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The old barbershop had stood on the corner for as many years as I could remember. Each afternoon, on my way home from work, I would stop at the red light and look in the window. It was always the same picture?one elderly barber and a few aging customers. How long, I wondered, would he be able to stay in business? It didn?t seem like he could be making enough money to pay the rent.

Then, one afternoon in the middle of June, I saw the ?For Sale? sign go up in the window. The old barber finally had retired. When I got home that evening I shared the news with Jan, my wife. ?Honey, you know that barbershop on the corner of Evergreen and Rogers Road? It?s for rent.?

?Well, that?s interesting. The old guy finally decided to retire, I guess,? she said.

?This could be your big chance,? I replied. ?Do you want to take a look at it?? For years Jan had been talking about opening her own shop. She had been working in the mall at one of those franchise haircutting stores for the past five years. The work was steady and the pay was decent, but she wanted to be her own boss.

?Yes, why don?t we take a look?? she eagerly agreed.

The next day I called the real estate agent and set up an appointment. She turned the key in the front door and let us in. There really wasn?t much to see. Three barber chairs in a row along one wall; large mirrors mounted behind each chair; six plastic and chrome chairs along the other wall; an old fashioned cash register near the door, and a small room in the back.

Although the shop had been closed for a month, it still smelled of bay rum and powder. Most of the barbering tools had been left behind by the previous occupant. A variety of scissors, combs, and brushes lay on the Formica counter than ran the length of the wall behind the barber chairs. Three lather dispensers stood where they had been abandoned.

?Well, Jan, what do you think?? the agent inquired.

?It needs a little work,? she replied. ?I?d like to think it over. Let me call you next week.?

?Sure, that will be fine,? she said as the turned the key in the lock.

That night over dinner we debated the pros and cons of opening a shop of her own. The purchase price was $50,000. Remodeling the place would take another $5,000. We had $10,000 in savings and our bank was willing to give us a loan for the remainder. Jan knew the first couple of months would be difficult?it takes a while to build up a regular clientele?but we could get by on my salary till the shop became profitable. I knew that this was something that Jan really wanted to do and I encouraged her to go for it.

The following week we closed on the loan and Jan gave two week?s notice to her boss at the mall. Every evening and all weekend we worked on the shop, first painting the walls a pale blue shade, laying tiles on the floor, hanging caf? curtains in the windows, replacing the worn plastic chairs, and installing a new sign out front. Jan decided to keep the old barber chairs. They were in good condition and would be reassuring to the male customers she hoped to attract. She worried that they might discourage females from patronizing the shop, but counted on word of mouth among her former customers to bring them in. After much discussion, Jan decided to call the place, ?Short Cuts,? a cute name, that described the type of haircuts she planned to specialize in.

A week before the grand opening Jan and I addressed more than a hundred envelopes to her old customers and all of our friends. That Monday I carried a stack of mail to the post office. ?Coming Soon?A Hairstyling Shop for the Whole Family. Short Cuts Is Our Name and Our Specialty,? the invitation proclaimed.

Lots of friends showed up for the open house on Saturday afternoon. We opened a bottle of champagne and drank a toast to the success of Jan?s venture. The next Monday she opened for business.

I still remember the expression on Jan?s face when she came home after that first day. My usually upbeat wife was near tears. ?Have a bad day, hon?? I asked. ?Not bad, terrible,? she answered. ?I sat there all day and not one customer. I couple of old guys walked up to the door, but when they saw me, they turned around and headed for home like I had the plague. No one else even hesitated. I?m not sure opening this shop was such a good idea.?

?You shouldn?t be discouraged by one day,? I pleaded. ?You knew it was going to be slow at the beginning.?

?Slow I can handle,? she replied, ?but this is dead. I read every magazine in the place and the newspaper twice. If business doesn?t pick up I?ll go crazy by the end of the week.?

?Things will pick up, I?m sure,? I reassured her.

Tuesday was nearly as bad. ?Only one customer today,? she said.

?See. What did I tell you?? I joked. ?It?s picking up already.?

Saturday evening Jan was still depressed. ?Six days and only ten customers?all of them men. At this rate we?ll be broke before Thanksgiving.?

After consoling her, I tried to think of some ideas to help promote her business. After all, advertising is my profession. ?You need to do something that will generate publicity?let people know where you are,? I suggested.

?Sure, that sounds fine,? she replied, ?but what? Do you have anything specific in mind??

?Maybe you could do some kind of charity fund raiser,? I suggested. ?You know, offer to cut people?s hair for free if they make a donation to a worthy cause.?

?Hmmm,? she answered. ?You know, that?s not a bad idea. I wouldn?t make any money from it, but it could draw customers into the shop.?

She was beginning to show some enthusiasm for my idea and I wanted to encourage her. ?Yes, and if you did it right you might get one of the television stations to cover it. That would generate lots of publicity.?

?It would have to be something spectacular to get a camera crew into the shop,? she reflected. ?They must get hundreds of requests each year.?

?Yes,? I agreed, ?it would have to be something dramatic and unusual to get their attention.?

Just then a light went on in Jan?s eyes. ?I know,? she exclaimed. ?Locks of Love.?

?What do you mean, ?lots of love??? I asked.

?It?s Locks of Love, stupid. L-O-C-K-S,? she spelled it out for me.

?I don?t get it,? I repeated.

?Locks of Love is the charity that collects human hair to make wigs for kids with cancer,? she explained. ?That would be the perfect charity. We won?t collect donations of money, we?ll collect hair?long hair cut short in my shop.?

?Sounds like a great idea, but you still need to get the one of the stations interested. Do you think you can do that?? I asked.

?I?ve got an idea there too,? she beamed. ?You know Jessica Armstrong, the ace reporter for Channel Six??

?Sure, she?s quite a babe,? I observed.

?Quiet, you pig,? she answered. ?You know how she?s always getting involved in the stories she covers??

?Sure, like the time she tried sky diving,? I recalled. ?That took a lot of balls.?

?Or the time she drove an Army tank,? Jan added. ?Or last month when she volunteered to be hit by the new police tazer gun.?

?Yes, getting involved is her trademark,? I agreed. ?That and her gorgeous red hair.?

?Exactly,? she exclaimed. ?So you see where I?m going with this??

?Jan, you don?t think Jessica Armstrong really would get her hair cut for Locks of Love do you?? I objected. ?It?s probably taken her years to grow it that long. She?d never give it up.?

?Don?t be so sure, Dave,? my wife cautioned. ?If she?s like most TV personalities, she?s more interested in her ratings than anything else. If I can convince her that cutting her hair will boost her career, she might be persuaded.?

?It?s a wild idea, but it just might work,? I conceded.

?I?ve got nothing to loose, do I?? she remarked. ?It?s definitely worth a try.?

Jan spent most of the next week trying to contact Jessica Armstrong. The messages left on her answering machine at the station were not returned. E-mails went unanswered. In desperation she even tried snail mail. Jan was beginning to give up hope when the phone rang at home shortly after seven Friday evening.

?Hello, is this Jan Morgan?? the familiar voice asked.

?Yes, who is this?? my wife replied.

?It?s Jessica Armstrong from Channel Six news.? Jan held the phone with one hand and frantically pointed to the television with the other while mouthing the name, ?Jessica Armstrong,? to tell me who her caller was. ?You?ve been leaving messages for me all week. Sorry to be so slow getting back to you, but I?ve been very busy. What is it that you want to talk to me about??

?Well, I operate a unisex hair salon called Short Cuts,? Jan said in her most businesslike voice.

?Never heard of it,? was the blunt reply.

?That?s understandable. We just opened,? Jan explained. ?I?m going to be doing a promotion for Locks of Love. Have you heard of them??

?Can?t say that I have,? Jessica answered. ?What is it??

?It?s a charity that provides wigs for kids who?ve lost their hair to cancer and other diseases,? Jan explained.

?Sounds like a good cause,? the reporter answered noncommittally.

?It is a very good cause,? Jan enthused. ?I was wondering if you might help me get the word out.?

?Sure, our station is always looking for good charities to support,? Jessica replied.

?Great. I?ve got an idea for a promotion that you might like. Can we set up a meeting for next week?? Jan proposed.

?Sure, why don?t you drop by the studio and we can discuss it?? Jessica responded.

My wife practically was jumping with glee. ?That would be great! What day? What time??

?How about Tuesday at one?? Jessica suggested.

?You bet. I?ll be there,? Jan declared.

She hung up the phone and began prancing around the room. ?I can?t believe she?s actually going to see me,? she sang. ?I can?t believe it.?

?Jan, you?re terrific,? I marveled, ?but you didn?t say a word about cutting her hair. I wonder how she?ll react when you drop that bombshell. How are you going to talk her into that??

?I don?t know, but I?ll think of something,? she answered.

Jan spent the next couple of days on the Internet learning all she could about Locks of Love. She read up on their history; she found their financial statement; she downloaded lots of pictures of kids before and after getting their wigs. She called the national coordinator in Florida and secured her tentative approval for the project. Of course, final approval was contingent on securing the cooperation of local media outlets?that meant Jessica Armstrong.

Tuesday morning Jan went to work at the shop as usual, but around noon she came home and changed into a dark business suit and a cream tailored blouse, the same outfit she wore when we took out the loan at the bank. Her shoulder length hair was pulled back into a conservative bun. ?How do I look?? she asked.

?You look very professional, like the successful young businesswoman you are,? I answered.

?Still working on the successful part,? she replied. ?Wish me luck.?

?You?re going to need it. Have you figured out how you?re going to persuade Jessica to part with her crowning glory?? I asked.

?I?m not going to beat around the bush. I?m going to present my case as a straight business proposition; show her how it could help her ratings and hope she?s as much of a daredevil as I think she is.?

?I don?t know,? I cautioned. ?Women get pretty attached to their hair. Parting with it can be an emotional crisis.?

?Of course. Who knows that better than a lady barber?? Jan replied. ?But not all of us are like that. I?m betting she?s not the sentimental type. Anyhow, I?ve got nothing to lose.?

Jan picked up a sheaf of photos and papers, stuffed them into an old attach? case, and strode out the door. Half an hour later she arrived at the studios of Channel Six. When the receptionist asked her business she said, ?I?m Jan Morgan here to see Jessica Armstrong.?

?Is she expecting you?? was the standard reply.

?I have a one o?clock appointment,? Jan declared firmly.

?Just have a seat. I?ll page her.? Two minutes later the receptionist called, ?Ms. Morgan, Miss Armstrong will see you now. Her office is down the hall to your right, room 115.?

When Jan reached the office she found the door part way open. She knocked and was greeted by a shout, ?Come on in, it?s open.? The tiny office was jammed with video equipment. The surface of a battered desk was littered with cassettes and stacks of papers. The walls were covered with plaques and citations from civic organizations. Jessica sat staring at a computer screen, her trademark red hair gathered behind her head with a plastic clip. ?You must be Jan Morgan, the Locks of Love lady,? she said as she extended her hand. ?Nice to meet you. Have a seat.?

Jan settled into the only available chair. ?Thanks for meeting with me. I?d like to tell you about Locks of Love.?

?Don?t waste your breath? Jessica cut her off. ?I like to do my own research. It looks like an excellent organization. Who can resist helping little bald kids? How do you want me to help??

?I?d like you to cut your hair and donate it to Locks of Love,? Jan blurted out.

?What did you say?? Jessica asked, incredulous. ?Did I hear you right??

?Yes, Jessica, you did,? Jan answered. ?I want you to let me cut your hair and then donate it to Locks of Love."

?Holy cow, lady,? Jessica exclaimed. ?I just met you a minute ago and you tell me you want to cut the hair that I?ve spent the last ten years growing. You must be off your rocker. What makes you think I?d ever agree to a stunt like that??

?Jessica, just listen to me for five minutes,? Jan pleaded. ?If you still think it?s a stupid idea, I?ll leave with no hard feelings.?

?Okay. It?s your dime. Start talking.? Jessica gave my wife her full attention.

?Well, Jessica, like you said, Locks of Love is a wonderful charity,? Jan began. ?Who can resist helping little kids with cancer??

?I?m with you so far,? Jessica agreed. ?Keep talking.?

?Second, there?s something very exciting about a woman getting her hair cut, especially when it?s very dramatic like going from very long to very short,? Jan continued. ?Look at Demi Moore when she buzzed her head for ?G.I. Jane.? Her picture was in every magazine. She got tons of publicity.?

?You?re right about that,? Jessica nodded. ?I?m listening.?

Jan gained confidence when she saw that Jessica was closely following her presentation. ?Third, you?ve got a reputation as a reporter who gets involved in crazy stunts?jumping out of airplanes, swimming with the dolphins when they opened the aquarium, visiting a nudist camp in the nude.? The list was much longer, but there was no need to mention all the memorable things Jessica had done in her ten years on Channel Six.

?Yes, I?ve got to admit you?re right again,? Jessica conceded with a wry smile.

?Fourth, your ratings could use a boost,? Jan declared. ?Channel Six used to be the top local news station, but you?ve slipped into third place in the last couple of years. I think the Locks of Love promotion could help you recapture the number one spot.?

?Ahhh, that?s where we disagree,? Jessica said. ?You?re right about our slide in the ratings, but it will take more than a stunt like this to put us back on top. You know nothing about the news business.?

?You?re right,? Jan argued. ?I know nothing about your business, but I know what I like to watch. If you told me you would be cutting your hair on the six o?clock news tonight, you can bet I?d tune in. And thousands of other people too.?

?Okay. This idea of yours might draw a big audience for one night, but what do I do for an encore? I can?t go cutting my hair every night,? Jessica said.

?This doesn?t have to be a one night stand,? Jan insisted. ?There are ways you could draw it out; prolong the wait; build the interest. Once you increase your market share, your team will have to keep them watching, but if you agree I can get you half way there.?

?Jan, you?re quite a saleslady,? Jessica observed. ?I think my manager definitely would like to hear your ideas. But before we go any further, I?d like to know what?s in it for you. I doubt that your motives are entirely charitable.?

?Of course, you?re right, Jessica,? Jan admitted. ?My objective is to promote my business. I?ve opened a new unisex hairstyling shop called, ?Short Cuts.? I?d want to cut your hair in my shop. The publicity would help make a name for myself and attract some customers.?

?I see,? Jessica said. ?Not many customers coming in??

?Not as many as I?d like,? Jan conceded.

?Yes. I kinda thought it was something like that,? Jessica smiled.

?Are you still interested?? Jan inquired.

?Yes, I?m interested. I?ll let you in on a little secret,? Jessica said with a conspiratorial wink. ?I?ve been trying to cut my hair for the past year. I can?t tell you what a pain it is to maintain hair this length,? she reached back and removed the clip from her head. Long auburn locks tumbled down her back. Jessica tossed her head and her hair bounced around her shoulders. Jan marveled at its condition. She almost regretted her proposal to cut it. ?I spend nearly an hour each day washing and styling it. My life would be so much simpler with a shorter style, but my manager won?t hear of it. He says my hair is my trademark. He?s only interested in me growing it longer. He threatened to move me to the early morning show if I did anything to my hair without his permission. Getting his approval is going to be your biggest challenge.?

?So it sounds like you?re on board with this scheme,? Jan concluded. ?It?s your manager we have to convince.?

?Let?s say I?m interested,? Jessica answered cautiously. ?If you can talk Mike into it, I just might do it. Let?s wait and see.?

?So when can I meet with Mike?? Jan asked.

?I?ll set something up for next week,? Jessica offered. ?Is this time good for you??

?Sure,? Jan quickly agreed. ?I?ll work up some ideas on how we can promote this haircut.?

?Yes, he?s going to want to see more than you?ve given me,? Jessica added as she rose from her cluttered desk and escorted Jan to the lobby.

The next week Jan returned to the Channel Six studios wearing the same suit with a different blouse. For this meeting she was sporting a new hairdo. Her dark brown hair had been trimmed so it hung only an inch below her chin and was freshly styled in a pert flip. This time there was no waiting. The receptionist led her into the manager?s paneled office. Jessica rose to greet Jan and introduced her to the three men seated around the polished conference table. ?Gentlemen, this is Jan Morgan, the lady barber who wants to cut my hair. Jan, let me introduce you. This is Mike Barrow, our station manager, Joe Pezullo, our advertising director, and Ted Malinowski who handles promotions and special events.? Jan reached out and shook hands with each one.

Mike immediately took charge of the meeting. ?Jan, have a seat. Jessica here has told us about your idea. I must admit that when she first dropped the idea on me, I thought it was a crazy publicity stunt. But the more I thought abut it, the more I liked it. If Jessica is willing to go along, I think it could help raise our ratings. I?ve talked it over with Joe and Ted. They agree it?s got potential.?

?But I have a feeling that you have some reservations,? Jan observed.

?You?re right. I do,? Mike replied. ?One big question. How do we get maximum mileage out of this promotion? What can we do increase interest in Jessica?s haircut? How can we get the biggest bang for our buck??

?Well, I?ve been thinking about that,? said Jan, launching her pitch. ?I think we need to turn this into a big contest. Get other people involved, lots of people.?

?Yes. I like the sound of it,? Mike interrupted, obviously warming to the idea. ?How do you propose doing that??

?My husband had an idea,? Jan continued. ?He said that Jessica should issue a challenge. Call it the Locks of Love Challenge. She announces that she will get her hair cut if enough other women donate their hair to Locks of Love. This should get tons of people on board and build interest to see if they reach the total.?

?Kinda like the annual Jerry Lewis telathon,? Joe chimed in. ?Everyone watches to see if they?re going to make their goal.?

?Exactly,? Jan exclaimed.

?Do you have a number in mind?? Ted asked.

?No, not really, but it shouldn?t be too low. We want this to be a difficult challenge to meet,? Jan added.

?Do you think we could get twenty-five women to cut their hair?? Mike inquired.

?Make it higher,? Jessica insisted. ?This shouldn?t be too easy.?

How about fifty?? Ted asked. ?Could we get that many??

?Sure. There are over a million viewers in our market and half of them are women,? Jessica added. ?I think we should set the number higher.?

?I?m with Jess,? Mike agreed. ?How about a hundred? That?s a nice round number. If one hundred women donate their hair to Locks of Love, Jessica will be the hundred and first.?

?We won?t do all the haircuts at once, although that would be impressive,? Ted said. ?We?ll do one a day on the six o?clock news. That way each donor will get her one minute of fame and we can watch our ratings soar.?

?One haircut per day for one hundred days. That?s more than three months of exposure. I can?t think of any other promotion that?s gone so long, but I think this one would work,? Joe added.

Enthusiasm for the idea was growing. All of the men had given their approval. Now everyone turned to Jessica. ?You?ve been awfully quiet, Jess. What do you think?? Mike asked.

?I think it?s a great idea,? Jessica replied. ?Jan should get some kind of prize. I just wish it was someone else?s haircut we were talking about.?

?But wasn?t it just last March when we had that big fight about you hair?? Mike reminded her. ?You called me a sexist pig for not letting you get it cut. Remember??

?Of course I do, Mike, but that was different,? Jessica argued. ?I was talking about trying a new style, cutting a couple of inches. What Jan is proposing is more, much more. Locks of Love wants to collect as much hair as possible. That means I?ll have to get my hair cut short. Isn?t that right, Jan??

?You?re right Jessica,? Jan agreed. ?They?d like to harvest at least 10 inches, but more would be better.?

?So you get a short new hairstyle. What?s the big deal?? Ted insisted. ?My wife comes home with a new hairdo every six months.?

?But your wife doesn?t go on television each night in front of a hundred thousand viewers,? Jessica reminded them. ?I can?t tell you how many people have told me that I never should cut my hair. I think they?re more attached to it than I am.?

?That?s exactly what makes this such a beautiful idea, Ted continued. ?Half of our audience will be rooting for you to get your hair cut. The other half will be praying that you don?t. Either way, we come out ahead.?

?Jess, you?re the key to this whole scheme.? Now Mike was begging. ?If you don?t get behind it wholeheartedly it?s not going to work.?

?I know, I know,? she sighed. ?It?s a good idea. Locks of Love will be a big winner. The station should get a boost. And Jan?s shop will get plenty of exposure.?

?Let?s not forget your career, Jess. This could be big,? Ted chimed in. ?It could go national. You will be the center of attention. This looks like a win-win situation to me.?

?It?s easy for you to say. You won?t be the one getting scalped,? she snapped.

Sensing the tension growing between Jessica and Ted, Mike brought the meeting to a close. ?Jessica, this has to be your choice. You can see we think Jan?s idea is a winner. But if you don?t want to do it, we will respect your decision. I don?t want to put any pressure on you.?

?Thanks, Mike. I appreciate that. But I?m going to do it,? Jessica agreed. ?For all of the reasons you mentioned and some of my own. Let?s go for it.?

?Good girl. That?s the spirit,? Mike beamed. ?Joe and Ted, I want you to prepare a campaign. Show me how we can get maximum publicity out of Jessica?s haircut. Jan, I want you involved in this too. Since this is your idea, I?d like your input to be sure we do this right. Let?s meet again next week.?

The men filed out of the room, leaving Jessica and Jan sitting across the table from each other. ?I guess you feel pretty good about this, don?t you?? Jessica asked sharply.

?What do you mean?? asked Jan, surprised by the hostility she sensed.

?Well, they bought your idea, didn?t they? You came in here and sold them. Bet you?ve never done anything like this in your life,? Jessica observed.

?You?re right,? Jan replied. ?But why do you sound so angry??

?Because I don?t like being manipulated. You march in here with your argument all laid out, convince my manager that cutting my hair is going to be the salvation of this station. And now I?ve got to go along with it.?

?But you didn?t have to agree. Mike said that he was leaving the decision up to you? Jan reminded her.

?Sure, those were his words, but that?s not what he means. Let me tell you how it works around here,? Jessica confided. ?If you don?t go along with what Mike wants, you?re going to pay?big time. He always gets his way.?

?I?m sorry, Jessica. I didn?t know,? Jan apologized.

?Of course, you had no way of knowing,? Jessica responded, sounding more conciliatory. ?But now I?m stuck. I?ve got to get my hair cut in front of thousands of people. If this doesn?t work out, I?ll be the one who suffers, not you.?

?Jessica, this is going to be a big success,? Jan assured her. ?Don?t get upset for nothing.?

?That?s easy for you to say. I just hope you?re right,? Jessica added.

For the next two weeks Jan met nearly every day with Joe and Ted developing a publicity campaign, designing a logo, and preparing alterations to the set of the news room. When they presented their plans to Mike and Jessica, everyone agreed that the campaign was ready to launch on the week after Labor Day.

One month later Jessica opened the evening news with an eleven year old girl in a floppy hat sitting at her side. ?Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Tonight we have a special guest in our studio. I?d like you to meet my friend Sarah Coughlin. She?s a patient at Children?s Hospital where she goes each week for chemotherapy. You see, Sarah is battling leukemia. She?s wearing a hat tonight because the chemo has made her hair fall out. Sarah used to have beautiful long hair about the same color as mine. She told me that she?s on a waiting list to have a wig made by the folks at Locks of Love. You may have heard of this wonderful organization. They collect hair from healthy people like you and me and turn it into wigs for kids like Sarah.?

The camera focused on Jessica who now spoke in a stage whisper. ?Now I?ll let you in on a little secret. I told Sarah that she could have a wig made from my hair. That?s right, I promised her that I would cut my hair for her. But there?s one small problem. There are lots of other kids like Sarah and they need wigs too. So I?d like to challenge the viewers of Channel Six news. I want one hundred of you to donate your hair to Locks of Love. The hair needs to be in good condition, not bleached or dyed, and at least 10 inches long. We will arrange to have your hair cut by a professional stylist live on our show. If one hundred brave volunteers come forward, I will get my hair cut on the hundred and first day.? Jessica turned to her youthful companion. ?What do you think, Sarah? Can you wait that long??

The little cancer patient beamed a brilliant smile at the reporter. ?I think that would be wonderful, Jessica. I?d love to get a wig I could wear to school, but I know lots of other kids who would like one too,? she said. ?I can wait a little longer.?

?So, if any of our viewers out there want to volunteer, what should they do?? Jessica asked.

?They should call Channel Six news at 555-6666,? Sarah recited her carefully rehearsed line.

?That?s right, Sarah. Call 555-6666,? Jessica echoed. ?One of our operators will take your call and schedule your appointment for Locks of Love. I know it?s a big decision, but it?s for little Sarah and a hundred other kids like her. If you do it, so will I.?

Within minutes Channel Six was flooded with calls. A few were from women making appointments. Others were seeking more information. But the majority of calls were from irate men who begged Jessica not to cut her beautiful hair.

The next day billboards went up all over town. They showed Jessica Armstrong, her deep red locks cascading down her shoulders and around her breasts, and bald Sarah at her side. The sign proclaimed, ?Help Sarah get Jessica?s hair. Donate to Locks of Love. Call 555-6666.?

That evening on the six o?clock news Jessica announced the first haircut. ?Yesterday you heard me issue a challenge for one hundred women to donate their hair to Locks of Love. Tonight we have our first volunteer. In a minute we will go live to Short Cuts in Belleville where we will meet Melissa and watch as she has her hair cut to make a wig for a young cancer patient.?

The screen switched to Jan?s shop. A young woman was seated in the big barber chair, a white striped cape hanging around her neck covered her shoulders and lap. Her straight blonde hair was carefully arranged over both shoulders. It was nearly two feet long and obviously had been lovingly tended for many years. Standing next to her was my wife poised with scissors and comb in her hands. ?Folks, I?d like you to meet Jan Morgan, the proprietor of Short Cuts,? said Jessica?s disembodied voice. ?She?s the one who came up with the Locks of Love Challenge. Good evening, Jan.?

?Good evening, Jessica,? Jan answered.

?And who do you have with you tonight, Jan?? the reporter asked.

?Jessica, I?d like you to meet Melissa McCoy,? Jan responded, sounding like a pro.

?Good evening, Melissa. How are you tonight?? Jessica asked.

?I?m a little nervous, to tell the truth, Jessica.? The young woman answered. She smiled gamely, but viewers could see the impending haircut was creating considerable anxiety.

?Yes, I can understand, Melissa,? Jessica replied sympathetically. ?But you?re willing to do this for a good cause like Locks of Love, right??

?Yes, that?s right, Jessica,? Melissa confirmed.

?Tell me, Melissa, how long have you been growing your hair?? Jessica asked.

?It seems like forever, at least twelve or thirteen years,? Melissa said.

?And are you ready for your short haircut?? Jessica demanded.

?Yes, I?m ready,? Melissa said bravely as she glanced down at her shining locks for one last look.

?So, Jan, why don?t you get started?? Jessica commanded.

?Here we go,? my wife replied. The camera zoomed in for a close-up as Jan inserted her scissors into Melissa?s hair at a point just below her ear. The silver blades closed and the first lock silently fell away. Jan caught the severed strand and dropped it into Melissa?s lap. Her customer blinked back her tears as her barber prepared a second cut level with the first.

Jessica?s voice interrupted the cutting. ?Melissa, we?ll be back later in the show to see how your haircut turns out.?

Two minutes before the end of the evening news the broadcast returned to Short Cuts to check on Melissa?s haircut. The young woman still sat in the barber?s chair as Jan applied the final touches to a striking short bob that barely covered her ears. The change in her appearance was remarkable. She had been transformed from an attractive schoolgirl to a sophisticated, sexy woman. Melissa held a round mirror in her hand and inspected the finished product. ?Hello, Melissa. I love your new do? Jessica beamed. ?Jan, can we see the back??

?Sure, Jessica,? Jan answered and slowly rotated the chair. The camera revealed a diagonal line of hair that rose at a sharp angle. In the back Melissa?s hair was clipped to less than one inch.

?Holy cow! That?s quite a change, Melissa,? Jessica observed. ?What do you think??

?I love it, Jessica,? the freshly shorn woman replied. ?It feels so different. It will take a while to get used to the new me, but I definitely love it.?

?Jan, can you show us what Melissa has donated to Locks of Love today?? Jessica asked.

?Sure, Jessica,? Jan replied as she displayed two handfuls of long thick blonde hair that had hung from Melissa?s head half an hour ago.

?How much do you have there, Jan?? the reporter inquired.

?About twenty inches,? Jan guessed. ?I?m sure it will make some little girl very happy.?

?Thank you Melissa for being the first to volunteer for the Locks of Love Challenge. Only ninety-nine haircuts till my turn,? Jessica concluded with a toss of her flaming hair.

The next day Jessica stuck her head into Ted Malinowski?s office at Channel Six. ?How are we doing, Ted?? she asked.

?Jessica, come in here. I?ve got something I want to show you.? Ted pulled a clipboard off his desk. It held a list with 100 spaces. At the top of the list Jessica recognized the name of Melissa McCoy. The next twenty-one slots contained the names of other women. ?After we aired your spot last night we got a bunch of calls. Some were from people requesting more information, but, as you can see, we have the next three weeks booked solid. When your viewers saw how well Melissa?s haircut turned out, they couldn?t wait to sign up. This is going better than I expected.?

?Yes, but you?ve still got a lot of empty slots, Ted.? Jessica observed. ?We?ve got a long way to go.?

?Give me time, Jess,? Ted replied. ?This thing is just getting started.?

Over the next two weeks Jan and Jessica perfected their routine. Jessica would begin the evening broadcast by introducing Jan?s latest customer. She would conduct a brief interview with the day?s donor and Jan would start the haircut. At the end of the half hour news program Jessica would check back with the barber at Short Cuts to see the results of the shearing.

The donors came in all shapes and sizes. Some were young girls, moved by sympathy for sick children their own age. One evening a mother offered her hair to honor her daughter who was about to undergo chemotherapy. Identical twins received identical haircuts on successive nights. Some of the donors gave up no more than the ten inch minimum while others opted for more extreme makeovers.

Meanwhile, Jan?s business thrived. Each day new customers dropped in, either out of curiosity or because they admired the skill Jan displayed on the evening broadcasts. Soon she had to hire a second barber to handle the overflow. She became a minor celebrity. People would stop her in the supermarket or at the bank. ?You?re the Locks of Love barber, aren?t you?? they said. ?I saw you on Channel Six.?

Soon inquisitive people began gathering outside Short Cuts around six each evening. They pressed against the plate glass front window to get a better view of the action inside. Some returned night after night. Many just wanted to get their faces on television, but Jan realized that several were powerfully attracted by the haircutting spectacle. As the spectators grew in numbers they became bolder, shouting encouragement to women who seemed hesitant and cheering for those who parted with the greatest amount of hair.

Jessica?s colleagues at the station did all they could to keep the promotion prominent in their viewers? minds. Ted ordered a large bulletin board to be constructed for the set of the news room. It displayed two hundred squares and each day the before and after photos of a new donor were added. When donations began to lag Ted solicited gift certificates from local merchants to reward new volunteers.

Donor number twenty-five was the first male. A brawny construction worker named Mike Bradley offered his foot-long pony tail for the cause. On his instruction, Jan clipped his hair extra short and he emerged from the shop with a military style crew cut that would pass inspection at Marine Corps boot camp.

The second male donor called shortly after Mike?s haircut aired. ?Ganja Bob? Roberts was a well known local reggae musician. Foot-long Rastafarian dreadlocks were his distinctive signature. The day Jan shaved his head completely bare members of Bob?s band serenaded their leader as he sat in the chair.

As the date for the fiftieth haircut approached, the station manager decided that reaching the half way point justified a special celebration. On that evening Jessica personally accompanied Monica Sheehan, Channel Six?s young meteorologist, to Short Cuts. She held Monica?s hand as Jan chopped off a foot of her dark brown curls. When the tearful weather girl emerged from the chair, Jessica offered encouraging words. ?You look wonderful, Monica, and you?ve made some child very happy,? she said. ?I just hope I can be as brave when my turn comes.?

Haircut number ninety took place on a Saturday, Jessica?s day off. Traci O?Brien, her substitute, opened the six o?clock news. ?Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,? she intoned. ?As you probably know, this is the ninetieth day of the Locks of Love Challenge. In ten days our own Jessica Armstrong will visit the Short Cuts barber shop in Belleville to have her beautiful hair snipped off. But what will she look like after she gets her hair cut? We thought we could help Jessica by seeking the opinion of some top stylists. Yesterday we went to the trendy Jean Paul Salon and Spa in Woodbury Mall for some advice. Their stylists came up with some suggestions for Jessica that I?d like to share with you.?

Traci stepped aside and a much enlarged head shot of Jessica appeared on the screen. ?Here?s our first suggestion. I call this the elegantly conservative look.? A new image of Jessica flashed on the screen, this time with her trademark red locks parted on the side. Her hair was considerably shorter, but still brushed her shoulders. The sleek page boy style curled under at the ends. ?That?s nice, but personally, I favor a more daring look,? Traci continued. A third image showed Jessica in a wild punk style with flaming spikes shooting in all directions. ?Now that would be a big change,? she declared. ?Some of our viewers may favor a bobbed look and here?s what we came up with.? The fourth likeness revealed Jessica sporting a brief bob that ended at her jaw. The radically chopped bangs exposed nearly all of her forehead. ?What do you think, Jess? I know you?re watching,? Traci taunted. ?Of course, there always is someone who wants to push things to the extreme. We call this the Michael Jordan look.? The final image showed Jessica with her head shaved completely bald. The set of the newsroom resounded with hoots and guffaws as the staff reacted to the image of the hairless reporter.

Excitement began to build as the number of donors climbed into the nineties. Donor number ninety-nine was none other than my wife. The news opened with Jan calmly sitting in the big chair as Susan West, her new assistant, prepared to administer the haircut. Jessica appeared pleased that Jan was joining the list of donors, but she raised a pertinent question. ?Jan, your hair?s not that long. Don?t you need at least ten inches to give to Locks of Love??

?You?re right, Jessica. To make a wig we need at least ten inches of undamaged hair, but Locks of Love does accept donations of lesser lengths. These they sell to help cover their expenses. That?s where my hair will go,? Jan explained. She tossed her head and the brown flip bounced around her face one last time.

We had discussed this haircut for weeks. I loved Jan?s hair in this style, but she was determined to participate in the Locks of Love Challenge. ?After all, it?s my idea,? she explained. ?If Jessica?s going to do it, I feel that I should join her.? Jan refused to tell me how she was going to have it cut. ?You?ll just have to watch along with everyone else,? she said.

Jan gave Susan the signal to begin and she started rapidly cutting off large handfuls of hair. It was obvious that this was going to be one of the shortest cuts seen to date. When the camera returned to Short Cuts at the end of the news, the now short haired barber sat proudly in the chair with a mound of dark brown hair piled in her lap. The hair that had hung midway between her chin and shoulders had been transformed into an abbreviated pixie style with nothing longer than two inches. Jessica beheld Jan?s drastically altered image and let out a highly unprofessional gasp. ?Holy cow, Jan! You didn?t have to get it cut that short.?

?It?s okay, Jessica,? Jan assured her. ?This is something I?ve wanted to try for a long time now. How do you like it??

?Jan, you look great,? Jessica enthused. ?I just hope you don?t expect me to get my hair cut that short.?

?Well, I thought I?d give you something to think about,? Jan teased. ?You know, with the amount of hair you have Locks of Love probably could make two or three wigs if you cut it real short.?

?Nice try, Jan, but no sale,? Jessica replied firmly. ?Twelve inches is what I promised Sarah.?

The night of the one hundredth haircut started out like all the others. ?This is Jessica Armstrong reporting for Channel Six News,? the reporter began. ?Tonight we?re going to bring you another haircut for Locks of Love from Short Cuts in Belleville. This one is going to be special. For one thing, this will be the one hundredth haircut since we began this series three months ago. This means we?ve reached our goal. No city has ever shown so much support for Locks of Love. Everyone connected with this project should be very proud. For some reason I have not been told who tonight?s donor is going to be. My producer insists that this must be a surprise. So let?s go to Short Cuts to meet this mystery lady who?s about to get her hair cut tonight.?

The screen switched to the now familiar interior of Jan?s small shop. Seated in the barber?s chair was a smiling young woman who looked to be in her early twenties. Her deep red hair was nearly the same shade as Jessica?s. It was not as long, but when spread out over her shoulders it hung nearly eighteen inches from the top of her head. ?Holy cow!? Jessica blurted in a highly unprofessional exclamation. ?It looks like my kid sister, Vanaessa,? she explained to the viewers. ?I wasn?t expecting this. She must have flown in from our home in Chicago.?

Speaking directly to her sibling, she continued, ?Hi, Sis. This is a real surprise. How are you doing??

?Hi, Jess. I?m doing fine,? Vanessa replied. ?Just getting this chair warmed up for you.?

?You mean you?re going to get your hair cut?? Jessica asked.

?Of course, Sis,? Vanessa said. ?When I heard about your challenge I decided that you shouldn?t go through this alone. I thought maybe I could give you some encouragement. Remember when we were growing up and you always dared me to do what you did??

?Yes, and you always did it too,? Jessica replied. ?You never would let me outdo you.?

?Well, Jess, tonight it?s my turn,? Vanessa taunted. ?I?ve asked Jan to give me a really short haircut. Then tomorrow everyone will see if you have the guts to match it.?

Now the anchorman, Bob Baxter, interrupted. ?It sounds like we?ve got a little sibling rivalry at work here, folks. How about it, Jess? Will you get your hair cut as short as your sister?s??

?Sure, Bob. Anything she can do, I can do better,? Jessica answered with an outburst of bravado.

?There, you heard it folks,? Bob continued. ?Tomorrow night our own Jessica Armstrong will have her hair cut as short as her sister, Vanessa. Take it away Jan.?

The camera focused on Jan as she carefully selected a thick strand of hair from the middle of Vanessa?s head and pulled it out to its full length. She positioned her scissors three inches from her customer?s scalp and asked, ?Is this where you want me to cut, Vanessa??

?No, Jan, I think you should go shorter,? the young woman demanded.

Jan moved her scissors an inch lower. ?Here?? she asked.

?Nope, go shorter,? Vanessa barked.

Jan lowered her scissors to within an inch and a half of Vanessa?s scalp. ?Here?? she inquired dubiously.

?Not yet. Keep going.?

Jan placed the blades so only an inch of hair would be left. ?Is this it?? she asked again.

?Sure, Jan. That?s it,? the young woman boldly declared. ?Let?s see Jessica beat this.? The camera zoomed in on the blades closing around the extended lock of deep red hair. The next second it floated above her head, dangling from Jan?s fingers.

?I?d love to stay and watch, but we?ve got some other stories to cover,? Jessica interrupted. ?We?ll return later in the program to show you how Vanessa?s makeover turns out. Now for tonight?s news,?

Twenty-five minutes later, at the end of the broadcast, the camera returned to Jan?s shop. Vanessa was still seated in the big chair, but now nearly all of her hair had been removed. As the cameraman focused on her shorn head, Vanessa nervously ran her fingers across the bristles that remained. The red mane that formerly hung past her shoulders was now less than an inch long. It stood straight up from her scalp. She looked like a young boy who just had a summer buzz cut. ?Holy cow, sis. That?s quite a haircut you got there,? Jessica exclaimed. ?How does it feel??

?It feels strange, Jess. It?s so short,? Vanessa replied, still stroking the remains of her crowning glory. ?Never had my hair this short.?

?You look great, kid,? Jessica called. ?I love you.?

?Thanks, Jess. Tomorrow it?s your turn,? her sister said.

?Thanks, but I really don?t need your reminder,? she said sarcastically.

?You ready for your big haircut?? Vanessa asked.

?Not really, but I?ve got twenty-four hours to prepare myself,? Jessica concluded.

Bob Baxter closed the program. ?Ladies and gentlemen, tune in tomorrow at 7 PM. We will bring you a special live broadcast of the last day of the Locks of Love Challenge as our own Jessica Armstrong says good-bye to her long locks. Jessica, we just want you to know how proud of you we all are. We?ll be rooting for you.?

?Thanks, Bob. I appreciate your support,? Jessica said. ?That?s all for tonight folks. See you tomorrow.?

As soon as the news concluded, Jessica?s colleagues gathered around her. ?Jessica, did you see how short your sister?s hair was?? Monica asked. ?Are you really going to get your hair cut that short??

?I don?t see how I can get out of it,? Jessica answered. ?You heard me and so did thousands of our viewers.? She didn?t sound too happy at the prospect, but her co-workers obviously were amazed and delighted.?

Later that evening, before she left for home, Mike, the station manager took her aside and put his arm around her shoulder. ?Jessica, I just want to let you know how much I appreciate what you?re going to do tomorrow. Ever since you started this challenge our ratings have gone through the roof. If there?s anything I can do to pay you back, be sure to let me know.?

?Thanks, Mike, I?m sure I?ll thing of something,? Jessica replied as she walked toward the exit.

Jessica Armstrong did not appear on Channel Six?s six o?clock news broadcast Friday evening. Traci O?Brien explained her absence and reminded the viewers to stay tuned for the Locks of Love special immediately following the network news.

Promptly at seven a remote camera crew began transmitting from outside Jan?s Short Cuts salon. A crowd of nearly 500 people gathered on the sidewalk in front of the shop. Everyone seemed to be fighting for a view inside the shop. Another crew from Channel Six along with teams from two other channels were jammed inside the small building. Also fighting for a closer view were photographers from the local newspapers and two wire services. Jessica?s haircut had become a media circus.

Jessica stood in the middle of the shop with a microphone in her hand. She looked like she had spent hours that afternoon in a beauty salon. Her hair had been carefully styled into curls that cascaded around her shoulders and down to the middle of her back. Never had she looked more glamorous. Short-haired Jan wearing a crisp white smock was positioned on her left side. Next to her was Vanessa, sporting her new buzz cut. An older woman holding a large plaque occupied the space on Jessica?s right. Young Sarah Coughlin wearing a bright red bandanna stood in front. ?Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is Jessica Armstrong broadcasting live from the Short Cuts unisex shop in Glenville,? she began. As you know, this is the last day of the Locks of Love challenge. We have had an amazing response. Ninety-seven women and three men have generously donated their hair in our drive. In just a few minutes it will be my turn.? At that moment a large cheer went up from the crowd. ?Next to me here is Madonna Coffman, the national chairperson of Locks of Love. She has a few words to say.?

Madonna took the microphone into her hands and began. ?Jessica, Locks of Love has been operating for nearly twenty years and this is by far the greatest response we?ve ever seen. On behalf of the children who will be receiving wigs because of your viewers? generosity, I want to express our heartfelt thanks. In recognition of your terrific work you have been selected as our Locks of Love donor of the year.? She thrust the plaque into Jessica?s hands.

Jessica accepted the award and modestly responded. ?Thank you, Madonna. I deeply appreciate the honor, but most of the credit should go to Jan Morgan here who came up with this idea. She?s the one who will be administering my haircut today.?

Jan addressed the reporter. ?So, Jessica, are you ready for a haircut??

?Ready as I?ll ever be,? said Jessica, sounding resigned to her fate. Another large cheer sounded.

?Then why don?t we get started?? the barber announced. Jan held the big barber chair as Jessica climbed up. She snapped a crisp white cape and draped it around Jessica?s shoulders. Jessica held her hair up with both her hands as Jan fastened the cape behind her neck. The barber carefully arranged Jessica?s hair so the audience could admire her beautiful tresses. Jessica smiled into the camera, but the viewers couldn?t see her shoe nervously tapping on the foot rest or the white knuckles of her hands gripping the arms of the chair. Jan took her comb and ran it through the reporter?s deep red tresses one last time. ?Well, Jessica, how short you want me to cut it? Will it be as short as Vanessa?s haircut last night??

?Why don?t we let the people decide?? she suggested and the crowd roared its approval.

?That?s fine with me,? Jan replied. She selected a lock from the side of Jessica?s head and pulled it out to its full length?nearly twenty-five inches. ?Locks of Love wants donations of at least ten inches. That?s about here,? she said, placing her scissors about halfway from the end of the hair. People in the crowd began to boo. ?Shorter, shorter,? they chanted.

?Guess you?ll have to go shorter,? Jessica observed.

Jan moved the scissors five inches closer to Jessica?s scalp. The crowd began to cheer, but they were not satisfied. ?Shorter, shorter,? the chorus continued.

?You heard them, Jan. Shorter still,? she ordered.

This time the lady barber placed her blades three inches closer, but the chanting became more boisterous. ?Shorter, shorter. Take it off,? they hollered.

?Sounds like they won?t be satisfied until my hair is as short as Vanessa?s,? Jessica said. ?Go ahead, Jan. You heard them. Cut it short.?

Jan slid her scissors one inch nearer to Jessica?s scalp, paused for a moment as the crowd continued to howl. Jessica smiled bravely and nodded her permission. Jan paused for another moment to heighten the suspense, and then snapped the blades shut. A wild cheer went up from the spectators as Jan handed the length of auburn hair to Madonna Coffman. Jessica continued smiling, but her expression had changed. She appeared to be grimly holding on to her composure while fighting back tears. Jan sensed her client?s distress, but there was nothing she could do now. She resumed cutting the next lock of long hair, leaving only a short tuft of red remaining. The crowd continued cheering deliriously as Jan reduced all of the hair on top of Jessica?s head to the same short length. ?Take it off. Take it all off,? they shouted.

When the hair on top was gone Jan began clipping the side of Jessica?s head, revealing a small, well formed ear. Before long both of her ears were exposed. Only the hair on the back of her head remained at its original length. Jan swiveled the chair so the crowd outside could watch as she snipped off the final sections. Finally, only one strand remained at the base of Jessica?s neck. Jan slid her scissors beneath the lock and removed the last bit of long hair. She returned the chair to the front so Jessica could face her fans. The people burst into a sustained round of applause. Jessica continued to smile, but she appeared dazed.

Jan handed a small mirror to her customer so she could inspect the damage. Jessica ran her free hand over her shortened locks while she looked at her hair in the mirror. ?Holy cow,? she moaned softly. ?Holy cow.? Red tufts sprouted from her head at random angles. All of the hair was short, but its length was uneven. Jessica looked like the victim of an inexperienced amateur barber. She didn?t seem to realize that her haircut was not yet complete.

Jan didn?t wait to explain what came next. She reached behind the chair, grabbed a pair of black electric clippers from a hook on the wall, attached a plastic guide over the blades, and switched on the power. When Jessica heard the whine of the clippers her body tensed and a look of alarm spread across her face. She turned to identify the source of the noise. ?Jan, what are you doing?? she stammered.

?I?ve got to even it up, make everything the same length like I did for Vanessa,? Jan announced. Without waiting for further discussion, she positioned the clippers at the front of Jessica?s forehead and drove them into the fuzz on top of her head. She skillfully mowed the remaining hair, sending a shower of short pieces onto her customer?s nose and forehead. Jessica sat perfectly still in a state of shock as Jan continued clipping the top.

Jan then turned her attention to sides and back of Jessica?s head, buzzing them the same length as the top. With a second smaller pair of clippers, she outlined Jessica?s ears and cut the sideburns into V shaped darts. Next she sliced a sharp diagonal line down the back of her neck. Finally, she returned with the larger clippers and passed them across Jessica?s crown several more times, making sure all of her hair was clipped to the same short length. At last Jan rested the clippers. She massaged some gel into Jessica?s three-quarter inch-long crop and vigorously brushed till all her hair was sprouting straight out from her head. Then she gently dusted the clippings from Jessica?s face with a soft brush.

Jan unfastened the cape from around Jessica?s neck and shook out bits of hair that fell to the floor. Jessica rose from the chair a bit unsteadily. The first person to greet her was Vanessa who ran up and playfully rubbed her sister?s buzzed head. The two siblings embraced and Jessica began to sob loudly.

Bob, the anchorman, appeared with the microphone in his hand. ?Ladies and gentlemen, this is Bob Baxter live from the Short Cuts unisex salon in Belleville. Tonight you have witnessed a great act of personal courage. Our own Jessica Armstrong sacrificed her beautiful long hair for little Sarah Coughlin and Locks of Love. Jessica, we?re all very proud of you.?

The camera returned to Jessica who stood with one arm around Vanessa and the other around Jan. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She sobbed more loudly as her two short haired companions caressed her furry head. Madonna Coffman proudly displayed the long stands of red hair, recently severed from Jessica?s head. Little Sarah beamed broadly, happy to be in the center of so much attention. The crowd continued to cheer and shout her name, ?Jessica, Jessica.? The reporter gazed fondly at the hair that soon would be turned into a wig and gamely smiled through her tears.

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