Sam was always a barber, wore a red plaid shirt, smoked a pipe on Sundays, and had a horse he was betting on in this week’s race. The horse was ugly. Sam shrugged. Drank the rest of his coffee. Headed over to Millie’s swap meet to buy some new shears. He met some farmers at the swap meet and they all ended up in the bar across the street. Who you bettin’ on, Sam? Marty asked after they had polished off their first drinks and ordered seconds. Lil’ Never Late, Sam said. Marty and his twin brother Sven hollered and whistled.
Why you always pick the ugly ones, Sam? Why you always do that? The twins couldn’t stop laughing. Sam pushed off the bar stool and walked slowly toward the exit. Wait, you still got a drink comin’! Sam didn’t stop. He pushed through the front door into the blinding midday sun.
Outside a girl with her Western shirt knotted above her bellybutton leaned against a post and sucked on a piece of hay. C’mon Sam, you ready? And the two headed for the track across a large dusty lot. How come you always stick by me, Laurie? Sam asked.
Cuz you’re lucky, Sam.
What do you mean? None of these horses I pick ever win anything. He looked down at the cloud of dust they kicked up as they crossed the grounds. Laurie just grinned like she had a secret.
After all the betting and a couple of sandwiches at the track Sam and Laurie relaxed at a nearby motel. Laurie lay on her stomach on the bed flipping channels while Sam slicked back his hair at the big mirror with a comb made to look like a switchblade knife. Then Sam came over and sat on the edge of the bed. Wait, I liked that one, he said. We ain’t watchin no reruns, Sam, Laurie said and continued clicking through. Then there was a knock at the door. Sam looked at Laurie. She stared at the TV and kept pressing the button. But when Sam got up she watched him go to the door.
He’d gotten it halfway open when gunshots exploded through the gap. They peppered his right shoulder, nearly blowing his right arm clean off. Laurie jumped out of bed and fired back with a gun from her purse, killing the three attackers instantly.
Laurie turned back to Sam. You ain’t never usin’ that arm again. He held onto it, holding it close to his side. Laurie went out and stood over the bodies. In death their faces looked vacuous like dopey cartoon ghosts.
When the police arrived Sam had lost a lot of blood. One of the motel beds was completely soaked. Laurie was back to flipping channels and refused to look up when the officer asked her questions. Sam was on the other bed, on the soggy bedspread, staring straight up. Profession? one of the cops asked. Barber, he wanted to say but his mouth didn’t move. He looked over at Laurie without turning his head. She had the hay-stalk back in her mouth and was giving only one-word answers. Laurie, he thought, making the thought as loud in his own head as he could. Laurie! Finally she looked over. She smiled at him. Smiled as the police put her hands behind her back and cuffed her. Smiled as they led her out of the room. She was mouthing a message to him but he couldn’t make out what she was saying.
Then he was alone in the room. The cops were busy outside with something. He felt himself sinking into the bed. It was getting darker and he started to wonder if the cops were just going to leave him there, a key witness in the multiple homicide. But no one came back in. He didn’t hear anything either.
Nothing happened for hours.
Then a white fluffy dog came through the door, fluffy like an unshorn sheep. It came in, sniffing around. Then it went out and the room was completely silent again. Sam listened to his own heart beating until finally he couldn’t hear it anymore.
He was in the barbershop, securing a cape around a customer’s neck. When he looked up to the mirror he saw it was Laurie. He leaned down to whisper in her ear, Don’t worry Laurie, he said. I’m lucky.