Jackie hesitated as she
listened to the Johnny Cash impersonator murdering “Folsom Prison Blues.” “You picked this place? For our special
night?” she asked.
just what we need to get back on track. Let’s
sit down and relax, listen to the music and enjoy ourselves,”
“Alright, you’re trying. I’ll give you that,” Jackie said as she wiped grease off
her menu with a paper napkin, “though I wish you had maybe tried a little harder.”
She was about to continue
complaining when a nubile waitress sauntered over to their table.
“What you would like, honey?” she asked
Tommy, who fumbled with his glasses and stuttered out something that sounded like a food
dish. “And you, dear?”
she asked Jackie. “I’ll have whatever he ordered
dear,” Jackie replied.
“So, back on track?” she asked Tommy after
the waitress had swiveled her hips back to the kitchen.
“What, yeah, just
wasn’t prepared for her…accent, that’s all. Hey, I have to
hit the head. Just be a second.”
Jackie sat and took a few deep breaths. She
let herself relax into the hum of conversations and the off-rhythm musician. She had just
centered herself when she looked over and saw Tommy flirting with the waitress. He was stroking his mustache like a silent-movie-era
rake and his hand was on her lower back. She was laughing that salacious little laugh that
some women are born with that’s pregnant with possibilities.
see you had to get more of her accent,” Jackie said,
when Tommy slid back into the booth.
“Oh, we were just having a laugh.”
you want to call it,” she said, snorting derisively.
“I thought we agreed you weren’t
going to do stuff like that anymore.”
“You agreed and I
capitulated. There’s a difference. Your eyes are beautiful
when you’re like this, you know,” he said, winking at her.
snorted again, and just before the conversation could
escalate into a fight, the waitress came over with their meals.
“The waitress thing still bothers me,” Jackie
said a few minutes later, between mouthfuls. “It
“To me, asshole. You
come in here with me and hit on her.”
“I didn’t think
it would matter; thought we were secure enough in our partnership.”
“Ugh, I hate that word “partnership”
it makes us sound like an insurance agency. We’re
in a relationship no matter how much you deny it.”
“If you say so,” Tommy said.
“No…no, don’t you do that. We have every major facet
of a relationship: Trust, honesty, spontaneity…commitment.”
“Says the magazine.
Here we go again.”
Tommy shrugged and motioned
for the check.
“Thanks, honey,” Tommy said as the waitress handed him
the bill. “The service was spectacular
and made tonight even more special.” Tommy
winked at Jackie and touched the waitress’s hand.
The waitress blushed.
“You’re just an asshole,” Jackie said,
checking her makeup with a small compact mirror. She frowned and brushed a loose strand
of blond hair behind her ear.
know, but that’s what makes this thing work, right?”
Jackie rolled her eyes and slid her compact back into
“Alright, you ready to do this?” Tommy said, sliding toward
the edge of the booth.
Jackie reached into her
purse and removed a small, shiny .38 pistol and a polyester bag with a sunflower screen-printed
on the front. “I am ready.”
nodded and pulled a 9mm out from behind his back. “THIS
IS A ROBBERY! WALLETS OUT, PHONES OUT, HANDS VISIBLE.”
The restaurant chatter stopped
and the Johnny Cash impersonator’s strumming screeched into silence.
“No, you can keep playing,” Tommy said to
the Cash impersonator, gesturing with the gun. “I
like having a soundtrack. Feel like I’m in a Tarantino flick.”
the frightened restaurant patrons reached into their
pants and purses, Jackie went from table to table politely collecting valuables, holding
the bag open like a mendicant.
At one table a guy awkwardly
tried to dial for help on his cell phone. She
stomped on his hand just before he could press “Send.” He screamed as her heel
crushed the bones in his hand and tears escaped from the corners of his eyes. Jackie bent down to collect the phone and
whispered in his ear. “Don’t cry, honey.
She’ll think you’re a pussy,” she said, gesturing toward his date.
She was going to say something
more when she noticed that the music had stopped.
Across the restaurant she watched as the musician crept behind Tommy holding his
guitar like a mallet. Tommy was otherwise
distracted frisking the waitress for her tips. “Situational
awareness, asshole!” she bellowed.
Tommy turned and ducked just as the guitar came swinging
for his head. Tommy countered with a left
hook and discount Johnny Cash fell to the ground, lain out as flat as his singing. Jackie sighed as Tommy fixed his rumpled suit and
stuffed the wad of the waitress’s crumpled bills into his pocket. “Well, honey,” he said, tucking the 9mm back into his pants,
“when the music stops it’s time to go.”
When they got to their car Jackie removed her wig and
her contacts, once again becoming blue eyed and brunette.
Tommy removed his false mustache and threw his
glasses into the backseat.
“Has the music stopped
for us?” Jackie asked a few miles down the road.
“What do you mean?
We just had a great night.”
just… the waitress, I saw her give you her phone number.”
“She gave me her address too.”
“Oh,” Jackie choked,
tears clouding her vision.
“I noticed she was
wearing some expensive jewelry when she took our order and found out her father owns the
restaurant when I was coming back from the bathroom.
The restaurant we just hit was one of four in this city alone. I was thinking we could swing by their house for your birthday. See what kind of shiny things we can find. I
wanted to wait and surprise you.”
Tommy reached over and squeezed
her hand. “I told you, we’re back on track.”
“Oh, baby,” she sighed, leaning back in
the seat and watching the night unfold before them.
“I told you we were in a relationship.”
Shave and a Haircut
don’t understand why I have to get a haircut,” Green Johnny said, vigorously
scratching his head as we arrived at Tyrell Lewis’s barber shop. It was a few minutes
before closing when we opened the door. A
tiny bell jingled and Lewis looked up from the pile of hair he was sweeping. His knuckles whitened on the broom handle. I
didn’t blame him.
I said, settling into an overstuffed leather chair in a well-appointed waiting area. “You’ve
been digging at your head like there’s gold inside for over a week.”
Lewis leaned the broom up against the wall and Greenie
reluctantly sidled into the barber’s chair.
He flinched as Lewis draped the barber’s cloth over him. He turned to me with a look of panic when he
heard the whir of the trimmer.
shaving my head? It’s lumpy…and…shit,
Priest, I ain’t down with any electro-shock.” Greenie’s eyes widened
Lewis looked confused and
tried to pivot away from Greenie’s neurosis. “Yeah, best way to deal with whatever
this is,” he waved his hands in the air around Greenie’s head, “is to
tear it down and start from scratch…and… I don’t know nothing about electro-shock
Lewis glanced at me. “Your
“Just consider him unique and we’ll take care of you.”
Lewis shrugged and went about tackling Greenie’s infested curly mop.
“Unique” is a good word to describe the
two of us and what we do. They call me Priest
because my Bowie knife and I believe that there is an Old Testament solution to every
problem. Green Johnny is what would happen
if someone bred Charles Manson with Roger Rabbit. We’re debt collectors
for the Boss. We keep his books as sleek and shiny as an
Greenie squirmed like a toddler in the barber’s chair, I
took in the ambiance of the shop. The place was straight out of a magazine. Exposed
brick walls kissed in the appropriate spots with chrome fixtures. Black and white checkerboard
floor added for a touch of nostalgia. The only area of local flair was a far wall decorated
with pictures of neighborhood celebrities. My
gaze settled on a young basketball player wearing a sweaty green jersey.
know that guy.” I pointed toward the picture. “Plays
for the Beavers, right?”
Lewis looked over, squinted
his eyes to view the picture. “Yeah…yeah,
that’s Gary Wendell.”
much, what?” Lewis coughed self-consciously as he
finished with Greenie. He unfastened the
cloth and Greenie ambled out of the chair. Lewis subtly turned the empty chair
so that it acted as a barrier between us.
started walking toward the man. “How much did it cost you
to have Wendell miss those shots in his last game against Jackson State?”
I continued. “See,
our Boss lost $10K on that game. He doesn’t like to lose. So he had us look into how a stud baller like Wendell shooting 90%
from the line can all of a sudden clang free throws like he’s Shaquille O’Neal. You can imagine how upset he was when he found
out a local barber is shaving more than faces. Way
we see it, you owe us some money, or….” I unsheathed my Bowie. “There’s
Lewis whimpered and looked
warily toward Greenie, who casually flipped the lock on the door. Desperately, Lewis groped
for something in the drawer under his worktable. He came up with a straight razor,
brandishing it at me with desperate fear in his eyes. “Get the hell out of my shop!”
“Ok, Sweeney Todd,
option two.” I smiled as I adjusted my grip on the knife. Beads of sweat dotted Lewis’s
forehead like tombstones on a hillside. My
blade gleamed in the shop lights. I
was about to strike when I noticed Greenie had a jar of Barbicide™ in his hands.
I sighed as the bottle came down hard on Lewis’s head. The shattered glass twinkled
like falling stars. A shard sliced through
the barber’s jugular. The trendy checkerboard floor was quickly covered in a mess
of glass, blood, blue, and hair.
“God damn it, Greenie,”
I said as I sheathed the Bowie. “Why? I had this one.”
“It’s called Barb-er-cide. I figured it would
be the easiest way to kill him. I don’t
know why the guy would keep it so close; seems dangerous, honestly.” Greenie looked
at the widening pool of blood gushing out of Lewis’s neck. “Shit…should we get some paper towels or something?
I shook my head.
“I wouldn’t worry about it. See that barber pole?” Greenie turned
his head. “They try to look all chic, but barbers used to be in some bloody work—leeches,
amputations, tooth pulling. The red and
white are actually meant to symbolize blood and bandages. This whole scene here
nodded and we both high-stepped around the pool of blood
on our way out of the shop.
We were a few miles down
the road when Greenie rubbed his lumpy shaven head and turned
to me with earnestness in his eyes. “So…for
Zachary Wilhide is a writer and artist who lives in Virginia
Beach, Virginia with his wife and cat. He has previously had stories
published on Out of the Gutter Online, Spelk Fiction, Close
to the Bone, Yellow Mama Magazine, and Shotgun Honey.
He is currently building an art portfolio and working on a novella, slowly.