glanced up to see himself in the mirror over the buffet. The penny dropped. He flashed a mean smile and told himself, "One of the first things that's going to happen after your golden parachute lands will be getting your power coif stripped off! Brutally short! Off with your pampered silvery-gold mane -- clipped down to the length of a marine recruit!" Ever since that initial idea, Bennett had struggle to understand his motivation. Why did he want to inflict the shorn, convict look on himself? He wasn't sure. But, the more he thought about it, the more determined he was to go through with it. He'd begun looking forward more to the radical haircut than anything else about retirement.
Even at his retirement party, the upcoming haircut was on his mind. Bennett thought back to a conversation he had with one of the special assistants -- a young man with stylized blond locks that exuded a vintage 80s look. It reminded him of how he looked at that age, with really "big hair" -- a carefully layered, feathered look.
"So, what's first on your agenda after you retire?" young Alex asked.
"Oh, some personal business. Simplify. Get my things in order, clean some stuff out, and visit the barber. Buzzcut. No more hair care. This is all coming," Bennett said with a slight laugh, pointing to his hair.
The young man was taken off guard and clearly surprised. "You're kidding me!"
"Nope, I'm going to emerge from the barber's chair with an induction haircut -- 16th of an inch all over. Want to join me? That pretty boy look of yours needs to go...." Bennett smirked.
Alex shifted uncomfortably, then forced a wise crack, "You get your buzzcut first, and if the look is an improvement, I'll consider it."
"An improvement? This carefully groomed pomp of mine costs close to $100 a month to maintain. I use the most expensive downtown salon....and you think a brutal butch cut administerd by a grumpy old barber is going to be an improvement?" Bennett scoffed.
"So why are you going to do it?" Alex asked. "I've always admired your distinguished hairstyle. When I age a bit and prune back my hair, that's the look I'm going to go for...." The young man eyed the silvery pomp with a gaze of admiration.
"Just because. Because I want to and because I can. No more appearances to keep up. No more image to project. I can't wait for the barber to spin me around after he's shaved off the lot and to see myself virtually bald for the first time. I haven't had a clippers taken to my noggin since I was in second grade. Lice epidemic at school, and almost all the boys in the class showed up with baldies. And the ones who didn't were given burrs by the principal himself, including me! He put a swift end to my thick, droopy bowlcut.... I remember whining 'but I don't have lice' right before the clippers hit my pampered bowlcut and I heard the principal snickering," Bennett recalled with a flicker of excitement. Without another word, Bennett strode away, leaving Alex to puzzle over the strange conversation.
Chapter 2 - Deciding between a butch and a burr
As Bennett pulled into the plaza where the barber shop was located, he wished that young Alex were with him. Perhaps to share in his fate and have his pretty boy look stripped off....but, principally, just to witness his own metamorphosis from distinguished corporate executive to a lowly jarhead recruit. Bennett parked a distance from the swirling red and white barber pole to give himself some additional time to collect his thoughts before he ordered up the big chop for himself. The air felt hot and clammy as he stepped from his sleek black Mercedes. The power sedan was another thing that Bennett was going to rid himself of.....yes, he would downscale significantly. He looked at the fancy trim and leather seats. No, what he needed was something practical and cheap. Bennett's eye quickly perused the parking lot and landed on what appeared to be a ten-year old Chevy Cavalier. Basic model. Dull, faded red paint and cheap plastic bumper and trim. He walked past it. The inside was devoid of anything fancy and sported a nondescript gray cloth. Yes, he would soon be driving something similar....how would it feel to get into a stifling hot car with the plastic steering wheel too hot to grip and sweat up a storm waiting for the pathetically weak A/C to cool things off?!
Bennett's hand shook momentarily as he reached for the barbershop door. Was it fear or excitement? There was no doubt in his mind -- total fear! A year of anticipation, suddenly climaxing in terror! Bennett almost found himself paralyzed with fear. He stood there with the door open, feeling the waft of strong air conditioning, unable to enter. Then, he heard one of the barber's call out from inside the shop, "Yes, we're open. Please come in or close the door!"
Bennett felt stupid. Of course they were open. The shop was bustling with activity. All three barbers were going to town with their clients facing away from the big mirror; and the waiting area was cluttered with a collection of men and boys.
Bennett glanced at himself in the mirror as he headed for one of the available seats. He had decided to give his power pomp one last glorious show before having it sliced off at the scalp. He was clad in a pair of nice khaki and a polo shirt -- his hair had been moussed to the max and his silvery-blond pomp glistened in the neon light, like he was heading to a golfing date with an important client.
As the long wait to be caped and clipped began, Bennett shifted uncomfortably in his chair. First he considered the three barbers -- two older, thin men who worked quietly and carefully and one heavy-set, middle-aged man who blabbered away and seemed to be the type who cut shorter than requested. Bennett quickly surmised that it had been the hefty barber who had chided him about the open door.... Joe was his name, according to the embroidered nametag on the tunic. Joe had a young father under his cape who was on the receiving tend of a very short back and sides. Bennett liked the way the barber gripped the man's head and thrust it about for his own convenience. Yes, Joe would soon be his barber too -- or so he hoped!
The clientele was definitely working class -- lots of talk about bowling, babes, beer and baseball. Joe the barber, had something to say about every topic....usually the last word on the subject, as well. Periodically, Joe's eyes would lock on Bennett's, and the newly retired exec felt a surge of excitement. Yes, his fear was giving way to eager anticipation!
The timing worked out perfectly. Bennett half suspected that Joe had slowed down the pace of his previous client in order to ensure that he would be the one to take his cutting instruments to the perfect pomp.
Joe pointed to Bennett, "You're next!" He emphasized his command with a quick pat on the seat of the large red leather stuffed chair.
Bennett stood obediently and glanced at himself in the mirror again as he quickly stepped to the chair. His lovely pomp -- he was pumped up to have it stripped off. But, he felt like toying with Joe for a bit.... Bennett smiled discreetly as he sat in the chair.
Joe set about his work by quickly caping Bennett up and leaving him feeling more than a little uncomfortable by the tightness around the neck. "First time here?" Joe inquired curtly.
"Yep," replied Bennett, being purposely tight lipped.
"Live nearby or just visiting the area?" Joe continued as he combed the pomp straight back, flattening it out. Bennett felt the barber's hand linger as he smoothed down the hair even more firmly in the wake of the comb.
"I'm a local," Bennett replied.
"So, what'll it be?" Joe asked.
"Oh, not quite sure. A bit of a change. What do you suggest?" Bennett said, testing the waters.
"There's the chart up there, if that helps. Your hair is quite long, especially on top," noted the barber.
"I want something practical. No fuss..." Bennett replied. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Joe reaching for the clippers.
"Sure thing. How about an ivy league?" Joe suggested.
"I was thinking about a, uh,.....ummm, a butch," Bennett blurted out.
The barber smiled broadly, switching on the machine, "Good choice!"
"But the ivy also might be practical. What do you say?" asked Bennett, as if he were back-pedaling.
But the barber didn't answer. Instead he comb the thick, silvery forelock forward so that it hung down past Bennett's eyes. Then he scooped it up with the comb and held it up so that he could bring the clippers across the comb and slice it off short. In one smooth, quick run, the heavy forelock fell into Bennett's lap. A jolt of electricity ran through his nervous system. The transformation had begun!
Then the barber calmly said, "Why not go for a burr?"
"What's the difference between a butch and a burr?" Bennett asked, eyeing the severed forelock in his lap, lamenting its demise.
"The difference between fantastic and awesome," the barber laughed. Then he took the clippers straight back across the pomp of Bennett's head, sending mounds of silver falling in torrents to the cape.
"Seems like you've already decided," gasped Bennett, realizing that there was no turning back.
"You're in for a treat.....an old fashioned burr haircut. The butch usually is a bit longer -- a #1 or #2 guard. Leaves you with a bit of growth. The burr is naked teeth to the scalp. Like a nice medium grade sandpaper," Joe dead-panned. "And if it doesn't quite suit, in a few days, you'll have the butch you wanted."
As Bennett sat immobilized by Joe in the chair, he mentally followed the progress of his divestiture. Very quickly Joe stripped away the corporate business look, causing the pile of shorn hair on the cape to accumulate substantially. As the barber clipped, he fondled the newly shorn areas. Bennett could sense the barber was secretly enjoying himself immensely. And he congratulated himself about Joe being the type of barber who cut shorter than requested. A burr! Sandpaper! Wow, that would be truly radical....
After going over the entire head several times, Joe switched off the machine. "Shall I clean you up with lather and a straight edge?" The barber now ran his hand across the top of Bennett's head. "Ah, love the freshly clipped feel of a burr. Is this your first?" he asked nonchalantly as he swiveled the chair around to unveil Bennett's new look.
The image made Bennett suppress a gasp. It was far worse than he imagined! He had no hair! "Will they mistake me for an escaped convict?" he said, forcing a laugh to cover his anxiety. There was not a trace of his former corporate look. Bennett's stomach was in knots, but he felt good about the transformation.
"Perhaps -- but you just tell the cops that Joe's your barber. They all come here and know me and my heavy hand very well. I can vouch for you that you're no convict and that the burr was my decision. Did you decide on the lather?" the barber asked. Then he grasped a handful of shorn hair and held it up to Bennett's face. "What were you thinking, Buddy?"
"I know, it was really lame. This looks much better. And, yes to the lather! It would be great if you could lather shave the whole back and sides, instead of just cleaning up at the nape and around the ears."
"That was my plan, friend," the barber said as he squirted a huge dollop of warm soapy foam into his palm. "We're on the same wavelength!"
Bennett willingly bowed his head and let Joe scraped away the fine stubble. The feeling of the razor, going against the grain up the back of his head, felt wonderful.
"How long have you been cutting hair, Joe?" Bennett asked, staring down at the huge collection of his prized silvery-blond locks in his lap.
"Long enough to tell that when you walked in here that you were scared s**tless about ditching your pretty boy look!" Joe laughed.
"Well, you're right about that! It took me a full year to finally take the plunge," he added.
"And now you're going to keep it like this, right?" the barber said rhetorically.
"If I don't scare too many people with my new look," Bennett replied.
"The scary thing was that mass of hair you walked in here sporting. Looked like a squirrel on top of your head! My advice to men starting to go grey is to shave off the lot," said Joe.
"What would be your advice to a young metro-sexual in my office who fusses over his girly boy style and sneaks in a few highlights at the salon from time to time to improve on his lovely blond locks?" Bennett asked innocently.
"This would be the recommended remedy for that deviant behavior," the barber said, suddenly reaching for another dollop of lather and working it into the top of Bennett's head. Then he carefully pulled the razor across the top. "Chromedome!"
Bennett watched in awe as Joe finished his work and peeled his whole head smooth. No permission had been requested, he just shaved Bennett totally smooth! Then with a warm, damp towel he cleaned away the lather.
"Brace yourself," the barber instructed, purposely too late. The sting of witch hazel felt like a bed of nails being pressed into his naked scalp!
"I look like Yul Brenner," muttered Bennett.
"Oh, he was a handsome one," Joe said with a laugh. "Now see to it that you get your golden boy in here for the same treatment and I'll give you a discount!"
"Sure thing, Joe!" said Bennett, handing him a $20. "Keep the change. Great job!" he said as he felt his denuded scalp for the first time.
Outside the heat did not seem so bad. The breeze felt wonderful on his chromedome. Then he spied the black Mercedes. "Next stop, used car lot!" Bennett said to himself as he eyed the thread-bare Chevy Cavalier a few spaces away.
Chapter 3 - Recruiting Alex
Bennett loved his new life -- no stress, no fuss, no groveling, no pretensions, and NO hair care. His chromedome tanned very nicely and went well with his casual attire of tee-shirt, cut-offs, and flip-flops. He was almost unrecognizable, especially in the rattle-trap car that had replaced his sleek Mercedes. From time to time, he would cross paths with someone from his old corporate life and they would just keep walking, as if Bennett were a stranger. While he had a slight desire to hear some juicy office gossip, for the most part Bennett was glad he no longer had to dress in smart suits or have his thick mane of silvery-blond hair continually styled to a tee.
About a month after he shed his corporate look, someone from his old life finally recognized him and engaged with him. And it happened to be one of the only former colleagues Bennett had thought about for more than a casual moment or two -- it was Alex, the handsome, ambitious young climber with his male model good looks and hair.
"Bennett?! Is that you," the fellow gasped as their grocery baskets side-swiped each other.
"You recognized me!" Bennett replied, visibly surprised and secretly pleased.
"I can't believe you went through with it," the fellow said, staring at the tanned chromedome.
"I said I would....and I love it!" laughed Bennett as he ran his hand over the bare scalp. "Best thing about retirement....well, besides leaving the fussy office world behind."
"And you weren't nervous; I mean, you had such great hair!" Alex said.
"Scared s**tless for a few moments and then energized after I got over the shock," replied Bennett. Then his eyes locked on Alex's carefully arranged tresses. "So, what do you say I take you to my barber, young man? He'll make short work of this!" the retiree said as he pawed at the golden locks with pricey highlights.
Instinctively, Alex pulled back. "Oh, I wouldn't want to put you to any trouble on account of my hair....." Alex thought desperately of a way to change of the focus of the conversation, "I can't believe you're retired. You look so young, Bennett."
"I feel young too. And bold. And I'm not going to give up on pestering you about that mop! Certainly you've been tempted to have it all cut off.... In fact, didn't you tell me that if a butch cut looked good on me you'd consider one for yourself?" he insisted.
Alex' mouth dried up and he struggled to reply. It should have been easy to deny and laughed off as a crazy idea. The young corporate crawler struggled to wipe the "deer in the headlights" look off his face. "I can't really remember. I guess seeing the new you tempts me to cut it shorter.....but not all off," Alex managed to say.
"Good!" replied Bennett. "That's a start. My barber will know just how to transition you into a more simplified, sleek look. The girlish hair is too much! Let me jot down my new phone number here for you -- had to turn in my company PDA when I retired -- and you can give me a call when you're ready for the clippers," Bennett said as he handed him the written info.
"Thanks for your number, Bennett. Actually, I had been wanting to list you as a reference for an upcoming opening at work that I'm angling for....and now I have your contact number," Alex said with a sheepish look as he peered through the massive forelock that veiled one of his eyes.
"Sure! Happy to be a reference....and I'll also be happy to do a mock interview. I jotted down my address there. Why not stop by tomorrow morning, for a late Saturday brunch?" suggested Bennett.
"Gee, that would be awesome," replied the young mop-top.
Alex woke up early on Saturday and felt very nervous about his date with Bennett. He could not get the image of the sleek chromedome out of his head. And to think, he'd always admired Bennett's smart pomp! He definitely felt the time had come to his mane on the chopping bock....but how much of it should be lopped off?! He loved his precious locks -- letting any amount of his abundant mane go would be hard. Besides, no one at work had the skinned look. Admittedly, he didn't want to either, but Bennett was quite insistent. Once he was at Bennett's house, Alex was afraid he might get muscled into the same radical makeover. The thought gave him shivers....but, of what? Fear or excitement?
The young dandy took an extra amount of time drying and arranging his locks that morning. The sheen was wonderful, as was the softness. Alex experimented with a pomp, combing back the sides behind his ears. The image was startling -- he looked so much like the pre-retirement Bennett. He made up his mind that minute -- he would shed the long, soft, sexy waves for an executive pomp. Bennett would be happy to give him the address of his old stylist.....
Alex was amazed at the fantastic home Bennett lived in, with it's long driveway and elaborate fountain in front. The only thing that didn't go with the image was the awful Chevy Cavalier in front! Totally out of place.
Bennett was smiling broadly as he opened the door, "Come in!"
"I love your house," the young Alex gasped in amazement as he surveyed the foyer and living room full of very fine, expensive things.
"Great! You can buy it!" chirped Bennett. "It's going on the market soon -- and much of this stuff will be liquidated at an estate sale. This is way over the top for my needs now. I can't wait to settle into my new one bedroom apartment. Stuff can be a burden," he said mysteriously, as he eyed Alex' pretty hair. "Come on into the morning room where we'll eat," Bennett said as he led the awe-struck Alex through the house.
The breakfast was delicious. After clearing the plates away, Bennett turned his attention to the glistening golden mane that has shimmered throughout the brunch in the late morning sun. Grasping one of the heavy locks that hung from Alex' nape, Bennett purred, "Have you thought about my plan for your hair...."
Alex squirmed, knowing full well what Bennett wanted. "Yes, I want it cut...."
"Wonderful!" proclaimed Bennett, interrupting the fellow's full thought. "I'll be happy to oblige you. In fact, I have a pair of barber shears right here, in my pocket!" Out came a small set of gold-colored scissors.
Alex whirled around and looked at them aghast! "Oh, I thought you could refer me to your stylist. I want to adapt that corporate pomp you sported."
Bennett grabbed the heavy forelock and yanked Alex's hair firmly so that he could not squirm away. Then, he brought the shears right to the hair line and very firmly began hacking the mass of hair off, right at the root!
CRUNCH! CRUNCH! CRUNCH!
Bennett pulled off a mass of Alex's carefully coiffed hair. "There will be no pomp you! This is what you really need!"
Alex was beside himself with agitation. He jumped up from the chair and rushed into the house. "What have you done to me?!" he wailed, grasping at the very short tufts of hair the sprung from the top of his forehead. Bennett smiled serenely as he listened to Alex wail from the bathroom, "My hair.....you've ruined it!"
By the time the lad found his way back to the morning room, Bennett had set up his makeshift barbershop. Cape and clippers were ready to be employed. "Okay, pal, have a seat. I'm going to tidy up that mess of yours." His tone was business-like and communicated his intention to implement his plan without any further delay or objections.
Alex looked at the lovely, tanned chromedome...he really didn't have any options. And Bennett looked oh so manly and relaxes..... Yet he still whined, "My job interview is on Tuesday. How am I every going to face all the laughter and wise cracks?"
"Sit, and I'll give you a bit of good news!" said Bennett with a softer, more inviting tone.
Alex took a seat and was cooperative while Bennett fastened the cape. Then the amateur barber grasped another prime lock and scissored it off near the scalp, tossing the cut hair onto the cape for Alex to see. SNIP, SNIP. Off came more of the pricey highlights. And still more!
Finally Alex asked, "Are you going to tell me the good news?"
"There's not going to be an interview, my friend," Bennett said flatly.
"What do you mean?!" the ambitious young man asked.
Snip, snip, snip. More hair was shorn from his head as he sat, submissive and still, watching his beloved hair pile up high in his lap.
Finally, Bennett set down the shears and picked up the clippers, "I mean, when you stride into the office on Monday with your shaved head held high, your going to report straight to your new office!" At the same moment, he shoved the fellow's head down firmly so that the chin hit his chest.
From the subdued position, staring at the remnants of his once-proud mane, Alex eeked out, "My new office?"
Bennett tackled the tufts of blond hair with a 0000 blade, blazing a bald strip up the back of Alex' head. "I made a few calls to my old pals in the corporate office. You've got the job -- no interviews, no formalities."
"That's fantastic!" Alex exclaimed. "How can I ever thank you?!"
"Oh, there will be ways...." Bennett said with a tone of mystery, which sent a bolt of excitement through the surprised Alex. The cauldron of shorn hair stirred in Alex's lap as he thought of what Bennett might have in mind.