Another Man
Miguel Gardel

His name was Ruy. He became a barber at thirteen. Because his father was a barber, and his godfather was a barber. And he lived in the barbershop. And he practiced on the head of his little brother and his five year old neighbor.

His mother sold sweets next door to make ends meet.

Your mother does not love me. She does not want me. She loves another man. She wants to be with that man. Ruy found the note on top of his bed. He wasn't too surprised. But his heart was broken. He ran out of the house after his father. But the father was gone forever.

He killed the man who married his mother. This new man was now his stepfather. He killed him everyday. He read old novelitas de vaqueros his father had left behind. And he killed that man over and over.

His father's sanity had been on and off. One day, when he was well enough, the father left the note and went away. There were many children in the family. But the father wrote the note to Ruy, the eldest.

Ruy felt guilty. He had once secretly wished for his mother to get closer to this man. Not to marry him, just get closer; close enough for the family to share in his wealth. Now the guilt was overwhelming. But he was young and energetic and could suppress it. He was a good barber. He read the exciting little novels at the shop.

There were three sisters. And one little brother who missed his father very much. Ruy and his little brother missed their father's stories. And every day at the barbershop Ruy killed the man. Ruy had friends and drank with them on the weekends.

The man had money. He was a businessman with much success. The man, their stepfather, was a distributor of sweets. The mother was a handsome woman, but what the sweets distributor liked about her was her enterprising spirit. She sold sweets, took good care of home and children, and wished for real mobility. He was her supplier.

The ex-husband had never done well enough for her. The barbering was only good for food. Not good enough, she thought. She liked money. If you had enough of it, you could buy anything and everything. She had complained that she never went anywhere. That the barbering was not good enough and that was why she sold sweets. And that was why she allowed the man to get very close.

The new husband moved the family to a new home. It was an expensive house; in a new neighborhood; it was the biggest and best looking. She didn't have to sell candy anymore. The new man wanted her to take care of the children, his and hers. The new man had two boys from a previous marriage. The new man liked her three daughters and always acknowledged how pretty they were.

Ruy heard the gossip at the shop. The girls now had everything. The new man gave them money. He liked the girls and thought them very pretty. Ruy was comfortable at the shop. That's why he didn't go live with the family. He told stories to the customers. He cleaned the shop everyday. His godfather was old and slow.

The new man in their lives offered Ruy a loan. Renovate the barber shop, he said. You'll get more customers that way. Ruy didn't say no. He told the new man a story. He didn't say yes either. He and his godfather were comfortable working at their leisure. Ruy cut the new man's hair and when he left the shop Ruy killed him again.

Miguel Gardel lives in New York. His stories have appeared in LILA, Red Fez, Inertia Magazine and others.

Read his postcard.

Detail of art on main page courtesy of Thiago Fonseca.

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