A-1 on the Jukebox
Summer read another story on the internet, she smiled to herself, because there was nobody else around to smile for. The stories always brought a smile.
Tales of long-haired girls, most of them aerobics instructors, getting shorn or shaved and usually with happy endings where they’re thrilled to be bald and go off to face the world a new and changed woman. Summer always found the stories unbelievable, the fiction of sad, lonely guys who had a hard time getting dates and set out to defeminise the female population. She chuckled audibly after reading about yet another stewardess in France, unable to speak the language and ending up getting her hair buzzed as some sort of misunderstanding. The only pause in her reading pleasure was when she stopped for a moment to flick the radio off when Neil Diamond came across the airwaves. “Ugh!” she said as she put her mind back on the story. She chuckled so loudly, it woke her cat, who lay at her feet, unaware of the world wide web and all the random sickos Summer delighted in e-mailing.
This stewardess was different, she ended up hating the hairstyle, and getting fired, and losing her boyfriend and moving to a new town… “Well,” she thought, “that at least sounds like it probably could happen. And she moved on to the next piece of fiction.
She read the latest from some guy who went by the nickname “MelonMan”, such a stupid name. Probably a stupid guy. His stories always seemed happier than most, and in some ways believable. She had swapped e-mails with this guy and concluded that he was harmless. Dumb, lovable and harmless. He would send her jpegs of bald or buzzed women, she would send him back photos of some model with flowing hair and an anorexic build. MelonMan was always quick with a sarcastic comment: “Doesn’t anybody feed this poor girl?” was a typical response.
After a few months of reading his fiction and swapping e-mails, she felt secure enough to send a photo of herself. Summer had all the sweet-faced beauty and rock hard body of a female member of “Riverdance”. She had tons of red hair, deep green eyes and the body of a dancer. MelonMan sent back a photo of himself… a nice enough looking guy with a shaved head and a kind set of eyes. He looked like the kind of guy who still holds doors for women, and calls his mom weekly to make sure she’s okay.
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There was something strange happening to Summer, she realized MelonMan lived in the same city she did. She didn’t let on, but she couldn’t resist the urge to meet him. She made up a story about being in San Jose on business, and set up a very public place to meet.
She was swept away by his voice, deep, mannered and polite. After months of mocking each other, good-naturedly, she realized she had feelings for this guy she met over the internet. They chatted over coffee, she could tell his eyes kept locking onto her red locks, the waves and waves of auburn highlights that cascaded down to her shoulder blades.
After a few hours of laughter, it ended. She said she wanted to sit there while he drove off, just because she’d heard so much about “internet wackos” and didn’t want to be followed. Ever the gentleman, MelonMan said he understood.
“I have no idea how long you’ll be in town, but take my card if you want to do lunch tomorrow, or take in a movie.” His smile was warm and trustworthy. “We can meet someplace public.”
Summer gave MelonMan a hug, and said that “might be a good idea.”
That night she fell asleep dreaming of his warm embrace, and how good he smelled. Most of the genetic defects that made up her past boyfriends weren’t groomed well, or at all. She looked at his business card: Jack Underwood, CPA. He didn’t seem dull enough to be an accountant, he didn’t seem dull at all. Or fixated on his fetish. He seemed quite capable of having a conversation, at length, without making Summer feel spoken down to, or uncomfortable. “He’s probably married,” she said to herself, nodding off.
She took a sick day at work, and headed down to the business district to check out “MelonMan” Underwood. His office was located at the address on his card, that was a good sign. The secretary was a pleasant, older, woman (with fairly long hair, which shocked Summer) and the place was a testament to tasteful decorating and a wall of books.
“May I help you, Miss?” the receptionist asked.
“I’m here to see Mr. Underwood,” Summer replied, having to look at the card to remember his real name.
“May I tell him who is waiting?”
“One moment, Ms. Leary.”
Jack walked up the hallway, smiling and surprised. “Hey,” he said, smile in his voice, “nice to see you could make it. Umm, would you like some coffee, or tea, or a soda?” He was happy, but imminently polite.
“Coffee would be lovely.”
In his office, Summer looked around to see if there was any sight of anything remotely scary, strange or worrisome… nothing. Jack was, apparently, an average Joe with a fixation on women with severe haircuts. All in all, Summer thought, pretty harmless stuff, considering the world we’re in.
The two chatted and sipped coffee again. Summer notice a framed shot of a girl, mid-twenties, with a number 2 buzzcut. She pointed to it on the wall. “A friend of yours?”
“No, I just thought she was too beautiful not to hang on the wall.”
The afternoon found them at a movie, which was a nice respite from the heat outdoors. Summer felt sweat on her neck, her hair began to cling. She’d never cared about such trivialities before. But this time, this day, it was proving to be a constant distraction. It bugged her to the point where she began rubbing the back of her neck.
Jack looked over, smiled and went back to watching Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni on screen. Summer’s mind went back to all those stories she read on the internet. None of them ever entailed a polite guy who smelled irresistible, a PG movie and slightly pretty girl. They always had some rock hard Goddess getting her comeuppance. She got up to use the restroom, “I’ll be right back,” she whispered. Jack stood up for her as she left.
In the restroom, Summer wiped off her neck, paced a bit and looked at herself in the mirror. She was nervous. Why? He was a total gentleman. Maybe that’s why. Maybe she was used to all the lousy guys in her life that were more about her poor choices than their lack of manners.
She gathered the hair in her hands and wiped down her neck again. She looked at her reflection and tried to picture what she’d look like with short hair. She liked her ears, and wore her hair behind them frequently. It was the beginning of summer and the weather here was only going to get hotter and hotter. She was getting too old to wear a ponytail to work. Tea Leoni looked very pretty on screen, and her hair was short. Not buzzed or harsh looking, but short and cute and feminine and it looked easy to care for.
She went back to her seat and dug in to the popcorn on Jack’s lap. As the movie progressed, the two slid closer together. By the time it ended, they were holding hands, like a couple of love-struck teenagers, circa 1958.
She looked over at him, she was captivated by his head, how naked and smooth it was. She’d never found herself attracted to a bald guy before. She found herself wanting to touch it, massage it with her fingers and kiss it. “Does it take much effort to keep your head shaved?” she asked.
“Naw,” he whispered back. “Just shave it every other day and use plenty of lotion.”
Summer had a new desire in life, she wanted to be the person who rubbed lotion into his scalp at night before he went to sleep. She caught herself leaning her head on his shoulder, falling into some blissful moment she had chanced into. It was all too perfect.
On the walk back after the movie, Summer nodded toward a Supercuts on the corner. “Come on, there’s something I want to do,” she said.
It was a short wait. Summer flipped to the movie section of the daily paper, and showed the stylist the haircut she’d just watched on screen.
Snipping away massive amounts of hair, the stylist chatted with Summer, telling her how pretty the bottoms of her ears would look poking out from under the trimmed-up sides. The comb and spray from the water bottle on her face was momentarily chilling. The white smock the stylist wore smelled freshly laundered and it reminded Summer of when she was a kid and her mom would trim her bangs in the laundry room. Her deep, soulful eyes peaked out from the newly trimmed bangs. They sat about half an inch above her eyebrows, and looked messy and pretty at once. She blanched when she heard “Cracklin’ Rose” come over the piped-in music. “I can’t stand that guy,” she said under her breath. The stylist finished cutting away all the heavy sections of hair and trimmed it all neatly. The sides stopped just above the bottom of the ears, and it tapered down only slightly toward the back. The breeze from the air conditioner felt foreign on her neck. It made her giggle. Summer knew what she was doing, though she wasn’t exactly sure why. Until she walked into that theater with Jack, she hadn’t given a second thought to getting a haircut, or falling in love with anyone so… well, normal.
Jack looked on in amazement. Summer’s head bent forward so her chin rested on her chest. The stylist cut away section after section of her hair so it fell to her chin.
The comb danced through her hair, the stylist snipped and snipped away the stray hairs, leaving Summer’s hair about a foot shorter than it was fifteen minutes before. The clippers buzzed away the baby-soft hairs at the nape of the neck in back. Summer smiled, it was new, but she had wanted it. It was short, but she liked the new look. “It’ll be much easier to take care of,” the stylist said.
Jack walked out with Summer, heading toward his house. “Are you hungry?” he asked. “I can cook us some dinner at my place.” Summer loved the idea.
Up at Jack’s place, Summer smiled at how homey it felt, how comfortable the black leather sofa felt as she sat, leafing through Jack’s magazines while he changed out of his work clothes. “Just stay undressed,” she thought to herself smiling. He went to work on chopping up lettuce for a salad, she sauntered over to the bar to keep him company. She pulled up a barstool and said, “hi.” He grinned, looking up for a moment and tilted his head toward the CD player on the counter. “Hit play, will you please?” he asked, in a soulful tone that Summer now found impossible to resist.
Summer pushed the button, and the dulcet tones of Neil Diamond’s greatest hits filled the room. Jack began to shuffle his feet to the beat, warble along with Neil and bob his head and pump his fist along with “America”, as Summer looked on in horror.
The (horrible) end
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