Reformed (Excerpt)

I never thought in a million years this is what my life would be like. Yet here I am on the 15th anniversary of my barbershop. I’m surrounded by friends and family. The friends and family I never thought I would have. The mayor came out and gave me an award for the work I do in the community. Free haircuts for the homeless twice a year. Free back to school haircuts. I hire felons when most places in the city refuse. I’m just looking to give someone the shot that was given to me so long ago. The music plays and people dance. Slowly things start to wind down for the night and people begin to exit.

I start to lock up the shop when everyone is gone. Usually I liked to clean up a little before I leave but tonight is special. I can come in tomorrow and clean since we’re usually closed on Sundays. As I lock the door our local street preacher marches down the street. Preaching his usual nonsense. The end of the world is coming. The wealthy elite plan to kill or enslave us all. Nothing new, he doesn’t bother the customers they don’t bother him. He didn’t even show up to our Haircuts for The Homeless events.

Something about today just made me look at him a little harder. For some odd reason, I felt like I recognized this man. His eyes darted away when they made contact with mine. Maybe he recognized me as well. He walked a little faster after that. Against my better instinct I started to follow him. I didn’t know where he was going or why every fiber of my body told me to. I just did it. Soon he ducked off into a dark alleyway. I stood around the corner watching him as he slid into his tattered tent. I expected a cardboard box, but that just means I’ve been watching too much television in my old age. As the rain starts to drizzle in still don’t move. I wait and watch him. He uses a battery powered lantern to light up the alley.

Finally, I get a really good look at him. Pale face illuminated by the light. A few wispy hairs hang to the side of his face. His teeth chatter as he eats away at some dollar store pastries. A crooked nose and cauliflower ear from a life time of fighting. The man is practically skin and bones. He doesn’t have much time left it seems. The world has moved past whatever he was before. I think back on the things he could have been. A doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, anyone. Yet, now he was homeless. That’s when I see it.

The scar on his left arm. Clean through on both sides. I know that scar. I put that scar on him. This was Captain Battle. America’s greatest hero. A mantle passed down from generation to generations since the 1900s. But this guy, he’s the Captain Battle from my generation, James Henderson. I would recognize that face anywhere after all we’ve been through. I hadn’t seen him in person in almost 30 years, when he captured me for the last time. The same day I put that scar on his arm. I called it a gift so he would never forget me.
To be Continued in Super Shorts
Subscribe to the newsletter for a free book and to know when Super Shorts is out