Hernando Tellez builds wonderful suspense in his short story Lather and Nothing Else (also translated as Just Lather, That's All). The story is written from the perspective of a barber who is secretly part of a rebellion against the government. Captain Torres, the villain in the story, is a hard driving, cruel dictator of the local militia and terrorizes the town. Entering the shop Torres sits down for a shave, placing the barber in a difficult situation. He could easily kill the captain, but the barber also has his pride and life to consider.
The suspense begins within the first few lines of the story. As Captain Torres enters the shop, the narrator states that he begins to tremble from the sight. This draws the reader into the story and hints at the danger later revealed. The ambiguity of the appearance of Torres and the setting allows the reader to build their own creation for the scene. The only description first given for the captain is how he hangs his gun belt. The focus on danger and the guns provides hints as to the monstrosity of the man.
The main focus of suspense begins after Torres is resting in the chair awaiting his shave. The barber begins the steps to shave the beard but an internal struggle rages within him. As a rebel he has some duty to aide in the rebellion, yet as a barber the customer came to him in confidence and there is a duty to perform his best services. The barber goes back and forth in an internal dialogue while questioning the captain about his plans on punishing captured rebels. The question quickly becomes will the barber murder Torres?
The author allows the suspense to build by limiting the information about the rebellion. In the greater context it's hard to know if the government represented by Captain Torres is right, or if the rebellion is a worthy opposition to a tyrant. This gives the reader the opportunity to impart their own feelings into the story and onto the characters. Rather than give the backstory for each, the author has allowed the characters to be different for different people. The other ploy Tellez uses is the use of the internal dialogue to envision the murder, but also analyze the repercussions of it.
The final suspense in the story comes in the last few paragraphs. Captain Torres leaves the chair and puts his gun belt back on. The barber admits to being pale and says that his shirt is soaked with sweat, a clue to his rebellious convictions. In the doorway Captain Torres pauses and turns to speak to the barber. The final words show that Torres knew all along the barber might kill him, but also that killing a man wasn't as easy as it might seem.
The cliffhanger style ending is a great tool for leaving the reader in suspense. Although the true nature of the barber is revealed, the last lines gives hint that Captain Torres is not entirely understood. He trusted the barber despite his allegiance to the rebellion and shows guilt over killing. This causes the reader to pause and may cause them re-evaluate their position on the character. By leaving the ending in this manner, Tellez has left the reader wondering what will happen next for the barber and Captain Torres.
There’s something they say about words and pictures, so we won’t belabor this too much. Below you’ll find some of the most eye-catching photographs we ran on the site in the last year. Set aside some time to scroll through each one: They’re an amazing window onto everything that’s happening in the world–from Detroit’s collapse and the economic rise of China and the Middle East, to environmental disasters at home and abroad.
And then, less seriously, some great photos of those ridiculous fake tree cell phone towers, hilarious examples of what happens when strangers draw your Facebook photos, and a series of the true residents of Portland, who are crazier than anything you’ve seen on Portlandia. You’ll enjoy them all. And if that’s not enough, you can see our favorites from last year here.
1: Beautifully Mashed-Up Photos Show The Glory And Wreckage Of Detroit
The “Detroit Now and Then” project artfully combines vintage photos of the city with images of what’s there now, providing a poignant reminder of what the city was, what it is now and–maybe–what it could be again.
2: “Portraitlandia”: Photos Of Portland’s Most Portland-y Residents
If Portlandia were a photo series, it would probably look something like Kirk Crippens’s “Portraitlandia,” which features iconic Rose City residents in their natural habitats.
3: Look At These Chinese Workers Carrying Mind-Blowing Amounts Of Stuff
11: These Horrifying Photos Show A Destroyed American Landscape That Agriculture Giants Don’t Want You To See
These aerial images of industrial beef farming operations look less like shots of land and more like a post-apocalyptic nightmare.
12: These Photos Of Tiny, Futuristic Japanese Apartments Show How Micro Micro-Apartments Can Be
Micro-apartments are in vogue today. But in Japan, people have been living in the Nakagin Capsule Tower’s 100-square-foot housing for decades.
Read more of our best stories of the year in these categories: Top stories, infographics, photography, maps, buildings, design, cities, food, transportation, innovative workplaces, bikes, collaborative consumption, energy, crowdfunding, robots, environment, health, education