Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Vignette City 10.

*** ‘Vignette City’ is an ongoing project of daily writing and urban photography ***

My hand is killing me.

Who busts up a barber’s hand?

I told them even, “I’m a barber.” But they didn’t care. Already had my wallet, my watch. What did they need my hand for?

This cast too. I don’t like this cast. That man nurse wrapped it all up in orange tape. Makes me look like an idiot. What kind of man wants to be a nurse? If any of my boys wanted to be a nurse, well I don’t know. Bad enough they didn’t want to be barbers. I could’ve used the help though. Lucky break I got Fabrizio. He’s a good kid. Quiet. Cuts hair okay. Pretty good with the straight razor. Hasn’t nicked anybody’s neck, so far anyway. Worst thing for a barber’s reputation, you nick a guy during a shave. Even a little bit of blood on a man’s collar just messes up everybody’s day. Yeah, without Fabrizio though I’d be shut down right now, with my hand like this. In a thousand pieces of bone. My left had too! How many left-handed barbers are there? One less now I guess. For now anyway. I asked that man nurse, “Will I ever cut hair again?” and he just said, “Only time will tell.” What kind of man says that? Imagine if I said that. Can you take a little off the top? somebody might ask and I say, Only time will tell. How much business will I have after that? None. That’s how much.

“Hey Fabrizio!” I holler to the back, “Bring out one of those new blades, the Boss is coming in.” It’s noon and he comes in at noon every Friday for a nice clean shave. He likes his clubs, always has. Thirty years and every Friday he hits his clubs. What a life the Boss has. Even now. A hundred extra pounds on him now after thirty years and still all the cigars and dancing girls every Friday night. How’s a man manage that? A wife at home, she used to be so pretty. A hundred extra pounds on her now too.

I see him coming. One of those nice Friday suits. Starched collar, tie pin. A hell of a snappy dresser, the Boss.

“Fabrizio! Hurry up!”

The Boss walks on in, like he always does, his shoes freshly polished. “Franky!”

“How’s it going Boss?”

“What can I say? I got a good life.”

We shake. He puts his hand on my shoulder. I give him his envelope. Thirty years we’ve been doing this. It used to bother me. Used to get under my skin back when we were both young and filled with piss. But thirty years and I’ve had no problems.

“You’re a good man Franky.” He said and it made me feel good because when the boss talks, he says what he means. “Franky! What happened to your hand?”

“It got busted.”

“How did that happen?”

“A couple of kids last night. Mugged me. Smashed my hand with a tire iron.”


“They did.”

“That’s terrible. Where did that happen?”

“Right outside my building.”

“No. In my neighborhood this happened?”

I felt bad to say so, because the Boss looked so genuine. Like he was feeling my pain. Like it was his hand that got smashed. “It did. I’m sorry to say.”

“Well look Franky, this is not acceptable,” the Boss said, sitting down in the chair like always. “I am going to get to the bottom of it. We will get this sorted out real fast. These boys will get what’s coming to them. You call Julian after this, you give him all the details. Don’t leave any of the details out. Julian will put one of the boys onto it. My boys will sniff this out. Damn shame. Them shits don’t know the hurt that have coming. I promise you that Franky.”

“Thanks Boss. That means a lot.” I start putting the cape on him, real careful over his suit.

“Why did you get an orange cast Franky?”

I’m so embarrassed, “That’s just what they gave me. It was a man nurse that did it.”

“A man nurse? What kind of man wants to be a nurse?”

“That’s what I said. Exactly. Fabrizio!”

Finally he appears from the back, a fresh straight razor in his hand. Such a tall kid. He looked a little nervous. I guess I would be nervous too, shaving the Boss for the first time.

I stepped off to the side as the Boss settled back.

“A man nurse!” The Boss laughed, his eyes already closed.

Fabrizio stepped in behind. I don’t know why he’s got the blade out already. He hasn’t whipped up the cream yet. “The cream, Fabrizio.”

The Boss opened his eyes, looked right up at Fabrizio. “What the hell is this?!”

“What do you mean, Boss?”

The Boss shot straight up to his feet, ripped the cape off and messed up his own collar by pulling it off. “What are you trying to pull Franky? Who the fuck is this kid?”

“That’s Fabrizio, Boss. You’ve met him. He’s been helping me out a couple weeks now. He’s a good kid.”

“I don’t know him.” The Boss pointed his finger right into Fabrizio’s face. “I don’t know you you little rat fucker.”

The Boss stepped to the door, “I don’t like this Franky. You cut my hair. You shave me. That is how we do business.”

“But Boss, my hand is busted.”

“Well maybe that’s because you’re sloppy. Maybe you had it coming. Don’t piss me off Franky.”

“It’s in a million pieces Boss!”

“Then heal faster.” The Boss stormed out, slamming the door behind him. The little bell shook so hard it was like an alarm. I was happy he didn’t break the glass in my door. I’d never seen the Boss get that angry before. I knew the stories, but I’d never seen it. I felt so bad.

I turned back around to say to Fabrizio, Don’t worry kid, he’s just a real important man, and you know how it is. He has to be worried about people. There are always people trying to push in on him. He’s gotta worry about his security. His safety. A lot of people want what he has. Only I didn’t say any of that. When I turned to Fabrizio, he was gone.


I looked for him in back, but he was gone. The back door into the alley was hanging open.


I never saw the kid again.




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