Black Petals Issue #98 Winter, 2022

Roy Dorman: The Barber Shop

Home
Editor's Page
Artists' Page
BP Guidelines
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Worm Food-Fiction by Michael Dority
Bells in the Woods-Fiction by Richard Brown
The Smiling Dead-Fiction by Guido Eekhaut
Beneath-Fiction by Samantha Brooke
The Reality Engine-Fiction by M.T. Johnson
Bug-Fiction by David Starobin
The Family Upstairs-Fiction by Ally Schwam
Hoola-Fiction by Lamont A. Turner
The Barber Shop-Fiction by Roy Dorman
On the Corner of 15th and Jackson-Fiction by Kat Vatne
Prisoners-Fiction by Paul Lee
Twinkles-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Party-Time Trio-Flash Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Shadowed Soul-Flash Fiction by Jess Boaden
5G Generation-Poem by Joseph Danoski
Creature of Habit-Poem by Joseph Danoski
Joe Schmoe & Jayne Doe-Poem by Joseph Danoski
The World-Poem by S. Wiseman-Rose
Exquisite Corpse-Villanelle-Poem by S. Wiseman-Rose
Edwardian-Poem by S. Wiseman-Rose
Bloody Fingers-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Pathway Down-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Another Red Nightmare-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
The Avenue of Pines (Re-visited)-Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Lover's Meadow-Poem by Brielle Amick
Scarecrow in Female-Poem by Meg Smith
Regards to Buzzards-Poem by Meg Smith
Failed Conjuring-Poem by Meg Smith
Missing Among Wildflowers-Poem by Meg Smith
Lords of Extinction-Poem by Meg Smith

98_bp_barbershop_hlyon.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2022

THE BARBER SHOP

 

Roy Dorman

 

    Arnie Bledsoe staggered up Main Street from The Wagon Wheel, the neighborhood bar he visited each payday.

     The next morning, when somebody at work would ask how late he’d stayed, he’d proudly say, “Why, I closed it,” implying that leaving before bar time was a ridiculous idea.

     His once-a-week outing didn’t hurt his budget. He didn’t make much, but he also didn’t spend much. He lived alone, simply, and felt he had the world by the tail.

     As he always did on his four-block walk home, he stopped at the little barber shop, Hair Today, and looked in the picture window.

     The barber, Alexander Connor, known as Old Alex by the town’s residents, had come to Jerome, Arizona, eight years ago after living “someplace out East,” for most of his life. He always side-stepped questions about what he had done in his previous life.

     And there was a good reason for that.

     Putting both hands flat onto the glass to steady himself, Arnie looked into the shop. There was just one barber chair, and it was in the middle of the room facing a large mirror on the back wall.

     A scruffy, mixed-breed dog lay asleep on the floor near the chair, and an old tomcat lay sleeping on the window sill on the other side of the glass below Arnie.

     The dog and the cat weren’t the reason Arnie always stopped at Hair Today. Old Alex had a playful sense of humor, and at the end of the day before he locked up for the evening, he always arranged two manikins; one seated in the barber chair, and the other just standing just behind the chair.

     Tonight, the manikin standing behind the chair with his back to the front window had a straight razor held above his head as if readying itself to bring it down onto the throat of the seated manikin. Only the arms of the seated manikin were visible behind the one standing.

     Some in town didn’t consider Alex’s sense of humor playful, but rather thought it maybe a little grotesque.

     But no matter how many times he took in these scenes, Arnie always got a kick out of them.

     Then, as he did every time he stopped to look in the window, he went down on one knee and tapped lightly on the glass in front of the sleeping yellow tom. 

     Tonight, the cat opened one eye as it always did, but then bared its teeth in a bloody smile.

     Arnie jerked back from the window and almost fell on his butt.

     There was blood on the cat’s teeth, and also some smeared on the fur around its mouth.

     Its long tongue emerged and licked the fur as if to show Arnie that, yes, it was blood all right. And it was tasty.

     The dog must have also awoken to the tapping on the glass. It had walked half way across the room toward the picture window.

     It too had blood on its mouth. 

     But it wasn’t smiling. Its hackles were up, and though Arnie couldn’t hear it through the glass, he could see it was snarling.

     Snarling at Arnie.

     Standing as quickly as his drunken self would allow, Arnie once again leaned against the window and looked in at the manikins. He couldn’t be sure in the dim light of the shop, but there appeared to be blood pooled under the chair. Some had started to flow toward the front window before it had jelled.

     The dog and the cat were now both watching Arnie with curious looks on their faces. 

     The dog lurched toward the window and Arnie stepped back, once again almost falling.

     He looked up and down the street to see if anyone was out and about. But it was after two in the morning and there was nobody.

***

     If he’d been thinking clearly, Arnie Bledsoe would have walked the seven blocks to the police station.

     But Arnie was nowhere near to thinking clearly.

     He rattled the door knob and found the shop locked up. All that rattling had done was throw the dog into frenzied barking.

     Arnie walked around to the back of the shop and started to climb the outside stairs that lead to Old Alex’s second story apartment.

     He got about halfway up the rickety old stairs and stopped.

     “Maybe that’s Old Alex sittin’ in that chair with his throat cut,” he mumbled. 

     Then a second, more scary thought came to him. “Maybe whoever killed ‘em is up there in his apartment.”

     But as curious drunks will do, Arnie shrugged and continued up the stairs.

     The outside door to the apartment was about a third of the way open.

     “That’s not good,” said Arnie. “Not good at all. If Old Alex is in there …, hic, if he’s in there and alive …, hic, then this door should be shut tight.”

     Arnie poked his head in the doorway. 

     “Alex? You in there?”

     Getting no answer, he stepped inside. “Alex?”

     The back stairway entrance opened into the kitchen. It was dark. There were two rooms off to either side of the kitchen, and both of their doors were closed. 

     Another door straight ahead was open and it looked like maybe it was a stairway down to the barber shop. Arnie stood ready to make a quick exit if Alex’s dog came bounding up those stairs.

It had been acting peculiarly. Both animals had.

     Now standing at the top of the stairs and looking down, Arnie could see there was a closed door at the bottom.

     He really didn’t want to go down and open that door with the dog down there.  But he was going to.

     He looked in the refrigerator and found a package of hamburger. He tore off a good-sized chunk and started down the stairs.

     “Here, boy,” he called before opening the door.

     The dog growled and gave off a series of loud barks. Arnie opened the door a crack and tossed the meat through it.

     “There ya go,” he said in a sing-song voice, stepping into the room. “Good dog. Good dog.”

     The dog looked up at Arnie and wagged his tail. It appeared he was easily bought.

     Arnie cautiously walked toward the barber chair.  From his current vantage point, he couldn’t see what, or maybe who, was sitting in the chair.

     As he came around to face the front of the chair, he saw it was Old Alex sitting in the chair. His throat was cut and a professionally done sign was in his lap.

     Arnie stared at the sign.

HOW’S THAT WITNESS PROTECTION

PROGRAM WORKING FOR YOU,

SNITCH?

     Arnie remembered hearing rumors over the years that some of Jerome’s residents may have been placements of the US Government’s Witness Protection Program.

     He was thinking that maybe that placard was a message to the people who ran that program. 

     Or maybe to the others in Jerome who were also placements.

     The dog had been over by the picture window, and now gave out with a low growl. Arnie felt a sharp pain in the back of his head and saw a flash of white light before falling heavily to the floor.

***

     “Come on, boy,” said a deep voice. “Let’s go upstairs and get some water for ya. And maybe some treats.”

     At the word treats, the dog bounded up the stairs. The cat sauntered over from the window sill and wove himself around the hitman’s legs.

     “Ya, you too. Upstairs with ya. It’ll be morning before someone comes along to take care of ya.”

     He pulled the downstairs door closed so the animals wouldn’t be back down messing with the drying blood.

     “I’ll clean ya both up so ya look presentable enough to be adopted.  Can’t have ya lookin’ like killers, now, can we?  That wouldn’t do at all.”

THE END


Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for over 65 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had flash fiction and poetry published in Black Petals, Bewildering Stories, One Sentence Poems, Yellow Mama, Drunk Monkeys, Literally Stories, Dark Dossier, The Rye Whiskey Review, Near To The Knuckle, Theme of Absence, Shotgun Honey, and a number of other online and print journals. Unweaving a Tangled Web, recently published by Hekate Publishing, is his first novel. 

Site Maintained by Fossil Publications