Petrified Man

Petrified Man Summary

In "Petrified Man," most of the drama takes place in the dialogue between Mrs. Fletcher and her beautician Leota; there is little external action. During a shampoo and set, Leota tells her customer about her new tenant and friend, Mrs. Pike. At first, the two gossip politely, but as soon as Leota notices that Mrs. Fletcher's hair is falling out, probably due to her pregnancy rather than the perm she got the week before, the atmosphere changes from friendly to hostile.

Suddenly, Mrs. Fletcher becomes annoyed by the fact that she has become the talk of the town, and is furious when she learns that it was the observant Mrs. Pike who noticed her belly. She also dismisses any subject that Leota brings up to distract her, such as Mr. Pike, a fortune teller, and the petrified man at a freak show next door. Moreover, she is extremely annoyed by Mrs. Pike's son Billy, who roams the beauty parlor when his mother is at work. In fact, she now despises the idea of having a child of her own.

However, she brightens up a little when the next week Leota tells her about the good luck that Mrs. Pike had. Due to her excellent observation skills, she identified the man in a wanted ad in one of Leota's magazines as the petrified man at the freak show, who has raped four women. Mrs. Pike getting a $500 reward infuriates Leota because she feels the money should have been hers—after all, the ad was in a magazine in her house, and the wanted man was right next door. Both women are surprised Mrs. Pike did not recognize the petrified man for who he was right away, and insist that they would have felt something if they were in her place.

A few minutes later when Billy misbehaves, Leota spanks him with a brush. In the end, Billy angrily runs out of the beauty parlor, revealing in a sarcastic comment that the women are petty.