Chapter VIII: The Barber and His Wife
The cold water hit my throat and dispelled my thirst like a cold-steel sword. I drank heavily, drawing as much relief as I could into myself. It felt good, but I stopped when I had my fill.
I turned around once I had my head back on, but I bumped into a man who was standing in front of the table. He was a lot taller than I was and dressed in clothes only a little bit more becoming than my uniform. His hair was just as messy as mine, although darker (except for a spot of white). His eyes were dark, highlighted by dark rings around them in the face of white. They were leering down at me, but mine were on the bloody scar across his neck.
Ello, Michael, was it? He definitely had a light British accent hidden in his hard voice. A gleam from a metal sliver flashed from his hand as he said, The names Todd, Sweeney Todd.
Hello, sir, I answered with a slight bow.
I used to be a barber before I was killed.
Im sorry to hear of your death.
I was murdered, he continued, with one of these. He held up the bit of metal in his hand, an old-fashioned razor. I guess I deserved it, really, he muttered, looking at it as if into a mirror, I murdered dozens of people with these friends of mine. Ive never murdered a boy, though. He slid alongside the table, retreating alongside it as if holding himself back. And I have no intention of blemishing that record. I had a boy once; hes the one that murdered me.
He took a seat on a stool and placed his razor on the table. I apologize for my rambling. Ive never told my tale to anyone here; they dont take too kindly to murderers. Everyone despises me because I even murdered my own wife, Lucy. He looked away from me and slammed his fist on the table. It was an accident, a mistake born of haste and blindness. I was deceived to believe that my wife was already dead. In my rage I lost sight of my light. He laid his head on the table, cushioned by his arms.
How did you become so enraged so as not to recognize your own wife? I asked. A slight bitterness of fear sounded in my voice as I moved to the stool across from him.
Sweeney lifted his head slowly, his eyes cloudy, unfocused. His pale lips parted as he drew breath inn a backwards sigh. With a more composed demeanor, he started to sing:
There was a barber and his wife,
And she was beautiful,
A foolish barber and his wife;
She was his reason and his life,
And she was beautiful,
And she was virtuous,
And he was
There was another man who saw
That she was beautiful,
A pious vulture of the law
Who, with a gesture of his claw,
Removed the barber from his plate;
Then there was nothing but to wait.
And she would fall,
And oh so beautiful!
As his song was going on, I could sense a deep longing and heavy remorse; he really did love her. To have felt such guilt, especially after all this time, must have been unbearable for him. It made me worry about my own hotheadedness and my own girl. A question that lit up in my mind like a cellar light bulb made itself voiced. What happened next?
That bastard courted Lucy, he replied, eyes focusing and voice hardening. He wanted her and sent me to prison under fucked-up charges to get to her. He was a self-righteous, long-winded ass with less pity in his heart than hair on the chins of my customers. I vowed revenge, especially when I found out that he was after my daughter, Joanna, upon my return. He picked up his razor again and flipped it open with a flick of his wrist. Once he stepped into my shop, though, he received the house specialty shave and never left. A wicked grin spread his lips as his eyes leniently gazed at the blade. His eyes turned to me as he asked, Youre quite an accomplished blade brandisher yourself, arent you?
His question stumped me; I definitely wasnt expecting it. I gripped the handle of my sickle fixed to my belt and smiled.
I knew it, Mr. Todd said. My friends trembled slightly when you strolled in. They react to power and are loyal to those who respect them. I heard of your plight and wish to make amends for my sins, so here. Take it. He held out the razor, now closed, for me to take.
I could tell that he was serious about this. I reached out and graciously accepted his gift, unfolding it before me. The blade was sterling steel, untarnished with not a spot of imperfection. The case the blade folded into was a high-quality material just as impeccable as the razor. This was more than a tool; it was a treasure. Ill return this to you when it strikes down my enemy.
Dont let your vision be clouded by rage, Sweeney Todd warned. Cold blood begets cold blood. Keep your eyes on the light and let it be your strength. Dont end up like me. Abruptly he stood up from the table and made his way through the door to my right, out into the street.
I continued to examine the blade, judging its sharpness. Surely this was artistic quality that people only dreamed of having, and he had been so generous to bestow it to me. An object this pure was guaranteed to strike down a demon like Suzaku.
I dont think Ive seen you around the bar.
I abruptly whipped around to the right, where the voice came from. A broad, frog-like woman in a chefs outfit stood there with hands on hips. I though I wasnt invited in this section of the bar, but she smiled and asked, What can I get for you?
My stomach growling provided adequate answer, but I elaborated, A bit of bread and something to drink that isnt poisonous or alcoholic.
Comin right up, she replied and went to fetch them from the walk-in pantry.
As I waited for my food I played the words of Elder Gutknecht and Sweeney Todd in my head. Both of them had told me to keep my eyes on the light. Surely they didnt plan their lessons for me beforehand; it just seemed strange that they had the exact same message for me: Follow the light; keep your eyes on the light. Maybe I was just thinking too much.
The door leading into the main bar area opened in front of me, and Emily entered the kitchen. She looked worried at first, but her face calmed down when she saw me. I pocketed the razor held tight in my hand and called her over to my table. She looked around before taking a seat and asked, Where did that stranger go?
I leaned back in my chair a bit and answered, He left, just a little bit before you came in here. He said what he felt needed to be said, he left me a little something for my trouble, and he left.
What did he leave you?
I brought the razor out again; it had never left my hand or my thoughts. I held it out for her to see; despite its glistening jewel-like surface, she looked more confused than impressed. He left another one? Before I could respond, she brought forth an exact copy of my razor from her dress. This I believe is what knocked the poison glass from your hand before.
As if timed for such talk, the waitress I had spoken to earlier came in, her eyes closed and a spin in her step. She was humming a little something as she set down my food in her pirouette. There ye are, sir, she said. She set her hand down on the table as if to lean on it, but what she felt shocked her eyes open. Looking to the other occupant of my table she asked, Emily? Is that you?
Yes, Mrs. Plum, its me. Emily smiled warmly at her old friend.
Why didnt anyone tell me that ye returned? Its been such a long time
She looked back to me once before asking, Did ye pick up a new boyfriend while ye were gone?
Emily chuckled at this many-times repeated question but evenly answered, Yes, his name is Michael. I know he may appear young, but hes still alive. What are a few years to me, when Ive been waiting centuries for returned affections?
Mrs. Plum looked to me again. I had been listening to their conversations with divided attention; whenever I sat down for a meal, I was more prone to stuffing my mouth with food than letting words escape it in a dinnertime conversation. Thats not to say that my ears failed to function with a taste in my teeth. By the time attention was on me again, the bread was reduced to crumbs on my plate and face and the glass was drained. My hands were folded over my plate, and my smiling eyes were on Emilys, stuck in place over my warm smile. Mrs. Plum smiled herself as she answered, saying As long as youre appy, dear, even though that would be a rarity nowadays.
Thank you. Both Emily and I replied simultaneously.
Mrs. Plums face took on a sour but contemplative complexion, her eyes rolling up to the ceiling. If only Id found that man whod ave made me appy in my eternity. Instead, I married a lunkhead who toppled the cutlery rack on imself. Where is e, anyway? She shifted her gaze around as her fists found places on her hips.
Im right ere, came a withered voice from the door. Just because I ave a knife in me ears doesnt mean that I cant ear. The man who walked in was a hunched-over older man dressed in a chefs outfit, the masculine version of Mrs. Plums uniform. Multiple and various cutlery pieces, like a butchers cleaver and a long fork, poked into his back in multiple places. A knife had him skewered straight through the skull, and his right eye dangled from its socket just below his jaw. Tucked in the crook of his arms were a couple of bags, the contents of which rattled with the sound of bottles. If I recall correctly, ye didnt react too enthusiastically to that full arm broil.
We agreed that yed never mention that in polite company! raved Mrs. Plum.
Mr. Plum set down the bags on the table and drew the knife from his head. Just like we agreed to keep my one slip-up a secret from others? He practically shoved the knife into her face to get his point across.
She grabbed it from his hand and planted it into the table right in front of me, glaring over it at her husband. Do ye ave to bring that up when we ave company?
Why do ye think I went out to restock? He brought one of the bottles out of the bags, revealing it to be a brandy bottle. I knew Emily returned when the bar was drained so fast! Bonejangles confirmed it!
Over a pint I wager?
I ducked out of their view, taking the long knife out of the table and into hand. I think wed better leave before the cutlery starts flying, I suggested with a whisper.
Emily agreed, pointing out the door through which Mr. Plum entered. She slid along the table as I travelled underneath it to the door. My prediction came to fruition above me, the sound of knives and other sharp cooking utensils striking walls and wood. Both of us scrambled out the faster. When we closed the door, the large metal cleaver struck the wood right next to me.
Definitely a lively set of friends and relatives you have here, Emily.
Yes, she agreed, they are just as I remember, even after all these years.
I smiled in a way to equal hers and added, Thank you for sharing them with me.
Youre welcome, Michael.
Now, do you mind if we see my friends again? she nodded and took my hand to lead me out of this land of the dead.