Daniel's Place

Submitted into Contest #33 in response to: Write a story set in a salon or barbershop.... view prompt



Joey started it.


He’s the one who came up with, “Hey, they got animal rights, right?”


Everyone in the shop assented.


“They got gay rights and plant rights and all kinds of other rights, right?”


Nodding and muttering showed everyone was onboard with Joey’s statements.


“Then why the hell don’t we have cannibal rights?”


That stopped the scissor snicking and the clipper buzzing as if Joey had stabbed Daniel in the eye with a pair of shears.




You know how occasionally there’s a dive restaurant that scares the average diner away, but, in truth, has only exquisite food served well? Oftentimes, it will be found in a dying neighborhood that is set for gentrification in about 20 years. It doesn’t matter; you’ll drive by and see well-dressed diners sitting next to what can only be the neighborhood drunk. People will come from all over the Borough to dine there even if the area is a tad sketchy. And, they’ll go home and brag to their office mates about how great the experience was and the mates will go there and repeat the cycle.


That’s the way Daniel’s shop is. Absolutely filthiest barbershop I have ever seen.


Curly black hair piled on straight white hair atop red hair on top of blonde hair mingled with brown hair, all there since at least yesterday; Daniel’s version of shag carpeting. Barber tools strewn, not placed, atop the counter under the bug-speckled dusty mirrors behind the four tattered barber chairs that take up the east wall. The west wall is the backstop for the mismatched, unpatched customer chairs. 


Used syringes and empty tall boys in the alley alongside the shop hint at the usual hangers-on and the social standing of the neighborhood. Many junkies and drunks, yes, but well-coiffed junkies and drunks. Dingy neighborhood with upscale performing arts center being built with the expectation that it will drive the riffraff away. Maybe even shut down Daniel’s shop unless the millennials keep coming in droves.


Can’t get more stereotypical of rundown than this dingy place.  And, customers come from all over the Borough to get a haircut from these artists.


Half a head taller than me and half again as round, Daniel is an impressive physical specimen. He barbered in the Navy and never really got the hang of civilian cuts. There are those who relish that look. He’s my favorite barber when I’m in this part of the country.


Coming here is a combination of anonymity and notoriety. I’m sure it’s watched for drug or fencing traffic, but Daniel won’t have that type of nonsense in his shop. He doesn’t need it or want it. He runs a clean shop. 


With regulars popping in from all the strata of the Borough, it’s hard to keep track of any individual.  Rarely do I (or anyone else on a weekday) wait more than a customer or two; I get in and out quickly. 


Who’s cutting my hair determines the style I sport walking out. I just tell them to cut it how they think will look good on me. With my new haircut and after I change my shirt in Daniel’s water closet, I’m never the same guy who walked in. Itchy hair on my shirt makes me change it, don’t you know.


The usual shop characters are present: old Jake directing foot traffic at the door because he doesn’t want to spend all day in his hovel down the street; Bobby and Blake, the two twenty-ish guys who cut hair hoping to make illicit connections that might lead to their respective fortunes in another part of town; Joey, the young man-about-town discoursing on any nonsense that he can spew to get attention.


Bobby is the dancer of the bunch. He aprons and neck-tapes his customers, angles them just right facing the room with the mirror in their peripheral vision. Bobby takes a snip at the hair, jumps back, twirls on his heel and dives in for another snip. This dance lasts from 10 to 20 minutes depending on the music blaring. I was always surprised at how much the customers tipped. I guess a dancing barber is special. Bobby kept me alert.


Blake is quieter than most. He watches: the picture window view of foot and vehicle traffic; the security monitors above the customer chairs showing the back door, the parking lot out back, the angle down the alley; the second-floor apartment across the street where the stripper lives and practices her routines with the shades open. He keeps an eye on Jake who lets everyone know if someone is headed to the shop from the bus stop down the block. With his watchfulness, Blake comforted me.


Joey is the usual big-mouth know-it-all that makes you want to harm him just to shut him up most of the time. The problem with Joey is that he is so likable and unpredictable. Smiling, laughing, joking, most of his banter can be rebutted for the fun of it. Typical barber shop raucousness between momentary friends. 

Until he says something way out there.


Like his rights issue.


Then the place darkened a bit more and cross-conversation got bent in an interesting way.


First salvo: “What kind of rights does a cannibal need? That’s sick, man!”


“No, think about it. Everyone’s got rights. We’ve got the right to be open and cutting hair when we want other than Sunday and Monday. People fought for that right and we’ve got a union and laws protecting us and so on. Same with the animals and with all kinds of people.


“You and I can go down and eat pizza or butcher a chicken or a cow or a goat, cut it up, cook it and eat it.”


“Okay, so let’s say you’ve got a point. How do cannibals cook their meat?”


“Well, they’d have to marinate it. Probably Worcestershire sauce or Italian dressing like you do steak or chicken. Then bake it. I don’t know.”


I flagged Daniel closer so we wouldn’t be heard by the rest of the gang.


“Daniel, tell them the best way is to marinade the meat in pineapple juice to break down the connective tissue and to add flavor. Bake the roasts in a 350° oven with onion slices, fry some like chicken, pickle the fingers and toes for a special little treat, grind some of the tougher cuts with chorizo seasoning to scramble with eggs and freeze the rest. That will help them.”


Daniel’s bulging eyes were priceless. Of course, I can’t go back to his shop again.

March 20, 2020 20:57

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.