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Uplift Station
Act 17: Kent Regis, Barber of Uplift Station
© 2024 James LaFond
Noon, Wineday, Sixth Day of Sepulcher
The Barber had the honor of shaving the chins of the swordsmen, of trimming the beards of the Boxers and Rodmen, of certifying injuries pre-rite, so that injuries sustained during the rite might be signified as by might. This had been the Honor of Kent Regis these last twenty years. Once he had been, as Johnny, his apprentice, and before that as Mike and George, his slaves, assisting with the weighing, measuring and examination of the sandsmen.
In strode his mightiest heel, Max Born, the most feared man of the Twelve Houses to habitually hail from the Black Gate, above this wing of Uplift Station. The wonder of trains passing under the arena was not lost on he, who as a youth recalled long torch lit processions by carriage in the deep ways below the stair that led to his barber’s chair.
A crowd of mobsters blocked the door behind the deputation of the doomed, the men of the Black Gate, [1] condemned to death and not favored by the Censor, or God, in the name of the Bishop, to sally forth from the Pearly Gate. [2]
Max was stripped by a flaxen-haired image of Venus, down to his loincloth. The rest of the Litigants did not concern Kent, not until Max had been examined. A mechanic, that had been listed in this litigation, held Max’s things, including his hawthorn club, and a helmet, brought by Jubal, the Scot Notary.
Kent stopped and glanced at the representatives of the four houses, notaries and barristers, snarling with the surliness of old age: “Captain Stern: Lictors, Jubal: House Scot, Ernest: Knights, Bane: Nets, Keel: Boxers—welcome ye to this travesty, a tyke, a mime, a mechanic, and this old wreck—Clyde, this will be a first, you of the Pearly Gate Fair… bringing a fist to a sword fight, aye? I read the papers, all over this angel so fair.”
Clyde simply grinned wide.
“Step to me, Ole Boy,” he motioned to Max, as he rose from his own barber’s stool.
Max lumbered forward with a pop and a crack on his right side, daring Kent with his right eye to decline to certify his fitness for combat.
He soon stood under him, “Now sit, slow-like.”
Max eased himself down with another pop in the knee. And Kent went to work, calling out his diagnosis to the various notaries, including his own, Barnes:
“Knee, tendons in tact, ligaments detached, cartilage torn, yet in place…”
“Right hip, torn tendon, torn ligature, inflamed lateral attachment to lumbar…”
“Lumbar—must be shitting me, still intact…”
“Various mob like injuries—decoration is all…”
“Look here, Max—No the other way, with both eyes blast your mug! No peripheral vision in left eye… Sweet Jesus…”
“Skull… well and the same dents, no separation… reflexes, normal… dead man walking on the sands… but that’s the idea—this is the Barber Shop of the Black Gate at Uplift Station…”
“Lather, razor,” he held out his hands and then began right to work shaving the bristly stubble off that scarred and dented jaw, “It’s been my honor, Max,” he said loudly, and then whispered into the ear opposite the rival notaries, “do not step right er the whole leg might snap like a straw tent peg!”
Barrister Bane of House Retiarius barked, “Barber, on your honor, impartation of fight advice may not be—”
Kent stood, barely able to look over the head of the seated giant to glare at the silver tongued Netman of letters and snarled, “Netty Bane, you are in my house and shall ye seek to send me from it through some cloven-tongued argument, I’ll be glad to dress wounds at Caesar’s hospice. Ye all high en righteous Nets, given all the easy matches ‘cause ye run down low slaves for the patricians—well, fawk off, Netty! Longer than you have walked this earth I been sendin’ poor overmatched mates up this Black Lift and through the Bleak Gate, knowin’ I’d be meeting the poor fellow next at Undertaking!”
He had cut Max’s cheek in his rage, which seemed to take the uncharacteristically stoic gladiator out of his funk with a roar of laughter, to bark, as Kent toweled off the blood, “Bane, if ye please, let’s save my throat for me brother’s cut!”
“Sorry, Max—Uplift, shit! This Black Gate has gotten to me, like as if I’m Charon of the pennied eyes. With this new brat shit-for-soul Censor, and short on Saracen’s as we are, I’m set to fill the morgue with decent sorts… Debtors down on luck…”
Tom Stern, Captain of Lictors, in full uniform, with helmet, spoke up, as the representative of the Censor, and of the Lictor and hound set to fight from the Pearly Gate, “Barber, your words will be known to the Censor.”
Max shrugged off the rest of the shave, rose in one easy motion, grabbing the heavy oak stool with his right hand, shoved Kent to the floor, then did a discus spin step over Kent and hurled that 40 pound stool six feet, to flatten the head of the witless Lictor, within his now crushed helmet.
“Jesus, Max” blurted Ernest.
Max then stepped nearly naked to Barrister Bane to loom over him as Kent was helped up by Clyde.
Bane quaked, visibly.
“Too much litigation, not enough sand time, aye, Bane?” snarled Max like an iron station bell.
Bane shook, visibly, began to speak, but had a quiver of heart.
Max held his left hand out to Ernest, “Ye oways wit da Good Book.”
Ernest reached into the pocket of his vest and produced a crimson bible, a pocket book for men of his size, and handed it to Max, who held it out in his palm to Bane, a man once the very terror of the arena, now the terror of legal affrays, tall as Max, formed like a dancer. The much thicker and more rugged Max, twice the net man’s age, intoned, “Bane, if you are able to hold your tears, your bladder and your bowels, I permit you to place hand on bible and so swear.”
As if hypnotized, Bane placed his hand on the Bible. Max intoned, calmly, “What the barber whispered to me, to offend the Lictor and spark my murder of him, dead there at your feet, was that if I step right, my leg entire is like to fail. Ernest be sure to inform Rex, might save him some sweat.”
“I so hear, and so swear,” whispered Bane, as if his very spirit had fled from the body it had once so gloriously inhabited.
Max then hugged the emotionally shattered man, a man he had wrecked with mere presence.
He then said to everyone present, “I, Max Born, have murdered the Right Captain Lictor. Let it be known that I’ll pile them up if they come for my darling, will side with the Mob, I will—send it up, Ernest, Bane, to Litigation, me and mine depart here after examination, by the first train—Ernest, go tell it now so to stop muster of whatever Lictors whose families might lose a bread winner on my account. Bane, your men go against Clyde and Billy Gear and I ask you to witness on my mini Scot in place of the Lictor here, while Ernest interferes with that stupid tragedy, arranged by our Punk Censor.”
Max stepped back.
‘It is amazing how that Mug speaks brute cant and orates like a stage actor, all out of the same mouth,’ mused Kent.
Bane regained his composure and gave the fist to heart and hand to heaven salute, “On my honor, I’ll certify.”
Ernest, patted Bane on the back and bent to lift the Lictor’s body over his right shoulder as he extended his hand for his crimson leather bible, and remarked, “With the Right Captain Tom as testament I think, me and Jubal here can keep those rowdy Scots from cutting the Lictors’ throats above.”
And so the Notary of Scots and the Under Barrister of Knights boarded the Black Lift to address the full houses of Nets, Knights, Scots and Boxers, assembled above, with slim chance that the company of lictors and file of Praetorians there would press for a fight in which the Nets and Knights would take no side. For none of the Twelve Houses had ever sided against another, except in sacred rite, and especially not in civil strife, crusaders all.
He then looked at Clyde, who winked, allying all of Kent’s many worries for others in that humorous instant.
Max then ordered, “Girl, arm me up, there might be a ruckus.”
As she and the miniature Scot and the mechanic suited Max up he bellowed to the mobsters crowded outside the closed ash and iron door, “Just murdered me a Captain of Lictors. Hold tight fer fight! Boxers got the lift—I’ll be wit you right swift soon as I sling ma dick!”
“It’s still my Barber Shop. Clyde, wipe the juice off my stool and have a seat.”
“Yes, Barber,” grinned the boxer, who assured Bane, “Keel and I did not see a thing worth shame. Your Netty oath means much to us lowly, Pugs, Barrister.”
Bane nodded, relieved—for Kent knew fighters and understood their understated cant.
“Look at this frame of a man—healthiest Christian this old hand has ever sent up the Black Lift. How old ye be, Clyde?”
“Thirty-five, Kent, never been tired yet.”
It was so nice to have a sure winner in his grim barber chair.
-1. In our alternative earth this is the Blue Corner for cage or ring, the post of the hand picked opponent and underdog.
-2. The Red Corner, where the odds on and crowd favorite would emerge to satisfy a world without honor.
The Train to Litigation
spqr a novel
Tantallus of Snipes
crag mouth
son of a lesser god
under the god of things
honor among men
solo boxing
let the world fend for itself
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