>>> The Lady's Shave
By staff writer NG Hatfield
March 13, 2008


America is a land of wonders, in which everything is in constant motion.
-Alexis De Tocqueville

Smoking, eating a chocolate ice cream cone, leaning against a brick wall of Dunch Dairy like some real badass, his name was Roy. “Hey you. Buckwheat.” And of all the people getting ice cream that evening, it was of the greatest misfortune that he was speaking to me. “Buckwheat.”

Roy, just as a general rule, walked diagonally. That’s the best way to put it. A slanted, strut-like limp to the right. A walk reserved for only the most shameless, drunken redneck in the Tristate. “You. Buckwheat.” He slid through the parking lot, an eel wearing all denim—jacket, shirt, pants, hat—and had his silver hair through the back in a pony tail.

“The sharp, blue-plastic edge was inches away from his throat.”

“Yeah?”

You got money?” He was middle-aged, skeletal, tanned. I mean, he was fucking gaunt, old and orange. A walking, dented road cone. A victim of beta-carotene.

I shoved a free hand in my pocket, heard the change jingle and said no. Like the majority of the town, I had seen Roy before and knew better than to give him money. He would only use whatever I gave him to take out these little ads in the classifieds with a picture of himself smiling a goofy grin where the bottoms of his short, yellow canines shone out and his tongue draped over his bottom lip. He looked like he was slobbering.

Under all of this would be some generic statement to the females of Western Maryland: “Roy says Hello Ladies!“ or “Can I make you tonight? – Roy.” When this didn’t work, I took it, he bought billboard space and displayed the same picture coupled with some poorly-played innuendo like, “How’s it going Puddy Kat?” or “Where’s my next Love Victim?” or my favorite, “Am I big enough for you now?”

I told him to fuck off. It wasn’t simply the fact that he insulted every woman in the area by continuing to exist. I really didn’t care much about that. I simply didn’t like free rides and he was the Grand Conductor of the Public Charity Marching Band. I told him so and he only looked at me for a minute, his head turned aside like a confused dog.

“Well thanks for checking.” He offered his hand. A motion indicating that he was being polite for another try at money, not then, just at a later date. “I mean it, Buck. Thank you.”

I said nothing, didn’t move.

He turned his hand, looked down at his palm and scratched it with his thumb. “Nobody around here stops.”

“Get a fucking job and they might.”

Admittedly, I didn’t have a job either, but at least I had saved up enough from working at the slaughterhouse that I could afford my own goddamned ice cream or self-aggrandizing advertisements in the Times News if I wanted them. Plus, I was banking on a fat refund check from the college. It was only two weeks away, so I really didn’t have much to worry about financially. It felt good to say it, to rub his nose in his deficiency.

He took a few steps back to Dunch, threw his arms open and screamed, “I’ll do that when I’m good and ready!”

I got back in my car with my vanilla malted milkshake. I felt like a greaser, for whatever reason. Maybe the malt, maybe the advice I gave Roy, maybe the cigar I lit as I got in. It was the kind of day when nothing was really distinct. Only in August, I thought. Then, This milkshake is fucking delicious. And it was. I took a big gulp and sighed. The combination of a milk product and burning tobacco would come back to bite me in the ass later, I knew it. I just didn’t care.

“Hey.” A knock on my windshield. Roy.

I reeled down my window. “What the fuck do you want?

“I wanted to thank you again.”

“Get out of here, you goddamned leach.” I threw my arm around the seat, grabbed my ice scraper and stuck it out the window. The sharp, blue-plastic edge was inches away from his throat; I felt like just thrusting it forward to see if it’d cut him a little.

“Okay, okay man. Frankie says relax, hoss.” He back-stepped into a Bronco spray painted camouflage and ran back to the wall where I had originally seen him.

“Jesus Christ,” I said.

Shortly thereafter, I saw Roy was hustling another Dunch Dairy patron. Some fat, old woman in a flowery muumuu and large, round, tinted eyeglasses holding an area-famous Banana Break. She gave him the change she had yet to put in her purse, patted him on the shoulder, then totted off, around a fenced yard that held an angry, barking pit bull, beyond the post office, into a thick wall of trees. From what I could tell, she was heading off to the deer trails that led a two or three miles to LaVale.

I thought for a moment about the difficult trek she had ahead of her. The woods outside of Cumberland were dense and hardly navigable in the dark. I hoped she made it home unharmed.

Continue to Part 2 »

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