Performance Cancelled

The shopkeeper places a vintage chalkboard scrawled with the words “Cat Performance: $1″ on the street in front of her boutique and goes inside. Tourists up from the city gather near the sign. One woman mentions a screeching feline sonata from the Little Rascals. Another imagines a kitten in costume, perhaps a ruffled bonnet. Too hot to linger in the sun, a man breaks from the group and enters the shop. The owner, dusting a three-tiered glass case lined with rhinestone brooches, answers his question: “Oh,” she shrugs, pointing to a framed photo of a tabby. “If you put a dollar in the basket, sometimes she shows.”

Help Wanted. Again

The new guy behind the counter tells the waitress how cool his band was the night before: “They so rocked.” She’s a spinning exclamation point, cajoling regulars: ZZ Top’s twin brother must try the awesome Tempeh Reuben. Rick, who’s lingered over his croissant for an hour, needs to go. Like right now. She won’t tolerate him hogging the coveted window seat a minute longer. “Where are the eggs? Where    Are    The   Eggs?” she yells to the cook, who’s stopped plating food, and stands, mouth agape as the new guy, fingering an imaginary guitar, describes his 20-minute solo: “I was, like, every bit as hot as Hendrix.” “Dude!” the waitress shouts, pointing to the new guy then jerking her thumb toward the door. Head lowered, he grabs his jacket and, reaching into the pastry case, a brownie. His last free bite at The Last Bite.

A Different Happy Ending

Penny reigns in the center of Bill’s Barber Shop, a tattooed beauty with an asymmetrical blonde bob. To the folks in town, Penny is more sorceress than stylist: caressing a customer’s head as if it needs healing; transforming a few errant strands into a youthful mane.

While Penny’s admired for her looks and talent, it’s the way she concludes a session that lures customers to her cracked vinyl seat. After the last snip, Penny reaches beneath an ancient Formica counter and, grabbing a large, canister-style vacuum by its plastic handle, wrestles it free. Faded to pale aqua, the appliance wobbles and clangs across the sloping wooden floor.

Customers have professed love as she glides the hose from hairline to nape over their newly shorn heads.

Tina Barry