The Village Gate: A Short Story

The Village Gate: A Short Story

Thump! Thump! The “caller” was banging on the wooden door of the Murphy’s small cabin. It was midnight but this was urgent business. In a nervous hurry, the caller barged into the small cabin and loudly called out Clive’s name with no regard to anyone sleeping.

“Duncan! Is that you?!” Clive Murphy said with a scowling yell.

village_gate“Clive, get your gear, troubles brewing at the Village gate. Meet us at the school house.” As if to punctuate that sentence with an exclamation point, Duncan slammed the door shut.

As Clive was preparing to leave, Doria told her husband “you tell Duncan to knock next time! He better never barge into our house again! I don’t care if our village is under attack by the Unknowns or not. Next time he knocks or he gets shot!” Since the Murphy’s were a part of the Protection Society, Clive was obligated to go when requested, day or night, no questions asked.

Doria Murphy, was clanking around the kitchen getting breakfast started when her little ones woke up from a fitful sleep. Clive Jr. (CJ), the oldest came bounding down the loft.

“Ma, why didn’t you wake me up when you got up? I should to be tending to the livestock, with Pa gone” said CJ as he was getting his coat on.

“You’re right CJ, I should have thought about the livestock . . . ” her words trailed off as CJ left the cabin. In truth, Doria was thinking about her husband’s involvement with the Protection Society.

The cabin was almost shaking as the winds picked up. The wind sounded like shrieks and mournful wailing. The wind would then calm down revealing a peaceful early morning only to send autumn leaves up in the air in a swirling pattern with harsh sounds of tools and scraps of woods pounding on the barn or cabin. There seemed to be a strange rhythm to the wind gusts.

By now it was breakfast time and the cabin was engulfed with the sounds and smells of bacon on the frying pan. The wind gusts had died down. Since Clive had not yet returned from the Protection Society at the village gate, Doria couldn’t help but think “this time they must be fighting the Unknowns.” That thought a worried Doria.

Many times the Protection Society had been called to arms to protect the village from the Unknowns. Until now, a show of force seemed to keep the Unknowns at bay. The Protection Society had never actually fought the Unknowns and they usually were home by morning. Since it was past his usual arrival time Doria was concerned a real fight was on. How would they fare? They didn’t really have any fighting experience.

Doria had just placed the last strip of bacon in the frying pan and wiped her hands on her apron, peering out the window she saw Maggie with her red braids floating in the air as she raced out of the chicken coop with her egg basket curiously empty.

Instinctively, Doria’s thoughts were swirling with Maggie frantically running out of the chicken coop and wondering where her husband was? Her thoughts were blasted as a breathless Maggie burst through the door at the same time the rooster eerily crowed. “Ma! Come quickly!” yelled Maggie, “there is something wrong in the chicken coop!”

Maggie and her mama rushed to the chicken coop. As Doria stepped into the roost, a strange feeling of despair came over Doria. All the chickens were dead except for the old crowing rooster. “Oh my . . . what in the name of St. Patrick happened to the chickens?”

As Doria was stepping out of the coop, she smelled the burning bacon. As she was running to the kitchen she wondered “why is everything going wrong this morning, what’s going on?”

While cleaning the frying pan that burnt the bacon a flood of questions came over Doria as she wondered what her husband might be doing? Was he in any danger? Could he be dead? He was a strong hard-working man but he was a peaceful man, did he have a killer instinct to kill whatever was threatening the village?

CJ rushed into the cabin followed by a rush of red and orange autumn leaves hollering “Ma, where’s the rope?”

“It’s in the barn,” his Ma replied as she walked past CJ and closed the door against the cold autumn wind as it started to batter their cabin.

“No, it ain’t, I looked everywhere, I’ve got to find the rope, Ladd’s loose and Pa’s saddle is on him. He won’t come to me when I call his name, he seems spooked for some reason.”

“What do you mean Ladd’s loose? Your father rode off with him when the Protection Society came calling last night!” Doria had a feeling that something wasn’t right. With her husband off fighting the Unknown, all the chickens dead, Clive’s horse on the loose, despair and foreboding filled her senses.

Maggie was cleaning the living area of the cabin while Doria started getting dinner ready. A while later Doria called to Maggie, “would you please go out and check on your brother CJ? It’s been a while and I want to know about the horse.”

Dusk had settled in and the cold wind was still battering the small wooden cabin. Maggie put on her scarf and coat and then she ran straight to the barn like she was told.

Bursting though the wooden doors, she startled the livestock. Her brother CJ was bent over a heap of a person with bloody clothes.

“Maggie, come quick, over here!” Yelled CJ.

“Pappa!” gasped Maggie as she recognized her pappa’s face. His head and chest were soaked in blood. Clive’s eyelids seemed to flutter a few times before his eyes opened. Maggie was startled and scared. Without a moments hesitation she ran toward the cabin. She came running through the cabin doors breathlessly shouting “Ma! Come quick!”

Troy Wagstaff © Copyright, All Rights Reserved

The Barbershop Waltz. A Short Story

The Barbershop Waltz

Andy’s Barbershop was the local gathering place for all the men who lived in the small town of Woodington. The men would come in for a bottle of soda pop, some gossip and a hair cut. Andy’s was the only place in town with a radio. Andy’s had a barber chair and a leather razor strap anchored to the counter. The counter had space for the tools of the trade and a sink. There was a large ornate mirror for the client to look at after his hair was cut.

The other side of the narrow barbershop was lined with chairs and a coffee table with magazines and books. The shop was deep and narrow. At the back end of the shop there was a pool table for some of the men to use while they waited their turn at a haircut. Andy’s even had an indoor water closet, one of the first buildings in Woodington to do so.

The barbershop was especially popular during the noon hour were both men and women crowded to hear the latest news. On Saturdays, Andy’s was packed in the afternoon to hear the sports scores. The men would smoke their cigarettes and drink their moonshine while playing pool and listening to the radio while waiting their turn for a hair cut.

On Saturday nights the pool room was opened to the community for dancing. The townsfolk would get dressed up like they were going to Church and meet at the barbershop to dance.

What made these dances unique was that while the rest of the country was caught up in the Foxtrot and other popular dance moves, the town of Woodington preferred the old Waltz.

During the week Andy’s barbershop opened at 7:30 a.m. to give the regulars a shave. It was at Andy’s place where the men of the town first heard that the United States was going to war in Europe. It was the same place that everyone heard the announcement of the Armistice on November 11, 1918.

Jim Banack was a regular at Andy’s from the time he was a small boy until he went off to war. Jim was born in Woodington. As far back as he could remember, he got his monthly hair cut at old Andy’s barbershop. Jim was 13 years old when heard over the radio that prohibition was officially over.

“What does that mean, that prohibition is officially over?” Asked Jim. Jim’s dad said that “it means the nation can now drink alcoholic drinks” as he sipped on a cold beer. Jim was a little confused. More than half the men in the crowed barbershop were drinking moonshine or a beer.

Jim even did odd jobs for the barber during the depression. There were no jobs to be had but Andy would pay Jim to run errands. He even got a free haircut once a month for the help he gave.

Jim fell in love, got married to Alice and they celebrated their wedding reception at Andy’s Barbershop. If Jim had his way, they would have exchanged vows at the barbershop. A couple of years later James Jr. blessed their marriage on March 31, 1930.

As soon as James Jr. had enough hair to cut Jim took him to see old Andy. Andy put the first lock of hair on some wax paper and folded it up nicely for Alice.

Getting a hair cut at Andy’s barbershop was a monthly tradition for James Jr. as well. In fact, it was at the town barbershop on Monday morning that Jim and James Jr. First heard the news that the Japanese bombed Pear Harbor the day before on Sunday morning.

News was slow getting to the town of Woodington with only one radio, and a weekly newspaper. James Jr. all of eleven years old declared that he would be going to Albany to sign up to fight “the Japs.” Jim and Andy chuckled.

It wasn’t too long after that episode when Jim Banack was drafted into the Army. Two days before Jim’s induction, the town gathered at Andy’s barbershop to give him a farewell party and a traditional town waltz.

“That was March 31, 1942 my daddy went off to fight the Germans in North Africa,” said James reflectively to his daughter Lilly. “In fact, it was the last town waltz Woodington ever had at Andy’s Barber shop” James went on to say.

“I still went there for my monthly hair cuts. But after my dad got killed in North Africa, old Andy seemed to feel to old to host the weekly waltz. I think he took the death of my father very hard, I think part of Andy died when my Dad died,” said James Jr.

“It wasn’t long after that, old Andy retired and his son took over the barbershop,” remembered James.

“He was Andy Jr. But folks just called him A..J., He took to running things quite well.”

James went on to say “It was ironic how every major event I can recollect seems to have happened while A.J. was cutting my hair or giving me a shave. I remember VE day being announced over the radio while I was getting a shave. That was sometime in the first of May back in 1945 that we heard about victory in Europe but those ‘blasted Japs’ were still fighting us in the Pacific.”

the_barbershop_waltz“Don’t tell me Dad that you were getting a haircut or shave when they dropped the atomic bomb in Japan” asked Alice.

“Well, as a matter of fact, I was getting my monthly haircut when we heard about the bombing.”

“What about two days later when the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki? You couldn’t have been there since you already had you hair cut for the month” stated Alice, as if she caught her Dad in his tale tells.

“Your right Alice, I wasn’t getting my hair cut but I stopped by for a soda pop after a baseball game and heard the news about the second A-bomb.”

“What else can you tell me about the history you lived through dad?” asked Alice. She was working on a high school history paper.

“I was on my way home from the little town hospital after you were born back in ‘53 when I stopped by A.J.’s place to listen to the evening news and we heard that the troops were finally coming home from Korea.”

“Were you at the barbershop when Kennedy was killed?” Asked Alice as she tried to show of her history knowledge.

With a big grin on his face James nodded his head, “that is if you mean Jack Kennedy, some of you young folks get him and his brother Bobby mixed up.”

“Yes dad, I know my history. But what about RFK? Were you at the barbershop when he was killed?”

“No, we moved from New York about a month or so before Robert F. Kennedy died.” Replied James.

“I am interested in this barbershop you keep mentioning, could we go there on a long weekend trip?” asked Alice.

“No, there is nothing to see. Andy Jr. boarded up the old Barbershop in the summer of ‘76 after a new barbershop came to town with it’s modern equipment and color TV. He started to loose business so he took an early retirement.”

Time goes by as it always does and before long Alice, who never married, was 57 years old and had the summer off. She was a history teacher. She decided to take a bus ride out to Woodington and see what was left of that old town so near the Catskills.

It was dark as she got off the bus at the Woodington bus stop. Not much had happened in this old town. It wasn’t a ghost town but in the dark, it sure looked like it.

She walked quickly through the darkly lit streets of downtown Woodington and turned the corner only to notice that the only lights illuminating the entire block were from the old barber shop which had been vacant for years. There was a loose sign hanging from the brick wall that faintly read “Andy’s Barbershop.” Even the barber pole was slowly spinning in the dark.

“That’s it,” she thought to herself. “That’s Andy’s barbershop.” Intrigued by the only lights illuminating the entire block, she walked closer to the barbershop. It was clearly run down and had all the evidence of being vacant for decades. “Why were the lights on?” Alice thought to herself.

When she got to the window and looked inside, she was shocked to see a myriad of couples . . . waltzing. She stood there looking through the large glass window for several minutes until someone inside made eye contact with her.

Alice was shocked at seeing someone she knew . . . but that person was dead. She buried her mother ten years ago. Now there she was, in a long fancy gown. She watched as her mother tugged on the arm of a man in a nice black suite. He turned around to look at his wife and saw Alice through the window.

Hand in hand, both her father and mother walked to the door and motioned for her to come inside. Alice, feeling stunned with a dose of disbelief, walked into Andy’s barbershop. She felt a little tingle of warmth come over her which caused her to look down. As she did, she noticed a beautiful vintage gown in place of her sweat shirt and jeans.

She realized the waltzing music in the background. No words were yet spoken as she was ushered further into the shop. Then her father tapped an older looking gentleman on the shoulder, he turned around and the silence was broken as James Jr. said “Dad, I’d like you to meet your granddaughter Alice. Alice, this is grandpa Jim.”

Troy Wagstaff © Copyright. All rights reserved.

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