Student Teacher By CutUps
The Commandant had retired from the Marine Corps, a Colonel. Her uniform, the same she wore in the Corps, was always perfect. So was her brown butch haircut, sides and back shaved to the skin, top always trimmed to half an inch. Amelia Butterfield wouldn’t be caught dead without the perfect butch haircut and the perfect uniform, the same way she ran State School For Young Girls. Disciplined… perfect.
Girls eight to eighteen and in trouble got sent to State School. Each stepped off the bus and into the critical eye of The Colonel. Each girl wound up in the Colonel’s barbershop, and each girl watched as Colonel Butterfield gave her The Butch.
Butterfield stared at the photo that had come with the file. Heather Northcutt was… beautiful, a redhead just out of State University, with the hair long and feathered, à la Farrah on Charlie’s Angels. Heather Northcutt would graduate from State University with highest honors. But Butterfield had read her file. Butterfield was not impressed.
Her phone buzzed.
“Ma’am, your appointment is here, the student teacher?”
“Send her in.”
Heather Northcutt entered, no different than in her recent picture. She sat in front of the desk.
“I don’t believe in wasting my time or yours. Magna cum laude in English and Math, and your Masters in Admistration. I’ve written a problem on this piece of paper. Come over here, and let’s see if you can teach me how to do it.”
The Commandant noticed how young Heather flopped her long hair behind the chair as she sat.
The problem was a story problem. “Pete’s building a house, has the length and width of two sides. Doesn’t know enough Math to figure out how to do the rest of it, so you have to do it for him. You’re important today. You need to know the size of all four sides. Multiply the length by the width.”
“Ten times twenty?”
“Ten times twenty.”
“Get your student involved in the lesson. Make her feel like she’s needed. Very good. You’ll teach for me. Five classes, starting the second day of the semester.”
Heather stared. “I will?”
“You can’t handle that?”
“Good. Let me show you around.”
Amelia Butterfield walked Heather Northcutt through a classroom, library and dormitory. “State School’s a private school, which receives funds from the State for taking girls with juvenile records, rather than throwing them in jail and leaving them with nothing when they get out. We graduate one hundred percent. We don’t let them fail. I want to put a teacher in with the eight- and nine-year-olds, give them an adult to lean on while they adjust. You’re it.”
Butterfield stopped walking back to her office. She stared at Heather. “What was that?”
Heather shivered, under The Stare. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Semester starts next Monday. Move into the dorm I showed you on Thursday. Then you’ll get your uniforms and your haircut. Like mine.”
Heather wearing a butch? “Uh-uh. I’m not gonna cut my hair.”
Butterfield’s assistant, a cute blonde who’d been given the Colonel’s haircut herself, cringed. No one talked back to The Colonel, unless she wanted…
Amelia Butterfield took her newest teacher back into the office. The Colonel dropped Heather Northcutt’s skirt and pushed her over the desk. The paddle smacked as it met a bottom, five times. Heather screamed and wailed.
“What did you say to me, Miss Northcutt?”
“N-nothing, ma’am,” the young redhead blubbered.
“Good!” Amelia Butterfield crowded the young woman so closely that Heather was petrified to paralysis. “And don’t even bother threatening lawsuit. You have a juvenile criminal record, and I’ve never been sued yet.”
“You wanted to teach under a system of discipline, and a haircut is part of that discipline. You signed a contract to teach for part of your student loans to be waived. You are coming back, and you are getting that hair cut. Do what I tell you. Stand at attention when I’m speaking.”
Heather Northcutt snapped to attention, tears still streaming down and off her cheeks. She didn’t move a muscle. She didn’t dare.
“Malicious mischief at thirteen. A little cross-country joyride with a boy for two months when both of you were only fifteen. You could have used a school like this one.” The Commandant handed Heather Northcutt a tissue. “Wipe your tears, dear.”
Heather used the tissue. “I… I’m sorry I talked back, ma’am. You… you know?”
“Of course I know, and I wanted you anyway. You, Miss Northcutt, are going to learn discipline, which you will teach your students by example. Cadets come on a bus Saturday morning. You be here by eleven o’clock on Thursday.”
Thursday. Heather had only three days to feel long, full hair down her back, to run fingers through its fullness… and Thursday came as if in an instant, no matter what Heather tried to do to slow down time. She was back at State School and moving into dorm Alpha, Room One Hundred, almost as soon as she had left.
The Captain knocked as she entered. “I see you’ve moved in.”
“Yes, ma’am. I didn’t have to bring much, ma’am.”
“All right then. Come along. We have a lot to do. I want you in uniform and working in your classroom right after lunch.”
Colonel Butterfield walked in a hurry into the next building, all the way down the main corridor, into the biggest room. High-backed barber chairs with pinstipe capes hung over arms lined the two longest walls. Clippers and a comb lay on the counter at every station. Heather gulped the lump in her throat.
“Step into a chair. I don’t have all day.”
Heather was numb sliding into a chair. Staring straight into a mirror, she couldn’t help but see the Commandant throw the smock across her and snap it into place. Freed from the captivity of its rubber band, thick red hair spread out across Heather’s shoulders and fell down her back in waves, like hot lava oozing down a mountainside.
The Commandant switched on Oster clippers next to Heather’s ear, letting her stare and dread, letting them buzz. “Nothing like a trip to the barber chair to take the attitude out of an uppity young girl. You’d be shocked at the number of girls who change in this room.”
Butterfield let Heather stare, listen and wait, her hand steadying Heather’s head, Butterfield’s for the shearing. The Commandant touched the bare buzzing blade to Heather’s cheek. Something surged inside. Tension left her as her left sideburn slid away, to her feet, then off the footrest to the white tile floor.
Eyes frozen wide open on the mirror and the clippers that vibrated to the center of her brain as they buzzed around her left ear, Heather watched the ear appear. She could not keep a smile away, the widest smile she’d ever smile. “Yes,” she whispered, submitting totally. “PLEASE give me your haircut.”
Colonel Butterfield smiled, too, peeling the left side of Heather’s head to skin. “Now, you really know why I get a butch, Heather.”
Blades sawed off long hair at Heather’s neck to the hairline. Heather couldn’t so much as blink as the Commandant shaved the back of her head with short strokes and flicked the red chunks off her cutting hand. “Why WE get a butch, ma’am.”
The Commandant shaved around and above Heather Northcutt’s right ear to the top of her head. Heather got it. Was this haircut and the uniform she would get later part of something else even bigger than teaching a semester at State School (For Young Girls)?
Amelia Butterfield shaved the sides and back of Heather’s head another time, cutting every hair off at the skin. She smiled.
“Ma’am? May I ask why you’re smiling?”
Butterfield gelled Heather’s hair on top, combed it straight back and clippered it so it stood half an inch tall. “You’ll know when you know.”
Heather, wearing a real butch haircut? That had been the furthest thing from her mind, but the hot shaving cream and the sharp straight razor scraping her neck and around her ears like something scratching at her skin drove her insane.
The Commandant pulled the smock away. “Now, you get a uniform…”
Three weeks had come and gone as quickly as snapping a finger. Heather Northcutt could feel hair growing back. She hoped heels that struck the tile floor wouldn’t attract anyone down this hall. It was night. No one came down here at night. No one knew she’d been coming down to the barber shop to correct assignments and plan lessons, and no one even had a clue why.
The barbershop was empty; the white tile floor polished until it shined. Heather glanced toward the door, the way she always did…
She shook a pinstripe cape and snapped it in place around her neck, over her tan uniform and green women’s military tie. She sat in front of the mirror, imagining, remembering when all that red hair was cut in this chair. She graded Grammar homework for fifth and sixth graders, then checked a few Algebra papers…
“Heather? There you are.”
Colonel Butterfield. Coming this way. Heather was busted.
Butterfileld smiled. “It’s all right. You enjoy a haircut as much as I do. The Cadets love you. They learn for you. They want to learn. I’d like to talk to you about teaching here, full time, when you finish your student teaching.”
“Yes, ma’am, if I can wear uniforms…”
“I know just the thing to celebrate.”
Heather smiled. “Remember when you said I’d know when I get ‘it’, Colonel?”
“You’re sitting here. I think you’ve gotten it.”
“Yes, ma’am. Will you cut my hair?”