Three

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He didn't really have to go in to work, but Ray Connor was happy to get out of that house. He was a bit worried, tell the truth. It only occurred to him now as he took the four block stroll that he might actually be in physical danger. On the one hand, he'd known Davey since the kid was a baby. On the other hand - heck, the man was a walking corpse! He'd seen enough movies to know this might not be a good thing.

Of course, he didn't have any first hand experience with such a creature, until now, and so far it seemed pretty harmless, like an outcast alien from another planet. Hardly seemed to be the same person at all and yet, in all the little ways, he was, like how he held himself when sitting, and how he still had his father's eyes. It was going to be a tough morning, he considered. By profession he was naturally a talker, and here was something he didn't know how to go about telling, or even if he should. Just before he got to the shop he decided he wouldn't say a word, but that didn't hold up five minutes under the scrutiny of his long-time business partner, Clayton Jeffries.

"Look like you seen a ghost", Clayton said, almost as soon as Ray came out of the back room with his smock on. They were known as "Ray'n'Clay" and had been for so long now they could hardly remember when it stuck. Ray'd been there first, apprenticed way back when with old man Harley when he still barely a man himself. He'd been snipping and shaving all sorts of people ever since. The neighborhood had gone through many economic and ethnic changes over those decades, each era leaving its relics behind, relics that became the regulars of the scarcely visited barbershop. Aside from all those leftovers, the only new faces were from the young rich kids who sailed their boats and yachts out onto the river.

Clay was young, by Ray's count, only in his mid-sixties thereabouts. He liked to call him 'kid', as he did now.

"Not no ghost, kid", he said. He figured now he'd tell some half-truths and see if that worked. "It's my nephew, Davey. Showed up early this morning. Been in some kind of a fight from the looks of it."

"Harry's boy?" Clay queried, knowing darn well it was. They had no secrets from each other after all that time, and knew each other's families as well or better than their own.

"That boy was always into something", Clay went on, getting up from his chair and putting the morning paper down where he'd been sitting. He paced a bit across the front door, peering out to see if any customers might show. He knew there wouldn't be any, at least not for half an hour, and then it would only be Richard, who'd come for his special ninety cent shave, as he did every Tuesday whether he needed it or not.

"He's a good boy", Ray countered, pulling out the broom and sweeping at random illusions of dust on the floor. The place was spotless. The men spoke slowly, took turns going about their incoherent and unnecessary routines. It was a living, barely. If it weren't for social security and having paid off that house a long time since, well, Ray didn't even want to think about that. Now that he did, though, he had to wonder how long Davey was going to stay, and how much it was going to cost him.

'At least the kid don't eat or drink', he said to himself. 'That'll make it cheap. All he really needs, as far as I can tell, is some clothes. Can't keep wearing that bloody outfit. Pants, shoes, jacket, shirt. Underwear, socks ought to do it', and he figured in his head how much all that might cost and when he would get around to it. Shame was that Davey was a good six inches taller and maybe fifty pounds heavier than Ray, so he couldn't wear any of his stuff.

"So's the kid sticking around?" Clay asked. "He at your place?"

"Yeah", Ray nodded. "Don't know how long. Long as he needs to, I guess. Neither me or him's got no other family, you know. Got to take care of your own."

"Got to", Clay agreed. "Like my Willa. Keeps coming back, like a wooden nickel."

He laughed and then added,

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