A man enters a barber shop in a small village in Colombia. The man is Captain Torres, the local military authority who is dirty and tired from hunting revolutionaries for the past few days. After hanging up his gun belt, he demands a shave. The barber obliges the captain, but...
A man enters a barber shop in a small village in Colombia. The man is Captain Torres, the local military authority who is dirty and tired from hunting revolutionaries for the past few days. After hanging up his gun belt, he demands a shave. The barber obliges the captain, but the barber (who is never specifically named) soon reveals through is narrative--to the reader but not the captain--that he is secretly a member of the rebels himself. The captain invites the barber to come to the town square later in the day where he plans to exhibit--and probably torture or kill--some of his new prisoners. The barber faces a dilemma: He can cut the captain's throat with his razor, thereby eliminating the biggest enemy of the rebels. But by doing so, he will commit a cowardly act and also expose his secret affiliation with the revolutionaries. The barber decides to honor the barber's code--to never spill a drop of a client's blood--and complete the shave. The captain will live, the barber's secret will remain intact, but more rebels will die by the hand of the captain. The barber's decision not to kill the captain seems as cowardly as killing him. But as the captain turns to leave, he reveals to the barber that
“They told me that you’d kill me. I came to find out. But killing isn’t easy. You can take my word for it.”
The captain must have suspected that the barber was a rebel spy, and he was willing to trade his own life to expose the barber's secret. But the barber could not summon the courage to kill Torres in cold blood--as the captain had done to the rebels--and both the barber and the captain will live to see another day. However, whether Torres still suspects the barber, or whether he is convinced that the barber is an innocent man, remains unclear.