I’ll Never Forget by CutUps
Tabitha Cathryn stared at the picture of the serious woman in uniform. No one else knew why eighteen-year-old Tabby Cat had saved the picture. You had to know that some federal judge had said girls could go to Jefferson Davis Military College of Georgia unless you lived under a rock, but Mom didn’t even know what Tabby Cat had done. She folded the newspaper picture of the Captain, but her high and tight close buzz haircut wouldn’t leave Tabby’s mind.
Someone drove up to the house Tab and Mom had all to themselves. Mom was back, and Mom might not want Tabby to go college so far away in Georgia. Tabby rushed to the window. The mailman stepped off the porch. Maybe it had come today, and if Mom got it first…
Tabby brushed bobbed and stringy reddish-brown hair to her shoulders behind her right ear. Her heart raced as she shuffled through letters and newspapers.
JEFFERSON DAVIS MILITARY COLLEGE OF GEORGIA – OFFICE OF ADMISSIONS
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Tab dropped the rest of the mail on Mom’s desk and tore open the letter.
“Dear Miss Granger. We have reviewed your transcripts and application for admission. We are pleased to offer you a Commission into our Corps of Cadets, beginning with the upcoming Fall Semester…”
“Mail?” Mom had come back.
“On the desk. Mama, you know I’m looking for a college.”
“I graduated from U of Minnesota. Dad and I.”
Mom raised eyebrows, looking up from the mail. “Ma’am?”
Tabby could tell Mom anything, but definitely not about what she had her heart set on doing at Jeff Davis. “I’ve even thought about military school.”
“West Point? Annapolis? You’d have to serve at least five years in the military after you graduate.”
“Not if I went here.” Tabby showed Mom the letter.
Mom read it. Mom raised her eyebrows. “You’d be among the first women.”
“I’m not saying I want to go there for sure. I just want to check it out.”
“I guess that wouldn’t hurt.”
Macon, Georgia was beastly hot, even in February. Tabitha Cathryn swatted big flies away, climbing the marble stairs into Stonewall Jackson, the old Colonial dormitory on the old Colonial style campus.
The Captain was there, watching. Her buzzcut was perfectly trimmed. Her hair was even the same reddish brown as Tabitha’s. Women filed up stairs. Tabby froze.
“May I help you?” The Captain read the stick-on nametag. “Miss Granger.”
Tabby snapped to perfect attention, not meaning to stare at the perfect quarter-inch buzz haircut, not meaning to blush inside. “Ma’am, I…”
“You can relax, but I am impressed.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Tabby relaxed, a little. “Ma’am, Captain, I would like a haircut. Your haircut.”
That was dumb, just blurting like that. Tabby grew determined not to be crushed when the Captain told her the Captain was too busy to be bothered with that.
“Hmm. I’ve never had anyone ask that of me, and I doubt there’s ever been a student ask for a haircut here. Come to my office, first floor of Davis tonight after mess call, and we’ll see what we can do.”
Tabitha sat through lectures about Jefferson Davis Military College, toured the Business and Computer Science Departments, and even watched a rifle drill with other perspective Cadets. Saturday afternoon seemed to drag on for years. Evening mess took a millennium. Tabby Cathryn Granger picked at tuna and chips, too excited to eat.
Tabby slipped out of the mess hall alone. Heart racing, palms sweating, she could hardly wait for this, could hardly believe the Captain had agreed to do it, without even asking if Tabby was coming to school here.
She passed young men in uniform moving about the grounds, and her gait slowed. What if she did this and looked like a melon head? What if she hated it? She’d wear a hat for six months? And now, she was at the doors of the Administration Building. And the Captain with the tight buzzcut was standing on the other side of the doors… waiting for her?
Tabitha had saved the Captain’s picture because of her haircut. She wanted this. She pulled open the door.
“Miss Granger, you came.”
Twenty high-backed barber chairs with foot rests and white capes draped over arms filled the large room at the west end of the corridor. Tabitha eagerly slipped into the first chair, and watched the Captain wrap a tissue and a cape around her neck.
The Captain picked up Wahl clippers without a guard. “I’m not a barber, Tabitha, but if you don’t tell, I won’t tell.”
Wahls buzzed low in front of Tabitha’s ear. She smiled, wider as the Captain touched them to her cheek. Her sideburn dropped into her lap, then the Captain roared the clippers around Tabitha’s left ear.
The Captain shaved the left side of Tabitha’s head to the top of her head, hair falling away in chunks. Tabitha’s smile still hadn’t left her lips.
“Now you know why I like our haircut.”
“I… I can’t believe I’m actually getting it… our haircut?”
The Captain shaved the back of Tabitha’s head to the skin, pushing clippers from nape to top as slowly as a turtle crosses a road, letting Tabitha Granger enjoy every bit of her haircut. She bent Tabby’s right ear and peeled around it to the skin. Like magic, an ear appeared, now not hidden by hair.
“Most girls would fight to keep their hair. You’re the first girl I’ve ever known to ask to have a haircut, at Orientation Weekend, and like I cut my hair, yet. I think you like clippers as much as I do.”
Reddish-brown stringy hair left the right side of Tabitha Cathryn Granger’s head. “Yes, ma’am. They kind of make me feel excited inside… I almost think I might have an accident. You know?”
“Kind of like the first time I got this haircut when I reported to the Marine Corps. I almost had an accident, too.”
Tabitha smiled as hair fell from the right side of her head in chunks, leaving shaved skin. Tabitha Cathryn Granger didn’t even look butch with this haircut.
The Captain shaved the back and sides again. She slipped the smallest guard on the clipper head, and parted Tabitha’s hair down the middle. Chunk after chunk of hair floated to her shoulders and to the floor, as the quarter-inch stubble got wider across her head. The last chunk of hair slid to the floor as the Captain shut off the clippers. “Tabitha, you are going to look great.”
Tabitha could only smile again as the Captain smeared thick white cream up the sides and back of her head. The Bic scraped stubble away, down to white hairless skin.
Tabitha felt things racing inside. She moaned.
“Of course, they probably won’t expect you back in Texas without your hair.”
Tabby let the Captain move her head as the Captain stroked away cream, rinsed the razor, and stroked away cream. Oh, no. What would Mom think?
Stroking. The Captain was smiling as much as Tabitha as she gently rubbed razor bun out of the sides and back of Tabitha’s head. “You choose the school that’s right for you, Tabitha, but I’ll never forget the girl who wanted my haircut.”
Forget about Mom. Tabitha could hardly keep her eyes off Tabitha in the mirror with the small head and small round ears, as she swept piles of hair into a dustpan and dumped it.
It was early Sunday evening when Tabitha walked toward Mom in the airport, back from her visit to Jeff Davis. Mom’s jaw bounced off the floor.
“They gave you a haircut, even for Orientation?”
“Yes. ” And Tabitha Granger knew she would never forget the Captain who gave it to her.