by Than Pence
Cramp Co-Winner: Ron needs a quick manicure, and he enters a salon he's never seen before.
|Pushing the glass door open, an electronic bing bong sounded off above his head. Ron looked up before looking deeper into the salon. It was cooler than outside but not by much. I guess the air isn’t workin’ in here.
He stepped in to let the door close. There was no music playing, no one talking. The bing bong rang again as the door closed, making his skin crawl. Ron wondered if the store was closed when a young man in his early twenties came around a corner at the back of the salon. It was dimmer that far back, but Ron saw him just the same.
“Hello,” called the young dark-skinned man.
Ron smiled. “Hello. Hi. Is there anyone here?”
The twenty-something man raised his wrists, palms up, glancing side to side. “Uh, yeah. I’m here. Can I help you?”
Ron felt his face flush and knew he might have made a mistake. He assumed a woman would be available to do his manicure. Asian, preferably. He never once thought that another man would be tackling his unpolished nails.
Holding up his hand while putting a step toward the door, he said, “No, I’m sorry. I’m in the wrong place I think.”
“Oh, no, sir. Not with those hands, you’re not.” He moved quickly, enough to make Ron pause, and the man pulled some glasses up on a chain to look at Ron’s hands.
“Please, I’m sorry. I thought…”
“Pssh, please. I know what you’re thinkin’, but you’re in good hands with Da’mon. Go on. Have a seat.” He gestured to one of two cushioned chairs in the salon. Da’mon moved to the back of the store again as Ron reluctantly sat down.
Looking to the front of the building again, he noticed a cashier’s counter and two wiry chairs in front of it that he thought might be waiting chairs. Ron then imagined the awkwardness of sitting in one of the chairs while another customer stood over you and paid the cashier. The door he’d come through, when opened fully, would trap the cashier behind the counter. Frowning, he thought, Where’s the cashier?
Da’mon was moving back toward Ron, his skinny jeans making a light rustle that was only noticeable in a sound-vacuum like he found himself in. “Uh, there’s usually music, isn’t there?” he asked as Da’mon set a bowl down.
Pulling a stool to him with his foot, he said, “My speakers aint’ workin’ now. Gotta call a guy.” He moved closer to Ron, the wheels on the stool squeaking now with the little extra weight Da’mons seemingly-tiny build added. “So, you been here before?” he asked as he grabbed Ron’s stiff hands with his softer ones.
“Uh, not here. No.”
“And you’re guessing about the music then?” he asked, looking Ron in the eye for a second. It made the hairs on his neck stand up and he wanted to jerk his hand away and leave the Wicked Nails Salon.
“I haven’t been here. But, yeah, uh, I’ve had a… manicure before.”
Da’mon ran his tongue over his teeth, pushing his lips out on the process. “I see. You’re not a lost cause with these mitts. But you haven’t had it done lately.”
“No. I need to look good. For court.”
His face scrunching as he started massaging the cuticles, Da’mon said, “You a lawyer? With these hands?”
He couldn’t help but smile. “No, I’m a contractor. But I need to appear in court. I’m… being sued.”
Nodding, Da’mon asked about the case.
“Well, an electrician I hired put in faulty wiring and I’m the one named. In an arson case.”
“Oh, shit. You burn down a house?”
“No, not a house. An office space. And the wiring shorted out and burned a wall. And the owner is suing because I was the contractor for his remodel.”
“But it was the ‘lectrician. You didn’t do nothin’.”
Ron nodded, grimacing. It was the conversation with his wife all over again. “Yeah, but I hired him and he messed up. So I messed up.”
Shaking his head while rolling to the other side of Ron’s comfy chair, Da’mon grabbed at his other hand. “Damn shame.”
Blowing out a deep breath, Ron said, “Yeah. It is. But contractors get this shit all the time. Oh!”
“Sorry, sorry, dude. I’m getting’ careless.”
Ron was surprised that was the first time he’d felt anything painful. The other manicurists were usually very rough the entire time. Da’mon was already getting decent results and had only made him feel it once.
“It’s okay. The ladies usually hurt me. A lot.”
Da’mon flashed a sinful smile and looked into Ron’s eyes. “Guys just know how to do it. The way guys like it done.”
His heart began racing and Ron sat up straighter in the chair. Do I look flushed?
“You wanna get your feet done?”
“Uh, what? Sorry.”
Da’mon smiled again, his perfect teeth shining. “Your toes. You lookin’ to get a pedi, too?”
“No, no, thanks. I… wow, the time has gone by.” He scooted forward, getting leverage to rise out of the chair. “Uh, I need to go. How much?”
The manicurist, shaking his head slowly, let his glasses go back down to lie against his chest and said, “No charge. Sir.”
Ron thanked the twenty-something man and left the salon with a bing bong in his ear and a lot on his mind.
* * *
That night, Ron watched the news with his wife and felt his blood freeze when he saw the Wicked Nails Salon storefront on TV. He learned it had been the scene of a crime: three employees, all women, had been butchered and left in the backroom.
The sole suspect was a twenty-something, slim, black man, according to eyewitnesses. Possibly a former employee.
Ron looked at his nails, sweating, shuttering. “Honey, what’s wrong?” He couldn’t answer. His wife looked at his nails, too. “Oh, your hands look good. Are you nervous about the trial? Ron? Ron?”
Word Count: 999