This story takes place in a barbershop in Columbia, a country that has had many military revolutions. The narrator is the owner, and he is shaving a man well known for his violence and his ability to kill by the name of Captain Torres. During the shave, Torres recounts details of a difficult mission he just completed. The barber wants to hear all the details because he is a member and informant for the revolutionary group fighting Torres. The barber realizes that he is in the perfect position to slice the Captain's throat. The Captain is relaxed in his chair, his neck exposed, his eyes closed, and his face covered with shaving lather. The barber could become a hero if he sliced his throat and took revenge for the men the Captain has killed. He then realizes that the act of cutting the Captain's throat would put him on the same level as the Captain and continue the violence, creating a "sea of blood". The barber finally decides that "I don't want blood on my hands ----just lather, that's all". The only thing he wants on his hands is the lather. When the Captain gets out of the chair, he acknowledges the position the barber was in and tells him that he was told the barber would kill him. However, he admits, .
"....Killing isn't easy. You can take my word for it." (last line of story)
The title of the story is the decision made by the barber.