“On the House” by Seamus Scanlon
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Seamus Scanlon has a surprise encounter at a barbershop in Galway, Ireland.
It was a rainy day in Galway. Nothing new—Galway and rain are synonymous, along with fog, mist, hailstones, slippery footpaths, pneumonia. The canals, the docks, the Atlantic, Nimmo’s Pier, the Corrib, and Woodquay—watery graves for all tastes: for boys who wanted to be girls; for girls, young and big bellied; for women fecund with malignancies; for men uplifted by big black angels.
I was in Babe’s for a haircut. My mother usually shaved mine, but she had the palsy after a week drinking Pernod. She smelt like an aniseed graveyard. I could not wait until she recovered—I had it cut every last day of the month regardless of circumstances.
Babe’s was a misnomer—a no-frills barbershop on Dominick Street adjacent to the Eglinton Canal. Originally opened by Babe Mullaney in 1948, it was now operated by her son Brian. Everyone called him Babe in affection for his deceased mother. He was a bouncer at Seapoint and the Hangar on the weekends when he wasn’t cutting hair. He didn’t drink or smoke—just cut the ground from under all types of miscreants, knocking them out of their shoes and into the middle of the following week.
Maybe Babe’s name in the window misled the robber. He burst in on a cash-rich Saturday evening and faltered just inside the door. He probably expected a blue-rinse brigade. But he was committed. He had a Dublin accent, which explained why he didn’t know about the clientele or Babe’s reputation.
He pulled a Luger from his overcoat and said, “Don’t fucking move.” All the customers apart from me were soldiers or boxers or criminals or Travelers. Everyone looked over at Babe, who was holding a pair of scissors in one hand and a comb in the other and looking sedately back at the gunman.
“Come on,” the gunman said. “Give me the money.”
“You told us not to move,” Babe said.
“Okay, right—fuck—okay. You—you can move. Get me the money.”
The gunman covered us with a slow, unsteady gun arc. Babe put down the scissors and dropped the comb on the floor, which he bent to retrieve. As he came up, he punched the gunman so quickly and so hard that he was unconscious before he hit the wall mirror and collapsed on the floor. The mirror broke, and shards cascaded onto the tiled floor, which was seven year’s bad luck for him right there. At least.
Babe stepped over the prone gunman and put the Luger in his pocket. He kept trimming the customer’s hair as he went. Babe’s apprentice Leper (real name Martin Leeper) locked the front door.
The gunman started to come around. He looked up at us. His eyes pleading tears-wise. He was bleeding nose- and ears-wise. He saw only deep predator stares coming back. A fusillade of boots met him. He passed out again. Leper tied his hands with flex-cuffs.
Babe poured a jug of water on the gunman’s bruised and bloody face. He was semiconscious now. Babe grabbed him by the hair and scalped him with an open razor. That woke him up, I can tell you.
Babe tore the scalp free from the remaining connective tissue and stuffed it into the gunman’s mouth, and then broke his jaw so he could not dislodge it. The gunman was having trouble breathing already. Leper grabbed shorn hair from the floor and stuffed it up the guy’s nostrils. Panic lit up his semi-shut eyes.
Then Babe lit the hair. His nose partly melted. The smell was appalling.
Babe lifted the guy off the floor, checked his pockets, and took out a fat bankroll.
“The fucking eejit had money already.”
Babe gestured at the back door. Leper opened it, and Babe dragged the gunman outside. We heard a low grunt, then a splash, as the guy hit the cold black water of the Eglinton Canal. He would be carried out to the Atlantic into the deep dark channels.
Babe came back and locked the door. He held up the bankroll.
“The haircuts are on the house!”
SEAMUS SCANLON is a writer from Galway and currently based in New York, where he is the librarian at City College’s Center for Worker Education. He is a graduate of City College, the University of West London, and University College Galway. His short fiction collection was named after a Boomtown Rats song: As Close As You’ll Ever Be (Cairn Press, 2012). The Spanish translation of the collection, Irlanda en el corazon (2015), is forthcoming from Artepoetica Press. Check out his previous Mondays Are Murder stories, “Laffey Minor” and “The Resurrection Love Song.”
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Sep 21, 2015
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