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News & Features » June 2015 » “Parenting, Barbershop-style” by Nkosi Ife Bandele

“Parenting, Barbershop-style” by Nkosi Ife Bandele

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, Nkosi Ife Bandele gives a lesson in parenting.

Kids in photo not parented barbershop-style.

Kids in photo not parented barbershop-style.

Parenting, Barbershop-style
by Nkosi Ife Bandele
Five and nine

First of all, lemme say that Big Ted’s my man. He always gives me a tight cut, and he’s cool, you know, funny. Got that educated-like slang. (Apparently he did a lot of reading in the joint.) One time this wild chick came in the shop askin’ for coin, and Big Ted who, you know, can be kinda tough on folks, got all indignant: “For what, specifically?!” Then when she tried to run game on him, Big Ted was like, “You see, I’m inclined to say no flat out, just ’cause you perpetratin’ a fraud. So Imma provide you one more opportunity to come straight.” She hesitated at first, looked down at her shoes like a busted kid, but then she turned desperate and pleaded, “Look, baby, I need some toilet paper and some Kotex.” While the rest of us kinda stood back, saying things like, “Damn,” Big Ted, with his big teddy bear heart, slipped a twenty into her hand and said reflectively, “Aight.” And after she left, he turned to us and lamented, “Bitch can’t even afford to plug her shit up!”

Then, there was this one other time when he was explaining how the Star Wars movies were “All bullshit!” ’cause “You can’t redeem no Darth Vader!” The whole idea of the thing disgusted him. “How da fuck you gon’ redeem a muh’fucka who killed the inhabitants of a whole planet, feel me?” He turned even more disgusted. “You see how that white man do? When Darth went into kill all those Jedi babies, he turned the camera away. You wouldn’t never believe that muh’fucka could bring no balance to no force after killin’ a whole room full of babies!” When a loudmouth in the shop, an ignorant dude who had pretty much everybody in the shop wanting to beat his ass, decided to mess with Big Ted—proclaiming that “Star Wars was great,” and then telling Big Ted “You don’t even know what you talkin’ ’bout . . . nigguh!” Big Ted snapped off the clippers he was holdin’ and told that fool, “I’m fin’ to stretch your ass out. Now say sumpin’ else, and see if I don’t knock your ass into oblivion.” Dude first tried to play it off with a smirk, but when he realized how Big Ted was locked in, he went limp in his seat. The buzzing of the clipper was all you heard for a minute, and then Big Ted remembered that fool and got even more disgusted. “Called me a nigguh, too?!”

That shit was funny, but the one that really got me was when Big Ted’s two sons were playin’ in the shop one day because both his babies’ mommas “tripped at the same time.” They started fighting over a Transformer-type toy, and the older one, maybe seven, hit the younger, maybe five, who ran right over to Big Ted and pointed at his big brother, “Daddy, he hit me.” You could tell Big Ted was irritated—clearly he’s the kinda man who doesn’t like to be disturbed—but anyway, he turned off his clippers and said coolly to his older son, “I’ll need to have an audience with you.” Somehow the kid knew.  You could see the tension in his movement, and at that it took him a minute to take five steps. When he got close enough, Big Ted intoned his statement into a question. “You hit your little brother?” The kid knew. After a moment or so, he nodded and reluctantly agreed, “Yes, Daddy.”

Out of nowhere, Big Ted stretched out the kid with a hard slap that landed him on the floor. I mean, Big Ted slapped the mess out of the kid! The boy started howling. Massaging his chin, he looked up incredulously at Big Ted, as if to say, What did I do to deserve all that? And that’s when Big Ted said: “Boy, don’t you ever confess!”


NKOSI IFE BANDELE is an adjunct literature professor at the New School’s Eugene Lang College. He has been published under the pen name Eshu Bandele and has two novels completed. His first novel, The Ape is Dead!, is available from Crimson Cloak Publishing in ebook form via Smashwords; excerpts have appeared in Hobart Magazine, Crescendo City, and great weather for MEDIA’s It’s Animal but Merciful. Excerpts from his second novel, Scott Free, are featured in Moonshot Magazine’s Issue No. 5: Ritornello as well as part of Akashic Books’s Thursdaze flash fiction series. He is also the author of two screenplays: The Beast and the Writer’s Digest Award–winning Love is Crazy. He lives in New York City with this wife and two children. His website is eshubandele.com


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jun 2, 2015

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,