Monday, March 29, 2010

The Cobbler and the Barber

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Cobbler" in Mirror Shards.

On summer nights like these, the cobbler liked to lean back in his chair outside The Black Sheep Bar and watch the pedestrians, accountants in waistcoats hurrying home to their families or couples laughing as they walked hand in hand over the cobblestones.

"You mind if I sit here?" The man pulled back a chair, its legs scraping against the stones as he dropped his stein glass, beer sloshing over the lip to drip down the pebbled side of the glass and stain the wooden table. He lit a cigar and puffed rings of smoke that drifted across the street.

The cobbler lowered his glass of burgundy and twisted his waxed mustache. There was something he didn't like about this man, it wasn't the cigar or the way he took it for granted that the cobbler would enjoy his company, instead it was more like the pharmacist's tale of botflies burrowing underneath human skin.

"I've heard of you," said the man as he tapped ashes on the street. "Shoes repaired, souls resurfaced, a clever placard."

The cobbler itched his arm. "Stop by tomorrow, your soul could use some work."

"Oh no. That would be no good for S.P. Irits." He chuckled under his breath before spitting on the sidewalk. "I'm the new barber in town and you working on my shoes would be a little like my trimming your whiskers." He gulped his beer in a single draft. "Do you like challenges?"

It was a challenge for the cobbler to keep his temper. He swirled the burgundy and took a sip.

"Good. You don't like me." The barber leaned forward, his eyes glowed red in the light reflected off the pink-tinged clouds of sunset. "Well, my challenge is to see whose business will thrive more." He slid a business card across the table before sauntering away.

The cobbler left the business card face down on the table as the breeze blew away the last cigar fumes. After finishing the burgundy, the cobbler flipped the business card over. It read "S.P. Irits' Shorn Hair."

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