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It was Friday, the last full day of our vacation. We had spent two weeks at our cabin in the mountains. The days were filled with hiking, swimming, canoe trips, and just plain relaxing. Tomorrow we would pack our gear and return to life in the city. For most of our time the weather had been wonderful-clear, crisp mornings and bright, sunny afternoons-but today was rainy. Heavy clouds hung over our cabin and showed no sign of departing.

"What do you want to do today, hon?" my wife, Jane, asked.

"I don’t know. I had hoped to get in one last hike, but I’m afraid that’s not going to happen. Do you want to drive into town?" I suggested.

"Sure, that sounds good. I’d like to visit a couple of the shops. Perhaps we could find a gift for Holly and Rick. Then we could go someplace to get some lunch," she replied.

"Sounds good to me. Just give me a couple of minutes to change into something more suitable," I answered.

Half an hour later we were on our way down the mountain heading for Clarksville. The tiny hamlet didn’t have much of a business district, just a small grocery store, a hardware store, the post office, a bank, a sporting goods store, a couple of bars and filling stations, and a collection of shops catering to the summer tourists. Main Street was three blocks long. We parked at one end, near an antiques store, and set out to explore what the town had to offer. Twice during our vacation we had stopped at the market to load up on supplies. Both times we remarked that it would be fun to browse around, but we were anxious to get back to the mountains. Today we had plenty of time. We spent an hour or so hunting for antiques and making a couple of small purchases. At noon we stopped at a busy diner and joined a lively mix of locals and summer people for soup and sandwiches.

After lunch we crossed the street and began a leisurely stroll back to our car. Half way down the block I spied the traditional striped barber’s pole in front of a small shop. I noticed there were no customers inside. The proprietor sat in the single barber chair reading a newspaper. I was surprised to see that it was a woman. She wore a white smock and appeared to be in her early thirties. In this part of the country barbering is a mostly male occupation. A young female barber was definitely an unusual sight.

"I think I’ll stop in here and get a haircut. I’ve got a big meeting on Monday morning, "I told her. "I need to look my best when I meet these clients. Why don’t you go ahead? I’ll catch up with you in twenty minutes or so."

"No, that’s OK. I don’t mind. I’ll come in and wait till you’re done."

We entered the shop together. The barber put her paper down and rose to greet us. "Good afternoon. Can I help you?" she asked.

"Yes, I need a haircut," I said.

"Sure, I’ll be happy to take care of you," she said, ushering me into the vacant chair and spreading a cape over my shoulders.

My wife drifted to one of four unoccupied seats along the front window opposite the barber and picked up an ancient sports magazine from a pile on the table.

"You up here on vacation?" the barber inquired.

"Yes. We’ve been staying at our cabin near Eagle Lake for the past two weeks. We’re driving back to the city tomorrow and I need to look presentable when I go into the office on Monday."

"How would you like me cut your hair?" the barber inquired.

"I like to keep it pretty short," I replied. "Buzz and sides and back, but leave it a little longer on top."

"Do you want a part or do you brush it straight back?" she continued.

"No part–just brush it straight back," I requested.

With that the barber went to work, extracting a clippers and running them up my head. She moved quickly and skillfully and in a few minutes she had clipped the back and sides to less than half an inch. Then she began with the scissors, snipping the hair on top till it was suitably short. She blended the top with the sides and applied some gel to make the hair stay in place. I watched in the mirror as she completed the cut. She had removed most of my summer’s growth. The finished cut was shorter than I normally wore my hair, but it looked good. "She really knows what she’s doing," I thought to myself. She asked if I was satisfied and I indicated that everything was satisfactory.

Although she pretended to be reading her magazine, idly flipping its pages, I noticed that while I was in the chair Jane was closely monitoring my haircut. She seemed intent on studying the barber’s technique. I also observed that something about my haircut was making her anxious. From time to time she would nervously shove the bangs off her forehead and push her fingers through her shoulder length dark brown hair. She fiddled with her rings and bounced her crossed leg. She never before had come with me while I had my hair cut and I wondered if the masculine environment of the barber shop was making her uncomfortable.

When my cut was done, my wife rose from her chair and walked up to me. She ran her fingers up the back of my neck, caressing the short hairs. "What do you think, hon? Is it too short," I asked.

"No, Paul. I like it," she answered. "You should keep your hair this length. It looks good on you."

We stood near the cash register and I opened my wallet to pay the barber. I made sure to include a generous tip. After she closed the cash drawer, she turned to my wife.

"Perhaps you would like to be next?" she offered.

"Do you mean me?" my wife replied with a surprised look on her face.

"Sure. I don’t see anyone else around here," the barber answered. "Would you like your hair cut?"

"No, not really," my wife protested. "I hadn’t planned on getting my hair cut just yet. Thanks anyway," she demurred.

"Are you sure? I could take you right away-no waiting for an appointment, no long lines," she insisted.

"Do I look like I need a haircut?" my wife objected rather sharply.

"No, it’s not that. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just that I noticed the way you were watching your husband’s haircut. I thought you might like to try a barbershop haircut," she continued.

"Well, I don’t think so," she answered, still resisting. "You probably don’t have any experience cutting women’s hair, do you?"

"Actually, I do. Before I took this job I worked in a large salon in the city for almost ten years," the barber explained. "Up here about a third of my customers are women. I don’t want to brag, but I’ve got plenty of experience."

"And you can do any style I select?" Jane inquired.

"Sure, within reason," she answered. "I don’t give perms or anything like that, but I doubt that’s what you’re looking for."

"No, you’re right about that. But I don’t know. It seems a little strange," she continued. From the tone of her voice it sounded as though she might be persuaded.

"I know. It’s probably not something that you’ve ever considered before," the barber continued, "but why don’t you give it a try? I think you might like it."

"What do you think, Paul?" she said, turning to me. "Do you think I should get my hair cut here?"

"It’s up to you, hon. Whatever you want is fine with me."

"And you wouldn’t mind waiting while I get my hair cut?"

"No, go ahead," I answered. "It’s not like we have any urgent plans for the rest of the afternoon."

"Well, I guess I will get my hair cut," she announced. To my surprise she casually strolled up to the barber’s chair, mounted the step, and lowered herself into the seat I had just vacated. She glanced around the room from her new perspective and waited for her haircut to begin.

I hardly knew what to think. I never expected to see my wife as a customer in a men’s barber shop. At home she had a regular appointment at the Beauty Nook salon to get her ends trimmed every two months. Jane is a fairly conservative person, not one to make impulsive decisions. She works as a loan officer for a major bank where employees are encouraged to be dress and act with restraint. She never makes a purchase without careful consideration. Once she finds a style she likes she usually stick with it. Her decision to get her hair cut in a barber shop was completely out of character.

"Now it’s your turn to watch, Paul," she gaily called from the chair.

"Sure, whatever you like, hon," I replied, still not believing my eyes and ears. She actually seemed to be enjoying the new experience. I retreated to the chair where she had been sitting a moment ago and watched with fascination as the barber shook the loose hair from the cape that had been around my neck minutes before, spread it over Jane’s waiting shoulders, and fastened it securely around her neck. She picked up a large comb and began running it through Jane’s locks, getting a feel for their condition and texture.

"My name’s Mary, by the way," she said by way of introduction.

"Hi Mary, I’m Jane," she replied. "If you don’t mind me asking, how did you come to be working here in this barber shop? Women barbers must not be very common around here."

"Well, you’re right. My dad operated this shop for nearly thirty years. You might say I grew up here. I never liked to stay home, so I would come with him. When I was old enough he taught me how to cut hair. Then I went off to the city to seek my fortune. Three years ago when he got ill he asked me to come back and keep the shop open till he recovered," she explained. "It was only supposed to be a temporary arrangement. Now he’s in a nursing home and I’m the town barber. I guess you could call it destiny. You been coming up here long?" she asked, changing the subject.

"Yes. Our cabin used to belong to my parents. I came here as a girl. When they retired and moved to Florida we bought it. That was five years ago. I like the way you cut my husband’s hair. He’s never looked so good," Jane observed.

"Thanks," she replied.

"Now, what would you like me to do with your hair?" Mary asked, turning the conversation to the task at hand while continuing to comb my wife’s locks. "Shall I just trim the ends and even your bangs? Or can I interest you in something else?" Her tone suggested that she expected Jane to depart from her regular style.

"Well, I usually just get my ends trimmed a bit," Jane replied. "This is style fits well with my work for the bank. I need to keep a professional image."

"Of course, I understand," Mary answered. "But every woman needs to change her look once in a while. I thought you might want to try something different."

"Well, I have worn this style for a long time," Jane responded. "Perhaps I should consider a new style. But nothing too extreme," she quickly added. "What do you think, Mary?"

Her words came as a complete surprise to me. For the past twelve years, almost as long as I’d known her, Jane had worn her hair in pretty much the same style. Although she had just turned 40, there was no hint of gray in her hair. It hung straight and dark over her collar, stopping just above her shoulders. She parted it on the side, with long bangs that she usually brushed across her forehead. For work and special occasions she sported a traditional pageboy style with the ends turned under. I thought her classic style looked great and I often told her so. Around the house and when working out at the gym she often pulled it back into an abbreviated ponytail. Occasionally she complained that it was a hassle to maintain her hair, especially when the weather was warm, but I never took her seriously. I had no idea that she was thinking of changing her look.

"Well, it’s up to you really. I can do almost any type of cut you like. What did you have in mind?" the barber asked.

"I’m not sure. I’d definitely like a change, but nothing too drastic," she cautioned.

"I could take off a couple of inches and give you a nice bobbed look," she offered, pointing to a spot on Jane’s chin just below her ear. "That would keep your look pretty much the same, but in a considerably shorter version." The cut she was suggesting would require the amputation of about three inches of Jane’s tresses. I had never seen her with hair that length. I wondered how she would look.

"Here, let me show you," Mary offered. She twirled the chair around so Jane faced the large mirror on the wall and held her hands out flat on either side of Jane’s head at the spot where she proposed to cut. "What do you think?" she asked.

"Yes, that looks good. I think I’ll give it a try," Jane agreed easily.

"And what about your bangs?" Mary inquired. "Do you want to keep them the same length?"

"I guess they should be shorter too, but not too much," Jane replied.

"OK. Why don’t we get to work?" Mary declared in a business-like tone. She put down her comb and began to spray Jane’s locks, thoroughly soaking them with water and then combing them again. She picked up a pair of scissors and approached Jane from the side. She held the scissors level with Jane’s jaw, cocked her head, and inserted the blades into the curtain of hair that hung along the side of her face. "Is this the length you’d like?" she asked.

"Yes, that’s about right. Go ahead," Jane ordered.

Slowly, deliberately, the barber closed the blades and a three-inch section of dark hair silently fell onto the white cape, creating a wide gap in Jane’s perfect pageboy. Mary advanced the scissors and cut again, extending the vacant space above Jane’s shoulder. She continued cutting, making sure to keep a straight line as she slowly circled the chair. When she reached the back I could see the wet hair laying flat against Jane’s neck. Three more cuts fully exposed the bare skin on the back of her neck. Mary completed her circuit of the chair, clipping the last remaining long pieces so Jane’s hair now stopped just below her ear. She combed the shortened hair again and trimmed a few stray pieces until nothing marred the straight blunt cut that encircled her head.

"Now for the bangs," the barber announced. "I’ll trim them about an inch shorter, if that’s OK with you."

"Sure, that’s fine," Jane agreed.

She combed the bangs down across her forehead and sliced a horizontal line, creating a noticeable gap above Jane’s eyebrows. She closed her eyes as the loose hair fell across her nose and cheeks. When she finished with the bangs, the barber put down the scissors and returned with a blow dryer and a round styling brush. She aimed a jet of warm air at Jane’s head and began to arrange the new hairdo, giving it more volume and a softer, more rounded shape. After a few minutes of furious activity she put down the dryer and stepped aside so Jane could view herself in the mirror.

"Well, what do you think, Jane? Do you like this look?" Mary asked.

"Wow! It’s so different," Jane exclaimed. "But yes, I love it," she said while cautiously patting the sides of her hair and stroking her newly exposed neck. "It’s been years since I’ve had my hair this short, but I really like it. What do you think, Paul?" she asked, turning in my direction.

"I like it. It makes you look much younger," I added.

"Well, I guess you’d better pay the lady again," she said to me.

"It’s been a pleasure, Jane. I hope you come back next time you’re in the area," the barber said as she removed the cape and Jane got up to leave.

Just then an excited young woman, no more than seventeen or eighteen years old, burst through the door of the shop. Her long blonde hair streamed down the middle of her back. She did not look like a regular customer–not with hair that length. I wondered what brought her into the barber shop and what caused her agitated condition.

"Mary, Mary, I’ve got the pictures you wanted," she exclaimed breathlessly, holding three photos in her hand. "I found them on the Internet this morning."

"Calm down, Danni. Hold still so I can look at them."

The girl stopped waving the photos and handed them to Mary who carefully examined them. I couldn’t help but look over her shoulder. The photos were a series of headshots showing front, back and side views of a very attractive shorthaired blonde. I recognized the model in the pictures as the popular South Africa actress, Charlize Theron.

"Doesn’t she look fantastic? Can you cut my hair like this?" the girl asked eagerly.

After studying the pictures for a moment, Mary replied, "Sure, Danni, I don’t see why not. It doesn’t look too complicated. It’s mighty short though. Are you sure you want me to cut your hair that short?"

"Oh yes. When we start back to school I want everyone to notice me. This is my senior year and I want to make the most of it." The girl was almost pleading with Mary. This hairstyle seemed to be the most important thing in her life right now.

"Well, if I cut your hair like this you certainly will stand out from the crowd," Mary observed.

"Yes. All the other girls wear their hair the same way-straight and long. It’s so boring. I’m tired of following the herd. I want to be different." Danni was adamant, but Mary appeared reluctant to administer such a major makeover.

"But what will your folks say? I don’t want your Mom and Dad getting mad at me when you come home with your hair cut so short," Mary inquired.

"We’ve been discussing this for the past month, ever since I decided," Danni explained. "At first Mom was dead set against it. She said she didn’t want to see me give up my long hair, especially not before yearbook photos and the senior prom. I begged and argued, but nothing would change her mind. Dad was more understanding," she said with a smile. "He told Mom that I was old enough to make my own decisions and that she shouldn’t be so stubborn. They must have talked again last night while I was out. I guess he persuaded her. Anyhow, this morning at breakfast Mom told me that I could cut my hair if I really wanted to. In fact, she gave me a note to show you in case you needed it," she said, reaching into the pocket of her jeans.

"That won’t be necessary. It sounds like you’ve taken care of everything," Mary remarked as the eager girl hopped into the chair. I handed Mary a twenty-dollar bill to pay for Jane’s haircut and we turned to leave, but before we reached the door the barber called us back. "Say, would you folks like to stay and watch Danni’s haircut?" she asked. "I’m sure she won’t mind."

I was about to offer an excuse and head for the street when Jane answered for both of us. "If Danni doesn’t mind, we’d love to watch. At least I would. We don’t have any place else we need to be, do we, hon?" I shrugged, returned to the plastic chair I had been occupying, and prepared to watch another haircut. Jane remained standing with the barber and her young customer.

"I guess I should introduce you guys," Mary offered. "Jane and Paul, I want you to meet Danielle Montgomery. But everyone in town calls her Danni. She’s been bugging me to cut her hair for the past three weeks and today she’s going to get her wish. Danni, meet Jane and Paul. They own a cabin up by Eagle Lake. They’re both new customers, as you can see."

The young woman held out her hand to Jane. "Hi, I’m Danni. Pleased to meet you. I love your hair, Jane. It looks great."

"Thanks, Danni. It’s nice to meet you too," Jane replied, exchanging handshakes. "You don’t mind if we watch your haircut?"

"No. That’s OK with me," she said gaily. "Stick around. There’s not much to do in this town."

Jane sat down next to me as the girl squirmed in the big barber chair. Mary began to prepare her for the shearing. She reached into a cabinet and extracted a fresh cape that she spread over her customer’s front while she pulled the girl’s long hair up off her back. Then she fastened the cape around her neck and let the hair fall down back over the chair. It hung nearly two feet long, shiny and clean. You could tell that the girl had lavished hours of care on her hair. She could have posed for a shampoo commercial, but in a few minutes it would be all gone.

Mary began to brush the long blonde hair tenderly as the girl fidgeted in the chair. "You need to relax a bit, Danni. Just take a few deep breaths before I begin," she suggested.

"Sure, Mary, I’ll try," Danni replied. "But I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long, I just can’t wait any longer."

"You’re not going to start crying on me when I cut your hair off, are you?" Mary inquired.

"No, I don’t think so," Danni assured her. "I’m sure I’ll miss my long hair, but I’m more excited than scared. Let’s get started."

"OK," Mary answered. "Just one more detail before we begin. Do you want me to save the hair that I cut off?"

"Yes," Danni said. "I think my mom would like to keep it for a souvenir."

"OK. Are you ready?" Mary asked. "Here goes."

Danni’s hands gripped the arms of the barber chair, a brave smile across her face. She watched in the mirror as Mary pulled a long strand from the middle of the girl’s head, along her center part and held it straight over her head. She placed the scissors at a point three inches above her scalp. Silently she closed the blades and the lock pulled free. The girl watched intently as the first cut was made. Her face suddenly grew solemn and I thought I saw a tear form in the corner of her eye. The eager grin she had displayed only a moment ago was replaced by an expression that looked more sad than happy; like someone saying farewell to an old friend. Mary laid the severed hair on the counter and returned to her customer. She selected a second strand further back on the part and repeated the snip. She worked deliberately, carefully measuring before she made each new cut. The pile of long hair quickly grew as Mary methodically worked toward the back of the girl’s head. No one in the room said a word while the shearing continued. From time to time Mary paused to glance at the photos, like a builder consulting his blueprints, and then returned to her work. I glanced over at Jane and saw she was completely absorbed in the spectacle unfolding before us. She nervously fingered the ends of her newly cut hair as Mary worked on Danni’s head. I wondered what she was thinking, but was afraid to ask. I didn’t want to break the silence in the room.

It took only five minutes for Mary to remove all of the long hair from the top of Danni’s head. The short tufts that remained, no longer weighted down by two feet of length, poked every which way from her scalp. Mary paused, set down her scissors, and ran her fingers through the short hair, gently coaxing the disheveled jumble to stand upright. "Well, that’s a good start," she said at last. "Now we need to finish the job." Danni said nothing, but continued to stare open mouthed at her unfamiliar image in the mirror.

Mary picked up the scissors again and began work on the side of Danni’s head above the temple. As she did with the top, Mary selected a strand of hair with the comb, pulled it out to the side and clipped it within two inch’s of Danni’s scalp. She worked her way down the side and snipped more closely, revealing a small, delicately shaped ear. Mary continued to the back, carefully removing long strands and adding them to the blonde mound on the counter. Danni stared at her unfamiliar visage in the mirror with long hair on one side and short hair on the other. At last Mary reached the left side and attacked the last patch of long hair. She clipped down from the temple and exposed the other ear. When the last trace of long hair had been removed she set down the scissors and began massaging the short hairs that now sprouted from Danni’s scalp. Next she picked up a water bottle and sprayed a fine mist on her hair. When she had thoroughly wetted the top, she resumed cutting. This time she used her fingers as a guide, trimming the ends of Danni’s short hair till it all was about two and a half inches long. When she reached the sides she used a comb to lift the short hairs. Those that extended too far she clipped off, tapering the length to less than half an inch around her ears and neck.

When she finished trimming the edges she went back to the counter and returned with a generous handful of gel that she worked into Danni’s hair. "Now I’m going to show you some styling options," she announced. First the combed her short bangs forward so a ragged fringe surrounded her face. "They call this a Caesar style. I guess you’re supposed to look like a Roman emperor." Next, she drew a sharp diagonal part on the side of her head and combed the hair across her scalp, slicking it down close to her head and forming a brief curl on the cheek in front of her ear. "You can call this one a flapper style right out of the roaring twenties." Finally, she brushed all the hair back off her face and coaxed it to stand upright. She mussed the hair with her fingers till it sprouted in all directions. "This gives you more of a punk look. It will probably look better when it grows out a bit." She paused, and then asked, "So, what do you think, Danni? Did I cut it short enough to suit you?"

"Oh Mary, I can’t believe we really did it!" she exclaimed. "I hardly recognize myself. It’s going to take a while to get used to the new me, but I love it. I didn’t realize I could wear it so many different ways."

"Which one do you like best?" Mary inquired.

"I like them all, but I think this one is the best. I’ll keep it this way, at least for a while." She reached both hands to her head and began poking her fingers into the ends of her hair, exploring the unfamiliar length.

It appeared that the cut was now finished. Mary undid the cape with a flourish and announced to us, "Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the new Danni Montgomery, the shortest haired girl in Clarksville." The girl stepped down from the chair and took a mock bow as we applauded. She reached in her pocket and pulled out some bills to pay Mary, but I held out my hand to stop her. "Let me pay for this. You’re a brave young woman and it was a privilege to watch your haircut."

As we prepared to leave the shop Mary called out, "Come back any time Jane. When you’re ready, I’ll be happy to take care of you."

"Thanks Mary. I’ll think about it," Jane answered.

What did they mean by that exchange? I didn’t really understand what they were talking about, but I didn’t pursue the matter any further.

As we drove back to the cabin, Jane couldn’t stop talking about the remarkable event we had just witnessed. "Paul, did you like that girl’s haircut? Tell me what you really think," she asked.

"It was pretty extreme all right, but when it was done I thought she looked very attractive," I answered honestly.

"You don’t think she looked like a boy, do you?"

"No, not at all. I mean there are plenty of boys with longer hair than hers’, but she still looked very feminine. No one would ever mistake her for a guy."

"Yes, that’s what I thought too. Did you find it sexy?"

"I guess so. I mean, she’s a little young for me, but the look definitely was sexy."

Jane was silent for a while. Then she asked a question that caught me completely off guard. "Paul, what would you say if I got my hair cut like that?"

"Whoa, wait just a minute, Jane. Are you serious or is this just a hypothetical sort of question?" I demanded.

"It’s a very serious question. I’d like to know what you think because some day I may get the same haircut she got."

"You mean to say that less than an hour after getting your hair cut in a new style you’re already thinking about changing it? What’s wrong with this style? I really like your hair this length. Let me get used to it first."

"Yes, Paul, I like it too. But as I watched that girl I kept visualizing myself sitting in that chair, having my hair cut off. I never would have done something like that when I was her age, but I can imagine what she must have been feeling. You could see the fear in her eyes when Mary first began cutting off long lengths of her hair. This haircut probably was the most difficult decision of her young life. But by the time she stepped down from that chair the fear had been replaced by pride and satisfaction. She loved the way it turned out and was proud of herself for taking such a big step. I wanted to stand up and cheer for her. But somehow being a spectator was not enough. I wanted to trade places with her. I wanted to know exactly what she was feeling-every emotion, every sensation."

"Jane, this doesn’t sound like you. I’ve never heard you get so excited about a haircut. I don’t understand. Don’t get me wrong. It was an amazing sight-I’ve never seen anything like it-but it doesn’t make me want to run back and get my hair cut again. What’s come over you?"

"I don’t know. I guess visiting that barber shop has awakened a desire to have my hair cut short-very short. Perhaps I was Joan of Arc in another life."

"Just because that girl looks great with short hair is no guarantee that you will look good with the same haircut. Your features and coloring are completely different."

"Yes, I know that. But I’ve got this urge to try it. If it doesn’t work out, I can always let my hair grow back."

"Well, why don’t you wait a while before you do anything rash? When I’m standing on top of a cliff I sometimes feel an urge to jump off and start flying, but I know better than to try. Let’s go home and you can think it over. Perhaps you’ll come to your senses when you get back in your usual routine."

Frankly, I was amazed at the change that had come over my wife. She had gone for years wearing her hair in the same conservative fashion, now, suddenly, she couldn’t wait to try a drastic new style.

"OK Paul. I hear what you’re saying. I’ll take some time to consider it, but I don’t think it will make any difference."

We returned to the city the next day and Jane said nothing further about getting her hair cut. When she went back to work on Monday her friends and associates were unanimous in their praise of her new hairstyle. In the weeks that followed she experimented with different arrangements, wearing it slicked back behind her ears, parting it down the middle, pinning her bangs back with little barrettes. She seemed happy and perfectly content with her new look. There was no more talk of another haircut. I almost had forgotten our conversation.

Then, in early October, we headed back to the mountains for the Columbus Day weekend. The leaves had begun to turn and the fall colors were reaching their peak. With good weather in the forecast, this promised to be a great time for viewing the foliage for which this region is famous. The roads were clogged with hundreds of "leaf peepers" who had the same idea. We arrived at the cabin long after dark. Jane and I bustled about, unpacking our bags, starting a fire, fixing soup and sandwiches for a light dinner. While we were washing the dishes Jane casually remarked, "Paul, I’d like to take the car into town tomorrow morning."

"Why’s that? Did you forget something?" I inquired. "I thought we might go for a hike."

"You can go hiking if you like, but I’m going back to see Mary at the barber shop," she said. "We have some unfinished business to take care of."

"Does this mean you’re going to get your hair cut again? I thought you were going to keep your hair this length. I really like the way it looks," I protested.

"I know you do, Paul, but I have this burning desire to get my hair cut like that girl, Danni. I’m dying to see how I will look with hair as short as hers’. I know I won’t be satisfied till I do it. I’ve made up my mind," she answered decisively.

"And how long have you known this?"

"Almost as soon as I walked out of the shop I knew. I’ve been waiting since we came back from vacation in August. I thought about finding a barber in the city to do it, but I know that Mary will take good care of me," she explained.

"Why didn’t you say something before this? Why have you been keeping this a secret?" I asked.

"I didn’t hide it. I told you I was thinking about getting my hair cut again. I didn’t talk about it because I knew what you were going to say. You probably think I’ve gone off the deep end. You consider this hair fixation of mine pure lunacy, and perhaps it is, but that doesn’t change the way I feel. This is something that I need to do and if you don’t understand, I’m sorry." She paused, as if she regretted what she had just said, but then continued. "Tomorrow morning I’m going to drive into town, march into that barber shop, and ask Mary to give me the haircut I really want, the one I’ve been waiting for. I’m coming back here with my hair cut real short. I hope you like it, but if you don’t, I really don’t care. This is something I need to do for me."

Never had I seen Jane so determined and defiant. I knew that any expression of disapproval could permanently sour our relationship. I didn’t want to risk that. I realized I had no choice. "Well, if it’s that important to you, I won’t stand in your way. Do you want me to come along?" I offered.

"It’s up to you. You don’t have to come. I would like you there, but only if you’re going to be supportive. If you’re going to be critical or negative, I’d rather go by myself," she warned.

The next morning Jane was up at dawn. She bustled about the cabin, fixing a breakfast of pancakes and eggs; washing the dishes; sweeping the floors; then she retreated to the bathroom. I heard the water running for more than twenty minutes. When Jane emerged, her hair was still wet from the shower. She had made no effort to style it, just combing it to the side. I guessed that she felt there was no need to do the usual blow drying and brushing, since most of her hair would soon be gone.

She was dressed casually in jeans and a sweatshirt. When she donned her jacket and picked up the car keys I realized that she was looking at me. "Are you coming, Paul?" she asked.

"Sure, be right with you, hon," I replied as I grabbed my windbreaker and headed for the car.

It was a little after nine when we turned off the highway onto Main Street. The number of pickups and cars along the curb indicated a busy day in town. We parked a few doors away from the shop and walked hand in hand down the sidewalk. I could feel the tension in Jane’s grasp. On the way into town she said almost nothing. Despite her brave words last night, it seemed that she might be having second thoughts. "Are you sure you want to go through with this, hon?" I asked as we approached the familiar red, white, and blue striped pole.

"Yes, Paul, I’m sure," she answered firmly, then reached for the door.

Inside there were two other customers-one in the chair and one waiting. We entered and Mary greeted us warmly. "Hi guys, it’s good to see you again. We’re kinda busy today. You’ll have to wait a bit. I hope you don’t mind."

"No, that’s fine," Jane replied.

Mary turned her attention back to the young boy in the chair. He was getting his hair buzzed short and his mother stood nearby to make sure her son sat still while Mary ran the clippers over his head. Waiting her turn was Danni Montgomery, the same young girl whose drastic haircut we had witnessed six weeks earlier. Her hair had grown out since we last saw her and I figured that she had come back for a trim. She rose from her chair and greeted Jane warmly. Soon they were chatting like long lost friends. Despite the twenty year difference in their ages, they shared a common bond.

"Danni, you look great. Your hair’s gotten longer since the last time we saw you."

"Yes, it’s been growing out, but not for long. I’m getting it cut again today."

"So, how have you been?" Jane asked. "I’ve been thinking about you. What did your friends say when they saw your haircut?"

"Well, the girls at school went kind of crazy. They kept yelping and asking, ‘Danni, why did you do it?’ A couple of friends said it looked really good, but I could tell they were just saying it so they wouldn’t hurt my feelings. Most of them acted like I was a traitor for quitting their long hair club. The boys, on the other hand, were really quiet. Most of them just stared at me like I was from another planet or something. When I went out with Bobby, however, he kept feeling my hair all night. It seemed like he couldn’t get enough. I think it turned him on." Then she turned her attention to Jane. "And what about you? How do you like your haircut?"

"Well, I really love it. And my friends like it too. Of course, most of them already had short hair so they were welcoming me into their club, not like your friends. It’s so different having short hair after so many years. But I’m back today because I want Mary to cut my hair shorter. I’m going to get my hair cut real short, like yours. I guess watching your haircut inspired me."

"Wow. I can’t believe that you want your hair cut like mine" she exclaimed. "I thought I was the only one who liked it. You’ll look totally awesome with short hair, Jane. I know you will," she bubbled.

Jane leaned closer to Danni and whispered. "But I’m so nervous, Danni. How did you feel before your haircut?"

"I felt the same way. I was acting brave on the outside, but inside I was scared to death," she confided. Danni reached out and grabbed Jane’s hand. "But don’t worry. When it’s done and you see how good you look, you’ll forget all about your fears."

"Well, I certainly hope so. I’m afraid that my ears may stand out or I’ll wind up looking too butch," Jane confided. "I just hope I look as good as you do when it’s done."

While the two women talked, Mary finished with the young boy and sent him and his mother on their way. As soon as they departed Mary turned to the three of us. "Well, here we are together again. Just like old times. This is getting to be a habit. Danni, you’re up next," she said holding the chair and motioning her to step forward.

"Mary, I think you should take Jane ahead of me," Danni replied.

"You were here first," Mary said. "I’m sure Jane won’t mind waiting. Besides, I think she enjoys watching me cut your hair."

"Yes, I know, but Jane is here for a special reason," she insisted. "She wants you to cut her hair shorter. You know, really short, like mine. She’s ready to get started and I can wait. Let’s not keep her waiting any longer."

"Is that right, Jane? You came back for a haircut like Danni’s?" Mary asked. Jane nodded and said, "You heard right. That’s why I’m here."

"I kinda thought you’d be back. I was watching you while I was cutting Danni’s hair. You had a look on your face that said you were thinking about taking the plunge."

"Well, you were right. Watching Danni get her hair cut put the idea in my head," Jane explained. "Seeing how brave she was gave me courage. I decided that if she could do it, so could I. I’ve been ready for six weeks. Now I can’t wait any longer."

"In that case, let’s take care of you right now," Mary announced.

"Thanks, Danni. You don’t mind waiting, do you?" Jane asked as she rose out of her chair.

"No, Jane. You go first. It will be fun to watch." Danni escorted Jane to the barber chair and gave her a big hug before my wife settled into the seat. Then she turned to Mary and asked, "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Sure, Danni. Why don’t you take that cape and put it around Jane’s neck?" Danni picked up the striped cape and shook it as she had seen Mary do earlier. Then she spread it over Jane’s shoulders and pinned it in the back. "That’s not too tight is it?" she asked.

"No, it’s just fine Danni. Thanks," Jane smiled.

Now Mary stepped up to the chair and said, "Jane, you’re gonna look great with short hair. I’m glad you selected me to do the honors."

"I can’t think of anyone better," Jane replied. "But Danni deserves most of the credit. She’s the one who showed me how cute and sexy short hair can be. She’s the pioneer." Danni beamed as she stood by the chair and watched.

"So you want me to cut your hair just like I did Danni’s last time-good and short?" Mary asked.

"That’s right. In fact, you can cut mine a bit shorter than hers’," Jane replied.

"Now this isn’t a contest. There’s not going to be a prize for the woman with the shortest hair or anything," she teased. "Jane, how are you feeling?"

"My stomach is full of butterflies, but I’m ready," she confided.

"Well then, why don’t we get started?" Mary announced.

Mary turned the chair so Jane faced the mirror. She took a comb from a container on the counter and began arranging Jane’s hair.

"Would you like to keep your bangs?" Mary asked.

"Nope, they have to go. Cut them just as short as the rest."

"And in the back. Shall I leave a little shaggy fringe or clip it close?"

"Clip it close," Jane ordered.

"OK. Here goes," Mary announced. She lifted a section of Jane’s bangs near the side of her head and snipped them close to her scalp. Instead of cutting straight across her forehead, Mary followed Jane’s hairline, creating a brief semi-circular fringe around her face. The skin on her forehead, covered by the bangs for so long, now was exposed. Already Jane looked like a different woman. Next Mary used her comb to select a section of Jane’s hair just above her part. She held it out to its full length of five inches. "I think we should let Danni make the first cut. What do you say, Jane?"

"Sure, that’s fine with me."

Mary placed her scissors in Danni’s hand and pointed to a spot about two inches above Jane’s scalp. "You cut right here, Danni."

Danni slid the blades of the scissors around the dark hair and squeezed them slowly. The first lock came free Mary held it for Jane to inspect. "You can’t turn back now. Before long you’ll have hair as short as Danni’s, maybe shorter." Turning to her young assistant, she said, "Thanks Danni. I may need you later, but right now you can take a seat." She casually tossed the severed hair onto Jane’s lap and reached for another piece to cut. Jane’s hands gripped the arms of the chair as she watched Mary methodically snip the long pieces of hair from her head. In just a few minutes the top of her head was completely shorn and a large mound of dark hair rested on the cape. The smooth lines of Jane’s former style had been replaced by short tufts of hair protruding from her scalp in all directions. The hair on the sides still hung straight down to her chin, creating a curious contrast. Jane looked troubled as she viewed the damage her barber had inflicted. Mary must have sensed her distress and tried to reassure her customer. "I know it looks like a disaster right now, Jane, but trust me, in a few minutes it will look much better."

"Sure Mary, you know what you’re doing," was Jane’s uncertain reply.

Mary resumed cutting, this time shearing the sides and the back of Jane’s head to the same uniform length. She trimmed closely around her ears and cut a straight line across the base of her neck. When she finally put down her scissors no hair on Jane’s head was more than two inches long. Around her ears and neck the length was less than an inch.

"That takes care of the bulk, now we have to get the length right. Danni, can you come here? I need your help again. Take this spray bottle and give Jane’s hair a good soaking." Danni sprang from her seat and soon was squirting a fine mist of water all over Jane’s head. When she stopped Mary handed her a towel and said, "Just pat it dry. We don’t want Jane getting too wet."

After a moment Danni asked, "Is that OK?"

"Sure, Danni, thanks a lot," Mary replied, dismissing her assistant.

Jane’s head was completely disheveled with short dark hairs pointing in every direction. Mary then returned with the scissors in her hands. "Jane, I’m going to trim everything to a uniform length now. You need to tell me how short I should go." Jane nodded and Mary slid her open hand onto Jane’s head so that her palm rested on the crown and inch long strands of hair protruded between her fingers. "Where shall I cut, Jane?"

"Just above your fingers," Jane ordered. "Take it all off."

"That won’t leave you much left to style. Are you sure you want it that short, Jane?"

"Yes, I’m sure. Go ahead."

"OK. You’re the boss."

Mary resumed her work, chopping Jane’s already short hair even shorter. She moved across her head from the front to the back till she had reduced all of the hair on top to an inch. When Mary finally stopped cutting, she massaged Jane’s scalp so the short hair stood erect. Then she addressed Jane. "With the top so short, I’d like to use the clippers on the sides and back if that’s OK with you."

"Sure Mary, that would be fine," said Jane.

Mary removed a pair of black clippers from their hook and flicked on the power. She used a comb to draw up the hair on the back of Jane’s head and then ran the clippers along the comb to shear off the protruding strands. She slowly worked her way up Jane’s head, gradually cutting the hair longer so it blended with the top. Mary then used the comb and clippers on both sides till everything matched. Finally, she traded the large clippers for a small, battery-operated model. She used these to trim around Jane’s ears and to carve a clean line down her neck.

Then she turned again to the young girl who had been observing intently. "Danni, come here, I can use you again. Take a good dab of that gel and work it into Jane’s hair," she ordered. Danni sprang to work and eagerly rubbed the gel into Jane’s super short hair. When she had finished Mary approached with a blow dryer and skillfully styled Jane’s remaining hair. When she was done, Jane’s head was covered with a feathery helmet of short brown hair. Most of the hair on top sprouted straight toward the ceiling. A short fringe framed her oval face. She resembled only vaguely the woman who had accompanied me into the shop an hour earlier.

Immediately I could tell that Jane was pleased with the result. She looked at herself in the mirror and used her right hand to cautiously feel the spiky hair on her crown and then stroke the bare back of her neck. Danni and Mary stood on either side of the chair waiting for Jane to say something. Finally Mary broke the silence. "Well, Jane, what do you think? Is this what you had in mind?"

"Mary, I love it!" she exclaimed. "It’s awfully short, but that’s exactly the way I wanted it. Once you started cutting I knew I wouldn’t be happy till you had it this length."

"I can take it shorter if you like," Mary offered.

"No thanks, Mary. Not today. This length is just fine," my wife answered.

"Jane, I think you look super," Danni enthused. "This style really makes your eyes stand out. And your ears look nice too. Now I no longer am the shortest haired woman in Clarksville."

"And what do you think, Paul?" Jane asked. "Is this too short for you?"

"I’m sure I’ll get used to it," I stammered. "It’s quite a change, but as long as you like it, that’s what’s important."

"OK Jane, I’m done with you for today," Mary declared, discharging her customer. "It’s Danni’s turn now."

Mary removed the cape and unceremoniously dumped a pile of severed Jane’s hair onto the floor. When Jane stepped down, Danni hopped up to take her place.

"Jane, would you like to help me with Danni’s haircut?" Mary asked.

"Sure, that would be fun," Jane replied, reaching for the cape and wrapping it around the girl’s shoulders just as Danni had done for her half an hour before. Jane playfully tousled Danni’s short blonde locks. "How short are you going this time, Danni?" she asked with a challenge in her voice.

"I want Mary to cut it just like she did last time-good and short-but not super short like yours," Danni answered. "I don’t want to be accused of copying your look."

"Are you sure, honey?" Mary inquired. "I heard a lot of folks talking abut your last haircut. Some of them told me I never should have cut it that short. They act like I’m contributing to the delinquency of a minor or something. Perhaps you should let it grow out a little."

"No, Mary. Some folks in this town are just too narrow-minded. I’m going to wear my hair the way I want, not what some blue haired old ladies say I should do," Danni defiantly answered.

"That’s exactly what I thought you’d say," Mary concluded.

When Mary had finished the haircut and Danni emerged from beneath the cape she and Jane stood facing each other, exchanging admiring glances. Jane felt the prickly top of Danni’s head while the girl traced the contours of my wife’s new do. "You look great, Danni. This cut is even better than last time, Mary," said Jane, complimenting the barber.

"And you look totally awesome, Jane," said Danni, returning the compliment.

"Well girls, I hope this is the beginning of a trend," Mary said to both of her satisfied customers. "It wouldn’t hurt my business if more women started getting their hair cut like yours. Jane, with this style you’ll need to get a trim every four or five weeks. I hope you can find someone in the city to style your hair. I’ll give you a couple of names if you like."

"Thanks, Mary," Jane replied. "You take good care of Danni till I come back."

"You can count on me, Jane," Mary assured her. Jane and I walked out the door and headed for the car. I noticed a couple of women looking at my wife’s new style, but she seemed oblivious to their glances. As we drove back to the cabin I quizzed my wife about the events that had just transpired. "You really got carried away back there, hon. I never imagined that you would get your hair cut so short. I hope you’re happy now."

"Yes, Paul, I am. I’ve never felt so good about my hair. This style just feels right for me. I just wish you could share my pleasure. It would mean a lot to me."

"Well, your new style is very attractive, I must admit. But I wonder where this fascination with short hair will take you," I probed. "Next time will you want an even shorter cut?"

"You never can tell, Paul. There’s something about getting my hair cut in a barber shop that I find very exciting. When Mary took those clippers and began trimming the hair on the back of my head I almost wet my pants," she confessed. "It was pretty intense. Next time I may ask her to run the clippers all over my head. One day I may come home with a crew cut. Who knows? Will you still love me even if my hair is cropped close all over?" she asked.

"Sure, I’ll still love you. But there’s one thing I must ask you," I insisted. "Please don’t spring any surprises on me. If you go back to get another short haircut, at least give me some warning so I can prepare myself."

"Yes, that’s fair. I’ll definitely let you know. I’ll probably wait till summer before I try another short haircut," she assured me. "It’s going to be cold soon. I don’t want to get frostbite when we go skiing this winter. But when warm weather comes again, look out," she teased.

We didn’t return to our cabin in the mountains again till the first week of August. Both Jane and I had been putting in long weeks at work and we badly needed a few weeks of rest and recreation. As we approached Clarksville Jane turned to me. "Paul, last fall you asked me to warn you if I was going to get my hair cut short again. Well, you should know I’m planning a visit to Mary tomorrow and I may come back with a very short haircut. I hope you can deal with that."

This time her announcement didn’t come as such a surprise. In the months since her last visit to Mary’s shop Jane had let her hair grow out a bit. It was still quite short, about two inches long on top and shorter on the sides, but not as extreme as her October haircut. She found a stylist in the city whom she liked and went back for monthly appointments, yet I knew Jane wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to have Mary cut her hair again. It had been at least six weeks since her last appointment and Jane’s hair was beginning to cover her ears and creep down her neck towards her collar. I could tell by the way she constantly ran her hands through her hair that it was bugging her. I realized that a trip to the barber shop was part of Jane’s vacation plan.

"I appreciate the warning, Jane, but I kind of expected it. I guess you’ve got me conditioned. A vacation in the mountains means another short haircut for you."

"That’s right. I hope you don’t mind."

"No, that’s OK. I’m getting used to it."

Early the next morning we headed for Clarksville. I could tell that Jane was anticipating the impending haircut. As we drove down the mountain she grew silent and began running her fingers through her hair. I wondered how she would have her hair cut this time. I knew it wouldn’t be going to be just a trim. A trip to Mary’s shop meant that my wife would receive a seriously short haircut.

We found a parking space in front of the shop and walked in. The first thing I noticed was that the shop had been remodeled since our last visit. There was a fresh coat of soft blue paint on the walls and new chairs in the waiting area-leather instead of plastic, even some potted plants. It looked much more like a trendy unisex salon that the traditional men’s barbershop we had visited before. But the biggest change was the installation of a second barber’s chair. It looked like business was good. I wondered if Mary had hired another barber. Jane greeted Mary who was busy with a male customer. "Hi Mary. I see you’ve made some changes since the last time we were here."

"Hi guys. Welcome back," Mary answered. "Do you like the new d?cor? I probably would have gone on the same way my father had, but my new assistant insisted that we needed to keep up with the times."

"It looks great Mary," Jane replied, "but what did your old customers say?"

"A few of the old timers grumbled, but they don’t have much choice," Mary explained. "We’re the only act in town. Plus, we’re getting a lot more women customers now. I owe most of them to my new assistant too."

Who was this new assistant, I wondered? Then we saw her emerging from the back room. It was Danni, with her short blonde hair intact, but now wearing a crisp white smock with her name embroidered on the breast. When Danni spied Jane they embraced like classmates at a college reunion. "Danni, just look at you. Are you a barber now? How long have you been working here?" Jane bombarded her with questions.

"Yes, Jane, I am," Danni proudly reported. "Mary offered me a job here soon after your haircut back in October. She said I showed a real talent for working with hair and I was happy to have a steady job. She started teaching me how to cut hair and when school let out in May I enrolled in a barber college in the city. It was a six-week course. I passed all the tests and took the state exam last week. I’m still waiting for the results, and then I can start working on my own. For now, Mary has to supervise me. Technically, I’m still an apprentice, but she lets me do just about everything."

"Well, I hope Mary doesn’t mind, but I’d like you to cut my hair today."

"Sure, that’s fine. After all, you were largely responsible for getting me started in the hair cutting business. Why don’t you try my chair?"

When Jane was seated and Danni had fastened the cape around her neck, the conversation turned serious. "I see you’ve let your hair grow longer, Jane. Is that how you want to keep it?"

"No, Danni. Now that summer’s here, it’s time to go back to short hair."

"So, how do you want me to cut it? Should it be like you had it last time-short all over?"

"Well, yes and no. I mean I want it short all over, but not like last year. I’ve been thinking about trying something different this time."

"So, what do you want me to do, Jane?"

"Well, it’s kind of extreme, but I think you may like it."

"You know me. I’m always up for an extreme style. That’s my middle name-Danni X. Montgomery," she joked. "So what’s this radical cut you fancy? How do you want me to cut it?"

"Well," said Jane, building the suspense, "I’d like you to give me the same cut Mary’s giving that guy right now."

Danni and I turned our eyes to Mary’s chair at the same instant. There sat a young man in a state trooper’s uniform. Mary was putting the finishing touches on a military style crew cut. His light brown hair was very short on the sides and back, but it was the top that held my attention. His hair stood straight up and was cut perfectly level across the crown. Mary offered him a mirror so the young man could inspect his flat top from every angle. When he handed the mirror back to her a smile spread across his face. "Mary, you’re the best. The barbers in the Army could take lessons from you. I’ll be back in three weeks." He rose from the chair, picked up his "Smokey the bear" hat, and paid for his haircut.

"Wow, Jane. How did you ever decide on a flat top?"

"Well, there’s this young guy who started working in my office about six months ago. He wears his hair like that. I think he must be in the Reserves or something. Anyhow, I find myself staring at his head, especially just after he’s had his hair cut which is every couple of weeks or so. I wonder how it must feel getting your hair cut so short. So here I am, Danni. Today I’m going to find out."

"Jane, I think that’s so cool. But a flat top’s pretty tricky. I don’t know. One false move and it’s ruined. There’s no margin for error. I’m still learning. You better let Mary do this one. I won’t mind."

"No Danni, you’re my barber today. Mary can supervise, if she likes, but I want you do the cutting. I have confidence in you. I’m sure you’ll do a good job."

"Thanks Jane. I’ve done a few flat tops before, but never on a woman. You’ll be my first."

"Well, it will be a first for me too," she quipped.

When Mary returned from the cash register she approached Danni and Jane and asked, "What are you two up to? Did I hear someone mention a flat top?"

"Yes Mary, Jane asked me to give her a flat top. I told her that you were more experienced, but she wants me to do it."

"Is that right, Jane? A flat top? What will you think of next?" she grinned.

"What do you think, Mary? Is a flat top too extreme?"

"Yes Jane, it’s pretty extreme. You don’t need me to tell you that. But you’ve got good hair for it, thick and straight. And you’ve demonstrated that you can wear a short hairstyle. If that’s what you want, I say you should go for it. I’m sure Danni will do a good job. She’s nearly as good as I am already. She just needs some more practice and I’ll be here to keep an eye on her."

"Well, it sounds like that’s settled. Danni, I want you to give me a flat top. Why don’t you get to work before I change my mind?" Jane ordered.

"Sure Jane, I’m ready if you are." Danni turned the chair and reached for the big black clippers. "Should I use a number two guide for the back and sides?" she asked Mary. "Sure, number two is fine. If she wants it shorter you can go over it again with number one." Danni snapped a plastic guide over the blades of the clippers and flicked the switch to start them humming. She approached Jane in the chair, placed her left hand on the top of her head, and raised the clippers to the back of her neck. Jane’s head bobbed forward under the pressure from Danni’s hand. The young barber slid the clippers up into Jane’s dark hair. A stream of short hairs flew from the blades as Danni pushed the clippers toward Jane’s crown. She carved a two-inch wide path of short hair straight up the center of head, leaving sections of longer hair on either side. Danni returned the clippers to the base of Jane’s neck and repeated the upward thrust several more times till she had mowed all the hair on the back of Jane’s head to a bare fraction of an inch.

"That’s good," Mary observed. "Now you have to clip around her ears. Remember not to go too far up the sides. You can come back for that later."

Danni positioned the clippers in front of Jane’s left ear and drove them into her sideburns and up as far as her temple. Gently, she folded Jane’s ear out of the way so she could clip around it. With a few more strokes, the side merged with the back. Then she moved to Jane’s right side and repeated the process.

Danni rested the clippers on the counter and picked up a stiff brush. She addressed Jane more as a friend than her barber. "How are you holding up, Jane? Are you ready for me to do the top now?"

"Sure, Danni. I’m fine. You go ahead."

Danni began to brush Jane’s hair straight back from her forehead. With every stroke she coaxed the hair to stand upright. When she paused all of the hair on top of Jane’s head was pointing towards the ceiling. The ends were rather ragged and uneven. The tallest hairs were more than two inches long, but I knew that would not last for long.

Mary took a moment to give her pupil more instruction. "Here you should use the wide tooth comb to hold her hair in place while you buzz it. Don’t try to take off too much at once. Remember, you can go over it as many times as you need to get it to the proper length."

Danni removed the guide from the clippers exposing their silver blades. She held a large comb in her left hand and the clippers in her right. "Jane, this is the most critical part. It’s important that you sit perfectly still. If you move when I’m buzzing the top I may not be able to get the flat surface this cut requires."

"Sure, I get the picture. I won’t even breathe."

"OK Jane. Here goes." Danni started at the front of Jane’s head, just above her forehead. She held the humming clippers so they moved along the surface of the comb, clipping all the hair in their path. She reinserted the comb, a bit lower this time, and made another pass with the clippers, gradually lowering the profile of the cut. When she was satisfied with the length, she moved the comb back into the next section of hair and repeated the horizontal strokes of the clippers. Gradually, she reduced the height of the upright hair, carving a flat plane across the top of her head. At the front it was about an inch long. On her crown, no more than half an inch remained.

After several minutes of intense concentration Danni traded the clippers for the brush and vigorously attacked the short hair again. This time the hairs bristled to attention with less effort. Danni closely inspected the flat surface and made a few more passes with the clippers to make sure everything was perfectly even.

Finally, she began to work on the sides, repeatedly stroking upwards until she had created two vertical walls that formed right angles when they reached the top. She applied some gel to the front and sides. "This should help keep your hair standing straight up," she commented.

At last she stepped back and allowed Jane to see the finished cut in the large mirror on the wall. She offered a smaller hand mirror so Jane could inspect the back and sides. "Well Jane, what do you think? Is it short enough? I could take it shorter if you like."

"No, that’s fine, Danni. This length is good."

"Well, Jane, what do you think?" Mary inquired. "Is this what you wanted?"

"It is, Mary. This is just the look I was after."

"I must say that you look great. Not many women could wear this cut as well as you do. Remember when you first came here last year? You’ve come a long way since then. I’ll bet you never imagined how this would wind up."

"Never in a million years. I can’t believe what I see in the mirror. That short haired woman looks so confident, so self-assured. You’ve helped me discover a part of my personality I never knew existed. Who would have thought that a simple haircut could have such far reaching consequences?"

I sat in my chair staring at my wife, trying to get used to her new look. Her hair was shorter than any woman I had ever seen. Yet, she looked radiant. She sat in the chair, admiring her extreme style in the large mirror as Danni held a smaller mirror behind her head. She took the palm of her hand and rubbed it across the short hair bristling from her crown. As broad smile spread across her face and I could tell she was satisfied with the result. Despite my initial reservations, I began to realize that this style made my wife look younger and sexier than any time since I had known her. I couldn’t wait till we got back to the cabin so I could share her excitement in our bed.

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