Bussey Building Battle (Part 1)
It didn’t look like human a brain, not really. Simone had been under the dryer when the gunshot hit the boy outside, just as he ran past the foggy windows. Up till that point, the salon had been abuzz with pre-carnival chatter, swelling with the chemical sweetness of jojoba oil treatments, Eco Styler gel, dyes and rubbery bonding glue. Electric heat pricked the women’s skin; ebonies and cocoas and browns turned silken with grease and sweat and the perspiration induced by tongs, hot combs, blow dryers and steamers.
Lauren, who was supposed to be doing Simone’s hair, sat hunched over a box of KFC in one corner, toes wiggling after a recent pedicure, and her infant son ran around the shop, whining and protesting against the din. One of the other hairdressers—Camille, Sandra, Carol, Doreen, Kay—would snatch him from the ground when he got too rowdy, almost yanking a handful of hair from one of their unsuspecting clients who were always too nervous to anger the talented women they were paying to treat them with such disrespect. Simone flicked through a copy of Black Beauty, her eyes occasionally flicking to the telly showing the previous day’s Big Brother highlights. She felt her eyelids grow dry with fatigue, and she had closed them, snoozing shallowly beneath the dryer, when she heard a bang.
Her eyes snapped open, and everyone froze, turned towards the window, and screamed as one. As if ordered to, the women ran outside, with heads half-canerowed and ponchos slick with oil. Simone scrambled away from the dryer, peered over the women who were already on the ground, joined by some of the Arab men who owned the meat shops across the road, and the Nigerian men who just happened to be walking in the wrong place at the wrong time, their minds occupied by shopping and work and children.
The boy was on the floor. Two weak, milky eyes stared at nothing above them, the pupils trembling and unfocused beneath heavy lids. A round mouth hung open, his arms twitched on his thigh. The back of his head was blown open. Blood oozed down the front of his face, and a clean bullet hole adorned his brown forehead. Simone staggered backwards, hand clamped over a mouth she could not feel.
Everything was cold and loud and red. By the time she realised she was back on the floor of the salon, her knees and hands were covered in blood. She stared at the scarlet on her palms. The boy’s brain was still on the window.