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Keisha wanted nothing more than to fulfill her lifelong dream. she wanted to be in a band and make music. She grew up with a father who played guitar in a jazz/blues band and she grew up loving music.

Now she was going to college and needed a gig to help her pay bills, etc. She was pretty responsible for her age. She did some stints on the college radio show, hosting a blues hour show on the weekend that turned out to be a bit more popular than one would think.

Still, Keisha needed more to supplement and she went around trying to get gigs, but most bands were doing hip-hop and rap which she didn’t think her voice was suited to.

She was about 5’7″, slender with dark brown skin and long jet black hair. When she went away to college, she had it cut a little, it hung down to her shoulders, It was usually rather frizzy and she often thought about just loping most of it. Her best friend, Tara, had most of it cut off, Keisha couldn’t believe it. It looked so good! Tara tried to get Keisha to go to the same salon and have a makeover. Keisha would back off and shake her head.

“Come on, sister,” Tara would say. “Don’t be such a chicken! Can’t you be brave enough to take a plunge? It’s just hair. It’ll grow back, sister.” (The two spent so much time together growing up, they joked they were sisters separated at birth).

“OK, I am a chicken,” Keisha would relent. “I just don’t think I am ready for something like that.”

Tara would shake her head and sigh. Always the same answer. “You’ve got to be adventurous, Kee,” she would say exasperatedly.

Well, Tara seemed to carry it well, but she had an outgoing personality and could override anyone talking smack to her face. She was, in the words of her dad (who ended up playing sax in the band Keisha’s dad played in) `my little firecracker.’

Still, Tara had gone to Seattle to go to school, where Keisha stayed locally. She and Tara still talked and chatted online all the time. Once in a while Tara would send a message `Get over being a chicken yet?’ Keisha would chuckle and just right back `Cluck-cluck-cluck!’

Well, one day just after her starting her second year in school, there were auditions for a band looking for a singer. They played a sort of R&B, blues, soul and jazz combination. Keisha got an advance tape at the radio station. She liked what she heard. It was alive, laid back, all the things she wanted in a group. She buckled down and learned a few blues standards by heart. She hoped it wouldn’t interfere with her schoolwork, but this was her lifelong dream. To follow in her dad’s footsteps.

She found out they were doing an open mic night at the school’s club to audition potential singers. She immediately went and put her name down. She didn’t want to lose her chance if this was to be one.

She fretted about her chances, but when the big night arrived, she put her fears aside. She put on her sexiest black blouse with gold accents and a pair of slim blue jeans. She wanted to look like she was capable of being relaxed, yet sultry. Feminine, yet also full of `piss and vinegar’. She completed the ensemble with a pair of medium-heeled black boots. Now she felt like she could win the job.

The club has a pretty good crowd and she got there just as the MC was announcing that the band was coming up and that they would audition members of the audience interested in trying out to be the singer. He waved a clipboard. “I also have some names, so if you are here and signed up, see me right away to get your number.”

As soon as he climbed down off the stage, the band started their setup and Keisha made her way to the MC and was third in the line. She got up pretty quickly and he checked her name, then handed her a small black box. “Pick out a slip. That will have your number on it.” She really hoped it wasn’t number 1! It was 7, her lucky number. She almost felt her heart skip a beat. What a fantastic sign!

She went to the bar, swearing to just have a drink to help steady her nerves and get her into shape. She opted for a gin and tonic, something light and enjoyable. She watched them setup and surprised to see the bass player was white. She didn’t know why, but she had just guessed they were all African-Americans like herself. Guess she was wrong about that. Still, their bass player and guitar player were both pretty good. The guitar player, Eddie, he was pretty much the founder and leader. The girl who had started out as their vocalist decided to start a family and drop out of the touring life. That was setting the stage for Keisha to try and step into that role.

The band warmed up a little and got into a groove pretty quickly. Keisha found herself grooving like she used to when she heard her dad’s band play. Quickly the gin and tonic disappeared and she moved up close to the stage to get a better look.

Then the MC came up and announced that open mic night was getting underway. He called out for number one and a young white girl came up. She shook hands with the band, and then sat on the stool in front of the mic. She cleared her throat and coughed a couple of times. They started playing a song and she began singing. She was a bit too poppy sounding for Keisha’s taste, but she had a good voice. She was also sporting a short, platinum blond pixie haircut. Keisha found herself thinking what Tara would say if she was there about it. No doubt a `chicken’ reference.

Well, if I make it to they ask me back for a second audition, I will stop being a chicken, Keisha thought. I will get a haircut, just for you Tara! She kept this all to herself, of course, just joining along singing and grooving.

The band let her do two songs. Then a few other people came up. Before she knew it the MC was standing at the main microphone and asking for number seven. With a start, Keisha realized it was her turn! She quickly moved forward and handed him her number. He walked her over and introduced her to the band. They were all very nice and asked her what kinds of songs she liked, etc. She indicated blues and soul music were her favorites. How about one of each? She nodded, feeling her hair frizzing up under the spotlights. What a time to become unmanageable! But she shook it off and the decided what to play. She walked to the stool and sat down. Pretty soon, though she was standing and grooving to the music, pouring all her energy into this performance. They played `Soul Train’ and then they moved to a more jazzy version of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s `The Sky is Cryin”. She was totally into this performance. She gave a couple of quick glances back towards the band; they were watching her and nodding to each other, getting into the energy of her performance.

When they finally finished, she shook their hands, sweat upon her brow and her frizzier than ever. The band seemed impressed and asked her to stick around until the end of the show. Perhaps they had said that to others too.

Anyway, she felt elated that she had been so easily able to slip into the energy of the music. She went back to the bar to recollect herself. `OK,’ she thought, `one more gin and tonic to relax me now that I’ve beaten myself into a hairy, frizzy mess.’ She sighed as she tried to straighten the frizzy mess. Silently she rather wished she hadn’t been such a chicken when Tara tried to get her to go. Then she could have stopped worrying about her damn hair and get on with pouring all her heart and soul and energy into the performance. She wanted this opportunity so bad!

After midnight the band wrapped the show up and played one more song as most people left. Keisha stayed and she noticed that the platinum pixie girl had also stayed. There was also one other girl. They nodded to each other, friendly enough, but knowing they were competing for the same thing. The band wrapped up and the MC got their names and phone numbers.

“Listen,” said Eddie coming to the front as the drummer broke down his set. “You three were the finalists. We want you to come back in a week for a private audition. The most important aspect we
look for is stage presence and energy; you three were what we considered the best. Now, we want to give you a bit longer to work with us on a couple of original pieces, stuff like that.”

Keisha felt so excited. She was getting a second audition. Eddie looked evenly at all of them. “Once we decide, we’ll be doing a gig next Saturday. You’ll get the chance to front our band at that gig if you are the one we pick.”

They all thanked them for the opportunity to audition. Keisha added “and thanks for inviting us back for a second chance.”

Eddie and the rest of the band shook their hands and promised to call with details about the Friday evening audition.

Keisha went back to her dorm room and pondered about how she was going to do at the next performance chance. Then she decided to get some sleep and think about it in the morning. She then remembered as she stripped down to her underwear and slid under the covers about how she promised to `cut her hair’ if she got the chance for a second audition.

What would the band think about her if she came back sporting a shorter hairdo? It was likely to get them to turn off on her, no matter how good her performance was or had been.

Still, she remembered being all panicked because her hair was behaving like it was electrified. Something short was called for. She needed to go through with it. If she lost the chance, well, it would hurt, but the band wanted a singer, not a frizzy mess! And she would show them that below all the frizz, the singer was still there. She smiled as slumber started to descend and she slipped into a fitful sleep.

Keisha dreamed that she and the platinum pixie girl got into a fight and Keisha had tried to pull her hair, but just couldn’t grab it. The girl could easily grab hers though! “Ha, ha! I can pull your hair,” the pixie girl taunted her, tugging at Keisha’s frizzy mane. She awoke in a sweat. It was just a dream! Still, it was pretty potent. She relaxed and slowly sleep returned again.

The next morning, Keisha decided today had to be the day. That way it would grow back out during the week (yeah, right). She dressed down and went downtown to see where she could get a haircut on Sunday morning. How many places could there be? Maybe today she wasn’t going to be so lucky.

However, there was a barber shop open on Sundays from 9 to 1. She walked in and there was young black man with a shaved head sitting at the counter. He was sipping some coffee and reading the paper. There was no one else in the shop.

“Hi there, miss,” he said, rising. “Can I help you?”

“Can I get my haircut here?”

He nodded and gestured with his arm to a dark blue leather chair. “We have an open chair, as it happens.”

“Good,” she said as she settled down into it. The leather seemed to hug her and welcome her into its grasp. She breathed a heavy sigh.

“My name is Tim. Pleasure to meet you,” he said. She shook his hand told him her name. “Keisha, I want you to relax; sometimes people get all worked up about having some hair cut off. What sort of haircut did you have in mind?”

“Well, my best friend Tara is always telling me that I need a much shorter haircut. I have such problems with frizz, it’s like my hair is electrified.”

Tim nodded. “I can see that your hair is very fine. You’d have to cut it pretty close to get it not to tend to be frizzy.”

She swallowed. “Like how close?”

He smiled, flashing nice, even white teeth. “Well, I’d have to probably go with a #4 cut, leaving your hair a nice even texture close to and hugging your head.”

“What is a number four?”

He picked up a pair of hair clippers and then a black plastic comb. “This is a #4; it cuts to a half-inch long.”

“A half an inch?” She was appalled. “You want to cut my hair that short?”

To his credit, he nodded. “Yes,” he said, and then he explained how the hair would curl up tightly and give a nice even texture like a fine carpet.

“Well, I don’t know about that. It’s a whole lot shorter than I figured it would be.”

“You’ve got a good head shape for it.”

She smiled awkwardly. “I’m sure I do.”

Tim sighed a little. “Trust me. I think it will look just fine.”

“Don’t they cut boy’s hair with those things?” She nodded towards the clippers. “They can cut girl’s hair just as well.”

She shrugged. What the hell? She gave him the OK to cut away.

“Thanks,” Tim said with a flash of a grin. “You won’t be disappointed, I promise you.”

“I hope not,” Keisha said with a frown. “I’d hate to look awful.”

“No, I promise that you won’t.” He pulled a vinyl cape out and wrapped it around her neck. “Settle yourself and relax. It shouldn’t take too long.” He pushed her head forward slightly and then attached the guard to the clippers. With a snap they turned on.

Keisha half wondered how insane she must be to be getting such a short haircut! Still, she had something to tease Tara about now! Who would be the real chicken, she wondered as Tim pressed the clippers to the back of her neck. Slowly he began to push them up towards the top of her head. She heard the fierce sounds as the metal teeth began munching and cutting her hair. “Oh, it looks better than I thought,” Tim said as he finished the first pass. “You’re going to look just grand.”

She felt a sense of relief wash over her. Maybe it wasn’t going to look like she’d just had a frontal lobotomy after all.

Tim started the next pass at the base of her neck. “Wow, you’re hair is pretty curly short. Amazing how frizzy it gets when it is so long.”

“Is that a bad thing?” Keisha asked.

“Oh no,” Tim responded quickly. “Just means it will be tighter than I figured. Wait until it’s done, I think you’re going to be in for a surprise.”

“I can hardly wait,” she replied, but her heart was still heavy with fear. Should I be doing this, she asked herself.

Tim chuckled. “Be brave, honey. It’s going to be worth it.”

She just tried to smile, but it just came out as a tight flash of a smile. She could only see great tufts of her frizzy hair falling away behind her. The feeling of, basically having this man `mowing’ her head like it was field of overgrown wheat, was completely strange. She wondered if this was like that dream last night. Well, the pixie girl would have a devil of a time grabbing her hair if it was so short. But she wasn’t sure exactly how short it would be. She was about to find out.

To be fair, she knew there were black women with short hair who had enjoyed success. Grace Jones and Halle Berry came right to her mind. Still, what did that speak for her chances? Perhaps they were not so good. But you don’t know until you explore that route, do you?

Tim asked her about other things in life. He actually admitted he liked her show on the radio. “I hear it when I am headed home. I like your style.”

“Thanks,” she replied as he started working on her left side. More great tufts of hair dropped away as if they couldn’t wait to settle with their kin on the floor. She gulped. She was carrying all that for so long? And Tim wasn’t even half done! Good Lord, she could begin to see what Tara was getting at now.

“I didn’t realize I was carrying all that around,” Keisha said. “I expect that my head’s going to weigh about 6 pound lighter!”

Tim laughed. “Yeah, it’s so thick and frizzy, it’s amazing when you see it all falling away. Still, what’s left is looking fine! Just like I told you it would.”

Keisha found a smile easier to emerge now. It didn’t hurt and it was a great weight off her mind to be relieved of all this worry about that frizzy hairdo she was carrying around. Still, she felt a pang of fear still. What would the new Keisha look like when it was all said and done?

Tim finished the left side, guiding the clippers around her left ear. She saw the short, thick black hair left in the wake. Actually, despite all her fears, it didn’t look as bad as she feared! It was very even without looking like it was a half an inch long. She gave Tim credit for seeing what was under
neath when she couldn’t. She told him so.

“Thanks,” Tim said moving to work on her right side. “I’m flattered that you can see that it really does fit you pretty well.”

Keisha felt it was easier and easier to relax now. Her fears about how awful she would look were dissolving. “Still, it’s so drastically short, especially after what I have been carrying around for years. You have to have to good idea for heads and haircuts to see that.”

He chuckled. “I have quite a few heads in my time since I got my license. After all the ones I have seen, you start to get a sense of what a customer would look good in. Most times they don’t ask me my opinion. They just get an idea and that’s all you. You’ve been a good sport about it.”

He buzzed around her right ear and finished the right side. Keisha realized she did not want the cutting to stop! Still, she had a show to run this afternoon, but it was so enjoyable to be transformed. She planned to do a little plug for this barbershop on her show. Not a paid advertisement, obviously, but why not. Maybe one or two other girls she could think of would come down and let Tim transform them too?

Now he got behind her in the chair and reached forwards, placing the clippers against her forehead pointed towards him. He started to pull them towards to him, leaving more short, thick hair that you couldn’t even tell was so brutally short compared to what little was left. She gasped in awe. She could see the shape of her head, the side contours and it was like a sea of pure black softness.

“Wow,” she muttered.

He nodded as he reached forward for another pass. “Glad you’re grooving this hairstyle. It’s definitely you.”

Keisha tried unsuccessfully to suppress a giggle. “What, I have a choice now?”

He flashed another brilliant white smile. “Yeah, good point.”

Another pass over the center of her head. That would teach that nasty frizzy stuff who was boss!

Another pass, now. Less that two clipper widths remained now before Keisha was totally shorn of her frizzy nightmare and released.

The next pass started. Keisha felt her heart start to thump against her ribcage in anticipation of what was going to come in a few moments. Tim moved the clippers to the front again. Last pass was about to come through!

As the clippers made their last `official’ pass over her head, the new Keisha excited her. She wasn’t ashamed now of what people would think. She wanted to show Tara that the chicken had retired. “My best friend Tara isn’t going to believe it,” she said. “She’s wanted me to go much shorter for so long.”

Tim said, “she ought to love it almost as much as you seem to.”

“Tell you the truth; I was scared to stiff of what I might look like. But you truly picked a good gem here. Great job, brother!” She gave him a fist-tap. “You know what a head needs more than I would think.”

“Come back for a touch up,” Tim said. She nodded. “You betcha your ass I will!”

He smiled and she gave him the money. Here she was going in mortified. Come what would, she wanted to let people know she was going to stick with her new short hairdo for a good long time. She kept rubbing at it, marveling how thick it was and how it didn’t matter anymore. Come what will, she loved the decision to go with Tim’s recommendation.

She plugged him and the shop several times on her show, telling listeners how she’d taken the plunge. The people she worked with marveled at how she had converted from the frizzy mess to such a compact and neat style. Keisha couldn’t wait to tell Tara about how adventurous she had become. Now she could give Tara a little good natured ribbing about how her style was `so long.’ She smiled a secret, wicked grin when she thought about it.

As for the band, Keisha came in full of verve to the audition. The band didn’t think it was the same girl until she performed. They knew it was her when the first notes started to play.

Eddie told her after, “we love your new hair style. Just the sort of signature thing to help us stand out. The job is yours, if you want it.”

“I do,” Keisha said with heart. “I want this job so bad; I got all my hair mowed off!” Eddie just laughed. After a few gigs the bass player asked her out and she decided what the hell, life seems to be going pretty good. She was soon getting into his groove, in more ways than one. It was the start of something special in her life.

As for Tim, she visited him every third Sunday for a trim. After all, she had a new reputation to uphold.

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