The autumn wind ripped down the Main Street of Fishbanks, Maine. Like most New England towns, it was composed of a centralized downtown street surrounded by residential areas. Its Common, known as “Fish Park” had gradually lost its beauty to the gangs of middle school punks. Founded in 1786, following the Revolutionary War, Fishbanks made its profit off the numerous fish found off its coast. Most of Canal Street was filled with loud markets and fishermen clammering for business from perusing crowds. Despite the name, Fishbanks declined as a fishing community when two dams were deployed to redirect the river and allow for better hydro-powered mills. Fishbanks now benefited from its history and enticed tourists with the New England downtown vibe.
This evening, the streets were empty. The third street lamp after the intersection with Route 201 flickered as if its cord was near the end of its life. Dave’s Barbershop window was still lit, the only one along the street. The “Closed” sign hung limp inside, safe from the wind. Dave opened the door briefly to cool himself down. The boiler had been working more than it should have. Ordinarily, that was a blessing, but oil prices were skyrocketing and business was not. The handyman was due today but he never showed up. In the darkness, Dave watched the first hints of snow appear, filtering through the street lamps.
“Early,” Dave whispered.
Dave served as a selectman on the City Council. Dave’s family suffered a recent tragedy with the suicide of his brother. That was the only time Dave missed a Council meeting. He apologized regardless. Unmarried, Dave spent most of his time at his shop or in Council meetings. He provided mentorship for a few of the troubled youth weekly. Without children of his own, he loved helping these kids. Especially lately, it filled a gap that his brother’s death created.
Dave walked to the far wall where the storage closet housed his routine tools. He contemplated briefly trying to fix the boiler on his own. But that was not his forte. As he passed the large mirror on his left, Dave saw his own balding head. He paused momentarily. He was due for a trim. With a broom, Dave began sweeping his last customer’s brown curlies left behind. Intending to join the Marine Corps, Dave had been asked to remove the kid’s afro and treat him to a crew cut.
Dave chuckled at the kid’s enthusiasm. He was thrown back to his own experience joining the Marines, especially receiving his first hair cut. But he didn’t tell the kid any of this. He’ll learn on his own. Dave hummed the Marine Corps hymn as he swept. A figure passed in his periphery on the large mirror. Dave swung his gaze to the doorway. No one was there, but he saw the snow piling up. He needed to hurry. His Chevy was not yet outfitted with snow tires.
“From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” Dave felt a chill through the back of his shirt. Turning, Dave dropped the broom. In the door was his mother. Her neck was slit and blood poured out. She struggled to contain the flow, smearing blood on the door.
“Mom!” Dave dived for the door. He opened it and felt the wind rip through his clothes. Snow obscured his view of the street in both directions. He felt the loneliest he had ever been. Even his brother’s death did not compare to this moment. Dave shut the door, returned the broom, and grabbed his coat. The hair remained on the floor, half of it in a pile.
Dave found his landline near the cash register. He dialed his father’s house, fingers automatically finding the required digits. The line rang twice before he heard a groggy voice.
“Dad! I just saw the craziest thing. Can you tell me that mom’s alright?”
“Jesus, Dave! I have a shift in a few hours. I need to sleep.”
“Dad! I just watched mom’s throat get slit. I need to know she’s okay.”
“What the hell, David? Your mother’s fine. She’s in the nursing home. I just saw her this afternoon.”
Dave breathed. He rubbed the bridge of his nose. His father did the same motion a mile away.
“Dave, are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry to scare you. This early snow is friggin with me.”
“Get home safe, David.”
“Thanks, dad. Goodnight.”
Dave set the phone in the receiver. He shut his lights and exited the building. He bumped into the wall and fumbled the keys into a half-inch of snow.
“Fuck,” Dave said. His fingers melted the snow as he searched for the key. At its discovery, Dave locked up his barbershop. Further down the street, Dave heard a shocked cry. He could just make out in the darkness two figures. The lamp’s ability to pierce through the darkness was becoming impeded by the heavy flakes of snow. Dave saw his mother trying to push away an assailant. But the man was too strong. He shoved her arms to the side and lazily swung his knife through the air. The knife cut through Dave’s own throat.
In one moment, Dave watched his mother being attacked. In the next, he felt a warm liquid permeate his shirt. His tie was ruined. His car keys were wrenched from his hand. And the last thing Dave thought of was that his mom was supposed to be in a nursing home two hours south of here.